Despite a recent surge in concerns about the technical problems of the proposed Space Station Freedom (SSF), 64 senators have signed a letter supporting NASA and urging full funding for the project.
The letter, dated Aug. 14, was sent to Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that funds the space agency. It takes a more optimistic view of the station's well-being than many in the space community have been voicing lately.
"NASA and its contractors are confident that the SSF design that is emerging from the preliminary design process meets the commitment made to Congress and the American public for a versatile, safe manned laboratory in space, within current cost and schedule forecasts," said the letter written by Sen. Howell Heflin (D-Ala.), whose state is home to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.
In the last month, as the controversial project proceeded through its preliminary design phase, station officials learned that the design weighs too much, supplies too little power and requires far more maintenance work by astronauts than anticipated.
Some Capitol Hill insiders have been predicting a significant funding cut for the orbital facility, which is being built by the United States in partnership with Canada, the European Space Agency and Japan. Total U.S. costs for the station are projected to be between $30 billion and $40 billion.