Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Nelson Challenges NewSpace “Naysayers”

Click the arrow to watch the video on the Florida Today web site. You may be subjected to an ad first.

FOX 35 News Orlando
Click the arrow to watch the Fox 35 video. You may be subjected to an ad first.

During an appearance March 18 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) called on “naysayers” to not only support the Obama administration's commercial crew funding request, but to also support multiple companies.

The Florida Today video of the media event quotes Nelson as saying, “It'll be interesting to see if some of the naysayers are in fact coming in and supporting by giving the appropriations for the development of commercial crew anywhere close to what the President recommended, which is about $850 million.”

In the Fox 35 Orlando clip, Nelson says NASA shouldn't have to “limit it to just one company,” a frequent demand of commercial crew opponents in Congress who insist NASA should use only one vendor. NASA has opposed sole-source because it defeats the purpose of the commercial crew program, which is to lower access to space through competition and innovation as well as provide multiple vendors.

Sole-source forced NASA onto the Soyuz after the loss of Columbia in February 2003. NASA had no other vehicle option other than the government Shuttle. In January 2004, the Bush administration announced ISS crew rotations would move over to Soyuz, while Shuttle would be used only for ISS construction. Once the station was finished, the Shuttle would retire and NASA would have a minimum four-year “gap” where it would fly on Soyuz until another domestic option was ready.

By 2009, the Bush administration's Constellation program Ares I was years behind schedule and billions over budget. Ares I would not fly until at least 2017, and would be funded by decommissioning the ISS in 2015, meaning Ares I had nowhere to go.

The Obama administration proposed funding the Bush-era commercial crew program, a sequel to the commercial cargo program already in the pipeline, to save the ISS and close the “gap.” Constellation would be cancelled to pay for commercial space and save the ISS.

Congress, led by Bill Nelson, replaced Constellation with the Space Launch System, dubbed the Senate Launch System by critics because Nelson and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) designed the program to protect jobs and contractors in their states. Nelson calls SLS “the Monster Rocket” but to this date SLS has no missions or destinations.

A November 2013 report by the NASA Office of the Inspector General noted that Congress cut the commercial crew funding by 62% in Fiscal Years 2012-2014 from the Obama administration's funding request. This pushed back commercial crew's projected operational date from 2015 to 2017. In the current fiscal year, Congress cut the commercial crew budget by 15% from the administration's request.

News stories about yesterday's media event:

Florida Today “Nelson Sees No Rift With Russians over Space”

Orlando Sentinel “Nelson Says U.S. Sanctions Against Russia Should Not Hit Space Station”

Fox 35 Orlando “Sen. Nelson: Speed up Manned Space Flight”

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