Obama Hears from Utah on Constellation Cancellation

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Utah’s entire five-member congressional delegation wrote U.S. President Barack Obama March 15 urging him to reconsider his decision to cancel NASA’s Constellation program and the Ares rockets that would be manufactured in their state.

“[W]e have strong trepidations the new proposal offered will lead to a decline in our nation’s preeminence in space and curtail our nation’s ability to send astronauts to explore the cosmos,” the letter states. “As a result, our nation will forgo the technological and engineering harvest which spurred billions of dollars of economic expansion in previous decades. Accordingly, we respectfully request you reverse the decision to propose the termination of Project Constellation.”

The letter, a copy of which was released by U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, was co-signed by U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Robert Bennett and Reps. Jim Matheson and Jason Chaffetz. All but Matheson are Republicans.

Although not mentioned in the letter, Utah is home to the Alliant Techsystems (ATK) division under contract to build the main stage of the Ares 1 rocket that stands to be canceled if Congress approves Obama’s plan to shut down the Moon-bound Constellation program and rely on commercial firms to transport astronauts to the international space station. ATK also builds the space shuttle rocket booster from which the Ares 1 main stage is derived.

ATK executives told investors in February that shutting down the Ares program would remove $650 million from the Minneapolis-based aerospace and defense firm’s contract backlog. ATK announced March 11 that it will realign its business structure April 1 and establish an Aerospace Systems group that will absorb ATK Space Systems as well as the aerospace structures business from ATK Mission Systems, which will be disbanded.