"In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA; 42 United States Code 4321 et seq.), Council on Environmental Quality NEPA implementing regulations (40 Code of Federal Regulations parts 1500 to 1508), and FAA Order 1050.1E, Change 1, Environmental Impacts: Policies and Procedures, the FAA is announcing the availability of the ROD to issue a reentry license to Lockheed Martin Corporation for the reentry of the Orion MPCV from Earth orbit to a location in the Pacific Ocean."
Recently in SLS and Orion Category
Continued Sequestration Will Short-Circuit SLS, Aviation Week
"Mikulski and Shelby consider that budget request inadequate, particularly in the funding for the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) that is intended to take humans beyond low Earth orbit. NASA wants $820 million to keep at least two competitors in the running for a commercial route to the International Space Station, but many lawmakers would like to see $300 million of that transferred into the $1.385 billion SLS request for fiscal 2014."
"NASA has awarded a contract to J.P. Donovan Construction Inc. of Rockledge, Fla., to modify the mobile launcher that will enable the agency's Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket to send humans to an asteroid, Mars and other new destinations in the solar system. The work under this firm fixed-price $20.7 million contract will begin in June and be completed in 18 months."
- NASA KSC Solicitation: Construction of Constellation Crew Launch Vehicle Mobile Launcher (2007)
- NASA Awards Contract for Ares I Mobile Launcher (2008)
- Space Shuttle Program Hands over Launch Platform to Constellation (2009)
- NASA OIG: NASA's Plans to Modify the Ares I Mobile Launcher in Support of the Space Launch System (2012)
"People that say there are other options, or other ways to get beyond low Earth orbit -- it's just not a fact, it's just not true. There are technologies you could develop that would be years and years in the future ... but SLS gives you the capability to do that much, much quicker." [John] Shannon, who spent 25 years at NASA before joining Boeing in January, pointedly dismissed the idea that NASA has to identify a specific destination and mission for SLS to make the big rocket worthwhile. "This 'SLS doesn't have a mission' is a smokescreen that's been put out there by people who would like to see that [program's] budget go to their own pet projects," Shannon said. "SLS is every mission beyond low Earth orbit. The fact that NASA has not picked one single mission is kind of irrelevant."
Keith's note: If NASA cannot spend the time to figure out what this monster rocket's destination(s) should be, then how can you possibly justify building the rocket in the first place? Don't the people paying for this rocket deserve at least a little preparatory homework on NASA's part? The Space Station suffered from a cohesive mission for decades and we all know how that drove costs out of sight. As for "pet projects" - hmm, let's see: Shuttle Sidemount and L2 Gateway anyone? This notion that John Shannon seems to be suffering from - that only NASA has the technology that can send things beyond low Earth orbit - now - is demonstrable nonsense. Falcon 9 could do it right now - if SpaceX had a customer to pay them to do it.
"The ship would capture the 500-ton, 25-foot asteroid in 2019. Then using an Orion space capsule, a crew of about four astronauts would nuzzle up next to the rock in 2021 for spacewalking exploration, according to a government document obtained by The Associated Press."
NASA Asteroid Capture Mission: First Real Step in Utilizing Extraterrestrial Resources, SpaceRef earlier post
"Charlie Bolden made his cryptic comments at the NAS in December 2012: "when the President announced that an asteroid would be the next destination for NASA's human spaceflight program, he did not say NASA had to fly all the way to an asteroid. What matters is the ability to put humans with an asteroid.". Well, Bolden was referring to this idea which was still in flux as part of the budget process."
"NASA is about to get a chance to try something totally new: instead of just visting or landing on things in space, it is going to go grab something huge and bring it back to Earth. Details will be formally announced on 10 April 2013 when the new budget is rolled out. The fact that we are now capable of going out and grabbing an asteroid and moving it to a place that we have chosen signals the first major step in the utilization of extraterrestrial resources by human civilization. We are embarking on the rearrangement of our solar system to better suit human needs. That's a paradigm shift folks."
Keith's note: After interaction with/pressure from NASA JSC and MSFC Inspiration Mars is now considering use of single launch of SLS for their mission. Of course, the use of SLS for Inspiration Mars is problematic if a 2018 launch is required. And even if the launch happens would NASA allow it to be used on on of the very first flights for a mission that many inside NASA think is risky - with no real ability to bail out? This is not the same NASA that did Apollo 8 on the third Saturn V flight. As for what this would cost Mr. Tito - that's anyone's guess. What is the commercial price for a SLS launch? I am not certain NASA has even considered that. How do you calculate that price - the same way that the Shuttle commercial launches were priced? We've seen that movie before. Oh yes: there is the pesky little matter of public law that prohibits NASA from offering serrvices on a commercial basis that compete with services that the private sector can offer. Stay Tuned.
"A bipartisan Senate Appropriations Committee budget for the rest of fiscal year 2013 continues strong funding for NASA's Space Launch System and calls on the agency to speed up its construction. The measure released by committee leadership Monday night gives the overall SLS program $2.1 billion for the rest of the fiscal year, including $260 million for ground-related launch support construction, and also provides $515 million for NASA's commercial crew program."
"This Act includes $17,862,000,000 for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). A table of specific funding allocations for NASA is delineated below, and additional detail may be found under the relevant account headings."
"We continue to hear that the SLS/MPCV system will serve as a back-up for Earth-to-orbit transportation in the unlikely event that none of the other systems in development are successful. Last year's request for this "back-up system" was more than 300% of the appropriated level of the primary system. By acting on this type of faulty logic, we have created a national debt as large as our GDP and still our nation refuses to take its foot off the deficit spending accelerator. SLS is unaffordable, and with relatively modest expenditures on specific technology development, we do not need a heavy lift vehicle of that class to explore the Moon, Mars, or near-Earth asteroids."
"While NASA's Commercial Crew program could be the primary means of transporting American astronauts, we cannot be solely reliant on this program. The Orion MPCV, Space Launch System, and Commercial Crew programs require a program track with a sufficient budget to support the Space Station as soon as possible in preparation for the next steps of human exploration beyond Low Earth Orbit and ensure American preeminence in space."
Keith's note: It would seem that the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology have a fundamental disagreement when it comes to the implementation of NASA's human and commercial space flight priorities.
"During a speech today at the Washington Update Luncheon at the Von Braun Center, Brooks spoke in encouraging terms when asked what impact the budget cuts, known as sequestration, would have on Marshall Space Flight Center. Brooks began his answer by saying he had breakfast today with Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, who talked recently with Robert Lightfoot - the former director of Marshall who last year was promoted to associate administrator at NASA. "I think Marshall, based on the information I'm getting from Mayor Battle and elsewhere, is going to survive sequestration a little bit better than most of the centers around the country," Brooks said. "Time will tell if that's the way it plays out." It puts NASA in a somewhat unique position, given that the space agency has been a target in recent years of budget cuts and canceled programs."
"You requested the Technical Performance Metrics (TPM) presented to SLS senior management on a monthly basis for TPMs created during Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012. The documents requested contain export-controlled information and are being withheld in their entirety pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3)."
"ESA agreed with NASA today to contribute a driving force to the Orion spacecraft planned for launch in 2017. Ultimately, Orion will carry astronauts further into space than ever before using a module based on Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicle technology. Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATVs) have been resupplying the International Space Station since 2008. The fourth in the series, ATVAlbert Einstein, is being readied for launch next year from Kourou, French Guiana."
"NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) will hold a news briefing at 10:30 a.m. CST on Wednesday, Jan. 16, to discuss the details of a recent agreement for ESA to provide a service module for the Orion spacecraft's Exploration Mission-1 in 2017. NASA Television will carry the briefing live from the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston."
Obama failed space program; Romney would revitalize it, opinon, Gene Cernan, Orlando Sentinel
"Frankly, the world's leading space-faring nation shouldn't have to pay Russia for rides to the International Space Station. That's not only an insult to the hundreds of women and men like me who have built a legacy based on, literally, reaching for the stars, but it also hurts the local economy and puts local jobs at risk at a time when Florida's unemployment rate is already higher than the national average."
Keith's note: With all due respect, Gene, a little history lesson (not that you care): when George Bush decided to shut down the Space Shuttle program in 2004, there was a blatant and openly admitted gap in American human access to space that no American spacecraft - Constellation or otherwise - would have met under even the most optimistic scenarios until 2014-2018 (that date constantly slipped). Your good friend and ghostwriter Mike Griffin openly admitted that repeatedly. George Bush set us on the path to paying Russia to gain access to the ISS - regardless of what timeline you chose to refer to. He then proceeded to underfund Constellation and did not push Congress for funding so as to make it incapable of achieving its avowed goals.
Under the plans now in place for NASA's commercial crew programs, there will likely be indigenous American access to space sooner than Mike Griffin would ever have achieved with his bloated, underfunded, and oft-delayed Constellation program. Let me suggest that you check your facts before you embarrass yourself further.
"NASA has awarded three contracts totaling $137.3 million to improve the affordability, reliability and performance of an advanced booster for the Space Launch System (SLS). The awardees will develop engineering demonstrations and risk reduction concepts for a future version of the SLS, a heavy-lift rocket that will provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit."
"The OIG found that NASA's decision to modify the Ares I Mobile Launcher is technically feasible and the most cost-effective option for launching at least the initial versions of the SLS vehicles. However, further assessment of planned modifications to the Mobile Launcher will be needed as the SLS continues to evolve and its design solidifies."
"The purpose of the hearing held by the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics is to examine on-going development of the Space Launch System (SLS), the Orion capsule and related systems, as well as discuss how these technologies can be used for future scientific missions."
"During the test, a C-130 airplane dropped a dart-shaped test vehicle with a simulated Orion parachute compartment from an altitude of 25,000 feet. Orion's drogue chutes were deployed at approximately 20,000 feet, followed by small pilot chutes, which then deployed the three main parachutes. Each of the main parachutes is 116 feet wide and weighs more than 300 pounds."
"SLS reached this major milestone less than 10 months after the program's inception. The combination of the two assessments represents a fundamentally different way of conducting NASA program reviews. The SLS team is streamlining processes to provide the nation with a safe, affordable and sustainable heavy-lift launch vehicle capability. The next major program milestone is the preliminary design review, targeted for late next year."
Keith's note: Of course no mention is made by NASA of all the previous work (and considerable expense) that was put into Ares 1 and Ares V - which supposedly supported much of the current SLS design. NASA never mentions these "other" programs - and what they cost - and yet tries to make it sound like they just pulled off a neat low-cost/high speed trick - the same way the advertised "low" cost of Mars Phoenix never took actual Mars Polar Lander development costs into account.
Rocket companies hope to repurpose Saturn 5 engines, Spaceflight Now
"Dynetics and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne announced Wednesday they are teaming up to resurrect the Saturn 5 rocket's mighty F-1 engine to power NASA's planned heavy-lift launch vehicle, saying the Apollo-era engine will offer significantly more performance than solid-fueled boosters currently under development."
NASA Will Explore F-1 Upgrade For Heavy Lifter, Aviation Week
"The powerful rocket engine developed in the 1960s to launch the first men to the Moon could be reprised in the 2020s as the powerplant for strap-on boosters that NASA hopes to use in heavy-lift human missions to Mars."
"NASA has selected six proposals to improve the affordability, reliability and performance of an advanced booster for the Space Launch System (SLS). The awardees will develop engineering demonstrations and risk reduction concepts for SLS, a heavy-lift rocket that will provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit."
"A high-altitude test of the Orion deep-space capsule's launch abort system could be delayed two years [FY 2018] to accommodate the tighter program budgets anticipated by NASA and Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin."
"I just hope that there will no longer be budget proposals from the President, whoever that will be next year, that will appear to cut back on the future and fund the present because we have an authorization bill that assures both, we support both," Sen. Hutchison said at the hearing."
"Based on the availability of funding and industry performance, this strategy allows for adjustments in program scope, and enables a domestic capability to transport crewmembers to the ISS likely by 2017, based on the readiness of U.S. commercial providers to achieve NASA certification."
Keith's note: If the Orion abort test doesn't happen until FY 2018, then what does this mean for using Orion to take crews to the ISS? NASA plans for using the ISS now end in CY 2020. If Orion delays continue, commercial crew service providers could reach the ISS well before Orion can. How can Orion provide the "capability to be a backup system for International Space Station cargo and crew delivery" if commercial crew carriers fly well before Orion flies? As such, why is Orion/SLS being designed with the capability of going to the ISS in the first place?
"The nation's space exploration program is taking a critical step forward with a successful major technical review of the core stage of the Space Launch System (SLS), the rocket that will take astronauts farther into space than ever before."
"Boeing last week successfully completed its first major technical reviews for the cryogenic stages of the Space Launch System (SLS), bringing the team into the design phase for the nation's next heavy-lift, human-rated rocket."
Keith's note: Alas, NASA has no budget for the payloads that would fly on this rocket, no firm destination(s) identified, and no rationale offered as to how this rocket will be cheaper than using commercial alternatives.
Space Launch System is a threat to JSC, Texas jobs, Chris Kraft and Tom Moser, Houston Chronicle
"SLS is killing JSC. SLS is killing Texas jobs. SLS is killing our national space agenda. We are wasting billions of dollars per year on SLS. There are cheaper and nearer term approaches for human space exploration that use existing launch vehicles. A multicenter NASA team has completed a study on how we can return humans to the surface of the moon in the next decade with existing launch vehicles and within the existing budget. This NASA plan, which NASA leadership is trying to hide, would save JSC and create thousands of jobs in Texas. It is time for Texas' elected members of Congress to wake up and do something about it before it is too late."
SLS Will Never 'Back Up' Commercial Crew, Jim Muncy, Space News
"One such argument is the claim from both houses of Congress that the funding for the Space Launch System (SLS) -- which increases from the 2012 level -- is too small to enable the SLS to launch the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) as a backup for commercial crew services. Some even suggest that NASA is putting too much money into the legislatively stipulated primary means of carrying astronauts to and from the international space station (commercial crew) and therefore shortchanging the backup (SLS). Of course, NASA is spending nearly four times as much on Orion and SLS as it is on commercial crew, so the argument appears lopsided."
"A few years ago, back when the Constellation Program was still alive, NASA engineers discovered that the Ares I rocket had a crucial flaw, one that could have jeopardized the entire project. They panicked. They plotted. They steeled themselves for the hundreds of millions of dollars it was going to take to make things right. And then they found out how to fix it for the cost of an extra value meal."
Expensive NASA rocket draws skepticism, Houston Chronicle
"As engineers at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama begin designing a rocket that would eventually be capable of blasting 130 metric tons into orbit, many spaceflight experts are questioning why NASA chose what could be the most expensive and riskiest approach to expanding the human spaceflight program beyond low-Earth orbit. "I'm very skeptical about the heavy-lift rocket," said Chris Kraft, NASA's first manned spaceflight director and the director of flight operations during the Apollo 11 mission."
"United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced today that Mike Leinbach has joined the company as the Director of Human Spaceflight Operations. "We are fortunate to have Mike with his wealth of human spaceflight experience join the ULA team," said George Sowers, ULA's vice president of Business Development. "His background in leading overall space shuttle launch activities for more than a decade, executing 37 space shuttle launches, will be invaluable as we develop human spaceflight capabilities for our Atlas and Delta systems."
NASA Solicitation: Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (Space Launch System)
"NASA/MSFC is hereby seeking potential sources to provide an Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) for the early Space Launch System (SLS) missions. Recently, NASA announced the architecture of the SLS with a manifested first flight in late 2017. The early flights of the SLS architecture will require the use of an ICPS to ensure the placement of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) and/or Payload on the required trajectory. In order to support the flight schedule, the initial ICPS flight unit must be delivered to Kennedy Space Center (KSC) no later than late in the fourth quarter of the 2016 government fiscal year (GFY). The second flight unit must be delivered to KSC by the fourth quarter of the 2020 GFY. NASA is seeking in-space propulsion capabilities with performance data that can meet its schedule and funding constraints."
NASA, Industry Leaders Discuss New Booster Development for Space Launch System (with presentation charts)
"On Dec. 15, more than 120 aerospace industry leaders from more than 70 companies attended the Space Launch System's Advanced Booster Industry Day held at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The event focused on a NASA Research Announcement for the Space Launch System's (SLS) advanced booster. For explorations beyond the first two test flights, the SLS vehicle will require an advanced booster with a significant increase in thrust over existing U.S. liquid or solid boosters."
NASA cost, denial key to saving space program, Florida Today
"Perhaps the single biggest threat to the nation's space program in the next decade is the repeated, rampant multi-billion dollar cost overruns that plague big NASA projects. The senior leaders of NASA and its big contractors repeatedly deliver projects billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule. And to add insult to taxpayers' injury, they revise history to obscure the truth. The James Webb Space Telescope, the scientifically important successor to Hubble Space Telescope, is going to somehow get support from Congress despite its explosive price tag, well documented mismanagement and half-decade launch delay."
Keith's note: "Rampant multi-billion dollar cost overruns"? Hmmm ... Sounds like Constellation to me - and what SLS risks becoming given the murkiness regarding NASA's support and inadequate budgetary resources. But wait - CxP and SLS = jobs for Florida Today readers. As such, only Webb Space Telescope is painted as a threat in this regard - not SLS.
- Large NASA Programs: Located In Florida = "Jobs", Out of State = "Boondoggle, Pork", earlier post
- Florida: No Space Pork Here - Only In Virginia, earlier post
- NASA Money Sponge Update, earlier post
"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) intends to issue a Draft NASA Research Announcement (NRA) on or about in the December 12, 2011, entitled "Space Launch System (SLS) Advanced Booster Engineering Demonstration and/or Risk Reduction" for comment by industry through January 13, 2012."
"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) will be holding an Industry Day at the MSFC for the SLS Advanced Booster Engineering Demonstration and/or Risk Reduction activity. The Industry Day will be held December 15, 2011."
United Launch Alliance Completes Crucial Milestone Toward Certifying Atlas V for Human Spaceflight
"ULA has successfully completed the second required major performance milestone of its Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) Unfunded Space Act Agreement. The Design Equivalency Review (DER) completes a rigorous assessment of the flight-proven Atlas V launch vehicle's compliance with NASA human spaceflight requirements. Three of the four current NASA CCDev partners providing commercial crew integrated services have selected Atlas V as their launch vehicle."
NASA budget erratic, Florida Today
"The good news for Kennedy Space Center and Brevard is in the form of a major investment in a new super rocket and Orion crew spaceship, publicly run rather than privately developed, but destined to be prepared and launched from here. Funding for both projects is solidly in place and will help stabilize jobs at the spaceport now and create potentially thousands more in the coming half-decade. ..."
"... The boondoggle James Webb Space Telescope was kept alive -- and provided a multibillion-dollar taxpayer bailout -- as politicians gave up on empty threats to finally cancel the latest NASA project to blow its budget and schedule. The telescope, an important science mission worthy of completion, is devouring so much of the NASA budget that other good work is being delayed or canceled."
Florida: No Space Pork Here - Only In Virginia, earlier post
Guest Blog: Apollo's Spirit Alive and Well, Andrew Chaikin, Space News
"Four decades later the challenge is not just to follow Apollo's trail into deep space, but to do it affordably and sustainably. That's not going to happen if NASA continues to be run as a jobs program as much as a space program. These are the things I think about when I hear people like my manager friend say that commercial companies should be patient and wait for the fruits of NASA's experience to spin off to the private sector. They apparently don't see that this spinoff has already happened, that companies like SpaceX have digested the collected wisdom of NASA's first half-century and are building on it. And they are doing so with a boldness that could be game-changing -- even for heavy-lift launchers. The spirit of Apollo is alive and well, if only NASA and Congress would allow it to flourish."
"NASA conducted a successful 500-second test firing of the J-2X rocket engine on Wednesday, Nov. 9, marking another important step in development of an upper stage for the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS). Data from the test will be analyzed as operators prepare for additional engine firings. The J-2X and the RS-25D/E engines for the SLS core stage will be tested for flight certification at Stennis. Both engines use liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants. The core stage engines were developed originally for the space shuttle."
"This Exploration Flight Test, or EFT-1, will fly two orbits to a high-apogee, with a high-energy re-entry through Earth's atmosphere. Orion will make a water landing and be recovered using operations planned for future human exploration missions."
"EFT-1 flight test objectives are focused on demonstrating beyond low earth orbit (BEO) spacecraft capabilities. The flight conditions required for EFT-1 were selected to demonstrate integrated vehicle performance for ascent, on-orbit flight, and a high-energy re-entry profile of approximately 30,280 feet per second from BEO."
Propellant Depots Instead of Heavy Lift?, opinion, By Michael D. Griffin and Scott Pace, Space News
"The most reasonable claim made in support of fuel depots is that if they are employed to the exclusion of a heavy lifter, one saves the cost of building the heavy lifter. This is certainly true -- but then we do not have a heavy lifter!"
Keith's note: Hilarious. Griffin and Pace cannot see through their own tired, myopic, Apollo on Steroids rhetoric. If you save the cost of building a heavy lifter then you SAVE MONEY. Get it? you SAVE MONEY. You can can use that money that you were going to spend on monster rockets to buy EXISTING ROCKETS to create the fuel depot and other aspects of a cislunar infrastructure. You then utilize that same existing commercial launch capability to accomplish what you only thought possible with the heavy lift behemoths you seem so chronically addicted to. The only reason NASA is building SLS right now is because Congress i.e. the space states misses your Ares V and all the jobs it created/saved. They do not seem to care if there is no money provided for payloads to fly on these rockets. This is certainly not about efficiency.
"The mayors point out that both cities have already lost jobs because of the end of the shuttle program and cancellation of the Constellation space exploration projects. Meanwhile, a number of components of the SLS are built and await completion of the rockets and trips into space."
Fueling Stations vs. Monster Rocket, Dana Rohrabacher, Space News
"At the end of our July 12 House Science, Space, and Technology Committee hearing, "A Review of NASA's Space Launch System," I asked NASA Administrator Charles Bolden about the relative cost of using the technology of on-orbit propellant depots instead of relying on new large heavy-lift launch vehicles. He replied that he believed the studies had been done, and the fuel depot solution proved to be more expensive, and promised to get me the full answer. As of this writing, I am still waiting for that answer. It has been more than three months, and NASA has not provided any analysis, or any data at all, that shows why depots are not a good solution or why they are more expensive."
"How is NASA approaching the challenge of building a multibillion-rocket in the tightest Washington budget environment in years? "We run till apprehended," one top manager said in Huntsville Tuesday morning. Dumbacher's comment was a joking ice-breaker, but his humor and that of others Tuesday morning was a way for top NASA administrators to acknowledge they're not sure what the budget process will bring, but they are optimistic about the ultimate outcome and they're going to move forward as hard and as quickly as they can with the funds available."
Keith's note: As you can see from these charts taken (out of context) from the 13 July 2010 NASA HEFT presentation "EELV Capacity Analysis", NASA clearly did quite a bit of comparison and contrast between various existing expendable launch vehicles - foreign and domestic - analyses that did not always include use of a SLS-class heavy launch vehicle. Indeed, one chart is titled "International Partners Have Lots of Capacity". The rest of this presentation contains procurement-sensitive information and will not be published here.
That said, it is obvious that even a year ago pragmatic thought was given to how a variety of launchers could be used for human, cargo, and other launch purposes including ways that mission profiles (DRM 4) usually associated with a HLV could be accomplished in whole or in part by the use of expendable launch vehicles. A more detailed look at what was being reviewed last year can be found at "Human Exploration Framework Team Presentation Online".
- NASA Studies Show Cheaper Alternatives to SLS, earlier post
- Using Commercial Launchers and Fuel Depots Instead of HLVs", earlier post
- The HLV Cost Information NASA Decided Not To Give To Congress, earlier post
This presentation "Propellant Depot Requirements Study - Status Report - HAT Technical Interchange Meeting - July 21, 2011" is a distilled version of a study buried deep inside of NASA. The study compared and contrasted an SLS/SEP architecture with one based on propellant depots for human lunar and asteroid missions. Not only was the fuel depot mission architecture shown to be less expensive, fitting within expected budgets, it also gets humans beyond low Earth orbit a decade before the SLS architecture could.
Moreover, supposed constraints on the availability of commercial launch alternatives often mentioned by SLS proponents, was debunked. In addition, clear integration and performance advantages to the use of commercial launchers Vs SLS was repeatedly touted as being desirable: "breaking costs into smaller, less-monolithic amounts allows great flexibility in meeting smaller and changing budget profiles."
- Using Commercial Launchers and Fuel Depots Instead of HLVs" (March 2011), earlier post
- The HLV Cost Information NASA Decided Not To Give To Congress (January 2011), earlier post
- Discuss this post at the new SpaceRef Forum
"NASA has selected a launch vehicle architecture that includes a large cryogenic (LOX/LH2) Core Stage, an Upper Stage when needed for higher performance missions, high thrust Boosters (initially, using those developed for the Ares I vehicle) for liftoff thrust, using either 3, 4, or 5 RS-25 engines on Core Stage, and using 1, 2, or 3 J-2X engines on Upper Stage. While the launch vehicle configuration will change based upon mission needs for lift performance, the basic design of the Stages will be the same for all missions, with the only change being how many engines will be mounted in the Main Propulsion System of the Core Stage (or Upper Stage) for a given mission. ... The Government does not intend to acquire a commercial item using FAR Part 12."
"NASA/MSFC intends to negotiate only with Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) for the SLS Core Stage Engines. This decision is made pursuant to FAR 6.302-1, only one responsible source and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements, which implements the authority for 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1). ... The Government does not intend to acquire a commercial item using FAR Part 12."
"I have serious concerns with NASA's attempt to avoid holding a full and open competition to acquire the SLS. Instead, NASA is considering modifying and/or extending existing contracts for retired or cancelled programs resulting in one or more "de facto sole source awards."
"In a press conference, William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations said that the first stage will be designed from the onset to accept a variety or range of strap-on boosters. When asked when that procurement will begin, Gerstenmaier said that this "wIll begin almost immediately - competition begins as soon as we go do this [procurement] activity."
Keith's note: Despite statements by HEOMD AA Bill Gerstenmaier there is little if any evidence that there is any true interest on NASA's part to begin competitive procurement on the SLS any time soon.
"I have serious concerns with NASA's attempt to avoid holding a full and open competition to acquire the SLS. Instead, NASA is considering modifying and/or extending existing contracts for retired or cancelled programs resulting in one or more "de facto sole source awards." Some of these contracts were originally awarded on a sole source basis. I strongly believe that such a de facto sole source award would be a violation of the 1984 Competition in Contracting Act (CICA). GAO has stated: "Under the Competition in Contracting Act, 41 U.S.C. S 253(c)(1), a sole source award may be made only when there is a single responsible source that can satisfy the government's needs." I am aware of multiple potential contractors who have expressed intent to compete for any available SLS contracts, and who should have every opportunity to do so."
"What's going to be different? It's going be disciplined, it's going to be the way we do business and things like using students to help us develop modules, which we did not do before ... really integrating students and academia into this. That's building the 'seed coin' for the future generation that's going to take my place."
Keith's note: The comments section on this is rather interesting.
"The SLS vehicle procurements will be structured to meet the Agency's requirement for an affordable and evolvable vehicle within a schedule that supports various mission requirements. Procurements will include utilization of existing assets to expedite development, as well as further development of technologies and future competitions for advanced systems and key technology areas specific to SLS evolved vehicle needs. Detailed synopses will be issued in the near future for the individual procurements as required by regulation."
NASA Posts Space Launch System Acquisition Overview
"NASA has released the acquisition overview for the Space Launch System (SLS). SLS is an entirely new advanced, heavy-lift launch vehicle that will take the agency's astronauts farther into space than ever before, create high-quality jobs here at home and provide the cornerstone for America's future human space exploration efforts."
"Sen. Kay Baily Hutchison said in a press conference a few hours earlier that the exisiting Constellation and shuttle contracts will be changed within a week or so. When asked about this Gerstenmaier said that will not happen that fast. He said that NASA's intent is to have an Industry day for the private sector around 29 September. A formal synopisis will be issued at the end of this week announcing that event."
Keith's note: Its is Monday and despite Gerstenmaier's statement, nothing about an industry day or any procurement changes for SLS has been posted on NASA's procurement site or in the Federal Register.
"With NASA's announcement of the new Deep Space Exploration System, attendance at this event will afford industry an opportunity to learn more about the new Heavy Lift Rocket that will one day take humans far beyond Earth. This will be America's most powerful rocket to be developed since the Satern V rockets that carried Apollo astronauts to the moon."
Keith's 20 Sep update: Where is the rest of the stuff (the procurement/contract changes) that NASA said it was going to release? Sen. Hutchison said this would only take a week. Also, why isn't NASA webcasting this event? Also note that the MSFC folks have forgotten how to spell the name of the Moon rocket they developed back in the day - i.e. "Satern V". Also what is the "Deep Space Exploration System"? Is this a new program? NASA folks often capitalize words they want to emphasize - even though this comes across as a formal name.
Keith's 22 Sep update: See NASA Releases SLS Acquisition Materials
Keith's note: Contrary to what some websites are reporting (including this one) NASA PAO says that the white/black coloration of the SLS stages that evokes memories of the Saturn V is there for the same reason: to aid in tracking during ascent. There will be no spray-on foam on the first (or second stage ) as was the case with the Space Shuttle and Ares V - hence no orange on the SLS.
Keith's update: Well despite the official PAO response, I am now told by several people at NASA with the utmost reliability and knowledge on this issue that the depiction of the SLS in Saturn V-esque paint scheme was done at the discretion of the graphic artist to evoke memories of the Saturn V. My understanding is that they will paint it - but what it will look like no one really knows.
I guess the only way to get a straight answer on this is for someone to ask Bill Gerstenmeier - on the record.
"Late last night and early this morning NASA, Congress, the White House - and the media - were all a buzz with the sudden announcement - that there would be an "announcement". After months of subpoenas, contentious hearings, foot dragging, posturing, leaks, and press conferences, NASA, White House, and Congress had finally come to an agreement as to what the congressionally-mandated Space Launch System would look like and how much it would cost. ... Of course, what is still lacking in this whole story is exactly what NASA will do with this big rocket. Missions to asteroids, Mars etc. are often tossed out by NASA representatives - but no timeline whatosever has yet to be presented - not even a "notional" one. Nor has an overall strategy or architecture been issued or any idea what the cost would be for the things that would actually fly on these rockets."
"This new heavy-lift rocket-in combination with a crew capsule already under development, increased support for the commercialization of astronaut travel to low Earth orbit, an extension of activities on the International Space Station until at least 2020, and a fresh focus on new technologies-is key to implementing the plan laid out by President Obama and Congress in the bipartisan 2010 NASA Authorization Act, which the president signed last year. The booster will be America's most powerful since the Saturn V rocket that carried Apollo astronauts to the moon and will launch humans to places no one has gone before."
"Today is a big day at NASA. The next chapter of America's space exploration story is being written, right here, right now. We've selected the design for a new space exploration system that will take humans far beyond Earth. This important decision will create high-quality jobs here at home and provide the cornerstone for America's future human space exploration efforts."
This document covers four budgetary and Congressional scenarios whereby NASA would build the Space Launch System (SLS).
NASA Sees Testing SLS In 2017 for $18B, Aviation Week
"Early cost estimates for the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) that Congress has ordered NASA to build indicate the agency believes it can test an unmanned version of the "core" vehicle selected by Administrator Charles Bolden for about $18 billion by the end of 2017."
"Construction on the first space-bound Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Module has begunwith the first weld at the Michoud Assembly Facility on Sept. 9. 2011. This capsule will be used during Orion's first test flight in space."
"Rather than announce these results and move forward with development, the administration's budget office has kept the independent cost report under wraps. Instead, a wildly inflated set of NASA cost numbers was invented, based on an imaginary "acceleration" of SLS development. Under these contrived numbers, which were leaked in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, development costs were forecast to increase to $57 billion - nearly double the amount that NASA and Booz Allen Hamilton agreed would be needed in the independent cost assessment."
Reader note: "the "inflated" numbers these Senators are now complaining about in their release are THEIR numbers from the NASA Authorization Act - if you extended it through 2017 with inflation. It seems these Senators don't even recognize their own numbers."
"Republican Sen. Richard Shelby has been one of Barack Obama's most persistent critics, accusing the president of putting the country on a road to financial ruin with deficits as far as the eye can see. But his demands to slash government programs tend to stop at the Alabama state line. Here in his home state, Shelby has been pressuring the Obama administration to spend billions to build what could become the world's biggest rocket at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville -- a government project that would affect thousands of jobs, benefit a network of powerful industry interests and fill a major void at the agency after the collapse of the Bush-era Constellation initiative and the end of the space shuttle program in July."
"An Aug. 19 budget analysis prepared by NASA managers, a copy of which was obtained by The Wall Street Journal, illustrates the sticker shock associated with NASA's drive to push U.S. manned flights beyond the orbiting international space station. ... Based on priorities already adopted by Congress--then adjusting for projected inflation and accelerated development efforts--the document indicates it could cost as much as $57 billion to deploy and use the proposed systems through 2025. Upgrading launch facilities and building additional spacecraft to allow astronauts to land on the moon or an asteroid, the document indicates, could boost the total to $62.5 billion None of the scenarios envision manned flight on the new rocket before the end of 2017."
Keith's Note: Numbers like this are not supposed to get out - so the White House, NASA, and everyone else in that closed loop can't be happy about this. Now that Congress has to confront the public reality of what NASA says their SLS-based architecture will cost, food fights are certain to follow.
This is just Constellation on Steroids - without all that back to the Moon stuff. I wonder what the new (higher) number would be if the costs of actually developing payloads and then supporting them across a serious, multi-year program of exploration were included? I would imagine that the end costs would not be much different than Constellation (except higher, of course) - and that the money to support such a program would be as equally an unrealistic fantasy as were the promised funds for Constellation.
I wonder what it would cost if NASA just posted an exploration plan and had the private sector bid on implementing it? Do we really need to build a new mega-rocket when existing or evolvable commercial rockets could launch smaller chunks in cheaper launch vehicles?
Keith's additional Note: WSJ has an odd for-pay firewall. In order to read this article, go to Google and paste "White House Experiences Sticker Shock Over NASA's Plans" into the search window. You can read the article but the link that is generated won't work for anyone else.
"Florida's senators share the frustration. So do Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and more than a few House representatives. They've all pressed NASA and the White House this year to get started on SLS. But the Shelby/Sessions letter went further and accused NASA of wrongly shifting some $341 million to Kennedy Space Center in Florida for improvements that they say should go to SLS. Those improvements at Kennedy are only "tangentially" related to the heavy-lift rocket project, according to the Alabama senators. Florida's senators sent their own letter to the White House 11 days later on Aug. 26 saying "there appears to be a misunderstanding." Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio say they wrote to "clarify the intent of the law." Spending for improvements at Kennedy was always part of SLS, the Florida senators said."
Let the Games Begin, opinion, Mike Griffin, SpaceNews
"The administration's actions go beyond simple mismanagement of the program. They amount to a smear campaign, with convenient leaking of derogatory and misleading information to the press, to undermine public support for the program. On Aug. 5, the Orlando Sentinel cited internal NASA documents detailing a $38 billion estimate for a "new NASA moon rocket." This estimate is entirely out of line with previous projections and good management practice. Even if correct, such documents would normally be extremely sensitive and available only to NASA leadership. Their release offers yet another example of the tiresome Washington game of leaking a highly biased story in order to set the terms for an upcoming debate. Fortunately, Congress understands this, and has submitted a formal subpoena for the factual data."
Keith's note: (Gasp) Mike, I'm absolutely shocked that anyone at NASA would ever "leak" anything to the media!! I suppose your staff never leaked anything - ever. You expresss outrage that this has happened - yet a few sentences later you use data from the very same leaked documents with which to make a point. The bias of the selective history you heave forth in your editorial is eclipsed only by your hypocrisy and inconsistency.
Oh yes, word has it that Mike Griffin will be testifying before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology in September - along with Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan. Griffin helped ghost write Armstrong and Cernan's double header congressional appearances last year ...
NASA's smaller programs could be at risk, Orlando Sentinel
"The trend has alarmed astronomers and others, who are concerned that less-visible projects -- such as robotic Mars missions and various space probes -- will be sacrificed. "So, we have one giant money sponge (JWST) already sucking up dollars with yet another money sponge (SLS) on the drawing board. Since the money simply is not there to do either project to begin with, trying to do both of them together will devour funds from smaller NASA programs," wrote Keith Cowing in a recent post on his influential blog NASA Watch."
JWST and SLS: Dueling Giant Money Sponges, earlier post
NASA needs the go-ahead for a clearly defined mission (editorial), Huntsville Times
"SLS is not a paper rocket," Steve Cook, director of space technology at Dynetics, said Friday at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Cook guided the audience through a power point presentation showing work that has already been done over the last six years under different program names. Cook presented slides of boosters, engines, test firings, and core components like batteries and computers for a heavy lift rocket that have been achieved at Marshall Space Flight Center and other NASA centers like Stennis in Mississippi and Michoud in Louisiana. "The physics doesn't change. A lot of work has already been done," he said."
"Recently, you received a letter from several senators urging the Administration to move forward with the Space Launch System (SLS) and approve the program. We agree that it is time for the Administration to commit to the plan for the new heavy lift rocket. Further delays will only incur additional costs and the continued loss of critical skills that cannot be replaced. The letter also, however, called into question funds being spent for facility upgrades and support capabilities at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and there appears to be a misunderstanding regarding allocation of funds dedicated to development of the SLS as authorized by P.L. 111- 267. In as much as concerns about this issue may have been brought to your attention, we are writing to clarify the intent of the law."
"Panelists were less positive on when NASA will get the green light to build the rocket. Views ranged from "we're getting closer" to "it's a brutal time for budgets and it's not going to get any easier" to a flat prediction that it won't come until the Obama administration goes. That assessment came from former NASA administrator Mike Griffin, a steady critic of the White House that replaced him as NASA chief and killed the rocket program Griffin was leading. Called Constellation, that program included two bigger rockets, one after the other, ending with a heavy-lift rocket like Congress still wants."
Senators Disagree On SLS Approach, Aviation Week
"On June 14, Administrator Charles Bolden selected and sent to the White House for confirmation his final choice for the SLS reference design. He essentially kept the January plan, but with a new wrinkle--a competition for a liquid-fueled strap-on that would make the SLS "evolvable" to meet the congressional requirement of an at least 130-metric-ton (286,600-lb.) lifting capability. One likely competitor for the five-segment solid would be a booster powered by a kerosene-fueled engine to be developed by Aerojet in Sacramento, Calif., and manufactured by Teledyne Brown Engineering in Huntsville, Ala. Plans already call for SLS development to be managed at Marshall Space Flight Center near Huntsville, which has experienced deep contractor layoffs with the end of the shuttle and follow-on Constellation programs. Aerojet and Teledyne Brown said in announcing their new kerosene-engine joint venture on June 3 that it could create as many as 1,400 new jobs in Alabama and California."
Keith's note: The House wants to cancel James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) outright. We haven't heard anything specific from the Senate - yet. Every time NASA mentions a cost for JWST it is higher than the previous cost. Now NASA wants to take human spaceflight funds to help pay for JWST which means less money available to build the Space Launch System (SLS). NASA's internal SLS report casts significant doubt on NASA's internal budget numbers and cost projections - which almost always means that NASA will need more money than it thinks it will need in order to build the SLS.
But NASA does not really want to build the SLS (nor does the White House) since it is simply a re-imagined variant of Ares V - a rocket that NASA already halted. The Senate is forcing the SLS down NASA's throat. Yet Congress has given no indication what level of funding it will guarantee for NASA so as to build and fly the SLS and has given no hint whatsoever of funding for the payloads that such a hugh rocket will be designed to carry. And, oh yes, OMB is telling agencies to come up with budgets for FY 2013 that include cuts of up to 10%.
So, we have one giant money sponge (JWST) already sucking up dollars with yet another money sponge (SLS) on the drawing board. Since the money simply is not there to do either project to begin with, trying to do both of them together will devour funds from smaller NASA programs. It will also pit these money sponges' ever-growing chronic need for dollars against the other's similar insatiable appetite. And all of this will happen while the Federal budget is almost certainly going to be constrained - regardless of who wins the 2012 election.
So, will someone explain to me how NASA is going to build and launch both JWST and SLS and have money left over to do all of the other things that it is both chartered to do - and directed to do - by Congress?
Is the answer to heavy-lift rocket cost issue bringing back Ares I?, Huntsville Times
"As NASA's new heavy-lift rocket struggles to get off the drawing board, a national space analyst says the answer to moving into deep space may be bringing back Ares I, the rocket NASA just canceled. Dr. Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, raised the Ares option last week as one way out of political and financial thicket that has enmeshed the Space Launch System (SLS), which is the formal name for the heavy-lift rocket project."
"Today NASA is scheduled to formally receive the independent cost assessment for the Space Launch System (SLS) that was requested by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). I expect this independent assessment will confirm what myself and the NASA technical staff have known for many months - that the SLS plan is financially and technically sound, and that NASA should move forward immediately. "I remain very concerned about continuing delays. The 2010 NASA Authorization Act required NASA to bring forward a plan by January 10, 2011. The political leadership at NASA and at OMB has dragged their feet on implementation. After many requests for NASA to comply with the law, the Commerce Committee finally initiated a formal investigation earlier this summer. While that investigation is ongoing, I reiterate my call to NASA and the Administration to proceed with its SLS development program immediately, in compliance with the law.st Assessment to NASA which confirms that NASA can move forward with implementation of SLS."
Keith's note: My question for Sen. Hutchison (and Nelson, Rockefeller etc.): regardless of what this NASA/OMB cost analysis for the SLS says, will you guarantee that the funding will be there to make it happen - all the way to launch? And what about the money to pay for the payloads that will be launched on these giant rockets - will you make a public pledge - now - to support full funding for them too? Of course you won't. None of you will.
Senators urge White House again to start work on heavy-lift rocket, Huntsville Times
"The senators believe money is being diverted from heavy-lift to other NASA spending priorities and that the White House "has no intention" of following the law on spending. OMB spokeswoman Meg Reilly issued the following statement today: "Space exploration remains a commitment of this Administration, but as we take a critical eye to every aspect of the Federal budget, we must ensure that every dollar spent in this area is used effectively and efficiently. We are working with NASA now to better understand the costs of this approach to ensure that a final plan is practicable and sustainable over the long term. At a time when we're working to find savings across the Federal government, it would be reckless to make a final determination before the results of NASA's independent cost assessment are in. This is the best approach for American taxpayers and the future of America's space exploration."
"NASA/LaRC is hereby soliciting information about potential sources for a 1500 lbf liquid propellant rocket engine, herein referred to as a thruster. It must be able to operate from sea level to vacuum conditions without nozzle flow separation and is quick acting as well as fast pulsing. The Max Launch Abort System (MLAS) project is considering incorporating a conventional technology liquid attitude control subsystem (ACS) for coast flight stabilization and reorientation on Flight Test Vehicle (FTV) #2."
Keith's note: Why is NASA continuing to develop an alternate launch escape system for Orion - one that it decided not to implement quite some time ago?
A Closer Look at the Max Launch Abort System, earier post
New NASA moon rocket could cost $38 billion, Orlando Sentinel
"The rocket and capsule that NASA is proposing to return astronauts to the moon would fly just twice in the next 10 years and cost as much as $38 billion, according to internal NASA documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel. The money would pay for a new heavy-lift rocket and Apollo-like crew capsule that eventually could take astronauts to the moon and beyond. But it would not be enough to pay for a lunar landing -- or for more than one manned test flight, in 2021. That timeline and price tag could pose serious problems for supporters of the new spacecraft, which is being built from recycled parts of the shuttle and the now-defunct Constellation moon program. It effectively means that it will take the U.S. manned-space program more than 50 years -- if ever -- to duplicate its 1969 landing on the moon. That is certain to infuriate NASA supporters in Congress, who last year ordered NASA to build a new heavy-lift rocket by December 2016 -- a deadline the agency says it can't meet."
"As you know, the final design of the SLS is long overdue. This is perplexing since the parameters for the final design are clearly articulated in the Authorization and Appropriations Acts. The Authorization Act clearly states the SLS "shall be designed from inception as a fully integrated vehicle capable of carrying a total payload of 130 tons or more..." The Appropriations Act reinforced this requirement by stating "the heavy lift launch vehicle system... shall have a lift capability not less than 130 tons." Both statutory texts were carefully crafted and agreed upon after consultation with rocket propulsion experts who unanimously concluded these design specifications were required to ensure a meaningful spaceflight program. These same experts also determined these legal requirements could only be realistically met through the use of solid rocket motors."
Keith's note: this letter is being circulated around Capitol Hill in search of additional signatures. Senate sources link this directly back to the Utah congressional delegation.
Reader note: The following from transcript of video of Senate press gallery statement by Sen. Orrin Hatch after the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 was reported out of committee: "...the Commerce Committee's bill has established certain requirements which the [Space Launch] System must meet. After speaking with experts in Utah, it is their conclusion that these requirements can only be realistically accomplished by using solid rocket motors." video - press release
Former NASA chief Griffin now wants to save the shuttle, Houston Chronicle
"In his e-mail, Griffin writes:
"At this point I'm in agreement with Dr. Kraft ... In a world of limited budgets, I was willing to retire the shuttle as the price of getting a follow-on system that could allow us to establish a manned lunar base. Not that my opinion matters, but I see no sense in retiring the shuttle in favor of nothing. That is beyond foolish."
It's a pretty stunning reversal from the man who, just a few years ago, couldn't get rid of the shuttle soon enough."
Keith's note: Mike Griffin and his self-described "band of brothers" often referred to the Space Shuttle as an "albatross" and was indeed in a big hurry for it to go away. He seemed to have little worry that the "gap" that he so despised grew rather healthily under his tenure. Now that his self-described "Apollo on Steroids" architecture collapsed under its own flawed engineering and program execution, he's suddenly a space shuttle advocate.
That's the problem with steroids, Mike: they affect both your memory and your judgement.
"In my opinion, NASA's SLS program is stalled because the White House doesn't really want to do it," former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said Friday. Griffin, who led NASA during the previous rocket program that Obama killed, has been a persistent critic of NASA's current direction. Griffin is now an eminent scholar at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. "You will recall that SLS is derogatorily referenced by some as the 'Senate Launch System,'" Griffin said in an email response to questions. "That is because the Congress forced it upon the executive branch. The fact that it is the right thing for NASA to do is irrelevant; the White House doesn't want to do it, and they will do everything possible to prevent it from occurring."
"No one questions the need to ensure the best understanding of program costs. We do that every year on an ongoing basis with every major NASA program, as we set spending levels in our annual budget. There is simply no need to defer announcing the vehicle design decision while awaiting yet another cost review. "To do so only increases the real human cost that NASA employees and contractors are experiencing in the face of continued uncertainty about the future. Without a decision we will continue to lose skilled workers that we need to build the shuttle replacements. Besides the toll this will take on workers and their families, who have contributed so much to science, our national security, and the economy, it will be difficult and more costly to replace this invaluable human capital. "We have the information to make a decision now, and I call on the Administration and OMB to immediately make public and approve NASA's technical design decision on the heavy lift vehicle."
House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Hearing: A Review of NASA's Space Launch SystemHearing Charter
"The original intent of the hearing was to examine NASA's selection of a heavy-lift launch system ("Space Launch System") that will be used to launch future crew and cargo flights beyond low Earth orbit. Members would have had an opportunity to ask questions regarding cost, schedule, capabilities, and justification for the selected design. However, on July 7, a senior NASA official publicly stated that a final decision on SLS won't be announced until "late this summer." In light of NASA's continuing delays (the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 required a decision and report by mid-January 2011), the hearing will instead provide an opportunity for NASA to explain why it has failed to reach a decision, what analyses still need to be completed, and when the Space Launch System decisions will be forthcoming."
Keith's note: Rep. Hall opended the hearing by telling Bolden that not getting SLS documentation the committee had requested from NASA "is almost an insult to this committee and to Congress". Rep. Johnson said that Bolden can "expect to be on the receiving end of some frustration from members - including me."
"As a preface to the formal portion of my statement, I want to first congratulate all the men and women at NASA and its contractors for the successful launch of STS-135. The Shuttle launch was viewed by tens of thousands on hand in Florida and millions more around the world, including a packed crowd in this hearing room, and it was a bittersweet moment to watch the last flight of the Shuttle Atlantis lift off from Kennedy Space Center."
"Administrator Bolden, as you know, you have been called to testify on NASA's plans to develop the vehicles that will enable future human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit--vehicles that have been authorized and funded by Congress. However, as you also know--and will testify today--you still don't have an approved plan to share with us. As a result, I expect that you will be on the receiving end of a lot of unhappiness and irritation expressed by many Members here today. That's unfortunate, because the fault doesn't lie with you. It's my understanding that you have had a plan ready to announce for some time, but you haven't been able to get the final okay to make it public."
"Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing entitled, "A Review of NASA's Space Launch System." The purpose of the hearing was for the NASA Administrator to explain why the agency has failed to reach a decision on the architecture for the Space Launch System, what analyses still need to be completed, and when final acquisition decisions will be made."
Rocket decision still weeks away, NASA chief says, Orlando Sentinel
"NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden told Congress on Tuesday that it could be weeks -- or longer -- before the agency unveils the design for its next big rocket, a timeline that prompted lawmakers to threaten an investigation into the delay. "We have waited for answers that have not come. We have pleaded for answers that have not come," said U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall, the Texas Republican who chairs the House science committee. "We have run out of patience."
"NASA maintained at various times that a decision was coming in the spring, then in June, then in early July. NASA associate administrator Lori Garver said last week the agency hopes to make an announcement by late summer."
On NASA and Houston: Sheila Jackson Lee succeeds where I have failed, Houston Chronicle
"I have requested an interview with Charlie Bolden, NASA's administrator, at least half a dozen times since Feb. 2010, the last time I had the opportunity to speak with him. Fact is, Bolden is been all but inaccessible to the media since an initial around of interviews after President Obama released his plan for human spaceflight in early 2010. His predecessors frequently attended pre- and post-launch shuttle news conferences. Bolden rarely if ever does. It's weird. It's not like he's not in Florida for the launches. He is. Anyway, to her credit, Sheila Jackson Lee got a few Houston-related questions in during a House science committee hearing on NASA's Space Launch System. She takes a lot of grief for being too interested in getting in front of cameras, but in this case I'm glad she did."
"I am writing to encourage NASA to initiate a competitive bidding process for the propulsion component of the new Space Launch System (SLS). I believe the greatest challenge we face as a nation is the need to balance our spending priorities with principles of fiscal discipline. Rather than consider a non-competitive sole-source contract, NASA should undertake a competitive bidding process to ensure billions of taxpayer dollars are spent in the most cost-effective and responsible manner possible. Furthermore, increased competition will encourage new, innovative technologies that can lead to lower costs and higher value for Americans in the long run."
Keith's note: Some staffer needs to get the name of the agency, address, etc. correct next time. These letters are all the same and are addressed to "National Aeronautics and Space Agency" at "200 E Street, SW, Room 9F44".
NASA Will Compete Space Launch System Boosters, Aviation Week
"NASA has selected a shuttle-derived vehicle with two existing liquid-oxygen/liquid-hydrogen stages as its reference design for the heavy-lift Space Launch System that Congress has ordered it to build for exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit, but it will hold a competition between liquid- and solid-fuel boosters to get it off the pad. Administrator Charles Bolden on Wednesday endorsed the basic concept developed by launch vehicle experts at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), and sent it on to the White House Office of Management and Budget for confirmation."
NASA selects new heavy-lift rocket, say sources, Space News via MSNBC
"Since the law's enactment, NASA has provided Congress with SLS reference designs that also closely resemble the Ares 5, but at the same time warned that the vehicle could not be fielded on the designated schedule under current budget scenarios. Industry sources privately questioned the affordability of NASA's latest strategy, given that it adds a brand new engine development program to the mix. Some also have suggested that competition will slow the SLS development effort. Shelby disagrees. He wrote that he has "seen no evidence that foregoing competition for the booster system will speed development of SLS or, conversely, that introducing competition will slow the program down." Shelby also said the SLS language in the authorization act gives NASA sufficient leeway to hold a competition."
Servicing Study, GSFC
"From March 24-26, 2010, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) hosted an open international workshop to bring potential users and providers of on-orbit servicing capabilities together with the NASA GSFC Satellite Servicing Study Team. The event workshop drew together 57 individual speakers and over 250 participants from industry, academia, NASA, other agencies, and international organizations. ... The servicing mission study activity will result in a report to NASA, and subsequently to Congress, on the results of this workshop together with the integrated results from the servicing study team. The final report to Congress is currently under NASA review."
"NASA will execute a robust study, led by Goddard Space Flight Center under the direction of the Space Operations Missions Directorate (SOMD). The planning activity began in May 2009 and a final report to Congress is due in September 2010."
Keith's note: It has been more than a year since the meeting. The On-Orbit Satellite Servicing Study Project Report was posted recenty (18 June) here. But NASA GSFC never bothered to tell anyone that it had been posted - nor did they bother to link from the page that announced the study. But according to this page "An internal Project Report captures the work performed under the congressional mandate. SSCO's report to Congress is currently under review." So they have yet to deliver the report to Congress - and the report was due for delivery 10 months ago.
NASA Defends Satellite Refueling Demo, Space News
"NASA officials said that they have no intention of developing a satellite refueling business to compete with private industry. "NASA managers have met with officials from MDA and Intelsat, who understand that NASA plans to take the RRM hardware to the International Space Station to use as a technology test bed," NASA spokesman Michael Curie said in an emailed response to questions. "The results of the RRM tests will be shared with everyone, including them. NASA is not doing this to compete with industry. In fact, by conducting these tests on the space station, NASA believes it will help reduce the eventual risk and cost to industry."
"I don't think we need it. I don't think we can afford to operate it. I think it will be rarely used and expensive to maintain," said Alan Stern, a former NASA associate administrator. "The most likely possibility is that it [the rocket] is unfortunately going to collapse under its own weight in a couple years." Already, NASA has told Congress that it can't build the rocket and its companion crew capsule by the 2017 deadline with the money -- at least $14 billion over the next five years -- it has been given. More seriously, NASA hasn't decided where it wants the rocket and capsule to go. Agency officials talk constantly about the ultimate goal -- Mars -- but that trip is likely decades away. Few are talking about what to do in the meantime."
"In this time of constrained budgets, it would be inexcusible to funnel billions of taxpayer dollars into a non-competitive sole-source contract for the new Space Launch System. By allowing a competitive process, NASA could realize hundreds of millions of dollars in annual savings, and billions in savings over the life of the program. Furthermore, a competitive process will build capacity and enhance the critical skills and capabilities at a wide range of aesrospace technology companies."
Keith's 3 June update: When I asked ESMD AA Doug Cooke about this issue at a Women in Aerospace conference today he said that NASA "had not excluded" the option of a full and open competition for the SLS. That is not a "yes" - but it is not a "no" either.
Heavy Lift Rocket Standoff on Capitol Hill, earlier post
Keith's note: Have a look at tomorrow's House Science Committee Hearing. Specifically, have a look at the charter for tomorrow's hearing "NASA's Commercial Cargo Providers: Are They Ready to Supply the Space Station in the Post-Shuttle Era?"
Curiously, after watching NASA spend more than $12 billion on Constellation with only the semi-dummy Ares 1-X rocket to show for it in terms of flight hardware, the committee never planned any oversight hearings on the cost overruns and lack of progress. Now NASA changes the name of Constellation's Orion to "MPCV" - but still hasn't a clue what its new (old) mission will now cost. And Congress still doesn't convene a hearing? Instead they go after the private sector which has made far more progress - at far less cost - toward meeting the same capabilities as NASA has been stumbling to do.
Live webcast starting at 10:00 am EDT
"SpaceX and Orbital continue to make progress completing milestones under their COTS agreements with NASA, but both partners are working under aggressive schedules and have experienced delays in completing demonstration missions. SpaceX successfully flew its first demonstration mission in December 2010, but the mission was 18 months late and the company's second and third demonstration missions have been delayed by almost 2 years due to design, development, and production challenges with the Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 launch vehicle."
Orion Program Shrinking To Save Money, Time, Aviation Week
"Lockheed Martin has cut out an entire test article from the Orion crew exploration vehicle that it is recasting in a new role as deep-space Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), combining test objectives for the remaining articles in an effort to keep the vehicle within the tight schedule set by Congress. By combining the tests that will be conducted with particular test articles, the company plans to send an Orion capsule into orbit on its first test flight in 2013, according to Cleon Lacefield, the company's program manager."
Canceled NASA rocket resurfaces in private bid for tax dollars, Orlando Sentinel
"It's like the Dukes of Hazzard. They paint up an old car to make it look faster, but it's the same rocket," said Keith Cowing, editor of the watchdog site NASA Watch. "I'm glad they are trying to use this [Ares I] technology, but shouldn't taxpayers be getting a percentage of the profit? ... "It's a thinly-veiled attempt to profit at the expense of the taxpayers," said Rick Tumlinson, a co-founder of the Space Frontier Foundation and longtime advocate of commercial space travel. "What ATK is trying to do is put the taxpayers' skin in the game and act as if it's their own." ... When asked about this arrangement, ATK officials did not directly address questions about the tax dollars the company has received to build Ares I."
- ATK (Apparently) Does Not Need NASA Money For Liberty [Update], earlier post
- ATK Was Against Commercial Crew - Before It Was For it., earlier post
- ATK Wants To Sell NASA a Recycled Ares 1, earlier post
- Nickname for Liberty, earlier post
Keith's note: What baffles me is how ATK can claim that this rocket will be ready 2 years earlier than Ares 1 would have been - for less money. Why didn't they offer that option to NASA before Ares 1 was cancelled?
NASA still ordered to waste $1.4 million a day, Chicago Tribune
"Congress has again failed to rid a temporary spending bill of language forcing NASA to waste $1.4 million a day on its defunct Constellation moon program. This so-called "Shelby provision" -- named for U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, who inserted it into the 2010 budget -- is expected to cost NASA roughly $29 million during the three-week budget extension through April 8. It has already cost the agency nearly $250 million since Oct. 1."
NASA commitment to Senate wishes questioned, Space.com/MSNBC
"Nelson had no luck getting NASA officials to pin down the date by which the agency could begin testing Orion atop the core elements of the congressionally mandated rocket. "I want to know how soon you can get testing the initial heavy-lift capability with the proposed funding levels," Nelson told Doug Cooke, NASA associate administrator for exploration systems. Cooke demurred, citing ongoing studies, but said the agency "is trying to get test flights as early as 2016," the year the law says the initial capability must be operational. Cooke also said the president's latest budget request, which increases spending for commercial crew transportation and space technology research, reflects the administration's agenda."
"The Lockheed Martin Orion team shipped out the first Orion crew module spacecraft structure today from NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, La. The spacecraft is headed to Lockheed Martin's Denver, Colo. facilities where it will undergo a series of rigorous tests to confirm Orion's ability to safely fly astronauts through all the harsh environments of deep space exploration missions."
ATK moving forward with Liberty rocket, Salt Lake Tribune
"Regardless of whether the government agrees to help fund Alliant Techsystems' rocket that would take astronauts to the International Space Station, the Utah company intends to move forward with its project because it believes there will be no shortage of commercial customers. ATK and a partner on Tuesday unveiled the two-stage Liberty rocket that they want NASA to use as the next launch vehicle for the U.S. space program. And they are hoping the space agency will see fit to award it at least a portion of a $200 million pool of money set aside for promising projects."
Keith's 10 Feb note: Of course U.S. taxpayers have already made a huge down payment on Ares-1 development. I wonder how ATK gets to use the Ares 1 modified transporter, launch pad, VAB, etc - also modified with lots of tax dollars. That won't cost ATK money? Isn't the use of these designs and facilities using NASA money?
Keith's 11 Feb 12:42 pm update: According to ATK's George Torres, who called and left me a voicemail statement: "The ATK spokesperson spoke out of line. What we're really about is to meet goal of CCDev to accelerate commercial program and to try and mature the program and working on the integrate these two systems as part of the deveopment. CCDev funding would accelerate this by 2 years." He said that he'd sent me a statement by email at some point.
Keith's 11 Feb 2:14 pm update: Here is ATK's statement: "These comments were inaccurate and from someone who didn't have full insight into the business model as presented for the CCDev2 acquisition. Specifically, our proposal is focused on the goals of CCDev-2, which are to "further advance commercial Crew Transportation System (CTS) concepts and mature the design and development of elements of the system such as launch vehicles and spacecraft." Overall, it really responds to the main goal of the procurement, which is to "accelerate the development of commercial crew systems." If we do win a CCDev-2 contract we can accelerate our first flight two years from 2015 to 2013. With the payload capabilities of Liberty and its low price, we believe it will be a strong competitor for CCDev-2. As for use of KSC facilities, we are responding to NASA's request on how we would utilize KSC facilities (just like other potential contractors) on a leased basis."
Keith's note: Ares 1 was nicknamed the "Stick".
I guess we need a new nickname for Liberty. That slick first stage paint scheme (much better than Ares 1-X white or Ares -1 foam-orange) brings some names to mind - "Candy Cane" and "Barber Pole" for example.
ATK and Astrium Unveil the Liberty(TM) Launch Vehicle Initiative for NASA's CCDev-2 Competition
"ATK and Astrium (an EADS Company) are working together in response to NASA's Commercial Crew Development-2 (CCDev-2) procurement. The team is offering NASA launch services with the Liberty(TM) rocket. This new launch vehicle combines two of the world's most reliable propulsion systems, with a collective heritage of nearly 150 successful flights. ATK would supply the human-rated first stage, which it developed under NASA's Space Exploration Program. The five-segment solid rocket first stage is derived from the Space Shuttle's four-segment solid rocket boosters (SRBs) which are built by ATK and have flown 107 successful missions since 1988 (encompassing 214 SRBs). Astrium, the developer and manufacturer of the Ariane 5 launcher, working with Snecma (Safran Group), Europe's leading propulsion company, is providing Liberty's second stage based on the liquid-fueled cryogenic core of the Ariane 5 vehicle powered by the Vulcain2."
Keith's note: So, let me get this straight: NASA pours billions into ATK to develop the 5-segment SRB first stage of Ares 1. It has never been flown. Massive cost overruns, technical problems, and multi-year schedule delays force its cancellation. Now, ATK takes that multi-billion dollar taxpayer investment, paints a fancy logo on it, and tries to sell it back to the taxpayers as a commercial product?
Oh yes, this rocket will deliver "44,500 pounds to the International Space Station orbit". Hmm, that's less than NASA's advertised Ares 1 capability i.e. "25-ton payload capacity to deliver resources and supplies to the International Space Station".
Reader note: "I watched the movie "Monsters" last week. "After a NASA deep-space probe crash landed in Mexico..." The 'deep-space probe crash' video is actually the real video of Ares 1-x flight "staging" (i.e. burn-out)."
Keith's note: According to this NASA JSC Mission Management Flight Request, this flight was charted for passengers to "attend and participate in the Constellation SFA Recognition Event activities". It took off with 11 people who went from JSC to GRC, dropped off 4, and the remaining 7 people flew from GRC to LaRC, had breakfast and then flew back to JSC. Those making the ESMD breakfast run: Dale Thomas, Charlie Stegemoeller, Mark Kirasich, Brenda Ward, Barbara Zelon, Stephanie Castillo, and Sonia Vasquez.
For NASA, Longest Countdown Awaits, NY Times
"Two weeks ago, the agency told Congress that it had decided on preferred designs for the rocket and the crew capsule for carrying astronauts, but could yet not fit them into the schedule and constraints. "All our models say 'no,' " said Elizabeth Robinson, NASA's chief financial officer, "even models that have generous affordability considerations." She said NASA was continuing to explore how it might reduce costs. A couple of days after receiving the report, Senator Nelson said he had talked to the NASA administrator, Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr., and "told him he has to follow the law, which requires a new rocket by 2016." He added, "And NASA has to do it within the budget the law requires."
"All Constellation team members are invited to join Dale Thomas, our NASA Constellation Program Manager, Thursday, January 20th for a Constellation LaRC Celebration and Recognition Event in honor of the great accomplishments you've made to the program. It will be held in the Reid Center auditorium and starts at 8 am with breakfast (courtesy of the Constellation Program) followed by an All Hands and awards ceremony. A calendar invite will follow shortly."
Keith's note: Well, it would seem that Doug Cooke, Dale Thomas, ESMD, and CxP are putting that Congressionally-created money for the now-cancelled Constellation program to good use by buying breakfast for everyone on the team.
Anonymous senior SOMD reader note: "just read the comments on the article. What people are missing (and you understand) is perception. We used to have snacks, food, coffee, drinks outside all of our FRR's - this was not cheap. When we started laying people off, Gerst called an end to the practice. The message was: we are not going to spend scarce resources on cookies for upper management when we are laying teammembers off to save money. This provides insight into the difference between mission directorate leadership."
"Finally, we would like to clarify our intent when stating "to the extent practicable" in the Authorization Act, such as the direction to leverage Shuttle and Constellation capabilities "to the extent practicable" in developing the Space Launch System and the multi-purpose crew vehicle. Federal courts have held that the phrase "to the maximum extent practicable" imposes "a clear duty on [an] agency to fulfill the [relevant] statutory command to the extent that it is feasible or possible*' (Fund for Animals v. Babbitt, 903 F. Supp. 96,107 (D.D.C. 1995) (noting that the phrase "does not permit an agency unbridled discretion") ..."
Click on Image to enlarge "Cost and Schedule of Shuttle sidemount compared with HEFT alternatives. This is the only HLV option that meets all legal requirements and fits within the budget and schedule assumptions of HEFT. Data derived from SSP Study NSTS 60583, dated June 8, 2010"
HEFT, Lies and Videotape, Paul Spudis, Air & Space
"So as Oliver Hardy would say, here's another fine mess we've gotten ourselves into. NASA creates an unaffordable architecture (ESAS) to implement the VSE. The response by the new administration is to cancel the VSE and replace it with promises of more distant goals at some nebulous time in the far future. Congress directs the agency to build an HLV anyway, but the vehicle has no mission, so they pull out the specs of the last HLV America flew. NASA responds by saying they can't do it on the money and schedule specified, even though they themselves have in hand a report that shows how it can be done. Moreover, the agency still claims it doesn't know why anyone would want to go to the Moon, despite having been shown repeatedly that what we do there will create new space faring capability."
Keith's note: During its recent deliberations the HEFT II activity look at a variety of scenarios, reference missions etc. One of them, DM1, actually meets the costs and schedule specified by Congress. DM1 entails creation and use of an in-space propellant depot and refueling capability. It also makes use of EELVs and other commercial launch assets. But forces within NASA ESMD personnel - led by Doug Cooke - have purposefully sat on such ideas and have made certain that they were scrubbed from presentation charts and reports to Congress and other "stakeholders". Charlie Bolden is aware of this tactic.
"The report recently provided to Congress by NASA on its heavy lift development is only the beginning of a long conversation Congress will have with the Agency regarding the future of the human space flight program. It was this Administration that killed the Constellation program, which Congress had repeatedly endorsed. Instead of providing the resources that the Augustine Committee said were necessary to have a program worthy of a great nation, this Administration simply said it was unaffordable, choosing instead to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on other priorities."
"The Inspector General Act of 1978 directs Federal Inspectors General to, among other things, "review existing and proposed legislation and regulations relating to programs and operations" of their agencies and to make recommendations "concerning the impact of such legislation or regulations on the economy and efficiency in the administration of programs and operations administered or financed by such establishment." In addition, Inspectors General are required to keep their agency head and Congress informed about "serious problems, abuses. and deficiencies relating to the administration of programs and operations administered or financed by such establishment, [and] to recommend corrective action concerning such problems."
Keith's note: Any typos are a result of the poor quality of the original letter - parts of which are illegible - released to the media by the NASA OIG - in clear violation of Section 508 requirements, by the way.
"Constraining NASA's ability to stop spending money on aspects of a rocket program that the administration and Congress have both agreed to cancel while at the same time prohibiting the agency from beginning the follow-on program called for in the 2010 Authorization Act strikes us as a problem ripe for correction," Martin said in the letter to the Senate NASA oversight committee dated Thursday. "Accordingly, we urge Congress to take immediate action," Martin said, "that will enable NASA to reduce or cease funding aspects of the Constellation Program in order to more efficiently redirect these funds to the priorities outlined in the Authorization Act."
NASA Delivers Heavy Lift Proposal to Congress, Space News
"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. Congress directed NASA last fall to get started this year on a multipurpose crew exploration vehicle and a heavy-lift rocket initially capable of hauling 70-100 metric tons of payload to orbit."
Keith's note: Hilarious - and typical. NASA is incapable of thinking outside of the box or letting go of old things. Nor can they stay within Congressional budget or schedule limitations. SpaceX has already outlined a way that they could do this for vastly less money - and most likely sooner.
But wait, there's more:
"Cooke said NASA expects to deliver a final report to Congress in the spring pending the results of a slew of heavy-lift launch vehicle study contracts awarded to 13 U.S. companies in November that are expected to yield a gamut of launch vehicle design proposals."
So NASA is telling Congress that it already has a HLV design that it wants to build - but that it cannot afford to build it or do so as Congress has asked. Yet NASA tells Congress anyway. Yet NASA is funding additional HLV studies? Why? It has already told Congress what its HLV is going to look like. Why waste money on these studies if you already have the answer? Shouldn't NASA do trade studies BEFORE picking a design - not after? This is starting to smell like Mike Griffin's ESAS all over again - and the same guy is running the show once again.
Human Exploration Framework Team Presentation Online, earlier post
Relaunch the U.S. space program, opinion, Rep. Ruppersberger, Baltimore Sun
"The president announced plans to cancel Constellation, the plan to return astronauts to the moon by 2020. This move jeopardizes an $11.5 billion investment, puts thousands of skilled scientists out of work, and shakes the very heart of the space industrial base."
Keith's note: Rep. Ruppersberger hasn't really been paying attention to recent events. SpaceX Launched a Dragon test vehicle on a Falcon 9 years ahead of any schedule NASA ever imagined for Orion and Ares 1 and did so for a fraction of what NASA spent on Constellation. For that $11.5 billion "investment" in Constellation, NASA produced nothing like Falcon/Dragon that ever came remotely close to flying. NASA "jeopardized" its "investment" all by itself. The White House simply sought to stop throwing good money after bad by cancelling Constellation.
Ruppersberger goes on to lament the fact that commercial crew transport services are being sent to Russia yet seems to be clueless that NASA is going out of its way to levy crew transport requirements on American companies that would hinder their ability to provide the same services that NASA throws at Russia. Russia is not - and will not - be called upon to adhere to these same requirements.
"The base reliability of unmanned expendable vehicles seems to arouse concerns where that of the manned Shuttle system inexplicably does not. Many, if not most, unmanned payloads are of very high value, both for the importance of their mission, as well as in simple economic terms. The relevant question may be posed quite simplistically: What, precisely, are the precautions that we would take to safeguard a human crew that we would deliberately omit when launching, say, a billion-dollar Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission? The answer is, of course, "none". While we appropriately value human life very highly, the investment we make in most unmanned missions is quite sufficient to capture our full attention."
"We envision this Space Taxi to be industry owned and operated; however, the cost of development, production, and operation of the Space Taxi System would be paid for predominantly out of government funds because it satisfies unique NASA needs that are not currently aligned with those of commercial industry. The launching of this Space Taxi System, however, could be competed among commercial RLV or EELV suppliers that meet the cost and safety requirements. These future RLVs would be commercially developed with private capital and would be commercially owned and operated. Their development will be enabled by NASA's current and planned future investments in RLV technologies and could be enhanced by government-backed financial incentives, such as tax credits, loan guarantees or advanced purchase agreements. Once a truly commercial Space Station becomes operational or the current Space Station becomes sufficiently commercialized, NASA and industry launch needs will be in almost complete alignment, and a completely commercial Space Taxi may become a viable business opportunity. We strongly believe that industry ownership of the Space Taxi from initial operation is critical to enable the eventual development of such a commercial Space Station."
NASA spending $500 million for canceled rocket, Orlando Sentinel
"Thanks to congressional inaction, NASA must continue to fund its defunct Ares I rocket program until March -- a requirement that will cost the agency nearly $500 million at a time when NASA is struggling with the expensive task of replacing the space shuttle. About one-third that money -- $165 million -- will go to Alliant Techsystems, or ATK, which has a $2 billion contract to build the solid-rocket first stage for the Ares I, the rocket that was supposed to fill the shuttle's role of transporting astronauts to the International Space Station. But under a new NASA plan signed into law by President Barack Obama in October, there's no guarantee that the new rocket required by that plan will use solid-fuel propulsion. And, in fact, many in the agency say a liquid-fueled rocket would be cheaper, more powerful -- and safer."
"Stifled by legislative bottlenecks, NASA will be forced to continue an already defunct rocket program until March, costing the agency half a billion dollars while adding more hurdles to the imminent task of replacing the space shuttle."
NASA forced to pay half billion for rocket to nowhere, Federal Times
"The language was placed into the 2010 budget by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and keeps the whole Constellation program going until March 4, at a cost of $1.2 billion."
NASA's new year will start like the old year with funding uncertainty, Huntsville Times
"In part, NASA Headquarters blames U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, with whom the White House fought all year over space policy. But Shelby's office says that there is no reason NASA can't move forward. "NASA is just making excuses and continuing to drag its feet, just as it has done for the past two years under the Obama administration," Shelby spokesman Jonathan Graffeo said Wednesday."
Mission would send astronauts to moon's far side, Space.com via MSNBC
"While NASA has officially given up its plans to send humans back to the surface of the moon anytime soon, a contractor is proposing a mission to send a crew to a stationary spot in orbit over the far side of Earth's neighbor. Lockheed Martin has begun pitching an L2-Farside Mission using its Orion spacecraft under development."
"At least some of the incoming Republican panel chairmen and other senior GOP lawmakers, these officials said, may view the proposed test flight as circumventing congressional language to quickly develop a new heavy-lift NASA rocket able to transport astronauts past low-earth orbit. Congress has adopted language strongly favoring space-shuttle derived rockets for this purpose, rather than a version of the Delta IV. The Delta IV is operated by a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing Co."
Keith's note: Bravo Lockheed Martin. A near-term, private sector solution to human space flight, using a commercially available rocket and Orion - much sooner than Ares 1 could have ever done so. Now, sit back and watch as the (otherwise) pro-business Republicans in Congress - especially ATK's congressional delegation - try and stop it.
"NASA has signaled an interest recently in possibly circumventing the law," Hatch said. "My purpose in calling this meeting was to explain in no uncertain terms the Utah congressional delegation's interest in ensuring that Utah's solid rocket motor industry is protected. Though they assured us that NASA would comply with the law, some of their answers reaffirmed my suspicions that we need to keep a very close watch on the agency. I will continue with other delegation members to ensure the agency abides by the law and protects this industry that is so vitally important to our national security and northern Utah's economy."
"NASA has selected 13 companies for negotiations leading to potential contract awards to conduct systems analysis and trade studies for evaluating heavy-lift launch vehicle system concepts, propulsion technologies, and affordability. The awards total approximately $7.5 million with a maximum individual contract award of $625,000. Each company will provide a final report to help lay the groundwork for the transportation system that could launch humans to multiple destinations, including asteroids, Lagrange points, the moon and Mars."
"A full scale mock-up of the Orion Launch Abort System (LAS) is hitting the road for a cross country trek of several museums and science centers. The public can see the LAS spacecraft hardware up close and personal and learn about the Orion crew vehicle and abort system."
Keith's note: Orion will now be used as a crew return vehicle - only - from the ISS. No crew will be launched in it. Therefore no launch escape system will be needed. Why is NASA exhibiting a piece of hardware that no longer has any use? Does this exhibit inform the public of the changes in NASA's Orion plan?
"Although the U.S. government's 2011 budget year began Oct. 1, lawmakers failed to pass any 2011 appropriations bills before leaving Washington last month until mid-November, leaving NASA and the rest of the federal government to operate through Dec. 3 under a stopgap measure called a continuing resolution that funds agencies at no greater than 2010 spending levels. For NASA, that means making do for at least the next eight weeks with 1.5 percent less than the $19 billion the White House has budgeted for the agency for 2011."
Marshall's future includes plenty of vital missions, Huntsville Times
"However, because of the end of the Constellation program, Lightfoot reiterated that there would be a loss of 150 to 250 contract jobs at Marshall, as announced last week. However, "when the appropriation bill comes in ... we'll have to see what we can do if we get to bring people back," he said."
Manned commercial space flight could mean jobs for North Alabama, Huntsville Times
"While hundreds of private contractor jobs related to NASA's Constellation program have been eliminated, officials with two private aerospace companies said the commercial spaceflight industry would create new jobs here."
NASA technology chief: We'll decide what rocket we want to build, Orlando Sentinel
"NASA engineers -- not Congress -- must determine the design of America's next big spaceship to take humans beyond the moon, according to the agency's top technology official. Robert Braun, NASA's chief technologist, told the Orlando Sentinel that even though Congress last week passed legislation demanding that NASA use parts of the space shuttle and its now-defunct Constellation moon-rocket program to make a new heavy-lift rocket, sound engineering and not politics should ultimately determine the way to go. "I think it remains to be seen what heavy lift will be," Braun said. "I would like to believe now that we are making progress in Washington towards the 2011 plan that the engineers...will weigh in and that we will move towards the technically correct choice."
Orion Spacecraft on the Path to Future Flight, Lockheed Martin
"Preparations for Orion'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."
Keith's note: I am certain that the good folks at Lockheed Martin will be certain that the spacecraft will be ready on time - but a "first mission" in 2013? On what rocket? Ares 1?
"As the nation's next generation spacecraft for human spaceflight, the Orion crew exploration vehicle is designed to support missions to the International Space Station and far beyond into deep space."
Keith's note: "Deep space"? I thought Orion was now going to only be a crew return vehicle "from" (not a transport "to") the ISS.
"'Plymouth Rock' is the name of an ambitious new concept for an early human mission to explore a Near Earth Asteroid using dual Orion manned spacecraft. Two astronauts would embark on a six month round trip Asteroid Trek as soon as 2019 - before the end of this decade. The recent discovery of a new class of many small asteroids - 5 to 75 meters wide - has enabled the formulation of this potential new destination for deep space human exploration in the near term. Favorable orbital alignments occur only a few times per decade."
Keith's note: a white paper describing this Lockheed Martin mission concept is online here.
Orion Starts Testing Phase, Ken Kremer
"The crucial pressure testing phase for NASA's pioneer Orion crew test capsule has begun inside the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans, Louisiana. It will be subjected to a wide ranging and stringent testing regime by the joint NASA/Lockheed Martin Orion team at multiple different facilities over the coming year to validate the spacecraft design."
Can We Turn Over America's Space Program to a "Space Cadet"?, Pete Fenn, The Hill
"But SpaceX may be even scarier -- a venture that risks a major program. The New York Times describes a bunch of 20- and 30-somethings who are launching rockets while soaking up $1.6 billion from NASA. My work in this area makes me think that this is a risky gamble with someone like Musk, who promises the sky, the moon and the stars."
Keith's note: The commenters on this blog posting pretty much sum it up. Curiously, Musk's Falcon 9 and Dragon's parachute systems worked perfectly the first time. As for Ares 1-X and Orion ... well, not so good. Where's the outrage over that, Mr. Fenn?
"Congressional Requesters: In a letter dated March 12, 2010, you requested information and our views on whether the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) complied with the Impoundment Control Act of 1974 and with restrictions in the fiscal year 2010 Exploration appropriation when NASA took certain actions pertaining to the Constellation program. ... CONCLUSION: NASA's actions to date with regard to the Constellation program have not violated either the Impoundment Control Act of 1974 or the provision in the fiscal year 2010 Exploration appropriation that bars NASA from terminating or eliminating any PPAs of the architecture for the Constellation program."
Senate compromise may be setting up NASA for another failure, Orlando Sentinel
"The plan orders NASA to build a heavy-lift rocket and capsule capable of reaching the International Space Station by 2016. But it budgets less money for the new spacecraft - roughly $11 billion over three years, with $3 billion next year -- than what the troubled Constellation program would have received. That - plus the short deadline -- has set off alarms. Days before the compromise was announced, NASA chief Charlie Bolden and Deputy Lori Garver told its two champions -- U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Florida and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas -- that NASA could not finish the proposed new rocket before 2020, according to three sources present at the meetings. When asked about the conversation, Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin said the NASA officials were responding to lower dollar figures than what Congress ultimately approved. NASA spokesman Michael Cabbage said it "would not be appropriate to discuss private conversations between NASA and members of Congress."
NASA appears to no longer be shooting for the stars, opinion, LA Times
"The $150-million facility was built to contain the next-generation manned spacecraft for the Constellation program, NASA's project to send humans back to the moon. It is the largest acoustic test chamber in the world, created to buffet the spacecraft with intense sound waves, simulating the stresses of launch. The only problem is that the Constellation program almost certainly will be dead within months. President Obama in January proposed cancelling the troubled moon program, and a key Senate committee voted this week to kill Constellation."
NASA 'compromise' a good start, editorial, Huntsville Times
"Portions of the Constellation program, including the Orion crew capsule and a heavy-lift rocket designed to travel to Mars, appear likely to survive in some form but details won't be known until the final vote. The $19 billion budget provides for another shuttle flight some time next summer in addition to planned launches in November and February next year."
"There's a lot for Houstonians to like in the $19 billion spending plan. While it cancels the Constellation program moon missions, it substitutes Mars and asteroids as long-term destinations. It will extend the life of the International Space Station through 2020, direct NASA to build a new heavy-lift launch rocket to be operational in six years, and continue development of the Orion crew exploration vehicle. At the same time it preserves the thrust of the Obama plan to support development of commercial launch crews to low Earth orbit."
Keith's note: The folks at the LA Times should do a little more fact checking. Yes, Constellation is being cancelled, but no Orion is not. So this test stand will still find use.
"IT'S FAST AND EASY: Each member of Congress has a phone line for public comments. Just call! A congressional staffer will pick up the phone. Just say something like: "I'm calling to express my concern about the NASA budget. I think we should restore full funding to Project Constellation and to the human space exploration program." The staffer will thank you, and will probably ask for your address. That's it!"
Congress may not decide Constellation's fate until next year, Huntsville Times
"The Nelson authorization bill would also take a "walk before you run" approach to commercial space development. NASA would be required to complete "studies, assessments, and milestones" before commercial service to the space station starts. The Senate appropriations subcommittee that controls NASA spending hasn't met yet, and its ranking member is Shelby. "As the ranking member," he said Friday, "I will continue fighting to refocus NASA on its core mission of advancing the U.S. human space flight program and preserving our nation's capabilities, which this administration is actively trying to dismantle."
Human space flight worth saving: robots no sub for manned trips, opinion, Rep Aderholt, Huntsville Times
"I believe NASA's recent contract "descoping" actions - which forced prime contractors to cancel or reduce subcontracts - are a direct violation of a provision in the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act. That bill did not give NASA permission to gut some projects and programs to fund others with Constellation and if it is found that NASA violated this provision, then NASA will be held responsible."
"About one hundred people turned out for the kickoff meeting of the Huntsville Space Professionals at UA-Huntsville's Chan Auditorium Friday afternoon."
Huntsville Space Professionals helps laid-off NASA workers, Huntsvile Times
"HSP plans to hold a job fair next month and provides updated news from Washington about NASA-related decisions made by Congress. The group's website lists employment opportunities, which are not exclusive to those laid off. There was a political undertone to the meeting. Many who attended expressed frustration over cuts to the Constellation program. President Obama has proposed to kill the program. "Congress could revive Constellation next week if they had the mindset to do so," said Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks, the GOP nominee for Alabama's Fifth Congressional District."
Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle Passes Key NASA Milestone
"The Orion crew exploration vehicle has successfully completed the Phase 1 Safety Review of NASA's Human Rating Requirements for space exploration in low Earth orbit and beyond. The NASA/Lockheed Martin Orion team earned the approval from NASA's Constellation Safety & Engineering Review Panel (CSERP) upon completion of the review, an essential requirement for the Orion program to move forward to the Critical Design Review and Phase 2 Safety Review."
House spending panel punts on NASA policy, Orlando Sentinel
"A key congressional committee today sidestepped a potential vote on NASA's future, opting to take "no position" on White House plans to scrap NASA's moon rocket program and replace the space shuttle with commercial rockets. The House subcommittee with oversight of NASA's budget did, however, agree unanimously to withhold funding for the agency's human exploration program until Congress authorizes a plan for the agency -- a move that normally could cause headaches for the administration. But because Congress is unlikely to move this spending bill -- or any 2011 spending bill -- until after election season, the prohibition essentially is rendered moot. With that procedure aside, much of the rest of the two-hour hearing turned into a debate about NASA should do after the shuttle era."
Aderholt's bill tells NASA to stop Constellation cuts, Huntsville Times
"Aderholt's bill, titled the Protecting Human Spaceflight Act of 2010, would require NASA to stop downsizing or canceling Constellation projects. It was introduced in the House shortly after 5 p.m. CDT Monday. The legislation would also require the space agency to spend 90 percent of the remaining funds appropriated for Constellation this year."
"The BAA NNM10ZDA001K will be released to industry in the near future for the Heavy Lift and Propulsion Technology Systems Analysis and Trade Study acquisition at NASA/MSFC. Effective immediately, all MSFC employees will cease communications with industry concerning this procurement. This 'blackout' period of communication with industry will continue until proposals have been received and evaluated, the contract is awarded, and the BAA Evaluation Team is released from its responsibilities."
"NASA has issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) seeking proposals and industry input on heavy-lift system concepts and propulsion technology."
"U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, is leading a group of lawmakers that will try to force NASA to continue funding the Constellation rocket program for the rest of the fiscal year. Aderholt will introduce a bill in the House later today titled the "Protecting Human Space Flight Act of 2010." It would require NASA to spend 90 percent of the remaining funds on the program in this last quarter of the fiscal year. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden would also be barred from terminating or shrinking any Constellation contract."
"At least four other Congressman have co-sponsored the bill, including Rep. Lincoln Davis, Rep. Spencer Bachus, Rep. Parker Griffith, Rep. Jo Bonner and Rep. Mike Rogers. Aderholt says he sees support for Constellation on both sides of the aisle. "I would say 90% or more of Congress right now believes that Constellation is a good program, it's a program that Congress should be investing in, or we don't see a sign of letting up," said Aderholt."
"The Greater Houston Partnership and the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership today urged the Obama administration to reconsider the retirement of the space shuttle and cancel its plan in the FY2011 NASA budget to eliminate the Constellation program - in favor of "hoped for" commercially developed capabilities that are still up to seven years away, assuming there are no further setbacks. Continuing the prevision plan to retire the Space Shuttle while also terminating the Constellation program in the face of such a long gap before the commercial industry can carry U.S. astronauts safely into low earth orbit would deal a severe blow to Houston and the nation, and compromise America's leadership in space."
"The administration wants to turn to commercial companies for taking future astronauts to orbit while taking a hiatus from any ambitious missions to send astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit. Yet Congress has not agreed to the scuttling of Constellation and added a clause in this year's federal budget that prohibited NASA from canceling the program or starting a new one without Congressional assent. The skirmishing continued in earnest this week. Staff members on the House Committee on Science and Technology are reviewing documents that NASA sent over Friday evening to comply with the committee's demand for information used in formulating the president's proposal. In addition, on Tuesday, 62 House members signed a letter sent to President Obama "to express concern" over the direction of NASA."
"ATK Space Systems says it has been cleared for a scheduled ground test of a new rocket motor in September. ATK says it received notice from NASA that the company will receive $160 million to prepare for the rocket test despite doubts about the future of the space program. The situation could change after October, when a new federal budget year starts."
"NASA in the last month threatened to withhold funding and enforce a contract clause that could force ATK to put up $500 million in termination costs for Ares, which is part of the Constellation space project. ATK officials would not confirm it, but NASA projected the termination clause would cost more than 2,000 jobs at the Top of Utah company."
Does moon plan have a pulse?, Houston Chronicle
"And the full 60-member House Appropriations Committee will be deciding whether to adopt Senate-passed restrictions designed to block an administration effort to have Constellation contractors set aside funds to pay potential contract termination costs - a move that critics contend bleeds the program before Congress has taken action. The language is part of the must-pass wartime defense supplemental bill. The panels' deliberations follow a letter to Obama by 62 House Democrats and Republicans from 18 states on Wednesday that urged the president to work with lawmakers on a compromise on the Constellation program."
Sessions says meeting with NASA's Bolden "troubling", Huntsville times
"Senators whose states stand to lose private sector jobs related to space flight want a legal opinion on whether NASA's order to start winding down certain programs this year is al lowed, Sen. Jeff Sessions said Tuesday. "We want an independent legal opinion, which could make a difference in where we are," Ses sions said after a meeting with other senators about NASA. "We think this is clearly a violation of the congressional intent."
Congress touts Constellation, wants heavy-lift rocket now, Orlando Sentinel
"The letter, signed by a bipartisan group of 62 U.S. House members from 18 states, seeks changes in a new White House plan that sets a 2015 deadline for NASA to decide on a so-called "heavy lift" rocket that could launch new spacecraft on missions to asteroids, which Obama wants to do by 2025."
"We are writing to express concern for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 President's Budget for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Human space exploration is ingrained in the American psyche. It is part of who we are as explorers, entrepreneurs, scientists and Americans. The proposed Exploration Systems Mission Directorate reduction jeopardizes our country's leadership in space and could put our national security at risk. Additionally, we do not see the benefit of a 5-year delay to a decision on exploration system architecture."
Despite Orders, NASA Keeps Funding Projects, WS Journal
"Andrew Hunter, a NASA budget official, said Wednesday the action was intended to prevent Alliant from being forced to abruptly stop all Ares work and lay off employees. Lockheed Martin Corp. also got the green light to receive $80 million for other work related to a crew capsule.Overall, Mr. Hunter said NASA was considering releasing another $630 million in funding for other work related to existing manned-exploration programs. "We are trying to work a fine balance between" competing priorities, Mr. Hunter said in an interview Wednesday. The latest funding decision and Mr. Bolden's earlier orders "aren't inconsistent," Mr. Hunter said. But some congressional staffers and industry officials familiar with the details disagree. They contend the release of funds skirts, and may directly contradict, Mr. Bolden's recent written directives."
Keith's note: Included in this video is an interview with Mike Griffin wherein he puts his spin on NASA budget issues as leader of the "Constellation Nation".
Nelson maps a road forward on space without Constellation, Orlando Sentinel
"Although Nelson mentions Ares I and Orion's contracts and assets - the first-phase rocket and crew capsule, respectively, of Constellation -- he does not talk about the program at all. Gone too is any mention of a vigorous test flight program for which Nelson recently requested $726 million. Nelson's spokesman, Dan McLaughlin, said that upon reflection lawmakers decided that it was up to "NASA as to how to get started on HLV as soon as possible." Nelson's approach appears to be an attempt at compromise with critics of the president's plans who have attacked the proposals as a "road to nowhere" that cedes U.S. leadership in space."
"Thank you for your letter of February 16, 2010, outlining your principles for drafting the fiscal year 2011 funding bill for NASA. I share fully your sentiment that our committees must work together to define the best path forward for America's space program. Over the last four months, I have been studying the President's budget request, as well as various alternative proposals, in determining how we can best move ahead to the next era of human space flight. I write today to share with you some of the key elements that have emerged from that review, including discussions with Chairman Rockefeller, Ranking Member Hutchison, Senator Vitter, and other members of our Committee, which will form the bipartisan foundation of a NASA authorization bill."
"In a statement issued by her office June 14, Mikulski said the elements of the authorization bill outlined in Nelson's letter offer "an alternative framework for NASA's human space flight program that could snap us out of the 'stagnant quo.'" "I look forward to seeing the details and how this alternative meets the principles outlined in my February 16, 2010 letter: astronaut safety, mission destination, balanced space program, scientific utilization of human space flight, workforce transition, and taxpayer protection," she said."
"Lawrence D. Thomas has been appointed manager of NASA's Constellation Program, which manages the effort to take humans beyond low-Earth orbit and develop the next generation launch vehicle and spacecraft. Charles M. Stegemoeller has been appointed as deputy program manager. He and Thomas will be based at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston."
Keith's note: With the exception of national publications such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, etc. and space-related media, why does it seem that the only local/state level newspapers and TV stations that are paying attention to the current space policy food fight are in Texas, Alabama, Florida, Utah, and Colorado? Where is the outrage in the rest of the country? Why isn't there more widespread condemnation? Is this just about losing jobs? Or do most Americans just not care about space?
If the rhetoric that Obama space policy opponents fling about is correct in its prediction of dire consequences for America, then where's the national outrage?
"The impact of termination liability on the contract has necessitated a 20 percent reduction across the program within Lockheed Martin as well as our subcontractors and suppliers", says Cleon Lacefield, Lockheed Martin vice president and Orion program manager. Lacefield told me that "Orion procurements are being reduced to allow work to continue within the budget limitations and about 600 positions among the Lockheed Martin and subcontractor workforce are being moved off of the program to adjust staffing needs."
Constellation funding up to NASA backers to win over Congress, Bud Cramer, huntsville Times
"The president's proposal includes a very different vision for NASA's future and begs the question: Will we continue to have a government-led space program? Will Marshall's workforce have the rug pulled out from under them?"
New NASA cutback a bad idea, editorial, Austin Daily Herald
"There's a two-fold problem with NASA's decision, which is apparently based on the president's distaste for the moon program. First, an enormous amount has already been spent; $10 billion over the past five years. Most, if not all, of that will be wasted with the program's cancellation. Perhaps more importantly, the cancellation will be yet another giant step backward for America's space program, one of the few efforts our nation is making to prepare for the future."
Congressmen still want probe of NASA Constellation decisions, Huntsville Times
"The employees and their families who are experiencing the news of job loss today have my thoughts with them," Griffith said. "It is unacceptable that our region is suffering due to this administration's blatant arrogance and its ignorance of the importance of manned space flight."
NASA move could kill up to 2,000 Utah jobs, Salt Lake Tribune
"Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, a member of the appropriations committee, said he believes they have a 50-50 shot of fighting off the president's plan to scrap Ares in favor of commercially developed vehicles that the government would lease rides on. "I haven't run across anyone outside of the administration who thinks this is a good idea," he said."
Keith's note: According to one MSFC reader: "It's basically "say goodbye to Ares Day" here. Managers and branch chiefs are in meetings all morning. There is an all-hands meeting at 2:00 pm. "Tough times ahead" is acknowledged by many."
Rep. Bishop responds to NASA's efforts to end the Constellation, Cache Valley Daily
"This recent directive handed down by NASA officials shows blatant disregard for the laws set forth by Congress to prevent this very action," says Rep. Bishop. "The administration is disregarding these policies with reckless abandon and doing so in a way that I find to be in complete violation of the legal parameters."
"For months, NASA's leadership has claimed they are not working to subvert Constellation despite information to the contrary," Hutchison said in a statement."
"At the time, economists predicted as many as 7,000 jobs could be lost in Houston as the space shuttle program was phased out and Constellation winded down. Another 4,000 indirect jobs at local businesses were predicted to be on the line."
"The cancellation of the NASA Constellation program is having an impact on contractors in Huntsville. Boeing spokesperson Ed Memi said they could possibly lay of 60 percent off the 300 people who work on the Constellation and Ares project."
Boeing could lay off 180 after Constellation funding cuts, Huntsville Times
"The Boeing Co., which employs 300 people on Constellation here, said Thursday it will hand termination notices to an unspecified number July 2. Their jobs will end Sept. 3 unless Boeing can find slots in other programs, spokesman Ed Memi said."
Colorado's delegation seeks to save Lockheed jobs, Denver Post
"Lockheed Martin has said it may have to cut some of the 600 to 650 employees who work on Orion in Colorado because NASA expects it and other contractors to shoulder the cost of terminating the Constellation spaceflight project, of which Orion is a part. The company said May 27 it is cutting project costs by 20 percent. About 1,000 people in the state and 4,000 nationwide work on Orion for various contractors."
"A NASA plan to force Alliant Techsystems to set aside $500 million to deal with potential termination costs of the Constellation rocket program could end up decimating the ATK space systems work force in the Top of Utah, according to space agency documents. A NASA letter, dated June 9, and its attachments estimate the "worst-case scenario" for ATK would be more than 2,000 layoffs beyond those the company has already implemented."
"Regarding your question, 'What was your attitude/instruction regarding this set-aside law when you were administrator?,' I had no discussions in connection with and issued no instructions on this matter. In fact, I had no concern whatsoever about it. The NASA Administrator rarely (if ever) is involved in the technical details of procurement and contracting, and certainly I was not. I had, and still have, great regard for and confidence in NASA legal and procurement staff, and am confident that the decisions they made in regard to the apportionment of termination liability will withstand examination."
Antideficieny Act Violations at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA OIG, 10 April 2006
"The ADA violations occured because of the lack of internal controls within the OCFO and OCFO personnel's misunderstanding of OMB apportionment requirements."
"Management's response: The Administrator concurred, stating that the OCFO will demonstrate that appropriations available to be spent in FY 2006 can be traced from appropriations, to apportionments, to allotments, to commitments, and to obligations."
Keith's note: Hmm, it would seem that Mike knew that NASA had ADA compliance problems and that he did have some "concerns" despite his statement to the contrary.
"This morning, Ellen Ochoa met with our civil service supervisors from across the Center as well as members of the Joint Leadership Team to discuss replanning of Constellation operations for the remainder of this fiscal year. Ellen was joined by Dale Thomas, Acting Constellation Program Manager, and Charlie Stegemoeller, Constellation Program Planning and Control Manager. They noted that the Constellation Program has been given the authority to proceed immediately to assign preliminary adjustments and funding reductions. This replan will have an impact on contracts, workforce, and planned content of the Constellation Program. We don't know the specific impacts at the Center levels or at JSC yet. The Program is working through the projects and implementing organizations to determine plans and numbers of team members that will be affected."
"Senator Hutchison today received a letter from NASA Administrator Bolden outlining the decision and NASA's justification. She noted that it further underscores the extent to which NASA has taken aggressive steps to move in a different direction without providing ample explanation or justification to Congress. The letter from Administrator Bolden contains language discussing the new "principles" to guide spending that are virtually identical to direction reportedly given by NASA headquarters in an email to the now reassigned Constellation program manager more than three weeks ago. The email with these operational instructions has been provided to the NASA Inspector General as part of the investigation Hutchison requested with Chairman Rockefeller into the reassignment of the Constellation program manager."
"The move to essentially kill Constellation comes despite joint legislation passed by the House and Senate Appropriations committees that prohibits NASA from terminating any Constellation work without congressional approval. It also comes despite rulings by both the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals that places all termination liability on the government rather than contractors. One case in point: A lawsuit brought by DuPont in the U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit, in April 2004."
Congress and contractors reject NASA move on Constellation moon plan , Orlando Sentinel
"ATK believes this was contrived on a recent NASA premise that ATK has been obligated to set aside termination liability estimates on this contract when in fact NASA's contracting officer provided ATK the exact opposite instruction on numerous occasions over the last several years, and directed that such costs not be accounted in any contract processes or procedures."
"If this is to be the new agency policy and practice, then NASA should shift responsibility for termination liability on all of its current contracts, not simply Constellation," Dr. Pace said. "As it stands, this appears to be purposefully punitive against a specific set of NASA contractors."
"Current estimates for potential termination liability under Constellation contracts total $994 million. Once these termination liability estimates are accounted for, the overall Constellation program is confronting a total estimated shortfall of $991 million for continued program effort for the balance of the year, compared with the revised FY 2010 plan. Given this estimated shortfall, the Constellation program cannot continue all of its planned FY 2010 program activities within the resources available. Under the Anti-Deficiency Act (ADA), NASA has no choice but to correct this situation. Consequently, the Constellation program has formulated an updated funding plan for the balance of FY 2010, consistent with the following principles:"
Bolden Talks About The Constellation Team, earlier post
"If you go to 55:18 in this video, I ask Charlie Bolden how he is going to get people to make the transition from flying government-operated spacecraft to commercially- operated spacecraft - and the emotion that goes with making the transition from one way of thinking to another. Bolden's reply gets deep into the emotions and mindsets that underly the changes that the Constellation workforce is now going through - and how he is going to work through that process with them."
Keith's note: Yes, it really sucks that it has come to this. I have seen this movie before: I am a survivor of Space Station Freedom "reorganization". Friends who worked very hard were simply fired for no fault of their own. I turned down several positions and quit NASA civil service in disgust (ever wonder what prompted me to start NASA (RIF) Watch?). And now we are seeing this happen again like a bad sequel. Every CxP job lost belongs to a real human being with a family and bills to pay - and dreams that will now be dashed.
As such, I honestly cannot fault anyone in or around CxP for wanting to fight back. My teammates at SS Freedom did not like what was happening at all. Yet we worked on our version of the "Program of Record" until we were told to stop working - and move on to other things - or be fired. To this day I am proud of the folks I worked with and how they conducted themselves. Pieces of what we worked on orbit overhead right now. We did not mount insurgent movements as much as we might have wanted to. There comes a time when badly-managed and chronically under-funded programs run out of resources. That is what has happened to Constellation. Of course, in the end, the little guy always gets the shaft.
NASA, White House, Congress, and the contractors should never have let things come to this point. They should have been honest with the numbers and what they committed to do. The money to keep everything going is not there - it never was and it never will be. The powers that be did not exercise responsibility and now thousands of hard working people get the shaft as a result of bad management - bad management that runs all the way up to NASA HQ and the previous Administrator and his staff, some of whom are still inexplicably in their jobs at NASA.
What newly-minted graduate in their right mind is going to want to pursue a career at NASA when the agency runs itself like this?
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. .. At issue is the federal Anti-Deficiency Act that requires all federal contractors to set aside a portion of their payments to cover costs in case the project is ever cancelled."
"In a June 9 letter to key U.S. lawmakers, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said the work slowdown could result in "contractor workforce reductions estimated at 30-60 percent of the current population, or 2,500-5,000, for the balance of the year."
"The NASA COTS program has demonstrated the power of what can be accomplished when you combine private sector responsiveness and ingenuity with the guidance, support and insight of the US government. For less than the cost of the Ares I mobile service tower, SpaceX has developed all the flight hardware for the Falcon 9 orbital rocket, Dragon spacecraft, as well as three launch sites. SpaceX has been profitable for three consecutive years (2007 through 2009) and expects to remain modestly profitable for the foreseeable future. The company has over 1000 employees in California, Texas and Florida, and has been approximately doubling in size every two years. A majority of the future growth is expected to occur in Texas and Florida."
NASA's First Lunar Orion Test Capsule Built, Ken Kremer
"America's first Lunar Test capsule for people since Project Apollo has just been welded into shape. This work finishes the structural framework of the pioneer Orion crew cabin - known as the Ground Test Article - or GTA, by a Lockheed Martin contractor team toiling away at the historic NASA-owned Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans, damaged during Hurricane Katrina."
"I've been advised by HQ that my services as Cx PM are no longer required, effective immediately. Dale Thomas will be Acting PM until something more formal is issued from ESMD."
Shelby says NASA trying to 'suppress' Constellation supporters in ranks, Huntsville Times
"Shelby has grown increasingly frustrated with what he and other lawmakers believe is an attempt by NASA brass to kill Constellation even though the law says they can't without congressional approval. Calling NASA's own leadership "a key impediment" to the nation's space program is another sign of that frustration."
NASA ousts outspoken Constellation chief, Orlando Sentinel
"Bolden had little response at the hearing, but said afterward that Hanley lost his job because he was "conflicted" and had become a lightning rod for controversy. For example, one day after president Barack Obama visited Kennedy Space Center to lay out his reasons for cancelling Constellation, Hanley told his team to pour all its efforts into designing a test launch program for Constellation's Ares I rocket."
"Emails sent to program officials last week indicate that NASA senior administrators were actively mandating de-prioritizing funding for elements of the program that do not fit within the President's new proposal," said Senator Hutchison. "I will be requesting NASA's Inspector General to conduct a full and thorough investigation."
NASA Gets New Constellation Program Manager, Aviation Week
"Thomas, a systems engineer who has been with NASA for 30 years, has been the deputy Constellation program manager since 2007. He is currently assigned to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., but will divide his time between Marshall and Johnson in Houston, where Constellation is based."
LeMieux joins call for NASA inquiry, Orlando Sentinel
"This is yet another example of NASA taking actions to cancel the Constellation Program, and that is a violation of law," said LeMieux, referencing a provision that Congress passed last year that forbids NASA from killing Constellation in 2010. "This is a very serious issue that affects the future of our nation's space program and thousands of Floridians."
"Mr. Rockefeller and Ms. Hutchison asked Paul K. Martin, the NASA inspector general, to "examine whether this or other recent actions by NASA were intended or could reasonably have been expected to foreclose the ability of Congress to consider meaningful alternatives" to the president's proposed policy, which invests heavily in new space technologies and turns the launching of astronauts over to private companies."
GAO report says NASA didn't break law with 'study teams, Huntsville Times
"NASA hasn't broken the law by spending nearly 13,000 hours of staff time planning what comes after the Constellation rocket program, the Government Accountability Office said Monday, but it must be careful not to cross the legal line while Congress continues to debate whether Constellation will end. The GAO investigated NASA's recent activities in response to a March request from U.S. Rep. Parker Griffith, R-Huntsville; U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville; and 13 other representatives."
Keith's 25 May update: Members of the Constellation community are saying that they have been told that contract termination letters for Constellation work will be sent out on/around 1 June. Moreover, Jeff Hanley has reportedly been telling his troops not to worry about these contract-related letters since the "Plan B" sorts of work that he has been directing them to do (with Mike Coats' and Charlie Bolden's backing) are really to set the stage for things that "the next Administration" will be doing. Stay tuned.
"President Obama has taken a step in the right direction by proposing to cancel the unsustainable Constellation Program in favor of looking to increased reliance on the private sector and investment in technologies that can lower the cost of human space exploration," concluded Schatz. "Congress should not interfere with this objective."
Issue Brief on the Constellation program., Citizens Against Government Waste
"According to Citizens Against Government Waste's 2010 Congressional Pig Book database, Sen. Shelby earmarked 60 projects worth $173 million in fiscal year 2010, so it is no surprise that he is abusing the appropriations process by slipping the Constellation program into the emergency spending bill. This is one of many reasons why taxpayers remain outraged over excessive spending in Washington."
"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Marshall Space Flight Center is releasing a "DRAFT" Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) No. NNM10ZDA001J, entitled "Heavy Lift & Propulsion Technology Trade Study" on May 19, 2010. Comments to the "DRAFT" BAA are due on May 26, 2010, by 7:30 p.m. (central time). The "FINAL" BAA (NNM10ZDA001K), entitled, "Heavy Lift & Propulsion Technology Trade Study," will be available on or about June 2, 2010. Proposals to the "FINAL" BAA will be due on or about July 2, 2010."
Bolden at odds with Nelson on Ares I tests , Orlando Sentinel
"I can't pay for an Ares I today. It's too expensive," said Bolden, speaking after a meeting of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee. "That's an easy decision for me because it wipes out everything. My friend Sen. Nelson, and he is my friend to be quite honest, we respectfully agree to disagree on this. It is incredibly costly for me to go off and try a series of Ares I tests to support a heavy-lift at the present cost of solid rocket motors. Now, there is an answer. Get the cost down. And ATK (prime contractor for the Ares I) says they can do that. But we're not there right now."
Keith's note: There is another wrinkle to the whole issue of SRBs, Ares, and Shuttle Derived Launch Vehicles - one that has not gotten much attention - yet: OSTP and others in the White House are concerned that these solid rockets are heavy polluters (1.1 million pounds of propellant each) and that it is time to move to something far less dirty to launch things into space.
"... 23 tons of harmful particulate matter settle around the launch area each liftoff, and nearly 13 tons of hydrochloric acid kill fish and plants within half a mile of the site ... the environmental cost per launch is the same as that of New York City over a weekend."
"Last month, in a speech at the Kennedy Space Center, President Obama modified his proposal, originally unveiled in February, and called for continuing the development of the Orion crew capsule that was to ride on top of the Ares I, but only as a stripped-down lifeboat for the International Space Station. The Ares program would still be canceled. Jeffrey M. Hanley, the Constellation program manager, said in an interview that given the uncertainty of what might emerge in the final budget, "we felt it prudent to continue to operate in the program as if the program were to continue." He described that possibility as "the unlikely case." ... He acknowledged that his efforts were somewhat at cross-purposes with those of his bosses, who are trying to convince Congress that Constellation is unworkable. "I really have to leave it to them to sort out with the national leadership," he said.
Contractors Face Shutdown Costs as NASA Space Program Morphs, Wall Street Journal
"The current clash stems in part from NASA's tradition of giving the Johnson Space Center --where U.S. astronauts are based -- extra latitude in running programs. According to industry and government officials, the Houston center frequently wasn't required to comply strictly with the same accounting and program-management rules that applied to other parts of the agency. That partly explains why many Constellation managers consistently relied on assurances from some NASA managers that the agency would step in and cover liabilities in the unlikely event termination became an issue."
Charlie Bolden's stand on NASA, Constellation and Ares I tests, Orlando Sentinel
"I talk to Jeff quite a bit. As far as I am concerned, Jeff does exactly what I asked him to do, to be quite honest. And Jeff and NASA, we are in a tough situation in that we have to comply with the 2010 provision in law that says we cannot terminate [Constellation], we cannot do this. Everybody knows that the language is and yet we have to be responsive to my desire to move forward."
Support for space center at dueling rallies, The Daily News
"As the Space Shuttle Atlantis orbited its way for a rendezvous with the International Space Station in what likely will be that orbiter's final mission, two rallies were held in support of NASA's Johnson Space Center in League City on Friday night. The underlying message of saving local jobs was the same, but the ralliers' approaches were very much different. The Galveston County Democratic Party teamed with labor unions for its rally that officials said was focused on positive lobbying in support of the space center. Members of local tea party groups and Republican activists pledged the only way to support manned space flight was to bounce President Barack Obama and Democrats who hold the congressional majority from office."
reader note: "I just got home from the "Support NASA Jobs" rally held in League City, sponsored by the Democratic Party and several labor unions. The overall message was I received was that everyone needs to come together to preserve the jobs at NASA because these are skilled and talented people that do great things for our country. Free food and drinks were available, and there was no campaigning or fundraising."
NASA's moon program gets a boost from Congress, Orlando Sentinel
"The measure by Republican Sens. Richard Shelby of Alabama and Bob Bennett of Utah would force NASA to keep spending money on the Constellation moon program in 2010, even though President Barack Obama wants to cancel a key component: the Ares rockets that would boost an Apollo-like capsule into orbit."
"The President's NASA proposal has no clear direction other than to cancel Constellation, at any price, even if it means relinquishing our leadership in space," said Shelby. "NASA is now attempting to undermine current law as it relates to Fiscal Year 2010 Constellation funding by slow rolling contracts and pressuring companies to self-terminate. It is disappointing that the political appointees at NASA have so much trouble following the letter and spirit of law."
"The group will advocate for the Orion crew capsule, left, being developed by Lockheed Martin Space Systems as an emergency escape vehicle for the international space station and foundation for deep-space exploration; growing military assets; a federal investment in medical research; and funding for several interchanges and FasTracks."
Abort Test Photos, Aviation Week
"NASA tested the launch abort system for the Orion crew exploration vehicle for the first time today, with spectacular results. Regardless of the ultimate fate of Orion -- now at the center of a Washington dispute over the future path of U.S. human spaceflight -- the test produced valuable data that can make future crew capsules much safer. William Faulkner, a freelance photographer in Las Cruces, N.M., took these shots of the test at nearby White Sands Missile Range for Aviation Week & Space Technology."
Alliant Sees NASA Revamp Easing, WS Journal
"Alliant Techsystems Inc., potentially the biggest corporate loser in White House proposals to outsource large chunks of U.S. manned space exploration, Thursday sought to signal Wall Street that most of the programs are likely to survive the revamping. Alliant's share of NASA's Constellation program, which accounts for about $400 million of the company's $4.80 billion in fiscal 2010 revenue, will stay at roughly the same level through next March, company officials said. The forecast is surprising given White House's proposal to ax nearly all the program."
"Forward-looking information is subject to certain risks, trends, and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected. Among these factors are: assumptions related to the Ares I and Ares V programs for NASA."
Obama's NASA plans in peril?, Orlando Sentinel
"NASA itself also appears to be hedging its bets that the president's vision might not pass muster with Congress. KSC officials and contractors, under direction from Johnson Space Center and NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, are pressing ahead with plans for test flights of a multibillion-dollar Ares I rocket that Obama wants to cancel. Meanwhile, big aerospace contractors are trying to sell members of Congress on a new $8 billion rocket that could be fashioned from pieces of the space shuttle, which is supposed to be retired later this year. Last week, a group of contractors led by aerospace giant Boeing Co. met Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., to push the new rocket idea. Nelson previously has backed more Ares test flights."