Saturday, November 5, 2011

Adams Urges Commercial Space Spending

(As originally reported on Space Politics ...)

Rep. Sandy Adams, whose district includes Kennedy Space Center, has spent much of her first term in office reciting talking points about U.S. astronauts supposedly being forced to fly on Chinese rockets and blaming President Obama for space policy decisions made in 2004 by the Bush administration.

In the last week, however, Adams has surprised some observers by taking a more progressive stance in favor of commercial space.

Adams spoke at Monday's event announcing Boeing's lease of the former Shuttle orbiter hangar OPF-3. In her prepared remarks, Adams said:

But as we close one chapter of our nation’s history, we open the door to another. The Commercial Crew Development program is the best near term hope we have for getting American astronauts, on American rockets, built by an American Aerospace workforce to the international space station ...

As America takes steps towards the next chapter of space exploration, it is imperative that Congress remains vigilant in its support of the efforts of the Commercial Crew and COTS program. It is imperative that Congress ensure that they have the tools they need to be ready to carry crew to station as soon as is practically possible without sacrificing safety.

As in past remarks, she claimed a threat from China and India, but with far more benign rhetoric:

Countries like China and India realize the importance of having access to space, and working towards a robust and highly skilled space industry. As they continue to chart their own course, America must continue to chart ours, so that we maintain our leadership in space.

On Friday, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Adams "wrote this week to congressional appropriators asking that they fund a NASA program that long has been a top priority for President Barack Obama and his administration."

In a two-page note, Adams highlighted NASA’s effort to use commercial rocket companies to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station, calling this approach “a vital piece of the future of human space flight.”

Congressional appropriators are in the midst of debate about funding levels for both NASA and this program, which aims to have human flights to the station by mid-decade.

Obama has proposed $850 million annually for the commercial crew effort but Congress has balked at that amount — suggesting funding at either $500 million or around $300 million.

In her letter, Adams strongly backs the $500 million amount.

The Orlando Sentinel posted a copy of her letter. Click here to read the letter.

In the letter, Adams endorsed three key Senate proposals:

  • $500 million for commercial crew development in Fiscal Year 2012. (The House of Representatives has proposed $312 million.)
  • $103 million "to ensure close out and transition of the Shuttle program."
  • $168 million for the 21st Century Space Launch Complex, an Obama administration plan to upgrade KSC for the next generation of spacecraft.

Adams couldn't resist a dig at the President, claiming in her letter that he "has finally allowed the architecture of the SLS rocket to be released and for work to begin," without providing any evidence to support the allegation.

But her actions in the last week are a major change from her past behavior, and a step in the right direction.

I sent the below letter by e-mail to Adams on October 27. I haven't received a response, but I'm pleased that she's headed in the direction I urged.

Rep. Adams, I urge that you support the $850 million requested by the Obama administration to fully fund commercial crew development (CCDev) in the FY12 budget.

As you are aware from the October 26 hearing, any delays only send more U.S. tax dollars to support the Russian space program. It is foolish to reduce the administration's CCDev request, as not only will we taxpayers be forced to continue paying for the Russian space taxi service but NASA will be forced to rely on the Russians' sole source monopoly for more years.

In my opinion, Congress should provide NASA with enough funding to assure that a minimum of two CCDev participants are ready to fly astronauts by 2015. NASA is scheduled to receive final bids in 2012 from the four remaining candidates. The next three years will be critical to assure we can be freed from the Russian monopoly by 2015.

Several of your colleagues at yesterday's hearing questioned the companies' projections for a future private sector market. In my opinion, that's irrelevant. I do think it will happen, but our immediate concern is selecting and flying at least two CCDev candidates. The rest can take care of itself.

I ask that you urge your fellow committee members to support 100% funding for FY12 as originally proposed by the administration.

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