NASA expects commercial use of Space Shuttle Main Engines

by | Jan 21, 2009 | Seradata News | 6 comments

SSME removal.jpg

credit NASA / caption: Orbiter Atlantis and its SSMEs. Click on the image to see a larger version

NASA has told Hyperbola, “Some individuals at NASA believe that a limited number of established or start-up commercial space transportation organizations may express interest [in Space Shuttle Main Engines] once it is clear that the space shuttle’s last mission really will occur on a certain near-term date, and that the remaining engines are still in “fly-able” condition.”

I had asked about the disposal of the SSMEs because the agency’s orbiter placement Request For Information states that “NASA plans to initially retain flight-worthy SSMEs for technical mitigation and potential programmatic reuse.”

Programmatic reuse? NASA’s definition of “technical mitigation and potential programmatic reuse” is:

1. Use by NASA and DOD government research and development laboratories (i.e., MSFC, SSC) for engineering development, advanced technology development, maintenance procedures improvement development, and training.
2. Potential flight use in civil or national security expendable launch vehicles after the completion of the Space Shuttle Program.
3. Potential flight use in U.S. Commercial expendable launch vehicles after the completion of the Space Shuttle Program

NASASpaceflight.com has since run a story saying that the Ares project office is still considering SSMEs for the Ares V cargo launch vehicle. In response to my question about Ares interest in SSMEs NASA’s space operations transition manager Joel Kearns said:

“I am not aware of any Ares V Project Office request for SSMEs.  However, since it is known that (a) the Space Shuttle Program will keep all the assembled flight SSMEs in SSP inventory until and least the last space shuttle mission and (b) the Orbiter/RFI informs both NASA and the public that the assembled flight SSMEs are not to be advertised for disposition at this time, that means that Ares V Project knows there is no 2009 date by which they need to inform us if they do have an interest.”

The more conspiratorial amongst you might say, ah, so the Ares project office know they have lots of time before they need to ask!

Personally I am doubtful about SSME adaption to an expendable version even if NASASpaceflight.com is reporting higher than expected costs regarding Ares V core stage propulsion RS-68B development; because it will have to run twice as long as the RS-68 does for the United Launch Alliance (ULA)/Boeing Delta IV

I should add that NASA has also told me that “No one to date has expressed interest in the SSMEs.” But because of this apparent belief by some at NASA that start up or established commercial operators might be interested I contacted Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and ULA

SpaceX’s PR guy said “To my knowledge, we have not had any discussions about SSMEs.” To his knowledge, what about the Falcon 9 programme manager? Again, I would advise restraint in the conspiratorial department

I didn’t contact Orbital Sciences about its Taurus II launcher’s first-stage that will use two Aerojet AJ26-62*, Aerojet’s version of the NK-33/43 engines, as my colleague John Croft was trying to contact them at the time about ISS commercial resupply services and they didn’t respond

While ULA has been silent so far. Doesn’t mean anything though. I’m still waiting on ULA for a bunch of orbital propellant depot stuff (yes that thorny issue – calm down Mr Goff!)

*This is what Orbital states in its Taurus II fact sheet, AJ26-62, but the Aerojet website only refers to AJ26-58/59/61, no -62! 

About Seradata

Seradata produce the renowned SpaceTrak Launch & Satellite Database. Trusted by 100 of the world’s leading Space organisations, SpaceTrak is a fully queryable database used for market analysis, failure/risk assessment, spectrum analysis and space situational awareness (SSA).

For more information go to www.seradata.com/spacetrak

Related Articles

“a new and exciting development” for Space Adventures?

Join Eric Anderson, co-founder, president and CEO of Space Adventures, to discuss the future of space tourism. As Dr. Charles Read more

Will vibration force astronauts to use handheld units to control Orion?

From 1 May NASA is to start a three-year human machine interface research and development study for defining the Orion Read more

PICTURE: SpaceX releases Dragon qualification unit testing image

This Dragon spacecraft qualification unit is going through leak and structural integrity testing. For the leak tests the capsule is Read more

IAC 2008: VIDEO – The virtual assembly of Ares I

Boeing Ares I crew launch vehicle upper stage instrument unit assembly video shown at the 59th International Astronautical Congress in Read more

What fate for NASA’s CCDev?

Is 9 December the day we'll find out who has been awarded funded space act agreements for NASA's Commercial Crew Read more

VIDEO: #iac2009 Civilian access to space session

Watch this video of the Internatonal Astronautical Congress in Daejeon, Korea where Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn, Sierra Nevada vice Read more

Space station docking standards are so popular this season!

As well as progress with the Orion crew exploration vehicle's LIDS NASA has informed Hyperbola that $15 million is to Read more

Commercial crew: Boeing and Bigelow team up

In a surprise move that may see Lockheed frozen out of a Bigelow, Commercial Crew Development progamme collaboration the Boeing Read more

Cookies & Privacy

Click here to read about use of cookies on the website

Categories

Archives