|Quoting SATL382G (Reply 6):|
Don't be so stunned... I'm thinking along the same lines myself....
Yes, so am I. Although NASA is now backpedalling on the "next launch not until October 2006" projections, we're still looking at spending $3 Billion or more on STS
for FY2006 and getting at best one Shuttle flight for it. There are far more urgent uses for that money right now. It's going to cost NASA at least $1 Billion to repair Stennis and Michoud from Katrina damage, and we'll need both for Project Constellation, so NASA can't simply wash its hands of them. Shutting down STS
will probably cost upward of $500 million in contract termination penalties. Add in another half billion to maintain mothballed facilities like KSC and pay Russia for a couple more Soyuz flights. That leaves $1 Billion that NASA could sorely use to jumpstart the CEV or begin full scale development of CEV's launcher..., be it an EELV, Shuttle SRB-derivative, or Falcon 9.
Unfortunately, that's much easier said than done. No launcher in the world can launch ISS elements except the Shuttle. They're all designed for the attach points, environmental conditions, electrical support, and launch loads of the Shuttle. Putting them on an EELV, Proton, or Ariane 5 will require either redesign of the elements, or some sort of Shuttle payload bay replicator to go on top of the rocket. Both will be complex and expensive. And that'st just to get them into orbit. To maneuver and navigate to the Space Station, we'll need some sort of propulstion/control vehicle. The only available launcher with the payload performance to launch the heaviest remaining Stations elements is the Delta IV
-Heavy. But adding in a new complex Shuttle payload bay replicator and a propulsion module will almost certainly raise the payload weight beyond what D-IVH can lift. So now we're stuck having to upgrade a rocket to launch the remaining Station elements. If we decide to do that, it would probably be better to just go ahead and build a Shuttle-derived launch vehicle like the old Shuttle-C proposal. We'll also have to revive the old Orbital Maneuvering Vehicle. There is no way any of these options can be accomplished in less than five years at a reasonable budget level. No matter what choice we make, the only way the Space Station elements are going to get into orbit before 2011 is aboard the Space Shuttle.
So basically, we are now at the point of having to decide whether to continue with Shuttle and Station and defer Constellation for a few years, or throw the Shuttle away, defer Space Station for about five years, and use the downtime to accelerate Constellation. NASA is really in a lose/lose situation here.