NASA Plan Would Focus Resources on Station Research, Launch Technologies

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Publication date: 
17 January 2003
Number: 
6

In 2003, NASA expects to come very close to completing the core structure of the International Space Station (ISS), with several new research racks to be delivered this year and the final section of truss to be launched in January 2004. In November, the Bush Administration submitted to Congress a revision to NASA's FY 2003 budget request that would, according to NASA, "ensure the International Space Station is properly financed and better positioned to achieve its scientific research priorities." The amendment calls for a new, budget-neutral Integrated Space Transportation plan that would restructure NASA funding to enhance the station's research capacity, extend the life of the shuttle fleet, provide for development of a crew return vehicle and future reusable launch vehicle technologies, and better coordinate NASA's human space flight programs. A November 8 NASA statement says the plan reflects "a strategic decision to more tightly couple the Space Station, Space Shuttle, and SLI [Space Launch Initiative] programs."

As Congress has not yet completed the FY 2003 appropriations bills, there is still time for the Administration's amendment to be incorporated. House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) praised the proposal: "Over the last two years, I have been talking with Administrator O'Keefe about the need to integrate NASA's human space flight programs; to evaluate current and future needs of the Space Shuttle, Space Station, and the Space Launch Initiative as a whole and not just as individual programs. This proposal does just that and is a big step in the right direction…. This re-focus of NASA's Space Transportation and Space Station plans is fiscally prudent and greatly needed to maximize the Station's scientific research."

"The new plan incorporates the Space Shuttle, a new Orbital Space Plane, and technology for future reusable launch vehicles into one comprehensive plan to provide for the advancement of human space flight," said Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) in a November 20 floor speech. "The new plan includes an increased Shuttle launch rate to better meet the research needs of the Space Station…while also accommodating the International Space Station reaching what NASA calls 'U.S. Core Complete.' While I believe that the 'Core Complete' stage of Station construction, scheduled to be completed next year, is far less than what our nation deserves, it is the first step to a more fully functional Space Station from which all nations will benefit.

"The new budget plan also responds to the concerns of the ReMAP study, also known as the Research Experimentation and Maximization Plan…. The ReMap study concluded that the Space Station, in its currently planned form, would not be able to conduct even a minimum level of science research to call it a science program. NASA's FY2003 budget amendment seeks to ameliorate some of these concerns by providing additional funding to increase the research capabilities onboard the Space Station." The one "missing piece from this plan," Nelson commented, "is cooperation from the departments dealing with the nation's defense…. DOD, NASA, and other agencies need to pool their resources to develop some of these high-risk, expensive technology programs."

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