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NASA To Retire Space Shuttle by 2010, Build New Vehicle

17 May 2005

New spacecraft's development accelerated, says agency administrator

Washington -- NASA will retire the space shuttle by 2010, replacing it with a new crew exploration vehicle (CEV) whose main mission will be to support exploration of the Earth’s moon and other destinations, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said May 12.

Speaking before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science about NASA’s 2006 budget request and its future plans, Griffin said some research and technology efforts will be “curtailed” to focus on making the CEV available as soon as possible.

“Every journey begins with a single step,” Griffin told the subcommittee. “The first step in that journey is to return – not rush – the space shuttle to flight.” The second step is to finish building the International Space Station (ISS) and retire the space shuttle by 2010, he said.

NASA is seeking a budget of $16.4 billion in 2006 – a 2.4 percent increase over the amount allocated in 2005.

On January 14, 2004, President Bush announced a new vision for space exploration that committed the United States to a long-term human and robotic program to explore the solar system, starting with a return to the moon and future exploration of Mars and other destinations.

As part of that vision, Bush said the United States would begin developing a new CEV to explore other worlds and transport astronauts and scientists to the International Space Station after the shuttle is retired. The CEV would conduct its first manned mission in 2014.

To narrow the gap between the shuttle retirement in 2010 and the first CEV mission in 2014, Griffin said NASA is seeking alternatives to allow CEV development to be completed as soon as possible.

“I hope to share with you by mid-July NASA’s plan for how we can accelerate development of the CEV,” Griffin told the subcommittee, “as well as that of the rocket needed to launch it.”

Before its retirement, the shuttle will be used mainly to finish assembling the space station. The CEV will conduct missions in Earth orbit, including trips to the ISS, but its primary mission will be to support exploration of the moon and other destinations.

NASA has adopted a "go-as-you-can-pay" approach to space exploration, Griffin said, and several NASA missions and activities must be deferred or accomplished in other ways to stay within the agency’s fiscal year 2005 budget.

NASA will defer work on advanced space telescopes like the 2010 Space Interferometry Mission, which will make observations to determine positions and distances of stars several hundred times more accurately than any previous program. Another project likely to be deferred will be the 2014 Terrestrial Planet Finder, a proposed NASA telescope system capable of detecting extrasolar terrestrial planets.

Griffin said the extent of the deferral is under review.

NASA is making final preparations for the space shuttle Discovery launch planned for mid-July, Griffin said, and returning the shuttle safely to flight will cost $400 million more in 2006 than previously estimated.

Budget cuts in other areas helped adjust to this and other changes, he added, cutting 11 percent in exploration systems, 5 percent in science and 11 percent in aeronautics, while adding 4 percent in space operations.

NASA is also examining alternative configurations for the ISS that meet the goals of President Bush’s vision for space exploration and the needs of NASA’s international partners, Griffin said, while requiring as few shuttle flights as possible to complete assembly.

He said other key elements in the future of the ISS program are the purchase of alternate cargo transportation services to supplement the space shuttle, and development of new crew transportation capabilities to replace the shuttle when it retires.

NASA’s Web site has posted Griffin’s prepared statement, a transcript of his testimony and of a media briefing following the Senate subcommittee hearing. 

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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