Imagine the Space Shuttle looking like a Grand Prix racing car covered with company logos. It could happen.

"The USA can't afford to run the Space Shuttle without private financing," says former astronaut Jim Adamson, who heads United Space Alliance which operates the Shuttle for NASA.

Adamson, taking a break from a never-ending queue of autograph hunters yesterday at the Clear Water Houston Texas Consortium stand in Hall 1, says the Shuttle will need a continuing source of private funding to offset the diminishing national budgets.

NASA administrator Daniel Goldin's vision is to operate a vibrant space programme, including going back to the moon, by handing over more of the operation to private companies which will generate revenue through commercialisation.



United Space will drum up further revenue by investigating commercial opportunities which could include servicing satellites in space or putting advertising on the Shuttle.

Since the Challenger accident in 1986, the Shuttle has been forbidden to carry commercial satellites, but that will not stop it from being offered for other commercial services which take advantage of its human capability.

This may see a return of flying company payload specialists to operate proprietary equipment.

Adamson does not see how space tourism can fit into the scenario, however. Flying the Shuttle still needs intensive training.

As for the logos, Adamson says "-advertising is part of commercialisation. Why not?"

He does not believe that United Space nor NASA could recover quickly from another Shuttle accident.

"We just can't let that happen."

The Space Shuttle is now a very mature system, with more than 80 flights and just one failed launch.

"We understand the system very well and I don't see that there needs to be another accident. Of course, anything can happen but-"

Source: Flight Daily News