The Space Shuttle Program - The Post-apollo Vision, Space Shuttle Design And Development, Space Shuttle Flight Profile, Space Shuttle Program Organization
flights shuttles routine five
It will revolutionize transportation into near space, by routinizing it.
—President Richard Nixon, January 5, 1972
The space shuttle was supposed to make space travel a routine and frequent occurrence. Its conceivers envisioned shuttles regularly transporting humans and cargo back and forth between the Earth and a fleet of orbiting space stations. The shuttle was expected to be much cheaper than previous spacecraft, because it would be
reusable. This would mean low operational and maintenance costs and a quick turnaround time between flights. It was predicted to bring in lots of money by hauling satellites into space for paying customers. The shuttle was going to be part of a massive transportation system and open up space the way the railroad opened up the frontier of the American West during the nineteenth century.
This vision never became a reality. Shuttle flights did not become routine, common, or frequent. Over the twenty-five-year period from 1981 through 2005, space shuttles flew only 114 times, averaging less than five flights per year. Two shuttles exploded, killing fourteen crewmembers. In addition to the human cost, the program
experienced high operational and maintenance costs. Long turnaround times prevented the shuttle from flying frequently. However, the flights that took place did achieve many accomplishments. They put probes and observatories into space and were essential for building the International Space Station (ISS).
Nevertheless, many people believe that the United States has wasted too much time and money on a shuttle program that does not deliver what it promised. In January 2004 President George W. Bush announced his own vision for the nation's space program. It focuses on trips to the moon and Mars and calls for ending the shuttle
program by 2010. The dream of routine access to space remains an elusive one.
In the early 1960s NASA planners envisioned a space station program as the next step after Apollo. It was assumed that the United States would establish large space stations in orbit around Earth and possibly outposts on the moon. In fact, NASA hoped to put at least one twelve-person space station in Earth orbit by 1975. This
would require a new type of reusable space plane to carry cargo and pers…
Various space shuttle designs had been evolving since the 1950s. The U.S. Air Force had examined several options based on a reusable manned space plane that could be maneuvered in flight and glided to a landing. The best-known program was called DynaSoar (short for Dynamic Soaring). The DynaSoar concept included an expendable
launch vehicle to carry a space plane out of Earth's atmosphere. …
The ten panels of Figure 4.5 illustrate the major steps in a space shuttle flight from launch to landing. The countdown to launch begins approximately four days before lift-off. During this time numerous systems checks are conducted on the spacecraft and its components. The flight crew is taken to the orbiter approximately 2.5
hours prior to lift-off and strapped into their seats. The shuttle is l…
The Space Shuttle Program (SSP) is administered and operated by NASA, with the help of thousands of contract employees. Figure 4.8 shows the locations of key NASA and contractor facilities involved in the SSP. Strategic management of the program is handled at NASA's headquarters in Washington, D.C. This is where major
decisions are made about future missions. Johnson Space Center (JSC) in H…
On April 12, 1981, Columbia became the first shuttle to fly into space. The flight's purpose was to test the shuttle's systems, and the mission lasted only two days. It was considered a huge success. Three more test flights were conducted during 1981 and 1982, all with the orbiter Columbia. On July 4, 1982, President Ronald
Reagan TABLE 4.2 Orbiter vehicles Adapted from Orbiter Veh…
Immediately after the Columbia disaster, President George W. Bush appointed a panel to investigate what happened. The panel was called the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) or the Gehman Board. In June 2003 the CAIB released its report, in which it concluded that the most likely cause of the accident was a damaged
thermal protection tile on the orbiter's left wing. Video clips of…
Soon after publication of the CAIB report, the NASA administrator appointed a Return to Flight (RTF) Task Group to assess the progress of the agency at implementing CAIB recommendations before shuttle flights were resumed. The RTF Task Group was an independent advisory group comprising more than two dozen non-NASA employees
with expertise in engineering, science, planning, budget, safety, and risk…
A historical summary of all space shuttle missions conducted as of February 2006 is presented in Table 4.4. NASA refers to each shuttle flight using an STS number. STS stands for Space Transportation System. Thus, STS-1 was the first shuttle flight into space. NASA assigns numbers to space shuttle flights in the order in which
they are planned (or manifested). There is typically a period of severa…
In January 2004 President Bush announced a new vision for the future of the nation's space program. It calls for NASA to send astronauts to the moon by 2020 and to Mars after that. This would require a completely new spacecraft. The space shuttle was not designed to fly farther than a few hundred miles from Earth. The space
shuttle program would be ended by 2010, assuming that existing U.S.…
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