Three weeks after removing Jeff Hanley as the head of the marked-for-termination Constellation program, NASA announced June 14 that Hanley’s deputy, L. Dale Thomas, has been selected as his permanent replacement.

Thomas had been serving as the Constellation’s acting program manager since May 26 when Hanley was abruptly reassigned to a new position at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Charles Stegemoeller, former director of the Constellation program’s planning and control office, was named deputy program manager.

The NASA news release announcing the appointment said Thomas will manage the agency’s efforts “to take humans beyond low Earth orbit and develop the next generation launch vehicle and spacecraft.” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden notified Congress June 9 that work on Constellation would slow down in the weeks ahead due to a roughly $1 billion shortfall in the program’s 2010 budget.

Although NASA intends to cancel the Moon-focused Constellation program and pursue a multiple-destination human spaceflight strategy instead, the agency is working on a plan for continuing development of Constellation’s J2-X upper stage engine and restructuring the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle program to produce an emergency crew return vehicle for the international space station.