Perhaps because of the preoccupation in Washington with the impending (less than one hour from now, as of publication of this post) federal government shutdown, there have only been a handful of reactions to Sunday’s successful berthing of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station. Shortly after the berthing, NASA did issue a release with statements from administrator Charles Bolden and presidential science advisor John Holdren. “Orbital joins SpaceX in fulfilling the promise of American innovation to maintain America’s leadership in space. As commercial partners demonstrate their new systems for reaching the Station, we at NASA continue to focus on the technologies to reach an asteroid and Mars,” Bolden said.
“This mission is exactly what the President had in mind when he laid out a fresh course for NASA to take Americans deeper into our solar system while relying on private-sector competition to lower the cost of ferrying astronauts and cargo to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station,” Holdren said. (Holden’s statement ignores the fact that Orbital’s accomplishment is part of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, or COTS, program, which started in the George W. Bush Administration; Orbital got its award in 2008.)
One organization, though, remembers that COTS dates back more than four years. “Since 2006, the Foundation has supported the COTS program because it uses fixed-price, milestone-based awards,” Space Frontier Foundation president James Pura said in a statement Monday. The organization, he added, “believes that more funding should go into these kinds of programs, including the Commercial Crew program. Programs like COTS and CCiCap [Commercial Crew Integrated Capability] force the space industry to be innovative and not rely solely on cost-plus contracts.”
In Congress, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) recognized the accomplishment in a tweet:
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) September 29, 2013
And a former NASA deputy administrator also praised the Cygnus berthing and the successful SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 launch that took place just a few hours later:
Cygnus berthing and Falcon 9 v1.1 launch successful. New era of US innovation has begun! Govt $ was minor compared to traditional programs.
— Lori Garver (@Lori_Garver) September 29, 2013