Boeing Frontiers
November 2003
Volume 02, Issue 07
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Industry Wrap

NASA speeds space plane timetable

Round-trip flight
NASA aerospace industry partners, including Boeing, are designing a space plane capable of meeting the agency's mission requirements for International Space Station crew rescue by the year 2010, and crew and cargo transport by 2012. NASA is accelerating development of the space plane. Above is an artist's concept of Boeing's Orbital Space Plane design.
NASA is accelerating development of a space plane to transport crews to and from the International Space Station, reported The New York Times, but NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said the aging space shuttles could remain in use for many years.

At an October news conference, O'Keefe said the Orbital Space Plane, primarily designed to carry people, could be available as a station rescue vehicle in five years and ready to serve as a crew hauler a few years after that. However, he said a space plane would not replace the shuttle altogether.

The committee that investigated the Space Shuttle Columbia accident recommended that crews be separated from cargo in future space travel, O'Keefe noted, and the space plane would meet the crew requirement. But carrying cargo to and from the ISS—and perhaps beyond—requires the capability of the shuttle or other vehicles capable of lifting heavy loads.

NASA is also looking at options to transport cargo that include the shuttle, with possible modifications. "For the immediate near term," O'Keefe said, "there is no other option but the shuttle." Even after the space station is completed using parts that only the shuttle can deliver, the remaining three shuttles will be needed to carry large quantities of supplies and equipment to and from the station, he said.

While NASA has not provided firm estimates of the new space plane's cost, Dennis Smith, the space plane program manager from NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, told U.S. Congressional staff members last month that it would cost $11 billion to $12 billion to develop the craft and make it ISS rescue-ready by 2008.

Boeing is leading one of two contractor teams developing proposals for the Orbital Space Plane program, which includes the spacecraft, ground operations and all supporting technologies needed to conduct missions to and from the ISS. The program is scheduled to issue a request for proposal to the contractor teams in November 2003. A decision to develop a fullscale vehicle system is expected in 2004.



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