April 3, 2010

Air Force Spaceplane is an Odd Bird With a Twisted Past (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
More than a decade after its conception in the halls of NASA, and having snaked its way through multiple Pentagon bureaucracies, an unmanned military spaceplane is finally on the verge of launching on an unprecedented test flight. A stubby-winged spaceship called the Orbital Test Vehicle will fly into orbit on an Atlas 5 rocket, taking a round-trip shakedown voyage for the U.S. Air Force.

"What it offers that we have seldom had is the ability to bring back payloads and experiments to examine how well the experiments performed on-orbit," said Gary Payton, the undersecretary of the Air Force for space programs. "That's one new thing for us." Payton, a former space shuttle flier and NASA manager, is now the Air Force's top civilian space official.

It is one-quarter the size of a space shuttle orbiter and can spend up to nine months in orbit, but the ship will be hidden inside the Atlas rocket's payload fairing for liftoff. The Atlas 5 will use a larger version of its nose shroud to fit around the X-37B's nearly 15-foot-wide wingspan. (4/3)

Viability of Commercial Crew Plan May Hinge on Risk-sharing (Source: Space News)
As NASA devises its strategy for fostering development of a commercial successor to the space shuttle, the nation’s primary rocket builder is cautioning the agency not to count on industry for a substantial upfront investment in an endeavor rife with uncertainty."We are a little reluctant to commit,” said ULA's Andrew Aldrin. “But this wasn’t always the case. Just remember, it was about 10 years ago that we invested billions in EELV systems for a [satellite launch] market that frankly looked much more solid than the [human spaceflight] market we are looking at today.”

Aldrin said the decisions NASA makes in the coming months will determine whether the agency’s new human spaceflight strategy succeeds or fails. Although NASA is still devising its acquisition strategy, NASA officials are pointing to the agency’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program — under which NASA is subsidizing development of two competing space station resupply vehicles — as a model.

“It’s good stuff, perhaps a reasonable and useful market,” Aldrin said of the prospect of launching private citizens into space. “But it’s not the second coming of the Internet. It’s not going to really reshape what we do.” Click here to view the article. (4/3)

Only Three Shuttle Missions Remain After Discovery's Launch (Source: SPACErePORT)
Only three shuttle missions remain after Discovery's launch on Monday morning. According to one published manifest, Atlantis is scheduled to launch on May 14; Endeavour's launch is planned for July 29; and Discovery is scheduled for launch on Sep. 16. NASA analysts believe this schedule will not hold and the missions will slip into 2011. (4/3)

No comments: