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 â€” 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 Constellationâ€™s system of rockets, capsules and lunar landers that has already cost at least $9 billion to date….
The Houston Chroniclereports that the White House and Congress are beginning to get down the hard business of negotiations on NASA’s new budget:
The political potshots have subsided and the serious horse-trading lies ahead as the White House and Congress grind toward a compromise to salvage parts of the NASA moon program crucial to Houston’s Johnson Space Center. The legislative end-game is up in the air, as is any clear date to declare success or defeat. But the mood surrounding the space program in the nation’s capital has shifted from seizing partisan advantage to pursuing at least some political pragmatism….
Help sought for NASA workers: Officials request millions to help staff who could lose jobs in cutbacks of programs Houston Chronicle
Job transition assistance is on its way to Houston-area aerospace workers facing potential job losses from the retirement of NASA’s shuttle fleet and threatened cancellation of the moon program, the Texas Workforce Commission said on Friday.
Delivering ISDCâ€™s luncheon speech on Friday, XCOR CEO and Augustine Committee member Jeff Greason expressed his exasperation over the policy debate going on in Congress, his hope that Congress would kill an unaffordable Constellation program, and gave some prescriptions for how the United States should move ahead in exploring the cosmos.
A compilation of Tweets from Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) and the FAAâ€™s Ken Davidian (@cswicki):
Augustine Committee & Congressional Debate
Greason, talking about Augustine Cmte: to my surprise some people paid attention to the report this time. (@jeff_foust)
Greason: utterly dismayed by space policy debate so far. Need discussion based on facts, but that is not happening in Congress. (@jeff_foust)
The discussion to date is “baby wants his rattle back.” The budget for Constellation was just made up. (@cswiki)
SENATE COMMERCE, SCIENCE AND TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE PRESS RELEASE
Leaders of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Ranking Member Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), today called for the National Aeronautics and Space Administrationâ€™s (NASA) Inspector General to launch an investigation into the sudden removal of the Constellation program manager.
The full text of the May 27 letter to NASA Inspector General Paul Martin from Senators Hutchison and Rockefeller is below.
Ambitious Ares test flight plan proposed for HLV demonstrations NASASpaceflight.com A plan has been created for the continued use of Ares via a series of test flights, ultimately leading up to a Heavy Lift Vehicle (HLV) program in the second half of this decade. Appearing to bank on major changes being negotiated by Congress in NASAâ€™s FY2011 budget proposal, the plan would result in three Ares I test flights being conducted by the end of 2014…
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden spoke to the Washington Business Roundtable on Tuesday. He gave a strong defense of the Obama Administration’s proposed human spaceflight policy. Some highlights:
At the highest level, the President and his staff as well as my NASA senior leadership team closely reviewed the Augustine Committee report, and they came to the same realization the Committee concluded: The Constellation program was on an unsustainable trajectory. If we continued on our current course, at best we would have ended up flying a handful of astronauts to the moon sometime after 2030. But to accomplish even that limited task, we would have had to make even deeper cuts to the other parts of NASAâ€™s budget, terminating support of the ISS early and decimating our science and aeronautics efforts. Further, we would have had no money to advance the state of the art in any of the technology areas that we need to enable us to do new things in space â€“ no money to lower the cost of access to space, no money for closed-loop life support, no money for advanced propulsion technology, no money for radiation protection. The President recognized that what was truly needed for beyond LEO exploration was game-changing technologies; making the fundamental investments that will provide the foundation for the next half-century of American leadership in space exploration. In doing so, the President put forward what I believe to be the most authentically visionary policy for real human space exploration that we have ever had.
Orion removed from NASA control â€“ MOD positioning for commercial role NASASpaceflight.com
NASA managers are pushing through the shutdown of the Constellation Program (CxP) at a pace, with a series of memos showing all the Ares test flights have already been cancelled, along Orion â€˜defundedâ€™ and returned to the sole control of contractor Lockheed Martin. Meanwhile, MOD director Paul Hill has written to NASA administrator Charlie Bolden, requesting the Agency promotes MOD to the commercial sector.
Obama’s 2011 budget proposal provides $2.5 billion to pay contractors whatever NASA owes them so the agency can stop work on Constellation’s Ares rockets, Orion capsule and Altair lunar lander. But administration officials acknowledge that this number is, at best, an educated guess…
Many inside and outside of the space agency, however, think the number is too low.
Gov. Charlie Crist is holding a “space summit” in Orlando on Thursday with more than 200 industry, political and community leaders to develop a joint approach to NASA’s proposed change of course. Florida Today has more….
Sen. Bill Nelson – who at first was critical of the change – seems to be warming to it a bit. He will chair a meeting of the Senate space and science subcommittee next week in which he will explore what can be saved from the Constellation program if it is indeed canceled. Nelson seems particularly interested in having a firm plan for a heavy-lift vehicle for flights to the moon and Mars. Read more here…
Representatives Bill Posey and Suzanne Kosmas are among 27 House members who signed a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden calling on him not to cancel any part of the Constellation program without Congressional approval. The bipartisan group also included representatives from Alabama, California, Louisiana, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Virginia.
In an editorial, the Cleveland Plain Dealer looks at the confusion and uncertainty that NASA’s new human spaceflight policy is causing at the Glenn Research Center:
In the span of 48 hours, NASA Glenn had lost its big-ticket mission, the next-generation manned spaceflight program called Constellation, and its director, Woodrow Whitlow, who will soon be off to NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he will be NASA’s associate administrator for mission support.
The $50 million in contract awards that NASA announced earlier this month will fund a number of approaches to commercial human spaceflight, including a new capsule and a small space shuttle. The space agency also spread out awards between newer, entrepreneurial companies and established aerospace giants.
Obamaâ€™s Move To End Constellation Prompts Industrial Base Questions Space News
[Air Force Gen. Robert] Kehler said the presidentâ€™s decision to do away with Constellation and foster new commercial space transportation services presents both opportunities and challenges for the Air Force.
â€œIâ€™m not a glass-half-empty kind of guy on this one,â€ he said. â€œI think weâ€™ve got some opportunity there to go work together with NASA and commercial to make sure that we are preserving the essential pieces of the industrial base we have to go preserve.â€