Obama Raises Stakes in Constellation Battle

Ares I-X lifts off from the Cape.

NASA order may force shutdown of Constellation moon-rocket program
Orlando Sentinel

In a surprise move, NASA has told the major contractors working on its troubled Constellation moon rocket program that they are in violation of federal spending rules — and must immediately cut back work by nearly $1 billion to get into compliance. As many as 5,000 jobs from Utah to Florida are expected to be lost over the next month.

The effect of the directive, which went out to contractors earlier this week and which Congress was told about on Wednesday, may accomplish something that President Barack Obama has sought since February: killing Constellation’s system of rockets, capsules and lunar landers that has already cost at least $9 billion to date….

At issue is the federal Anti-Deficiency Act that requires all federal contractors to set aside a portion of their payments to cover costs in case the project is ever cancelled.

New NASA calculations say contractors are $991 million short of what they must withhold – and the agency has ordered the companies to find that money from the roughly $3.5 billion they’re budgeted to get for Constellation projects this year.

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