VIDEO: can Shuttle avoid an extension gap?

by | Mar 16, 2010 | Seradata News | 1 comment

Clark Lindsey and the Spaceports blog linked to this 9 March video interview with NASA Space Shuttle programme manager John Shannon. He doesn’t give any great insights although he says a survey of the programme’s supply base was to be given to Shannon on Thursday 11 March. Hyperbola is not expecting any good news from thatWhile Shannon talks about a supply base of businesses that are going concerns without Shuttle, a chat Hyperbola had with Marshall Space Flight Center’s (MSFC) project office (after an email to Lockheed’s Michoud Assembly Facilty public affairs people) yesterday didn’t provide any hopeful information for any of the politicians seeking Shuttle extension

Confirming what Thomas James said on his Marsblog Hyperbola learned that welders who work on constructing external tanks have been redeployed or let go by Lockheed Martin which runs the Michoud. While ordering the foam and aluminium lithium and unpacking the machinery and tooling may not be a problem the people who once built the ETs are simply no longer there

Getting those guys (and maybe girls) back to restart production is a big obstacle and even with a smooth production process MSFC would not expect a new tank to reach Kennedy Space Center until mid-2012 assuming an order was placed by this July. Essentially, to continue a few months after STS-133’s September flight the orders should have been placed back in late 2008 and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then

With STS-131/Discovery now out at the pad unless they want to roll it back it would seem that the only hope of having anything remotely like a Shuttle extension will require spreading out the remaining flights and adding STS-135

Keeping STS-131 in April the next flight could be -132 in September, then -134 in the first quarter of calendar year 2011 then -133 early in the third quarter and -135 around the end of 2011, beginning of 2012. Come June 2012 the new flights would begin

Of course there were no flights from January 1986 to September 1988 and again from February 2003 to July 2005 so no Shuttle launches for a period of years is not unknown in Florida, however unwelcome the previous causes of those groundings were

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