Competing heavy lift

As first reported by Space News last Thursday, California’s two senators have asked NASA to hold an open competition for the development of the Space Launch System (SLS), the heavy-lift vehicle Congress directed NASA to develop in the 2010 NASA authorization act. In their letter to NASA administrator Charles Bolden, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and […]

Briefs: strange space bedfellows, human spaceflight poll, Mars mission budget squeeze

Here’s something you don’t see every day: a Tea Party group saying it’s in agreement with a pair of Democratic senators. Florida-based TEA Party in Space (TPIS), part of the larger Tea Party Patriots coalition, announced Monday that it has “publicly praised” a letter from Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to NASA […]

President Obama: ?I believe in the space program?

Earlier this week reporter Leon Bibb of Cleveland’s WEWS-TV briefly interviewed President Obama at the White House. About halfway through the wide-ranging ten-minute interview, Bibb asked Obama about the future of NASA, with a particular emphasis on the future of the agency’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. “With the space shuttle program cutting back now, […]

A ?pretty bleak picture? for a weather satellite program

Later this morning a Delta 2 rocket is scheduled to lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, carrying the Aquarius/SAC-D earth sciences satellite to orbit. That mission, designed to study ocean salinity and its effect on global climate, has not been immune to the delays that affect many satellite programs: it was originally […]

Gingrich and Pawlenty debate space policy in New Hampshire

Space policy made a cameo appearance in Monday night’s Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire, with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich arguing for greater privatization of the space program while former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty said that the space program should be “refocused” but not eliminated. The discussion was kicked off by a […]

Is Huntsville?s ?best friend? for NASA a freshman Democrat?

On Friday Huntsville’s “Second to None” task force, a group of local officials who lobby on space and defense issues, met with a member of Congress. Not the area’s own representative, Mo Brooks (R-AL), but with Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) from Birmingham. And afterwards local officials declared her their newest ally in supporting NASA, and […]

Another push for Pu-238 funding

Plutonium 238 (Pu-238), the radioactive isotope used in the radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs), is essential to a number of spacecraft missions, particularly those bound for the outer solar system. However, getting the relatively modest funding (no more than a few tens of millions of dollars a year) needed to restart Pu-238 production in the US […]

Shelby calls for SLS competition

What does Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) have in common with California’s two Democratic senators? He, like Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, is now calling on NASA to hold an open competition for the development of the Space Launch System (SLS). In a letter to NASA administrator Charles Bolden last Friday, Shelby said that while […]

A (partial) SLS competition in the works?

Reports on Thursday indicated that NASA has settled on a design for the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift booster that would be largely shuttle-derived, but would offer some room for competition. According to Aviation Week and, the SLS design will be only slightly different from the reference design released in an interim report to […]

Albrecht?s policy prescription for NASA

In this week’s issue of The Space Review, I reviewed the new book Falling Back to Earth by Mark Albrecht, who was the executive secretary of the National Space Council during the George H.W. Bush administration and, later, president of International Launch Services. Much of the book, as I note in the review, talks about […]