The ongoing debate on whether NASA should adopt a shuttle-derived or EELV-derived approach for a future heavy-lift launch vehicle (HLLV) or CEV launch vehicle has made its way into the FY06 Defense Department appropriations bill, according to a report in Thursday’s Deseret News. The Salt Lake City newspaper reported that Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) “also inserted language that instructs the Department of Defense and NASA to look into the benefits of a shuttle-based flight system into space, as opposed to other systems that are not as proven or capable.” I skimmed through both the text of the appropriations legislation and the appropriations committee report and could not find this particular provision.
The article also includes this quote from Bishop’s spokesman: “ATK-Thiokol believes this study will vindicate the shuttle system for which they build boosters, as opposed to other more expensive, less capable heavy lift boosters.” ATK Thiokol, of course, manufactures the shuttle’s solid rocket boosters and has a keen interest in shuttle-derived systems. It’s also a major Utah employer, hence the interest from the Utah congressman. There are already a number of studies in progress in this area, including one said to be completed soon by the Congressional Budget Office.