For the past few years, NASA has been funding private space companies in the hope that they can build spacecraft that will carry astronauts to orbit. This is a historic change: Until now, every NASA craft has been designed and wholly owned by the agency. Now, industry would build and operate rockets and spacecraft, and it would do it more quickly, cheaply, and flexibly than the government could, opening a new era of spaceflight.But not so fast.This month, NASA released the first draft of the document that describes how it plans to ensure the privately built spacecraft they will use will be safe. The document will define America’s future in space, because it sets the rules private companies will have to follow, though few seem to have read it. But we read through the dense language of the contract, called the Commercial Crew Integrated Design Contract (CCIDC), and found that it sets terms that keep NASA very much in control of the design and timeline of the next astronaut-carrying spacecraft and launch vehicles.Space companies are quietly pushing back against parts of the contract. Officials complain that the terms leave open questions over who has final say over the engineering. There are new government review boards that can reject hardware designs.
Hey, just as a reminder--spaceflight is dangerous, it doesn't matter who designed the spacecraft. I would bet that the astronauts understand that.
Also, private spacecraft will have to be safe in order to make any money--that is the point.
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