NASA Recommended to Watch Mars Spending

A congressional committee promised Thursday to scrutinize NASA and its spending as the agency proceeds with a program to take astronauts to the moon and Mars.

The space agency faces hidden costs by starting development of the spacecraft and rockets for the program without knowing the price tag of the new technology, a watchdog official warned Thursday in Washington at a hearing of the House Committee on Science.

“When you don’t abide by those particular principles _ which is not going beyond what your knowledge tells you _ then you do run into trouble,” said Allen Li, director of acquisition and sourcing management for the Government Accountability Office.… Read the rest

House Science Committee to Review NASA’s Plan to Develop Orion

Today (Sept 28, 2006) at 2pm the House Committee on Science will hold a hearing to review the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) efforts to develop the Crew Exploration Vehicle, now dubbed “Orion.”

As laid out in the President’s Vision for Space Exploration, Orion will carry humans to the International Space Station (ISS), the Moon, and beyond following the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2010. On August 31st, 2006, NASA selected Lockheed Martin as its industry partner for the development and production of Orion, signing a development and production contract worth, including all options, approximately $8.1 billion through 2019.… Read the rest

Astronauts Training Undersea For Moon Trips

While the shuttle Atlantis crew wrapped up its space station construction flight, a fellow group of astronauts was busy working beneath the sea to prepare for future missions.

As part of the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations, or NEEMO, astronauts live in a government-owned underwater habitat named Aquarius. The 20-year-old abode is located about five miles off the coast of Key Largo in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

During their stay, the astronauts, all of whom are training for possible assignment to long-duration space station missions, donned diving gear to test spacewalking techniques NASA is developing for planned lunar expeditions.… Read the rest

Orion Capsule Test Drive

Story by Seth Borenstein.  For the last 10 minutes, I’ve been trying to nuzzle the Orion space capsule up to the international space station to dock, but I keep drifting left, smack into a European lab.

Then I look slightly past the flat-panel screen that displays my incompetence with the joystick, through the window and straight up. I see the moon. It’s filling the view and grabs my attention from the docking job at hand.

The moon is what this is all about.

I’m in a full-scale mock-up of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle that’s supposed to replace the space shuttle fleet and eventually take astronauts back to the moon.… Read the rest

Lockheed Receives $7.5 Million Grant From Texas Enterprise Fund

Lockheed Martin is getting a seven and a-half (M) million dollar Texas grant as it prepares to build the Orion (uh-RY’-un) crew exploration vehicle.Gov. Rick Perry made the announcement today at Space Center Houston as part of an effort that’s expected to include one-thousand new jobs.

NASA two weeks ago announced Lockheed Martin won the multi (B) billion dollar contract to build the Orion manned lunar space craft.

NASA anticipates building eight of the reusable spaceships through 2019 — replacing the space shuttle.

The grant comes from the Texas Enterprise Fund.

Perry’s office says Lockheed Martin, through the Orion project in the Houston area, is expected to invest about 68 (M) million dollars in the Texas economy.… Read the rest

Orion Project Endorsed by Scientists

A panel of scientists strongly endorsed NASA’s plans to return to the moon, saying in a report Tuesday that lunar exploration will open the way toward broader studies of the Earth and solar system.”The moon is priceless to planetary scientists,” declared the special National Research Council panel of the National Academy of Sciences.


The scientists were asked to evaluate and give guidance to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s plans for robotic and human exploration of the moon over the next two decades.

President Bush two years ago vowed to return astronauts to the moon and establish an “extended presence there” in preparation for exploring Mars.… Read the rest

Lockheed Aiming for Upper Stage Contract

Orion spaceship prime contractor Lockheed Martin, its Ares I launcher’s first stage provider Alliant Techsystems (ATK) and engine developer Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne have teamed to compete to supply the crew vehicle booster’s upper stage.

ATK – already responsible for the Ares I first stage hardware including the interface and separation with the upper stage – is leading the team. The upper stage production contract request for proposals is expected in February next year and should be placed in the third quarter.

For the upper stage bid Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne is responsible for the liquid oxygen, liquid hydrogen J-2x engine and related upper stage interfaces.… Read the rest

Alliant Techsystems to Bid to do Work on Ares 1

Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK) said Wednesday that it has joined with Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne to bid on a NASA contract to do additional work on the Ares 1.

The contract is not expected to be put out for bid until next year, but ATK said it is setting up an office in Alabama to prepare a proposal.

Ares 1 is a rocket that will be used to launch Orion, a spacecraft that will replace the shuttle. Orion is expected to ultimately take astronauts to the moon, and possibly Mars.

Edina-based ATK is already building first stage hardware for Ares.

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Project Orion Faces First Hold-up

NASA internal planning, official’s comments and contractor expectations suggest the much touted goal of manned flights of new crew vehicle Orion before 2014 are unrealistic

NASA will fail to meet its goal of flying manned Orion missions before 2014, as the first delay emerges for the new spaceship’s development timetable just a week after its prime contractor, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, was selected.

NASA administrator Michael Griffin had wanted Orion’s development accelerated because the four-year gap between the Space Shuttle’s 2010 retirement and the new spacecraft’s planned 2014 operational debut was deemed unacceptable. The prime contractor selection process was even adjusted for changes introduced by NASA to accelerate Orion.… Read the rest

Lockheed’s Patrick McKenzie Answers Questions on Orion

Officials at Lockheed Martin say the Orion crew vehicle, NASA’s Moon-bound successor to the space shuttle, will combine retro-1960s and cutting-edge aerospace technologies.

The Apollo program, which sent a dozen men to the Moon, ended in 1972. It’s so long ago that fewer than half of all Americans are old enough to have watched one of its missions on live TV. Yet some of the technology behind Apollo is about to be brought out of retirement for NASA’s return to the Moon, scheduled for 2020.

The agency’s new system for traveling to Earth orbit, and later to the Moon and Mars, dubbed The Constellation Program, essentially duplicates the Moon mission technologies proposed by Wernher von Braun in the late 1950s and used in the Apollo program.… Read the rest