The report lists common technical problems encountered by the two companies in developing spacecraft, and compares their development costs. It is worth noting that this report for the first time published the estimated cost of sending astronauts into space by the two companies, indicating that Boeing has squeezed more money from NASA in addition to its fixed income.
Boeing received a total of $4.82 billion from NASA over the reporting cycle, compared with $3.14 billion from SpaceX. Moreover, Boeings price per seat seems to exceed that of SpaceX, which has a starliner of $90 million and a SpaceX manned dragon of $55 million. Both spacecraft are expected to carry four astronauts to the space station.
Figure: comparison of basic parameters of Boeing starliner and SpaceX manned dragon spacecraft
It is worth noting that Boeings seat price is even more expensive than the Russian ship ticket NASA purchased. Overall, NASA paid Russia 70 completed and planned missions between 2006 and 2020, with an average cost of $55.4 million per seat. Since 2017, NASA has paid an average price of $79.7 million.
In addition to these seat prices, Inspector General Paul Martin also noted in the report that Boeing received additional funding from NASA, far beyond its contractual commitments. According to the report, NASA agreed to pay an additional $287.2 million over Boeings fixed price to help the latter advance its schedule and ensure that SpaceX continues to be a provider of the second commercial astronaut program, without similar opportunities.
Martin had extensive contacts with NASA officials in the preparation of the report. He said that Boeing put forward the pricing of the third to sixth manned missions in 2016, using the 2016 mission quotation, which is much higher than the original agreement between NASA and Boeing. In response, NASAs procurement office determined that this was inconsistent with the terms of the contract and the fixed price schedule of the contract..
However, Boeing continues to press NASA for more money. Martin pointed out that after long negotiations, Boeing has provided NASA with some benefits, such as reducing the pre mission preparation time and adopting a variable launch rhythm. NASA subsequently agreed to pay an additional $287.2 million to support its four missions, which could take place in the early 2020s.
Figure 1: teams from NASA, Boeing and Baisha missile range are conducting landing drills for Boeing CST-100 starliner
Perhaps the most compelling reason for NASAs approval of additional funding is that Boeing may threaten to withdraw from the commercial astronaut program. Several NASA officials believe that an important consideration in paying such a premium to Boeing is to ensure that the contractor continues to be a supplier of the second commercial astronaut program, Martin wrote. Maintaining two suppliers will help ensure the smooth progress of the task.
Boeing spokesman Josh Barrett denied the company had threatened to end its commercial astronaut program. Boeing has invested heavily in the CST-100 starliner, and we want to keep the shuttle and normal operation, he said
Although NASA agreed to pay Boeing for these benefits, it did not offer a similar deal for SpaceX, the report said. SpaceX, by contrast, has not been informed of changes to its plans, nor has it had the opportunity to make similar requests, although these changes may lead to lower costs for commercial astronaut programs and increased mission flexibility, Martin wrote (small)
Source: Wang Fengzhi, editor in charge of Netease Technology Report