The fight between NASA leadership and Congress over the direction of the space agency is getting heated. NASA told major Constellation Program contractors last week that they must immediately cut back work by nearly $1 billion to comply with federal spending rules.
The move was seen by Constellation supports as a back door way of killing the program, despite a Congressional mandate that work continue on the program unless Congress specifically orders it killed. But NASA says it's simply abiding by the Anti-Deficiency Act, which requires contractors to set aside a portion of their payments to cover costs if a project is canceled. (Story)
The rift is of high interest to workers at Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The two NASA facilities, about 40 miles apart, are both involved in the Constellation Program. Stennis' A-3 test stand is designed to test J-2X engines for the Constellation Program, and a Lockheed Martin team at Michoud earlier this month finished the structural framework for the Orion crew capsule ground test article.
- The six crew members of the last scheduled space shuttle mission visited Stennis Space Center during the week. The shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 mission, scheduled for November, will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station. Shuttle crew traditionally visit NASA centers instrumental to the missions. Stennis has tested all of the main engines used on space shuttle missions.
- NASA is inviting members of the public to send an electronic image of their faces into orbit aboard one of the final remaining space shuttle missions. Visitors to the "Face in Space" Web site can upload their portrait to fly aboard shuttle Discovery's STS-133 mission or shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 mission. You can also just have your name sent up.
- NASA picked 18 projects for Phase II funding under the Small Business Technology Transfer program. Eighteen businesses are partnered with 15 universities in projects valued at $11 million. In a project of interest to Stennis Space Center, Miss., Combustion Research and Flow Technology of Pipersville, Pa., is teamed with the University of Florida to develop simulation software to predict potential damage to a propulsion system and test stands that can be caused by vibrations of liquid rockets.
Mississippi State University is involved in two of the 18 winning projects. In one, it's working with Keystone Synergistic Enterprises of Port Saint Lucie, Fla., on a process to solid-state weld high strength and temperature alloys used to make engine nozzel skirts. In another, MSU is working with Streamline Numerics of Gainesville, Fla., on an advanced simulation framework for design and analysis of space propulsion systems.
EADS North America will transfer to Mobile, Ala., later this month 100 workers as it prepares to bid on the $35 million Air Force tanker project. According to the Mobile Press-Register, the company leased office space at Bel Air Mall to house employees now located in Arlington, Va., and Melbourne, Fla.
EADS and rival Boeing plan to bid on the contract. EADS, which already has operations in Mobile, wants to assemble the KC-45 at Brookley Industrial Complex. Boeing wants to build them in Washington state. EADS' former partner, Northrop Grumman, dropped out of the contest earlier this year, claiming the request for proposals favors the smaller Boeing offering.
Joint Strike Fighter
The Navy version of the F-35 made its inaugural flight last weekend. The carrier variant took off from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas, and logged a 57-minute flight. Lockheed Martin is developing the F-35 with principal industrial partners Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., will be the initial JSF training center.
NASA's unmanned Global Hawk aircraft completed four science flights over the Pacific Ocean in April in a joint project between NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and plans are on track to use the UAV later this year to track hurricanes in the Atlantic. Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss.
McDonnell Douglas Corp., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $98 million contract for the production of the Small Diameter Bomb I weapon system for various Foreign Military Sales customers. 680 ARSSG/PK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … R.C. Construction Co. Inc., Greenwood, Miss., was awarded a $37.5 million contract to construct a new taxiway extension, a new aircraft parking apron, and a new load area, including a load crew shelter, flare facility, and a munitions holding area at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District, Mobile, Ala., is the contracting activity. … L3 Communications Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $9.2 million contract for logistical support in the areas of aircraft workers, aircraft painters, and other areas at Corpus Christi, Texas. … Sunrise Beach Corp., Allen, Texas, was awarded a $59.5 million contract for aircraft paint and maintenance services for the 1108th Aviation Classification Repair Activity Depot for the Mississippi Army National Guard at Gulfport, Miss., and other locations. National Guard Bureau, U.S. Property and Fiscal Office for Mississippi, Jackson, Miss., is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $17.6 million contract to provide for the electronic protection improvement program. 696 ARSS/PK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.