On the recently hot topic of shuttle extension, I recommend that people review the comments to yesterday’s post on the topic, where shuttle program manager John Shannon has provided his insights to clarify what’s been reported on the topic. In addition, David Radzanowski, deputy associate administrator for program intergration in the Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD), discussed shuttle extension during a panel session at yesterday’s Goddard Memorial Symposium in Greentbelt, Maryland, alongside the heads of the Aeronautics, Science, and Exploration Systems directorates.
“SOMD believes that if the nation told us to extend the space shuttle, we could do it technically,” he said. “But the reality is that we can do anything if we’re given enough money and enough workforce.” He said that “enough money” would be “well over $2.5 billion a year” to keep flying the shuttle. “That additional money would probably have to come from their directorates,” he said, referring to his fellow panelists. “It’s highly unlikely in the budget environment that we’re in that we’re going to get additional dollars.”
He also noted that not everyone agreed that flying the shuttle beyond the remaining four missions was wise. “Our own Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel has essentially said that they don’t support extending the shuttle beyond its current manifest. Essentially they said that the point to make the decision to extend the shuttle has passed.”
“If we’re directed to do so, and if the money actaully shows up, and if we bring the workforce and the suppliers onboard that we need to move forward, there would still be a two- to three-year gap between the last flight and the new additional flights,” he concluded. “That’s just the way it is, folks, that’s the way it is because it takes us that long to build an external tank.”