Science, Technology, and Space Subcommittee hearing scheduled for Tuesday, June 3, at 2:30 p.m. in room 253 of the Russell Senate Office Building. This hearing will examine the research being done by NASA and the private sector to develop new in-space propulsion technologies. Senator Brownback will preside.
Witness Panel 1
Dr. Edward J. Weiler
NASA’s Mission to understand and protect our home planet, to explore the Universe and search for life, and to inspire the next generation of explorers requires that we make strategic investments in technologies that will transform our capability to explore the Solar System. Within the Space Science Enterprise, we are developing the tools, insights, and abilities necessary to answer some of humanity’s most profound questions: How did the Universe begin and evolve? How did we get here? Where are we going? Are we alone? NASA began attempting to answer such questions back in 1962, when we launched the Mariner 1 and 2 missions to Venus. These were the first missions to escape Earth’s gravity and explore another planet in our Solar System. At that time, NASA depended on chemical rockets to send spacecraft on their journeys. In order to escape Earth’s velocity, a chemical rocket expends all of its thrust within the first few minutes after launch. Once the fuel is expended, the rocket is jettisoned, and the spacecraft begins its expedition by coasting along a fixed path to its final destination in space. Occasionally, there is an opportunity for the spacecraft to swing around another planet to change its direction and velocity. This maneuver – called a gravity assist – is highly dependent upon launching during a specific, and often very short, launch window. Once that window “closes,” the time and energy it takes to reach the target destination can change dramatically. While these launch scenarios have worked well and have allowed us to explore many destinations in our Solar System, the constraints they presented over 40 years ago are still evident today. To overcome these limitations, NASA has begun an aggressive pursuit of alternatives to enhance our capability for launching missions to Solar System objects. In October 1998, NASA launched Deep Space 1 (DS-1), the first technology-demonstration mission under the New Millennium Program. Not only was the spacecraft developed and launched in just three years, it also demonstrated a number of advanced technologies. DS-1 was the first NASA spacecraft to utilize an electric propulsion system. This system uses electric power to ionize a propellant, like xenon, which is then accelerated through an electric field and expelled to propel the spacecraft forward. The highly efficient ion engine enabled DS-1 to perform a series of interplanetary trajectory maneuvers, yet the propellant accounted for only about 20 percent of the total spacecraft mass. In addition, the velocity increased by 10 kilometers per second (360 miles per hour). Performing the same maneuvers with a chemical propulsion system would be impractical because it would require 10 times more propellant than DS-1 could accommodate within mission and launch constraints. Nine months after launch, DS-1 had successfully tested all 12 of the new technologies on-board. As a bonus, near the end of the primary mission, DS-1 flew by asteroid Braille, where it took images, measured basic physical properties of the asteroid (mineral composition, size, shape, and brightness), and searched for changes in the solar wind to investigate whether Braille had a magnetic field. In late 1999, DS-1’s star-tracker ceased operating; however, within a few months, engineers had successfully reconfigured the spacecraft from a distance of 300 million kilometers (185 million miles) and redirected it for an additional extended mission to encounter comet Borrelly. Such flexibility would not have been possible without the use of electric propulsion. In September 2001, Deep Space 1 passed just 2,171 kilometers (1,349 miles) from the inner icy nucleus of comet Borrelly, capturing the highest resolution images ever taken of a comet. The daring fly-by yielded new data and movies of the comet’s nucleus that are revolutionizing the study of comets. DS-1 was certainly an “overachiever” in terms of a mission: it not only demonstrated all of the planned technologies (most importantly ion propulsion), it also delivered a wealth of scientific data. In-Space Propulsion NASA’s In-Space Propulsion (ISP) program invests in advanced propulsion technologies that do not depend on a nuclear fission reactor as the power source. The high-priority technologies in ISP include solar electric propulsion, solar sails, and aerocapture. System analysis trade studies have quantified the benefits of these technologies for a wide variety of challenging potential future missions. ISP is also making smaller investments in other technologies, including advanced chemical propulsion, plasma sails, momentum exchange electrodynamic reuse tethers, solar thermal propulsion, and ultra-lightweight solar sails. The high-priority technologies are focused on achieving readiness within 3-5 years, so that they can be incorporated into space science missions in the not-too-distant future. One critical path for achieving mission implementation is the demonstration of some of the technologies in space prior to being used for a mission. In much the same way that DS-1 served as a technology demonstration for ion propulsion, the ISP program looks to New Millennium Program missions as the means for future flight demonstrations of high-priority technologies, such as aerocapture and solar sails. Future Solar System exploration missions will have diverse requirements depending on their specific scientific objectives; therefore, it is important that we develop a variety of new technologies to support them. Simply put, certain propulsion systems are better suited to particular missions than others. For example, there is a class of missions supporting the Sun-Earth Connection science theme that involves positioning advanced monitoring spacecraft in the Sun-Earth line at a location that requires constant thrust to maintain position. Independent studies have found that a solar sail propulsion system is optimal for this application of continuous low thrust, without the need for propellant. Other missions to explore planetary bodies could benefit from solar-electric propulsion, similar to that used by DS-1. With new investments being made to dramatically improve efficiency, we expect an even more impressive “second generation” ion system, which will be ready before the end of the decade. Other missions may require inserting a spacecraft into orbit around a planet or a moon, such as Titan. In cases where the planet has an atmosphere, the advanced propulsion technique called aerocapture has shown significant mission-enabling promise. Aerocapture uses drag forces generated during a spacecraft’s passage through a planet’s atmosphere to slow it down enough to go into orbit around that body without consuming large quantities of fuel. For missions of limited scale, with objectives at a single planet, this technique offers significant efficiencies over conventional propulsion systems. ISP is a technology development program that operates on the basis of competition among technology providers; approximately three quarters of the program’s budget is dedicated to competitive procurements. The competition is open to industry, academia, and government laboratories, including NASA Centers. The Program uses rigorous mission and system analyses to establish the metrics and processes for determining which technologies are worthy of investment. Clear alignment with NASA Space Science Strategic goals is critical, and technology investments must be demonstrably linked to the achievement of science goals and missions in the NASA Space Science Strategic Plan. Project Prometheus In the words of Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie “ . . . never see what has been done . . . only see what remains to be done.” In the field of space exploration, this translates to constantly striving to find more effective ways to safely power, propel, and maneuver spacecraft, while developing innovative scientific instruments to explore the worlds beyond our current reach. Achievement of this ambitious vision requires a bold approach to the next generation of spacecraft, including revolutionary improvements in energy production, conversion, and utilization. NASA will inspire this bold undertaking through Project Prometheus (the nuclear systems program), which will develop the near- and long-term use of nuclear energy to power scientific missions. At present, we are pushing the limits of innovation with solar and chemical power. It is only by harnessing the tremendous energy within the atom that we can aspire to fundamentally improve our capability for Solar System exploration and enable missions of greater longevity, flexibility, and, therefore, significantly improved scientific return. Beyond robotic exploration, NASA foresees that Project Prometheus could ultimately serve as humankind’s pathway to the outer reaches of the Solar System. At the heart of this undertaking is the wonder of the atom – specifically, making use of the heat produced by the natural decay of a radioisotope and tapping that heat to provide electricity. That electricity can then be used to power the instruments aboard the spacecraft, as well as to propel the spacecraft forward. On January 16, 1959, President Eisenhower unveiled “the world’s first atomic battery” -- the radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG). While not actually batteries, these amazing devices have become NASA’s energy source for missions to the outer planets; they have proven to be rugged, compact, and capable of working in severe, sunless environments. NASA plans to ensure their availability for future missions by regenerating the Nation’s capability to build radioisotope power systems (RPS, which includes RTGs) to support the safe and peaceful exploration of space and the surfaces of planets and moons. The importance of the radioisotope power system’s contribution to NASA’s exploration beyond Earth orbit is often overlooked. To date, radioisotope systems have flown on 19 NASA missions. They provided electricity, during lunar day and night, to five Apollo Lunar Surface Experimental Packages. They powered the two Viking Landers while they conducted research on the surface of Mars and heated the Mars Pathfinder Lander and its rover, Sojourner, during the frigid Martian nights. They also powered the Pioneer and Voyager interplanetary missions as they explored the outer Solar System. Amazingly, Voyagers 1 and 2 continue to operate today, after more than 25 years in space, exploring the outer frontiers of our Solar System. Radioisotope power sources are currently powering the Ulysses spacecraft as it voyages around the Sun’s poles, and the Galileo and Cassini spacecraft both use radioisotope power systems to study the Jupiter and Saturn systems, respectively (Cassini will arrive at Saturn in July 2004). Because of the utility of these “behind-the-scenes players,” it is incumbent upon NASA not only to make current radioisotope power systems more efficient, but also to develop the next generation of such systems. For example, the 2009 Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission has been baselined to accommodate either an RTG or its possible successor, the more efficient but less mature Stirling Radioisotope Generator (SRG). Additional missions could also include radioisotope power systems of various power levels, pending the outcome of ongoing, competed mission-of-opportunity proposals. Radioisotope power systems are limited to providing spacecraft with tens to hundreds of watts of power. To the average citizen, this would seem like a ludicrously small amount of power (akin to several household light bulbs) for an entire spacecraft; however, the ingenuity of the science and engineering communities have adapted mission plans to this present reality and developed spacecraft and instruments capable of utilizing these small amounts of power. Although we can envision many future space applications that might require this range of power, for exploration at the outer reaches of the Solar System this is a significantly limiting factor on our ability to gather data and, ultimately, to generate knowledge. The truly revolutionary aspect of Project Prometheus rests in its ability to provide orders of magnitude more power – thousands to hundreds of thousands of watts – to spacecraft in the cold dark outer Solar System, or the vastness of interstellar space. The amount of energy generated represents a true paradigm shift for mission planners, not only because of the unprecedented amounts of power available to the scientific community, but in the ability to provide continuous power to maneuver a spacecraft throughout its mission via nuclear electric propulsion. In simple terms, nuclear fission provides the high levels of sustained energy necessary to power more complex, “active” scientific instruments, allow a spacecraft to visit multiple destinations per mission, and enable significantly larger amounts of data to be transmitted back to Earth. Whereas space chemical propulsion is the “drag racer,” rocketing straight ahead at high speeds in a matter of seconds, the nuclear-electric-propelled spacecraft is more like a 4-cylinder car that is capable of efficiently using its fuel for an extended period of time during a tour of the United States. To take this analogy further, even though the nuclear-electric spacecraft would start well behind its chemical partner, in time it would overtake and speed past its coasting counterpart. In addition, nuclear-electric-propelled spacecraft will afford us the opportunity to dictate new ground rules for observation and, as such, we will be rewarded with days, weeks or even months of up-close observations of single or multiple targets. Moreover, the spacecraft acceleration and course-change capability offered by nuclear-electric propulsion would also open up new launch opportunities. We are currently severely limited by the ‘geometry’ of the Solar System; that is, chemically propelled planetary missions can launch only during limited periods when the relative positions of the planets will allow a spacecraft from Earth to reach a particular destination. These capabilities, however, are not an end unto themselves. Rather, Project Prometheus will leverage the extensive work done to date on space nuclear systems to embark on an ambitious science mission, the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO), which will be enabled by nuclear fission electric power and propulsion. At the same time, JIMO will respond to the National Academy of Sciences’ ranking of a Europa orbiter mission as the number one priority for a flagship Solar System exploration mission. Because of the unprecedented capabilities made possible by space nuclear power, NASA will be able to go well beyond the Academy’s recommendation. JIMO’s nuclear-electric propulsion will provide the maneuverability to orbit all three of Jupiter’s icy Galilean moons and respond to new discoveries, an impossible feat under the current technology paradigm. This will allow months of scientific investigation at these destinations that will far surpass the brief fly-bys made by Galileo and Voyager. The science instruments used to study these worlds will have far more power than those on Galileo and Voyager. Options for new instruments include high-power radars to probe the subsurfaces of the moons looking for oceans that could harbor life. More powerful cameras and spectrometers could document the entire globe looking for evidence of this life, and lasers could measure the topography and characteristics of the surface. Unlike previous missions, the power available on the spacecraft will allow all of the instruments to be operated simultaneously throughout the mission. Increased mission time will allow JIMO to investigate the entire surface of a given moon and look for any changes due to new geysers or other eruptive activity. This activity could bring fresh material from underground oceans to the surface – material that could contain evidence for life. The huge amounts of data gathered by JIMO will be transmitted to Earth in torrents, using high-powered transmitters and optical communication links. Looking beyond JIMO, future missions making use of nuclear systems might visit destinations such as: - Comets: to explore their surfaces and interiors and return samples to better understand the building blocks of the Universe. - Mars: to dramatically expand our capabilities for surface, on-orbit exploration, and sample return. - Various other destinations: interplanetary or interstellar probes to study Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, or investigate the interstellar matter beyond the Kuiper Belt region. Project Prometheus will enable the fulfillment of many of NASA’s most challenging scientific goals, as well as our ability to answer some of life’s most intriguing questions: Is there life elsewhere in the Solar System? How was the Solar System formed and what is its future? Our pursuit of answers to these questions will be greatly enhanced when we are able to explore space in a manner fully under our control and using state-of-the-art science instruments. Although accessing such energy resources in space will be a boon to robotic missions, Project Prometheus may have its most compelling long-term impact in expanding the capability of humans in space and perhaps one day serving as our pathway to the outer Solar System. Use of nuclear and other advanced technologies involves certain risks and responsibilities. In all of NASA’s missions, safety is the primary operating principle, and this has always been the case with our nuclear activities in particular. Historically, the United States has demonstrated an excellent record of safely using nuclear power in space exploration. NASA has over 30 years’ experience in the successful management and operation of radioisotope power systems. Working with the Department of Energy, the agency responsible for development and production of nuclear technologies, NASA will extend that safety experience to the design, manufacture, and space flight of a fission reactor. NASA will continue to engage and solicit expertise in risk management and risk assessment and will fully comply with environmental and nuclear safety launch approval processes applicable to the use of nuclear power systems in outer space. Safety must continue to be the predominant factor as we explore the Universe and attempt to unlock the many secrets it holds. This is an exciting time for space science. We are standing at the threshold of a new era in space exploration. There is a renewed sense of excitement and anticipation that the future holds great things for NASA. Our efforts to improve propulsion and power capabilities are a major reason for this optimism. I will conclude my remarks by noting one of the major findings of the recent Commission on the U.S. Aerospace Industry, which concluded that space power and propulsion are the key technologies that will enable “ . . . new opportunities on Earth and open the Solar System to robotic and human exploration . . .” .
Witness Panel 2
Mr. Larry Knauer
Mr. Chairman, Senator Breaux and other members of the Subcommittee, I am Larry Knauer, President of Pratt & Whitney’s Space Propulsion and Russian Operations in West Palm Beach, Florida. I want to thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the issue of space propulsion. As you are aware, Pratt & Whitney is a division of United Technologies Corporation. UTC provides high-technology products and services to the aerospace and building systems industries throughout the world. In addition to Pratt & Whitney, UTC’s industry-leading companies are Carrier, Otis, UTC Fuel Cells, Hamilton Sundstrand and Sikorsky. . Current Investment in Space Propulsion Our estimates of this market, over the last 20 years, indicate that domestic annual sales of in-space propulsion have been less than $150 million per year. Also, industry and government respectively have invested less than $10 million per year, and only a small amount of government funding has been available to industry through contracts. As a result, the non-U.S. space industry has overtaken and in some cases surpassed the United States in the area of in-space propulsion. Every satellite launched utilizes several types of in-space propulsion and the benefits of improvements are great. The introduction of electric propulsion to satellites could allow over 2000 pounds of extra payload, or years of extra life on station. Although the potential pay-off for in-space propulsion technology is great, one major reason for low industry investment has been insurance cost, which is typically prohibitively high in the risk-averse space industry. In some cases the insurance premium can be an additional 20% of the total launch cost, if it can be obtained at all. A change in a $1M to $3M propulsion system can add enough risk to raise the insurance premium as much as $20M. Therefore, it is important that new in-space propulsion systems be initially proven on government systems. After the technology has been successfully flight proven, incorporation into commercial systems can proceed with acceptable insurance premiums. Need for a Robust Space Propulsion Program A robust in-space propulsion technology program will ready the technologies for transition into the commercial marketplace and achieve revolutionary improvements in space exploration capability. As a nation, we will continue our exploration of the solar system, and eventually undertake manned exploration of Mars, when the time and technology are right. During this process, in-space propulsion will mature and transition to the commercial market. NASA has recently reaffirmed the historical reality that propulsion breakthroughs have been and continue to be the basis for revolutionary improvements in exploration capability. To date, the benefits of electric in-space propulsion have been demonstrated on several spacecraft, but have been limited by the power generated to drive them. The maximum power available has been less than 25 KWe and gives a spacecraft great station keeping weight reduction using ion “ZIP” thrusters. The thrust levels of these systems are so low that station keeping is all they have been able to provide. If you attempted to use one of these systems for final orbit circularization it would take as long as 6 months to get the satellite to its final destination. Recent improvement in Hall effect thrusters, HET’s, have shown the potential to reduce the transfer time to 60 days with 25 KWe power sources. Other technology breakthroughs, which are in development could significantly improve this capability. Raising an orbit some 20,000 miles with today’s on orbit electric propulsion takes months; 40,000,000 miles to our nearest planetary neighbor requires even more efficiency and thrust. Nuclear electric propulsion, as embodied by project Prometheus, is a bold and courageous step in expanding our exploration capability. Project Prometheus will develop the 100 KWe power system, including the reactor, space radiator system and power electric thrusters needed for small payload delivery to the outer planets. Once on station (not just flying by), the same power system will enable robust and long-term science vastly expanding our knowledge and enabling us to bring the wonders of the solar system back to planet Earth. Beyond Prometheus, as a nation we should consider continued investment in in-space propulsion to significantly reduce the cost and risk of manned Mars exploration. Small investments toward this end can provide avenues to reduce the cost by 30 to 50%, when we begin this exciting journey. As with Prometheus, these investments will also provide high leverage in-space commercial benefits along the way. Desired Features of Future Systems Technical features of future in-space propulsion systems include: High specific impulse (i.e., fuel mileage) reduces the fuel mass of the vehicle departing earth orbit. - This reduces requirements for the earth to orbit launcher, therefore reducing launch costs. - The lighter earth departure mass is also much easier to accelerate to its final destination. Thrust: - Acceleration depends mostly on thrust and is needed to reduce trip time to distant destinations. - Passive propulsion systems, such as solar sails, lack this key feature and are also dependent upon the direction of the ‘solar-wind’ and are therefore limited in their application. Optimized combination of thrust and specific impulse: - Historically, weight growth and cost growth have been problems for new space systems. - The initial system weight must be kept low on a percentage basis such that small weight growth, inevitable during development, does not negate the payload capability of the system. - The complexity must be minimized to enable reliable deployment and operation of the system. Challenges for In-Space Propulsion Considering these guidelines, expanding Prometheus capability for manned Mars exploration will provide additional in-space propulsion challenges. Although the power levels needed for the astronauts’ welfare and safety remains at 100 KWe or below, the power levels needed for the electric propulsion system will grow by one or two orders of magnitude, due to the heavier increased payloads. While the scaling of the Prometheus reactor would be relatively straightforward, as demonstrated by our Navy ship and submarine experience, the scaling of the supporting subsystems will present major challenges. Of particular concern are the scaling and space logistics involved in the launching and deployment of the space radiator system. This massive subsystem is needed to reject the excess heat of the electrical power conversion system. Also, scaling of Prometheus will limit the initial reliability to be that of a ‘new’ system, as the tried-and-true power conversion systems and electric thrusters must be reinvented in a much larger size. Additional In-Space Propulsion Ideas/Technologies An alternative to rejecting the excess system heat for the more demanding manned Mars missions would be to convert this ‘lost’ energy into direct thermal thrust using a bimodal nuclear propulsion system. A bimodal nuclear propulsion system leverages the best of current propulsion systems in addition to the systems to be matured during project Prometheus. A bimodal nuclear reactor would be configured to provide ~15Klb of direct thermal thrust during earth departure then reduce the power level to the 100 KWe level needed for the astronauts’ welfare and safety during the mission and to support the electric propulsion needs after earth departure. This approach would avoid the need to develop space radiator systems, which are potentially unmanageable. It would also allow the direct use of the 100 KWe power conversion and electric thruster systems that will be flight proven during Prometheus operation. Bimodal systems were seriously considered to satisfy the nearer term exploration missions, but suffered from a lack of maturity in area of the required reactor fuels. Although fuel solutions exist, based on breakthrough fuel development near the end of the 1960s NERVA nuclear propulsion program, the cost and schedule risks to the Prometheus program were considered to be too high. In order for a bimodal system to be considered for the Mars exploration mission a relatively low cost fuels development program could be pursued, in parallel with the Prometheus program, to increase its maturity. Additional in-space propulsion technologies needed for Mars exploration are those that support in-situ propellant utilization. Lewis and Clark would not have completed their mission if they had to carry water for themselves and their propulsion (horses) for the whole trip. They knew water would be available along the way. Similarly, in-situ propulsion systems for robust space exploration should be aggressively developed. In-situ propulsion systems are designed to use earth-return propellants acquired after reaching the desired destination. This approach avoids the need to carry earth-return-propellants into and then out of earth orbit to the desired destination. Recent strong indications of water on both the moon and Mars elevate this in-situ approach from the category of science fiction to the category of science reality. Of particular interest is methane/oxygen propulsion technology. Methane (CH4) and oxygen (O2) can be manufactured from the water (H2O) and the carbon dioxide (CO2) atmosphere of Mars. Full utilization of this approach can reduce the required mission mass and therefore the cost by over fifty percent, once again highlighting the high payoff that can be reaped from in-space propulsion improvements. Conclusion This committee's interest in in-space propulsion technologies will encourage government and industry cooperation in this field. Government and private sector commitments of investment and resources will accelerate the development of technical advances, while reducing the cost and risk of deployment. Future space explorers will travel on systems developed and funded as a result of decisions made by our government and industry leaders today. Pratt & Whitney is ready to be a part of those decisions and those commitments.
Mr. Byron K. Wood
Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee, I would like to thank you for taking time from your busy schedules to look into a matter that I consider to have potentially dire consequences for the national security of the United States and the future of our civil space program--that is the failing health of the propulsion industry in the United States. America is on the verge of losing the capability to develop and produce liquid propulsion rocket systems – and, once gone, this will be a very difficult capability to re-constitute. For over 50 years, Rocketdyne has been a world leader in liquid rocket propulsion systems and space power systems. We have over 1500 launches to our credit with our engines for the Space Shuttle, Delta, and Atlas systems, and their predecessors, and I, personally, have spent the better part of my career, working in this area. I have never seen the industry in a more precarious position. We have three major liquid propulsion companies in the United States, and not enough work to keep even one healthy. Frankly, all three of us are on the verge of going out of business. If you refer to the first chart I have attached, you will see the erosion of our human capital over the last several years at Rocketdyne. This is typical of the entire industry. We are falling below the critical mass of skills needed to meet national security and civil space goals when we are called upon to do so in the future. What has caused this dire situation? There are many contributing causes. The crash of the commercial launch market due to oversupply of on orbit telecommunications satellites has been a major contributor. And the market that is left has been seized by foreign competition. If you refer to my second chart, you will see that, on an engine basis instead of a launch basis, the United States accounts for only 14% of the launch market. The Russians account for over 60%, followed by the Europeans. America is rapidly losing its leadership in space. In reference to my third chart, America has lost its vision for the future of space. Great nations do great things – What are the great things in the future for America? China plans to orbit a human, maybe this year. China has openly stated that they are aiming for the moon, in the not too distant future. What is the future in space for the United States? One area where NASA has developed a great vision is in the exploration of the outer planets. Project Prometheus, to develop advanced radioisotope systems to fly first on the Mars 2009 lander, and to develop a nuclear propulsion system to fly first on the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO), represents the kind of vision in taking a great leap forward that is exactly what this country, and our space industry, needs. The nuclear propulsion system will allow exploratory probes to actually enter orbit around distant bodies, allowing the science community the time they need to do detailed exploration, instead of grabbing what information they can get from a rapid fly-by. The high power levels, once there, will allow whole new areas of scientific exploration to open up, such as active radar investigations, and will also allow significantly higher levels of data to be transmitted to Earth. The isotope power systems will allow the exploratory rover on the Mars surface to operate for years, as opposed to the weeks achieved by its predecessor powered by solar cells. I commend Administrator O’Keefe for the high priority he has placed on this program, and the staunch support he continues to give it as NASA tries to recover from the Columbia tragedy. I also commend the Members of this Congress for having the vision to add funding to NASA’s FY2003 Appropriation Bill to jump start the JIMO program. This is the kind of inspiration we need in the space program. This inspires people of all ages. I have retirees knocking on my door wanting to come back to work on this program. And it is also visionary programs like this that will provide the inspiration for our young people to enter the science and engineering fields. But where is the vision for the U.S. for space in the vicinity of our own planet? We must get the shuttle flying again, there is no other way to complete the space station, which is our gateway to move beyond low earth orbit. But where do we go from there? NASA is funding propulsion technologies for next generation vehicles under their Next Generation Launch Technology (NGLT) program, and the Air Force is funding similar activities under the Integrated High Payoff Rocket Propulsion Technology (IHPRPT) Program, but both of these programs are seriously underfunded. DoD Secretary Donald Rumsfeld led a commission prior to his current post which identified many areas where DoD needed to move forward to ensure they maintained the high ground of space. Dr. Ron Sega, the Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDRE), has proposed the National Aerospace Initiative. Both of these efforts represent a vision of the future for military space, but the services have been slow to embrace these visions, and loathe to invest in them. The situation has become so serious, that your fellow Senators on the Armed Services Committee, in their recent report accompanying the FY04 Defense Authorization Bill, noted that the USAF requested more funding for biological research than for propulsion research, which the Committee noted they felt should be a high priority within the Air Force. This is not the way America maintains its leadership in space. So, what can the Congress be doing to help avert this crisis? First – continue your strong support for Project Prometheus. This is the kind of activity that inspires not just our current workforce, but our workforce of the future. This will take us to new frontiers in space. Second – continue the national debate on the future of our space programs, both civil and military. We need to clearly identify where we want to go and move out. America is a great country and can do anything it wants to do, once it makes up its mind to do it, and that is where we have a problem. Propulsion is usually the long pole in the tent for any new space programs. While we debate our direction, we need to maintain our competency for future propulsion needs, before we lose it completely. To achieve this, I recommend that the Committee endorse increased budget for the NASA Next Generation Launch Technology program, which must be expanded to provide a complete cadre of technologies and systems development for a new reusable space transportation system. Also, while I realize it is not within the jurisdiction of this committee, I urge you to work with your colleagues to see that the Defense Department’s National Aerospace Initiative receives the funding necessary to proceed as Dr. Sega envisions it, which is significantly more than requested in the FY04 budget request. Dr. Werner von Braun was fond of saying: “Who will control the oceans of space?” I have been somewhat disappointed in my career in that we had Americans walking on the moon in the 1960’s, but I will not live to see people return to the moon or go beyond. Now, I believe I will see people on the moon in my lifetime, but they will speak Chinese. Where will America be when this happens? Thank you
Mr. Frank Sietzen
Chairman Brownback, Senator Breaux, and members of the subcommittee: On behalf of the Space Transportation Association, I would like to express my thanks and appreciation for this opportunity to come before you today to discuss the future of the U.S. space propulsion industry and leadership in this critical national field of endeavor. Space propulsion, be it in boosters, upper stages, or in-space systems, is the backbone of U.S. access to space. The objective of U.S. space transportation policy should be to assure that access to space for all U.S. civil, military, and commercial users. The STA believes that this can be accomplished by development and operation of a robust combination of advanced reusable and expendable space launch systems, engines, and propulsion technologies. Such systems should share a maximum of common user interfaces, and be designed to substantially reduce the cost and complexity of space launch over today’s existing systems, while increasing safety and reliability in operations. We at STA believe that assured access to space via this combination of systems is essential to the national security and economic interests of the United States. To advance this objective, STA recommends for consideration the following: To reinvigorate the U.S. space propulsion and launch technology industrial base, a series of strategic goals for specific breakthrough, leap-ahead technologies should be implemented. These goals should both challenge the industry and provide a basis for future space flight programs in near-Earth space, beyond earth orbit, and for flight by both robotic probes and humans throughout the Solar System. As suggested by the U.S. Aerospace Commission, such goals could include: · The capability to process and launch payloads upon demand, driven by national security or special civil space developments. · Breakthrough propulsion systems for both ascent and in-orbit operations that are of an order of magnitude cheaper and more reliable than existing expendable or reusable rocket engines and thrusters. · Development of space launch facilities that reduce launch preparation time and increase launch opportunities for a variety of payloads. · Substantially reduce the transit time to send missions from Earth orbit to other destinations in the solar system. The United States should commit to a continuous, long- term development program to produce next- generation advanced space propulsion systems for sub-orbital, Earth-to-orbit, and on-orbit flight operations. Such a program should be fully funded annually, include NASA, Defense Department and commercial requirements, and supplement existing programs such as SLI, NAI and IHPRPT. Such a development program should strengthen the U.S. industrial base as well as reduce cost, risk, and increase the reliability of space propulsion systems and technologies in the 21st Century. As one element of such a sustained program, the Integrated High Payoff Rocket Technology Program (IHPRPT) should be fully funded. The IHPRPT project, begun in FY94, set as its main objective a series of specific performance improvements in both liquid and solid rocket propulsion. The overarching goal was to achieve a doubling of rocket performance by 2010. The program was constructed to be a partnership that included NASA, the Air Force, Army, Navy, and industry. To date, however, funding targets have only been achieved by the Air Force and industry. To accomplish its many technological goals, IHPRPT must be given both full funding as originally proposed when the program began, as well as a priority within the U.S. civil and military space research budgets. But IHPRPT should be only one element of a robust and sustained program to develop advanced launch and propulsion systems. The USAF and DARPA should be directed to work with NASA to jointly demonstrate and mature the technologies required for any advanced launch vehicles developed through either the SLI or NAI programs. These technology risk reduction efforts should be addressed in an incremental fashion to minimize cost. The USAF, FAA AST, and state governments should be tasked to develop a plan for the future direction and control of national space launch ranges. This plan should be consistent with the recommendations of the 2000 Defense Science Board Task Force report on Air Force Space Launch Facilities; specifically: A. Development of a vision for national space launch ranges B. An improved operational approach for national launch sites C. Centralization of planning and operational functions for space launch ranges D. Establish an enhanced public-private partnership for space launch ranges E. Development of a long-range plan for technology enhancements and architecture configurations for space launch ranges. In summary, the most effective way the Congress and the administration can assist the space launch and propulsion industries would be through clear national space policy goals and objectives, consistent and adequate funding for research and development, and a regular dialog with industry leaders and their representatives. My thanks for the opportunity to come before you today, and I look forward to answering any questions that you may have. -Frank Sietzen, Jr. SPACE TRANSPORTATION ASSOCIATION
Mr. James H. Crocker
Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the Senate Science, Technology, and Space Subcommittee, my name is Jim Crocker, Vice President of Civil Space, at Lockheed Martin Space & Strategic Missiles. Chairman Brownback, I am deeply grateful for your kind invitation to appear before your subcommittee and provide testimony this afternoon. It is a special privilege for me to appear before you today, along with my esteemed colleague Dr. Ed Weiler, Associate Administrator for Space Science at NASA, and my industry colleagues on the panel. And it is an honor to speak with you on behalf of the Lockheed Martin Corporation about the future of solar system and deep space exploration which NASA has envisioned, and which will be made possible by NASA’s recently announced Project Prometheus in-space propulsion initiative. Our nation is completing a five-year investment and development period, which has resulted in the successful inaugural flights of two new Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle systems (EELV). The second Atlas V, launched just three weeks ago, May 13, was the 65th consecutive successful mission for the Atlas family of launch vehicles. The United States now has two robust platforms ensuring our access to space for important national assets, scientific payloads and commercial satellites. The subject of today’s hearing is of vital importance, and it is very timely. It builds upon our successes in improving the United States’ space launch systems that take us from ground to orbit, and it brings attention to the next step – the urgent need to improve the propulsion and power system capabilities of those important spacecraft sent into space. At Lockheed Martin, we are continuing to push the frontiers of in-space propulsion technology, built upon our company’s half century of experience in space nuclear power systems. Lockheed Martin is extremely proud of our partnership with NASA during the past four decades of space exploration, and of the important role we have played in designing and building components for the vast majority of spacecraft that have explored and are continuing to explore our solar system. Today, I would like to focus on the vital importance of Project Prometheus, NASA’s nuclear in-space propulsion initiative. When we envision the future of space exploration and the knowledge that it will yield for all mankind, that future will be constrained if new nuclear space propulsion and power systems are not developed. We are talking about leaping ahead in our ability to explore -- on a scale that is revolutionary. Project Prometheus will result in next-generation technology capabilities. It will be reliable and safe, without compromise. It is about the power of space exploration – literally. And in many aspects, it will determine the future of our ability to explore our universe. I was recently helping my son study for an eighth grade science test. As I looked through his science book, I marveled at the pictures of Jupiter and its icy moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto; beautiful Saturn, its ring system, and moons Titan, Hyperion Mimas and Rhea Uranus; and the planet Neptune. I was struck by something that all of these images have in common. They were obtained by nuclear powered spacecraft. These fantastic pictures that we take for granted in our textbooks would not have been possible without nuclear power. At these far distances from the sun, solar power is impractical. The sun is merely another star in the dark night of space. Only nuclear powered spacecraft can sail these distant oceans of space. The enormous potential of space propulsion, based on nuclear fission, has been recognized since the earliest days of the space program. The United States has flown only one system using nuclear propulsion in space - the SNAP-10A in 1965. Since the mid-1960s, all U.S. activities have concentrated on ground-based, pre-flight technology programs, such as NERVA in the 1960s and SP-100 in the 1980s. NASA recently renewed its interest in nuclear propulsion by initiating Project Prometheus, a broad program aimed at near- and long-term applications of nuclear propulsion. One part of the program involves the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO), a proposed mission to perform extensive investigation of Jupiter's icy Galilean moons -- Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Featuring a nuclear electric propulsion system, the JIMO spacecraft will be capable of far more sophisticated scientific measurements and data communications than any of today's deep space missions. At Lockheed Martin, we are proud of our pioneering history in both nuclear powered spacecraft and planetary exploration. We have played a significant role in every U.S. mission to the planets and moons of our solar systems. Those missions include Viking, Voyager, Magellan, Cassini, Mars Global Surveyor, 2001 Mars Odyssey, Genesis and Stardust to name just a few. For almost half a century, we have been pioneers in using nuclear power for space exploration. From the very first Radioisotope space power system developed under the Eisenhower Atoms for Peace Program in 1959 at the Glen L. Martin plant in Middle River, Baltimore, to the first launch of a nuclear powered system SNAP-9a on the Navy’s Transit Satellite in 1961, we have played an important role. We have served as the nation’s supplier of every space nuclear power system for the last quarter century. Every one of those systems is safe and reliable. The first of these missions, Voyager I, is in its 25th year of operation. This is an impressive history of reliability and safety, but the basic technology has barely changed in almost fifty years and it is inadequate for future space exploration. These systems provide no more than a few hundred watts of electrical energy to power spacecraft systems and scientific instruments, enough to power only a handful of light bulbs. NASA’s Project Prometheus promises a revolutionary increase in power and a transformation of our ability to explore our solar system. Prometheus missions will utilize a small, compact 55-gallon drum-sized reactor that will supply not just a few hundred watts of power but over 100,000 watts of power. It will transform the operational and science-gathering abilities of future spacecraft much like nuclear powered submarines have transformed the ability to traverse the seas. Project Prometheus will provide revolutionary improvements in a spacecraft’s capabilities in terms of propulsion, power for science instruments, and power for increased bandwidth to bring the data back to Earth. For illustration, just six water glasses filled with nuclear fuel are able to provide more propulsive energy than in all of the rockets that have been launched to date. This amount of fuel can power a spacecraft for multiple decades. This much power will enable space science undreamed of until Prometheus, and will provide the means to transmit staggering amounts of science data back to Earth. Imagine the possibilities. The New Horizon mission is an important mission being developed by NASA today to gather data about the planet Pluto, the only planet not yet explored by spacecraft and a high priority mission identified by the scientific community in the Decadal Survey. New Horizon uses today’s state-of-the-art chemical propulsion system. It will fly by Pluto after a 15-year journey in space and as it flies by the planet, it will have several hours to gather prime science and images of the planet’s surface. It does not have sufficient propulsion capability to enter orbit around Pluto or its moon, Charon. Now contrast that with the first Prometheus-enabled mission JIMO, the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter, which would be launched in 2011. Upon arrival at the Jupiter system, the JIMO spacecraft will spiral in to its first target – the jovian moon Europa. Using high-resolution science instruments, it will photograph the surface and perhaps using high power radar, it will probe beneath the ice to the liquid ocean below -- an ocean where scientists hold high hopes that life may thrive. With the enormous increase in bandwidth made possible by increased power, the spacecraft will be able to transmit to Earth more science data in terms of pure volume than has been collected in the history of planetary exploration. Then we will power up the propulsion system and move to another moon and another and then another, and continue to send back the wealth of science data and images that it will acquire during each operation. Nuclear power in space is the difference. I did a simple calculation and found that over 99% of our solar system by volume cannot be explored without nuclear power. What we are talking about today, Mr. Chairman, is not whether we will develop new nuclear space power systems – but whether we will explore space. Because without nuclear propulsion and power systems developed by NASA’s Project Prometheus, we cannot truly explore and collect the volume of science data that we desire about our solar system much beyond Mars. We are talking about the need to move forward and revolutionize the ability to explore space. Mr. Chairman, Lockheed Martin is engaged with NASA on several levels that are of vital national interest. The Nuclear System Initiative and Project Prometheus are visionary, their ultimate development is essential, and the talent and experience to make them reality exists today. Today, we are greatly limited in our ability to explore space -- even our own planet -- because of the limited capabilities of spacecraft chemical propulsion systems and solar cell power generation systems. What chemical propulsion and solar cell power systems allow us to do today, versus what space nuclear power systems will enable us to do in the future, is very much like the difference between wind-powered Clipper ships versus today’s nuclear powered submarines. It is the difference between the past and the future. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, we encourage you to strongly support the Nuclear System Initiative and Project Prometheus. As NASA has envisioned, Project Prometheus “includes substantial, long-term investments to develop advanced nuclear technologies that will expand NASA's toolkit for solar system exploration, and could ultimately lead to human voyages to Mars and other destinations throughout the solar system.” As we enter the 21st century, we find the Europeans launching a mission to Mars, the Japanese launching a mission to an asteroid, the Chinese considering missions to the moon and the United States preparing to embark upon an entirely new journey of exploration. Project Prometheus will propel the next generation of American scientists and engineers toward discoveries beyond imagination and provide technological benefits to the nation that go well beyond the exploration of planets and moons. When I help my future grandchildren study for their science tests, I hope to see new pictures and read of bold new discoveries in their textbooks. With your support and leadership, Project Prometheus will make that possible. Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, I want to thank you again for holding this important hearing today and for asking me to participate in it. I will be glad to respond to any questions you or members of the Committee may have.