Monday, July 5, 2010

Congressional Support Grows For Heavy-Lift

Frank Morring, Jr. & Irene Klotz
Washington, Cape Canaveral
Aviation Week

A small groundswell is rising in Congress for a faster start on the heavy-lift launch vehicle President Obama says he wants, but it may be swamped by the backwash from growing irritation over NASA’s sluggish production of justification for its “game-changing” new approach.

A bipartisan gang of 62 House members wants Obama to initiate “the immediate development and production of a heavy-lift launch vehicle that, in conjunction with the Orion crew exploration vehicle, may be used for either lunar or deep-space exploration.”

Their June 22 letter to Obama, circulated by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), follows word from Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) that a new NASA authorization with at least some bipartisan support would include both a heavy-lifter and a crew exploration vehicle leveraging “the workforce, contracts, assets and capabilities of the shuttle, Ares I and Orion efforts.”

But, while some lawmakers appear ready to compromise with the White House on ending the Constellation program that has been funding Orion, the Ares I crew exploration vehicle and other follow-ons to the retiring space shuttle fleet, other space leaders are moving in completely different directions.

Read more HERE.

NASA budget gets a boost

Bart Jansen
Florida Today

WASHINGTON — A key House panel agreed Tuesday to accept President Barack Obama's proposed funding increase for NASA but without taking a position on changing the agency's course.

The House appropriations subcommittee governing NASA unanimously approved $19 billion for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, a nearly $276 million increase from the current year.

But approval came with a requirement that the House and Senate science committees, which have strongly opposed Obama's budget, agree on a NASA policy before the money is spent.

"Unfortunately, a determination about the direction of the space program has been effectively put on hold for well over a year," said Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., who heads the subcommittee.

Congress has been unable to approve a budget blueprint for spending this year, so committees are starting to decide on spending without knowing precise amounts. Lawmakers could take the rest of the year negotiating a dozen spending bills that govern NASA and the rest of the federal government.

The panel's top Republican, Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia, said it might be unrealistic to think Congress will approve a NASA policy this election year.

"We need a strong American space program," Wolf said. "I hope we can find a compromise because we need it."

More HERE.

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