U.S. Spaceflight Gap Wider Than Thought

Posted: July 31, 2009 in EELV, ISS, NASA, Space Shuttle

The bottom line: the shuttle won’t retire on time and its replacement won’t be ready on time. Those are some preliminary findings of the U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, led by Norm Augustine and briefed by former astronaut Sally Ride.

In total, the delays could add another year without a U.S. provided ride to the ISS. That gap could be mitigated by adding one or more shuttle missions. Man-rating the Delta IV EELV won’t change the timelines appreciably.

The ISS may be a beneficiary of this review. The ISS is planned for deorbit in 2016, but the panel seems poised to advocate it stay on orbit longer. Why? Because the planned deorbit might hurt NASA partners and “U.S. leadership in space.”

I cringe at that type of attitude. Rather, what should be considered is how (or if) our partners are helping us achieve the ISS’s objectives and what could be done if we didn’t have to support the money-sucking ISS.

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