Atlantis to rise once more

The next version of the NASA Reauthorisation Bill has finally been brokered after several months of squabbling in USA Government circles. A joint press conference with Republican and Democrat members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation announced that they have passed a bill that they say has also attracted support from members of Congress and the White House. The Bill must now go before the full Senate for approval. It marks a back pedalling from private sector empowerment, though there’ll still be some reduced funds for that ($1.6 billion rather than $3.3 billion), and a concentration on getting a new human spaceflight vehicle and heavy lift rocket in place ten years earlier than the White House planned. This essentially means the vehicles developed under the cancelled Constellation project, the Orion capsule and Ares rocket, will go ahead, but Constellation itself remains cancelled. Support for the International Space Station through to 2020 has also been authorised. The space shuttle Atlantis, which will be acting as the back up rescue shuttle for STS-134 will also be authorised to run an additional mission, STS-135, depending on the results of a safety inspection. This would then be the final mission of the space shuttle program, starting a hiatus in human spaceflight until the new Orion capsule comes online in 2016.

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