Competitiveness in the Space Economy

In my blog entry for April 11, 2008, I wrote about the “Space Economy” and the two keys to its success.  My focus was on the first of those keys, innovation, and the way it is enabled by NASA.  Internally, we often refer to NASA-enabled innovation as technology commercialization.

With this entry, I would like to discuss the second key ingredient to economic growth — competitiveness.  U.S. National Space Policy directs NASA to encourage the development of a highly competitive U.S. commercial space industry.  Ideally, this industry would meet NASA’s mission needs in addition to those of non-government customers.  Encouraging the creation of this type of industry is known as commercial development.

NASA is embracing commercial development because a broad and robust commercial space sector will be essential for the U.S. to meet its exploration goals in the long-term.  With the private sector providing goods and services in the near-Earth region, NASA will be able to concentrate on exploration further into space.

To encourage a new commercial space sector, the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) developed a Commercial Development Policy in November 2007.  This policy is consistent with guidelines already written into law (P.L. 102-588), by including the following principles:

•    NASA should only encourage commercial space sectors that can fulfill specific mission needs.
•    Procurement of commercially procured good or service must be cost effective.
•    The goods or services must be bought through an open and fair competition.
•    Non-government customers for the good or service must exist.
•    The long-term success of the commercial space sector cannot rely upon long-term Government support.
•    The Government cannot fund the entire venture.

To date, ESMD has adopted this policy and it is being distributed to the rest of NASA offices for review.  The goal is to develop an Agency-wide, NASA Commercial Development Policy before the end of the year.

The ESMD team has made a major effort to solicit input on this policy from as many external sources as possible.  I encourage you to request the ESMD documents from Ken Davidian (  Comments provided to Ken by the end of August will be considered for the final version of the NASA Commercial Development Policy.

Workforce Transition and Aerospace Discussions

Workforce Transition

On Monday, 31 March, we submitted a now required bi-annual report to Congress regarding NASA’s workforce transition plan. Here you will find links to the report and other workforce related documents that you will find useful.  Please note these are considered living documents and will be revised and updated in the coming years as decisions are made.

When the decision to retire the Space Shuttle was made and to move forward with the next generation of human space flight in 2006, this was the first time in roughly 35 years that a major change was made to U.S. civil space policy.

Foremost on everyone’s mind was “what about the workforce?” and I can assure you this challenge is, and has been, receiving our utmost attention. It is critical that we retain our skilled workforce through retirement and transition because a safe Shuttle flyout, completion of the International Space Station assembly, and the successful development of our new Constellation vehicles depends on it. Our second Shuttle workforce survey, done in 2007, revealed that 65% of employees indicated they will stay through the end of the program. That is an excellent percentage and we hope to keep these individuals; they are highly skilled and we need them. During the six-year gap between Apollo and Space Shuttle we lost a great number of aerospace experts. We do not want that to happen during this transition, and we are continually strategizing, planning, and communicating to ensure that we are successful.

An important message I want to convey is the commitment that Mike Griffin and I share to keep the lines of communications open. We will use whatever means necessary (i.e., the website, NASA TV, town hall meetings) to keep the workforce informed. Rumors, gossip, and innuendo will happen, but hopefully we will be able to get the facts out quickly.  

The transition workforce team is comprised of individuals from the Space Operations Mission Directorate, Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, Office of Human Capital, and the Centers’ Human Capital and Program Offices. However, there are a lot of other offices and personnel involved as well. My thanks to all of you who are diligently working this issue.

Other Activities This Week

On Tuesday, April 1, Mike and I met with CEOs from over twenty aerospace companies to have an informal discussion about issues of mutual interest. It was a good exchange and last year we held a similar roundtable, so we hope to make this an annual tradition.

Also on Tuesday evening, the STS-122 crew was honored on Capitol Hill with a reception sponsored by the aerospace community. It was a huge turnout with 18 Members of Congress in attendance. These receptions are good opportunities to discuss the space program.

On Thursday, April 3, Mike Griffin testified on the FY2009 budget request before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies. And that evening, I attended the National Air and Space Museum Trophy Awards dinner to honor the Stardust Comet Sample Return Mission Team.

Next week the Operations Management Council meeting will be dedicated to financial issues. After that, I hit the road again for meetings on the West Coast, then off to the Strategic Management Council at Stennis Space Center, followed by the next Future Forum, which will be held in Miami. I will keep you updated with notes from the road.