Bolden, Marquez, and milspace

In what Aviation Week understandably termed a “rare one-on-one interview”, NASA administrator Charles Bolden suggested he’s slowing down any future cooperation with China and Russia, perhaps to appease some Congressional critics. Bolden said that a visit by Chinese space officials to the US, a reciprocal visit to Bolden’s October trip to China, is not planned for December as originally expected, but may be folded into Chinese president Hu Jintao’s trip to the US in January. The article suggested the delay may be an effort not to alienate Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), a sharp critic of China who opposed Bolden’s October trip; Wolf is also in line to take over the appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over NASA’s budget. The report added that Russian proposals for new cooperative missions with NASA, ranging from nuclear propulsion development to a Mercury lander, are “going nowhere fast”.

The White House official who coordinated development of the new national space policy is now working for Orbital Sciences Corporation, the company announced Monday. Peter Marquez has taken a job as the company’s vice president of strategy and planning, responsible for “helping to develop the company’s strategic approach to opportunities in civil and military space programs”. Marquez, as space policy director on the National Security Council, led development of the new policy released this summer.

Increasing costs and budgetary pressures mean that military space programs need to become “more competitive”, Aviation Week reports from a recent military space symposium. How exactly to make such programs more competitive, though, remain unclear: aerospace company officials complained that scope creep plus “unnecessarily invasive oversight” by government agencies have caused costs to go up, but warned that recent interest in fixed-price contracts by the Pentagon is not always a solution. On the other hand, SpaceX’s Elon Musk endorsed the use of fixed-price contracts, saying that traditional cost-plus awards “make good people do bad things”, encouraging companies to run up costs on contracts “up until the program gets canceled.”


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