Press Release

Space Shuttle Mission to International Space Station Demonstrates Missed Opportunities

By SpaceRef Editor
September 6, 2000
Filed under

As the Space Shuttle lifts off to
on a
mission to activate the long-awaited International Space Station (ISS),
Space Frontier Foundation today calls for a re-examination of the idea
making space stations out of the External Tanks that are thrown away
Shuttle missions.

“As the Shuttle ascends to orbit today to work on a space station built
hold four or so people, it will throw away the equivalent of a small
building,” said Foundation President Rick N. Tumlinson. “This will be
99th of these giant structures to be wasted. Ironically, instead of
just being Mir and the infant ISS in space, there could have been 99
space platforms by now. And it could all have been done at little tax
cost – through recycling.”

The 10-story tall Space Shuttle External Tanks (ETs) are currently flown
over 95% of orbital velocity and then deliberately re-entered to burn up
the atmosphere, as NASA has no plan for their use. However, the concept
taking the ETs all the way into orbit and using them in space has been
since the mid 1970s. Interest in the scientific and technical community
to the point where the National Commission on Space in 1986, Congress in
and 1988, and President Reagan in 1988 directed NASA to make the ETs
available to entrepreneurs in the late 1980s. NASA signed Memoranda of
Understanding in 1987, 1989, 1992 to provide ETs to the External Tanks
Corporation (ETCO) of Boulder CO and Global Outpost Inc. of Las Cruces,

“An ET-based platform was even proposed as a low-cost alternative to the

current ISS in 1993,” said Foundation ET Applications Project Manager
Gimarc, author of one of the seminal studies on the subject for the
Studies Institute (SSI). “The ET offers unique opportunities for orbital

applications, and after a few years of relative quiet, the concept is
back as
a low cost way to fly large commercial platforms in space. After all,
the goal of NASA to encourage the use of space beyond its own airlocks?”

Further information on the use of ETs in orbit, including congressional
reports, can be found at the Foundation’s Web site The potential
of ETs and other innovative space concepts will be discussed at the
Frontier Foundation’s 9th annual conference being held October 19-22,
at the Manhattan Beach Marriott, located near Los Angeles International
Airport, CA. For more information on the conference, see or call 1-800-78SPACE. The
registration rate is $80 through September 15, $100 through October 15,
$120 at the door. Student and Conference package rates are available.
hotel accommodations, call the Manhattan Beach Marriott at 310-546-7511.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Media covering the event are welcome to attend the
conference free of charge. To request a press badge, please call our
toll-free number or send email to

SpaceRef staff editor.