Status Report

AIP FYI #118: Senate Appropriations Committee Language on NASA Space Flight

By SpaceRef Editor
September 12, 2003
Filed under , ,

As reported in FYI #117, the Senate Appropriations Committee has
passed its FY 2004 spending bill for NASA, S. 1584. Not
surprisingly, much of the language on NASA in the accompanying
committee report (S. Rpt. 108-143) deals with the report of the
Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), and NASA’s plans to
return the space shuttle to flight. Selected portions of the report
relating to the CAIB’s findings, and NASA’s Space Flight
Capabilities, are highlighted below. The full report is available
at .

“NASA is at a crossroad in its history. Because of the tragic loss
of the Shuttle Columbia, the Committee believes that both the
Congress and NASA must make a renewed commitment to safety as the
highest priority in the NASA budget…. We know more about the
Columbia tragedy now that the Columbia Accident Investigations Board
[CAIB] has issued its final report. The findings are disturbing but
provide a foundation for NASA to assess and institute the
substantial reforms that must be made to make a return to flight
both safe and successful.”

“NASA’s existing budget profile already maps out an aggressive role
for the United States in both manned and unmanned space exploration.
However, the potential out-year costs are substantial and will
likely be very difficult to sustain. This difficulty will be
compounded further by whatever NASA proposes in the way of reforms
and investments in response to the final findings of the CAIB. In addition, the Committee believes that there must be a renewed commitment to a replacement of the Shuttle as the primary vehicle for manned space flight. While this commitment may begin with an increased investment and new timetable for the Orbital Space Plane [OSP], the Committee understands that
NASA sees the OSP, not as a shuttle replacement, but as a crew
return vehicle from the ISS in times of emergency and as a crew and
supply transport vehicle otherwise…and the Committee directs NASA
to include plans and benchmarks for the replacement of the Space
Shuttle as part of its comprehensive plan in response to the CAIB.”

SPACE SHUTTLE: “The Committee believes there is no higher priority
than improving the safety and reliability of the remaining Shuttle
orbiters…. The future of the ISS [International Space Station],
and other U.S. manned space flight missions for the rest of the
decade are contingent upon having a working Shuttle fleet that is as
safe as possible…. The Committee notes that prior to the Columbia
accident, both the Shuttle and the supporting infrastructure were
expected to need substantial investments in future years in order to
maintain the integrity of the Shuttle program. Now that the CAIB has
released its final findings, it is expected that NASA will establish
an aggressive schedule and provide sufficient resources to upgrade
Shuttle hardware and supporting infrastructure in fiscal year 2004
and beyond.”

“Due to the uncertainty of how NASA intends to implement the final
CAIB recommendations for the return to flight of the Shuttle, the
Committee recommends that funding for the Shuttle be $3,968,400,000,
the same as the level within the request of the administration. This
will allow NASA to have funds readily available to make a return to
flight as soon, and as safely as possible…. NASA may seek
additional funds by transfer from the ISS funds within this [Space
Flight Capabilities] account.”

INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION: “The International Space Station [ISS]
was expected to reach a significant milestone in February of 2004 of
core complete…. Instead of reaching core complete, the ISS is now
being regularly transported by and supplied through Russian built
Progress and Soyuz capsules. While these capsules are capable to
transport both crew and supplies, the Committee is concerned that
reliance on these vehicles, while not optimal, may have to continue
for an extended time into the future…. The Committee also is
concerned about the present situation aboard the ISS which involves
a 2 person crew with approximately 120 hours a week of availability
for activities… [leaving] only 9 hours a week available to the
crew for continuing to support prioritized science activities….
As soon as the Shuttle is available to provide access to the ISS,
the Committee is adamant that NASA provide the Committee with a plan
detailing the steps necessary to reach US Core Complete, as well as
the outyear costs associated with the revised schedule.”

ORBITAL SPACE PLANE: “The Committee understands that the role of the
OSP [Orbital Space Plane] is to provide a crew return capability
from the ISS by approximately 2010. Once this occurs, it will then
evolve into a complement to the Shuttle for taking crew into space,
and will enable a transition path to future reusable launch vehicle
systems. It is expected that the OSP program will provide the
opportunity to support crew transport to and from space by 2012. It
is clear to the Committee that some type of vehicle will be
necessary to supplement the aging Shuttle fleet, and that such a
vehicle should be made available as quickly, and as safely as

“The Committee is skeptical that the OSP is the only approach for
NASA to move astronauts to and from the ISS…. NASA should not
limit itself to RLV technology alone, but should also explore other
future options for servicing the ISS in light of the loss of
Columbia….. The Committee does not want to repeat the mistakes of
the Space Station, where poor management and lack of independent
oversight resulted in major cost overruns, to occur with the Orbital
Space Plane. Therefore, the Committee directs the Administrator to
create an independent oversight committee…. The Administrator
shall use available funds within the Science, Aeronautics and
Exploration account to provide sufficient resources for this
Commission this fiscal year.”

Audrey T. Leath

Media and Government Relations Division

The American Institute of Physics

[email protected]

(301) 209-3094

SpaceRef staff editor.