The Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) – replacement for the Shuttle fleet – has been thrown back into focus by the new NASA Administrator Dr. Michael Griffin, as he used his confirmation hearing with US politicians to call for a vastly reduced transitional period between the Shuttle retirement and a man-rated CEV.
Teams led by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman both have contracts worth around $1 billion to construct a technology demonstrator CEV – with a ‘fly-off’ against each other due in 2008 before the winner is awarded the full contract to build the new vehicle. Proposals from both teams are due on May 2.
The need to reduce the gap between the implementation of the CEV after the retirement of the Shuttle drew parallels from Griffin, as he reminisced on the problems caused by the gap between the Apollo program and the launch of Shuttle Columbia on STS-1 – a gap of six years.
“I lived through the period from 1975 through ’81 when we weren’t flying any more Apollo missions and were flying shuttle missions,” he noted.
“Although I didn’t work on Apollo and didn’t work on shuttle, I, of course, was in the space program, and the dislocations from that period rippled. There was no one left untouched. That is part of the reason why I think that it is a major priority today to reduce that gap.”