Friday, August 14, 2009

Human Spaceflight Review committee takes final recommendations to the White House

Robert Block
Orlando Sentinel

After spending all day Thursday holed up in one of Washington's plushest hotels, the members of the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee -- better known as the Augustine Committee -- crunched numbers, sifted through last minute data and put the finishing touches on the presentation they will make to White House officials on Friday.

White House officials say the meeting with the panel this morning, chaired by former Lockheed Marin CEO Norm Augustine, will not be at the White House, but will be before senior members of the administration including Presidential Science Advisor John Holdren, NASA AdministratorCharlie Bolden, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and top officials from the White House Office of Management and Budget.

According to White House officials, the group will go over the latest options drawn up by the committee after two-and-a-half months of running around the country gathering information from NASA and leading aerospace companies.

The recommendations that the panel will be presenting include NASA’s current Constellation moon program in various funded guises as both a reference and an option for President Obama to choose from.

The options finalized on Thursday that will be presented are:

1.) Constellation constrained to FY2010 budget projections (ISS closed in 2015).

2.)ISS +Lunar constrained to the FY2010 budget which uses a commercial rocket and capsule instead of Ares I to take crew to the station.

3.)ISS +Lunar less constrained to the FY2010 budget, which also uses a commercial rocket instead of Ares I to take crew to the station.

4.) Extend the space shuttle under a less constrained budget to 2015 to close the gap in U.S. human spaceflight and give NASA time to build a rocket from shuttle parts for lunar orbits and scouting missions on the moon.

5.) Three "Flexible" deep space exploration options all under less constrained budgets:

A) Uses a smaller version of the Ares V called Ares V lite and no orbiting fuel depots;
B) Uses an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle and fuel depots;
C) Uses a rocket made from space shuttle parts and fuel depots.

Less constrained means the program will need up to $3 billion dollars (and in some cases more) extra annually above the current projected budget – a tough trick in the era of trillion-dollar deficits.

Commercial rockets play a key role in every scenario except the first option where Ares I is responsible for carrying crew to the ISS. The ISS is extended to 2020 in all options save the first.

There were no details about how any of the costs might have changed since the panel’s public hearing on Wednesday when many of these ideas were first presented. There are also no details how they scored or ranked the various options.

The Constellation program in all of its guises is presumed to have scored very low, a sign that NASA’s work for the last four years on the Ares I and Ares V rockets and the Orion crew capsule may be stillborn.

Read the complete posting HERE.

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