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  CCDev: United Space Alliance's (USA) Commercial Shuttle Operations Architecture

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Author Topic:   CCDev: United Space Alliance's (USA) Commercial Shuttle Operations Architecture
Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-03-2011 10:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
MSNBC reports that United Launch Alliance is proposing to commercialize space shuttles Atlantis and Endeavour, flying two missions a year from 2013 to 2017 at an annual cost of $1.5 billion.
If USA receives funding, the venture would conduct a study called the Commercial Shuttle Operations Architecture, which would last for six months, from April through September. The study would be aimed at fine-tuning USA's earlier cost estimates for a commercial shuttle operation with a workforce in Texas and Florida. Such an operation would be covered by Federal Aviation Administration rules, would share facilities with other commercial companies to cut down on expenses, and would offer launches to NASA under a fixed-price contract.

USA's current estimated price tag of $1.5 billion per year would represent a substantial drop from previous funding levels, which have seen shuttle program costs rise as high as $4 billion per year.

United Space Alliance says its plan would take advantage of shuttle infrastructure and a workforce already in place. Some shuttle production lines would have to be restarted -- for example, the operation that builds the shuttle's external fuel tanks. But USA says the first commercial shuttle flights could take place in 2013. That would beat the 2016 deadline specified in last year's legislation, as well as the development schedule laid out by SpaceX and USA's other commercial competitors.

The article also makes mention of a NASA study to keep Endeavour in flight-ready condition post-retirement for engineering analysis. For that discussion, see: What-if exercise: NASA studying option of keeping shuttle Endeavour flight-ready

issman1
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posted 02-03-2011 11:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Interesting idea, but is it practical and profitable for USA?

I suppose USA could offer multiple shuttle seats to space tourists or launch commercial satellites like the shuttle used to in the 1980s before Challenger. Celebrities like James Cameron and John Travolta were rumoured to have wanted to fly on the shuttle in the late 1990s.

The big contradiction here is that NASA would be paying to keep the shuttle flying through to 2017. It's far better for other CCDev proposals to become the staple method of transporting American and foreign astronauts to the ISS.

GACspaceguy
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posted 02-03-2011 11:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for GACspaceguy   Click Here to Email GACspaceguy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
So what is the current state of the tooling for building more external tanks?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-03-2011 12:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When I visited the Michoud Assembly Facility for the rollout of ET-138, Lockheed representatives said that even with the planned layoffs, NASA was intending to retain the tooling and already-fabricated parts for future tanks to support whatever vehicle came next.

They also said that given the go to retain or rehire the workforce, they could have at least one tank built from existing parts ready to fly by 2013, refurbish another (ET-94) to fly by 2014, and have production restarted such that new tanks would roll off the line by 2015-16.

Fezman92
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posted 02-03-2011 01:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fezman92   Click Here to Email Fezman92     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wouldn't USA have to go through NASA and the National Air and Space Museum first?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-03-2011 01:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The museum would have no say in the matter as (a) this would be decided before any orbiter is transferred to a museum, and (b) the National Air and Space Museum is only receiving Discovery, and thus is unaffected by decisions related to Atlantis and Endeavour.

And USA is, according to the MSNBC report, making the proposal to NASA, as part of the agency's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program.

Fezman92
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posted 02-03-2011 05:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fezman92   Click Here to Email Fezman92     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Personally, I don't think NASA should allow a private company to use the shuttles. They are national symbols and the public should be allowed to see them in museums.

fredtrav
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posted 02-03-2011 05:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have to disagree. If the shuttles are still usable, then they should be used for the purpose they were built. If a private company can put them to use to keep sending people into space more power to them.

After they are finally retired then they can be displayed.

We are talking about two, so the other two will be on display for the public.

Byeman
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posted 02-03-2011 06:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Byeman   Click Here to Email Byeman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by issman1:
I suppose USA could offer multiple shuttle seats to space tourists or launch commercial satellites like the shuttle used to in the 1980s before Challenger.
Spacecraft will avoid the shuttle. Costs too much to fly on it due to safety requirements.

capoetc
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posted 02-03-2011 08:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for capoetc   Click Here to Email capoetc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If approved, would USA buy the shuttles? Are they not owned by the US government?

Tykeanaut
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posted 02-04-2011 03:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tykeanaut   Click Here to Email Tykeanaut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think there are too many safety issues to resolve before tourists take to the shuttle.

cspg
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posted 02-04-2011 09:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
NASA was intending to retain the tooling
It was mentioned (last year?) that tooling for manufacturing tanks was in the process of being discarded. Someone said "stop!"?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-04-2011 09:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My recollection of those earlier reports were that the tooling was being dismantled and put into storage -- and some of that had already occurred by the time of my visit -- however that work could be reversed.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-05-2011 08:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Florida Today reports that even USA considers their proposal a "long shot."
"We thought this was a good option to be put on the table to be evaluated with all the other commercial options, since it's a vehicle that has really proven itself," said Mark Nappi, head of Houston-based USA's Florida operations. "It is safe. We have a lot of history, we understand how to operate it."

To avoid giving the company's employees false hope, however, Nappi has told them the proposal is "very much a long shot."

USA initially has proposed a six-month study of the commercial shuttle option, something Nappi noted has been studied a handful of times since the '90s.

The company asked NASA to help fund the study under a program set up to speed the development of new rockets and spacecraft able to carry people. Winners of the program's $200 million second round of funding are expected to be announced next month.

ejectr
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posted 02-05-2011 01:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ejectr   Click Here to Email ejectr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by fredtrav:
We are talking about two, so the other two will be on display for the public.
What? We have three, not four. We lost Columbia. We have Atlantis, Endeavour and Discovery left.

fredtrav
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posted 02-05-2011 01:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was thinking of the Enterprise (OV 101), which while never used for orbital flights was used for gliding and landing tests (ALT). I know it is different in that it has no motors or heat shield and I believe a different tail design, but it is in general very similar to the active shuttles.

GACspaceguy
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posted 02-05-2011 03:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GACspaceguy   Click Here to Email GACspaceguy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I finally have had an opportunity to look this up.

From the Columbia Accident Investigation Board report Volume I August 2003, part three Chapter 9:

The board makes the following recommendation regarding recertification;

R9.2-1

Prior to operating the Shuttle beyond 2010, develop and conduct a vehicle recertification at the material, component and subsystem, and systems levels. Recertification requirements should be included in the Service Life Extension program.

So how will they reconcile that recommendation for the shuttle? The report made that recommendation to keep the shuttle flying just to 2020. I would think that turning the shuttle over to a private company does not negate the recommendation put forth by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. If USA disregarded that recommendation they would put the shuttle right back into the mind set that allowed the Columbia accident to occur.

I believe that if they stopped flying in 2011 and then intended to resume two years later in 2013 then a full recertification could not be completed. This is based my experience in doing a similar program on a large cabin business aircraft.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-05-2011 03:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by GACspaceguy:
If USA disregarded that recommendation they would put the shuttle right back into the mind set that allowed the Columbia accident to occur.
NASA addressed recertification in March 2010 when some in Congress began advocating a shuttle extension to bridge the gap before commercial vehicles would be available.
Another issue for shuttle extension is recertification. In the wake of the 2003 Columbia disaster, the accident review board concluded that if NASA wanted to fly the shuttle past 2010, the vehicle should be recertified, a costly and complex procedure intended to make sure the aging spaceplanes can be safely maintained and operated.

While not required given the decision to retire the fleet this year, recertification-class reviews have been underway since 2005.

"We've pretty much, over the last five years, gone through the entire orbiter vehicle to make sure we're operating within the environment that the different orbiter pieces were originally certified for," Shannon said. "We feel like we've addressed recertification.

"We did not stop there. We continued and had meetings with aging vehicle experts to understand from an aviation standpoint what types of things do they typically find, what types of things do they typically look at, we benchmarked things like the B-52 bomber, things that have been flying for greater than 50 years. And as a result of those meetings, we added 23 additional inspection points into each of the orbiters that we hit every time we turn the vehicle around."

GACspaceguy
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posted 02-05-2011 04:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GACspaceguy   Click Here to Email GACspaceguy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Very good, thanks Robert.

I have always thought recertification costs and time was the 2010 cutoff driving factor from a engineering perspective. Now I am even more disappointed that the program is ending. I hope that USA can pull this off.

328KF
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posted 03-03-2011 05:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In this Air & Space magazine blog entitled Discarding Shuttle the writer makes some interesting points regarding the new course of our space program.
Preserving, adapting and using what we already have is smarter than destroying capability and starting again from scratch. We are putting faith in the emergence of space systems that will do what we want, when and where we want. We are told that to nurture and foster other providers of space access, we must throw away the bird in our hand and plant a revolutionary new bush, hopeful that it will grow and attract a variety of new birds. I leave it to you to decide the wisdom of such a restrictive course. Plant the bush but don’t throw away the only bird we now hold. We must be fully conscious about the realities of non-existent systems and preserve the space transportation capability on which America can rely.
Editor's note: Threads merged.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-03-2011 05:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I merged the above post and this thread because the blog that was cited describes a symposium, "U.S. Human Spaceflight: Continuity and Stability," which was organized to specifically discuss United Space Alliance's proposal for commercial shuttle operations.

Here is the symposium's description:

On Feb. 1, 2010, the Obama administration announced its plan to develop a new commercial manned spaceflight capability; NASA subsequently awarded $50 million in grants to five private firms as a first step to implement the vision of turning over space transportation to the commercial sector.

Virginia A. Barnes, president and CEO of United Space Alliance, and George Jeffs, a member of the Space Shuttle Management Independent Review Team, will lead a panel discussion on the viability of flying the Space Shuttle as a commercial venture.

The United States has made a significant investment in space shuttle facilities and personnel, but with the space shuttle program ending in 2011, the United States will be dependent on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to fly crews to the International Space Station. The commercial operation of the space shuttle would be an alternative that would provide continuity to the nation’s human spaceflight program and make use of these existing assets.

(I had been invited to attend the symposium but a late conflict arose that precluded my being there.)

Fra Mauro
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posted 04-15-2011 10:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Any thoughts on the USA proposal to fly two shuttle flights a year for the next 5 years?

Editor's note: Threads merged.

issman1
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posted 04-15-2011 11:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA's three spaceworthy orbiters have been designated their final resting places across America.

So how is this architecture going to work now? And I still don't understand how USA would offset the huge costs of shuttle operations to make a net profit.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-15-2011 03:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Not that this idea is anything more than a long shot growing longer with every day, but the shuttle museum assignments do not preclude it going forward.

The museums have only been promised the orbiters after they are retired; if NASA were (in the very, very unlikely situation) to choose to go with USA's proposal, then it would only defer the delivery of the shuttles to those museums until the orbiters were no longer needed.

Fra Mauro
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posted 04-16-2011 11:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
No reason why this proposal shouldn't be considered unless there is an anti-shuttle bias. Sometimes I wonder if the openness towards commercial spaceflight or manned spaceflight in general isn't narrow-minded.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-16-2011 12:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It has been considered as part of NASA's second round of the Commercial Crew Development program. The contract awards are expected to be announced soon.

328KF
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posted 04-26-2011 04:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I assumed this was the case once the finalists were announced, but here it is...
Other companies were cut during the assessment for other reasons, from having major, glaring weaknesses to failing to follow the instructions in the announcement. Also getting cut at this stage was a proposal from USA, the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture that handles shuttle operations, to study commercial operations of part of the shuttle fleet beyond the scheduled retirement of the orbiters later this year. Without discussing the specifics of the proposal, the NASA source selection document states that it "did not fall within the scope or intent of the CCDev 2 effort," and as a result USA withdrew its proposal last month.

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