Tag Archives: Constellation

Space war breakthrough?

Is the space war over NASA’s future ending? I wonder, reading this report in which NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver confidently announces that a compromise between Congress and the administration is pending. More importantly, she said the following:

Many things are still uncertain, but one thing is not uncertain. Marshall [Space Flight Center] will lead the heavy-lift launch program.

Considering Garver’s previously strong opposition to Constellation, this statement indicates that she and the administration have backed down, and are willing to accept the heavy-lift part of Constellation, once called Ares V, as long as no one uses those Bush-era names.

Griffin’s take on the Obama space plan

On August 6 former NASA administrator Mike Griffin bluntly attacked the Obama proposals for NASA in a speech at the 13th Annual International Mars Society convention in Dayton, Ohio, Key quotes:

We’re not going anywhere and we’re going to spend a lot of money doing it.

The US space program has not accomplished as much in its last 15 years as in its first 15 years, given more money. So, if you like that, you’ll really like the next decade, in which we do almost nothing and spend just as much.

Second test of Ares solid rocket scheduled

Alliant Techsystems (ATK) has scheduled the second test of the five segment solid rocket motor, planned for use on the Ares I rocket, for August 31. Fun quote:

When fired, the motor will produce a maximum thrust 3.6 million pounds, or 22 million horsepower [half the power of the first stage of the Saturn V rocket]. The cases [segments] have all previously flown on the space shuttle, collectively launching on 57 missions.

Poor leadership by Obama on NASA

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit today said the following (in recognizing Jeff Foust’s op-ed for Technology Review):

CONGRESS BLOWS IT: Commercial Spaceflight, We Have A Problem. Congress will always choose short-term pork over long-term development unless there’s strong Presidential leadership. But while the Obama space policy is good, the White House hasn’t provided the kind of legislative push it takes to make it work. Without strong leadership, a good policy will always lose out to pork.

Didn’t someone say this already? In fact, didn’t that someone say this more than once?

Space war update

This Orlando Sentinel analysis of the various Congressional NASA budget proposals working their way through the House and Senate right now concludes, as I have been saying for months, that the future for NASA is not good. Key quote:

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 — about $11 billion during 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.

Senate moves towards House NASA plan

In a blunt rejection of the Obama proposals for NASA, the Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee today reworked the NASA plan — handed to them last week by the committee that authorizes NASA’s budget — so that it more closely matched the House version. These changes cut in half the money for private commercial space while adding $3 billion to continue the development of the Orion capsule and the heavy lift version of the Ares rocket.

The space war heats up

It appears the space war is heating up again. This analysis of the NASA authorization legislation issued by the House yesterday notes that it has serious differences with the Senate bill. The article notes that the House bill does not fund an additional shuttle mission while insisting that the government continue the construction of some variation of the Orion capsule and Ares rockets. See also this article from the Orlando Sentinel.

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.

New plan from the Senate

This analysis of the Senate budget plan that passed the Senate Commerce committee today hits all the most important points. Key quote (in connection with the Senate’s mandate that NASA start over in building a new heavy lift rocket):

Over the last five years, Constellation has cost at least $9 billion and produced little more than one test flight for a stripped-down version of the program’s Ares I rocket. While the Senate plan instructs NASA to salvage parts of Constellation when possible – and provides $11 billion over the next several years — it will take time and resources to create a new design. Adding to the pressure is the 2016 deadline that Congress gives NASA to have the new vehicle ready.

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.

The failure of the political class

Yesterday Clark Lindsey of rlvnews.com noted that my essay “You’ve got to play the game” appears to “blame the Administration solely for its problems in reforming NASA.” This is not entirely correct. My essay yesterday was specifically intended to lay out the errors and faults of Obama and his administration in their efforts to change NASA. Its purpose was not to discuss the foolishnesses of Congress, the stupidity of which I think everyone is very much aware.

However, Clark is correct when he notes that when it comes to this space war over NASA’s future, Congress is as much at fault as Obama. They are micromanaging NASA’s program in ways that can do little good for the future. Worse, they have shown a greater interest in maintaining pork barrel spending than funding NASA intelligently.

All in all, we have here a complete failure of the political class. I really do hate to sound pessimistic, but for NASA’s near term future, I honestly do not expect positive things to come from the compromise deal that Congress and the President now seem willing to agree to.

You’ve got to play the game

The release of the Senate’s draft language for NASA’s 2011 budget yesterday reveals a great deal about the failures of the Obama administration. Despite months of advocacy by administration officials as well as the upper management of NASA, it appears that the Senate (soon to be followed in a similar manner by the House) is eagerly willing to dismantle much of what the Obama administration is proposing for NASA, and is going to micromanage its own space program.

Why this happened is all very simple: You’ve got to play the game.

If you are going to request major changes to any government program that requires the approval of elected officials beholden to the people in their districts, you have to provide those elected officials some cover for their actions. You simply can’t shutdown these programs willy-nilly without any negotiation and expect members of Congress to go along — even if what you propose is a good idea and makes sense.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what the Obama administration has done. They have not only shown an astonishing incompetence at playing the political game, they have often acted as if politics is completely irrelevant to their needs, a position that is both stupid and counter-productive considering that Obama is a politician who has to get the agreement of the politicians in Congress. » Read more

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.

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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