NASA Provides Update on Return to Flight for the Space Shuttle Fleet

By Keith Cowing
October 29, 2004
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NASA Provides Update on Return to Flight for the Space Shuttle Fleet

A press telecon was held today with NASA Space Operations Mission Directorate Associate Administrator William Readdy, Deputy associate administrator for International Space Station and Space Shuttle Programs Michael Kostelnik, and Walter Cantrell who is co-chair with Readdy of the Space Flight Leadership Council.

According to Readdy, after a 1 October 2005 meeting, the Space Flight Leadership Council said that the previous March 2005 launch date for STS-114 was no longer feasible. [See “NASA PRCB CR: S042013EW Update the Launch Dates“] NASA is now looking at a new launch window for STS-114. The window opens on 12 May 2005 and extends to 3 June 2005. This slip was due to a variety of factors, the impact of 4 hurricanes on NASA KSC being the most prominent.

With regard to stories about hush-hush internal studies to dramatically reduce the shuttle flight rate Kostelnik noted that current studies underway at NASA JSC are designed to look at alternatives to complete the ISS. These studies were put into motion by Kostelnik and NASA comptroller Steve Isakowitz. The idea was to look at all of the possibilities that had been raised as to how to assemble the ISS using different mixes of shuttle flights.

No one specific request such as that made by Sen. Brownback served as the impetus for this study. Rather, according to Kostelnik, NASA is doing these studies so as to be able to provide a “coherent explanation” as to what various scenarios would offer, what they would not, and the consequences of pursuing such options.

Indeed, at a Risk Conference in Cleveland the other Day, Warren “Buddy” Patteson from NASA JSC spoke of 24 missions needed to complete ISS and that studies had shown the need for shuttle flights after 2010. Kostelnik noted that the 28 flight model met the requirements of the recently agreed-to international partner agreement which specifies what a complete ISS consists of.

Kostelnik noted that even this 28 flight model left some logistics issues unaddressed and that one idea being considered is to preposition large items that can only be carried by the shuttle (such as CMGs) in case additional utilization and logistics flights are needed. Whether NASA accomplishes this by 2010 or if it takes longer depends on the ability to get these missions accomplished in time.

No one at NASA said that there was a specific plan in place to dramatically reduce the number of shuttle flights as has been suggested by some in the Kerry campaign. Many options are being studied. Indeed, some options under study look at the possibility of more than 28 flights – perhaps beyond 2010.

Related links

NASA ISS Monthly Program Review 17 September 2004

STS-300 Flight Requirements Document

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