Congress, NASA, White House

Nelson officially begins push for additional shuttle flight

Several hours after the space shuttle Atlantis landed at the Kennedy Space Center, ending its last scheduled flight, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) officially announced he would try to seek one more flight for that orbiter. In a letter to President Obama, Nelson said he would seek to include language for that flight in the NASA authorization bill his subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee is currently drafting. Flying the extra mission would not only allow additional spare parts and other supplies to be flown to the station, it would also “allow us to more smoothly transition the workforce in Florida and Texas from the space shuttle program to the vision you’ve set for NASA’s future.” Nelson emphasized in the letter this would be the only additional shuttle flight he would seek: the summer 2011 mission “would mark the last flight of the space shuttle program.”

Nelson has been seeking to win another shuttle flight for NASA for some time. At the Kennedy Space Center earlier this month for the launch of Atlantis, he talked up the benefits of the additional mission to reporters. “I keep recommending it, and I will keep asking the White House to go ahead and do that,” he said. At the time he also said that his subcommittee hoped to markup a NASA authorization bill by the middle of June.

37 comments to Nelson officially begins push for additional shuttle flight

  • Gary Church

    “Nelson has been seeking to win another shuttle flight for NASA for some time.”

    Not wise. You can only fly so many times before something happens and there are no escape systems. Does one more crew have to die before it is finally realized the damn thing is not an airliner?

  • Robert G. Oler

    It wont happen, no money

    Robert G. Oler

  • I certainly hope it doesn’t happen, it would only eat money for anything useful while giving KSC employees a few extra months of work on a dead end…which was a dead end when the Shuttle cut-off was determined some 6 years ago.

    Oh, and it would be a victory for the bureaucratic mandarins trying to drag their heels and screw up as much of the new programs’ opportunities as they can.

  • Gary Church

    It took 14 dead astronauts for me to understand what a beautifully elegant and efficient design an escape tower and capsule are. Seems like they would given them some kind of escape option but they never did. I read somewhere that before the shuttle they actually did a study on bailing out from orbit using a metal fabric parachute and heat resistant suit for a gradual reentry- and then a real parachute. That would have saved the Columbia crew. And some ejection seats might have saved the Challenger crew, or at least the three they think may have been breathing their emergency oxygen that last 3 minutes of free fall. Why so cheap? I do not get it.

  • There hasn’t been a space shuttle launch accident in 24 years.

    But if people are really concerned about safety then why would they want to send humans on spacecraft designed by amateur rocket makers like Space X?

  • Gary Church

    Hmmm. That’s not what wikipedia says:

    Space Shuttle Columbia (NASA Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV-102) was the first spaceworthy Space Shuttle in NASA’s orbital fleet. First launched on the STS-1 mission, the first of the Space Shuttle program, it completed 27 missions before being destroyed during re-entry on February 1, 2003 near the end of its 28th, STS-107. All seven crew members were killed. Following an independent investigation into the cause of this tragedy, NASA decided to retire the Shuttle orbiter fleet in 2010 in favor of the now cancelled Constellation program and its manned Orion spacecraft.

  • Gary Church

    And do not split hairs about “launch”; the foam damaged the orbiter during launch- I would call that an accident.

  • Major Tom

    “But if people are really concerned about safety then why would they want to send humans on spacecraft designed by amateur rocket makers like Space X?”

    If you’re going to spread lies, at least try not to be a stupid liar. Any idiot can go to the SpaceX website and read the extensive professional backgrounds of any number of SpaceX managers, which include former astronauts, engineers with decades of experience at major aerospace firms, military launch vehicle managers, foreign experts, and patent holders. Here’s a few:

    “KEN BOWERSOX – VICE PRESIDENT OF ASTRONAUT SAFETY AND MISSION ASSURANCE

    Selected to the astronaut corps in 1987, Bowersox has flown five times on NASA’s Space Shuttle, serving as pilot, commander and mission specialist, and once on a Russian Soyuz. Bowersox has logged over 211 days in space, including five and a half months aboard the International Space Station (ISS), where he was the mission commander of the 6th expedition.

    Bowersox also served as the director of the Johnson Space Center’s Flight Crew Operations Directorate and as an independent aerospace consultant, serving on the NASA standing review boards for Space Shuttle, ISS, Constellation, Orion and the Constellation Suit System.”

    “TOM MUELLER – VICE PRESIDENT OF PROPULSION DEVELOPMENT

    Mr. Mueller has a track record as one of the world’s foremost rocket engine designers… Before being recruited to SpaceX, Mr. Mueller spent 14 years at TRW where he ran the Propulsion and Combustion Products Department, responsible for all liquid rocket engine activities.

    During his career at TRW, he was the lead engineer for development of the 650,000 lbf thrust LOX/hydrogen engine, which was successfully hot fired at NASA Stennis in the summer of 2000. He has a broad range of rocket engine design, development and testing experience, including all common liquid propellants and many advanced propellants, ranging in thrust from 5 lbf to 650,000 lbf.

    … He has received many awards, including the TRW Chairman’s Award, which is TRW’s most prestigious award for technical achievement and holds several US patents in propulsion technology.”

    “CHRIS THOMPSON – VICE PRESIDENT OF STRUCTURES

    Mr. Thompson… started his career in the Marine Corps before joining McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing), where he successfully managed production of the Delta II, III, and IV, and Titan IV launch vehicles. Mr. Thompson has over 20 years cumulative experience in production and test operations on launch vehicles, spacecraft and aircraft.

    Shortly before joining SpaceX, Chris was given responsibility for all Test and Verification activities at the Boeing Huntington Beach Engineering Labs, which supports all development and qualification tests on Delta II, III, and IV, Titan IV, and Space Station. The T&V activities ranged from structural, dynamic, space simulation, material and mechanical properties, and complete system tests at Huntington Beach and various government test facilities.

    Mr. Thompson has also worked Delta II launch operations at Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base. He also managed the precision inspection, non-destructive test, and Shuttle cryogenic test departments during his tenure at Huntington Beach.”

    “MARV VANDER WEG – VICE PRESIDENT OF EELV CUSTOMER OFFICE

    Vander Weg served as the Director of the Atlas Government Program Office for Lockheed Martin’s (LM) Atlas Program. Through this role, and various other assignments in acquisition and program management at LM, he gained extensive experience with the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, the NRO’s Office of Space Launch, and the NASA-Kennedy launch programs.”

    “DR. HANS KOENIGSMANN – VICE PRESIDENT CHIEF ENGINEER OF AVIONICS, GUIDANCE & CONTROL

    Dr. Koenigsmann has served as head of the Space Technology Division of Germany’s Center for Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM) at the University of Bremen. In that role, he was responsible for the development and operation of the satellite BREMSAT.

    Dr. Koenigsmann then worked for Microcosm as a Chief Scientist and a Flight Systems Manager for their Scorpius sub-orbital launch vehicles, where he led a team that developed the vehicle’s avionics, guidance and control systems, as well as supported the thrust vector control development. For their Space System Division, he developed satellite attitude control systems, using a variety of control concepts, including wheels and magnetic torquers, for which he received a US patent.

    Dr. Koenigsmann has a Ph.D. in Aerospace and Production Technology from the University of Bremen and an M.S. Aerospace Engineering from the Technical University of Berlin.”

    “DR. JEFF WARD – VICE PRESIDENT OF AVIONICS, GUIDANCE & CONTROL

    Prior to joining SpaceX, Dr. Ward served as Managing Director of innovative British satellite developers Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL). At SSTL, he directed 26 satellite missions, including SSTL’s first mission for the European Space Agency. He led the company in 29% average annual turnover growth from £5m to £21m with consistent increases in profitability. His nearly 20 year career at SSTL also included positions as Team Leader, Project Manager and Technical Director.

    Dr. Ward is a Fellow of the Institute of Engineering and Technology. He has a Ph.D. in Satellite Engineering from the University of Surrey and a B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Michigan.”

    spacex.com/company.php#spacex_people

    Don’t make up and spread lies.

    Ugh…

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ May 26th, 2010 at 10:19 pm
    It wont happen, no money

    Robert G. Oler

    It will.

  • Major Tom wrote:

    If you’re going to spread lies, at least try not to be a stupid liar.

    There are certain posts that, when I see whose name is on them, I just keep on scrolling right past them without reading. My time is valuable so I don’t waste it on liars and trolls. I think most people know who those liars and trolls are.

  • DCSCA

    @MajorTom – So, they’ve hired some midlevel engineers and have an astronaut in the front office. Shades of Conestoga 1 back in the early 80s. The most confidence building thing SpaceX can do is stick to an announced launch date and get their rocket off on time. So far, the credentialed staff have shown they can’t beat the clock.

  • amightywind

    Seeing that NASA has been thrown into Chaos by Obamaspace, the wisest course would be to extend the shuttle program for at least 6 flights and 2 1/2 years. I would like to see the shuttle launched and recovered unmanned at least once. A new administration could then implement Constellation.

  • amightywind

    Minor Tom. There sure are a lot of foreigners on that SpaceX team!

  • Bennett

    “My time is valuable so I don’t waste it on liars and trolls.”

    Amen to that.

  • CharlesTheSpaceGuy

    One significant mission could be to put a second modified MPLM on the ISS as a PMM2. Sure, there are things to do between now and then and the schedule would be challenging. But the ISS is very crowded and more volume would be very useful for decades. One thing that we will not be able to do after Shuttle retires is use it’s capability to put an MPLM on ISS. More work could enable us to launch one as a stand alone payload but that would probably be more expensive than just flying another Shuttle flight.
    For amightywind – hmm foreigners in the program??? Keep those darn Germans out, right?? What would Werner Von Braun think, letting those foreigners into our programs!!!

  • The most confidence building thing SpaceX can do is stick to an announced launch date and get their rocket off on time. So far, the credentialed staff have shown they can’t beat the clock.

    SpaceX has no more control over the range than any other user. Stop flaunting your ignorance.

  • Vladislaw

    wind wrote:

    “the wisest course would be to extend the shuttle program for at least 6 flights and 2 1/2 years. ”

    It has been stated by NASA officials it would take a minimum of two years before the first new external tank was built and they can finish a new one every 2 months. So you propose they fly 6 times in 6 months?

  • Major Tom

    “@MajorTom – So, they’ve hired some midlevel engineers”

    Engineers who have won an aerospace major’s highest award, who hold patents, and/or who have 20+ years of experience are not “midlevel [sic]“.

    “and have an astronaut in the front office.”

    ATK has many (most with many fewer flights and less time in space). So do the astronautic divisions at most aerospace majors.

    Your point?

    “Shades of Conestoga 1 back in the early 80s.”

    Which successfully launched in 1982.

    Your point?

    “The most confidence building thing SpaceX can do is stick to an announced launch date and get their rocket off on time. So far, the credentialed staff have shown they can’t beat the clock.”

    SpaceX’s “credentialed staff” have no control over USAF launch range clearance processes.

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    “Minor Tom.”

    Yes, jabs about other posters’ screennames are so effective when they come from a poster whose screenname is the title of a mockumentary about lame folk music.

    “There sure are a lot of foreigners on that SpaceX team!”

    Are you claiming that they’re not naturalized citizens or lack the necessary work visas?

    Be careful with the libel, genius.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    FWIW, I don’t think that STS-135 is practical using a minimum crew and a Soyuz rescue option (not that this would be available soon enough). If money is not available to make the LWT in storage ready to be used for an LON-336 rescue mission then, IMHO at least, STS-135 is a planning non-starter.

    That’s a pity really because I suspect that, in a few years, ISSP will be wishing that it happenend.

  • common sense

    If and only if it is safe so to speak or let’s say not less safe than usual then Nelson might get an extra flight. He will acknowledge he is responsible for it and take all responsibilities if something happens and that’ll be that. The WH will have given him what he wanted: A NASA Admin of his choice and an extra flight.

  • anon

    The last shuttle flight should abandon the Atlantis at ISS.

    Use it as extra volume.

    whenever it becomes too unsafe, jettison it.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Ben Russell-Gough wrote @ May 27th, 2010 at 10:57 am

    aside from the safety, cost, and whatever deal we have to work out with Ivan…the question comes what would an additional flight do?

    Another ninja turtle taken up might be nice but it would take money for the conversion…

    what would it carry? Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ May 27th, 2010 at 7:17 am

    the date slippage will all be twaddle when the thing flies successfully. really ask the Dreamliner folks

    Robert G. Oler

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    @ Robert Oler

    What would it take?

    Well, considering that STS-134 was the last flight under a plan that called for ISS retirement in 2015, I am willing to bet that there might be an awful lot of stuff that would be needed to extend the station’s life to 2020 and beyond. Maybe CRS will be on-stream in time and with sufficient capability to remedy that issue but maybe not. Given that the ISS is all she wrote for US HSF for a while… why take the risk?

    I’m not advocating this. From my previous post on the subject I hope that I made it clear that it is questionable whether it is doable. However, there is a case to make the effort. NASA’s approach to maintaining the ISS post-Shuttle has been and remains somewhat chaotic, IMO.

  • Gary Church

    “The last shuttle flight should abandon the Atlantis at ISS.

    Use it as extra volume.

    whenever it becomes too unsafe, jettison it.”

    That is an AWESOME idea! Why not convert the cargo bays on all of them and send them all up there? Did you think of that Anon? Very exciting. That would be worth some extra flights sending them up with just a pilot or two.

  • Gary Church

    Could they rip the wings off and strip them down without a heat shield, landing gear etc? Maybe the cargo bays would go up full for once.

  • Gary Church

    Could they take the ET’s all they way to the ISS? Take the stuff out of the for once full cargo bays and intall them in the ET’s. The ISS would be a real space station then. With the remaining orbiter cargo bays made airtight with an inflatable kit after unloading their payload into the ET’s to make them into compartments, it would be HUGE! That is a plan, let’s do it.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    Gary Church asks if they could take the ETs all the way to the ISS.

    I’m no expert but from what I know I’d say: “Er… no. Definately not.” The first big problem is the ET’s insulation. After a while, it starts shedding, creating a cloud of potentially hazardous debris. I’m pretty sure that the safety team would be wary of allowing such stuff near the ISS.

    The next big problem is moving it with sufficient accuracy to be safe near the ISS. The ET doesn’t have any manoeuvring or attitude control system of its own, so an orbiter would have to act as a tug. I’m not sure if the orbiter’s flight control system could compensate for its dead weight and off-axis mass.

    The final and fatal blow for this idea is that there is no way to get an ET-based cargo container into orbit unless you build a wide-body HLV and that would take three to five years, best case.

  • Gary Church

    Yeah- that darn insulation. Hate it.

  • DCSCA

    @RandSimberg- apparently your engineering arrogance is blissfully full of excuses. How serene. Naturally experienced managers in the profit-driven private sector corporate world know how critical sticking to schedules can be. Perhaps you don’t. Time is money. But then SpaceX ain’t Fedex, is it. Blaming the Air Force for SpaceX’s own repeated delays (technical or otherwise) and launch date slippages is an inconvenient truth for Musk boosters. The AF ate their homework. Of course if it constructed its own launch facilities like a truly private-enterprised company, AF clearences to launch from a taxpayer-funded, refurbished AF launch pad wouldn’t be a problem. But the best of luck to them whenever they finally start rocketing into the Space Age with all the thrill of a missile launch, circa 1958.

  • DCSCA

    “The last shuttle flight should abandon the Atlantis at ISS. Use it as extra volume. Whenever it becomes too unsafe, jettison it.”

    If there are no major engineering or operational drawbacks (which there probably are regarding propellents, stability, consumables, etc.,) that would be an idea worth considering with a number of creative options. Probably a better fate than Buran. But then there’s that $28 million NASA can get for a used Orbiter. (Atlantis, built for 100 flights, only 32 made- low mileage, heater, radio blackwall tires-easy payments.)

  • Major Tom

    “Blaming the Air Force for SpaceX’s own repeated delays (technical or otherwise) and launch date slippages is an inconvenient truth for Musk boosters. The AF ate their homework.”

    Falcon 9 has been ready to launch for weeks now. SpaceX is only waiting on USAF approval of the flight termination plan. SpaceX has no control over military officers’ schedules.

    Don’t make stuff up.

    “Naturally experienced managers in the profit-driven private sector corporate world know how critical sticking to schedules can be. Perhaps you don’t. Time is money.”

    That’s why SpaceX is using a USAF range. Better to waste a few weeks’ time waiting on USAF launch approval than waste years and millions of dollars purchasing land for, getting permits for, and constructing a new range out of whole cloth.

    “Of course if it constructed its own launch facilities like a truly private-enterprised company, AF clearences to launch from a taxpayer-funded, refurbished AF launch pad wouldn’t be a problem.”

    This is an ignorant comment. If it wasn’t a USAF range, then the FAA would have jurisdiction and they’d be responsible for approving the flight termination plan. And again, SpaceX would have no control over FAA regulators’ schedules.

    “But the best of luck to them whenever they finally start rocketing into the Space Age with all the thrill of a missile launch, circa 1958.”

    Which is exactly the point. Boring, routine, ETO transportation should be a private sector function so government resources can focus on risky R&D that private sector investment won’t bear.

    Think before you post.

  • I am SO sick and tired of this “We’ve been there already” crap, that we’ve been hearing a lot of lately, with regard to resuming Lunar flights. Look, the West was NOT won, by going to a frontier once, planting a flag, and never ever returning! Think of any great era of exploration & geographical discovery in the past. A new continent or island group was surveyed by a first expedition, or even a few first expeditions, and subsequently this phase was followed by more extensive encampments & prospecting activity. PROJECT CONSTELLATION WILL GET THE BALL ROLLING AGAIN. Obama’s Plan, by contrast, leaves us stranded in Low Earth Orbit for another 15-20 years! Mirror image of what we’ve been doing for the past 40 years: more one-half year space station stays, just like the ones done on Skylab, Salyut, & Mir. A blunt repeat of the “same old way of doing things”. Does not anyone out there see the deception in the Obama Plan: we can’t do the Moon , because men have already been there, but we can keep right on sending them to LEO over & over again, no problem. SOMETHING IS VERY WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    @ Chris Castro,

    I’m no partisan or fan of the Obama space plan. However, the realistic figures for Constellation put Orion/Ares-I in 2018/19 and going BEO at the middle/end of the 2020s. In other words, about the same time-line as the President’s proposals.

    CxP, in its orthodox form, is so expensive that you literally couldn’t afford to do anything with it. That is why the President has missed a chance somewhat. There are options that could have brought the timeline to the ‘left’ somewhat without abandoning CxP, only the Ares Launch System. Instead he has chosen to put everything on ‘pause’ and, possibly, hope that someone comes up with some magical technology (or technologies) that makes it all faster and easier.

  • All that jazz about inventing new technology in the next five years is just ludicrous fantasy! Really, we are going to be in virtually the same state in aerospace engineering in 2015 as we were in 2004! The Ares 5 should be the baseline of what we are looking for, and it could be being funded properly, right now; if it were not for that Fruit-Loop glee club, who keep singing that song: “We’ve been there already”. Ares 5 would’ve been a perfect heavy-lifter; and ironically enough, asteroid missions could later on have been mounted, say to the quasi-satellite NEO, 3753 Cruithne, within a few years of the first Orion-Altair Lunar expeditions getting underway. But NO….the Anti-Moon space lobby could NOT handle that!! Oh NO…..it’s gotta be 100% virgin ground, or we’re NOT ever going near it!! It is precisely Flexible Path which is being INFLEXIBLE here!

  • Gary Church

    “Ares 5 would’ve been a perfect heavy-lifter;”

    I agree with you absolutely Chris that we need a heavy lift vehicle and the Ares V can put some tons up for sure….but it is not perfect. I can see these flaws.

    1. SRBs are not powerful enough. Monolithic SRB’s like Aerojet test fired in the 60′s are far better and would allow a vehicle with a lift-off thrust two to three times that of the Saturn V. Why settle for less? Because Utah needs the business? (ATK’s must be railed in, anything bigger like the aerojet solids are built in shipyards using submarine hull technology and barged to the cape).

    2. No 2nd stage engine return module. The RS-68 is a great engine but we need a hydrogen engine in the same class as the F-1 that is reusable. They can re-enter with their own ablative heat shield.

    3. Wet workshop. The most important part of the whole vehicle is the empty second stage tank; that is what you build spaceships out of.

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