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  [Discuss] NASA's Space Launch System development (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   [Discuss] NASA's Space Launch System development
Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-11-2011 06:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Editor's note: In an effort to keep the topic NASA heavy-lift launch vehicle development focused on status updates, readers' feedback and opinions are directed to this thread.

Please use this topic to discuss the Space Launch System as NASA develops its heavy lift launch vehicle.

Fra Mauro
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posted 07-11-2011 06:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA seems to be close to announcing that the Space Launch System (SLS) will be based on shuttle technology.

Am I correct that if all goes well, the first test should be around 2016? Then it seems that the heavy-lift vehicle won't be used much until an asteroid mission in 2025.

Story Musgrave was right recently when he criticized this long gap between programs.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-11-2011 07:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Associate Administrator Lori Garver gave updates on the development of the Space Launch System during media briefings held in the days leading up to the final launch of the space shuttle. Aviation Week has a good summary:
Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said here July 7 that NASA will run another internal cost analysis of the shuttle-derived stack chosen by Administrator Charles Bolden last month, in parallel with an outside evaluation by Booz Allen. Both should be done "by late July or early August," she says, clearing the way for a final decision "by the end of the summer."

"We're going through a very difficult period of time as a nation," Bolden said during the run up here for the final space shuttle launch. "The decision on the heavy-lift is going to be a... very critical and very expensive decision for the nation. It's got to carry us into this next era that we hope will extend longer than the 30 years of shuttle. So we're close to making a decision on the configuration, but not quite there."

Garver also said there may be slips to the test flight schedule for both the SLS and multipurpose crew vehicle (MPCV) if the House of Representatives' proposed cuts to NASA's budget are passed.

spacefan JC
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posted 07-11-2011 07:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spacefan JC     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Can’t they resurrect the Shuttle-C project? Is this just wishful thinking?

On the other hand there is the Liberty Launch Vehicle, a five segment SRB first stage, and the Ariane cryogenic as the second stage. This has two advantages in my personal view:

  1. Proven technology.
  2. Euro-US relations.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-11-2011 08:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Neither Shuttle-C or Liberty can meet the requirements for the heavy-lift vehicle, which requires the vehicle be capable of launching 130 tons or more into low-Earth orbit "in preparation for transit for missions beyond low-Earth orbit."

Shuttle-C, even as re-envisioned in 2005, topped out at 120 tons, and Liberty can lift only about 20 tons.

moorouge
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posted 07-11-2011 08:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
How would costings compare if they resurrected the Saturn V? And I wonder if there are any regrets in not carrying forward Nova when they had the opportunity.

Fra Mauro
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posted 07-11-2011 09:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I hope they would use VAB facilities and the shuttle launch pads. Why waste those assets?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-11-2011 09:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That's the plan... and it's why Pad 39A is being maintained in "shuttle-shape" less its existing fixed and rotating service structures can be applied for SLS.

Fra Mauro
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posted 07-11-2011 12:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What about Pad 39B?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-11-2011 12:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Pad 39B has been cleared to be a "clean pad" and will leased for commercial use. SpaceX has stated they are seriously considering it for launching their Falcon 9 Heavy.

GACspaceguy
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posted 07-12-2011 07:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for GACspaceguy   Click Here to Email GACspaceguy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Fra Mauro:
I hope they would use VAB facilities and the shuttle launch pads. Why waste those assets?
As we went past the VAB on the KSC tour we saw the LUT that was built up for the Constellation program. We were wondering if they would move that LUT into the VAB now that the VAB will not be active?

That way it would be out of the corrosive environment of the coast while they develop a plan for it's use. Hopefully for the new heavy-lift launch vehicle.

DChudwin
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posted 07-13-2011 09:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just a guess, but it is possible that the long delay in announcing the HLV configuration lies not with NASA, but with the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the White House.

NASA, of course, requires White House approval for new projects and budgets. The HLV project will require expenditures of billions. Bolden, Garver and the rest of NASA management probably submitted their proposal weeks ago but OSTP may be holding things up to get better cost estimates. I wonder whether the current study by the consulting firm Booz Hamilton was the idea of NASA or of OSTP.

Bill Hunt
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posted 07-13-2011 01:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bill Hunt   Click Here to Email Bill Hunt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Bolden said yesterday in front of the House committee that he's waiting on the cost estimates from OMB.

DChudwin
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posted 07-13-2011 08:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is the White House holding things up, although it is the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and not OSTP where the HLV proposal is bottled up.

This was noted today in a statement released by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson:

"We now have it confirmed that a final technical design decision on the heavy lift vehicle was made three weeks ago, on June 20th. Although the studies leading to that design decision included independent cost estimates, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has deferred endorsing that technical decision until it can see another independent cost analysis for the project."

Fra Mauro
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posted 07-29-2011 06:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Somebody should give the folks at NASA at little course in Congressional relations. It doesn't look good when Congress has to subpeona info on the HLV.
A Senate panel issued a subpoena ordering NASA to produce internal documents related to the agency’s progress on the Space Launch System (SLS), the heavy-lift rocket Congress ordered NASA to make ready for flight by Dec. 31, 2016.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, whose members were the architects of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 that created SLS, took the unusual step of exercising its subpoena authority July 27.

issman1
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posted 07-29-2011 07:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Since the US Congress cannot seem to reach a consenus about properly funding NASA human spaceflight, I would think the current NASA leadership is well within its right to be certain what is in the best and long-term interest of their agency and country.

Personally, I think NASA should now forget about shuttle-derived and go with SpaceX's Falcon Heavy. At least that is a more evolvable heavy-lift launch vehicle than what Congress is forcing NASA to adopt.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-29-2011 08:34 AM     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 issman1:
...go with SpaceX's Falcon Heavy.
Despite there being "Heavy" in the name, SpaceX will be the first to tell you that Falcon Heavy and the Space Launch System are two different class of vehicles and shouldn't be compared.

Falcon Heavy maxes out at 53 tons of payload. The SLS, by definition, will lift no less than 130 tons.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-29-2011 09:03 AM     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 Fra Mauro:
It doesn't look good when Congress has to subpoena info on the HLV.
Yes, but it doesn't look good for whom? Some might say Congress, for trying to rush NASA through the engineering process.

NASA spokesman Mike Cabbage responded to the news of the subpoena.

“While we share the Senators' commitment to human space exploration and implementation of the Authorization Act, we also have a commitment to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. The Space Launch System is the most important — and expensive — decision NASA will make for the next decade, and we want to get it right so we don't repeat the mistakes of the past or get pushed into making a premature decision about our nation's deep space exploration plans."

Fra Mauro
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posted 07-29-2011 09:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA shouldn't be rushed in the least, especially with cost estimates. However, to placate some of the prima donnas in Congress, a "bone" should have been thrown to them, to continue good relations between the committee and the NASA leadership. Mr. Cabbage's statement is very persuasive. Perhaps they could've shown the committee the options being explored up to that time.

issman1
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posted 07-29-2011 09:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From my understanding, two Falcon Heavy's could carry anything that SLS could (may be even better).

Plus the SpaceX rocket seems evolvable from the outset, something the Congressionally-mandated rocket will not be able to do for decades after its maiden launch (which is also in question)!

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-29-2011 09:39 AM     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 issman1:
From my understanding, two Falcon Heavy's could carry anything that SLS could (may be even better).
So twice the launches, twice the chance of mission failure. Further, not all the intended payloads for SLS can be split down the middle.

Again, SpaceX is clear about this: their Falcon Heavy is not a replacement for the SLS, nor should it be.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-29-2011 09:42 AM     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 Fra Mauro:
...a "bone" should have been thrown to them
Unfortunately, no "bone" would have satiated this "dog." Congress needs to learn its limitations; it cannot dictate the engineering or budgeting schedule, especially when it underfunds both.

Fra Mauro
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posted 07-29-2011 09:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's possible, Congress can be very arrogant, whether or not they understand the problem. Sometimes you have to anticipate the next move -- I've learned that from dealing with principals. A little sweet music calms the savage beast!

issman1
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posted 07-29-2011 10:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think SpaceX is being quite modest about its heavy-lifter. Perhaps it would be wise to remain so, especially with US political uncertainty and upheaval over the next 18 months.

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posted 07-29-2011 11:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for alcyone   Click Here to Email alcyone     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't blame NASA one bit: decade after decade they get no useful guidance from the lawmakers (especially on HLV development, it has been obvious this has had no priority for over 30 years), then suddenly the lawmakers squeal when a piece of paper isn't on some committee members desk when they want it on any given day.

Regarding the ridiculous partisan debt deal shenanigans going on, do American politicians look good right now? NO!

In this climate maybe somebody at NASA calculated okay, let them subpoena us: at this point it is not possible for us to look worse than our bosses.

328KF
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posted 07-29-2011 03:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by issman1:
I think SpaceX is being quite modest about its heavy-lifter.
I never thought I would ever hear anyone refer to Musk or his company as "modest." Quite the contrary, they suffer from an abundance of overconfidence and brashness.

Some really smart people think that the promises of the commercial guys are greatly over-optimistic. Others here appear to think that we should just chain the doors at NASA and push the old codger out to pasture. The right answer is realistically someplace in between. The challenge is finding that middle ground.

One thing is for certain, we as a nation should not repeat the mistakes of the past and allow ourselves to put all of our eggs in one basket, commercial or gov't developed, again.

cspg
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posted 07-30-2011 01:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by 328KF:
One thing is for certain, we as a nation should not repeat the mistakes of the past and allow ourselves to put all of our eggs in one basket, commercial or gov't developed, again.

I agree. But where is ISS-2?

issman1
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posted 07-30-2011 03:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by 328KF:
...they suffer from an abundance of overconfidence and brashness.

It sounds more reminiscent of the can-do days of NASA than anything else.

Musk could defend himself on this discussion, if he wishes, but I predict that his big rocket will become a reality long before the SLS. America's top Mars proponent Robert Zubrin sees Falcon Heavy as the better option.

Fra Mauro
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posted 08-22-2011 09:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Any chance the Ares I could be seen as a cheaper and quicker alternative?
Dr. Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, raised the Ares option last week as one way out of political and financial thicket that has enmeshed the Space Launch System (SLS), which is the formal name for the heavy-lift rocket project...

"You build on the work that was already done," Pace said of Ares I. "You can fly the MPCV. You have five-segment solid (rocket motors) that are already done. You have a use then on the upper stage for the J-2X engine, which is also in development."

Ares I would also "provide a backup option in case the commercial crew guys run into problems," Pace said. "And it's a foundation to be able to return to the moon with the international partners at some point."

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-23-2011 09:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA released Tuesday (PDF) the executive summary of Booz Allen Hamilton's independent cost assessment of the Space Launch System (SLS), Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) and 21st Century Ground Systems (21CGS) programs.
In general, the estimates prepared by SLS, MPCV, and 21CGS are consistent with Analysis of Alternative (AoA) level estimates and are reasonable point estimates for budget planning in the near-term 3-5 year budget horizon. They are serviceable in that they represent the basis to build upon for future life-cycle cost estimates of the quality required for long-term budget formulation and the development of program baselines.

None of the estimates reviewed by the ICA Team support establishment of long-term budgets or detailed baselines consistent with NPR 7120.5 requirements. They are, however, reasonable AoA estimates appropriate for supporting trade studies and comparative analyses.

All three Program estimates assume large, unsubstantiated, future cost efficiencies leading to the impression that they are optimistic. A scenario-based risk assessment, which excludes cost estimating uncertainty and unknown-unknown risks (historically major sources of cost and schedule growth), reveals all three Programs' reserves are insufficient.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-14-2011 08:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
NASA Announces Major Decisions For Future Human Spaceflight

NASA leaders will participate in two media events Wednesday, Sept. 14, to discuss the new Space Launch System that will take American astronauts farther into space than ever before.

At 10:00 a.m. EDT, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will join members of Congress, including Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Bill Nelson, for a news conference in SDG-50 on the ground floor of the Senate Dirksen Building in Washington.

The event will be webcast live on the Senate Commerce Committee's website and on NASA TV.

At 12 p.m. NASA will hold a background media teleconference with William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate, Doug Cooke, deputy associate administrator for HEO, NASA Chief Financial Officer Beth Robinson and other senior managers.

Audio of the teleconference will be streamed live.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-14-2011 09:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
NASA Announces Design for New Deep Space Exploration System

NASA is ready to move forward with the development of the Space Launch System — an advanced heavy-lift launch vehicle that will provide an entirely new national capability for human exploration beyond Earth's orbit. The Space Launch System will give the nation a safe, affordable and sustainable means of reaching beyond our current limits and opening up new discoveries from the unique vantage point of space... [continue reading]

cspg
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posted 09-14-2011 09:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From the animation, it looks like the Saturn V and the Shuttle have merged. Question: will it (ever) fly?

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 09-14-2011 10:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ha! That was my thought, two SRBs on a Saturn. Anybody clever enough with Photoshop to put an orbiter on the side of the rocket?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-14-2011 10:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Clearly NASA was trying to evoke the Saturn V with its choice of roll patterns but beyond the use of the J2X for the upper stage and general design of a mostly-vertical integrated rocket, there doesn't appear to be too much in common with the Apollo moon booster.

And while SLS's side-mounted boosters will may start off as space shuttle solid rocket motors during development flights, their ultimate design will be competed and could end up being liquid-fueled rockets.

As an aside, Sen. Bill Nelson noted during the press conference this morning that the images released so far are of the "smaller" 70 metric ton (mT) version.

The 70 mT version of the SLS will stand slightly shorter than Saturn V; the 130 mT SLS will stand about 40 feet taller than the Saturn V.

issman1
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posted 09-14-2011 10:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA just cannot let go of the past and wants to persist with solid rocket boosters, commercially or integrated into this heavy lifter. It should be a liquid-fueled system from the outset, 'a la Delta 4 Heavy and Falcon Heavy.

At least that awfully big launch tower at KSC will be used after all.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-14-2011 11:12 AM     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 issman1:
It should be a liquid-fueled system from the outset
Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, said that the side boosters may be of any type — liquid or solid. The use of the shuttle solid rocket boosters for the early development flights is only to keep initial costs low.

"It's initially solid rocket motors for potentially the first or second test flights and then we'll go compete those boosters and they could be any type of propellant," he said.

quote:
At least that awfully big launch tower at KSC will be used
Gerstenmaier acknowledged this today, as well. "It also allows us to use some of the [mobile launch platform] hardware that was developed for the Ares program."

onesmallstep
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posted 09-14-2011 03:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Nice touch using a Saturn V paint scheme for the liquid-fueled stages, although the Orion capsule shroud shaped like a Hershey Kisses will have to be getting used to!

Fezman92
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posted 09-14-2011 03:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fezman92   Click Here to Email Fezman92     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am a bit wary about all of this as it is on the heals of the President's plan to cut even more spending to pay for the Jobs Act.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 9-14-2011 3:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The development program is budgeted to cost NASA $3 billion per year through 2017, and is covered under NASA's current and projected funding levels.

"If we don't get exactly the annual budget we anticipated, we have enough flexibility in the program we can accommodate that," Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, said. "So I'd say we have a pretty agile ability to keep costs under control. We're going to do our part."


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