Thursday, February 3, 2011

NASA mulling keeping shuttles in service until 2017

NASA is studying plans to keep the space shuttle Endeavour in flight-worthy condition after its last scheduled mission. The ‘what if’ NASA study comes as United Space Alliance proposes a plan to continue flying Endeavour and Atlantis as commercial space vehicles.

The story, reported by msnbc, says the review includes the potential for keeping Endeavour – the youngest shuttle in the fleet – in operation through 2017. The shuttle, along with its sisterships, is currently due for retirement later this year and eventual transfer to a museum.

Another lifeline study for Endeavour? (Guy Norris)

The proposal — called Commercial Space Transportation Service, or CSTS — would use Endeavour as well as a sister shuttle, Atlantis, to fly two missions a year from 2013 to 2017 at an annual cost of $1.5 billion. United Space Alliance, the contractor that currently manages the shuttle program on NASA’s behalf, has offered the proposal for the second round of funding from the space agency’s Commercial Crew Development initiative, also known as CCDev 2.

NASA could award as much as $200 million in the second round of the CCDev initiative. During the first round, the agency distributed $50 million in stimulus funds to five companies to advance the development of crew-capable replacements for the shuttles.
Some of the recipients of first-round funding — such as the Boeing Co. and Sierra Nevada Corp. — have made proposals for second-round funding as well. The second-round competitors also include SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, which are already receiving NASA funds to build spacecraft for transporting cargo to the space station.
United Space Alliance is the only venture proposing to keep the shuttles operating rather than retiring them this year, as currently planned.


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