Last week, the failure of a Soyuz rocket carrying a Progress cargo spacecraft to the ISS, thus raising the risk the Soyuz crewed spacecraft could be grounded for an extended period, prompted one member of Congress to call for “emergency” funding for NASA’s commercial crew development efforts, while another argued that NASA should accelerate work on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Now another member of Congress has weighed in with yet another take on the failure.
“The recent orbit miscalculation [on a Proton launch] and Soyuz failure reinforce the necessity to expedite design and production of the next generation of NASA space flight,” wrote Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) in a letter to NASA administrator Charles Bolden on Tuesday. While making a passing reference to heavy-lift vehicle development, his focus is on the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) spacecraft. Arguing that American astronauts should fly to space on American vehicles, he writes, “To this point the Orion Space Capsule demonstrated exemplary safety and functionality.” And, he adds, “investment in this next generation of space travel provides a significant number of jobs to people in Colorado and a positive impact to our nation’s fragile economy.” Lockheed Martin is developing Orion in the Denver area, and some of those working on it are likely his constituents.
He makes no mention of commercial crew development in the letter, claiming that “NASA astronauts will be entirely reliant on Russian space technology and vehicles to conduct our space operations until the new Orion Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle is complete.” That omission is curious as one of the four CCDev-2 companies, Sierra Nevada Corporation, is working on its Dream Chaser vehicle in the Denver suburbs.