One of the most interesting aspects about the on-going debate over NASA’s heavy-lift program involves the rocket’s lifting power: Congress has set the very specific requirement of the rocket being able to send a payload of 130 tons into orbit.
Being that NASA has no specific mission on the books for such a vehicle, much less any payloads to launch on it, it’s a bit puzzling why Congress would be that specific. Would it not be better to wait until those matters were better defined before deciding on the size of the launcher?
Three items have appeared over the past week concerning NASA’s future plans for human space exploration and what type of heavy-lift vehicle it needs to go beyond low Earth orbit. Rand Simberg examines at the arguments in favor of an Apollo approach in the above animation and finds them wanting. (Thanks to Clark Lindsey over at Hobby Space for finding the video.)
The Wall Street Journal’s Andy Pasztor looks at a proposal by Lockheed Martin to launch an Orion vehicle into a highly elliptical orbit aboard a Delta IV Heavy, an approach that ascendant Republicans will find wanting:
Lockheed Martin Corp.’s development of a new astronaut capsule for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, seemingly sidetracked by White House opposition barely a few months ago, now appears to be gaining traction with a proposed unmanned test flight as early as 2013.
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.