Yesterday Rep. Dana Rohrabacher reacted to the loss of a Progress cargo spacecraft by requesting an “emergency transfer of funding” to NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program to provide the US with its own means to access the station. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison also issued a statement in response to the launch failure, and like Rep. Rohrabacher said the failure made it clear the US needed more options for accessing the ISS. However, she called for a different means to provide those options.
“As we have already seen with the multi-year delay with commercial providers of cargo to the space station, the country would greatly benefit from the timely implementation of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and development of the Space Launch System (SLS) as a back-up system,” Hutchison said in the statement, which was more about the SLS and the summary of the independent cost assessment of the program than it was about the Progress failure.
Hutchison argued that the assessment prepared by Booz Allen Hamilton supports her view that there are no obstacles to proceed with the development of the SLS. “This additional independent cost assessment confirms what NASA officials have known for months: The NASA approach to human space flight is sound, achievable, and can be initiated within our currently constrained fiscal limitations,” she said. Focusing on the report’s conclusion that NASA’s cost estimates are reasonable in the near term (rather than its concerns that long-term projections of cost savings may be “optimistic”), she added, “In other words, there is no cost-estimate-related basis for continuing to delay the commitment to proceed with the SLS development plans that were required by the Congress to have been delivered in the Section 309 Report that was due on January 10th.”
She reiterated comments in her statement last week that NASA release its SLS design as soon as possible because she believes doing so will prevent further job losses. “We strongly encourage NASA to immediately announce this week – not next month – the design for their next launch vehicle, which will halt the further loss of skilled aerospace workers now poised to be laid off from the NASA manned spaceflight program.”