When it became clear that NASA’s Constellation program was being targeted for cancellation, two NASA contractors with the most to lose sprung into action to rally support for the effort to replace the soon-to-retire space shuttle with a fleet of government-owned rockets and spacecraft that would leverage the billions already invested in shuttle technology and infrastructure.

While solid-rocket motor builder Alliant Techsystems has led a relatively public campaign to save Constellation and the Ares family of rockets it still hopes to build, United Space Alliance (USA) — the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture that operates the space shuttle — is working the inside political game to secure a continuing role for a substantial chunk of what’s left of its once 10,000-strong work force.

Leading USA’s lobbying effort is Kate Kronmiller, the well-connected aerospace veteran known in Washington space policy circles simply as Kate — the same way Lori Garver, NASA’s politically juiced deputy administrator, is simply Lori.

Kronmiller, like most lobbyists, doesn’t give public speeches or sign her name to newspaper opinion pieces. What she does do is work Capitol Hill, and friends and foes alike agree that she does it better than anyone.

Hill staffers say Kronmiller was instrumental in securing a collective legislative rebuke of the Obama administration’s human spaceflight plan. Bills moving through the House and Senate seek to slow Obama’s commercial human spaceflight initiative and salvage large pieces of the Constellation program.

“Effective” is the word most often used to describe Kronmiller. As one Washington veteran recently put it, “While she obviously has to look after her company’s best interests, she also has the big picture perspective that enables her to help bridge gaps, bring disparate groups together, and help move towards common goals.”