The future for Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour

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shuttle_rtf

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On another thread...copied here as there's a really interesting subject provoked by Shuttle Guy in his reponse on there.<br /><br />Me />"Has NASA announced the planned mission quota for the remainder of the Shuttle's lifetime? 28 STS' I think was mentioned to me once, if memory serves."<br /><br />Shuttle Guy />Yes, JSC tells us 28 Shuttle launches to "complete the ISS" However I believe that the Shuttle will continue to fly both as it is now and as a Shuttle-C past 2010.<br /><br />I am not saying that because I am on the Shuttle program...I expect to retire to skydiving every day and flying hang gliders and sail planes by 209....I may stay longer until Lunatic133 is ready to take my job...unless she is an astronaut by then.<<br /><br />The lifetime issue is very interesting. Do you the Shuttles will remain as a fleet of three up to retirement, or is it more likely they'll retire in order (Discovery, then Atlantis, then Endeavour)?<br /><br />I know it's a different animal - with processing and OMM's affectively upgrading them up to scratch each time - but wasn't the plan to keep the shuttles going and then replace partly with the VentureStar? (Not that it will happen - VentureStar).<br /><br /> Chris
 
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shuttle_rtf

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Thanks again. <br /><br />What did you think about the VentureStar? I know it was a flying fuel tank, but I wonder if there was any favouritism towards the Shuttle over what would have been the new kid on the block? A bit before her time was she?<br /><br />On a purely fan-based opinion, the Shuttle always seemed like the lady for me.
 
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shuttle_rtf

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Yeah, those Linear Aerospike engines were very interesting. Was exciting to see the launch facility built at Andrews Air Force base, and even the webcam showing the X-33 take shape....then it all stopped.
 
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scottb50

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It's just too bad the attitude is to junk everything and start over. The Venture Star was over ambitious but it had a lot of good ideas that could still be usable, but it seems NASA and industry reset to zero when something doesn't work. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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najab

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><i>That was Vandenberg AFB.</i><p>I thought the X-33 launch facility was near Edwards AFB?</p>
 
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najab

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It was cursed, but it seems the curse has been broken now - there have been 2 or 3 sucessful launches.
 
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dtb99

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Several years ago, I was at a briefing given by the head guy in Lockheed-Martin's DC lobbying office, or "government relations" as they call it. (I'd rather not identify more specificially where it was, but it was unclassified). It was to familiarize us with LockMart is doing, why they are awesome, and what the government relations shop does.<br /><br />He's going through his PowerPoint slides, and gets to one of the X-33, which LockMart was building.<br /><br />He shook his head like you would at a nutty idea, and recommended that none of us be "in the same state" when NASA tried to launch it, because he thought the tech was nowhere near ready and that the thing would blow up if they ever tried to launch it.<br /><br />He did not, however, offer to stop taking NASA's money.<br /><br />Was just amazed that he would say that about a flagship program of theirs even in a not-for-attribution briefing. I suspect it had more to say about the guy -- who was as sleazy as you'd expect, even wearing gold chains -- then about LockMart, but still, he had to pick up that sense *somewhere*. He wasn't smart enough to have looked at the designs and formed his own opinion on them.
 
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najab

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Virgins to sacrafice? That might be why the senior Lockheed offical claimed the under-age girl was in his room at 2 in the morning, but I think we know better... LOL!
 
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SpaceKiwi

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I am curious to know the status of the "curse"? Seriously. What is the launch success rate of this facility? You guys are making it sound quite grim. Or, is it simply that the facility doesn't provide the launch advantages of Florida. This sounds all very "Scottish Play" like to me. <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><em><font size="2" color="#ff0000">Who is this superhero?  Henry, the mild-mannered janitor ... could be!</font></em></p><p><em><font size="2">-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------</font></em></p><p><font size="5">Bring Back The Black!</font></p> </div>
 
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omegamogo

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Personally, I was wondering what would happen to the shuttles after they are retired. Ship them to the Smithsonian? Prop them out side KSC? Transform them into giant hotrods and let NASA employees drive them around Miami?
 
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mikejz

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To be honest, I would like the Shuttles turned over to private industry. While the shuttle has been complicated and expressive to fly, I think that it is possible to fly them for a lot cheaper with streamlining of private industry--esp if you remove the man rating and fly them by remote. I think that there is someone smart enought to streamline the processes and make them what they were ment to be.
 
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najab

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><i>What is the launch success rate of this facility? You guys are making it sound quite grim.</i><p>SLC-6 was originally built for the Air Force Manned Orbital Laboratory (MOL) programme. I'm not clear on the details, but it seems that in building the complex, the Air Force desecrated a Native American burial site. It seems that in return, the Native American's put a curse on the facility that no launch would be sucessful until the Air Force did right by their ancestors.<p>So anyway, after a few hundred million dollars were spent, the programme was cancelled: just months before the first flight. The Air Force then decided that it would be cheaper to convert SLC-6 to Shuttle operations than it would be to build an entirely new launch facility. They estimated that it would cost between $1 and $3 billion to convert. $6 Billion later, the 'Blue Shuttle' program was cancelled due to the <i>Challenger</i> accident, a few months before the first mission (STS-62A) was scheduled to launch.<p>For several years SLC-6 was kept in mothballed status but then it was turned over to the private sector. The first two Athena missions attempted from SLC-6 also failed.<p>So, by 1999, nearly $10 billion had been spent on SLC-6 without a single sucessful launch. Again, I'm not clear on the details, but it seems that the Air Force did make a formal apology to the Natives and made amends. There have been 2 or 3 successful launches since then, and the pad was recently turned over to Lockheed to prepare it as the West Coast launch site for the Atlas-5.</p></p></p></p>
 
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SpaceKiwi

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Thanks najaB, very informative. One more I'm sure you will be familar with, as regards the military Shuttle program was there ever any intention to set themselves up with their own Orbiters in time, or was it always intended to "borrow" NASA's birds? Also, with regards to crews, I know many of NASA's CDR's and PLT's come through from the military ranks, so were they going to borrow those as well or use "active-service" personnel in a separate military astronaut corp? <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><em><font size="2" color="#ff0000">Who is this superhero?  Henry, the mild-mannered janitor ... could be!</font></em></p><p><em><font size="2">-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------</font></em></p><p><font size="5">Bring Back The Black!</font></p> </div>
 
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najab

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><i>...was there ever any intention to set themselves up with their own Orbiters in time, or was it always intended to "borrow" NASA's birds?</i><p>The idea was that <i>Discovery</i> would be permanently based at VAFB and would fly about 6 missions a year for the DoD, and other missions for NASA as needed.</p>
 
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nacnud

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6 missions a year! 6! From one orbiter! 6!<br /><br />Wow, that would have been great, what happened?
 
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najab

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NASA management realised what the engineers and contractors has realised a long time earlier: that the orbiters were a <b>lot</b> more labour intensive than projected. The pre-<i>Challenger</i> flight manifest called for 40 somebody flights in 1986-87.
 
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shuttle_rtf

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>Personally, I was wondering what would happen to the shuttles after they are retired. Ship them to the Smithsonian? Prop them out side KSC? Transform them into giant hotrods and let NASA employees drive them around Miami?<<br /><br />I'm up for that, although the last thing I want to see is what they did to Concorde..slice and dice then ship them off to some hanger for display.<br /><br />I think it would be nice to at least give them a world tour on the back of the 747...like Enterprise when she came to London (Standsted)...biggest framed picture in my office, very nice she looked too.
 
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cdr6

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While it would be nice to see the shuttles continue to fly up to their expected airframe life limit. I don't think that is feasable given the current state of the industry regs.<br /><br />Insurance aside, money aside, the big problem is the FARs (regs) that require certain items for safety of flight. The government can operate aerospace vehicles because the government is, well the government, and can work in the gray areas or disregard the regulations as required. <br /><br />Civil operators (lets take the Warbird owners for example) are severly constrained. The warbird driver who has a P-51 and wants to get himself a say a T-33 has to jump through a big series of hoops to get the machine certified. (things like ejection seats must be made inoperable ans so on.) The FAA takes a dim view on some body punching out of his or her favorite jet only to have the jet come down one place, and pilot come down another and then have the seat come hurtling into the local shopping mall... <br /><br />Other issues include things like oil tank locations, fuel systems, fire supression or lack there of and so on, ad nausium. ...Now apply that to a system as big and complex as the shuttle...not to mention crew certification and recurancy. Getting the FAA to make policy on something like that would take an act of congress... it would be kind of like certifying a B-52 as a crop duster. <br /><br />Yeah, it would be neat, but the paper work would tremendious. <br />
 
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mikejz

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That is assuming that it continues to fly within the US. I don't see why a company could not purchase the remaining hardware and fly it under the flag of another country.
 
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najab

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><i>I don't see why a company could not purchase the remaining hardware and fly it under the flag of another country.</i><p>Well, assuming they could get past the technology export regime, I suppose not. However, the cost of replicating the ground infrastucture alone kills this idea. It cost NASA and the DoD over $6 billion to build the Shuttle facilities at VAFB and they started that project with already built infrastucture.</p>
 
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jcdenton

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<font color="yellow">It cost NASA and the DoD over $6 billion to build the Shuttle facilities at VAFB and they started that project with already built infrastucture.</font><br /><br />Not to mention it costs $500 million per launch of a shuttle. I can't really think of any other country that would feel compelled to pay that much when they could simply build single-use capsules for a fraction of the cost.<br /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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najab

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I think you meant 1/10th or about $50 million, rather than 1/100th.
 
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mrmorris

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<font color="yellow">"500 million is not the cost of a Shuttle launch. That number comes from dividing the TOTAL Shuttle budget by 6 launches. The cost of a Shuttle launch is less than 1/100 th of the 500 million dollar figure."</font><br /><br />I'm not a shuttle-basher by nature -- nor am I being one now. However -- your statement piqued my interest and prompted a couple of questions that will *sound* like shuttle bashing -- but aren't.<br /><br />The base notion being discussed (however unrealistic) is that of a foreign nation purchasing and running the Shuttle fleet after the US is done with them. jcdenton had indicated this was unrealistic because shuttle launches cost 500 million per flight and you argued that the figure is too high because it includes the costs of the Shuttle program which aren't *specifically* related to a given launch.<br /><br />My question then becomes: 'What exactly are you arguing?' I can see several options.<br /><br />You're arguing<br />- The shuttle infrastructure costs should not be included in determining the cost to fly a shuttle mission.<br />- A foreign nation flying the shuttle wouldn't need the infrastructure -- or would need less -- or would need the same amount but it would *cost* less.<br />- Shuttle infrastruture costs are artifically inflated at this time and don't truly reflect what it should cost to fly the shuttle.<br /><br />The first is bad accounting. The second is partially true -- at least for a given infrastructure costing less (lower wages), but many materials would still have to be purchased from the US contractors, so this would dilute the benefit greatly. The third is probably true enough -- at least as much as it's true for *any* government program of that magnitude.<br /><br />It's also possible that I'm missing a fourth or a fifth argument.<br />
 
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mikejz

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I was just kidding about the foriegn flag thing, however I don't see why not the policy could be adapted to remove the man ratting of the shuttle and using them to stock the ISS with low cost supplies (water, fuel,etc) and just keep flying them with little service until failure. The fact they we are simply getting a few extra miles out of them means there really are no expectations, only added gains if it works.
 
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