NASA and the Private Sector

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13th Dec 2019 Dissertation Reference this

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NASA and the Private Sector

Introduction

The world has opened the mysterious door of Space Age and faced new possibilities that could make breakthroughs beyond their imagination and capabilities, and enable them to research, develop, and conduct the various limitless activities related to the space race, space exploration, space technology, and cultural developments. The introduction of the Space Age has exceptionally impacted on the United States (U.S.) and engaged them into the new formation of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). All of the space operations and activities including laws and policies have been governmental controlled by NASA for a length of time for military and peaceful purposes.  The purpose of the research is to explore the debate climate on the process of privatization of NASA by examining how proponents and opponents frame their arguments. The following research questions the investigator seeks to address: 1) What is the relationship between proponents and opponents on the process of privatization of NASA? 2) Has there been a change in which aspects of the frames are emphasized by proponents and opponents?

According to Lavelle, Krumwiede, and Sheu (2000), Lavelle, Krumwiede, and Sheu argued that NASA has crossed into the phases of rapid technology development, high investment costs, and global competition along with the world. However, NASA has faced new challenges that they are not able to gather and strengthen competitive capabilities by using in-house resources alone. That is when NASA was introduced to the concept of outsourcing. In government, the definition of “outsourcing” is often referred to as privatization, which is the process of transferring programs and functions to the private sector. Outsourcing materials, components, and services allows organizations to leverage resources for increased competitiveness. Many companies obtain high-quality goods and services faster and at a lower cost by using the strategy of outsourcing. Therefore, NASA started following a similar strategy to improve its operations by contracting services to private companies, forming a partnership with private companies, or selling public assets to the private sector (Lavelle, Krumwiede, & Sheu, 2000). The literature review discusses the historical accounts of U.S. space programs (NASA and private sector), the finances, the leadership & management, the process of privatization, the space technology, and the space challenges. The research design and methods takes a mixed methods approach using qualitative methods to drive the quantitative methods.

Literature Review

The following literature review covers NASA’s historical accounts, budget, leadership and management, astronauts, technology, and space challenges, and private space companies’ historical accounts, private organizations, finances, technology, and space challenges.

Historical Accounts

After the World War II ended, the U.S. gained and appreciated an unprecedented supremacy of global power with military forces, strong economic standing, and national ideological factors that shaped the world (Kay, 2013). In October 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first-ever successful orbit of space with the Sputnik satellite. During this time Sputnik ignited and pushed the idea of the American space program into a new strategic and action to secure the nation and world. The Soviet Union had its military forces and tested nuclear bombs at the point which many countries and the U.S. were against it. Therefore, the American political arena and nation was fearful that the Soviet Union had the ability to launch a nuclear weapon into space that could threaten the US national security (Kay, 2013). President Eisenhower recognized the causal relationship between education and national security as an essential tool to mobilize economic and intellectual power to advance American strengths (Kay, 2013). He realized a path to science and technological education was the key to constructing a new generation of creative thinkers. A new generation of creative thinkers would strengthen the United States and advance beyond its capabilities and knowledge (Kay, 2013).

In 1958, the US took a major step in history to provide federal support to expend access to its education in science, mathematics, and foreign languages and engaged society at advancing its education. The US government established a new civilian space agency called the NASA, which succeeded from National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).  As NACA turned over its operations to NASA, Sean Kay (2013) stated: “The Eisenhower approach to strategic thinking succeeded as a response to the immediate crisis and laid a long-term path for sustaining the infrastructure of America’s power and global position.” (p.128).

The NASA Budget

According to Rogers (2010), in 1958, the US government appropriated 89 million dollars to NASA for their first budget, which represented 0.1 percent of the total federal budget at that time. The second year 145 million was appropriated, which doubled to represent 0.2 percent of the total federal budget (Rogers, 2010). The budgets were increased in each year from 1958 to 1966. By 1966, the federal appropriation was 5.9 billion and 4.41 percent of the federal budget, which represents still today as the highest percent increase NASA history. The 4.41 percent allocation was in response to the Apollo 11 mission to send the first man to the moon, beating the Soviet Union in the space race.

The great amount of the federal budget in 1966 was in not favor of the majority of Americans. Launius (2003) stated “45-60 percentage of Americans believed that the government was spending too much on space” even though the Americans were in favor of NASA as an organization for the purpose of space exploration. The NASA budget in 2017 is proposed by President Obama to request $19.0 billion invested in NASA for its current missions and exploration programs (NASA Budget, 2016). The budget is to advance the nation’s space exploration plan and ensure that the nation to be remained the world’s leader in space explorations and technology, aeronautics research and discovery in space and Earth science. The budget is also to support developing the technologies that will make future space missions more capable and affordable, partnering with the private sector to transport crew and cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), continuing the development of the Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System and Exploration Ground Systems that will send astronauts beyond low Earth orbit, keeping the Webb Telescope on track for 2018, and building on its scientific discoveries and achievements in space (NASA Budget, 2016). The Fiscal Year 2017 will spend $5.6 billion on Earth science, planetary science, astrophysics, heliophysics, and the developments, $8.3 billion on human exploration operations, $827 million on space technology, $790 million on aeronautics research, $100 million on education, and $3.2 billion on safety, security, and mission services (NASA Budget, 2016).

NASA Leadership and Management

NASA currently applies the practice of earned value management (EVM) to its programs, projects, major contracts, and subcontracts. EVM is a management methodology for integrating scope, schedule, and resources, and for measuring project performance and progress (Anbari & Kwak, 2012). EVM guide requires activities to define the scope of the effort and assign responsibilities for the work, plan, schedule, budget, and authorize the work, accumulate the costs of work and material needed to complete the work, compare budgeted, performed, and actual costs, analyze variances, develop estimates of final costs, and incorporate internal and external changes to the scheduled, budgeted, and authorized work (Anbari & Kwak, 2012).

Title V of the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (FASA) requires that agency heads must define and approve the cost, performance, and schedule goals for major acquisitions and achieve, on average, 90 percent of the cost, performance, and schedule goals established. The Clinger-Cohen Act requires the director of the Office of Management and Budget to develop a process for analyzing, tracking, and evaluating the risks and results of all major capital investments for information systems that encompasses the entire life at the system (Anbari & Kwak, 2012). The OMB requires the use of EVM for reporting performance for ongoing federal projects. According to Anbari and Kwak (2012), the Planning, Budgeting, Acquisition, and Management of Capital Assets guide states, “If any of the cost, schedule, or performance variance are a negative 10 percent or more you must provide a complete analysis of the reasons for the variances, the corrective actions that will be taken and the most likely estimate at completion (EAC) (p. 79). In February 1997, NASA issues NASA Policy Directive (NPD) 9501.3 – Earned Value Performance Measurement to establish the basis or applying EVM to NASA contracts. It required NASA project managers to ensure implementation of EVM in contracts (Anbari & Kwak, 2012).

According to Anbari and Kwak (2012), Anbari and Kwak described the NASA’s organizational structure:

“NASA’s organizational structure is based on two primary levels of management responsibility – agency management and strategic enterprise management, which included managing centers and programs. Internal integration is ensured through a number of management councils and boards that coordinate activities and planning among the individual enterprises and between the agency and enterprise management levels. NASA also has a unique organizational entity called the Academy of Program/Project & Engineering Leadership (APPEL) that contributes to NASA’s mission by promoting program/project management and engineering and providing curriculum, knowledge sharing, performance enhancement, and research” (p. 80-81).

“Everything NASA does is essentially related to managing programs and projects. NASA divides its missions into five categories: (1) science, (2) aeronautics and space research and technology, (3) exploration, (4) space operations, and (5) education. Science missions and space operations are the two largest portions among the five categories and are generally led by scientists. All missions are defined within the context of project management at NASA, with a strong emphasis placed on developing professionals who can examine and lead projects from a total system perspective” (p. 82).

According to Anbari and Kwak (2012), NPD 7120.5 –NASA Space Flight Program and Project Management Requirements and NPD 7120.7 –NASA Information Technology and Institutional Infrastructure Program and Project Requirements define the processes and requirements that NASA must follow:

  • The contractor will have an EVM compliant with the ANSI/EIA-748 Standard for contracts and subcontracts valued from $20M to $50M,
  • The contractor will have an EVM formally validated and accepted by the federal government for contracts or subcontracts above $50M,
  • An EVM is applied at the discretion of the project manager for nondevelopmental programs, steady-state operations, support services, and janitorial/ground maintenance services, as well as for basic and applied research projects.
  • The Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) office shall be used by contractors to determine the adequacy of their EVM plans.

Anbari and Kwak (2012) state, “EVM is a management methodology that gives the manger the ability to visualize a project’s status at various points during the project life cycle and consequently manage risks more effectively. EVM has given managers greater confidence in making evidence-based inferences about project resources and scope management; hence, it has allowed more project control and oversight. EVM also brings other innovations into projects. It calls for a project-oriented management structure, a learning culture in the organization, the recognition of specialized skills and expertise, and more interface and interdependence across reporting lines” (p. 86).

Anbari and Kwak (2012) state, “EVM has been instrumental in supporting stronger cash flow management capacity, improving transparency and governance, facilitating prevention or mitigation of conflicts, and above all helping bring several large-scope projects to completion on time and within budget. EVM helps provide objective project assessments when applied appropriately and clearly quantifies the opportunities to maintain control over cost and schedule aspects of various projects and programs” (p. 86).

Astronauts

There are currently 47 active astronauts in the NASA. There were 21 groups of various numerous astronauts from 1959 to 2013. The recent applications for astronaut positions were submitted to NASA and being reviewed for the next group, Group 22. John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth aboard Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962, and the oldest person to fly in person at the age of 77 (Redd, 2012). Neil Armstrong was the first man to step foot on the moon and famously phrased the sentence “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” (Ritz, 1995). Buzz Aldrin piloted the lunar module for the Apollo 11 mission and was the second man to set foot on the moon following Neil Armstrong. Sally Ride was the first American woman to fly in space when she slew aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983 (Zimmermann, 2012). Jim Lovell was the commander of the Apollo 13 mission that suffered a critical failure en route to the moon and managed to go back safely to Earth by the efforts of the crew and mission control (Howell, 2013).

Technology

NASA has been researching and developing a widespread variety of technologies that revolutionize aviation and pioneer aerospace technology to study and monitor Earth, stars, and others, and go into deep space beyond Earth. Due to a great number of technologies that are too great to discuss in the paper, several selected technologies will be discussed below.

The Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) is a spacecraft with specific technological capacities to observe the Sun since it was launched on February 11, 2010 (Pesnell, Thompson, & Chamberlin, 2012). The SDO is currently operated under the Living with a Star (LWS) program. The SDO is designed to collect data and understand how the Sun’s magnetic field is generated and structured, how the magnetic energy is stored and released into the heliosphere in the form of solar wind, and how the Earth and near-Earth space are influenced by the Sun by studying the solar atmosphere on small scales of space and time and in wavelengths. (Pesnell, Thompson, & Chamberlin, 2012).

The Voyager 1 is a space probe with specific technological capacities to explore and study the regions and boundaries of the outer heliosphere, which is the outer of the Solar System (Powell, 2016). The Voyager 1 mission has been still operating for 39 years and still communicating with the Deep Space Network to receive commands and return data. The Voyager 1 is at a distance of 134 astronomical units (Around 12 billion miles) away from Earth as of winter 2016, which is the farthest spacecraft from Earth and the only one in interstellar space. On August 25, 2012, the Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause to become the first spacecraft to enter interstellar space (Powell, 2016). The Voyager 1 mission will be ongoing with its electric power supply left generated by its radioisotope thermoelectric generators until 2025.

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a space telescope and one of the largest telescopes (James, 2015). The HST was launched into low Earth orbit on April 24, 1990. The HST contains four instruments observe in the near ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared spectra. The HST is orbiting Earth that allows it to take high-resolution images with lower background light. The HST has recorded the most detailed visible-light images ever allowing a deep view into space and time. Also, the HST was able to determine the rate of expansion of the universe, which was one of the breakthroughs in astrophysics. With these factors, the HST is a vital research tool and a public relations benefit for astronomy (James, 2015).

Space Challenges

The U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong successfully walked on the surface of the Moon for the first-ever in the history of all mankind (Ritz, 1995). That event was made by all NASA’s efforts that fought against space characteristics. Before the event of the moon landing, space had many its unknown characteristics to be explored, such as cold temperatures in space, hot temperatures produced on re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, and effects of radiation affecting on astronauts (Ritz, 1995). NASA had to take careful and critical steps to determine the effects of vacuum and gravity on a spacecraft and on the physical capacity of astronauts. NASA engineers tested the Mercury spacecraft’s performance (the first stage before the Apollo 11 stage) by using monkeys, a chimpanzee, and a mannequin trainer (it was designed to be controlled and monitored to simulate the capacity for human breathing in the spacecraft). After the missions conducted, NASA concluded that the early missions helped to prove that space travel was possible and essential information was successfully gathered both on the technology needed for space travel and the space environment’s characteristics (Ritz, 1995). Years of planning and technological development climaxed on July 20, 1969, when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin successfully landed on the lunar surface. They collected core samples and rocks and took photographs. They also placed the American flag. They managed to return to Earth after the mission completed.

In 1998, the 16 nations (U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Brazil, and the United Kingdom) signed the Intergovernmental Agreement to establish the first-ever International Space Station Program (Bartoe, 2000). The 16 nations cooperated with their efforts to construct and operation the International Space Station (ISS) in low Earth orbit. The ISS serves a multipurpose research facility that has a permanent crew when they are assigned to do, enables long-term research activities in a microgravity environment, and supports basic and applied research endeavors in physics, chemistry, and biology (Bartoe, 2000). The assembly of the ISS began in late 1998 and the U.S. laboratory was added in the middle of 2000. The assembly was operated until the completion in late 2004. The ISS is a designed place for astronauts to live and work in space with increasing productivity. It serves as a critical proving ground as the NASA and other agencies prepare for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit within the 21st century. The extensive capabilities of the ISS have unlocked new possible opportunities for a wide range of research disciplines in physics, chemistry, biology, and technology (Bartoe, 2000). Researches in biomedicine, gravitational biology and biotechnology, combustion science, fluid physics, materials science, fundamental physics, Earth system science, space science, and engineering and technology are and will be conducted within the ISS with the goal to advance scientific knowledge in Earth, space, physical, and biological sciences for the benefit of people living in our beautiful home world. The ISS has been continuously occupied since November 2000. More than 200 people from 15 countries have visited so far (Bartoe, 2000).

Private Space Programs

Historical Accounts

The U.S. has been the world leader in the technology and commercialization of space exercising control of outer space over the past 50 years (Hertzfeld, 2007). Private sector initiatives and the commercialization of space were used to be the concepts and ideas far from being realized. Nowadays, the technological capability to build and operate sophisticated space equipment has spread worldwide. The companies in the U.S. can be in direct competition with many foreign companies in space in the areas of launch vehicles, remote sensing satellites, telecommunications satellites, and navigation services. Hertzfeld (2007) argued that space policy developed from the Cold War as a security, political, and technological effort for the U.S. Early space policies were focusing on insuring the security of the country through winning the space race with the Soviet Union and reflecting the capabilities of launch vehicles to deliver weapons (p.215).

The Eisenhower Policy recognized that the design and development of space equipment would stimulate the economy, and communications and meteorology as the future potential economic aspects (Hertzfeld, 2007). In the 1980s, the maturation of the observation satellites and the growth of a private industry selling specialized products based on Landsat imagery has begun. The private industry partially and successfully developed and implemented the upper stages of launch vehicles.  In 1986, the Challenger accident changed the launch scenario for commercial satellites. As the industry was beginning to mature, the U.S. entered into the era of overall policy changes toward economic deregulation of all industry. Also, the U.S. has become a customer for space goods and services (Hertzfeld, 2007). The Reagan policies of 1982 and 1984 have extended the mandate for the government to obtain economic and scientific benefits through the exploitation of space and expand private sector investment and involvement in the civil space activities for the public safety and national security purposes (Hertzfeld, 2007). The Clinton administration encouraged commercial space to enhance U.S. global competitiveness in the international remote sensing market, which was contributing to the industrial base. New Clinton policy was created to push the concept of a new reusable space transportation system into the development and operation of the private sector, which was the major initiatives in space for a public and private partnership in the R&D (Hertzfeld, 2007). The global positioning system (GPS) had boosted a rapidly growing private sector market for ground receivers. In the duration of the Bush and Obama administrations, more companies were involved in commercial space activities than ever before in the U.S. and in the world.

The U.S. continues their commitment to promoting commercial ventures with and without government supports in space activities programs such as COTS initiative. Hertzfeld (2007) argues that “overall space policy directives have been transformed from a cold war emphasis that relegated the economic and commercial implications of space activities into an integrated policy that recognized the maturity of many space applications, sophisticated industrial capabilities, the globalization of space technologies, and the importance of the space infrastructure to both civilian uses and security concerns” (p.216).

Private Organizations

There are many private space companies in the U.S. that research, develop, and manufacture sophisticated space technologies; however, there are too many to list on the paper. Therefore, several selected private space companies will be discussed below.

SpaceX is an American aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company with its goal to create the technologies to reduce space transportation costs and enable the colonization of Mars (Stamp, 2015). Its headquarters is located in Hawthorne, California. SpaceX was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk.

Blue Origin is an American privately-funded aerospace developer and manufacturer with its goal to develop the technologies to enable private human access to space with lower cost and increase reliability (Eadicicco, 2016). Blue Origin was set up by Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com founder and its headquarters is located in Kent, Washington.

Orbital ATK is an American aerospace manufacturer and defense industry company with its goal to design, build, and deliver space, defense, and aviation-related systems to customers around the world as a prime contractor and merchant supplier (Wall, 2015). Orbital ATK sells various products including launch vehicles, satellites, and associated components and services.

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is an American privately held electronic systems provider and systems integrator specializing in microsatellites, telemedicine, and commercial orbital transportation services (Albany Daily Star, 2016). SNC is a privately held company under the leadership of CEO Fatih Ozmen and Eren Ozmen. Its headquarters is located in Sparks, Nevada.

Finances

The Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office invested $800 million in funding Commercial ORBITAL Transportation Services (COTS) following the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program and $50 million in funding Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) (Bell, 2014). The C3PO selected SPACEX and ORBITAL to enter into funded SAAs with. NASA awarded SPACEX $278 million and ORBITAL $174.7 million for the completion of milestones regarding the cargo transportation capabilities (Bell, 2014). In December 2008, SPACEX and ORBITAL were awarded nearly $3.5 combined in firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) CRS contracts. The contracts outline a minimum of twenty flights taking a minimum of forty metric tons of supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) to be completed by the end of 2015 (Bell, 2014). The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allocated $400 million to NASA for the purpose of space exploration activities. $50 million from $400 million was used to fund the CCDev program. Blue Origin was awarded $3.7 million by NASA for developing a Launch Escape System. Boeing was awarded $18 million for designing a crew capsule that is able to support up to seven people. Paragon Space Development Corporation (Paragon) was awarded $1.44 million for developing an Environmental Control and Life Support, Air Revitalization System (ARS) Engineering Development Unit. Sierra Nevada Corporation (Sierra Nevada) for developing their commercial space transportation systems that eventually became the Dream Chaser spacecraft. United Launch Alliance (ULA was awarded $6.7 million for continuing work on the Emergency Detection System for two of their launch vehicles (Bell, 2014). In 2011, NASA has entered into the second round of the CCDev, which is called CCDev2. Blue Origin was given an additional $22 million for developing a system capable of transporting a crew of four astronauts into low Earth orbit. Boeing was given an additional $92.3 million for continuing advancing its Commercial Space Transportation System. Sierra Nevada was given an additional $80 million for continuing the development of the Dream Chase spacecraft. SPACEX was given an additional $75 million for outfitting its Dragon capsule with life support systems and a launch abort system (Bell, 2014). CCDev has entered its third round, which is called the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative. NASA awarded $212.5 million to the Sierra Nevada, $440 million to SPACEX, and $460 million to Boeing under CCiCap SAAs for advancing their current systems (Bell, 2014).

Technology

In 2005, NASA established the Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO) and its mission is to invest financial and technical resources to stimulate efforts within the private companies to develop and demonstrate safe, reliable, and cost-effective space transportation capabilities with external cargo delivery and disposal, internal cargo delivery and disposal, internal cargo delivery and return, and crew transportation included (Bell, 2014). The C3PO manages and oversees COTS partnership agreements with the private companies for commercial cargo transportation demonstrations.

In 2012, SpaceX successfully developed and demonstrated the Dragon spacecraft with its capability to deliver supplies to the ISS and safely return supplies to Earth (Bell, 2014). The capability to deliver and safely return cargo is critical for supporting scientific research in the ISS’s microgravity environment that enables benefits for humanity and increases understanding of how humans can work, live, and flourish in space for long periods (Bell, 2014). On December 21, 2015, SpaceX successfully returned a first stage rocket back to the launch site and accomplished a vertical landing. Achieving a vertical landing is a critical step towards reusable rockets (Malik, 2015). SpaceX is planning a manned Dragon/Falcon 9 flight in future years when they are to insert a fully certified, human-rated launch escape system integrated into the Dragon spacecraft as per the CCDev contract (Bell, 2014).

Orbital successfully developed and demonstrated the Cygnus spacecraft and the Antares launch vehicles under the COTS program. The Cygnus spacecraft is designed to transport supplies to the ISS following the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011. The Antares rocket is designed to launch heavy payloads into low Earth orbit (Bell, 2014). Orbital is a provider of various communications satellites with Geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) satellites, low Earth orbit satellites, imaging satellites, Science and Environmental satellites, and remote sensing/Earth observation satellites included (Wall, 2015).

Blue Origin successfully developed and demonstrated the New Shepard reusable launch system that is designed to conduct a vertical takeoff and vertical landing, suborbital manned rocket (Cofield, 2015). On November 23, 2015, the New Shepard booster successfully conducted a vertical landing, which is the first-ever booster rocket that returned from space to make a vertical landing.

Space Challenges

Due to its internal government research and development programs being expensive, NASA seeks to procure better opportunities via a more cost-effective means by developing and supporting the commercial spaceflight sector and outsourcing procedures or processes of the NASA (Bell, 2014).  Traditionally, procurement laws have given the government agencies the extensive right to intellectual property developed that are using taxpayer funds and reflecting a public interest in funding open competition and fast-moving development.  Due to the increase of the companies’ concerns about their intellectual property rights as one of the intense issues between NASA and companies, NASA has taken a significant step to develop innovative agreement strategies to ensure that companies have the ability to retain intellectual property rights (Bell, 2014).

Space Act Agreements (SAAs) were formed under NASA’s authority to enter into transactions other than contracts, grants, or cooperative agreements, which is called “other transactions” (Bell, 2014). “Other transactions” are highly emphasized that they are designed to be not subject to the federal laws and regulations governing procurement contracts, which is therefore not required to comply with the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), NASA FAR Supplement (NFS), or any laws that are limited in applicability to procurement contracts (Bell, 2014). Typically, companies desire to secure their information through patent, copyright, or trade secret protection, which is one of the main reasons SAAs are designed to provide the flexibility that allows them to negotiate intellectual property rights clauses in contrast to the requirements listed by the FAR or the NFS (Bell, 2014).

SAAs provide three well-defined patent clauses that NASA replies on to allocate intellectual rights depending on what factors that clauses may apply. The following three potential patent clauses NASA and companies may use to address intellectual rights issues are the Short Form Sample Clause, the Long Form Sample Clause, and the Title Taking Sample Clause (Parrish, 2013). Any person, organization, or institution may use the Short Form Sample Clause if any work is not for NASA or NASA has no intentions to take over. With that being said, title to any inventions made under the Short Form Sample Clause agreement will be remained to the inventing party (Parrish, 2013). NASA may use the Long Form Sample Clause if there is high chance that any work will lead to an invention. The Long Form provides seven provisions to cover a range of inventive activity and outlines the parties’ licensing, sublicensing, assignment, and patent right to solely and jointly inventions (Parrish, 2013). According to the provisions 2 and 3 under the Long Form, NASA may grant a negotiated license to the SAA partner and the SAA partner must take their responsibilities to provide a plan pointing how they will develop or market inventions. Under provision 4, NASA may receive an undivided interest and make, use, offer to sell, or sell the patented invention without the consent of the other owners (Parrish, 2013). If the SAA partner attempts to bring patent infringement suits against NASA, NASA may refuse to voluntarily join the patent infringement suit. Therefore, the SAA partner should keep their eyes on provision 4 (Parrish, 2013). The Title Taking Sample Clause grants NASA title-taking authority if any inventions made in the performance of any work under the SAA contract. The SAA contract states that if the SAA partner’s primary rationale is to commercialize any inventions in the commercial market, NASA may categorize the SAA as a cooperative effort (Parrish, 2013). If the SAA partner’s primary rationale is to sell any inventions to NASA, NASA may categorize the SAA as the Title Taking Sample Clause. Under provision 9 of the Title Taking Sample Clause, march-in rights allow NASA to march in and take over any invention if the invention’s commercialization is not being executed with due diligence and NASA may grant the license itself if any invention is not accomplished within a reasonable time (Parrish, 2013).

Design and Methods

Introduction

This section of the research presents the design of the study. The design describes what the research methods and techniques to be used, how the subjects are chosen, how the sample size is determined, the instrument to be used to collect data, how validity and reliability of the instrument to be maintained, and how the data analysis to be outlined including the application of statistical tools for treatment of data generated by the study.

Purpose of the Research

The purpose of the research is to explore and identify the extent and nature of cause and effect relationship between NASA and private sector. Mixed methods research will be used as the part of the research design including philosophical assumptions that guide the direction of the collection and analysis of data and the mixture of qualitative and quantitative approaches in many phases in the research process (Creswell, 2007). According to Creswell (2007), Creswell argued, “Mixed methods research provides strengths that offset the weaknesses of both quantitative and qualitative research.” (p. 9); “Mixed methods research provides more comprehensive evidence for studying a research problem than either quantitative or qualitative research alone.” (p. 9); “Mixed methods research helps answer questions that cannot be answered by qualitative or quantitative approaches alone.” (p. 9); “Mixed methods research encourages the use of multiple worldviews or paradigms rather than the typical association of certain paradigms for quantitative researchers and others for qualitative researchers.” (p. 9).  Using qualitative approach would enable the investigator to observe and document participants’ behaviors, opinions, patterns and needs on the process of privatization through in-person interview. Using quantitative approach would enable the investigator to identify and define independent and dependent variables through participants’ perspective, and passive & active behaviors on the process of privatization. Drawing findings and definitions from the process of qualitative and quantitative approaches may contribute to the understanding of consequences toward the privatization of NASA.

The purpose of the research is to explore the debate climate on the process of privatization of NASA by examining how proponents and opponents frame their arguments. The following research questions the investigator seeks to address:

  1. What is the relationship between proponents and opponents on the process of privatization of NASA?
  2. Has there been a change in which aspects of the frames are emphasized by proponents and opponents?

Qualitative Research

The practice of qualitative research will be used to conduct the study. The concept of qualitative research is designed to provide a target population’s range of heavier and the perceptions that refer to specific topics by the use of in-depth methods such as in-person interview to support the construction of hypotheses with descriptive results (Madrigal & McClain, 2012). The use of qualitative research will be beneficially contributed to the study. The practice of qualitative research is very useful in case of complex phenomena cannot be expressed in numbers, but can be described. Qualitative data includes information about participant behaviors, needs, desires, routines, use cases, and other variances. According to Madrigal and McClain (2012), the use of in-depth interview will allow the author to observe and document behaviors, opinions, patterns, and needs and seek for statements that are identical across different research participants.

Interview questions are to be open-ended, but an interview guide will be employed in order to ensure validity and the ability to compare information gathered within each interview. Interview questions are designed to get at the following four general areas: (1) level of concern for privatization; (2) response of NASA to privatization; (3) factors affecting response; (4) overall impact of privatization.

Quantitative Research

The practice of quantitative research will be used to conduct the study. The concept of quantitative research defines any research-based on a phenomenon that can be accurately and precisely measured (Madrigal & McClain, 2012). Generally, quantitative practices emphasize objective measurements and the statistical, mathematical, or numerical analysis of data collected through polls, questionnaires, or surveys to explain a particular phenomenon. Quantitative research can quantify attitudes, opinions, behaviors, and other defined variances (Madrigal & McClain, 2012). The purpose of quantitative research is to determine the relationship between an independent variable and dependent variable within a target population. The benefit of quantitative research emphasizes any data in numerical form such as useful statistics and percentages will yield an unbiased result that can be generalized to a larger population (Madrigal & McClain, 2012).

According to Kalaian and Kasim (2008), Kalaian and Kasim defined “A research hypothesis is the statement created by researchers when they speculate upon the outcome of a research or experiment.” (p. 732); “Every true experimental design must have this statement at the core of its structure, as the ultimate aim of any experiment.” (p.732); “The hypothesis is generated via a number of means, but is usually the result of a process of inductive reasoning where observations lead to the formation of a theory.” (p. 732). The hypothesis statement, which is hypothesized by the researcher is: The process of privatization of NASA may be supported by proponents 80% more than opponents. The result of the hypothesis statement will be based on statistics generated from the Likert scale survey.

The practice of Likert scale will be used to measure attitudes and behaviors directly by using answer choices that range from one strongly disagree to strongly agree. The concept of Likert scale allows you to uncover degrees of opinion as opposed to a simple “yes/no” question (McLeod, 2008). Therefore, using the Likert scale will ensure that participants are not being forced to express an either-or opinion, rather allowing them to be neutral should they choose and it is easy to draw results from the responses.

Data Collection

The collective data will be conducted by reviewing the responses gathered from in-person interviews with selective participants within NASA and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) units and random participants through surveys.  The in-person interviews will be arranged upon the confirmation of available appointments with FAA Director of Research and several undecided selective participants following the 2016-2017 academic year. The FAA Director of Research has worked with NASA for a number of years and is currently working for FAA. Therefore, involving the Director of Research in the process of the study would provide a key link between NASA and FAA. Surveys will be emailed and handed out to NASA, FAA, and private companies at a conference with the assistance of the FAA Director of Research following the 2016-2017 academic year.

Confidentiality

Participants will be informed that their direct identifiers, such as names, email addresses, or others will not be collected during the process of research conducts. The principal investigator will explain participants that their positions, units, and number of working years will be recorded for specific reasons regarding the relationship between NASA and private sector. Also, participants will be informed that the results of their participations will be secured confidentially and there will not be any association between their responses and identities by the principal investigator.

Informed Consent

Research will be based on participants’ freely volunteered informed consent, which is implying a responsibility to explain fully and meaningfully what the research is about and how it will be distributed. Explaining the details of the research project and the intentions of the case analysis will be required before entering the fieldwork. Participants will be aware of their right to refuse to participate, understand the extent to which confidentiality will be maintained, and be aware of the potential uses to which the data may be placed.

Findings

The first question was, “Do you support or oppose the change to a privatized service/faculty?” Most participants expressed strong supports for the change. One participant described its background in Orbital Sciences as an engineer and is in favor for successful programs and against some unsuccessful programs, “My first job was engineer for Orbital Sciences. We were working Orbital Sciences X-34. We were ready to demonstrate the first flight, but NASA cancelled the program. NASA has another contract with Orbital for Cygnus spacecraft and the Antares launch vehicle under the COTS program. We successfully demonstrated and got award. Collaborative efforts with NASA were successful for us.”

All the interview participants expressed that NASA can maintain a positive relationship with private companies if they work together to solve their issues in some aspects of the commercial space activities. One participant suggested that:

The best way to maintain a positive relationship is that everyone’s expectations are clear and everyone is on the same page. NASA and private companies should invest collaborative efforts and made strong contributions to the progress. It is important for NASA and private companies to match their interests. That’d be a solution where everyone benefits. If one of parties lose, other party will lose too. It is important that private companies pursue their economic interests without having government interrupt the progress. US government didn’t tell Ford to design the specifications according to its requirements. Ford designed and developed its own specifications. Also, US government didn’t tell Boeing to design. Nowadays, Ford and Boeing are accomplishing their interests/goals by their own designs. NASA should follow that approach by allowing private companies to design and develop their own specifications for spacecraft, launch vehicles, and many more. So, NASA could become a customer in the space market. This approach would solve many technical difficulties.

Second participant suggested that NASA can maintain a positive relationship with private companies if NASA could work on a better model for government insight and oversight of space activities through contracts. Third participant suggested that if private companies successfully demonstrate the safety in launch systems or rockets, NASA would be likely to invest more funds and open more service programs like COTS. Fourth participant suggest that with NASA being a customer, they can leverage private companies’ products and services, and support fair competitive market for other customers.

All the participants were asked if there are any influences that NASA may have on private companies since NASA has begun commercialization/privatization of some space programs. They responded that they have seen benefits and improvements in some aspects of the space activities. One participant stated that NASA is a customer in space market so NASA can choose choices in variety of space products and services. NASA can control them through contracts because they agreed and incorporated provisions into contracts. Second participants stated that years ago, there were none of private companies that are willing to invest their funds into space activities. Only would they invest their efforts into research and development if NASA supports them financially. Nowadays, there are private companies that are willing to invest their own funds into space activities without NASA. Third participant stated that NASA has contributed a lot to private companies. For example, NASA’s the world’s leading organization in thermal protection system. SpaceX has benefitted from using NASA’s thermal protection system by integrating it into its Dragon spacecraft. It was successful and valuable that NASA offered.

All the participants were asked if they have seen any risks regarding the commercialization/privatization of space programs and they suggested that NASA and private companies should accept risks if we want to motivate and accomplish goals to set space activities. One participant stated that:

First thing is that it is safety obviously. Any tests, any involvements can expose great risks. Every year, about 40,000 people die from auto accidents. Also, planes crash every year. Those kinds expose risks. The concept is applied to most activities we involve. People may scare and people may be fine, but if we want to develop activities in space, that means we must accept the risks. Second, the big risk is that government is depending on private companies. If private companies shut down, who would NASA depend on? That’d be risk. Even though reducing costs is one of goals, depending on private companies needs to be considered carefully. There are about three companies that are competing. If two of them are closing, one left may control and increase the costs. That would stress the government to pay more. That’d be another risk.

Second participant described its experience that its first job was an engineer for Orbital Sciences. They were working on Orbital Sciences X-34, a suborbital reusable-rocket technology demonstrator. The first flight vehicle was near completion, but NASA demanded sizable design changes without further funding. Orbital Sciences refused. So, NASA cancelled the program. NASA can decide to cancel contracts anytime. It can be costly for private companies if it requires more efforts on projects. Third participant stated that NASA and private companies always manage risks. There are ways to manage risks and risks must be managed. There cannot be any program without risks associated.  There will be always risks in any programs that are managed by either NASA or private companies.

All the participants were asked if any government constraints will be lessened. All of them responded no. Two participants suggested that the laws are set to limit space organizations to the degree of what, when, and how they can perform space activities. FAA is to grant licenses to private companies when they meet the criteria. The laws are also designed to support the development of space activities. One participant stated that the current laws don’t create any difficulties for private companies. NASA is authorized to make any amendable provisions to SAA contracts with private companies.

All participants described what change processes have been implemented by commercialization/privatization. Most participants stated that numbers of innovative technologies and designs are growing as NASA encourage private companies to involve and innovate more. One participant stated that:

There have been more efforts in the development and innovation than before. Now, more private companies are investing their funds into the progress. Something like that wasn’t predictable before. Blue Origin recently announced its $1 billion investment into space activities every year. The changes have greater effects on us. The progress is pushing us to dominate the space. It’s exciting that more private companies are joining the competitive space market to develop space activities.

Another participant stated that:

I support NASA’s the use of more private companies. There were some NASA workers that resist the idea of using private companies. The White House and Congress worked together to pass the legislation that requires NASA to follow the interests that are set by the public and private companies. NASA didn’t want to privatize its cargo transportation program to private companies. Some NASA workers used to doubt the efforts by private companies and they were proven wrong by their successful missions. Now, NASA has more workers that support the progress.

One participant stated that there are still some NASA workers that resist the changes. Even though COTS demonstrates its success, those people have been resisting the changes in every step of the progress. The President and Congress will ensure that the changes will be happened through the progress. They will order NASA to support the changes because they want to respect taxpayers’ every penny.

All the participants predicted that there would long-term positive consequences for the public. One participant expressed that there’s a hope that a regular citizen could be able to transport from the ground to space. The view of Earth would be amazing for tourists taking off into space. Second participant emphasized that people have been dreaming of involving space activities for many years. The idea of how people dominate and develop a village into a town, and then into a city is applied to the progress. We will grow more space activities into space like the way we grow from village to city. Another participant stated that:

Yes, it is promised that there would be long-term consequences for the public. Nowadays, we are approaching the big changes to open space activities to the public. We will see rockets taking off every week or daily! If NASA is being proactive in the progress, it would speed up the progress.

The survey participants volunteered themselves to participate in the survey via publicly posted web links to postulate a random population of space activities participants.  11 responses were received.

In Table 1 the result shows that most participants support the change to ta privatized service/faculty, which 54.5% responded strongly agree and 36.4% responded agree. Only 1 participant responded disagree, which is 9.1% of the overall responses.

Figure 1: Support the change to a privatized service/faculty scale graph

Table 1: Support the change to a privatized service/faculty percentage

Do you support the change to a privatized service/faculty?
Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Strongly agree 54.5% 6
Agree 36.4% 4
Neutral 0.0% 0
Disagree 9.1% 1
Strongly disagree 0.0% 0
answered question 11

In Table 2 the result shows that the majority of participants agree that policymakers, agency officials, and other stakeholders agree on the goals that the privatization is to achieve, which are 9.1% responded strongly agree and 72.7% responded agree. Only one participant responded disagree, which is 9.1% of the overall responses. One participant responded neutral.

Figure 2: Policymakers, agency officials, and other stakeholders agree on the goals scale graph

Table 2: Policymakers, agency officials, and other stakeholders agree on the goals percentage

Do policymakers, agency officials, and other stakeholders agree on the goals the privatization is to achieve?
Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Strongly agree 9.1% 1
Agree 72.7% 8
Neutral 9.1% 1
Disagree 9.1% 1
Strongly disagree 0.0% 0
answered question 11

 

In Table 3 the result shows that the majority of participants agree that the government should involve the private sector in the activity, which 54.5% responded strongly agree and 36.4% responded agree. Only 1 participant responded disagree, which is 9.1% of the overall responses.

Figure 3: Views on whether the government should involve the private sector in the activity or not scale graph

Table 3: Views on whether the government should involve the private sector in the activity or not percentage 

Should the government involve the private sector in the activity?
Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Strongly agree 54.5% 6
Agree 36.4% 4
Neutral 0.0% 0
Disagree 9.1% 1
Strongly disagree 0.0% 0
answered question 11

In Table 4 the result shows that the majority of participants unanimously agree that there are laws, policies, regulations, or grants requirements that either mandate or constrain who can perform the activity, which 54.5% responded strongly agree and 45.5% responded agree.

Figure 4: Views on laws, policies, regulations, or grants requirements that either mandate or constrain who can perform the activity scale graph

Table 4: Views on laws, policies, regulations, or grants requirements that either mandate or constrain who can perform the activity percentage

Are there laws, tax policies, regulations, or grant requirements that either mandate or constrain who can perform the activity?
Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Strongly agree 54.5% 6
Agree 45.5% 5
Neutral 0.0% 0
Disagree 0.0% 0
Strongly disagree 0.0% 0
answered question 11

In Table 5 the result shows that the majority of participants agree that there will need to be a change in the statutory or regulatory requirements to ensure a successful privatization for a particular activity, which 27.3% responded strongly agree and 54.5% responded agree. Only one participant responded disagree, which is 9.1% of the overall responses. One participant responded neutral.

Figure 5: Views on whether changes needed to regulatory requirements or not scale graph

Table 5: Views on whether changes needed to regulatory requirements or not percentage

Will there need to be a change in the statutory or regulatory requirements to ensure a successful privatization for a particular activity?
Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Strongly agree 27.3% 3
Agree 54.5% 6
Neutral 9.1% 1
Disagree 9.1% 1
Strongly disagree 0.0% 0
answered question 11

In Table 6 the result shows that the majority of participants agree that the government can maintain necessary control and accountability for activities that have been contracted out, which 81.8% responded agree. One participant responded disagree, which is 9.1%. One participant responded neutral.

Figure 6: Views on the capability of government control and accountability for activities scale graph

Table 6: Views on the capability of government control and accountability for activities percentage

Can the government maintain necessary control and accountability for activities that have been contracted out?
Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Strongly agree 0.0% 0
Agree 81.8% 9
Neutral 9.1% 1
Disagree 9.1% 1
Strongly disagree 0.0% 0
answered question 11

In Table 7 the result shows that the majority of participants agree that the evidence has been presented on the potential for significant enhancements to economy, efficiency, or effectiveness, which 63.6% responded strongly agree and 27.3% responded agree. Only 1 participant responded disagree, which is 9.1% of the overall responses.

Figure 7: Views on evidences that show significant enhancements to economy, efficiency, or effectiveness scale graph

Table 7: Views on evidences that show significant enhancements to economy, efficiency, or effectiveness percentage

Has evidence been presented on the potential for significant enhancements to economy, efficiency, or effectiveness?
Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Strongly agree 63.6% 7
Agree 27.3% 3
Neutral 9.1% 1
Disagree 0.0% 0
Strongly disagree 0.0% 0
answered question 11

Discussion

The mixed qualitative and quantitative results strongly indicated that most participants support the process of privatization of NASA space programs. Most of the responses pointed out that the numbers of technologies, designs, innovations, and private companies have been rising since NASA begun the privatization/commercialization practices. Also, most survey responses pointed out that the evidence has been presented that there have been significant enhancements to economy, efficiency, and effectiveness. 

The results indicated that there are certain challenges that private companies face when it comes to contracts. All the participants argued that NASA can maintain a positive relationship with private companies if they work together to solve their issues in some aspects of the commercial space activities by developing a better model for government insight and oversight of space activities, reducing resistance in every step towards commercialization/privatization, investing more collaborative efforts, and increasing the effectiveness of safety. It could be perceived as a challenging road for NASA and private companies to achieve those goals together in their best interests.

Even though a better model needed for government insight and oversight, all the interview participants expressed that they are satisfied with current policies, regulations, or grants requirements. They supported the degree of what, when, and how they can perform space activities because they are designed to support and ensure the development of space activities. While, all the survey participants agreed that a change is needed in the statutory or regulatory requirements to ensure a successful commercialization/privatization.

All the participants noted that the commercialization/privatization programs have greatly and economically benefitted all parties. A variety of products and services have increased when NASA opened COTS and became a customer in space market. That can be perceived as a better model to push the edge of human space exploration. There were none of private companies that are willing to invest their funds into research and development. NASA decided to change that by funding into research & development and commercial space programs. Private companies were inspired by it and decided to invest their own funds into space activities without depending on NASA. NASA has offered a range of applicable technologies and instruments that private companies could take advantages of. For example, NASA’s the world’s leading organization in thermal protection system. SpaceX has benefitted from using NASA’s thermal protection system by integrating it into its Dragon spacecraft. It was successful and valuable that NASA offered.

The qualitative approach had four as the highest number of the interview participants. The quantitative approach had eleven as the highest number of the survey participants. Those numbers of participants are considered too low to fit an appropriate sample size criteria to represent the population. Further studies needed to improve recruitment included recruiting more participants, providing support for researcher, and forming collaboration with team members to improve the identification of and access to potential participants.

Conclusion

Recruiting the target number of space activities participants was perceived as difficult. New and diverse strategies to ensure that all potentially eligible participants are recruited to participate may be beneficial and need further exploration in different settings. Establishing recruitment and interview team with shared responsibilities may also facilitate this process. Language barriers and one’s doing all works were considered negative influences on recruitment. Collecting more samples, such as recruiting more participants, would provide a better information. We are on the verge of the moment where everything is changing and it is important to collect and note qualitative and quantitative information to describe a set of events in the context of the process of commercialization/privatization in space activities.

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Appendix A: Interview Questions

Interview Questions

  1. Do you support or oppose the change to a privatized service/faculty? Why? Or why not?
  1. Why do you believe the Federal Government moved toward the privatization of the NASA Space Program?
  1. What risks do you see regarding privatization of the NASA Space Program? Explain
  1. How has your position and work been affected by the change?
  1. What budget changes have been made to your position since the changes have been implemented? How?
  1. Now that NASA has begun privatization of the space program, what influences does NASA have on these private companies or agencies?
  1. How can a positive relationship between NASA and private space companied be maintained?
  1. What, if any, government constraints will be lessened or removed?
  1. What kinds of change processes have been implemented by the privatization?
  1. How has your department responded to privatization?
  1. Will privatization have any long-term consequences for the general public?
  2. Do you support the missions of NASA’s Space Program?

Appendix B: Survey Questions

Survey Questions

  1. Do you support the change to a privatized service/faculty?
  1. Do policymakers, agency officials, and other stakeholders agree on the goals the privatization is to achieve?
  1. Should the government involve the private sector in the activity?
  1. Are there laws, tax policies, regulations, or grant requirements that either mandate or constrain who can perform the activity?
  1. Will there need to be a change in the statutory or regulatory requirements to ensure a successful privatization for a particular activity?
  1. Can the government maintain necessary control and accountability for activities that have been contracted out?
  2. Has evidence been presented on the potential for significant enhancements to economy, efficiency, or effectiveness?

Appendix C: Informed Consent

Informed Consent Form

Title of Study:

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the privatized private space companies.

Purpose of the study:

The purpose of this study is to explore the causal relationship between NASA and the private space companies in which aspects of the frames that are emphasized by proponents and opponents.

Procedure:

You will be asked to volunteer one hour of your time to interview. The one hour time will be selected based on the availability of the participant and the researcher. I will recruit volunteer interviewees via email and in person. Interviewees will be selected based on their position status. They will be asked to answer questions related to their experiences about their participations in the process of privatization. All participants will be interviewed at their preferred location. The room will be reserved to ensure privacy and no interruptions. I will record all responses in written and video format and will check with each interviewee to ensure correct interpretation.

Compensation:

Will you compensate your participants?

Risks:

All research poses some risk. Participation is voluntary and can be stopped at any time.

Accessibility:

All questions will be asked in American Sign Language. The researcher will restate questions and ask questions to ensure understanding. The interviewee will be encouraged to ask for clarification of questions that are posed.

Confidentiality:

The results of your participation will be kept anonymous and there will not be any association between your responses and your identity by the principal investigator.

Withdrawing participation:

Your participation is voluntary and you may withdraw from the study at any time for any reason.

I have read this consent form. I am an adult (age 18 or older) and voluntarily agree to participate in this study.

Participant Name: ________________________________________

Participant Signature: ____________________________________   Date: ____________________

Appendix D: Video Consent Form

Video Release Form

Acknowledgement of Video Recording

 

I, _______________________________________, agree to be video recorded as part of my participation in the study, “NASA and the privatized private space companies”, conducted by, the principal investigator, James Bushor.

Confidentiality:

The results of your participation will be kept anonymous and there will not be any association between your responses and your identity by the principal investigator.

Access and Dissemination

 

Withdrawing participation:

Your participation is voluntary and you may withdraw from the study at any time for any reason.

I have read this consent form. I am an adult (age 18 or older) and voluntarily agree to participate in this study.

Participant Name: ________________________________________

Participant Signature: ____________________________________   Date: ____________________

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