Administrator says gap between retirement of Shuttle and replacement is too great

NASA's new administrator Michael Griffin is prepared to delay awarding contracts to begin developing its next manned spacecraft, the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), while the US agency looks for ways to accelerate its development. The gap between retiring the Space Shuttle in 2010 and the first manned CEV flight in 2014 is too great, he believes.

"We are going to rethink our entire programme," Griffin says. "If that requires that we delay receiv­ing responses to the RFP [request for proposals] that's out on the street, then so be it." Congress has indicated that the 2014 date is unacceptable, the White House has indicated that it is not advisable, "and it doesn't work for me either", Griffin says.

He says "it is a major priority today to reduce that gap" between retirement of the Shuttle and manned CEV flights, to keep US human spaceflight skills intact. "The trick for us is to effect an orderly transition between what we're doing today on the Shuttle and what we will be doing for the next generation of vehicle."

One way to retain skills, Griffin says, "is not to have a five-year gap between the two". Another would be "to put appropriate reliance on Shuttle-derived components where we think that makes sense", he says, adding: "[It is] better to take a little bit of time up front and get what we really want."

In his first press conference since taking over as administrator, Griffin said that immediately after the STS 114 return-to-flight mission is launched, NASA will undertake a review of reinstating the SM-4 Hubble servicing Shuttle mission. "As far as I am concerned, the robotic servicing mission is off the table," he says.


Source: Flight International