Space Council calls for NASA's exploration plans to be urgent


SILVER SPRING, MD – The National Space Board is likely to press NASA at its next meeting to speed up its plans to send humans back to the moon as the agency continues to study new approaches for the next flight from his spaceship Orion.

Scott Pace, executive secretary of the National Space Council, said on March 21 that the next council meeting on March 26 in Huntsville, Alabama, will focus on the urgency of NASA's return to the moon. This meeting, announced on March 20, will include two groups of experts who will decide on the status of these plans.

"Our civil space sector, especially manned spaceflight, needs a greater sense of urgency," said Pace at a luncheon at the American Astronautical Society's Goddard Memorial Symposium. "We expect the Vice President to provide guidance on this charge at the next meeting." Vice President Mike Pence chairs the board.

NASA Director Jim Bridenstine announced on March 13 that the agency was considering alternatives to the space launch system for the launch of Exploration Mission (EM) 1, the next non-equipped flight of the Orion probe, which will test it. Bridenstine stated that the reason for considering commercial launchers for this mission was to keep it on schedule by mid-2020.

Pace stated that this study was "absolutely not a slam" on Boeing, the main contractor of the SLS main stage, whose difficulties could lead to further delays in the EM-1 project. "What this means is that we must meet our schedule commitments and that we absolutely want to keep this commitment to maintain the commitment of the American people, to maintain the commitment of our stakeholders and our partners. "

NASA is also working with Boeing to find ways to accelerate the development of SLS to keep it on schedule for its launch in 2020. Bridenstine hinted about these studies in a tweet of March 15, saying that teams were working "in overtime to speed up the launch schedule" of SLS. Neither NASA nor Boeing has since provided details of these efforts, despite requests to both organizations for more details.

Pace alluded to this work in his speech, noting conversations he had with Jim Chilton, senior vice president of space and launch at Boeing, who introduced Pace at the luncheon. "I think he has a great way to go and I look forward to working with him to make SLS a success for EM-1 and EM-2," he said.

Among the topics that the current study will examine, he said, are "alternatives to the" green race "" for SLS, a static fire test of the SLS scene at the Stennis Space Center of Mississippi, where the four RS-25 engines are fired for the duration of the launch, about eight minutes. Current plans provide for the main phase to be shipped from the Michoud assembly facility to New Orleans, where it is being built, to Stennis for the running test and from there to Kennedy Space Center for launch preparations.

Pace did not elaborate on these solutions, but industry sources indicated that one option would be to ignore the green race test altogether, reducing the current schedule by several months. Instead, the main stage, linked to its powerful propellers and its upper stage, would be briefly shot at the KSC platform, just like static rocket tests done by SpaceX for its rockets shortly before launch.

NASA's Comprehensive Budget Application Document for FY2020, published on March 18, indicated that the NASA Human Exploration and Exploration Mission's management had "assessed the others." planned activities to be launched in 2020 "from SLS on 4 March. This study will evaluate alternative approaches for hardware processing and facility utilization for key components. The purpose of this activity is to maintain a launch date as soon as possible. This review is expected to be completed by April 15th.

This assessment will be followed by an "Independent Review of Schedule Risk", which will be led by the Office of the Chief Financial Officer of NASA. This review will be completed in late spring, after which NASA will consider "potential updates to the EM-1 and EM-2 launch planning dates".

The agency's current engagement date for EM-2, which will be the first crewed Orion mission, is April 2023, but Pace said it should be sooner. "In addition to the release of EM-1, we also want to be able to fly successfully and EM-2 by 2022," he said.

Pace, in his remarks, underlined the window of opportunity that currently exists for NASA in the implementation of its exploration plans, a proposal that it believes will only be open for a limited time. "NASA and the industry must execute their plans," he said. "We have a limited window here. We do not run in the Soviet Union, but we are competing with complacency. "


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