A Cornucopia at the Federal Register Last Week: New Executive Order on Manufacturing Base, Virgin’s LauncherOne, and NASA Contract Term

Last week’s Federal Register contained offerings for the space sector.

The President issued an Executive Order to assess the manufacturing and defense base, which should include the aerospace sector as one that is essential to national security.  The President is requiring the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with other agencies, to report on goods and materials essential to national security, identify the manufacturing capabilities necessary for their production, and then identify how things could go wrong in the supply chain for those goods and materials, including identifying gaps and single points of failure.  Most significantly the report calls for an assessment of the exclusive or dominant supply of good essential to national security “by or through nations that are or are likely to become unfriendly or unstable.”  Will Russian rocket engines be put on that list?  The report must recommend any “legislative, regulatory, and policy changes and other actions by the President or the heads of agencies” necessary to mitigate the problems identified by the report and shore up deficiencies.

On a separate front, the FAA has made available its  final environmental assessment for Virgin’s Launcher One.  The FAA’s notice summarizes Virgin’s plans:

The Final EA addresses the potential environmental impacts of Virgin Orbit (LauncherOne) LLC’s (L1’s) proposal to launch the LauncherOne at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Kern County, California, for purposes of transporting small satellites into a variety of Low Earth Orbits. The launch system consists of the rocket (LauncherOne) and a carrier aircraft (Boeing 747). To operate LauncherOne at the Mojave Air and Space Port, L1 must obtain a launch license from the FAA. Issuing a launch license is considered a major Federal action subject to environmental review under NEPA. Under the Proposed Action, the FAA would issue a launch license to L1 that would allow L1 to operate LauncherOne from the Mojave Air and Space Port. L1 is proposing a maximum of 115 launches over the course of the 5-year launch license.

Lastly, NASA has expanded the potential for the term of a contract with the agency.  A contractor may earn a longer contract term

if the contractor’s performance is superior, the Government has an on-going need for the requirement, and funds are available for the additional period of performance. The policy provides a non-monetary incentive for contractors whose performance is excellent. An award term incentive would be used where a longer term
relationship (generally more than five years) between the Government and a contractor would provide benefits to both parties. Benefits of award term incentives include a more stable business relationship both for the contractor and its employees (thus retaining a skilled, experienced workforce), motivating excellent performance (including cost savings), fostering contractor capital investment, increasing the desirability of the award (potentially increasing competition), and reduced administrative costs and disruptions in preparing for and negotiating replacement contracts.  Award terms are an incentive and not the same as exercising an option…