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Investigating innovative space contracting and PPPs: towards a design support tool



Organisational Unit
15 April 2024

Duration: 24 months


NASA and ESA are both striving for more innovative contracting and Public Private Collaborations (PPCs) [1]. There are over a dozen NASA initiatives [2], as per the 2020 National Space Policy's focus. The ESA DG wants a NASA-style reform, to buy “defined services instead of managing development” [3], and 4 of 6 recommendations by his New Space Advisory Board relate to contracting and PPCs [4]. PPCs are not new in space [1,5,6], e.g. Ariane’s operational concession. Yet NewSpace is transforming the sector [7], with innovative contracts and PPCs at its core [8,9]. But e.g. COTS, CCP have contested outcomes and unclear success factors: Falcon 9 development was reported to cost 10× less than the standard NASA way [10], but "why" was not known [11], and has not been clarified [12]. The COTS official report mentions savings ranging from 10% to 10× [8]; NASA cost estimators cite 4×-10× [13], the now-Chief Economist only "significant savings" [14]. NewSpace critic Senator Richard Shelby even in 2018 "raises new questions about SpaceX contracts" [15]; in sum "the consequences of the COTS decision are not yet known" [5]. In Europe only 1 scholarly work critiques space PPCs [16]; indeed, ArianeGroup stressed subsidies as key to SpaceX success [17]. Other cited success factors include organization design, incentives, and partnership governance [18]. This study will clarify and establish outcomes of innovative contracts and PPCs like COTS, in detail and transparently linked to data. Our multidisciplinary approach uses innovation and engineering economics, and organizational theory, inspired by the novel (1) innovatisation framework [7] and (2) 2023 PhD on space PPCs [1] (now at NASA HQ). Cost modeling backed by interviews will rigorously assess recent PPCs’ success; we then model causal factors conceptually plus semi-quantitatively using System Dynamics [19], to find PPC Performance Relationships [20]. The result is a decision support tool for PPC designers, augmenting [1].

Contract number
OSIP Idea Id
Related OSIP Campaign
Open Channel
Main application area
Generic for multiple space applications
Investigating innovative space contracting and PPPs: towards a design support tool