People in safety gear work on a spacecraft mockup in the desert.
Enlarge / Teams from NASA, Boeing, and the White Sands Missile Range rehearse touchdown and crew extraction from Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019.

On Thursday, NASA’s inspector common launched a report on the house company’s industrial crew program, which seeks to pay Boeing and SpaceX to develop autos to move astronauts to the International Space Station.

Although the report cites the standard technical points that the businesses are having with the event of their respective Starliner and Dragon spacecraft, way more illuminating is its dialogue of prices. Notably, the report publishes estimated seat prices for the primary time, and it additionally delves into the extent that Boeing has gone to extract more cash from NASA above and past its fixed-price award.

Boeing’s per-seat value already appeared like it could price extra than SpaceX. The firm has obtained a complete of $4.82 billion from NASA over the lifetime of the industrial crew program, in comparison with $3.14 billion for SpaceX. However, for the primary time the federal government has revealed a per-seat value: $90 million for Starliner and $55 million for Dragon. Each capsule is anticipated to hold 4 astronauts to the house station throughout a nominal mission.

Comparison of Boeing's Starliner and SpaceX's Dragon vehicles.

Comparison of Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Dragon autos.

NASA Inspector General

What is notable about Boeing’s value is that it is usually higher than what NASA has paid the Russian house company, Roscosmos, for Soyuz spacecraft seats to fly US and partner-nation astronauts to the house station. Overall, NASA paid Russia a mean price per seat of $55.Four million for the 70 accomplished and deliberate missions from 2006 by means of 2020. Since 2017, NASA has paid a mean of $79.7 million.

Beyond these seat prices, Inspector General Paul Martin’s report additionally notes that Boeing obtained extra funding from NASA, above and past its fixed-price award.

“Not consistent”

“We found that NASA agreed to pay an additional $287.2 million above Boeing’s fixed prices to mitigate a perceived 18-month gap in ISS flights anticipated in 2019 and to ensure the contractor continued as a second commercial crew provider, without offering similar opportunities to SpaceX,” the report states.

According to Martin, who had intensive entry to NASA officers within the preparation of the report, Boeing in 2016 proposed pricing for its third by means of sixth crewed missions utilizing the “single 2016 mission price,” which was considerably higher than NASA and Boeing had initially agreed upon. In response to this, NASA’s Office of Procurement decided this was “not consistent with the terms of the contract and did not match the contract’s fixed-price table.”

However, Boeing continued to press NASA for added funding. After “prolonged negotiations,” in response to Martin, Boeing provided some advantages to NASA, resembling diminished lead occasions earlier than the missions and a variable launch cadence. NASA then agreed to pay the extra $287.2 million for these 4 missions, which are prone to fly within the early 2020s.

Perhaps essentially the most placing rationale for approving the extra funds was that Boeing could have mentioned backing out of the industrial crew program (CCP). Martin writes, “According to several NASA officials, a significant consideration for paying Boeing such a premium was to ensure the contractor continued as a second crew transportation provider. CCP officials cited NASA’s guidance to maintain two US commercial crew providers to ensure redundancy in crew transportation as part of the rationale for approving the purchase of all four missions at higher prices.”

A spokesman for Boeing, Josh Barrett, denied that Boeing had threatened to finish its industrial crew participation. “Boeing has made significant investments in the commercial crew program, and we are fully committed to flying the CST-100 Starliner and keeping the International Space Station fully crewed and operational,” he informed Ars.

The report notes that as NASA was agreeing to pay Boeing further for these advantages, an analogous deal was not provided to SpaceX. “In contrast, SpaceX was not notified of this change in requirements and was not provided an opportunity to propose similar capabilities that could have resulted in less cost or broader mission flexibilities,” Martin writes.

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