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.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee today held a hearing on The Space Leadership Preservation Act and the need for stability at NASA. The hearing featured input from former astronaut and first female Space Shuttle pilot and commander, Eileen Collins, former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, and Rep. John Culberson, author of the Space Leadership Preservation Act.
Continuing our look at the House’s spending plan for NASA, this edition of “Palazzo Vision: $3 Billion is Not Enough” examines provisions that would prevent NASA from ever canceling the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion without prior Congressional approval while immediately freeing up hundreds of millions of dollars more to spend on the two programs.
On Sunday, 60 Minutes aired a story that captured some of what the space shuttle era meant to Florida’s Space Coast. Unfortunately, the piece also missed an awful lot of important context about the end of that era and where we’re headed from here.
As a former shuttle astronaut and the Administrator of NASA, nobody has higher regard for the incredible men and women who worked on the Space Shuttle Program. And I certainly understand that for some of those men and women, this transitional period will not be easy.
The NASA Office of Inspector General sent a letter to Congress today that lays out the issues facing the space agency as it continues to operate under its 2010 budget. Some key excerpts follow, with the full letter reproduced after the break:
We write this letter to highlight a situation at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) that we believe requires immediate action by Congress. Due to restrictive language in NASAâ€™s fiscal year (FY) 2010 appropriation,2 coupled with the fact that NASA and the rest of the Federal Government are currently being funded by a continuing resolution (CR) that carries over these restrictions and prohibits initiation of new projects, NASA is continuing to spend approximately $200 million each month on the Constellation Program, aspects of which both NASA and Congress have agreed not to build. Without congressional intervention, by the end of February 2011 NASA anticipates spending up to $215 million on Constellation projects that, absent the restrictive appropriations language, it would have considered canceling or significantly scaling back. Moreover, by the end of FY 2011 that figure could grow to more than $575 million if NASA is required to continue operating under the current constraints and is unable to move beyond the planning stages for its new Space Exploration program….
In sum, it appears that NASA has taken steps to concentrate its spending on those aspects of the Constellation Program it believes may have future applicability, and that these efforts have helped reduce the potential inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. However, based on what we have learned from Agency officials, as NASA moves closer to making final decisions regarding how best to move forward in designing and building the next generation space system, it will become increasingly more difficult for the Agency to continue to juggle the inconsistent mandates of the Authorization Act and the appropriations legislation so as to avoid wasting taxpayer funds. As one senior NASA official described it, â€œThereâ€™s a point coming up soon where we would just be spending money to spend money.â€
* NASA officials noted that even if they had complete freedom to stop spending on these aspects of the Constellation Program, they still would need to expend some amount of money for infrastructure and personnel costs to maintain program readiness. The officials did not provide a breakdown of these costs.
The NASA Office of Inspector General sent a letter to Congress today outlining how the space agency must spend money on programs it is canceling due to the inability of the legislature to pass a budget on time. NASA is operating under a continuing resolution (CR) until Congress passes its appropriations bill in March.
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.
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. Â “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.”
Layoffs began last week at key NASA centers and contractors as a result of multiple factors. Some related to the wind down of the space shuttle program. Others resulted from Congressional action that will transition the space agency away from the Constellation program. A smaller number involved NASA budget reductions to one center.
In a post on his blog, retired Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale has revealed what most of us have long suspected: the Vision for Space Exploration — George W. Bush’s grand plan to send Americans to the moon, Mars and beyond — was built of sand on sand by people with their heads in the sand. And, needless to say, it washed away with the first high tide.
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.
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.
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. (more…)
Preparations for Orionâ€™s first mission in 2013 are well under way as a Lockheed Martin-led crew begins lean assembly pathfinding operations for the spacecraft. The crew is conducting simulated manufacturing and assembly operations with a full-scale Orion mockup to verify the tools, processes and spacecraft integration procedures work as expected.