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NASA must fund canceled rocket program

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Washington (UPI) Dec 27, 2010
NASA's Ares I rocket program is defunct but because of congressional inaction the space agency must continue to fund it until March, officials said.

The requirement will cost NASA almost $500 million as the agency battles with the costly task of replacing the space shuttle program, the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel reported Sunday.

About $165 million will go to Alliant Techsystems as part of a $2 billion contract to build a solid-fuel first stage for the Ares, which was supposed to be part of the Constellation program to fill the space shuttle's role of launching astronauts to the International Space Station.

The money to Alliant is part of what NASA will spend on the canceled program from Oct. 1 through March.

Most of the rest will go to Lockheed Martin, which is building the Orion capsule intended to take astronauts into space aboard whatever rocket NASA ultimately builds.

The federal government's 2010 budget contains language that barred NASA from shutting down the Ares program until Congress passed a 2011 budget.

That should have been done before the Oct. 1 start of the federal fiscal year but Congress was unable to pass a 2011 budget and instead voted this month to extend the 2010 budget until March -- meaning NASA still must abide by the 2010 language.

So NASA and its contractors are required to keep building Ares I, even though President Obama effectively killed it when he signed the new NASA plan that canceled the Constellation program begun under President George W. Bush.

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