According to the Los Angeles Times, the Aerospace Corp., the federally funded research and development center that provides technical support to Pentagon space programs, envisions a role for itself overseeing companies like SpaceX that plan to provide commercial crew and cargo launch services to NASA.
“Wanda M. Austin, president and chief executive of Aerospace, said she saw the El Segundo-based research center taking on new roles that could increasingly bring it out from under the shroud of secrecy.
“Under President Obama’s proposal to outsource more space missions to private ventures, the government will want more oversight of missions carried out by private businesses, such as Hawthorne’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX.”
Aerospace already has a small amount of NASA and commercial business in its portfolio. An expanded role outside the traditional Air Force FFRDC business is not a brand new vision: It was part of the rationale behind plans unveiled in 1996 for Aerospace to be acquired by infotech giant SAIC. That deal was quashed by the Pentagon, which was wary of a changed relationship with its trusted reservoir of space expertise.
Interestingly, the LA Times article notes that Aerospace oversight can add $20 million to $30 million to the cost of a mission. How those costs would be incorporated into ostensibly commercial missions — where price is considered to be a big advantage — is anybody’s guess.