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Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. OLSON. Madam Chair, I rise today to engage in a colloquy with the chairman of the Commerce, Justice, Science Committee regarding NASA's plans to consolidate its thermal protection systems and atmospheric reentry materials testing facilities, known as arcjet facilities.

In 2011, NASA made the decision to close the arcjet facility at the Johnson Space Center in order to consolidate testing in a single NASA location. However, serious concerns were raised at high levels within NASA and industry about the detrimental effects this consolidation will have on NASA's testing capabilities, its ability to maintain unique institutional assets, and its ability to successfully develop NASA's human and robotic space systems, including the Orion, commercial, and other important space vehicles, which all require arcjet certification of their thermal protection systems.

Madam Chair, NASA claims that the proposed consolidation will reduce costs while maintaining safety and mission assurance. However, I believe that NASA has unduly fast-tracked this decision and overlooked safety and mission concerns, cost issues, and program testing needs.

I've asked NASA to suspend its work on closing the arcjet, pending a thorough and independent review of those concerns, such as investigations by the NASA inspector general and the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel. I hope that such review will ensure that NASA does not make a shortsighted and regretful decision.

I thank Chairman Wolf for the opportunity to raise these concerns today and yield to my colleague from Texas (Mr. Green).


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