Small Businesses Are Critical to NASA

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden (right) and the Kegman, Inc., team.Earlier today I visited Kegman Inc., a woman-owned,veteran-owned business in Melbourne, Florida, that is providing valuabledata to assist with Saturday’s expected launch of the Mars Science LaboratoryCuriosity.

Curiosity’s mission is to get Mars to give up itssecrets. But we can’t get to Mars without companies like Kegman who contributetechnology, innovation, component parts and know-how to the project.

Small businesses play a big part in the work NASA doesevery day, and are a big part of the American economy. For the Mars ScienceLaboratory mission, more than two dozen small companies supplied componentparts, engineering design and other technical assistance to the project. More than 5,000 people in 31 states worked on Curiosity. The world’s mostsophisticated interplanetary rover was created, designed, built and will beflown to the Red Planet in large part due to the work of American smallbusinesses.

Small businesses are a critical piece of the Americaneconomy, employing 1 in every 3 Americans. As we recognize Small BusinessSaturday this week, I’m proud that NASA is working with great small businesseslike Kegman, as well as supporting the small businesses that provide otherservices and benefits to the NASA family.

Above: NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden (right); Susan Glasgow, president and CEO of Kegman, Inc., and other members of the Kegman team. 

Honoring Four Legends

Today I made these remarks during a ceremony in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, where leaders of Congress honored astronauts John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins with congressional gold medals:

“As we embark upon the next great chapter of human space exploration, we stand on the shoulders of the extraordinary men we recognize today. Those of us who have had the privilege to fly in space followed the trail they forged.

America’s leadership in space and the confidence that we can go farther into the unknown and achieve great things as a people rests on the achievements of these brave men.

When, 50 years ago this year, President Kennedy challenged the nation to reach the moon, to ‘take longer strides’ toward a ‘great new American enterprise,’ these men were the human face of those words. From Mercury and Gemini, on through our landings on the Moon in the Apollo Program, their actions unfolded the will of a nation for the greater achievement of humankind.

Today, another young President has challenged us to reach for new heights and plan an ambitious mission to Mars. Just as we called on the four individuals we honor today to carry out our early achievements in space, we now call on a new generation of explorers to go where we have never gone before.

As we honor these heroes, I want to recognize the hundreds of thousands of dedicated NASA employees and industry partners who contributed to the incredible success of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs and all that has followed, and all that is yet to come.

I also want to thank our Congress. Our nation is a better place because of more than a half century of strong, bipartisan support for NASA’s work in human exploration, science and aeronautics.

Five members of the most recent Astronaut Candidate Class are with us today to pay tribute to the Congressional Gold Medal honorees, and build on their accomplishments to make similar, lasting contributions to our nation’s space program.

This new group of astronauts will redefine space exploration in the years to come and continue to honor the legacy of John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins.

It is a lasting legacy – a legacy that continues to unfold and transform our modern world.

The inspiration these four have provided to generations isn’t something we can measure, but we can feel it in our hearts. As a nation, we would not be the same without them and their bravery, their sense of duty and dedication to public service and their great skill at thinking on their feet.

They changed the course of history and helped our nation to achieve the bigger things to which our greater nature aspires. We owe them our humblest gratitude.

On behalf of NASA and all the astronauts past and present, I congratulate and thank each of you – John, Neil, Buzz, and Mike, our Congressional Gold Medal recipients.”

For biographies of the astronauts, visit:


NASA Administrator Charles Bolden (far right) with (l to r) astronauts Buzz Aldrin, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Mark Kelly and Michael Collins. Photo credit: NASA/Paul Alers

Another Milestone for the Future of Exploration

Today we made smoke and fire with a rocket engine yet again. The Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, long the front line in testing NASA’s propulsion systems from the Apollo to the shuttle era, is now helping us understand the J-2X engine. The J-2X will power the upper stage of our new Space Launch System (SLS), which will carry the Orion spacecraft, its crew, cargo, equipment and science experiments beyond Earth orbit.

Today’s engine test fire – at nearly 500 seconds, the longest one to date — is one in a series of tests that will provide critical data to help fine tune the engine to maximize performance and provide the SLS with the capability to take humans to new destinations. And it’s not the only activity that NASA has going on around the nation as we open the next great chapter of space exploration.

Earlier this week, we announced that we’re planning an unmanned flight test of the Orion spacecraft in early 2014. This Exploration Flight Test, or EFT-1, will fly two orbits to a high-apogee, with a high-energy re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere. Orion will make a water landing and be recovered using operations planned for future human exploration missions. The test mission will be launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., to acquire critical re-entry flight performance data and demonstrate early integration capabilities that benefit the Orion, SLS, and 21st Century Ground Systems programs. We’ve posted a synopsis explaining our intention on the NASA procurement website.

Our Langley Research Center in Virginia recently performed another successful drop test of Orion’s landing capabilities in its Hydro Impact Basin. And this year’s Desert RATS activity, where scientists and engineers run tests and simulations in landscapes that mirror other worlds – in this case the desert of Arizona – was designed to gather information for a potential crewed mission to an asteroid.

In an innovative agreement that will create new jobs, NASA has announced a partnership with Space Florida to occupy, use and modify Kennedy Space Center’s Orbiter Processing Facility-3, the Space Shuttle Main Engine Processing Facility and Processing Control Center.

Space Florida, the aerospace economic development agency of the state of Florida, has an agreement for use of Orbiter Processing Facility-3 with the Boeing Company to manufacture and test the company’s Crew Space Transportation (CST-100) spacecraft, creating up to 550 jobs along the Space Coast. The 15-year use permit with Space Florida is the latest step Kennedy is making as the center transitions from a historically government-only launch complex to a multi-user spaceport.

Across NASA, scientists, engineers and – yes – new classes of astronauts, are preparing for a future in space at destinations where we’ve never been, marking new achievements in human history as we develop ever more capabilities to do the big things for which NASA is known. It’s going to be a great ride.

Small Business Good for NASA and for America

Earlier today at an awards ceremony in Herndon, Virginia, I got a chance to recognize the men, women and companies that have made outstanding contributions to NASA’s indispensable partnership with small business. The Fourth Annual NASA Small Business Symposium and Awards Ceremony was a two-day event, providing opportunities for small businesses to network and learn about NASA programs and initiatives, while recognizing outstanding individuals and companies that support the agency’s small business program. Awards were presented to both NASA civil servants and large and small businesses that were instrumental in NASA awarding $4.3 billion to small businesses in FY 2011. This represented 17.9 percent of NASA contracting and exceeded our goal for 2011.

Small businesses are not only crucial to NASA’s trailblazing achievements in space exploration; they are the backbone of the American economy. As the wheels of our economy continue to pick up speed, it is important to remember that small business is the engine that is getting us moving again. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), small firms have generated 65 percent of net new jobs over the past 17 years. And federal procurement for women, minority and veteran-owned small businesses are a big part of that equation.

The Obama Administration understands the importance of this sector and has consistently worked, through SBA loans, technical assistance and numerous tax incentives, to help more small businesses start and grow.

The President’s American Jobs Act would do even more. It would cut the payroll tax in half for 98 percent of businesses. The President’s plan would completely eliminate payroll taxes for firms that increase their payroll by adding new workers or increasing the wages of their current workers. It would also extend 100% expensing into 2012 and put in place reforms and regulatory reductions to help entrepreneurs and small businesses access capital.

NASA shares the Administration’s strong commitment to the small business community and I am proud of what we have done under the leadership of our Associate Administrator in the Office of Small Business Programs, Glenn Delgado, to move the ball forward.

There will be new opportunities to work with small business partners as NASA takes its next big leap into deep space exploration. As a result of our focus on developing a new Space Launch System that will be capable of taking our astronauts into deep space, we are turning over transport of astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station and other low earth destinations to commercial crew partners. We also have an ambitious slate of upcoming science missions and we are continuing our aeronautics work to build the Next Generation Air Transportation System. All of this means jobs for the American people and new opportunities for small business. Congratulations to all this year’s Small Business Award winners. I look forward to strengthening and expanding our partnerships in the year ahead.