The 2012 report by the ASAP safety advisory panel to NASA, released in January 2013, presents findings on various important spaceflight safety topics, including the Commercial Crew Program and the Space Launch System (SLS). In addition to the full 2012 report, the revealing minutes of ASAP public meetings in 2012 and 2011, and the 2011 and 2010 ASAP reports, are also included in this flowing-text ebook format reproduction.
From Chairman Dyer's introduction letter:
In our report we highlight issues related to: a.) Commercial Crew Program (CCP), b.) Exploration Systems Development, c.) Funding Uncertainty, d.) International Space Station, e.) Technical Authority, and f.) Risk Management. Of these, the Funding Uncertainty and Commercial Crew Program are interrelated and of the most concern. For the last two years, the CCP appropriation has been approximately one half of the budget request. Informal communications with congressional staffs indicate this will probably be the case again in Fiscal Year (FY) 13.
In carrying out our responsibilities, the ASAP hears both sides of the story. The NASA program team highlights inability to execute the program of record and grapples with the necessity to modify acquisition strategy to adjust for the funding shortfalls. The Congress notes the lack of credible cost estimate, the absence of an integrated schedule, and "program instability." In the Panel's opinion, a consensus between the Congress and NASA will be required to resolve this conundrum.
In FY13, we predict this planning-funding disconnect will again drive a change to acquisition strategy, schedule, and/or safety risk. The ASAP is concerned that some will champion an approach that is a current option contained in the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement. There is risk this optional, orbital flight-test demonstration with a non-NASA crew could yield two standards of safety—one reflecting NASA requirements, and one with a higher risk set of commercial requirements. It also raises questions of who acts as certification authority and what differentiates public from private accountability. Separating the level of safety demanded in the system from the unique and hard-earned knowledge that NASA possesses introduces new risks and unique challenges to the normal precepts of public safety and mission responsibility. We are concerned that NASA's CCiCap 2014 "Option" prematurely signals tacit acceptance of this commercial requirements approach absent serious consideration by all the stakeholders on whether this higher level of risk is in fact in concert with national objectives.