Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dressed Up, Nowhere to Go

Click the arrow to watch the Florida Today report on Monday's media event. You may be subjected to an ad first.

Florida Today reports that NASA held a major event Monday at Kennedy Space Center's Operations & Checkout building to promote the arrival of components for the first Orion capsule test flight in 2014.

NASA offered a peek at the future of Kennedy Space Center on Monday, unveiling the first space-bound Orion spacecraft while marking a huge economic development victory for Florida and the Space Coast.

“This is a milestone moment for the Space Coast, NASA and America’s space program,” NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver told 450 people at a ceremony to celebrate the arrival of the spacecraft.

It’s scheduled to blast off on a test flight in 2014 aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rocket will propel the unmanned spacecraft into an elliptical orbit with a high point of 3,600 miles – 15 times farther from the Earth than the International Space Station.

Left unsaid is just what the spacecraft will be used for.

Orion and the Space Launch System that will launch it later in the decade still have no missions or destinations.

On paper, SLS has only two planned flights — an unmanned test flight by the end of 2017 that would circle the Moon, and an Apollo 8 rerun around 2020 that would send a four-member crew to circle the Moon — but not land.

No one ever discusses what will happen if the 2014 Delta IV test, or the 2017 SLS test, fail to achieve their milestones. Why? There's no funding or authorization from Congress to correct a failure.

But Congress didn't really order SLS in 2010 for exploration. It was to protect jobs at the space centers and with Space Shuttle-era contractors.

The Florida Today article noted how job protection was a theme of yesterday's event.

$35 million state grant enabled Orion manufacturer Lockheed Martin to convert an old Apollo processing facility into a new state-of-the-art spacecraft production line.

The company and its subcontractors employ about 300 people at KSC. That number is expected to grew to 350 or 400 by the end of 2013.

“It’s nice to see 350-plus jobs,” said Marshall Heard, a former NASA contractor program manager and an EDC adviser. “It’s nice to see real hardware. It’s great to see exploration getting off the ground, no pun intended.”

Except there's no "exploration" with this program so far.

Click here to read the NASA article on the event.

Click the arrow to watch a NASA video on the 2014 Orion test flight.

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