Tag Archives: spaceflight

House releases their text of NASA budget

The House Committee on Science and Technology has released the text [pdf] of its NASA reauthorization bill. The committee’s short thumbnail description of the language suggests it is similar to the Senate language. A quick scan of the text also suggests this as well. I hope to take a closer look at both the Senate and House bills later this week and then give my take on both.

Senate deal for NASA

More coverage describing today’s Senate committee vote on the 2011 NASA budget. Interestingly, the Commerce committee and a number of its members have each issued their own press releases. I get the feeling they are trying to convince us they have acomplished something. Here are two from the chairman and ranking member:

Democratic press release
Republican press release

compromise approved by Senate panel

Keith Cowing at NASAWatch reports in detail about the unanimous approval of the amended Senate budget for NASA. The final budget appears to have raised the funding for commercial space development to match the Obama request, while adding one more flight to the shuttle schedule and mandating an immediate start of work on some sort of heavy-lift rocket.

Draft version of Senate NASA budget released

A draft version of Senate’s NASA budget has been released. More commentary to come.

Update. From what I can tell by a quick scan through the actual proposed legislation [pdf], the Senate will give the administration most of the money it wants for commercial space, but also demand that it start work on a heavy-lift replacement of the shuttle immediately, including the full size version of the Orion capsule. However, the language requiring this latter action is very vague (“as soon as possible after the date of the enactment of this act”) and leaves the administration a great deal of wiggle room. From my experience, this means that Congress is trying to create the illusion that it has done something, but is basically leaving the decisions to the administration.

The draft language does forbid any contracts being issued for any new private commercial crew services until the 2012 year, which suggests that Congress wants NASA to focus on the Orion capsule and heavy lift option first. However, to me this merely means the Obama administration is being given the option to stall for a year and then come back again later with the same proposals it offered back in February of this year. That the draft legislation also gives NASA 120 days to put together its plan for its heavy-lift program only increases my doubts about Congress’s seriousness.

Overall, this legislation only confirms my worst fears. If passed as is, both the new private commercial space ventures as well as the government space program will suffer.

Jeff Foust analysis of the New Space business

Jeff Foust of the Space Review has written an excellent analysis today explaining why some new space companies have succeeded (SpaceX) and some have failed (Rocketplane). Key quote:

If your business plan requires hundreds of millions of dollars of investment, and your founders don’t have that money available themselves, it may be wise to reconsider that plan in favor of an effort that can bootstrap itself with much less funding.

Senate deal on NASA budget

Bad link fixed. Sorry.

The Senate committee that authorizes NASA’s program is nearing a deal that would “reverse large swaths” of President Obama’s budget proposal. The proposal would add one more shuttle flight, restore the full scale Orion capsule, and add funds to immediately build a heavy lift rocket to replace the shuttle. More to come, I’m sure.

Both for and against the Obama plan

In my recent co-hosting stint on the John Bachelor Show, I asked David Livingston of the Space Show if he thought the aerospace community was polarized over the Obama administration’s effort to cancel Constellation and replace it with new private companies. “Pretty much so,” he stated without much hesitation.

This makes my position on Obama’s proposal somewhat unusual, as I am actually sitting right in the middle. I am both for and against the Obama administration’s NASA proposal, which might explain why my comments both on behindtheblack as well as on the radio have often caused the blood to boil in people on both sides of the debate. This fact also suggests that there is a need for me to clarify where I stand.
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Orbital’s COTS capsule taking shape

The Cygnus capsule is taking shape. Orbital Sciences signed a COTS contract with NASA in 2008 (as did SpaceX with its Falcon 9 rocket) to provide cargo ferrying services to ISS, and they are making real progress toward their first demonstration flight in the spring of 2011. That they have subcontracted most of the work to foreign companies, however, limits how much their work can help the American aerospace industry.

Bolden interview with al-Jazeera

This interview of Charles Bolden, NASA administrator, is another example (in a long list of examples) of the clearly misplaced priorities of the Obama administration when it comes to NASA and space exploration.

The key quote is in the first two minutes of the interview [emphasis mine]:

Bolden: When I became the NASA Administrator – before I became the NASA Administrator – [President Obama] charged me with three things: One was that he wanted me to re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, that he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with predominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.

Though all three of these priorities (inspire kids, international cooperation, and help the Muslim world develop) sound nice, none have anything to do with space exploration. More specifically, they have absolutely nothing to do with NASA’s original charter, which was to explore the solar system and encourage the development of the American aerospace industry.

At about 9:50, Bolden then states that “We’re not going to go anywhere beyond low Earth orbit as a single entity. The United States can’t do it. China can’t do it. No single nation is going to go to a place like Mars alone.”

Gee, I wonder what international consortium put those men on the Moon? I always thought the U.S. did it alone. According to Bolden, however, that was impossible: No single nation can do anything alone beyond Earth orbit.

There are more inanities in this interview. Listen for example to his clueless discussion of solar flares at around 19:00 and his statement at 20:30 where he claims an asteroid made of “sand” poses no threat to the Earth.

With leadership like this, the future does not look good for the American aerospace industry.

Redundancy is all

I just thought I’d note the interesting juxtaposition illustrated by my previous two posts: In one case there is a battle between Congress and the President over the future of the American manned space program, prompted by the impending shutdown of the shuttle program with no immediate replacement in sight. In the other case, the only remaining program with the capability to provide manned access to the International Space Station has a serious docking failure.

With manned spaceflight, redundancy is all important. This juxtaposition illustrates very clearly the precarious position we will be in once the shuttle is retired.

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