NASA budget is mixed bag for California's aerospace companies

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The computer system and one of its cameras are seen with the cover removed from Axel, a research prototype rover for exploring the Moon, Mars and other planets, as engineers from Jet Propulsion (JPL) and grad students from Caltech (California Institute of Technology) demonstrate its mobility over the steep and rocky grounds of the JPL Mars Yard on January 14, 2009 in Pasadena, California.

It’s “California Space Week” in Washington, D.C. That’s the annual lobbying trip to Capitol Hill for the state’s space-related industries.

The White House’s new $19 billion budget for NASA eliminates plans to return humans to the moon. Instead, the space agency would focus on climate projects, robotic exploration, and more reliance on commercial spacecraft.

That’s good and bad news for the California space firms that made the D.C. lobbying trip.

The state’s growing private spacecraft industry could be a winner under NASA’s new priorities.

So could Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Robotics and earth science research are JPL’s specialty — and more NASA cash would eliminate the need for layoffs.

But Canoga Park’s Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne would be a loser if there’s no moon trip. It’s building a new booster rocket to propel astronauts to the moon — and it just lost its best customer.

Florida and Texas — hard-hit by the cutback on manned spaceflight — are also lobbying hard to get Congress to restore NASA funding for a manned flights to the moon.

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