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….


Congress, White House Get Down to Bargaining on NASA Budget

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….


Houston Area to Get Federal Job Assistance Funding

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.


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

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)


Congressional Leaders Call for Investigation of Constellation Manager’s Removal

NASA's Jeff Hanley (Photo Credit: NASA)


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.


Proposal Would Allow Ares Tests to Support NASA’s Heavy-Lift Vehicle

Ares I-X lifts off from the Cape.

Ambitious Ares test flight plan proposed for HLV demonstrations

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 NASA’s FY2011 budget proposal, the plan would result in three Ares I test flights being conducted by the end of 2014…


Bolden: Obama Plan “Most Authentically Visionary” Human Spaceflight Policy Ever

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 NASA’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 – 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.


NASA Begins to Shut Down Constellation Program, Transfers Control of Orion to Lockheed Martin

Model of NASA's Orion spacecraft

Orion removed from NASA control – MOD positioning for commercial role

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 ‘defunded’ 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.


Shutting Down Constellation Program to be a Long, Costly Affair

Ares I-X rolls out to the launch pad at Cape Canaveral.

NASA’s tough mission: Dismantling Constellation
Orlando Sentinel

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.


Space Review Looks at NASA’s Plans, Blue Origin

This week in The Space Review:

  • Jeff Foust looks at what is known about the mysterious Blue Origin space company.
  • John Mankins identifies what the critical technologies needed to enable cost-effective human exploration beyond Earth orbit.
  • Stephen Metschan argues for a third path for NASA to explore space that doesn’t involve completely scrapping the Constellation program.
  • Taylor Dinerman offers some advice from history on more effective ways for NASA to roll out new plans.
  • Dwayne Day begins a look at an effort thirty years ago by the Air Force to develop a small air-launched reusable vehicle.
  • Jeff Foust reviews a new play that focuses on how astronauts re-adjust to life on Earth after their spaceflights.

Meanwhile, Down in the Sunshine State….

Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center

A few developments from Florida:

  • 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.

Space Review Examines NASA Policy Shift

In The Space Review this week:

  • Jeff Foust looks at NASA’s proposal to shift toward commercial providers for human spaceflight.
  • Taylor Dinerman cautions that by raising NewSpace’s profile, the new NASA policy could endanger entrepreneurial space efforts.
  • Wayne Eleazer warns this may be another case of a “one size fits all” decision that doesn’t really fit the nation’s space access needs.
  • Dwayne Day finds little evidence that NASA will be ceding the moon to China with the new policy.
  • Dwayne also examines a recent claim that Obama changed course because of “space Nazis.”

Uncertainly at Glenn as Center Deals With Loss of Mission, Director

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.


NASA’s $50 Million Commercial Crew Investment to Fund Different Approaches

Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser - a seven-person space shuttle designed for orbital flight.
Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser - a space shuttle designed for orbital flight and ISS servicing.

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.


Constellation Cancellation Presents Challenges, Opportunities for DOD

Obama’s Move To End Constellation Prompts Industrial Base Questions
Space News

[Air Force Gen. Robert] Kehler said the president’s decision to do away with Constellation and foster new commercial space transportation services presents both opportunities and challenges for the Air Force.

“I’m not a glass-half-empty kind of guy on this one,” he said. “I think we’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.”