Status Report

Prepared Statement by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher 8 May 2003

By SpaceRef Editor
May 10, 2003
Filed under , ,

“NASA’s Integrated Space Transportation Plan and Orbital Space Plane

Statement of Dana Rohrabacher

Subcommittee on Space & Aeronautics

May 8, 2003

Today’s hearing will examine NASA’s revised Integrated Space Transportation Plan and the Orbital Space Plane. Given NASA’s poor track record on space transportation programs like NASP, X-33, X-34, and more recently SLI, the American people have seen little return from their investment in improving our nation’s launch capabilities. In light of these failures, I welcomed the restructuring of the Space Launch Initiative as a positive step towards making good on the promise of cheap, reliable, and safe access to space. As we begin to peel back the layers, however, NASA’s proposed plan appears to be just another initiative that is long on promises and short on likely results. That simply won’t cut it any more with this subcommittee.

Even in the wake of the Columbia tragedy, NASA continues to view its space transportation requirements through a Space Shuttle prism. For example, for the foreseeable future, NASA has only one U.S.-controlled option for delivering cargo to the ISS, and that is the Space Shuttle. Just last weekend we reduced the Space Station’s crew size from 3 astronauts to 2 because NASA cannot deliver enough water and food to keep 3 people alive. Furthermore, we’re now completely dependent on our European and Russian partners to deliver enough supplies to maintain even this reduced crew. Unbelievably, NASA is sticking by their plan to kill the Alternate Access to Station program, and hoping that the Shuttle’s return to flight will solve this problem… that is until the next crisis.

Further, NASA views the Orbital Space Plane as merely a supplement to the Shuttle. But it is unclear how NASA will pay to develop the Orbital Space Plane while operating the Shuttle, let alone whether NASA can afford to operate both the Orbital Space Plane and Shuttle at the same time. Additionally, NASA has yet to provide a clear picture regarding the strategy, schedule, and costs for the Orbital Space Plane.

Some of us see the Orbital Space Plane and alternative cargo delivery capability as a potential path for early phase-out of the Space Shuttle in order to save lives and money while maximizing the research potential of the Space Station. But NASA’s proposed plan offers little hope in this regard. Apparently, NASA’s space transportation strategy continues to be all things to all people.

I’ve discussed these issues with well-informed individuals like former Senator John Glenn, and I believe, as they do, that NASA must give greater consideration to finding viable, near-term solutions for our immediate space access challenges. NASA should not be spending large sums of money on an uncertain Orbital Space Plane design. We shouldn’t be depending exclusively on foreign partners for ISS re-supply. As Sean O’Keefe would say: Hope is not a strategy. We need a clear and realistic plan that sets priorities and delivers results.

Post-Columbia realities demand that we reject a business as usual approach. Today’s distinguished panel will help us focus our attention on the barriers to achieving safe, reliable, and affordable access to space.

SpaceRef staff editor.