SLS and Orion: February 2010 Archives

Acts of Desperation

Charlie Precourt: ATK's astronaut fights Obama space plan, Orlando Sentinel

"As reported on these pages earlier this week, some folks inside NASA and in Congress say ATK has been behind the sniping at NASA's deputy administrator Lori Garver. The not so-thinly veiled broadside against her in Precourt's email appears to lend further credence to the charges. It's hard to understand how this will help ATK going forward as some could see it as a declaration of war on NASA's political leadership and is almost certain to strengthen Garver's hand. Perhaps ATK decided that with the shuttle being retired and Constellation on the brink it has nothing left to lose."

Keith's note: It is openly known here in Washington that ATK has been overtly encouraging anti-NASA gossip and has been trash talking the White House, Charlie Bolden, and Lori Garver - especially Lori Garver. How ATK management can possibly expect this thinly disguised attack behavior to be good for business escapes me. Indeed, it sounds more like sheer desperation on their part.

Sen. Vitter Has Been Drinking the Koolaid, earlier post

NASA's tough mission: Dismantling Constellation, Orlando Sentinel

"Many of the deals are called "undefinitized contracts," meaning that the terms, conditions -- and price -- had not been set before NASA ordered the work to start. That means the agency will need to negotiate a buyout with the contractor -- and that can be a long and painful process, according to government officials familiar with the cancellation process. "It can be messy, and it's going to take at least a year after the project is closed to get a final price tag assigned to many of these contracts," said one congressional investigator not authorized to talk publicly about his work."

NASA: Constellation Program Cost and Schedule Will Remain Uncertain Until a Sound Business Case Is Established , GAO, August 2009

"Undefinitized contract actions authorize contractors to begin work before reaching a final agreement on contract terms. By allowing undefinitized contract actions to continue for extended periods, NASA loses its ability to monitor contractor performance because the cost reports are not useful for evaluating the contractor's performance or for projecting the remaining cost of the work under contract. With a current, valid baseline, the reports would indicate when cost or schedule thresholds had been exceeded, and NASA could then require the contractor to explain the reasons for the variances and to identify and take appropriate corrective actions. Yet, NASA allowed high-value modifications to the Constellation contracts to remain undefinitized for extended periods, in one instance, more than 13 months."

Details of Constellation Program Parachute Test Emerge

"On 9 February 2010 NASA conducted a test to validate an approach that would be used to test the parachutes for the Orion spacecraft. That test did not go according to plan. However, contrary to earlier stories and rumors, a mock up of an Orion spacecraft did not crash into the desert. Rather a large test sledge did. During this test, an extraction parachute pulled a test assembly designed to simulate the drag and weight of Orion from a C-130 aircraft. The test was conducted at an altitude of 20,500 feet above the Army's Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona. The test assembly consists of a weight tub and platform. Something went wrong, the parachutes did not open, and the test assembly crashed on impact."

Another Orion Parachute Problem - Still No Word, earlier post

Keith's note: Of course NASA ESMD PAO hasn't said a thing about this. C'mon Morrie - can't you get these guys to be a little more "open and transparent"?

Bolden: NASA legit as it readies to end moon program, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden bluntly told Congress in a letter sent Friday that the agency has kept within the law as it prepares to dismantle the Constellation moon rocket program -- despite accusations to the contrary from nearly 30 U.S. House members. The three-page letter was in response to warning sent by the lawmakers on Feb. 12 that reminded the new NASA chief that he could not shut down Constellation this year without prior approval from Congress. They said NASA has begun pulling the plug in violation of a law passed last year."

- NASA Letter To Offerors Regarding Cancellation of Exploration Ground Launch Services (EGLS) Request for Proposal (RFP), earlier post
- Letter From House of Representatives to NASA Administrator Bolden regarding Constellation contract Cancellation, earlier post

Unlucky Orion crashing out of the space program as drop test fails, NASASpaceflight.com

"Unfortunately, the Orion Project suffered a failure on one of its tests this week, when a boilerplate Orion crashed to Earth after its "parachutes failed to deploy". However, the problem is not believed to be Orion or the parachute system's fault, with the failure memo citing a problem with the rigging associated with the extraction system - although this is yet to be confirmed, as an investigation will be required. "A quick heads up that the Orion test drop failed. Looks like the extraction system failed to release so the Orion chute system never deployed," noted the memo acquired on Tuesday (the day of the failure) by L2. "Still saving the remains but expecting minimal hardware recovery.""

Keith's 15 Feb note: I cannot find any mention whatsoever of this crash at NASA.gov - not at the main exploration page, at the main Constellation page, at the Constellation blog or anywhere else. Why is ESMD PAO refusing to officialy explain what happened? This is not the first time that ESMD has sat on Orion parachute failure information.

- Why Won't ESMD Release Orion Parachute Test Vehicle Crash Photos?, earlier post
- Orion Crash Photos and Videos Online - Finally, earlier post

Keith's 22 Feb update: Still nothing from ESMD PAO on this. Either they do not want to say anything or they do not know what to say. Probably both.

Keith's 25 Feb update: Update: What Really Crashed In The Desert

Adding Rocket Man to His Resume, New York Times

"SpaceX doesn't "fully understand the dramatic difference between a crew launcher and a payload launcher," Dr. Fragola said. For example, the capsule designers have to carefully study the conditions following an accident, including the blast heat, fragments of the disintegrating booster and the pressure wave of an explosion. While they do not matter for cargo, "the crew cares tremendously about what the conditions are, because it relates to their survivability," Dr. Fragola said."

Hanley Changes His Story On Ares 1 Safety - Again, previous post

"With regard to Jeff Hanley's current comments, this is not the first time that Hanley's organization has had problems presenting (or admitting) a consistent view of what Ares 1's safety was relative to Shuttle and other launch systems. Indeed, you only have to look at Joseph Fragola's presentation to the Augustine Committee to see what Constellation knew Vs what it said. Specifically, there was a briefing chart that was withheld from the Augustine Committee - see below for that chart."

Keith's note: I find it the height of hypocrisy for Joe Fragola to make these statement that SpaceX "doesn't fully understand" human rated launch vehicles when Fragola himself was incapable of accurately presenting the true safety numbers for Ares 1 to the Augustine Committee. Why should anyone take anything he says seriously?

And So It Begins

NASA cancels KSC contract leading to charge "Obama broke law", Orlando Sentinel

"The unilateral decisions by the Administration are likely in direct violation of the Impoundment Control Act," Posey said."

NASA Letter To Offerors Regarding Cancellation of Exploration Ground Launch Services (EGLS) Request for Proposal (RFP)

"The purpose of this letter is to notify offerors of the Exploration Ground Launch Services (EGLS) Request for Proposal (RFP) cancellation. Solicitation Number NNK09275664R Amendment 005, which cancels the solicitation, is attached. In light of recent events and the uncertainty of future ground processing requirements for fiscal year 2011 and beyond, it is in NASA's best interest to cancel the current solicitation. A procurement strategy for future program ground operations requirements will be developed as such requirements are identified."

Letter From House of Representatives to NASA Administrator Bolden regarding Constellation contract Cancellation

"We are compelled to remind you that setting aside funds may be a direct violation of the Impoundment control Act (as well as of the appropriations language for FYlO). That act resulted from the refusal of the Nixon Administration to allot funds to activities specified by Congress. According to GAO, the Act was also used to confirm Congressional authority at least twice during the Administration of President George W. Bush."

Huntsville Strikes Back

Huntsville space community form task force to fight NASA change

"A group of North Alabama leaders concerned over proposed White House changes to Marshall Space Flight Center-managed rocket programs have come together to form a task force in an effort to restore funding cuts. The "Second to None Initiative" brings together 25 community leaders, led by former Huntsville U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer, to fight the Obama White House proposal that would shift NASA's focus from returning to the moon to technology development and seeding small, private space companies."

Huntsville Mayor Unveils Task Force To Fight For NASA's Constellation Program, WHNT

"The "Second to None Initiative" will include the following community leaders: Bud Cramer - Task Force Chairman, Joe Alexander - Camber Corporation, Rose Allen - Booz, Allen, Hamilton, Bruce Anderson - Alabama Development Office, Ed Buckbee, former director of U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Angie Calvert, Davidson Technologies, Jim Chilton, Boeing, Steve Cook, Dynetics, Tommy Dillard, ATK, Kim Doering, United Space Alliance, Mike Griffin, UAHuntsville, John Gully, SAIC, Shar Hendrick, The Hendrick Group, John Horack, UAHuntsville, Andrew Hugenie, Alabama A & M University, Dave King, Dynetics, Don Nalley, Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce, Elizabeth Newton, UAHuntsville, Ed Pruitt, Lockheed Martin, Joe Ritch, Tennessee Valley BRAC Task Force, Dennis Smith, MEI, Irma Tuder, Analytical Services, Joe Vallely, City of Huntsville, Mike Ward, Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce, Tom Young, Kord Technologies"

Another Ignorant Columnist

Closing the new frontier, snarky oped by Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post

"But the Obama 2011 budget kills Constellation. Instead, we shall have nothing. For the first time since John Glenn flew in 1962, the United States will have no access of its own for humans into space -- and no prospect of getting there in the foreseeable future."

Keith's note: Um, check your facts next time. First: America did indeed have the ability to launch people on Mercury-Atlas missions after John Glenn flew - and those missions were launched. Second: there was a 6 year gap between Apollo-Soyuz in 1975 and STS-1 in 1981. We had no way to send humans into space during that time. And, FWIW, between the end of Mercury and the beginning of Gemini, we had no access, and between Gemini 12 and Apollo 7 we had no access to space. Between STS-107 and STS-114 ... and so on. Gaps are not a new thing.

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden outlines the Administration's fiscal year 2011 budget request as the agency's road map for a new era of innovation and discovery, and answers questions from reporters as the featured Newsmaker at the National Press Club in Washington Feb. 2"

Keith's note: 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 commerically- 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.

Transcript below

ATK Fights Back

ATK Issues Response to GFY11 NASA Budget Proposal

"To abandon Ares I as a baseline vehicle for an alternative without demonstrated capability nor proven superiority (or even equivalence) is unwise and probably not cost-effective." In the weeks and months ahead we are hopeful that the Congress and Administration will work together to deliver a budget that supports a program that capitalizes on the investments the nation has made in the Constellation program, closes the gap in US capability to return to space, and best assures continued US leadership in space. We believe ATK will continue to play a significant role in America's future space exploration."

The Obama Space Vision for NASA: Massive Paradigm Shifts Ahead

"In announcing its $19.0 billion FY 2011 NASA budget today, the Obama Administration has made it very clear that it intends to attempt a paradigm shift in the way that America explores and utilizes space. The current plan NASA is following will be cancelled. But the intent to explore will remain and will be reconfigured into a new plan that openly taps private sector creativity while making certain that the taxpaying public is involved in an unprecedented fashion.

This plan for change comes with additional funds - to the tune of an additional $6 billion over FY 2011 to FY 2015 when compared to what the FY 2010 budget anticipated - approximately $700 million of which will appear in FY 2011. That means that NASA will get $100 billion over the next 5 years according to the White House's plans.

In so doing, the White House is hoping to make a clean break with much of the old way of doing things at NASA. As they do, NASA will be pushed to broaden its vision, seek new partnerships, and transform its way of doing things. This will be unsettling to many people.

However, that break begins with some hard choices - most notably, the outright cancellation of The Constellation Program. Started shortly after President Bush announced his "Vision for Space Exploration" in 2004, Constellation was the umbrella activity for what eventually became development activities for the Ares launch vehicle family, the Orion crew module, and the Altair lunar lander. All of this now comes to a halt."

Senator Shelby response to State of the Union, January 27 2010

"Our focus must be on jumpstarting the economy and creating jobs through policies that spur economic growth in the private sector. The path to economic recovery and sustained growth runs through the private sector, not the federal government."

Shelby: NASA Budget Begins Death March for U.S. Human Space Flight

"We cannot continue to coddle the dreams of rocket hobbyists and so-called 'commercial' providers who claim the future of US human space flight can be achieved faster and cheaper than Constellation. I have consistently stated the fallacy of believing the cure-all hype of these 'commercial' space companies, and my position has been supported time and again by both the experts and the facts."

Previous Shelby News

Keith's note: NASA 2011 Budget information is now online at OMB: "NASA's Constellation program - based largely on existing technologies - was based on a vision of returning astronauts back to the Moon by 2020. However, the program was over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation due to a failure to invest in critical new technologies. Using a broad range of criteria an independent review panel determined that even if fully funded, NASA's program to repeat many of the achievements of the Apollo era, 50 years later, was the least attractive approach to space exploration as compared to potential alternatives. Furthermore, NASA's attempts to pursue its moon goals, while inadequate to that task, had drawn funding away from other NASA programs, including robotic space exploration, science, and Earth observations. The President's Budget cancels Constellation and replaces it with a bold new approach that invests in the building blocks of a more capable approach to space exploration."

Terminations, Reductions, and Savings, FY 2011, OMB

Page 18: National Aeronautics and Space Administration: "The Administration proposes to cancel the Constellation Systems program intended to return astronauts to the Moon by 2020 and replaces it with a bold new approach that embraces the commercial space industry, forges international partnerships, and develops the game-changing technologies needed to set the stage for a revitalized human space flight program and embark on a 21st Century program of space exploration."


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This page is an archive of entries in the SLS and Orion category from February 2010.

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