The 1990 Augustine Commission Revisited

Editor's note: I thought it would be a good time to revisit the "Report of the Advisory Committee On the Future of the U.S. Space Program" or the 1990 "Augustine Commission" as it was called. (Report as PDF | HTML and Shuttle-C Users Conference Executive Summary PDF)

Below and continued on the next page you'll find some relevant references to the 1990 report. 19 Years after the report was released Augustine is now chairing the Human Space Flight Panel. A lot has changed in the last 19 years. What lessons have we learned that relate to the 1990 report and the current blue ribbon panel?

Weaning NASA From the Shuttle: Old Ideas Revived, New York Times (Dec. 18, 1990)

"The large rocket was recommended last week by an expert panel headed by Norman R. Augustine, chairman of the Martin Marietta Corporation. Leading candidates for the booster are a cargo-only variation of the space shuttle called Shuttle-C and the Advanced Launch System, or ALS, a joint NASA-Air Force project envisioned as a system for assembling various-size rockets from modular components.

Almost three years ago, NASA proposed building Shuttle-C to serve as its so-called heavy-lift vehicle. The idea involved a cargo module, a wingless, crewless version of the shuttle, powered by the shuttle's liquid-fueled engines and clamped to the giant fuel tank and solid rocket boosters used by the shuttle. But Congress refused to appropriate funds."

- More on the Shuttle-C at Astronautix
- More on the ALS at Astronautix

Here's a portion that relates to space transportation systems from the Augustine Commission.

"The first goal for a new Expendable Launch Vehicle (ELV) system should be to augment support of the Space Station. While the Shuttle might carry out some early Space Station deployment, alternative transportation should significantly reduce the cost and risk of that program. The time to make a commitment to this end is now, for the longer the nation delays the building of a new launch system, the greater is the risk that it will embark upon a space station and a subsequent manned exploration program that eventually could prove unsupportable.

There is a range of choices available for a heavy lift vehicle (circa 150,000 pounds to near-Earth orbit). One candidate would be some form of a Space Shuttle-derived ELV, but there are others. At the extremes, a dilemma lies in choosing between starting the heavy lift system design from a "clean sheet," or selecting a design closely related to the current Shuttle (e.g., a Shuttle-C). The later provides an earlier capability with less initial cost, but the former provides an opportunity for the revolutionary design of a completely new launch system incorporating up-to-date propulsion and support system technology. Assessment of the economics, the lack of firm Department of Defense requirements, the need to further define lunar/Mars payloads, the status of advanced launch system technologies, and long propulsion lead times are all important considerations as the choices are weighed.

On balance, the Committee concludes that the prudent choice -- with an eye toward both the Space Station and the long view -- is an approach that begins with a new ELV system that meets the following criteria:

- Operational capability must be achieved in time to support at least the latter stages of Space Station deployment and relieve its Shuttle dependence as soon as feasible.

- Launch support manpower must be reduced.

- Provision should be made for updating with new components as they become available from the joint NASA-DOD Advanced Launch System (ALS) technology development. In particular, the Space Transportation Main Engine should be introduced into the new launch system at the earliest appropriate time.

This should be the first phase of a continuing effort to upgrade Earth-to- orbit transportation. Some time hence, further advancements in lift capability can be achieved when justified by requirements and technical developments. In particular, this second phase should involve ongoing application of technologies developed in the ALS program, and should lead to the design of an advanced launch vehicle and support system of enhanced efficiency and reliability."

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This page contains a single entry by Marc Boucher published on May 25, 2009 9:20 PM.

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