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Saturday, 17 July 2010 07:05

NASA gets a step closer to some direction


The Commerce Committee of the U.S. Senate has unanimously approved a $19 billion bill that basically agrees with the earlier White House plan for private space vehicles, a continuation of the International Space Station, and more shuttle flights. A few different directions have been agreed upon, though.

According to the July 16, 2010 Wall Street Journal article 'Senate Panel Backs NASA Space Plan,' President Obama is expected to support the Senate bill, which is called the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010.

The 2010 national space plan was approved by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

It was agreed, through the members of this Senate committee, that a return to the Moon would not be attempted by the United States.

The new plan would implement a plan to outsource the delivery of cargo and astronauts back and forth between space and Earth to private enterprises.

Although such a venture (using private companies instead of NASA to deliver things and people to space) has not been done before, and thus has been hotly debated for months, there are stipulations with its implementation.

For one, in a turnabout, the plan would allow the Space Transportation System (STS), commonly called the space shuttle fleet, to remain active, at least somewhat active.

Page two continues.

At least one additional mission will be scheduled, and another 'contingency' mission will possibly also be targeted through September 30, 2011.

The July 16, 2010 Aviation Week article 'Space Deal Would Allow Shuttle To Continue' states, 'Legislative language directs NASA to develop follow-on space transportation systems 'in a manner that ensures the national capability to restart and refly Space Shuttle missions' beyond the one additional flight in the bill, which would launch no earlier than June 2011.'

The ability to send space shuttles into space will be a backup plan in case private companies are unable to deliver a reliable space transportation system of its own for the United States.

About $1.3 billion is authorized to keep the three space shuttles active through 2013, however, with stipulations that a detail plan be formed between NASA and private companies as to how such commercial vehicles will be built and when they will be expected to become operational.

The bill also authorized approximately $1.2 billion for 'multi-purpose crew vehicles', such as the Orion capsule that was one of the key components of the Constellation program that was earlier nixed by the Obama administration.

A heavy-life rocket is also part of the new bill. Such a rocket will be able to send astronauts to such far-away places as Mars, asteroids, or other destinations in the Solar System.

Page three concludes.

Aviation Week states that NASA is directed '... to renovate the external tank, designated ET-94, that was set aside after the 2003 Columbia accident to serve as a test article while the tank flaws blamed for the accident were corrected. \"

"In its new role ET-94 would be used either on a future shuttle mission or as a skills-building platform for workers transferring to a new heavy-lift booster development program.'

With the passage of the bill by the Senate Committee, its next step is to the full Senate. NASA seems pleased the progress made so far. Lori Garver, the deputy adminstrator for NASA, stated, 'This is way beyond what we had hoped for, the ability to come into agreement with Congress this soon.' [New York Times, next paragraph]

For additional information, please read The New York Times article 'Senate Committee's NASA Plan Cuts Moon Program.'



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