Orion Atlantic ocean.jpg
credit: NASA / caption: Orion is to be cancelled but what will Congress and NASA do now?

If president Barack Obama’s plan for human spaceflight wasn’t disconcerting enough with little detail then the lack of consultation with NASA personnel in its formation speaks volumes

NASA’s deputy associate administrator for strategic partnerships, and prolific blogger, Wayne Hale spoke to the Orion project office’s “all-hands” meeting that was held last Friday at Johnson Space Center. Hyperbola has been told that Hale said the agency submitted its fiscal year 2011 request and never received any feedback around Thanksgiving when it normally would. But neither was this just some sort of delay, this time around everybody, and apparently it was everybody, found out what the budget was at the same time this journalist and everyone else clicked on the webpage at nasa.gov

And this lack of consultation and detail is impacting on the staff, both NASA and contractor alike. At the all-hands Orion workers were told there is no plan in place at the moment for what happens to Constellation staff but there won’t be any stop work order either

As we know from the FY2011 budget contractual obligations mean billions more are yet to be spent on Constellation and it won’t be all wasted. Exploration Systems Mission Directorate Associate Administrator Doug Cooke said at the budget telecon that the Moon return technology will be assessed for the new flexible path

In the meantime there is still plenty to do for Orion. The all-hands meeting was told that the project office’s plan is still to close off the software preliminary design review (PDR), to complete the phase one safety review, finish pad abort tests and build the ground test article

The Orion team also see their work, up to and beyond the vehicle’s Design Analysis Cycle four and Constellation’s next PDR, as a standard bywhich the commercial crew and cargo programmes’ companies could be judged.

Meanwhile Hyperbola also hears that the Constellation spacesuit contract has been cancelled. This seems a bit odd as that leaves NASA only with Extra-Vehicular Activity suits for ISS and nothing for the new commercial capsules. Will NASA own its own astronauts’ suits or will they outsource that as well?

As for when Constellation workers can expect to know their fate? Planning is apparently going full steam at headquarters and the centers and that’s because senior NASA personnel know that to make progress in FY2011 they need a plan in the next few months

It’s just a shame certain members of Congress are going to make sure any plan anytime soon will be impossible because there will be no resolution on what NASA should be doing for the foreseeable future – but at least its flexible