NASA authorization boosts Hamilton, Pratt projects

WINDSOR LOCKS - The NASA Authorization Act signed into law on Oct. 11 by President Barack Obama is good news for Hamilton Sundstrand, company spokesman Dan Coulom said Tuesday.

The legislation directs NASA to "continue the development of a government-led Space Launch System and leverage the development work done on the Constellation Program's Orion crew capsule and Ares I launch vehicle for human space flight to low earth orbit and beyond," Coulom said.

The Space Launch System includes a Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Heavy Lift Launch vehicle that will enable deep space exploration, for which Hamilton will make a variety of environmental and control equipment.

The legislation also directs NASA to continue space suit development activities, Coulom said.

Hamilton Sundstrand is teamed with Lockheed Martin on the Orion crew capsule and is responsible for environmental control and life support, power management and distribution, active thermal control, software development, and space suit life support.

At East Hartford-based Pratt & Whitney, the act is seen as a step forward, according to Pratt spokesman Tyrone Woodyard.

Both Pratt and Hamilton are subsidiaries of United Technologies Corp. Pratt supplies rocket engines for the space shuttle and a host of other NASA programs.

The Houston-based Coalition for Space Exploration called President Obama's signing of the act "another critical step for NASA to achieve a bold and sustainable approach for the future."

Coalition Chairman Glenn Mahone, chairman of the coalition, also said that the new legislation "further acknowledges the interest of the White House and Congress in setting NASA on a clear path to maintain America's leadership in space."

The Coalition for Space Exploration is a group of space industry businesses and advocacy groups that collaborate to lobby for continued advancements in U.S. space exploration.

Part of the reason for the collective sigh of relief on the part of aerospace companies is jobs.

As NASA's space shuttle program winds down toward an expected phase-out in 2011, employees at NASA's suppliers - including Hamilton - are thinking about how to accommodate employees who have worked on the program for decades.

Most of Hamilton's NASA-related activity is in Houston and Windsor Locks, where a combined 1,400 employees are assigned to space systems work, according to company information. About half of those, nearly 700, are in Windsor Locks.

The last shuttle flight is expected by the end of 2011, although the new act could extend the shuttle program.

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