Augustine to testify
Norm Augustine, the chairman of an independent panel reviewing the nation’s human spaceflight program, plans to testify before a congressional committee around the same time his group will send its report to the White House.
Augustine is tentatively scheduled to testify before the House Science and Technology Committee on Sept. 15, according to Rep. Bart Gordon, a Tennessee Democrat and the committee’s chairman.
Gordon declined to comment on the report, pending its release, but said he looked forward to hearing the former Lockheed Martin chief executive testify.
Members of the Augustine panel have spent the past three months publicly outlining options it plans to detail in a report to the White House. The group expects to submit the report sometime in the middle of the month, despite initial expectations that it – or at the very least, a draft of its executive summary – would have been turned in by now.
The group officially has 120 days from its first meeting, June 16, to deliver the report.
And just what will he say?
Already too late to change?
The first flights of the next-generation Orion spacecraft would be pushed back at least a year or two if NASA is directed to scrap the Ares I rocket and switch to another launcher, officials said Tuesday.
NASA would have to redo design work that already has been finished on the Orion — Apollo-like capsules designed to fly U.S. astronauts on moon missions or to the International Space Station.
“Swapping out rockets seems like it’s just a straight-forward thing, but we have to keep the entire mission in mind,” said Jeff Hanley, manager of NASA’s Project Constellation, which is developing Ares rockets and Orion spacecraft.
“We would have to go back. . . and redo part of the (design) phase that we just completed.”
Hanley’s assessment came as NASA completed a preliminary design review for the Orion spacecraft – a checkpoint prior to freezing spacecraft design and proceeding with manufacturing.
It also came as a blue-ribbon panel prepares to present President Barack Obama with options that include canceling the Ares I rocket in favor of other launch systems.
Those systems include upgraded Atlas V or Delta IV Heavy rockets, a simpler version of NASA’s Ares V heavy-lift launcher, or a heavy-lift launcher more directly derived from shuttle components. Commercial rockets still under development are another option.
NASA says the Ares I and Orion still could be ready to fly by March 2015 at a total cost of $35 billion. But the presidential panel said Ares and Orion probably would not fly until 2017 or 2018.
Since 2004, $7.7 billion has been spent on Project Constellation; $3.1 of that has going to Orion development. Ares costs to date are about $3 billion.
The remainder has been spent on advanced spacesuit development and other Constellation projects, such as early design work on a lunar lander.
The presidential panel last month wrapped up a 90-day study of NASA human space flight plans.
Their final report is expected at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy around mid-September.
Quite a conundrum for the Obamanator Administration, is it not?
Pull funding for a $100 billion space station after only a few years of use to fund something that might not fly in 6-7 years, even if funding is increased?