Will the National Space Council Make a Difference at NASA?

Artist concept of the Block I configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS Program has completed its critical design review, and the program has concluded that the core stage of the rocket will remain orange along with the Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter, which is the natural color of the insulation that will cover those elements. (Credit: NASA)

Warren Ferster Consulting asks whether the newly revived National Space Council will make much of a difference at NASA, whose human deep space programs are dependent upon the Congressionally supported Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft.

Some have suggested that, with a space council chaired by Vice President Mike Pence cracking the whip, the full potential of companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin can be brought to bear in support of the nation’s space goals. The implication is this hasn’t happened to date, which is puzzling since leveraging commercial capabilities to support the International Space Station was the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama’s space policy.

Obama was challenged in that effort not by the lack of a National Space Council, but by Capitol Hill, where key lawmakers viewed his outsourcing initiative as a threat to the pet program that they mandated, the decidedly uncommercial Space Launch System.

The super-heavy-lift SLS is exhibit A of the argument that getting the Executive Branch speaking with one voice on space policy, while sensible, won’t matter a great deal if Congress has a different agenda.

To recap, Obama’s human spaceflight policy was to outsource ISS crew and cargo transportation and invest in technologies with the potential to change the economics of deep space exploration. To make budgetary room, Obama canceled Constellation, a collection of hardware development programs begun under his predecessor, George W. Bush.

The article notes that Bush got bipartisan approval from Congress for the Constellation program without a National Space Council. The program included Orion and two space shuttle-derived Ares boosters for human orbital and deep-space missions.

Obama subsequently canceled the Constellation program, only to have Congress revive the program as SLS and Orion. Only the smaller Ares orbital booster was canceled.

Trump Appoints New Members of NASA Transition Team

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)
Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

President Elect Donald Trump has appointed six new members to the NASA transition team, including Steve Cook, who formerly managed the agency’s Ares program, and retired astronaut Sandra Magnus.

Steve Cook, acting president of Dynetics Technical Services in Huntsville, Ala., led NASA’s Ares program from July 2005 to August 2009. The program included the Ares I and Ares V heavy-lift vehicle and the Orion crew spacecraft for deep-space exploration.

The Obama Administration canceled the programs. However, Congress resurrected the Ares V as the Space Launch System and kept the Orion program in place.

At Dynetics, Cook has been involved in support Aerojet Rocketdyne’s development of the AR-1 engine. He also supported the company’s work on Stratolaunch Systems’ aircraft, which is designed to air launch satellite boosters.

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Tonight on Monster Chiller Horror Theatre: Arestein Returns!

Ares 1-X

NASA’s Ares I rocket was always an odd looking bird. While many rockets are large at the bottom and get progressively thinner as they near the top, this booster bucked that trend: a thin first stage with an enormous upper one. In that, I guess, it appeared somewhat more human — but not in a good way. More like Frankenstein human. Or Arestein, if you will.

The rocket’s development was a horror story, with massive cost overruns and years-long delays as engineers struggled to adapt legacy space shuttle hardware to a brand new mission. After billions were consumed, the Obama Administration canceled the program last year.

But, if you thought Ares I was gone for good, think again. It’s back for the sequel — and it’s badder than ever….

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NASA Proposes Spawn of Shuttle HLV

Jupiter Direct Launcher Variants

It looks as if Congress may well get its shuttle- and Ares-derived heavy-lift vehicle after all — although it will cost more and take longer to build than anticipated. Space News reports:

NASA told U.S. lawmakers Jan. 10 it intends to build a heavy-lift rocket that incorporates the space shuttle’s main engines, giant external tank and taller versions of the solid-rocket boosters it jettisons on the way to orbit, according to a senior NASA official. However, neither the rocket nor the crew vehicle it would launch could be completed within the cost and schedule Congress outlined for the project late last year….

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Win a Trip into Space in Raffle

ARES INSTITUTE PRESS RELEASE
Nov. 12, 2010

In support of its mission to broaden public awareness of the benefits of space exploration, the Aerospace Research & Engineering Systems Institute, Inc. is giving the public the opportunity to take the ride of a lifetime to the edge of space! We have established an innovative contest giving any U.S. citizen age 18 or older the chance to purchase tickets at $10 a piece to be placed into a raffle.

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ATK: Ares Solid Rocket Motor Ready for Flight Testing

ATK PRESS RELEASE

Data from the second successful five segment Development Motor (DM-2) test conducted by ATK and NASA show that the new motor performed precisely as designed, providing substantially higher performance and reliability than the heritage space shuttle solid rocket booster at a lower cost.

“These extensive test results confirm the ATK five segment Solid Rocket Motor (SRM) is ready for flight testing,” said Charlie Precourt, vice president and general manager of Space Launch Systems, ATK Aerospace Systems.  “The five-segment first stage design was based on more than 30 years of safety-driven improvements on the shuttle program. The result is a higher performing, more reliable solid rocket motor, which equates to increased safety for crew and mission success for cargo.”

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Frustration in Utah as House Delays NASA Funding Vote

No ATK vote upsets Bishop / Lawmaker: Congress needs to get moving to save jobs
Standard Examiner

A frustrated Rep. Rob Bishop left Washington, D.C., for Utah on Friday afternoon, taking time only to call the Standard-Examiner from the airport and lambaste House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for not holding a vote on a bill he thinks is the best compromise yet to save jobs at ATK Space Systems.

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Aerojet Continues Work on Orion Jettison Motor

NASA's Orion spacecraft

AEROJET PRESS RELEASE

Aerojet, a GenCorp (NYSE: GY) company, announced today that it successfully conducted a static firing of the third nozzle risk reduction motor in support of the Orion jettison motor, a critical component of the launch abort system (LAS) for NASA’s Orion crew exploration vehicle. This successful test firing validates several nozzle design changes implemented to enhance the safety and reliability of the jettison motor.

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Gas Generator Tests Completed on NASA J-2X Engine

A white-hot flame surrounded by red hot exhaust shoots from a recent test of the J-2X engine 'workhorse' gas generator at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. The workhorse gas generator simulates the flow path inside the actual J-2X gas generator that powers the engine's turbo machinery. Credit: NASA

PRATT & WHITNEY ROCKETDYNE PRESS RELEASE

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne successfully completed the latest round of tests on the workhorse gas generator for NASA’s J-2X rocket engine. With the first NASA J-2X engine far along in development, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne is on track to begin testing in 2011 at Stennis Space Center. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne is a United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX) company.
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Tumlinson: Drug-Crazed Congressional Puppets Feeding Carnivorous Constellation Monster

Ares I-X lifts off from the Cape.

NASA’s Constellation Hallucination and the Congressional Money Drug
by Rick Tumlinson
The Huffington Post

In the coming weeks some in Congress will try to kill America’s future in space as they desperately work to prop up the tax sucking, pork eating dreamslaying monster known as the Constellation rocket program. Right now a bought and paid for cabal of hypocritical puppets in the House and Senate are trying to prop up this corpse of a dead end plan to go to the Moon and Mars that not only failed to deliver on President Bush’s promise of a permanent U.S. presence in space, but continues to eat the budgets of the very exploration it was meant to support.

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Griffin and Pace Criticize Obama’s Plan for NASA, Support House Bill

Space shuttle Atlantis lands on runway 33 at NASA Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility concluding the STS-129 mission. Photo credit: NASA Jack Pfaller

The Space Transportation Association conducted a panel discussion yesterday during which some quite divergent views were expressed over the future of NASA and the Obama Administration’s commercial focus.

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Video: ATK Tests Five Segment Ares Motor

ATK PRESS RELEASE

Alliant Techsystems and NASA conducted a successful ground test earlier today of the second Ares five-segment Development Motor (DM-2).  The successful test is an important milestone in the development of America’s next generation of launch vehicles.

Initial test data indicated that the motor, which was chilled to a 400 F core temperature since early July, performed as designed, producing approximately 3.6 million pounds of thrust, or 22 million horsepower, and burned for just over two minutes.  The test collected 764 channels of data to accomplish 53 test objectives.  This is the most data ATK has ever collected in a static fire test.

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ATK and NASA to Test Ares Solid Rocket Motor

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.

Yeah, What John said…

My old GW professor, space policy analyst John Logsdon, has written a great op-ed piece for Space News that sums up my own view of President Obama’s proposed space policy and the often hysterical opposition to it:

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