Members of the Utah congressional delegation met today with NASA officials at Sen. Orrin Hatchâ€™s office to press the space agency to fully implement the 2010 NASA Authorization Act.
Hatch, Sen. Bob Bennett and Reps. Rob Bishop and Jim Matheson met with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Deputy Administrator Lori Garver to ensure that they are on board with complying with the law, which outlines payload requirements for a heavy-lift space system that, experts agree, can only be realistically met by solid rocket motors like the ones ATK manufactures in northern Utah.
â€œNASA has signaled an interest recently in possibly circumventing the law,â€ Hatch said. â€œMy purpose in calling this meeting was to explain in no uncertain terms the Utah congressional delegationâ€™s interest in ensuring that Utahâ€™s solid rocket motor industry is protected. Though they assured us that NASA would comply with the law, some of their answers reaffirmed my suspicions that we need to keep a very close watch on the agency. I will continue with other delegation members to ensure the agency abides by the law and protects this industry that is so vitally important to our national security and northern Utahâ€™s economy.â€
â€œItâ€™s clear that congressional opinion on this issue isnâ€™t going to change as we work to advance the mission of NASA,â€ Bennett said. â€œI join my colleagues in admonishing NASA to strictly adhere to the law and use solid rocket motors in the development of the new Space Launch System. Such adherence is a major step in saving thousands of jobs in Utah and sustaining an industrial base critical to our national security.â€
â€œTodayâ€™s meeting confirms that we are in a long-term fight over the future of NASAâ€™s manned space flight program,â€ Bishop said. â€œWhile I appreciate Administrator Charlie Bolden and Assistant Administrator Lori Garverâ€™s willingness to meet with us, I remain very concerned that NASA continues to delay the transition from Constellation systems toward the new heavy-lift program while they needlessly explore private start-up technologies that remain unproven, require more money and are unfit for human-rated space travel. During the meeting, I expressed my disappointment that both Bolden and Garver continue to slow-walk the plans required by the NASA Reauthorization Act. A vital component of our national security with solid booster production remains at high risk so long as the current Administration and its NASA advisors continue to ignore the existing proven and successful space and missile defense technologies in favor of systems that are still considered to be experimental. This concerns me greatly. When national security is at stake, there are certain risks not worth taking, such as abandoning our existing vital industrial base.â€
The language Hatch was successful in getting inserted in the NASA Authorization Act does not require the new heavy-lift rocket to use solid rocket motors. But delegation members say the Utah experts they consulted say the legislationâ€™s requirements for the heavy-lift rocket can only be realistically met by using solid rocket motors.
For example, the rocket must be designed from its inception to carry 130 tons. The heavier the payload the more likely the rocket will use solid rocket motors. The law also requires NASA to use, as much as practical, existing contracts, workforces and industries for the Space Shuttle and Ares rockets.
Utahâ€™s congressional leaders sought further assurances that NASA will continue to fund ATKâ€™s research and development work on civilian solid rocket motors until the new Omnibus Appropriations Bill is signed into law.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz provided the following statement:
â€œUtah plays a vital role in America’s leadership in space. I appreciate Administrator Boldenâ€™s willingness to work with the delegation. It is important that NASA has a full, complete understanding of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. The Congressional intent is clear. Congress directed NASA to utilize existing contracts, investments, and workforce in the design of the next generation Space Launch System. I will continue to push NASA to abide by the law and to maximize successful investments made in Shuttle and Constellation.â€
Editor’s Note: Hatch is not a rocket scientist. And I’m guessing that no one else in the Utah delegation are either. Why they should be allowed to dictate to NASA what the requirements for a heavy-lift vehicle should be is absurd. Legal, but absurd.Â We should built rockets to whatever mission we decide to do. And ones that are affordable to operate. The solid rocket motors are certainly proven, but their cost have helped limit our progress in space due to their expense.