KSC to get commercial office under new NASA plan

 A Thunderous Start

WASHINGTON — NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is expected to award control of the agency’s commercial spacecraft management office to Kennedy Space Center today when he announces a slate of new work assignments under President Barack Obama’s new plans for the agency. The assignments are critical to NASA employees and contractors, as the distribution of new projects should go a long way in determining which NASA centers get work in the aftermath of the space shuttle program, which will end this year and take thousands of jobs with it. KSC alone is expected to lose as many as 9,000 jobs, as its primary role is preparing the shuttle and other NASA spacecraft for launch. Under Obama’s plan, KSC has been pegged as the top commercial launch site and also looks likely to get an unnamed test program, according to sources close to the announcement. The new details come a week before Obama is set to visit KSC for a space conference. At the summit, Obama is expected to defend his new vision, which cancels NASA’s Constellation moon program and relies on commercial rockets to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station so that NASA engineers can focus their efforts on developing futuristic spacecraft and technologies. The White House has taken heat for its plan, as lawmakers — many with Constellation contracts back in their districts — have complained that the new NASA proposal lacks detail. Today’s announcement, which will unveil work assignments nationwide, is aimed at blunting some of that criticism before Obama‘s visit. The tentative plan for next week is for Obama to tour KSC and then deliver a speech before leaving for a Miami Beach fundraiser. Once he leaves, a small group of between 100-200 space experts will break into small groups to discuss how to implement his proposal, according to sources close to the event. One possibility on the table is re-emergence of the Orion capsule as a new crew spacecraft. It was cancelled along with the rest of the Constellation program under Obama’s proposal but heavy lobbying in the ensuing months has brought it back as one potential option.

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