Friday, August 19, 2011

SLS Design May Be Closer to Release

The Orlando Sentinel reported on August 5 that NASA would await an independent cost assessment by Booz Allen Hamilton before releasing their proposed design of the Space Launch System.

Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison issued a press release today in which she claimed that NASA was to receive the Booz Allen report today, and that it would support her position from many months ago:

Today NASA is scheduled to formally receive the independent cost assessment for the Space Launch System (SLS) that was requested by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). I expect this independent assessment will confirm what myself and the NASA technical staff have known for many months - that the SLS plan is financially and technically sound, and that NASA should move forward immediately ...

Commerce Committee staff have been briefed by Booz Allen Hamilton on their study approach and NASA has provided the baseline schedule and budget assumptions on which the Booz Allen Hamilton assessment is based, and has committed to deliver the report to the Congress later today. I expect the assessment will confirm what Congress and the NASA technical experts have known for nine months, that the Administration could have approved the vehicle design concept months ago, prevented the loss of thousands of jobs, and ensured U.S. leadership in space and science. While I have concerns that the funding levels and schedule contained in the assessment do not achieve the timeline for a return to U.S. manned spaceflight as required in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, the Administration should immediately announce a formal decision approving the vehicle design concept and prevent the loss of even more jobs and the further deterioration of our human space flight capabilities. We can then work together, and on a bipartisan basis, to identify and seek to provide the resources that can bring these vehicles to reality.

Hutchison, one of the original architects of the Space Launch System, confirms yet again its purpose is to perpetuate jobs in her state. Nowhere in her press release does she state what mission she intends for SLS or any destination.

Space News reports that a NASA spokesman has confirmed receipt of the report but will not discuss its contents.

NASA spokesman Mike Braukus said Aug. 19 the agency received the cost assessment but had not decided whether to release it. “The type of information contained in the Independent Cost Assessment is acquisition sensitive and generally not releasable to the public,” he said. “If it is determined to be releasable, the assessment will be posted to NASA’s Space Launch Systems Web site.”

If and when the analysis becomes available online, I'll post a link.

UPDATE August 21, 2011Aviation Week reports that Senators are trying to pressure NASA into selecting a Space Launch System design that will favor contractors in their states.

Senators who agree that NASA is taking too long to develop a design and procurement strategy for the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) that Congress ordered last year cannot agree among themselves on exactly what that design should be.

At issue is what kind of power will be used in the strap-on boosters needed to get the SLS off the pad, pitting powerful senators from both sides of the aisle against members of their own political parties in a letter-writing campaign to the executive branch aimed at generating jobs for their constituents.

This is why some critics have dubbed SLS the Senate Launch System.

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