[FPSPACE] The Myth of space shuttle retirement and space station

Keith Gottschalk kgottschalk at uwc.ac.za
Sat Nov 15 05:40:56 EST 2014

It will be interesting to see if, before this decade is out, we have CST, & Dragon, & Orion, all docked at the ISS as lifeboats. It will be good to see the crew rise from six to seven. Two lifeboats at any one time is a capacity for up to twelve astronauts, or seven plus cargo.

    Then, we have the four-decade dogged personal & professional commitment of Alan Bond's team. Skylon would be a game-changer. How long their current financial backing will last, time will tell us.

- Keith

>>> Julie Miller  11/15/14 2:37 AM >>>
At 06:54 PM 11/14/2014, Zeger Nuyens wrote:

>Now talking about the US,isn't it the country that abandoned a means 
>of transportation to the ISS  back in 2003 and went all out to get a 
>new and better one to be ready when the shuttle was (finally) phased 
>out in 2010 (well you got a few extra years)? But even 12 years was 
>not enough it seems.
>Getting rid of one system before having another one ready,well...

Actually the U.S. has _NEVER_ had the capability to support the 
transportation for astronauts who live aboard the International Space 
Station. It's relied on the Russian Soyuz since October 31, 2000.

The U.S. did have the capability to have astronauts _visit_ the space 
station via the space shuttle, which it no longer has since the 
retirement of the shuttle.

Visit vs. live is an important distinction.

Only the Soyuz has the ability to support long duration crews. 
Whether or not crews flew to the ISS via the shuttle or Soyuz, the 
long duration crews always relied on Soyuz "lifeboat" seats.

Per the 1998 inter-agency agreement the first 13 Soyuz lifeboats were 
provided by Russia as in-kind contributions. 13 Soyuz x 6 months = 
6.5 years. When the first space station crew launched on October 31, 
2000 every partner knew that the Russian contribution to provide 
Soyuz would end in April 2006 - that never changed and was never a 
surprise to anybody who paid addition.

The U.S. was supposed to have its own rescue capability by that 
point. At that point it was supposed to be a version of the X-38. If 
that rescue vehicle was only certified to return crews from space 
then the U.S. (including European, Japanese, and Canadian) crews 
would still need the shuttle to fly to and from the ISS and only rely 
on the X-38 for rescue if necessary. If the X-38 evolved into a 
two-way vehicle it could fly crews to and from ISS and wouldn't be 
dependent on continued shuttle operations.

The X-38 went over budget and added to ISS's increasing costs 
resulted in its cancellation without any viable replacement 
scheduled. That was the mistake - ignoring that the 2006 deadline 
would not magically disappear.

The fact that the shuttle is not flying anymore has (almost) nothing 
to do with the U.S. dependence on the Soyuz for transporting 
astronauts to and from the space station.

Don't bring politics into it - Republican and Democratic 
administrations and NASA administrators from Goldin to Griffin were 
all very aware of the 2006 deadline and ignored that there was no way 
for US segment astronauts to live aboard the space station.

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