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The debate over NASA's future continues - SpacePod 2010.07.19

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The debate over NASA's future continues... this is your SpacePod for July 19, 2010. Late last week the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee had unanimously approved a new NASA Authorization Act of 2010. Keep in mind that this is not yet law which means it could all change yet again. The bill modifies much of what the Obama administration had proposed for NASA. Sen. Vitter: Secondly, I've made it clear, I thought the Obama administration's announced plans in the last several months were a radical departure from everything NASA has been about and really put at risk our leadership in space in a very fundamental way. This bill completely reverses that course, fundamentally reverses that course and that's why it's so important. Ben: OK, so we have a radical departure of what the White House had proposed for Fiscal Year 2011. What does that actually mean? Vitter: It protects the Orion crew vehicle and ensures that it's fully developed for deep space missions as intended. It includes language directing NASA to begin refurbishment of ET94, an external fuel tank that's particularly important to Michoud in Louisiana. And it most fundamentally requires NASA to move ahead with heavy-lift launch vehicle development immediately and with a clear deadline using existing shuttle and Constellation program parts and technology. Ben: So it sounds like we're not to continue with Ares I or Ares V but we will immediately move to new rocket development. This could end up to be a modified version of the Ares V vehicle or for all we know NASA will decide on a Jupiter DIRECT configuration to utilize old Space Shuttle components or maybe something completely different. At this time we really have no idea how NASA will proceed other than to work within the conditions of the bill. So what restrictions does NASA have to work under for their new rocket design? Sen. Hatch: In order to accomplish this mission, the commerce committee's bill has established certain requirements which the system must meet. After speaking with experts in Utah, it is their conclusion that these requirements can only be realistically accomplished by using solid rocket motors. For example, to build requires a rocket which can lift a payload between 70 and 100 tons and integrate that system with a upper Earth departure stage which will bring the total lift capability of the space launch system to 130 tons or more. Ben: Well that's interesting. Experts in Utah have had written into the bill one of the most controversial parts of the shuttle, the solid rocket fuel. Now, that's not to say that the statements are untrue or that solid fuel can't play a pivotal role, but even from the beginning of the STS program solid fuel has been debated and directly led to the loss of Space Shuttle Challenger. Solid fuel is one of the most dangerous if not *the* most dangerous components of the Space Shuttle system, and that extreme danger will remain for the next generation of NASA rockets. Assuming of course that this is signed in to law. One item that wasn't really a surprise was adding an additional space shuttle flight in the form of STS-135. Sen. Nelson: This bill provides for an additional flight of the space shuttle. That is important because as we complete the space station, we need more supplies and more equipment taken up. There is a shuttle that is already ready to go. It is the one that sits on the second pad for the next two launches. It's called "launch on need" and it is the rescue shuttle were one of the others to get marooned. Ben: Now, while Senator Nelson doesn't come right out and say it, he is talking about Space Shuttle Atlantis which is the Launch On Need vehicle for the current final slated mission of STS-134. That means that if this bill passes, the most powerful, charismatic, energetic and dynamic shuttle ever built would be the one to take the Space Shuttle Program into the sunset. Of course everything is still up in the air. The bill still needs the approval of the full senate, it has to reconcile with legislation from the house and of course President Obama needs to agree with it as well. However, given it's full bi-partisan support it seems like a much better starting place than Obama's proposed Fiscal Year 2011 plan. All of this is moot if we don't have the money to fund the program though. Sen. Hutchison: Well we haven't had a fully-funded space program in the last 20 years, maybe more. I wish that we could fully fund the space program and we could shorten the gap. But, that was not an option, particularly in these times and we have met the Augustine requirements. I think in a much stronger way than had we gone with the President's plan without the congressional input. Ben: We'll see how well this all works out. Let us not forget that the Constellation program was originally designed to use off-the-shelf shuttle components to be faster, cheaper and safer than what we have today. 7 years later, billions of dollars spent and we have a vehicle that was none of those things. Nelson: Utilizing shuttle-derived technology. Building on that, making it evolvable, not building the largest rocket around, but starting in the range of 75 to 100 metric tons. That is evolvable and that would be built over the course of those six years within a budget of $11.5 billion. Now that is doable and if anybody tells you that it is not, then if I were you, I would question their particular agenda. Well, only time will tell. Before we close, I think it's important to understand the meaning behind the bill. Why did the committee not like the Fiscal Year 2011 plan and want to change it? What is the point and what was the vision behind their new plan? To get the big picture, you can watch the full press conference by going to the URL at the bottom of your screen. Nelson: In the process of the President wanting to break out with a new industry that he thinks will be a lot cheaper and it has that capability of human spaceflight. But for purposes of going to and from the space station now so we can utilize this $100 billion investment that we have. Uh, it caused a great deal of angst and different people felt different things about where we were going. Now, remember to keep the conversation going. Not just in the comments on Spacevidcast and YouTube but at the office, around the water cooler. Get people excited and engaged with space again. Sometimes that starts with a simple comment about the space shuttle retiring. The next natural question is, "What will replace it?" How will you answer that question? More at http://www.spacevidcast.com Nelson: The committee cannot tell NASA how to design a rocket. Sen. Bennett: And no matter how you try to create it, you cannot get the capacity to go in that direction without solid rocket motors.

Video Details

Duration: 7 minutes and 43 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 61
Posted by: spacevidcast on Jul 21, 2010

The debate over NASA's future continues... for your SpacePod for July 19, 2010.Late last week the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee had unanimously approved a new NASA Authorization Act of 2010. Keep in mind that this is not yet law which means it could all change yet again. The bill modifies much of what the Obama administration had proposed for NASA.OK, so we have a radical departure of what the White House had proposed for Fiscal Year 2011. What does that actually mean?So it sounds like we're not to continue with Ares I or Ares V but we will immediately move to new rocket development. This could end up to be a modified version of the Ares V vehicle or for all we know NASA will decide on a Jupiter DIRECT configuration to utilize old Space Shuttle components Or maybe something completely different. At this time we really have no idea how NASA will proceed other than to work within the conditions of the bill. So what restrictions does NASA have to work under for their new rocket design? Well that's interesting. Experts in Utah have had written in to the bill one of the most controversial parts of the shuttle remain: the solid rocket fuel. That's not to say that the statements are untrue or that solid fuel can't play a pivotal role, but even from the beginning of the STS program solid fuel has been debated and directly led to the loss of Space Shuttle Challenger. Solid fuel is one of the most dangerous if not *the* most dangerous components of the Space Shuttle system, and that extreme danger will remain for the next generation NASA rocket. Assuming of course that this is signed in to law. One item that wasn't really a surprise was adding an additional space shuttle flight in the form of STS-135While Senator Nelson doesn't come right out and say it, he is talking about Space Shuttle Atlantis which is the Launch On Need vehicle for the current final slated mission of STS-134. That means that if this bill passes, the most powerful, charismatic, energetic and dynamic shuttle ever built would be the one to take the Space Shuttle Program in to the sunset.Of course everything is still up in the air. The bill still needs the approval of the full senate, it has to reconcile with legislation from the house and of course President Obama needs to agree with it as well. However, given it's full bi-partisan support it seems like a much better starting place than Obama's proposed Fiscal Year 2011 plan. All of this is moot if we don't have the money to fund the program though.We'll see how well this all works out. Let us not forget that the Constellation program was originally designed to use off-the-shelf shuttle components to be faster, cheaper and safer than what we have today. 7 years later, billions of dollars spent and we have a vehicle that was none of those things.Only time will tell. Before we close, I think it's important to understand the meaning behind the bill. Why did the committee not like the Fiscal Year 2011 plan and want to change it? What is the point and what was the vision behind their new plan? To get the big picture, you can watch the full press conference by going to the URL at the bottom of your screen.Remember to keep the conversation going. Not just in the comments on Spacevidcast and YouTube but at the office, around the water cooler. Get people excited and engaged with space again. Sometimes that starts with a simple comment about the space shuttle retiring. The next natural question is, what will replace it. How will you answer that question?

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