The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Community News Network

January 9, 2014

Useless $350 million NASA space project mandated by Congress

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

The John C. Stennis Space Center, named after a former U.S. senator, is located in Mississippi's Hancock County, which has an estimated population exceeding 45,000. With more than 5,000 workers, the center is the Gulf Coast locality's largest employer, according to the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission.

The county's unemployment rate in November was 7.4 percent, lower than Mississippi's 7.6 percent while higher than the nation's 6.6 percent, according to state and federal data that isn't seasonally adjusted.

Wicker stands by his support for the test stand.

"Stennis Space Center is the nation's premier rocket engine testing facility," the senator said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg News. "It is a magnet for public and private research investment because of infrastructure projects like the A-3 test stand. In 2010, I authored an amendment to require the completion of that particular project, ensuring the Stennis facility is prepared for ever-changing technologies and demands."

Completing the so-called A-3 tower will cost $57 million, according to the agency's inspector general. The agency also plans to maintain it, which will run about $840,000 annually, according to Karen Northon, a NASA spokeswoman.

The A-3 tower is a relic of President George W. Bush's Constellation program, designed to send American astronauts back to the moon and beyond after the space shuttle's retirement in 2011.

President Barack Obama proposed canceling the Constellation program in 2010 after rising costs and delays, which meant an end to the Ares I and Ares V rockets. The tower was built specifically to test the J-2X engine, simulating how it would work in high altitudes as it powered those rockets.

The engine was built by Aerojet Rocketdyne, a unit of Rancho Cordova, Calif.-based GenCorp, and is being tested elsewhere at Stennis to power other rockets.

There are no rockets being developed for NASA that would need their engines tested under the high-altitude conditions for which the A-3 was built.

It's conceivable that such a rocket may be built in the future. Companies like Aerojet Rocketdyne and billionaire Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, may need to test engines for yet-to-be-developed rockets that would send astronauts into space, said Chris Quilty, an analyst with Raymond James and Associates in St. Petersburg, Fla.

"With all the discussion of going to Mars, going to the moon, they are going to need more advanced upper-stage engines," Quilty said.

Glenn Mahone, a spokesman for Aerojet Rocketdyne, said that while company officials know the A-3 test stand isn't "a near- term priority, it likely will be required to support exploration objectives in the future."

For now, though, NASA doesn't need it.

Obama's request to kill Constellation was included in a 2010 bill approved by Congress. At the time, NASA already had spent $292 million on the A-3 test stand, and it needed another $57 million to finish the work, according to a February report by the agency's inspector general, Paul Martin.

Martin highlighted the A-3 as an example of how efforts to cut costs and get rid of unneeded facilities are blocked by lawmakers.

"The political context in which NASA operates often impedes its efforts to reduce infrastructure," he told the House space subcommittee in September.

The February audit identified 33 facilities that NASA either wasn't fully using or had no future need for, including six of 36 wind tunnels, 14 of 35 rocket test stands, and two of three airfields. Those facilities cost more than $43 million to maintain in fiscal 2011, the audit said.

The A-3 structure is being built by mostly local, closely held businesses. Two of the contractors are in Mississippi: the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians' IKBI Inc., based in Choctaw, and a Tutor Perini Corp. unit in Gulfport.

               Others include Mobile, Alabama-based American Tank & Vessel Inc. and Decatur, Ala.-based M & D Mechanical Contractors Inc.

The tower is made of millions of pounds of steel - strong enough to hold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen tanks weighing as much as 320,000 pounds apiece. The stand also includes chemical steam-generator units that would be used to help simulate the engine's ability to power a rocket to altitudes up to 100,000 feet.

Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, then the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, also pushed NASA to complete the test stand.

"It is important that a large emphasis be placed on safety and testing, and we cannot launch any type of vehicle until we test it extensively using NASA's best tools for testing," Cochran said after a 2011 hearing on the agency's budget.

Barney Keller, a spokesman for Club for Growth, a Washington-based group that supports spending cuts and backs a challenger to Cochran in this year's Republican primary, called the A-3 funding "an excellent example of why so many people are fed up with Washington."

 

Text Only
Community News Network
  • Dangerous Darkies Logo.png Redskins not the only nickname to cause a stir

    Daniel Snyder has come under fire for refusing to change the mascot of his NFL team, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins, however, are far from being the only controversial mascot in sports history.  Here is a sampling of athletic teams from all areas of the sports world that were outside the norm.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos

  • 'Rebel' mascot rising from the dead

    Students and alumni from a Richmond, Va.-area high school are seeking to revive the school's historic mascot, a Confederate soldier known as the "Rebel Man," spurring debate about the appropriateness of public school connections to the Civil War and its icons.

    July 28, 2014

  • Fast food comes to standstill in China

    The shortage of meat is the result of China's latest food scandal, in which a Shanghai supplier allegedly tackled the problem of expired meat by putting it in new packaging and shipping it to fast-food restaurants around the country

    July 28, 2014

  • wd saturday tobias .jpg Stranger’s generosity stuns Ohio veteran

    Vietnam War veteran David A. Tobias was overwhelmed recently when a fellow customer at an OfficeMax store near Ashtabula, Ohio paid for a computer he was purchasing.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.33.11 PM.png VIDEO: High-dive accident caught on tape

    A woman at a water park in Idaho leaped off a 22-foot high dive platform, then tried to pull herself back up with frightening results. Fortunately, she escaped with only a cut to her finger.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • CATS-DOGS281.jpg Where cats are more popular than dogs in the U.S.-and all over the world

    We all know there are only two types of people in the world: cat people and dog people. But data from market research firm Euromonitor suggest that these differences extend beyond individual preferences and to the realm of geopolitics: it turns out there are cat countries and dog countries, too.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • 072214 Diamond Llama 1.jpg Llama on the loose corralled in Missouri town

    A llama on the lam cruised Main Street Tuesday before it mistook a resident’s fenced backyard for a place to grab a meal and freshen up.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • When your doctor commits suicide, things get complicated

    When they call for appointments, patients are told they can't see their doctor. Ever. The standard line: "We are sorry, but your doctor died suddenly."

    July 15, 2014

  • NWS-HB0713-HowardMartin-004.jpg Airman laid to rest back home in Indiana six decades after death

    The mystery of what happened to a military transport plane that disappeared in the fall of 1952 into an Alaskan glacier was solved two years ago when a helicopter crew spotted the wreckage. But it took another two years to retrieve the remains of Airman Howard Miller and 16 other servicemen passengers. Saturday, Miller was laid to rest in his hometown of Elwood, Ind., with full military honors. Hundreds turned out for the funeral and burial services.

    July 13, 2014 2 Photos

  • This is what happened when I drove my Mercedes to pick up food stamps

     I climbed the ladder quickly, free to work any hours in any location for any pay. I moved from market to market, always achieving a better title, a better salary. Succeeding.

    July 8, 2014

Front page
Clinton Herald Photos


Browse, buy and submit pictures with our photo site.

Poll

What are your plans for the weekend?

Enjoying the outdoors
Staying in out of the heat
Traveling
Other
     View Results
AP Video
Olympics 2014
Featured Comment
Featured Ads
Blue Zones Project
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.