The Senate Commerce Committee's Science and Space Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on Human Space Flight: The Space Shuttle and Beyond for Wednesday, May 18, 2005, at 10:30 a.m. in room 253 of the Russell Building. Senator Hutchison will chair this subcommittee hearing.
The witnesses were:
Kay Bailey HutchisonSenator
Opening Statement of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Chairman
Subcommittee on Science and Space
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Hearing on “Human Space Flight - The Space Shuttle and Beyond.”
May 18, 2005
I am pleased to welcome our witnesses here today for this hearing on Human Space Flight - The Space Shuttle and Beyond. I know you are all very busy people, and the subcommittee appreciates your willingness to be here with is to discuss some very important issues for the future of human space flight.
I am especially pleased to welcome Dr. Michael Griffin here, who is perhaps busier than all of us, as he continues to assume the helm of NASA, assemble his leadership team, and prepare to give the go-ahead for the space shuttle’s return to flight.
We begin the focus of today’s hearing on the space shuttle, because that is this nation’s only human space flight vehicle. The Space Shuttle continues to represent an incredibly valuable national asset. We all share, I’m sure, the great hope that it will return to flight in July as a safer, more capable vehicle than ever before.
This hearing is not intended to delve into the near-term issues or the steps taken to prepare for Return to Flight. Rather, we hope to review the role of the Space Shuttle as representing an essential US capability to fly humans and cargo into space and back to the Earth. We will hear about the current status of our ability to continue flying the Space Shuttle, and plans for its use after a successful Return to Flight. We expect to hear about the need to ensure that the United States has such a capability and can sustain human space flight into the future without a serious gap in our ability to do so. We hope to hear what steps are now being taken and will be taken in the future to develop a successor to the Space Shuttle in a manner that provides a smooth, uninterrupted transition from one US human space flight capability to the next.
With talk—and plans—to retire the Space Shuttle, we must carefully guard against the premature loss of either skilled expertise in the workforce or industrial capacity to support and sustain the Space Shuttle for however much longer it will fly. Members of our second panel will address these and other issues.
It is essential that we learn from the mistakes made in past efforts to develop a new generation of vehicles for US human spaceflight. We do not have the luxury of either time or resources to make another false start as we add the new dimension of the Moon, Mars and beyond to this nation’s human spaceflight capability.
This hearing is intended to set the stage for what will be the Subcommittee’s ongoing efforts to monitor and ensure the success of US efforts to sustain an effective, uninterrupted national human spaceflight capability.
I look forward to our witnesses’ testimony and their response to questions of the Subcommittee.
Witness Panel 1
Dr. Michael D. GriffinAdministratorNational Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Dr. Michael D. Griffin
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Subcommittee on Science and Space
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
United States Senate
Madam Chair and Members of the Subcommittee; thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the status and role of the Space Shuttle in human space flight, our plans for the Shuttle’s retirement, our progress in minimizing the gap between the retirement of the Space Shuttle and the introduction of the Crew Exploration Vehicle. On January 14, 2004, President George W. Bush announced the Vision for Space Exploration. The President’s directive gave NASA a new and historic focus and clear objectives. The fundamental goal of this directive for the Nation’s space exploration program is “…to advance U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests through a robust space exploration program.” In issuing this directive, the President committed the Nation to a journey of exploring the solar system and beyond, returning humans to the Moon, and sending robots and ultimately humans to Mars and other destinations. NASA embraced this direction and began a long-term transformation to enable us to achieve this goal. The first steps in enabling the Vision for Space Exploration are to return the Space Shuttle fleet to flight, to focus the use of the Space Shuttle on completing assembly of the International Space Station, to retire the Space Shuttle by 2010, and to replace it as soon as possible thereafter with the new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV). Given the importance of ensuring that the Space Shuttle is returned to flight safely, the Space Shuttle program and, indeed, the whole of NASA has been devoting its available resources and human capital to ensuring that this first step is executed to the best of our abilities. Once the two Return to Flight missions are behind us and we have developed a higher level of confidence in the knowledge of the Shuttle debris environment, we can focus a greater level of attention on the important issues surrounding Space Shuttle transition and the development of the next generation of human spaceflight vehicles. Space Shuttle Return to Flight On April 28, 2005, the Space Shuttle program management recommended that we extend our planning for the first Return to Flight mission, STS-114, to support the launch window that opens in July 2005. I concurred with this recommendation. This change was not the result of any single problem, but instead reflected the need to take additional time to perform our verification and validation reviews, and to assess the results from the External Tank (ET) fueling test performed on April 14, 2005. We knew that there were some open questions going into these reviews and tests, and we had very detailed plans for developing answers to those questions. We also understood that the reviews and tests might raise additional questions before Return to Flight, and that we would have to be prepared to review our plans and launch opportunities in light of this. That is exactly what happened. One of the most notable outcomes was our decision to modify the feed line bellows area with an electrically powered heater to further reduce or eliminate the ice that naturally forms in the area. This decision to insert some additional planning time to support a mid-July launch opportunity was not made lightly. Everyone in the Space Shuttle program recognizes that we have an extremely important mission to carry out, and that completing assembly of the International Space Station and executing the Vision for Space Exploration cannot happen until we return the Space Shuttle to flight. At the same time, this change reflects our continuing commitment to remain focused on safety of flight considerations and prudent engineering decisions. Transporting people into space remains risky compared to most other human endeavors. We must make sure that every decision to send people on missions into space is made with the utmost concern for their safety. Today, work continues in preparation for another ET tanking test scheduled for as early as tomorrow, May 19, while the STS-114 Shuttle stack is still at its launch pad. Engineers and technicians are adding instrumentation to the tank to help troubleshoot two problems that were detected during its first tanking test on April 14. The instrumentation will provide data to further analyze and diagnose the cause for these two problems: the liquid hydrogen sensors that gave intermittent readings and the liquid hydrogen pressurization relief valve that cycled more times than standard during last month's test. Following the tanking test, technicians will prepare for rolling back Discovery to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) no earlier than May 24. In the VAB, Discovery will be removed from its ET and lowered into the transfer aisle. It has taken an extraordinary effort to return the Space Shuttle fleet to flight readiness status. 116 individual hardware modifications (41 of which were directly related to the 15 Return to Flight recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board [CAIB]) and over 3.5 million work-hours have gone into Return to Flight, raising the bar, and launch processing activities on Space Shuttle Discovery alone. Our Return to Flight effort has been focused on identifying hazards, re-designing current systems to eliminate or control those hazards, providing means for warning that hazards might have occurred during flight, and emplacing standardized special procedures to counter any hazardous conditions that might arise. We have eliminated the External Tank bipod foam which was the proximate cause of the Space Shuttle Columbia accident on February 1, 2003. The crews on board Discovery and the International Space Station will now be able to detect critical damage to the Space Shuttle’s thermal protection system during the first two development test flights and, in the unexpected event of severe damage, to take shelter in the International Space Station until a rescue mission can be launched. We have gone well beyond the recommendations of the CAIB to reduce risks and provide additional safety measures through added hardware improvements and procedural changes. Return to Flight has been a massive effort, focusing the energies of every technical discipline across all the NASA Centers and Space Shuttle contractors on a very specific objective. It has been, in short, an example of NASA at its finest. I am very proud of this Space Shuttle team and this Agency for their hard work, their diligence, and their incomparable expertise and professionalism during these difficult times. But returning the Space Shuttle fleet to flight status is only the first step in the Nation’s Vision for Space Exploration. Over the next few years, the Space Shuttle fleet will resume executing some of the most complex missions ever attempted in space. The return to Space Shuttle operations means that NASA can once again return to assembly of the International Space Station. The first two Space Shuttle Return to Flight missions, STS-114 and STS-121, are development test and logistics missions which will focus on carrying cargo to the Station and thoroughly exercising the extensive hardware and process changes made during the past twenty-seven months. Following those two flights, the crew of STS-115 will resume the assembly of the International Space Station. We will complete assembly of the International Space Station using the minimum number of Space Shuttle flights necessary. Space Shuttle Transition - Scope As the Space Shuttle resumes its mission, NASA will begin tackling an equally challenging assignment – ensuring a safe and orderly retirement of the Space Shuttle system by 2010 and a graceful transition of the Space Shuttle knowledge, workforce, and assets to future exploration missions. We need to maintain a robust program that is capable of safely executing the remaining Space Shuttle missions while, at the same time, not displacing the orderly pursuit of necessary transition activities. This effort could very well be one of the largest single planned transitions NASA (or any federal agency) has ever undertaken. The Space Shuttle program occupies 640 facilities, utilizes over 900,000 equipment line items, and directly employs over 2,000 civil servants and more than 15,000 work-year-equivalent prime contractors, with an additional 3,000 people working indirectly on Space Shuttle activities at all NASA Centers. Thousands more are employed at the subcontractor level in 43 states across the country. The total equipment value held by the Program is over $12 billion. The total facilities value held by the Program is approximately $5.7 billion (approximately one-third of the value of NASA’s entire facility inventory), mostly at the field centers. There are also approximately 1,500 active suppliers and 3,000 – 4,000 qualified suppliers that directly support the Space Shuttle program. Of all these assets, the most important are, of course, the people. Space Shuttle transition will have an unavoidable impact on NASA’s workforce. The early transition of workforce elements, the need to retain segments of that workforce, and the transition of program knowledge to future programs must all be addressed. We will ensure that this transition treats these dedicated people with the respect they deserve, and that their knowledge and experience will be captured or converted as we begin the next phase of exploration. There will be challenges, but we will ensure that critical skills are retained for safe mission execution through the operational life of the program. NASA and the Space Shuttle program will also face significant challenges in terms of balancing different technical and programmatic requirements: (1) maintaining access to the necessary equipment, facilities, and vendors needed through Space Shuttle flyout; (2) identifying and maintaining those capabilities that may be needed for next-generation exploration systems activities, and; (3) retiring unneeded capabilities to free resources that will support future exploration. For example, because the amount of flight hardware accumulated (including spares) will be sufficient to meet the current mission manifest through 2010, several key Space Shuttle hardware vendors and sub-tier suppliers will be ending their relationship with the program prior to 2010. Draw-down decisions need to be made with regard to equipment and facilities which currently support (and are supported by) the Space Shuttle program. These resources will need to be characterized and dispositioned in such a way that either supports exploration goals or removes them from NASA’s books. Many of these decisions depend upon the role that Space Shuttle knowledge, workforce, hardware, and infrastructure will play in follow-on launch vehicles. NASA is continuing to analyze next-generation crew and heavy-lift launch requirements in support of the Vision for Space Exploration, including the degree to which those requirements could be met by boosters derived from existing Space Shuttle propulsion components and systems. Flight-proven Space Shuttle propulsion elements (including the Space Shuttle Main Engines, the Solid Rocket Boosters, and the External Tank, as well as some of the existing Space Shuttle infrastructure and workforce) will be carefully evaluated, as their use may enable more rapid development of crew and heavy lift capability than other alternatives like Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (Delta IV and Atlas V). A decision to use Space Shuttle propulsion elements as part of our next-generation space transportation architecture would have a significant impact on Space Shuttle transition planning. However, since these launch vehicle requirements are not yet fully defined, current Space Shuttle transition planning must take into account the risks of prematurely terminating Space Shuttle vendors and retiring equipment and facilities that could possibly be needed to fulfill these requirements. Space Shuttle transition will also be affected by the number and pacing of flights needed to complete assembly of the International Space Station. NASA is also currently examining alternative configurations for the Space Station that meet the goals of the Vision and the needs of our international partners, while requiring as few Shuttle flights as possible to complete assembly. This effort will be a factor in the formulation of NASA’s FY 2007 budget, and we will keep Congressional Committees informed as the study effort progresses. I believe that Space Shuttle transition will be one of the largest, most complex, and most emotionally-charged tasks facing NASA during the initial phases of the Vision. It cannot be started too soon. Space Shuttle Transition - Processes The single most important requirement in Space Shuttle transition is to maintain the highest level of flight and ground safety through the life of the Program. The last flight of the Space Shuttle must be just as safe as the upcoming Return to Flight missions. The success of Space Shuttle transition will also depend upon serving the goals of the Vision for Space Exploration in such a way that takes maximum advantage of existing programs and personnel, minimizes the negative impacts of transition on Space Shuttle team morale and performance, and ensures full compliance with all relevant federal, state, and local laws and standards. Our transition planning began soon after the release of the Vision for Space Exploration a year ago. While our efforts over the past two years have been dedicated to Return to Flight, NASA has also concluded the exploratory phase of its Space Shuttle transition activities and has begun to set out the next steps in transition planning. We have benchmarked phaseouts in other high-technology, systems-intense programs, including the ongoing retirement of the Titan IV program, which just had its final launch out of Cape Canaveral on April 29, 2005. The Space Shuttle program has also asked the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to assist us in our transition activities, particularly in the development of strategies and plans for the transition from the Space Shuttle program to the programs that will implement the Vision for Space Exploration. Through the recent Integrated Space Operations Summit this past March, NASA engaged a broad community on a number of issues affecting both the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs. For this past year’s annual Summit, NASA chartered one panel specifically to study Space Shuttle transition. That panel considered several programs, including the Titan IV, and developed recommendations intended to lay the foundation for managing Space Shuttle transition activities. In accordance with these recommendations, the Space Operations Mission Directorate will establish the position of Space Transportation System Transition Manager. The initial efforts of this manager will be to develop the planning as recommended by the Transition Panel and to look for candidate areas for transition from the Space Shuttle program. We will select an individual to fill this position shortly. The Space Shuttle program recognizes the importance of maintaining an experienced workforce to safely execute the Space Shuttle’s mission through the end of the decade. The NASA Workforce Flexibility Act of 2004 provides the Agency with vital tools, such as the authority to provide workforce retention bonuses in critical skill areas, that will help retain the necessary human capital needed during mission execution. NASA has nine panels and teams looking at workforce issues across the Agency, in addition to the Integrated Space Operations Summit Transition Panel’s workforce assessment. We have also invited human capital experts from government and private industry to advise us on best practices during Space Shuttle program phaseout. Many of our contractor partners have begun taking steps (such as defining critical skill requirements and bringing in human capital consulting firms) to counter the impact of transition on mission execution. Provisions in the follow-on to the Space Flight Operations Contract (which runs through September 2006) will require the prime Space Shuttle operations contractor, United Space Alliance, to prepare for sustaining its required workforce, including submitting a critical skills retention plan. Accelerating the Crew Exploration Vehicle A cornerstone of the Vision for Space Exploration is a Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) and its associated launch system. The CEV will be developed in the latter part of this decade and deployed operationally as soon as possible. The primary mission of the CEV will be the exploration of the Moon and other destinations, but initially it will conduct missions in Earth orbit, including missions to the International Space Station. Our earlier plans called for operational deployment of the CEV not later than 2014. As I testified during my confirmation hearing, I believe that the CEV development must be accelerated in order to minimize the gap between the 2010 Space Shuttle retirement and the first operational flight of the CEV. NASA has embarked upon a rigorous review of the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) architecture to determine opportunities to accelerate the availability of the CEV. This assessment is a part of the "Exploration Systems Architecture Study" (ESAS), which I chartered on April 29, 2005. The product of this analysis is anticipated by mid-July 2005. Acceleration of the CEV program will be facilitated by down-selecting to a single contractor sooner than originally planned, and by deferring other elements of the exploration systems research and technology plan, like demonstration of nuclear electric propulsion, not required for the CEV or for the early phases of human return to the Moon. The CEV will conduct missions in Earth orbit, including missions to the ISS, but its primary mission will be to support exploration of the Moon and other destinations. In addition, NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate will be responsible for developing and acquiring crew and cargo services to support the International Space Station, and funds have been transferred to that Directorate, as reflected in the May update to the FY 2005 Operating Plan. NASA needs to communicate our view of the CEV launch architecture and our requirements, and we will keep Congressional Committees informed as the ESAS study effort progresses. Going forward, the Agency will need a launch system for the CEV, one which does not at present exist. Two obvious possibilities exist by which we might obtain such a vehicle. The first is to develop a launch system derived from Shuttle components, specifically the SRB with a new upper stage. The second option is to upgrade the proposed heavy-lift versions of EELV, again in all likelihood with a new upper stage. As NASA Administrator, I must be a responsible steward of our funds, and a key aspect of the Agency’s analysis of alternatives will be to capitalize on existing technical and workforce assets in a cost-effective and efficient way. NASA’s goal is to develop a CEV capable of operating safely soon after the retirement of the Space Shuttle. Summary Space Shuttle transition represents an enormous challenge for NASA and for the Nation as a whole. While we have benchmarked other programs that are similar in scope to the Space Shuttle, the Shuttle is one of the largest single programs for which an orderly transition to disposal has ever been required. I do not want, and we should not want, to repeat the mistakes made in the aftermath of the Apollo program, where many unique capabilities were shut down abruptly and irretrievably. We must transition the Space Shuttle in a way that ensures continued safety in our ongoing operations, maximizes the efficiency with which we utilize our resources, respects the Space Shuttle workforce, and protects critical national capabilities that will be needed to support the Vision for Space Exploration. There will be hard decisions to be made over the next five years. It is vital, however, that we remain focused on the worthy and ambitious goals laid out by the President on January 14, 2004. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today, and I look forward to responding to any questions you may have.
Witness Panel 2
Dr. Joan Johnson-FreeseChair, Department of National Security StudiesNaval War College
Testimony of Dr. Joan Johnson-Freese
May 18, 2005
The Strategic Environment of Human Spaceflight Last week, I challenged my class of 78 college students to, first, name three of the Apollo astronauts, then, three current astronauts. Some could name three Apollo astronauts, none could name three current astronauts, or even one. The Apollo program represents a glorious part of American history. Neil Armstrong stepping off planet Earth and onto another celestial body was both a shining moment for Americans, and a spiritual moment for all mankind. America held the attention and admiration of the world because it dared to venture into the Heavens. But too often America is a crisis-response society. Politically motivated to go to the Moon by the Soviet launch of Sputnik, in less than a decade the United States was successful beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. Unfortunately, however, we did not choose to stay or to continue the journey. Instead, we came home and spaceflight has since been confined to the celestial driveway. Now, except for a few die-hards, the American public shows more interest in its space museums than space exploration. But, I will suggest, allowing even the perception of U.S. leadership in human space to slip has negative strategic implications for the United States. Americans take great pride in space achievements. Even at the height of the Apollo era though, opinion polls showed that the public sees space exploration as a good thing to do, but expendable when prioritized against other demands for federal funding, like health care, education, schools and defense. Subsequently, the human space program has been struggling since Apollo to find a raison d’etre with both the public and politicians sufficient to carry human spaceflight out of the celestial driveway and into the street. The difference between Apollo and all subsequent human space visions has been the goals. Whereas Apollo had a strategic goal -- “beat the Russians” -- programs since have had science and exploration as their goals and unfortunately, these goals have not proven sufficient to be competitive with other demands for federal funds. While many countries have shown interest over the years in developing autonomous human space programs, besides the United States only Russia and China, as of the October 2003 launch of the first Chinese taikonaut, have been successful. The Russian human space program was rescued from becoming moribund when it merged with NASA’s human program to develop the International Space Station (ISS). Russia is still, however, unable to pursue new high-cost initiatives on its own, due to both economics and because they have learned that developing and maintaining support for a human space program is hard in democracies. While the European Space Agency (ESA) and countries like Japan and India likely have the technical wherewithal to have a successful human space program, they lack the requisite political will. In a Catch-22 scenario, however, having to always play a supporting role to the United States makes it even more difficult to garner public support and political will for human space activity. While Japan has long talked about a human space program, being responsible to an electorate, bureaucratic politics, economics and a cultural adversity to risk will likely keep them Earthbound. India too, as a democracy, remains constrained by public perceptions of priorities lying elsewhere. It is only because China’s program is driven from the top that it has successfully been carried to fruition. So why is China, a country with 1.3+ billion people, willing to devote significant resources to human spaceflight capability? The Apollo program demonstrated the benefits that accrue to a nation able to claim a human spaceflight capability. In the movie Apollo 13 Tom Hanks shows a Congressional delegation around Kennedy Space Center pointing out constituent jobs in high tech fields that were politically distributed to all fifty states. Jobs are always a valued program benefit. Americans expressed interest in science and technology education unmatched either before or after Apollo. Technology developed for space translated into economic development. Dual-use technology with both civil and military applications was developed. And finally, America enjoyed the prestige of “winning” the space race against the Soviet Union, which translated into a unifying pride during the contentious Viet Nam War era, and also drew Third World countries to our side during the Cold War when East-West blocks competed for support. Those same benefits, jobs, education, economic development, dual-use technology and prestige are still motivating factors for space activity. Since the 1950’s, Europe has pursued space under the premise that space activity generated technology, technology generated industry, and industry led to economic development. China learned from the Apollo playbook as well. Training and employing workers in high-technology aerospace jobs in China keeps large numbers of people employed, which is a Chinese priority. It also demonstrates to the world that China is able to, as one Chinese commentator put it, “make more than shoes,” thereby supporting their overarching economic development goal by attracting global industries to China. China is also experiencing growth in science and engineering education programs at unprecedented levels. China is clearly interested in modernizing its military, and, again learning from the U.S. playbook, China has seen the benefits space can yield in force enhancement capabilities. And finally, there is prestige. Prestige takes on two dimensions for China: first, domestically it bestows credibility on the Communist government much in the same way bringing the Olympics to Beijing does. In regional and international terms, prestige translates into techno-nationalism, where perceived technical prowess is equated to regional power. This is particularly important to China, which has been working hard and been largely successful at using economics and soft power to transform its regional image from that of the bully, to a rising power that countries can work with. For countries like Japan and India, these perceptions are important. Speculation about an Asian space race floats on the wind, but it is unlikely. After the Shenzhou V launch in October 2003, the Indian science community claimed it too could have accomplished such an achievement, but had simply chosen not to. That response was intended to quell concerns from both the Indian public and politicians about China’s technical prowess compared to India’s – techno-nationalism. Initial Japanese responses to the launch varied. Space officials downplayed the technical significance of the event, while nonetheless congratulating China. A Japanese official spoke to the media directly in geostrategic terms. “Japan is likely to be the one to take the severest blow from the Chinese success. A country capable of launching any time will have a large influence in terms of diplomacy at the United Nations and military affairs. Moves to buy products from a country succeeding in human space flight may occur.” One woman on the street was quoted in Japanese media coverage as saying, “It’s unbelievable. Japan lost in this field.” While Japan’s “losing” to China through the Shenzhou V launch was more perception than reality, China’s success juxtaposed against power failures on both the Japanese environmental satellite Midori-2 and on its first Mars probe, Nozomi, as well as the November 2003 launch failure of two Information Gathering Satellites (IGS), resulted in calls for a reexamination of the Japanese program. However, because of the problems initiating and sustaining human space programs in democracies, combined with unique internal politics in both countries, the initiation of an autonomous human program in either Japan or India is unlikely. With China’s entry into the exclusive human spaceflight club, the strategic gameboard was put in motion. Whereas the United States has pursued of path of simultaneously cooperation and competition with other countries in various aspects of space, such as cooperating with Europe on ISS but competing in the commercial launch field, with China the U.S. approach has been purely competitive. China has been excluded from partnership on the International Space Station, for many years their “brass ring.” The reasoning for the U.S. purely competitive approach has been technical and political: seeking to stop China from acquiring sensitive dual use technology, concern that China will be the next U.S. peer competitor, and not wanting to support the largest remaining Communist government in the world, especially one charged with human rights abuses and other practices averse to democratic principles. While such an approach may be virtuous, realities are such that it increasingly appears counterproductive. We have to face an uncomfortable fact here: a country whose interests may very well some day conflict with our own is going to pursue a line of technological development that could enhance its ability to challenge us through multiple venues. And they are going to be aided in this by other countries, whether we like it or not. While the U.S. seeks to contain China, much of the rest of the world is eager to work with China, thereby negating much of the impact the United States is trying to achieve, and indirectly encouraging activities not necessarily in the interest of the U.S. Other countries, allies, have often held passive-aggressive feelings toward space partnerships with the U.S.: welcoming and grateful for the opportunities, while resenting being inherently consigned to a supporting role, and feeling that U.S. partners are often treated more as secondary participants or sub-contractors on projects. Working with China gives them a chance to level the playing field. There is a fairly widespread perception among the U.S. and international media, and a disconcerting number of the American public, that a human space race between China and the U.S. is either already underway or inevitable. China’s one human launch into space clearly demonstrated the maturity of Chinese space engineering. Successfully launching a rocket is not, however, a scientific breakthrough – the know-how has been in textbooks for more than fifty years. It does demonstrate the careful attention to literally thousands of minute engineering details. But by no means has China leapfrogged over U.S. capabilities. China has ambitious human space goals, but a modest, incremental implementation plan. Officially, their current human program is a three part plan: man in space, a space laboratory, and a space station. Beyond that, their ambitions for the Moon and Mars are facing the same funding and political hurdles as NASA faces in the U.S.. In a November 21, 2004 press conference Ouyang Ziyuan, the lead scientist of their lunar program, talked about the costs and benefits of space, referencing the Apollo experience. The lunar exploration project will spur high tech development, and I cannot calculate how much return there will be on that investment of 1.4 billion, but the Apollo project spurred the scientific, technical, economic military and other development of the 1960s, produced over 3000 new technologies of all types with applications useful in everyday life, and was not only responsible for America's leading position in science and technology, but it produced enormous political and economic change. It is estimated that for every dollar invested there was an economic return of 4-5 dollars. We learned a lot about the Moon, the Earth, the Sun that is impossible to calculate in dollar terms. From ancient times to the present China has had the legend of Chang E, and you could say that going to the Moon started with China, but to today we have still not left the Earth. The lunar exploration project will have an incalculably valuable effect on the ethnic spirit and motivation (of the Chinese people) and I ask you, how much is that worth?" While having to justify expenditures, the Chinese will continue their quest for space as long as sufficient domestic and geostrategic benefits accrue, and they will solicit international partners. China’s human spaceflight program was largely indigenously developed, but based on proven designs adapted to make them their own. They have openly stated their appreciation for the work of the former Soviet Union toward making their own human spaceflight program a success. China understands the benefits, fiscal, technical and political, of cooperation. In the same November 21, 2004 press report, Ouyang Ziyuan spoke about cooperation. "International cooperation (in space exploration) is a necessary development, no single country has the ability to complete (this undertaking) by itself. Landing on the Moon is an affair of the entire human race, and we should make our contribution on behalf of the Chinese race, fulfill the responsibility of the Chinese race. We want to learn together with others, not close ourselves off and go our own way." A pragmatic move for the Chinese, there will interested takers to invitations for cooperation. China has spent approximately $2.2 billion on its Shenzhou program, whereas NASA’s annual budget is in excess of $16 billion. Shenzhou V was launched in 2003; Shenzhou VI will likely be launched in 2005. From the Chinese perspective, there was no need to go any sooner, as China has been able to enjoy its new found status as the third country capable of human spaceflight, while improving its technical capabilities, and keeping spending to a manageable level. Nevertheless, China’s ability to successfully launch their first taikonaut while the U.S. Space Shuttle was grounded added to the perception of China’s technical prowess compared to the U.S., not an inconsequential or unrewarding benefit for the Chinese. If the Shuttle is still not flying next Fall when the Chinese launch again, the Chinese will reap further prestige and publicity at the expense of the U.S. The U.S. has historically been the reigning human space champion, but there is always interest – and even tacit support -- when a spoiler overtakes, or even appears to overtake, a champion. The U.S. appears in, and to some losing, a human space race, because the U.S. has been unable to set and implement a realistic way forward, and because of U.S. political reluctance to use cooperation, historically shown successful, to co-opt and shape the Chinese space program as we have other programs. The Chinese are playing Tortoise to the U.S. Hare. It has been suggested that engaging China in a space race would provide the political will for the U.S. human program to move forward, as the Soviet Union’s activities did for Apollo, or that it would trigger a spending spree in China with effects similar to those experienced by the Soviet Union trying to keep up with SDI. Both are flawed analogies. During the Cold War, two competing superpowers started from the same point technologically and engaged in an engineering race. Both were motivated to compete. Now, the Chinese have no reason to “race” the United States. Chinese spending will not increase to keep up or outpace the United States either, as they fully understand it is impossible. China needs only to incrementally continue their human space program to create the perception that it is “beating” the United States. China’s activities place the U.S. in a race against itself, to maintain its leadership. Meanwhile, China will increasingly engage other countries in cooperative space activity. Technological containment of the U.S.S.R. took place in another time and under circumstances that are now impossible to replicate: there is no way to seal China off from the technologies it seeks. Our best hope, then, is to shape China’s future in space, rather than watch it develop in 20 years – with assistance from others—into something that we will wish we could have diverted. China is already working with the European Space Agency on programs ranging from DoubleStar to Galileo, it worked with Russia on human spaceflight, and it is courting many Asian countries for projects involving cooperative work on environmental and disaster monitoring and management, sometimes through the Asia-Pacific Multilateral Cooperation in Space Organization (APSCO). That the EU considered dropping its arms embargo against China demonstrates that other countries do not necessarily share U.S. views about the value or necessity of isolating China. Over the long term, the reality is that China will increasingly engage partners in space activity. The question is whether the United States will choose to deflect or co-opt some of that cooperative activity in directions of our choosing? The United States has historically and successfully employed cooperative space activities to “shape” other countries’ programs; guiding them into benign areas of interest and leaving them less funds to pursue activities less in our interest. Controlled or limited cooperation has also allowed the U.S. to get a much better idea of exactly what the priorities and capabilities are in other countries. Because China’s program is still largely opaque, isolating it will only limit our ability to monitor what they are doing, and perhaps even more important, their long-term intent. Technology transfer remains a critical issue. Given that stopping technology transfer to China is impossible because the U.S. does not have a technology monopoly, managing it through transfers from the U.S., rather than having China obtain it from other countries with lesser controls, becomes a pragmatic option. Further, cooperation with China on space offers the U.S. leverage in Chinese space activities, gets the U.S. out of a counterproductive perception of a space race, and offers the U.S. the opportunity to develop soft power through a human space program with a goal beyond science and exploration – strategic leadership. Cooperation in space with China does not excuse the Communist regime from its commitment to Communism and its abysmal record on human rights. But indeed it is because China is an authoritarian state at the crossroads of its political development that it becomes imperative that America, as the world’s leading democracy, step forward and help shape China’s aspirations in space toward peaceful and cooperative ends rather than see them turned toward more threatening ideological or military goals. It should also be pointed out that attempting to draw linkages between space cooperation and other foreign policy goals, like human rights, is unlikely to be successful. The U.S. tried with the Soviet Union and only became frustrated. The U.S. can use space cooperation to co-opt, or shape, Chinese space activity. That is a worthy goal in itself. An inclusive cooperative human space program returns to the Apollo model, a program with a strategic goal, but this time based on cooperation rather than competition. Cooperation is not easy. But the ISS experience, and studies conducted by groups such as the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics with long experience in cooperation models tells us there are ways to manage the issues. A first step in any model is to assure that all partners have a vested interest in success, all partners fully understand their roles, and that the science and engineering goals are meaningful. We know how to do it. Imagine if you will a few alternative, hypothetical scenarios. If the United States were to finish the ISS only to then turn it over to the partners so the U.S. could pursue the Moon/ Mars vision, but then got mired down in technical or political difficulties, which would not be hard to imagine, the U.S. could end up the only space-faring nation not involved in ISS. If the U.S. pursues the Moon/Mars vision with the ISS partners, but not China; it is China (the developing country) versus the rest of the (developed) world, magnifying the perceived importance of each small advancement China makes and every misstep we make. If the U.S. pursues the Moon/Mars mission alone – other countries could see working with China as an opportunity to work on a human space program, and on a more level playing field, creating a U.S. versus China+ scenario. And finally, some have suggested that the U.S. simply forego human space activity. The U.S. must not, however, allow human space leadership to slip away. Human spaceflight requires pushing the envelop in areas of science and engineering – in medical fields and areas of life support systems engineering, for example -- otherwise potentially neglected. While direct benefits to the economy or defense from a particular program may not always be identifiable in advance, GPS, once a government program without a clear mission, has certainly demonstrated that we should not be bound by the limits of our imagination. The importance that space provides to building science capabilities generally is not unnoticed elsewhere. China, for example, is acutely aware that it has a long way to go toward becoming a science “power” and it hopes human spaceflight will accelerate its movement up the learning curve. For the U.S. to maintain its leadership position, it is therefore imperative that the U.S. stays active in space as well. It is also important to remember that human spaceflight is part of the U.S. space agenda, not the entire agenda. We need to maintain a balance in the U.S. to assure continued preeminence in all aspects of science and engineering. And finally, space represents the future. It is imperative that the United States, as the world’s leader, remain the world’s leader into the future. Finally, I encourage this committee to look into and plan for the future of human spaceflight from an “effects-based” perspective. What does the U.S. hope to achieve? Is the U.S. looking to maintain its preeminence in human spaceflight? I suggest we must. If that is the goal, realistically, we need a rationale beyond science and exploration to sustain the momentum. Competition once served that purpose but will not any longer. Indeed competition places the U.S. into a race not in its best interests. Strategic leadership of a cooperative space mission off planet Earth offers the U.S. a viable way forward toward maintaining U.S. leadership while generating significant soft power globally, soft power necessary toward such strategic goals as effectively fighting the Global War on Terrorism. I encourage this committee to look at space from a strategic perspective, not just from a science or exploration perspective.
Mr. Michael McCulleyChief Executive OfficerUnited Space Alliance
Written Testimony of
Michael J. McCulley
President and CEO
United Space Alliance
United States Senate
Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation
Subcommittee on Science and Space
Hearing on “Human Space Flight: The Space Shuttle and Beyond” May 18, 2005 Madam Chairwoman, Ranking Member Nelson, Members of the Subcommittee. I am Mike McCulley, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the United Space Alliance (USA). Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address the Subcommittee on current Space Shuttle operations and the timing and scope of the planned retirement of the fleet. It is my privilege to represent the 10,400 men and woman of USA located primarily in Texas, Florida, and Alabama. USA is responsible for the day-to-day operations of NASA’s Space Shuttle system, excluding the propulsions elements managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center. USA was formed in 1996 through consolidation of twenty-nine Shuttle contracts into one single contract and organization. The foremost focus of USA and its employees today is the safe return to flight of the Shuttle. Beyond this imperative, we are also working with our NASA customer to face the reality of Shuttle retirement and do the necessary planning to ensure an efficient, timely and prudent transition to the CEV. As the Subcommittee Members are aware, the current exploration plan contains a gap in U.S. human space flight capability between the projected retirement of the Shuttle and the availability of a fully operational Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) and its new launch system. This so called gap has a number of associated issues including U.S. reliance on foreign nations for human access to space, the need for a heavy-lift cargo launch capability for cargo to and from the International Space Station, the potential loss of vital workforce skills and experience, and related impacts to the U.S. industrial base. Retention of the critical skills required to fly safely and successfully throughout the remaining life of the Shuttle program and the ability to transition those workers with the necessary skills and competencies to the next generation of launch vehicles, remains a top priority for NASA and USA. The new NASA Administrator, Dr. Michael Griffin, has testified that he has established an Exploration Systems Architecture Study team to examine ways to accelerate the development of the Crew Exploration Vehicles in order to minimize any gap in the US capability for human space flight. USA understands and fully appreciates the need to plan for the future of our critically important workforce and has taken steps to develop such a plan. We are also working with NASA on all aspects of transition planning including: workforce, facilities, hardware, equipment, test assets, and supplier base. TRANSITION There are over 20,000 NASA and contractor employees working on the Shuttle Program. As the Shuttle is retired, it is expected that a number of contractor and civil servant employees will initiate personal retirement, while a number will remain, to continue to support human space flight by moving to the new exploration programs. However, as currently envisioned, the number of employees available for this opportunity could be limited both by the gap between Shuttle retirement and CEV operational capability, and by the exploration emphasis on increased operational efficiency. Although there remain uncertainties with respect to specific plans for implementation of the exploration Vision, we are continuing to assess options for the future to ensure a seamless transition for our employees while meeting the needs of our NASA customer. Following President Bush’s announcement of the Vision for Space Exploration, NASA, USA and other aerospace industries began an early initiative to identify and prioritize solutions to address both fly-out and phase-out of the Shuttle program. The Integrated Space Operations Summit (ISOS) was held earlier this year to identify the issues associated with transition planning for workforce, facilities and industrial base. The Summit considered the risks and challenges for the retention and recruitment of a critically skilled workforce as well as strategies for preservation or disposition of space flight assets, which include real property, equipment, tooling, and test sets. Since the Summit, NASA’s Space Shuttle Program Office has initiated a transition plan and formed an asset management working group. As reported by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in its March 2005 Report entitled, “Space Shuttle: Actions Needed to Better Position NASA to Sustain Its Workforce through Retirement,” p.12: “United Space Alliance has taken preliminary steps to begin to prepare for the Space Shuttle’s retirement and its impact on the company’s workforce. For example, the company has begun to define its critical skills needs to continue to support the Space Shuttle Program; has devised a communication plan; contracted with a human capital consulting firm to conduct a comprehensive study of its workforce; and continues to monitor indicators of employee morale and workforce stability. While these efforts are underway, further efforts to prepare for the Space Shuttle’s retirement and its impact on their workforce are on hold until NASA first makes decisions that impact the Space Shuttle’s remaining flight schedule and thus the time frames for retiring the program and transitioning its assets. Once these decisions have been made and United Space Alliance’s contract requirements have been defined, these officials said that they would then be able to proceed with their workforce planning efforts for the Space Shuttle’s retirement, a process that will likely take 6 months to complete.” United Space Alliance has retained Watson Wyatt's Human Capital Practice to benchmark industry’s effective employee retention programs and to conduct a comprehensive study of USA's human resource programs as they relate to current and anticipated workforce retention objectives. This study is focused on the current situation, as well as projections out six years, regarding human capital investments and risk mitigation, including, alignment, resources, turnover, selection, retention, transfer-of-knowledge and investments. The results of this study will be available this year, thus allowing implementation, as appropriate, well in advance of 2010. USA may have the ability to transfer valued workers into its owner companies, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. USA has been successful in the past, placing employees at those companies and in assisting employees in transitioning to other space-related businesses. USA’s human capital systems are monitored continuously with special emphasis on critical skills required and addressing identified gaps in these skills as a result of attrition and retirements. These processes will continue with heightened emphasis throughout the remainder of the Shuttle Program. USA will also continue to conduct annual compensation and benefit surveys and studies that address our labor market competitiveness and will continue to monitor indicators of potential issues regarding workforce morale and stability. The execution and timing of skill retention and transition measures will depend entirely on the timing, sequence, and options chosen for transitioning from Shuttle to future exploration programs. Until we know more about these variables, it will be difficult to predict specific impacts. For instance, if NASA decides to pursue a launch vehicle based on current Shuttle components, then the impacts would be quite different from those of a vehicle program that does not involve Shuttle components. USA is actively evaluating and pursuing new business opportunities in space operations, such as CEV, that could utilize the unique skills and experience of the current Shuttle workforce. USA is also participating on the industry team evaluating ways to meet future launch system requirements with Shuttle Derived Launch Vehicle options. Our Business Development Office is working to position USA to participate in all future human space flight operations. With unrivaled capabilities in terms of safety, experience, performance and innovation, combined with a diversity of skills, USA is uniquely positioned to play a major role in future human space programs. INDUSTRIAL BASE NASA’s Space Shuttle budget pays for hardware, engineering, training, software development, Shuttle processing and many other things that go into flying the Shuttle. As the program winds down, there are elements that could phase-out of production, such as, the External Tank, Space Shuttle Main Engines, and Reusable Solid Rocket Motors. However, all of these major Shuttle system elements, which are managed by other NASA prime contractors, may be needed if Shuttle Derived Vehicles are selected for the exploration transportation system. Retaining critical supplies for the Shuttle must be a well thought out, carefully managed process. One approach is to use lifetime buys for consumable products that will last to the end of the program. However, there are some supplies that cannot be purchased in lifetime buys and cannot be transitioned to other suppliers. In those cases, it will require keeping a supplier on contract until the end of the program to support refurbishment requirements, provide on-going technical support, and retain process certification. NASA and USA already have many such contracts in place. An example is the Lockheed Martin contract for tooling and certified technician maintenance to refurbish and manufacture the Reinforced Carbon-Carbon (RCC) Wing Leading Edge. It is not likely that we will need additional RCC components however, we will require continuing support in the areas of testing and evaluation of flown hardware, failure analysis, and repair. A similar situation exists with United Technologies Corporation, which provides the Shuttle fuel cells. Maintenance of critical skills to support this hardware component through the last flight is critical. Many of the skills and certifications needed to support the Shuttle Program are unique to the program. It is difficult to estimate the cost or schedule impact to the Shuttle or to the CEV should those skills begin to deplete. We continue to be a very small part of many of our suppliers’ business bases so, for some, there is little incentive to invest in or maintain these skills. As we move closer to the last Shuttle flights and the corresponding reduction in hardware procurement, this base could become more fragile. MANIFEST You have asked that I also address current Space Shuttle operations and manifest. NASA and its industry team have embarked on a proactive Return To Flight Plan, which not only responds to the CAIB recommendations, but also “raises the bar” by addressing other safety concerns. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board initially published 15 recommendations for various improvements to be completed before Space Shuttle Missions could resume. Of the original 15, 12 have been completed and 3 are in the process of being completed. NASA and its industry team have made improvements in technical excellence, communications and decision-making, improved the External Tank to reduce debris-shedding, instrumented the Shuttle wings to detect any debris hits during ascent and amassed an array of ground-based and space-based imagery detection hardware that will give experts the ability to know if any debris hit the orbiter. If so, NASA is developing in-flight repair techniques and we have procedures to safely protect the crew onboard the Space Station if necessary. NASA and its contractor team are committed to flying the Shuttle only when all the risks have been appropriately mitigated. We are working with NASA to support the initial Return To Flight mission, STS-114, which is currently planned for the July 13-31 launch window. At present, 28 Shuttle flights are baselined in the manifest –18 for assembly, 5 for utilization and 5 for logistical support. Relative to returning to flight, the first two flights, STS 114 and STS 121, carry much needed cargo to the Space Station and importantly serve as test flights of the improved Shuttle system. Testing will be conducted using the Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS) to closely examine the Shuttle’s Thermal Protection System and to assess on-orbit repair options and techniques for tile and the RCC. The remaining 26 Shuttle missions are manifested as Station assembly and outfitting flights. The International Space Station (ISS) is currently dependent on the Space Shuttle for assembly. We are still planning to fly the 28 flights manifested including the 18 identified as assembly flights but as the new NASA Administrator testified, NASA is currently examining alternative configurations for the Space Station. If changes to the manifest are made, we will work with our NASA customer to evaluate the impact to the overall program, our workforce and the supplier base. OPERATIONS United Space Alliance is the leading human space flight space operations company in the world with experience in all aspects of ground processing, mission operations and planning, major system integration, and in-flight operations of multipurpose space systems. Through its support of the Space Shuttle and ISS programs, USA has developed an unrivaled combination of experience and capabilities in space operations. Our workforce and our supplier base have the spectrum of skills to support NASA’s current and future human space flight programs including:
· Mission, manifest and trajectory planning and analyses
· On-Orbit assembly, payload deployment and servicing
· Extravehicular activity planning and execution
· Rendezvous and proximity, operations and docking operations
· Space logistics and supply chain management
· Space operations software engineering
· Advanced space flight technology
· Launch and recovery operations
· Launch vehicle and flight hardware processing
· Mission control operations
· Space systems and crew training
· Sustaining engineering
· Flight crew equipment preparation and maintenance.
· Large scale, complex systems integration
· Subcontracts management
CONCLUSION United Space Alliance is committed to returning the Shuttle to flight and to supporting a seamless transition from the current program to future exploration programs. Workforce morale is high as the first step in the Vision draws near: the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery mission STS 114. We are committed to supporting NASA in our joint goal of making each flight safer for the crew than we believed that last one to have been. We also support NASA’s goal to undertake a journey of space exploration over the next several decades as outlined in the President’s Vision for Space Exploration. We understand that the retirement of three capable and space-worthy Space Shuttle orbiters is needed in order to move the Vision forward. Our exceptional workforce is committed to these goals and deserves our utmost consideration in the transition to a new system for space exploration. Let me again thank the Subcommittee for the opportunity to come before you today. I would be pleased to answer your questions.
Dr. Scott HorowitzDirector of Space Transportation and ExplorationATK Thiokol
Statement of Dr. Scott J. Horowitz
Director Space Transportation and Exploration, ATK Thiokol Inc.
To the Subcommittee on Science and Space of the
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Hearing on “Human Space Flight: The Space Shuttle and Beyond”
Senate Russell Building Room 253
May 18, 2005
Madame Chair and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the invitation to appear before you. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss evolving the Space Shuttle systems, and in particular leveraging the hardware, infrastructure and people to minimize development schedules and to provide a safe, reliable, cost effective method to insure human access to space along with heavy lift for exploration when we retire the Space Shuttle in 2010. I have had the honor and privilege to serve our country as an Air Force F-15 fighter pilot, test pilot, and NASA astronaut on four Space Shuttle missions as a pilot and commander including a microgravity/science mission, Hubble servicing mission, and two missions to the International Space Station. Upon retiring from NASA and the Air Force I joined the ATK Thiokol team as the Director of Space Transportation and Exploration. These experiences, coupled with a PhD in Aerospace Engineering from Georgia Tech, have provided me with a unique perspective on what it takes for our team to conduct successful human space flight missions. We at ATK are excited about the President’s Vision for Space Exploration and fully support NASA’s new administrator, Mike Griffin, in his efforts to make this vision a reality. I firmly believe that we can safely and affordably transition the Space Shuttle program to support the Exploration program by leveraging the flight-proven and human-rated elements that exists today. This will enable us to retire the orbiter, and eliminate any gap in U.S. Human Space Flight capability. If we can start soon, we can fully meet the demanding needs of heavy lift and crew transportation more safely, more reliably, and more affordably than with any other option by the end of the decade. NASA’s need for a safe, reliable, affordable method of transporting crews to and from Low Earth Orbit can be achieved as we move forward with exploration. But I believe it tremendously important to learn from the lessons of the past and apply them to the future of human space flight. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board concluded that “The design of the system should give overriding priority to crew safety, rather than trade safety against other performance criteria, such as low cost and reusability, or against advanced space operation capability other than crew transfer.” I totally agree with this conclusion. Additionally, in a memo dated May 4, 2004, the NASA astronaut office offered their consensus on the future by stating: “Although flying in space will always involve some measure of risk, it is our consensus that an order-of-magnitude reduction in the risk of loss of human life during ascent, is both achievable with current technology and consistent with NASA’s focus on steadily improving reliability” (Attachment 1: Astronaut Office Position on Future Launch System Safety, Memo, CB-04-044, May 4, 2004). The first step is to realize the tremendous capabilities that already exist and that can be utilized in the future to support our nations exploration vision. The space shuttle propulsion systems are the most reliable systems in the world. The Reusable Solid Rocket Motors used in the space shuttle launch phase have flown 226 times with significant engineering, inspection, and testing supporting well understood operational margins; the Space Shuttle Main Engines have flown 339 times and have over a million seconds of testing! These reliable and proven propulsion systems coupled with the External Tank constitute the Space Shuttle “propulsive backbone” and provide us an impressive capability to lift large payloads to Low Earth Orbit. Every time we launch a Space Shuttle we send about 240,000 pounds (over 100 Metric Tons) to Low Earth Orbit! More importantly, we have the existing infrastructure and skills today to produce, launch, and operate this amazing hardware. As I travel around the country sharing the adventure of flying in space, I point out that it isn’t the thrust of the Solid Rocket Motors and Space Shuttle Main Engines that propel us to space, but the dedication, hard work, hopes and dreams of the many skilled and talented people that develop, manufacture, and prepare these systems that carry us to orbit. Transitioning this workforce to support Exploration is key to our success. By evolving the shuttle’s propulsive backbone to provide a heavy lift launch capability we can engage this talented, skilled workforce, and utilize our existing infrastructure. Because the orbiter vehicle sustaining, launch processing, and associated logistics drive the cost of the existing shuttle program, removing the orbiter will result in a significant reduction in cost. The propulsion elements of the space shuttle program only make up a fraction of the overall costs, making utilization of these systems extremely attractive for cost, safety, reliability, and sustainability. Not only is this launch system very affordable, it is the lowest cost in terms of dollars per pound to low earth orbit. Two primary options are being reviewed to provide heavy lift (greater than 150,000 pounds) —The first option replaces the orbiter vehicle with a side-mounted expendable cargo carrier utilizing the propulsion backbone and the same connections as the orbiter. This approach minimizes configuration changes while providing the capability to launch 170,000 to 200,000 lbs to LEO. A second option, providing capability up to 250,000 to LEO, is to remove the orbiter, move the main engines below the External Tank, and add an optional second stage and cargo carrier to the top of the external tank. The modifications required for option 2 are more extensive than option 1 but option 2 has the added advantage of being able to provide larger and heavier payloads to Low Earth Orbit. Heavy lift capability in the ranges that I have mentioned is significant in that it offers the lowest risk and highest mission reliability, and ultimately the lowest cost for exploration missions. It would take 5 to 7 launches using smaller existing launch vehicles to accomplish what a single 170,000 to 250,000 pound launch vehicle can do. The cost of breaking the exploration missions into numerous smaller pieces to accommodate a smaller launch vehicle is cost prohibitive. Each smaller element will have to become a complete spacecraft on orbit while performing an automated rendezvous and docking and be burdened with all the systems required to survive and operate in space including power systems, thermal control systems, propulsion systems, guidance navigation and control systems, docking systems, etc. Then there is the cost of the infrastructure required to support the surge rates needed for multiple launches of smaller launch vehicles that would be required during a lunar or Mars campaign. This combined with all of the associated operational costs make the use of smaller launch vehicles for exploration missions cost prohibitive. Add to that the impact on mission reliability as a result of performing so many launches and associated on-orbit assembly operations and one quickly realize that the chances of accomplishing multiple moon or Mars missions using smaller launch vehicles is slim to none. A heavy lift launch vehicle eliminates costly and complex in-space docking and on-orbit assembly and all of the associated supporting hardware, testing, checkout, and sustaining operations. Most significantly, a heavy lift launch vehicle simplifies the exploration architecture driving down costs for sustaining and logistics. In combination with the heavy lift launch capability, it is equally important to leverage existing human rated propulsion elements and focus on the safest way to put the crew in space. Utilizing a single space shuttle reusable solid rocket motor for the first stage of the crew launch vehicle is an ideal application of simplicity. The motor is already human rated and has an outstanding proven safety and reliability record. Add to this reusable first stage a previously developed human rated 2nd stage rocket engine, either a simplified version of the Apollo engine that took astronauts to the moon, the J-2S, or a space shuttle main engine and you have a very simple, cost effective launch vehicle solution, built upon human rated heritage. Albert Einstein once said: “make everything as simple as possible, but not any simpler”. The crew launch vehicle that I just described is the simplest launch vehicle that can deliver almost 50,000 pounds to Low Earth Orbit. This simplicity and use of highly reliable components results in the safest launch vehicle possible for transporting astronauts to space. In fact a recent reliability and crew safety assessment of the SRB/J-2S Launch Vehicle conducted by Science Applications International Corporation (Attachment 2: SAICNY05-04-1F, 1 April 2005) concluded “…the SRB/J-2S derived launch vehicle forecasted crew safety level, as measured in missions where the crew is lost in a total number of missions, is 1 in 3,145…” This is an order of magnitude better than today’s capabilities. Another important feature of this design is that it has sufficient performance to fly trajectories to orbit that are compatible with a crew escape system. Other launch vehicles with insufficient thrust require the launch vehicle to fly higher, steeper, and longer, exposing the crew to extensive periods (up to three times longer) where a simple ballistic crew escape is not survivable. The other major benefit of this evolved approach is that because of its simplicity and reliance on already developed hardware, this launch vehicle can be available soon. In fact, a demonstration launch could be conducted in 2008 and be ready to fly the CEV about when the Shuttle is scheduled for retirement. We could also have the heavy lift version ready at about the same time, and by leveraging the resources of the current shuttle program we could save significant dollars. We have the talented work force, facilities, and most of the major hardware components in hand. By evolving what we have and only developing new components where needed, we can drastically reduce the cost and schedule to provide the capabilities we need to safely transport astronauts to orbit and provide the heavy lift required to conduct space exploration. The approach that I have described also provides a means of safely transitioning from the current Space Shuttle System to the launch system required to support the Exploration Vision. The SRB/J-2S launch vehicle could easily be used to carry crew and cargo to the International Space Station, or be used as a highly reliable payload carrier to support U.S. assured access to space requirements. By leveraging the current Space Shuttle resources we have the ability to get astronauts to/from Low Earth Orbit, an order of magnitude safer than we do today, for a very affordable cost and on a schedule that avoids a “gap” in U.S. human space flight capability. We also have the propulsive backbone of the Space Shuttle System today that is proven and ready to provide a cost effective heavy lift capability needed to do exciting exploration of the moon and enable us to reach Mars and beyond. In summary we have a Safe, Simple solution that we can have Soon. We owe it to our children and future generations to do so. Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you, I will be pleased to respond to any questions that you may have.
Mr. Allen LiDirector, Acquisition and Sourcing ManagementU.S. Government Accountability Office