Commercial Space Groups Urge Defeat of Revised House NASA Bill

Ares I-X lifts off from the Cape.

Both the Space Frontier Foundation and the Space Access Society have issued action alerts urging supporters to oppose the House’s revised NASA spending bill.

“Although they’ve done their best to appear to be compromising, the fine text makes it clear that they want to continue Constellation,” wrote Space Frontier Foundation Executive Director Will Watson.

Both Watson and SAS Founder Henry Vanderbilt said that the new House bill places unacceptable restrictions on NASA’s planned commercial crew transport program.

“This new version of HR.5781 places a whole tangle of reviews, reports, certifications, and other requirements on Commercial Crew, the general effect of which cannot be other than to discourage such efforts,” Vanderbilt wrote. “It retains specific Commercial Crew poison pill requirements that neither NASA nor existing Russian providers have to meet.”

URGENT NASA Funding Battle Action
by Henry Vanderbilt
Space Access Society

In a surprise move, the House parties to the ongoing House-Senate negotiations over a NASA Authorization bill have unilaterally come up with a substitute version of their original (and very bad) HR.5781. This new version of HR.5781 may be voted on as soon as tomorrow, Friday 9/24. After a quick review of the new bill text, we strongly urge you to IMMEDIATELY contact your Representative and ask them to reject HR.5781 and instead approve the Senate version S.3729.

Briefly, the Senate bill is an acceptable compromise between the White House’s NASA reform proposals and the House Science Committee’s attempt to preserve the untenable Ares/Orion status quo. This new bill from the House Science Committee does roughly split the difference between the Senate’s (already marginal) Crew/Cargo and R&D funding numbers and the old House version’s totally unacceptable numbers, and is in that sense a “compromise.”

However, this new version of HR.5781 places a whole tangle of reviews, reports, certifications, and other requirements on Commercial Crew, the general effect of which cannot be other than to discourage such efforts. It retains specific Commercial Crew poison pill requirements that neither NASA nor existing Russian providers have to meet. It retains the old version’s general support for continued development of something a lot like Ares/Orion, and (assuming that ever even flies at the reduced-yet-further-from-Augustine-minimums funding) it effectively then allows government competition with US commercial crew vendors via an “if practicable” escape clause on its “prohibition” of such competition.

All that aside, it is our understanding that, while this version reflects some of the previous negotiations with the Senate, it was NOT run past or approved by the Senate parties. It is a unilateral move by the House Science Committee to preempt the process, and as such it will inevitably lead to more months of Congressional wrangling, more months of NASA paralysis and drift, increased vulnerability of NASA Exploration to the Deficit Reduction Commission’s attentions, and more months of massive uncertainty for the workers and organizations involved.

Enough is enough. We think it’s time to settle on the Senate compromise, resolve this matter, and move forward.

What To Do

We ask that you call your Representative’s DC office (go to http://www.house.gov/zip/ZIP2Rep.html for their name and party, and call them via the US Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121), TODAY if at all possible and overnight or by early Friday morning at latest, and (politely!) tell the person you end up talking to (most likely a staffer or a staffer’s voicemail) the following:

Ask them to vote against House bill HR.5781 (or any House-written NASA Authorization bill) if it comes to the floor this Friday or next week. Ask them to instead vote to pass Senate bill S.3729 before the House recesses for the election.

– If your Representative is a Democrat, ask them to contact Majority Leader Hoyer in opposition to any NASA bill other than Senate bill S.3729 coming to the floor, and to request that S.3729 be brought to the floor for an up or down vote next week.

– If your Representative is a Republican, ask them to contact Minority Whip Eric Cantor in opposition to any NASA bill other than Senate bill S.3729 coming to the floor, and to request that S3729 be brought to the floor for an up or down vote next week.

– If your Congressman is a strong supporter of the House bill – Bart Gordon, Gabrielle Giffords, Alan Grayson, etc – politely explain that you strongly support S.3729, the Senate NASA Authorization bill, and you’d like them to also, because it’s a reasonable compromise between the White House and House positions, and because NASA really needs an Authorization to let it begin moving forward again.

Thanks for your time.

Henry Vanderbilt for Space Access Society

Action Alert – Help Kill HR 5781 NOW
Space Frontier Foundation

The Space Frontier Foundation (SFF) urges every commercial space supporter to take action immediately. Tomorrow, the House of Representatives will bring to a vote the NASA Reauthorization Act. Unfortunately, they have decided to continue the failed policy that is Constellation.

“Although they’ve done their best to appear to be compromising,” Space Frontier
Foundation Executive Director Will Watson states, “the fine text makes it clear that they want to continue Constellation.”

Although Chairman Gordon has “tweaked” the language, if you look carefully, you’ll find the numerous land minds. For commercial crew, it:

  • Mandates 24 separate restrictions on the development of commercial crew, which is THREE TIMES more restrictions than the Senate bill.
  • Merges the budgets of Commercial Cargo with Commercial Crew, resulting in cuts of over 33% of the Senate Bill, and 51% of the President’s request. And depending on the allocation of future funds, this cut may wind up being as much as 80%.

These 2 issues will result in extending our dependence on Russia, postponing improved access to the ISS for scientists and engineers to do research, and pushing off Americans’ chances to fly into orbit on an American rocket. This is completely unacceptable, and is more than enough reason to oppose the Senate bill.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. HR 5781 also:

  • Tweaks the heavy lift language of the Senate bill to allow NASA to continue developing Ares I if the agency wanted to, all in a desperate ploy to continue the unsustainable Constellation program as-is.
  • Mandates that NASA give Congress 30 days notice before terminating or allowing any Constellation contracts to lapse, and gives special dispensation to the Ares solid rocket motors.

This is a level of pork that should be unacceptable to all citizens, and certainly to anyone concerned about the future of space. We urge our advocates and anyone who cares about space to call their Representative TODAY.

  • Call the capital switchboard at (202) 224-3121.Tell them where you live, and they’ll connect you directly to your Representative.
  • When talking to your Representative, ask them to vote against House bill HR5781 or any House-written NASA Authorization bill if it comes to the floor this Friday or next week, and instead vote to pass Senate bill S3729 before the House recesses for the election.
  • If your Congressman is a Democrat, ask them to contact Majority Leader Hoyer in opposition to any NASA bill other than Senate bill S3729 coming to the floor, and to request that S3729 be brought to the floor for an up or down vote next week.
  • If your Congressman is a Republican, ask them to contact Minority Whip Eric Cantor in opposition to any NASA bill other than Senate bill S3729 coming to the floor, and to request that S3729 be brought to the floor for an up or down vote next week.

This is a battle that we can win, but only if we make our voice heard.  Otherwise, special interests will continue to dictate the direction of NASA & U.S. space policy.