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Media Contact: 800-787-7223 or press@space-frontier.org
Foundation Calls on NASA to Transform Itself "As Only NASA Can", Wants Agency to "Buy Rather Than Build" New Space Vehicles

XCOR's EZ-Rocket
The entrepreneurial firm XCOR recently flew their EZ-Rocket test bed live in front of hundreds of thousands of people at the Oshkosh air show. Photo courtesy XCOR.
Los Angeles, CA, May 6, 2003 – Challenging testimony by NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, the Space Frontier Foundation called on NASA to transform itself into a customer for private enterprise, rather than a competitor. O'Keefe told the Senate subcommittee overseeing NASA's budget, “We will pursue activities unique to our mission – if NASA does not do them, they will not get done. If others are doing them, we should question why NASA is involved.”

Citing several recent announcements of privately financed space vehicles, the Foundation's Rick Tumlinson asked: “If private enterprise is developing this capability with its own money, why is NASA wasting billions to pay government contractors to design a spaceplane specifically for NASA? NASA should transform itself into a customer for private spaceplanes, instead of a competitor. The agency should buy rather than build, when it comes to future transportation from the Earth to space.”

The Foundation pointed out that a number of new and innovative commercial firms are investing in developing vehicles to fly humans and payloads into sub-orbital space. Famed designer Burt Rutan recently rolled out his Space Ship One in Mojave, California. Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com has reportedly made a large investment in a suborbital spaceship. Elon Musk of PayPal fame is building a commercial rocket system, and the entrepreneurial firm XCOR recently flew their EZ-Rocket test bed live in front of hundreds of thousands of people at the Oshkosh air show. The Foundation believes that with NASA offering to be a customer for rides and payload delivery, these companies could continue all the way to orbit.

“Giving NASA managers and government contractors who have failed over and over again billions of dollars to design and build a spaceplane specifically and only for NASA's use is the old way of doing things,” Tumlinson said. "We don't need one Orbital Spaceplane, we need many spaceplanes. We shouldn't be laying off astronauts, we should be opening the space frontier for more Americans. If this is done right, NASA can get all the transportation it needs, save billions in taxpayer funds, kick start a huge new industry and along the way, the people will at last get a chance to go into space themselves.”

The Foundation is calling on Mr. O'Keefe to keep his promise to transform NASA and act “as only NASA can” to make real changes. Rather than competing with private enterprise, the Foundation urges NASA to replace government development contracts with launch service purchases, flight data purchases, and competitive prizes for spaceplane development.


The Space Frontier Foundation is an organization of people dedicated to opening the Space Frontier to human settlement as rapidly as possible. Our goals include protecting the Earth's fragile biosphere and creating a freer and more prosperous life for each generation by using the unlimited energy and material resources of space. Our purpose is to unleash the power of free enterprise and lead a united humanity permanently into the Solar System.

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The Frontier Enabling Test
Our definition of a "frontier enabling" technology or policy is one which has as its effect the acceleration of the creation of low cost access to the space frontier for private citizens and companies, enables or accelerates our use of space resources, and/or accelerates the rate at which wealth can be generated in space. In other words, is the project or policy going to provide a return on the national investment, if we define "return" to be the economically sustainable human habitation of space?

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