Monday, February 01, 2010

NASA: A Major change in direction

The proposed FY11 NASA budget is out, and it goes beyond the leaks and speculation and actually cancels the Constellation program with the Ares I rocket and Orion capsule. It will take some time to see how the radical change in direction is put into effect (if Congress approves it first, of course), but the key point is that the US government will no longer fund a NASA-run capability to launch astronauts into LEO. It will look to Russia and then to commercial providers for that. NASA will get a modest budget boost and will use that for a longer commitment to the ISS, more robotic missions, and other non-Constellation programs.
COMMENT: Private space launching companies are thrilled, but Congresspeople from Florida and Texas are going to push back hard. Look for some compromises, perhaps lower-level continuation of Ares work as a step toward a long-range heavy-lift program, and maybe - maybe - continuation of the Orion with the actual launching outsourced. It's too soon to say anything else with any degree of confidence.

REALLY EMPHATIC VERSION OF USUAL DISCLAIMER: I speak here ONLY as a private citizen / space historian.

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