Since 1989, the Space Shuttle Program (SSP) has had an outstanding safety record and significant progress has been made in the reliability of some of its major elements.
Our goal is to ensure that this legacy continues by investing in upgrades that embrace advanced technologies that improve reliability while assuring safety.
Candidate safety and reliability upgrades will be evaluated, tested, and selected on the basis of measurable effectiveness and affordability.
We will continually strive to protect the lives and well being of the crew and ground team while assuring reliable operation of the Shuttle Fleet.
The Shuttle will fundamentally be the "Workhorse" that builds and maintains the International Space Station (ISS). As such, there is a need to increase the Shuttle flight rate to adequately support the assembly sequence. Additionally, meeting the challenge of assembling the most complex space structure ever created necessitates that the shuttle program be responsive to mission specific manifest changes. While accommodating these needed changes, Space Shuttle planning must have the resiliency necessary to not affect the schedule of those missions not directly impacted.
Along with ISS missions, the Space Shuttle will continue its scientific and research technology development missions. And as need and opportunity arises, the Space Shuttle will also continue its support of the Department of Defense and to the extent appropriate, commercial ventures.
State-of-the-art upgrades will be critical to Program success and will provide the new capability and reliability necessary for successful mission performance while assuring that weather will be the only cause for a launch scrub.
The ISS mission requirements place an increased demand on Space Shuttle Systems. Some of the ISS assembly elements will be the heaviest cargo ever carried by the Shuttle. The ISS assembly process also requires an unprecedented number of extravehicular activities, rendezvous and docking and remote manipulator system activities as well as many other new challenges inherent in a mission of this grand scale.
To meet these demands, new technologies are required to increase Shuttle performance and system capability. Shuttle upgrades are also key to our ability to support an increase in flight rate by reducing the effort required for refurbishment and reconfiguration. As such, overall flight-to-flight cycle time will be reduced, allowing for a reduction in the total preparation time of a mission for both our customers and ourselves.
Inherent in these shuttle upgrades is the opportunity to eliminate obsolescence and utilize materials and processes that are environmentally friendly.
The Space Shuttle Program has a goal of continuously improving its developmental and operational processes, making them more effective and efficient.
These objectives will be met through a combination of reductions in the preparation process time, hardware refurbishment time, and the time required to reconfigure operational support facilities. Reducing overall operations cost significantly reduces the cost of providing access to low earth orbit for our customers. Thus, the return on investment is substantially improved regardless of the endeavor - ISS assembly and maintenance, satellite deployment or retrieval, science, or research technology.
By improving processes and incorporating the upgrades, the Shuttle flight rate can be increased significantly above today's capability. Because of the infrastructure and critical skills needed for an effective Program, increasing flight rate also better utilizes the work force and facilities, thus providing additional reductions to the overall cost per flight.
Other considerations to improve overall capability are also being given to substantial investment opportunities outside our existing system. The Program is currently evaluating Liquid Flyback Boosters that will enable the Program to meet all of its long-term improvement objectives.
Early in the next century, NASA will return to the Moon, and explore Mars and beyond. Though not a specific SSP Goal, Shuttle upgrades that support HEDS requirements by developing new technologies and mitigating risks are vitally important.
The Shuttle provides a valuable springboard to design, develop, test, and evaluate the technologies that will make these exciting missions possible. The next generation of planetary explorers is already flying aboard the Shuttle today and is benefiting from the experience gained by living and working on the world's first reusable human spacecraft. It is our goal that the Shuttle continues to be the best and most capable human-rated spacecraft possible. Upgrades that support Program goals and objectives will be the cornerstone of that achievement.