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Aerojet Tests Orion Main Engine

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Testing firing of Orion's main engine. (Credit: Aerojet)

AEROJET PROGRAM UPDATE

Aerojet, a GenCorp company, under contract to Lockheed Martin, has successfully completed more than 20 injector tests for the 7500-pound thrust Orion main engine (OME) for NASA’s Orion crew exploration vehicle. The tests are a combination of checkout, development, and qualification that will anchor models and satisfy combustion stability qualification requirements. The OME is a pressure-fed, regeneratively cooled, storable bi-propellant engine that is a technically advanced, increased performance version of Aerojet’s flight-proven 6000-pound thrust space shuttle Orbital Maneuvering System Engine (OMS-E).

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ATK and NASA to Test Ares Solid Rocket Motor

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ATK PROGRAM UPDATE

Alliant Techsystems (NYSE:ATK – News) and NASA will test the second fully developed Ares five-segment solid rocket motor, known as Development Motor-2 (DM-2). The five-segment rocket motor is an upgraded version of the Shuttle’s 4-segment booster, and has also been identified as a key element of NASA’s future Heavy Lift Launch vehicle.

What: Horizontal ground test firing of Ares DM-2

Date: Tuesday August 31, 2010

Time: 9:05 a.m. MDT

Where: ATK Aerospace Systems facility in Promontory, Utah

Test Objectives/Background:

  • * A total of 53 design objectives will be measured through more than 760 instruments.
  • DM-2 is a “cold motor” test. The motor will be cooled to 40 degrees F to measure solid rocket motor performance at low temperature, as well as to verify design requirements of new materials in the motor joints. These new materials will allow for the elimination of joint heaters that were necessary in the original 4-segment motor design. This will save significant weight, further reduce system complexity and simplify launch operations, while simultaneously delivering increased operating margins at lower ambient temperatures.
  • Other objectives include data gathering on vital motor upgrades such as the new insulation and motor case liner and the redesigned nozzle which increase the robustness of the design.
  • When fired, the motor will produce a maximum thrust 3.6 million pounds, or 22 million horsepower.
  • The cases have all previously flown on the space shuttle, collectively launching on 57 missions.
  • A public viewing area is available along State Road 83 North approximately 20 miles west of Corinne, Utah.

GAO: NASA Acted Legally in Constellation Actions

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The Government Accountability Office has issued a report saying that NASA acted legally in its efforts on the Constellation lunar program. Congressional appropriators had called for investigation, saying that the Administration was illegally attempting to shut down the program in violation of a law requiring Congressional approval.

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ATK Not Pleased With NASA Move to End Constellation Program

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Alliant Techsystems Cries Foul as NASA Moves To Curb Constellation
Space News

Alliant Techsystems (ATK) says NASA is selectively applying a rarely used contracting rule in an effort to halt work on key elements of the agency’s Constellation program, a 5-year-old effort to replace the space shuttle with new hardware optimized for lunar missions that the White House has proposed canceling next year.

NASA asserts the Constellation program is facing a potential $1 billion funding shortfall in the remaining four months of the current budget year because contractors have not accurately accounted for termination liability costs they could incur as a result of having to cancel orders, vacate leases and pink-slip employees if the program is shut down. But Magna, Utah-based ATK Aerospace, prime contractor on the first stage of the Ares 1 rocket — a key Constellation program element — says that historically, termination liability funds have not been included in contractor costs.

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Constellation’s Congressional Supporters Not Amused By Obama’s Latest Attempt to Kill the Program

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Ares 1-X

As you might have expected, the Obama Administration’s decision to invoke the Anti-Deficiency Act in order to shut down the Constellation program has not gone over real well with Congressional supporters of NASA’s human spaceflight effort. I’ll let the senior Senator from the Lone Star State explain it all:

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today said NASA leadership was skirting the law to shut down the Constellation program after NASA leadership publicly announced a decision to reprioritize work on the program. NASA’s stated justification for these actions is the Anti-Deficiency Act (ADA), which prohibits spending funds beyond levels that are appropriated in a given year, or obligating the government to pay money before funds have been appropriated. There are a number of unanswered questions on whether the ADA would apply in this situation, and if it did, the recently passed Defense Supplemental legislation clarifies that regardless of any provision of law, work must continue on the Constellation program.

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Obama Raises Stakes in Constellation Battle

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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….

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Congress, White House Get Down to Bargaining on NASA Budget

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Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center

The Houston Chronicle reports 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….

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Houston Area to Get Federal Job Assistance Funding

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Space shuttle Atlantis lands at Edwards Air Force Base in California, completing the final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. Image Credit: NASA/Carla Thomas

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.

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Greason: Congressional Debate on NASA’s Future Must Be Based on Facts

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Delivering ISDC’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 FAA’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)

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Congressional Leaders Call for Investigation of Constellation Manager’s Removal

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NASA's Jeff Hanley (Photo Credit: NASA)

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 Administration’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.

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