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View Full Version : Extending Shuttle life - McCain's letter to the President



Bearded One
2008-Aug-28, 12:43 AM
I just read this (http://mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=7e6d7fad-ee55-44a8-be6f-93d2619a8a8b), which is a letter from McCain and two other senators to the President concerning the Shuttle, ISS and the new programs.

Basically, they recommend that NASA not do anything that would prevent the Shuttle from operating beyond 2010. They basically argue that the USA must not lose it's human spaceflight capability at any time, meaning the Shuttle cannot be scrapped until a replacement is available.

Sounds like a good idea, though it is based on the political reality that Russia may get mad at us. The details of that are for another forum.

I've been wondering about the best way to keep the Shuttle "simmering" though. No actual flights is a big waste of money for systems upkeep. To many flights raise safety concerns. The purpose of the missions is also an issue. ISS flights are obvious, but what about pure scientific flights?

Sometimes I wonder if we aren't killing the bird in it's prime. :(

clint_dreamer
2008-Aug-28, 06:28 PM
I wouldn't say it's being killed in its prime. The Shuttles are aging, and after the Columbia tragedy I even had my doubts about them being able to fly till 2010. Flying the Shuttles for an additional 5 years (till 2015!) is not the answer to any of NASA's problems. It will however create lots of new ones. I don't mean to sound negative, but I think it's only a matter of time before there is another accident with one of these Shuttles. The Shuttle has proven to be a dependable vehicle, however two major disasters prove that there are flaws, and the Shuttle is more prone to accidents. Losing another orbiter will kill NASA.

When 2010 hits, the Shuttle needs to be retired, and NASA's best efforts need to be put forth to get Orion up and running as quickly as possible. Perhaps the money being given to the Russians could be better utilized elsewhere. I believe the deal was something like $700 million to keep a seat open in Soyuz till 2011, or 2012. I can't help but wonder if that vast forture could be put to better use, and perhaps speed up the progession of the next generation space vehicle. I would gladly trade the one american managing the ant farm on the ISS for the ability to fly Orion a year earlier. Lol.

Swift
2008-Aug-28, 08:44 PM
I think the fundamental issue is cost. There are significant logistics in getting Orion running and keeping the Shuttles. For example, the plan is to convert the Shuttle launch pads to Orion - if you are going to have parallel systems, you probably would need more pads. Can one keep the tooling in the VAB for both systems available at the same time?

I'm sure, if one throws enough money at it, the answers to all those issues are yes. But I seriously doubt that the US will spend that kind of money, particularly given the current budget situation.

JustAFriend
2008-Aug-29, 02:35 AM
We've already lost 2.

IMHO, if we lose even one more the rest will be put into museums immediately.

It's just too much of a risk to keep the 1970 technology going without very expensive rebuilds that will end up costing more than building new vehicles. Even the cost of keeping them sitting in the hanger without a mission is staggering.

....if you ever want to see a Shuttle launch (easy for me, I live two hours from the Cape), you'd better get down here in the next couple of years....

slang
2008-Aug-29, 10:23 AM
I think the fundamental issue is cost. There are significant logistics in getting Orion running and keeping the Shuttles. For example, the plan is to convert the Shuttle launch pads to Orion

If I'm not mistaken this conversion to Orion launchpad configuration is already suffering delay due to the need to have a rescue shuttle available for the Hubble mission. If this is a real physical restraint or budgetary, I don't remember.

Warren Platts
2008-Aug-29, 01:22 PM
I discussed the McCain letter briefly in the thread on replacing the ISS (http://www.bautforum.com/space-exploration/77753-replacing-iss-3.html) (post #67). I'm not trying to hijack this thread, but I will merely point out there is a third option (that can be discussed further in the linked thread): boycott the ISS entirely; retire the shuttle after the Hubble mission; take the money saved and use it to speed up Ares/Orion, and to build a brand new station based on Bigelow Airspace's BA330 design. According to my calculations, a new station with twice the volume of the ISS could be launched on an Ares V for the cost of Skylab or less. No foreign entanglements, and no 54 degree inclination.

KaiYeves
2008-Aug-29, 03:29 PM
....if you ever want to see a Shuttle launch (easy for me, I live two hours from the Cape), you'd better get down here in the next couple of years....
I hope to, next summer!