Obama May Use Delta 4, Atlas 5 Instead of Orion to Lead Space Race with China
[Satellite Today 01-05-09] President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team is considering a collaboration between the U.S. Defense Department and NASA to use the U.S. military Delta 4 and Atlas 5 launch vehicles instead of NASA’s planned launch vehicle, Orion, according to a Jan. 3 announcement on the Obama transition website.
The incoming administration said the U.S. military rockets may be cheaper and ready sooner than NASA’s Orion, which is scheduled to be operational in 2015.
Obama said the Pentagon’s space program, which spent about $22 billion in fiscal year 2008, almost a third more than NASA’s budget, could be tapped to speed the civilian agency toward its goals as the recession pressures federal spending. The Delta 4 and Atlas 5 rockets are developed by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin.
NASA faces a five-year gap between the retirement of the space shuttle in 2010 and the first launch of Orion to carry astronauts to the International Space Station and eventually the moon.
In the announcement, the Obama transition team cited a Nov. 20 report to U.S. Congress from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission as a motivator for the possible move. The report stated that China is designing satellites that, once launched, could catch up with and destroy U.S. spy and communication satellites.