Sunday, February 19, 2012

SLS Fact and Fiction

When NASA's Fiscal Year 2013 proposed budget was released on February 13, Texas senator Kay Bailey Hutchison issued a press release in which she claimed that the Space Launch System she helped midwife is being designed as a "backup capability" for crew transportation to the International Space Station.

Despite repeated assurances from NASA and White House officials that the SLS and Orion are ‘key elements of our future strategy for human space exploration', vehicle development for the heavy lift SLS rocket and the Orion capsule is cut by hundreds of millions of dollars. These reductions will slow the development of the SLS and the Orion crew vehicle, making it impossible for them to provide backup capability for supporting the space station. The Administration remains insistent on cutting SLS and Orion to pay for commercial crew rather than accommodating both.

Buried in a February 13 article is a quote from NASA executive Bill Gerstenmaier during a press conference that day:

The focus is for us to get a redundant capability as soon as we can. In terms of using Orion for that back up capability, we’re not precluding that, but we’re not doing anything actively to allow that to occur,” noted Mr Gerstenmaier. “NASA is not doing any design work on Orion or SLS that would allow it (Orion) to go to the Station.

Gerstenmaier added, "It’s not a very effective way to get to LEO. It’s really designed to go to BEO, and that’s where we want to stay focused on."

Hutchison has repeatedly justified SLS as a "backup" option in case commercial crew fails. But it won't even be capable of docking at the ISS.

Which in my opinion is further proof that Hutchison promoted SLS just to direct pork to her state.

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