NASA currently is constrained in what policies it can implement by the 2010 budget continuing resolution and by the Shelby restriction in the 2010 NASA budget not to do anything that constitutes a cancellation of the Constellation program. The recently passed 2011 NASA Authorization bill doesn’t override these restrictions. These can only be undone by passage of a 2011 appropriations bill. Furthermore, regarding the heavy lift launcher program, even the Authorization bill says NASA should do what is practicable and doesn’t actually command NASA to build the HLV with ATK boosters.
Despite all of that, the Senate committee members continually complained today that NASA has not started the HLV project and has not yet committed to a HLV design that is purely Shuttle-derived: /– Senators Say NASA Isn’t Implementing Programs – WSJ.com /– Senators Vow To Enforce NASA Authorization Act – SPACE.com /– Nelson fires warning shot over NASA policy – The Write Stuff/Orlando Sentinel /– Senators Vow To Enforce NASA Authorization Act – SpaceNews.com /– NASA: Sen. Bill Nelson accuses White House of foot-dragging on designing new NASA rocket – OrlandoSentinel.com === The GAO has released a report on hurdles facing NASA’s implementation of that Authorization bill: U.S. GAO – NASA: Issues Implementing the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. === More on the dropping from the Deficit Commission’s latest report that bizarrely counterproductive recommendation to cut NASA’s commercial crew & cargo program: Deficit Commission Relents on Commercial Crew – spacepolicyonline.com
Update: I’ve been urged to emphasize that the Deficit Commission’s report references a separate document that lists the “Illustrate Cuts” and this list does in fact still include the commercial spaceflight cut recommendation.