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A video in the Space.com article NASA Taps Maxar to Build Lunar Gateway Power Module for Artemis Moon Plan shows the NASA director explaining the series Artemis 1, 2, 3... and announcing that the solar electric propulsion system for the gateway will be procured from the Colorado-based company Maxar and explains that the procurement is being done differently than ever before for NASA and that people will have to "get used to it".

In the video, Bridenstine says:

The contractor that will be building that element is… drum roll… Maxar. Maxar is going to build that for the United States of America. (applause). And I want to be clear about this acquisition process; to go from where we were to where we are right now so fast, this is a monumental achievement for this little agency we call NASA, and this is going to be an example of how we move things forward, because if we’re going to get the first woman and the next man to the south pole of the Moon in 2024 we have to have this kind of urgency, we have to move at this level of speed.

It is also true that we are procuring that power propulsion element of the gateway, we are procuring it in a way that we haven’t done before. We will have an option to take possession of it after it’s on orbit. In other words, we’re buying it commercially. They’re building it, and if it tests well, then we acquire it as a country. This is a different way of procuring it, and it is a big change, and we need to get used to this kind of change as an agency. And we are, we’re making these kinds of changes quickly.

Question: What exactly has "changed" about the way that NASA will procure technology for the Artemis program?


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    $\begingroup$ Is the answer clear if you change "take position of it" to "take possession of it" ? $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Nov 7 '19 at 3:18
  • $\begingroup$ @RussellBorogove typo fixed, thanks! I think a full answer will clearly point out what exactly has changed, hopefully with at least a minimal before/after comparison. Also, I'm not sure what combination of the technology, the IP, or the hardware that "it" refers to. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Nov 7 '19 at 3:19
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This applies to the HLS elements as well, but NASA has recently been requiring Firm Fixed Price Contracts (To avoid ballooning costs, like on SLS) alongside the result of the contract being NASA purchasing a ~service~. They are essentially buying a ticket to the moon, or a ticket to a certain amount of power around the moon, but not buying the plane. They have the opportunity to buy the plane, as Bridenstine says. IP is a bit more complicated, and it depends on the study and is frequently negotiated. Some aspects of the design may remain IP of the company that came up with it, and others may fall into NASA's hands.

This is better for private companies, but worse for NASA. In general, NASA has been shifting more into an administrative role, awarding contracts and setting regulations, than in an operator, designer, or manufacturing role. See: them not operating O-REx, InSight, etc.

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't understand the following at all: "They are essentially buying a ticket to the moon, or a ticket to a certain amount of power around the moon, but not buying the plane. They have the opportunity to buy the plane, as Bridenstine says." Can you spell this out literally rather than using analogy? Thanks! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Nov 7 '19 at 8:47
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    $\begingroup$ "We will have an option to take possession of it after it’s on orbit." means that they have some agreement that allows them to buy the plane if they choose to do so after seeing that it works, and allows them to not buy the plane if they don't. $\endgroup$ – Peteris Nov 7 '19 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh I don't know a great way to explain it without an analogy, it's like test driving a car.... The reason behind it is risk posturing from NASA. They didn't plan for a 2024 lunar landing and don't want to be burdened with the hardware and upkeep of a lunar lander. If they simply rent one for now, they can reassess their position and if a lunar lander aligns with their vision in 5-10 yrs. If it does, they buy. If not, the company sells tickets to others. $\endgroup$ – mothman Nov 8 '19 at 1:26

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