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Defiance comes from an unusual source…

September 14, 2011

This is an image of the proposed Space Launch System, the new heavy-lifter launch vehicle that NASA wants to build. Apparently they have settled on a basic design, using first stage engines based on the RD-25D/E shuttle main engine design and second and third stage engines based on the J-2X, an improved version of the engine used in the second and third stages of the Saturn V. The vehicle would use LOX and liquid hydrogen.

Since NASA has announced the basic design, they can proceed with more detailed proposals from contractors. The engines are a lock, however, as are the ATK strap-on solid booster rockets.

So what does the title of this piece mean? Well, the Obama Administration has made it clear that manned space exploration is not a priority. Remember, we don’t have to go back to the Moon, because “Buzz has already been there.” As the Administration falls apart, and becomes more and more distracted with bigger issues, little fish NASA has been quietly moving ahead, building the Orion prototype and entering into “sharing” alliances with ATK/Allegiant and United Launch Alliance. It’s obvious they can see there’s going to be a regime change in 2013 and they want to be able to hit the ground running under a new administration. To do that, some things have to continue. They used excuses like “the contracts were already let and we had to fulfill them” and such to make sure some things kept going and funding continued to flow.  Boeing and LockMart have both committed a lot of money out of their own pockets in design and infrastructure for competing manned vehicles. As I said the other day, somebody has been talking to somebody. These two giant defense contractors wouldn’t dump millions of dollars into projects where they thought there would be no return.

I don’t follow the ins and outs of other government agencies like I do NASA. I suspect there are other places where the bureaucratic structure keeps going, pretty much ignoring the current administration. They did it during Bush 43 and now I figure they are doing it again. In this case, defiance of the administration might be helping to hold the country together. I never thought I would say that!

Remember, friends, this launcher probably won’t be putting men into space for eight or nine years – I’m guessing if it gets done at all it will be more like twelve. That would be pretty much through Rubio’s first term. (I can dream, can’t I?)

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