Shuttle to CEV gap a threat to US national security – lawmaker.

by Chris Bergin

NASA administrator Michael Griffin will be meeting with lawmakers on Thursday to talk dollar signs in his effort to reduce the gap between the Space Shuttle’s retirement and the man-rated implementation of the Crew Exploration Vehicle.

Some politicians are now classing any gap as a national security issue – which may help Griffin in his aims to persuade the appropriations committee that funding needs to be in place to back up the acceleration in the CEV’s development and testing.

“There is a plan to accelerate, at the administrator’s request,” NASA public affairs spokesman Michael Braukus. “The idea is that we’ll have other vehicles to get us from space to the surface of the moon and Mars and back again. We’re not talking Buck Rogers here with one vehicle that can do it all,”

A 28 launch mandate for the final years of the Space Shuttle fleet has been put in place to complete the construction of the International Space Station (ISS) by 2010 – with the CEV to follow in the next stage of President Bush’s Vision of Space Exploration, a return to the Moon and eventually a manned-mission to Mars.
One expert claims a gap between the Shuttle and the CEV – which was set to become an active member of the NASA fleet by 2014 – simply isn’t acceptable.

“The U.S. would be totally dependent on Russia for human access to space,” said John Logsdon, director of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute.

“A space-faring nation must have its own critical capabilities, and among those, I believe, is the U.S.’ ability to put its own people in space. Russia in this arena is not some benign, good-natured partner.”

Chairwoman of the Senate science and space subcommittee, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, has already gone on record to say any hiatus in the US’ ability to ferry astronauts into space is unacceptable and an issue of national security.
NASA currently has just over $750 million to utilise on CEV issues in the budget that reaches to September, 2006.

Lockheed Martin – who released images of a lifting body CEV initial proposal last week – and a partnership of Northrop Grumman and Boeing are looking to win the contract to go ahead and build the new spaceship. Recently, Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites offered to build and operate a complementary system.

The t/Space team have said they could be ready by 2008 in building an Low Earth Orbit transit system – and have already received $6 million from NASA for study reports.

NASA will make a decision on which companies will win the contracts to participate in building the next generation of space vehicles that will take the agency into the next phase of the Vision for Space Exploration.

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