Boldly going ... where exactly again?
April 6, 2010 10:28 PM Subscribe
Compromise emerging for NASA's spaceflight future
Since the announcement was made last month of the cancellation of Constellation (NASA's plan for returning to the Moon and Mars), the punditsphere has been ablaze with condemnation, support, and outright confusion over the future of American manned spaceflight. Keith Cowling, editor of the Nasawatch.com blog, has posted an interesting new development
that if proven right, could prove to be a compromise between those wanting NASA to get out of manned spaceflight altogether and those seeking to keep the administration in the spaceflight business.
According to Cowling's sources (which are usually very spot-on), the main points of the consensus are starting to emerge:
Ares 1 and 5 (the parts of Constellation that involved building new rockets to lift a capsule and cargo into orbit) stay canceled.
Orion (the capsule-like CEV or Crew Exploration Vehicle) is built, but in a "Lite" configuration whose primary function will be to ferry people to and from the International Space Station.
Funding and R&D for the development of a commercial space infrastructure (e.g., SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Bigelow, etc.) would remain unchanged.
The planned retirement of the space shuttle fleet will be delayed and stretched out to about two flights per year while
Stretched-out shuttle operations will allow a rapid implementation and development of a so-called Shuttle-C ("Sidemount") heavy-lift vechicle. This is basically the same system as the current shuttle stack (orbiter, external tank, solid rocket boosters) only with the orbiter replaced by a cargo carrier. Shuttle-C will carry cargo to the space station, but no crew.
Watch for announcements and developments at a NASA Summit scheduled to be held April 15.