If you live on the Space Coast of Florida, then you know that the loss of the Space Shuttle means the end of decent paying jobs for the community. It is simple that space and dollars go together. There are virtually only two customers in the Space Business these days. NASA and the Department of Defense (DOD). So it is amazing that anyone would believe that some unknown company will rise up with a viable commercial heavy lift rocket so NASA or DOD could hitch a ride whenever they need that capability.
Right now there are only a handful of companies that are providing the Aerospace Engineering and hardware capable of any launches. On the Cape Side, Lockheed Martin and Boeing Corp combined forces to create United Launch Alliance (ULA). This company launches payloads off of Pads 41 and 37, Atlas V and Delta IV respectively. If any company is poised to pickup the pieces of NASA’s decision to scrap constellation, ULA certainly is.
On Pad 40, there is the Falcon, by SpaceX Corp., while they have an ambitious launch plan, they don’t have any track record of successful launches.
There is the philosophy that we could reuse everything but the shuttle. Make more tanks and reuse boosters, hence the DIRECT project and Jupiter. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jupiter_(rocket_family)
The NASA places forward request for proposal to companies to create the next great thing, but no company is incentivized to expend great money without any possible return on investment.
The fact is that not a single one of these programs is Man Rated, and to add that would create additional expense to any of these rocket programs. Only NASA has a Man Rated requirement for their payloads, unless we deregulate space.
Right now we must rely on a single rocket program in Russia to service the International Space Station.
The United States has put the most amount of money into the ISS and space exploration. The director today stated that he is looking to Internationalize the space program. America needs to be the lead in space. If we are putting our cash there, then we shouldn’t have to compromise on the direction of the research.
As the director said, only Russian and China will have Human Space Flight programs for an unknown time after Shuttle retires. It’s unbelievable. What’s worse is that we have no idea when we will bring one back online.
What is really at risk is Jobs, Science, Leadership and Pride. When J.F. Kennedy boldly asked us to go to the Moon, we did it as a nation. It put industry at work providing the tooling and know-how. 40 Years after we put a man on the moon, we have squandered all of it, and no one has a good reason as to why.
SailorJ is a pseudonym for a former technician on one of the Unmanned Rocket programs at Cape Canaveral, FL.
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