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Thu, Jan 13, 2011

Congress Hears NASA Heavy-Lift Proposal

Latest Plan Relies Heavily On Shuttle Technology

NASA has sent its latest interim report on heavy-lift capability to the U.S. Congress, telling the body that it would be impossible to build within the current time and budget constraints imposed on the agency. It said the same was true of any crew vehicle the rocket would carry.

NASA Image From Cooke Report

The study was mandated by the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, which became law last October.

NASA Associate Administrator for explorations systems Doug Cooke outlined the agency's basic heavy-lift concept to the NASA Advisory Council Tuesday. The launch vehicle uses shuttle engines and fuel tanks, along with larger versions of the SRBs which currently boost the shuttle into orbit. Space News reports that Cooke told the panel that the design would use "existing Shuttle main engine and booster component assets in the near term," but that the main engine technology could be upgraded when the inventory of existing engines and fuel tanks was exhausted. He said that would allow contracts already in place to be fulfilled without costly cancellations

NASA's Doug Cooke Image Credit Bill Ingalls

But, he said "to be clear, neither Reference Vehicle Design currently fits the projected budget profiles or schedule goals outlined in the Authorization Act."

The Authorization Act gives the agency another five years to field heavy lift and crew vehicles with a three-year budget of $10 billion.



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