Feeds

Space shuttle may fly until 2011

Extension to avoid 'bitter pill' of paying Russians

The Power of One Infographic

The US House of Representatives and Senate have agreed a further $2.5bn to keep the space shuttle in service until 2011 - "if such an extension is necessary to complete currently planned missions to the International Space Station", as the Wall Street Journal puts it.

The final planned shuttle launch is Endeavour's mission STS-133 to the ISS, slated for 31 May next year. Thereafter, the US will have to rely on Russian launches pending the development of new homegrown vehicles as part of the Constellation programme - a touchy political subject.

Last September, then presidential candidate Barack Obama said the US must stump extra cash for the space shuttle, or swallow the "bitter pill" of paying the Russians for space transportation services.

Obama insisted this money should not be pilfered from other NASA programmes, and stated: "Any effort to extend the shuttle program must receive adequate funding, ensuring that progress on developing new vehicles is not further delayed."

Well, the House and Senate on Wednesday passed a "nonbinding $3.4 trillion budget blueprint" US budget, including the provision for further shuttle flights. Leading the campaign to reprieve the venerable space vehicle was Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, the "Democratic chairman of a science subcommittee with authority over NASA programs".

Nelson argued that the money would "avoid undue reliance on Russian launches" and protect jobs attached to the shuttle program.

The budget provision was not requested either by the White House or NASA, and some agency officials have expressed concern that "funnelling extra money to the shuttles may sap momentum of work on their replacements".

It remains to be seen if the US will eventually go with the shuttle or the Russians, since the cash injection is "still subject to future House and Senate appropriations bills", the Wall Street Journal notes. ®

Bootnote

It will be some time before NASA has alternatives to Russian launches to the ISS. The Constellation programme is currently running behind schedule, and the first test launch of the manned Orion capsule - designed to replace the shuttle - was last year knocked back until 2014.

In December, NASA signed commercial ISS cargo-lift deals with Elon Musk's SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation of Virginia, both of which hoped to be able to demonstrate their capabilities by 2010 - the former by dispatching a reusable Dragon payload capsule to the ISS and the latter with a maiden flight of its Taurus II rocket (pdf factsheet here).

The deal was, however, stalled back in January by protests from losing bidders for the contract. There are more details here.

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.