Briefly: Shelby versus Florida; Blue Origin's test failure and CCDev

A couple brief notes on a quiet holiday weekend: A little over a week ago, Florida Sens. Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R) sent a letter to the White House countering claims in another letter by five other senators that money appropriated for the Space Launch System (SLS) was being "misallocated" to facility upgrades at the Kennedy Space Center. Nelson and Rubio argued that the funds were being used appropriately to "decrease development and operations costs" for the SLS. In a statement to the Huntsville Times last week, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), one of the five senators who signed the original letter about the misallocation of SLS funds, tried to find some common ground with his Florida colleagues. "I am glad to see that my colleagues from Florida have joined me in pushing the administration to follow the law and move forward with the development of a Space Launch System," he said in the statement. However, the portion of the statement quoted in the article suggested Shelby was not backing away from his original claim that SLS money should not be spent on the KSC upgrades. On Friday the Wall Street Journal reported that Blue Origin suffered a setback in its vehicle development program when a test vehicle flew out of control at its west Texas launch site and was destroyed. The Journal article suggested the failure could affect NASA's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program, as Blue Origin is one of four companies with second-round CCDev awards from NASA. "The failure also could set back White House plans to promote commercially developed spacecraft to transport crews to the international space station by the second half of this decade," the article claimed. However, Blue Origin's own statement, posted on its web site shortly after the Journal article first appeared, and signed by Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos, suggests the test failure will have little or no effect on its CCDev-2 work: "We're working on the sub-orbital crew capsule separately, as well as an orbital crew vehicle to support NASA's Commercial Crew program," Bezos wrote. The test also does not appear to be closely tied to any of its CCDev-2 milestones, according to a NASA document updated last month.

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