Senator Hutchison’s wish list for human spaceflight

by | Feb 24, 2010 | Seradata News | 4 comments

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caption: Passed to Hyperbola will this authorisation bill have any more significance than any other?

NASA administrator Charles Bolden will be required to select a heavy lift vehicle concept and start detailed design work within six months of the enactment of the 2010 NASA authorisation act if the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee bill, as it was drafted on 9 February, is adopted

The alleged draft of the Senate committee’s authorisation bill, entitled Human space flight capability assurance and enhancement act 2010, sent to Hyperbola includes the possibility of Space Shuttle extension, the expansion of NASA’s commercial crew and cargo programmes to include beyond low Earth orbit capability and management by a non-profit organisation of the national laboratory that is the International Space Station’s US segment

Running to 29-pages the draft bill is very much a wish list that includes everything all sides on the debate would possibly want but contains clauses that will require action whether or not the appropriations bill mirrors the authorised activities


For rocket and spacecraft development the bill requires the “availability of redundant transportation systems” that are crew and cargo capable and can be either government or commercial systems. NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation System [surely services?] programme for cargo resupply is endorsed

The bill says there is a need to “rapidly as possible” develop vehicles capable of providing crew and cargo transportation to low Earth orbit and it states that use of foreign transportation systems is only acceptable as a “temporary contingency”

Interestingly the bill also says that these transportation capabilities must be capable of delivering large payloads beyond LEO through the launchers “expansion or modification of core design features”


For a commercial crew programme the bill says that within six months of its enactment a milestone and demonstration driven competitive selection process should be undertaken with at least two commercial entities – this is already met by the proposals wthin the NASA budget details released at the beginning of this week. The bill wants such a commercial crew system to be operational “no later than fiscal year 2016” – 2016 is the target date deputy administrator Lori Beth Garver has mentioned. But the draft also says that-:

The administrator shall take steps to include options for development by an industry consortium…using existing space shuttle propulsion technologies and related existing infrastructure for defining a cost effective means of obtaining the early development of a crew launch capability to launch a commercially developed multiple-application crew transportation module as well as current payload capabilities approximating those of the space shuttle orbiter. Such development should include evaluation of a variant of the Orion crew exploration vehicle…and an examination of the potential for evolution of such a system to a heavy lift variant using technology developed under a Heavy Lift Vehicle and Propulsion Research and Development Program 

The bill goes on to say that Ares I should be considered as a test vehicle for technologies for such a heavy lift programme and it goes further to say of Constellation-:


  • Within 90-days of the enactment of the bill the administrator must review the Constellation programme vehicles to determine
    •  if their development can be accelerated
    • what funds are needed
    • and would their use undermine a commercial transportation approach

Alternative heavy lift vehicles able to launch 25,000kg (55,000lb) into LEO and 6,800kg into geosynchronous orbit must also form part of this 90-day review. The bill says of this heavy lift evaluation-:

    • the administrator is “directed” to select a heavy lift launch vehicle design concept and to “initiate detailed design activities” within six months after the act’s enactment
    • the heavy lift vehicles can be solely government or developed in partnership with commercial organisations
    • an “evolutionary” approach that enables “early” human spaceflight must be considered
    • comparative development and projected operational costs must be supplied 

The future of the ISS takes up a large part of the bill and from the decision to extend its use to 2020 flows many of the actions identified in the text. The bill says-:

  • Immediately upon enactment of the bill the administrator must undertake a full assessment of the ISS
    • Necessary spares and their transportation methods must be identified
  • NASA’s space operations directorate will be responsible for the US segment of ISS but that segment will be managed by a proposed organisation “exempt from taxation”
  • Among its many activities the tax exempt managing organisation will coordinate transportation to ISS 

Because the Shuttle can already provide crew and cargo transportation the bill sets out a number actions related to the National Space Transportation System-:


  • The administrator must not terminate the Shuttle program less than 60 legislative days [emphasis added] after Congress’ decision
  • the administrator must appoint a 90-day flight certification review team within 30-days of the bill’s enactment
    • the review will study the continued operation of Shuttle for a further 5-years
  • termination of the Shuttle programme is contingent upon support for ISS through fiscal year 2020
  • said termination must not cause a degradation of capabilities necessary to ensure full utilisation of the station 

Hyperbola has repeatedly tried to contact by phone and email the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation communications office but no response has been forthcoming

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