NASA Chief Technologist Robert Braun tells the Orlando Sentinel that the space agency will determine the design specifications of a new heavy-lift rocket it has been directed to build in legislation currently awaiting the president’s signature.

The NASA Authorization Bill, first passed during the summer by the Senate and just recently by the House, directs that NASA begin work next year on a heavy-lift rocket that utilizes components from the space shuttle, which is to be retired next year. Critics of the legislation have said that language is overly prescriptive and that only NASA is in position to determine the design requirements for such a vehicle, which is necessary to send astronaut explorers to destinations beyond low Earth orbit.

   “Braun, appointed by NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden earlier this year to advise the agency on technology issues, is the first NASA official to raise publicly the prospect that Congress may not get the rocket it wants.”