Feeds

Space shuttle may fly until 2011

Extension to avoid 'bitter pill' of paying Russians

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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.

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.