eightiesnotes - The Eighties Reading 1 Chap 5 and 6...

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The Eighties Reading 1. Chap. 5 and 6, Spaceflight and the myth of Presidential Leadership.” 2. Chap. 2, “Space Policy: How Technology, Economics and Public Policy Intersect.” 3. Chap. 5 and 6, “Beyond Horizons.” Strategic Themes 1. The Shuttle policy – Shuttle or nothing and the consequences of this choice 2. The return of the technocratic approach on Station SDI, NASP and SEI; secondary vs. primary policy 3. The choice for a Space Station - camels nose under the tent? 4. The choice for SDI – technically impossible 5. The Challenger disaster (and other launch failures), consequences and the changes to space policy. 6. The Landsat experience and commercial space act as an experiment in commercialization 7. The choice for a Space Exploration Initiative – back to the Moon and onward to Mars! In 1977, NASA projected that the shuttle would fly 600 times in the first eleven years of operation. The failure rate was estimated at 1 in 10,000 flights and the reliability (i.e. ability to take off on time) was estimated at 98%. The total cost of developing the shuttle in 1972 was estimated at $8 billion with each new orbiter costing $250 million to build. The first test flight was scheduled for early 1978. The Shuttle was designed to DOD requirements to place reconnaissance satellites in orbit and retrieve them. Thus both it’s size and cross range flowed from the intelligence requirements. The facts were very different. The first shuttle flew on April 12, 1981, three years late mainly due to the technical requirements and difficulties associated with the Space Shuttle main engine. It cost $12.6 billion to develop and each orbiter cost almost a billion to produce. The cost per payload pound is over $10,000. In the years 1983-1994, it only flew seventy times and this last year (1999) only managed three flights. Far from having a failure rate of 1 in 10,000 it proved (unhappily) to have a failure rate closer to 1 in 25. Interestingly this is very close to the historic failure rate for solid rockets. Its ability to take off on time has proven to be about 50%. The STS was supposed to be frequent, cheap and manned. Instead, its is occasional, expensive and manned. How could it have gone so wrong? A fundamental difference with the Apollo experience is in the space policy which drove the Shuttle. Apollo had a clear simple goal, man on the moon within the decade. In contrast, the STS was all things to all people. It was initially conceived by NASA as the “truck” which would carry humans and material to an Earth orbiting space station. It was also sold as the nation’s primary launch system for all payloads, large and small. It was supposed to use the economics of reusability and be cheaper to fly than any existing or future expendable launch vehicle. It was to provide routine and frequent access to space. It was also to provide and carry orbiting lab facilities until a space station could be built. These were captured in the Reagan space policy of July 4, 1982 which defined the STS as the primary space launch system and said that it would be both fully operational and cost effective in providing routine access to space. The president also 1
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