Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Presidential Panel Ponders Shuttle Extension

A presidential panel is reviewing an option to extend the shuttle program through 2014, significantly reducing an anticipated five-year gap in U.S. human spaceflight.

The option is one of three that the panel -- dubbed the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee -- presented during a public hearing in League City, Texas, which is located near NASA's Johnson Space Center.

The other options:

++Retire the shuttle fleet as planned near the end of 2010.

++Add one additional shuttle mission and keep flying the shuttle through 2012.

Former NASA astronaut Sally Ride said the option to extend shuttle flights through 2014 is "the most realistic way to significantly reduce the gap" while taking advantage of the full capabilities of the International Space Station.

Ride said extending shuttle fleet operations through 2014 would enable the U.S. to retain a critically skilled work force that has taken decades to establish.

The option would only make sense if NASA developed a shuttle-derived heavy-lift vehicle for future missions beyond Earth orbit, Ride said. That implies NASA would not proceed with the development of its planned Ares V heavy-lift launcher.

The panel also will present the White House with options to extend the life of the International Space Station beyond 2015. Panel members indicated options passed on to the White House will include options to operate the station at least through 2020 if not longer.

Then-President George Bush in January 2004 put NASA on ccourse to complete the International Space Station and retire the shuttle fleet by the end of September 2010.

NASA at the time was directed to develop a new spaceship for astronauts by 2014 and then return Americans to the moon by 2020.

NASA is developing the Ares I and Ares V rockets along with an Apollo-style Orion space capsules to meet those goals.

NASA now has seven shuttle missions left on its books, the last of which is scheduled to launch in September of 2010. Ride said the panel did an analysis that showed the last flight is more likely to slip to March 2011 and that the Obama Administration and NASA should budget accordingly. She estimated that the additional cost in 2011 would be about $1.5 billion.

The second option -- adding one mission and flying shuttle through 2012 -- would cost $4.2 billion. This option was chosen because NASA now will have only one external tank available after the currently planned final mission.

The panel did not provide a cost estimate for the third option -- flying one to two shuttle missions per year through 2014.


Anonymous said...

What is the shuttle for? To build the space station.

What is the space station for? To give the shuttle something to do.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if MAF is still geared to manufacture an external fuel tank? How many are there on hand now in inventory?

Just out of curiousity, does anyone know what're the most troublesome parts to manufacture anew now that the logistics chain for this program has been scrapped?

Is it even possible to put together more shuttle launches?

Anonymous said...

Finally, someone that really understands.. Thank you Dr Ride... We the people of the space shuttle era really appreciate the acknowledgement that we "do have value" to the Nations science programs.. We the people of the space shuttle program are a national asset that can not be replaced over night like a broken piece of equipment...

Extending the program to 2014 will do the following:

Give us the time to train and transfer our knowledge to the younger generation that will replace us..

Show the next generation that the employees are supremely valuable to the success of any program and that they will have a long career and security when they need it most as they get older..

The current plan sends a very bad messages to the next generation of space workers, it says they can be ditched at any time, they can spend all their good working years just to have the rug pulled from under them..

Give them a future and the confidence to be apart of it by taking care of your work force today... and I am NOT talking about the NASA work force.. were talking about the contractor employees...

Good Job Sally Ride!!! hope they take your suggestion to heart.. maybe more importantly, Mr Obama.. here out plea...

Anonymous said...

These shuttles are old. They have served us well, beyond expectations. But now their age is starting to show, and every additional launch makes each mission more dangerous then the previous one.


Anonymous said...

The MAF has been turned over to Jacobs Engineering.. 2 weeks ago.. the tooling and materials for the ET are still there.. the employees would have to be rehired and a new contract extended.. but doable...

CLR4theApproach said...

Having worked the program since day one.. I can tell you that the shuttles ARE NOT old as the press wants to tout.... they were each built for 100 flights each.. EACH>> like any aircraft they need and have received periodic maintainance.. they are all ungraded to current glass cockpit technowledgy.. newer systems through out.. these machines can go on for a long time...

I ask that those less informed to please do your own research on the topic.. and stop repeating the tired old line spued by the media so they can seell more advertising..

Anonymous said...

What would the shuttle missions be during this time frame?? Would they be legitamate or just a high $$ jobs program?? I love the space program and have family and friends at the cape. But to just keep the shuttle flying to keep people employeed is nuts.

Anonymous said...

Todd, what are you talking about? This is EXACTLY the path to Ares V (or something similar to Direct). It certainly means the death of Ares I. Ares V, on the other hand, could be used, in pairs, to launch the CEV plus lunar base/cargo, etc. for a lunar mission or multiples could be launched to build a ship in orbit and go to Mars. The death of Ares I is almost certain but a Ares V class vehicle (with some redesigning) sounds doable.

As for Ares I, Dr. Augustine has entered the room, the family has gathered, and his hand is on the plug.

Anonymous said...

The STS program (Shuttle) technically had one more scientific flight that would have included Cupola, but that window modlue got bumped up. The last flight added would be the scientific payload/mission to the ISS that may have ended up on that scratched flight.

One thign is what happened to late 90s idea of possibly leasing experiment time and flight to industry to the ISS after 2015? It would be a great way to support the existing COTS program with Space-X if Falcon 9 and Dragon work, and give it worthwhile goals. We ahve seen how commerical flight has somewhat helped the Russain program. The ISS by then would be fully operational, have helped NASA understand long term space exposure, and provided a platform for future NASA experiemnts. Yet, opening it up to some short (3 month) COTS flights os private industry would benefit the various space programs involved in ISS.

The one thing the article is not clear on, and I will research is fly what into 2012? If we added one more misson if could be done in 2011 even is the current last mission slips into March 2011. Dr. Ride comments on how it would be $4.2 billion to fly into 2012. Yet, like I stated an eighth flight could be ready for late Summer, early Fall 2011.

I know some of the Constellation Office personnel have bene packing up the KSC office. Ares I is, I am sorry but not sad to say, a loss. It was money, job,s and technology that could have been spent putitng more emphasis on a heavy lift vehicle.

By the way another report is due in August....I have heard some may be happy, others........to do more packing.

jumbonav said...

Um, in case you don't know it, the purpose of the Ares V is to carry the Altair lunar/martian lander and the Earth departure stage to couple with the Orion capsule which will likely be launched on the Ares I. The testing for Ares I is still ongoing until the administrator says it isn't. Much R&D funding and time has gone into the Ares I and I guarantee, Ares I-X will launch. I'm not a proponent/opponent of Ares I, just an interested, non-partisan person.

Anonymous said...

Please keep the program! That's all i have to say! Many people may not believe in it, but if you just took the time to understand and see you would think differently! God Bless!!!!

Gaetano Marano said...

in my September 15, 2005 article (and on several space forum and blogs) I've already suggested to MODIFY the Shuttle fleet to fly (also) CREWLESS:
in the article I've said things like: "without risks for crews the life of the three old Shuttles will be extended for 10+ years instead of throw them in a trash can after next 19 flights"
later, in my December 9, 2006 article, I've suggested to change the Shuttle design to be SAFER for the crew if something goes wrong:
and in my April 25, 2007 article I've suggested to use the (modified and safer) Shuttle to launch (also) a resized and redesigned Orion
so, the question (that I ask to myself) is: "do I predict the future?" ... :-)

Anonymous said...

Here's to Obama making the right decision and setting NASA on a course that retains America's leadership in Space.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who cannot comprehend what the shuttle or space station are for please check out http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html and get educated. This is one of many sites that list all the ways the space program has benefited mankind.
As for the shuttles and their age, it's called preventative maintenance. Every flow the bird is refurbed. She is still the most useful, practical space vehicle ever made.
As for the future vehicle, Jupiter is the only way to go. One vehicle that does it all. Because it is shuttle derived it can be flying by 2012 (no gap, no loss of skill) and the skills possessed by the current employees will be needed with little modification and retraining. It is the safest and cheapest design for the last 30+ years even though it is as flashy as the others. It's practical and conservative and exactly what we need to fly an research for decades to come. Here's hoping the government will make a smart decision for once!

Anonymous said...

Yes there is tank 139 still sitting in tooling. Everything was stopped so as to facilatate moving on to the next tool. I do not know about other tanks, except that there are panels in house to work with. There is more to a tank than panels.This is from MAF.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who actually thinks the shuttles are old are stupid and easly brain washed by the news media. Shuttles are not ford cars that you drive, they have been updated with new technology the entire time they have been in service. Space Shuttle Endeavour was placed into service in 92. It makes it 17 years old. Cars are made from junk, Space shutles are made from high tech advances in metal, ect. If you ever have flown before, most likely you flew on a jet that is 50 years or older and they are still flying. Im not sure why, but our news media plays mind games on the American public. I guess anything to sell a paper these days. Learn about the Shuttle, America is LUCKY to have it!

Anonymous said...

The shuttles are national treasures, but it is time to move on. The Space Shuttle program eats about 80% of the agency's budget. If it does keep flying you can guarantee there will be very few flights because only two orbiters could possibly be flying. This also means cutting the contractor workforce by 1/3. No where in the USA are people giving a 6 year notice. Some are lucky if they get 2 weeks. We need to move on to new technology and encourage new forms of human space flight. There is no way our continuing to fly the shuttles are going to benefit the future generations of graduates. They need new frontiers and all need to encourage their growth.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could sell something for $40 million that doesn't have passenger seats, crew quarters, or even an engine, and can have defects like bad connectors and misaligned vents with no warranty claims, just a here it is, if it's not right you fix it.

Anonymous said...

Yes,parts of 139 are laid out around in building 103. Laid-off all but three production welders.WSA1,2,3 look like a ghost town right now. All work is being done in Final Assy,VAB And 420.

Mark Lopa said...

The space shuttle was built and named for one thing...to shuttle back and forth to and from a space station. It was initially going to be Skylab, but now it's the ISS. It would be cruely ironic that the shuttle would miss meeting it's ultimate goal of going back and forth to a completed space station by one mission. Extend the shuttle program so it can do it's job, so people will stay employed, and the work force that is in place with all that experience stays put. Once that's gone, it's gone.

Oh yes...do we really want to rely on hitch a ride to ISS with the Russians? I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

We're being forced into this either/or debate because of funding.

The fact of the matter is that we need a Shuttle-like technology for the "space truck" missions such as servicing Hubble and other maintenance work.

But we also need an Apollo/Ares-like technology to go to the Moon and Mars.

I hope the Augustine Panel will reach that conclusion. I certainly intend to say so if permitted to speak at tomorrow's hearing.

Anonymous said...

I am sad to say, but America's best days are behind it. Just gimme my free Healthcare.

If you live in Brevard and don't understand the importance of the Space Program there is nothing I can do to explain it to you.

Anonymous said...

For those who think the space shuttle is ‘old’, consider the B-52 is 50 years, and still flying. The B-1, 23 years old, and the F-4 Phantom, 50 years old. Not to mention the commercial jet aircraft still in use by various airlines around the world that fall into the same age range as the examples I just mentioned.

Designing and engineering aircraft and spacecraft is not easy, and it involves ensuring they are capable of flying through the environment they are designed for without breaking apart. Add to this the requirement to make sure they can fly for many years so we can get some value for our monetary investment, and it adds another element to the level of complexity involved in getting things like aircraft and spacecraft off the ground in the first place.

Aircraft are rigorously maintained, including jets used by the airlines, to ensure the can stand up to the stresses and strains associated with flying through the air. They are often upgraded with the newest technologies when possible to make them even safer, more efficient, etc, etc.

The space shuttle was designed to withstand the physics associated with launch, exiting the Earth’s atmosphere to reach orbit, and then re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere when it comes back. This was/is not a trivial undertaking, and it is one of the most, if not the most, complicated flying vehicles human beings have ever created.

Human space flight, in particular the space shuttle and space station program, are both excellent testimonies to what can be achieved by human beings from around the planet when we come together to work on solving a common goal – for the benefit of all mankind.

As human beings, imagine what could be achieved if we approached all problems like this instead of sitting around complaining about a certain problem being ‘someone else’s problem to solve’, and waiting for it to be magically solved.