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Letter from Rep. Rohrabacher to NASA Administrator O'Keefe Regarding FY 2003 Budget Amendment Concerns

Status Report From: Rep. Rohrabacher
Posted: Monday, April 7, 2003

Congress of the United States
House of Representatives

November 15, 2002

The Honorable Sean O'Keefe
Administrator
National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Dear Mr. O'Keefe:

I applaud your agency's decision to reprioritize is fiscal year 2003 budget and implementing a strategy that responds to past Committee concerns. Increasing funds for the Space Shuttle Safety Upgrades program, International Space Station research, and Orbital Space Plane (OSP) development demonstrates the willingness of NASA to address critical issues in a deliberate and creative fashion. In particular, I believe the OSP option offers the nation a credible, near term solution for meeting the Space Station crew rescue and transfer challenge. While I welcome this new course correction NASA has chosen for its space transportation enterprise, some aspects of this approach does give me cause for concern.

First, NASA should maintain the goal of low-cost access to space for the restructured Space Launch Initiative now consisting of the OSP and Next Generation Launch Technology programs. Given the exorbitant operations cost of the Space Shuttle, a human-rated Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) is a good first step, but if human space flight costs are not tightly controlled, operating both the Shuttle and OSP simultaneously during the 2010-2015 timeframe could frustrate NASA's out-year budget plans. Secondly, I also believe NASA should continue its efforts in the Space Launch Initiative that enables procurement of commercial services for Space Station cargo and logistics missions. Further, the OSP should be commercially owned and operated not unlike the EELV. This contracting method has proven to be a logical and prudent approach, and it could further the goals of the second generation of human launch.

Finally, NASA does not need to develop all of this launch technology in-house. Leveraging Russian space launch technology, particularly their kerosene engine, provides an excellent opportunity to establish a dual path engine development program in this country. Continuing development work on the Russian RD-180 engine within SLI would serve to minimize technology development risks at a cost less than the cost of developing and certifying an engine without the benefit of decades of Russian development.

I will remain an advocate for affordable and reliable access to space for the benefit of human space flight and commerce. I look forward to working with you more in the future.

Sincerely,
[signed]
Dana Rohrabacher
Member of Congress

Cc:
The Honorable Jim Walsh
The Honorable Ron Sega
The Honorable Pete Teets

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