Volume 3, No. 7 October 11, 1999
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, criticized NASA for not doing enough to support cheap access to space, during a hearing on NASAäs X-33 program (9/29/99).
"[T]he Administration made a mistake in hoping NASA and industry would develop a commercial Shuttle replacement simply by funding one experimental demonstrator," Rohrabacher said. "Instead of ‘build a little, test a littleä and ‘flyoffsä of competing vehicles, we put all of our ‘cheap access to spaceä eggs into one fragile technology basket."
Rohrabacher said NASA should "help many companies demonstrate different technologies in a competitive marketplace." Below are brief overviews of the testimony presented to the subcommittee:
Allen Li, Associate Director, GAO National Security and International Affairs Division
Mr. Li announced the findings of the recent GAO report, "Space Transportation: Progress of the X-33 Reusable Launch Vehicle Program." According to Li, "Because of problems in developing technologies for the X-33, the program will not meet some of its original cost, schedule and performance objectives."
The initial test flight of the X-33 has been delayed 16 months due to problems in developing the vehicleäs fuel tanks, aerospike engines and heat shield. To resolve the technical difficulties will cost Lockheed Martin an additional $75 million and boost NASAäs contribution by about $18 million, according to the GAO. Despite the problems, Li said the "programäs December 2000 completion date remains unchanged."
If the X-33 proves successful, Lockheed hopes to develop a full-scale SSTO called VentureStar. Lockheed estimates it will cost $7.2 billion to build and begin operating two full-scale vehicles.
Li said there are numerous issues that need to be examined when considering the VentureStar as a replacement for the Shuttle, including: 1) possible government financial incentives that may be needed to build the vehicles; 2) NASAäs costs to modify the vehicle so it can transport humans to space; and 3) the impact on microgravity science aboard the International Space Station from additional flights because VentureStar transports less cargo than the Shuttle.
"[A] VentureStar vehicle would have to make two to three flights to provide as much cargo, as many people, or as much maintenance support to the space station as a single shuttle flight," Li said. NASA is planning to make five shuttle flights annually to the ISS, each costing $400 million or more. The expense for each VentureStar mission is unknown.
Jerry Rising, Vice President of Reusable Launch Vehicles, Lockheed Martin Skunkworks
Gary Payton, NASA Deputy Associate Administrator of the Office of Aero-Space Technology
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