According to SpaceRef’s post,Hutchison Introduces Bill to Close Gap in U.S. Spaceflight, Senator Kay Hutchison is releasing legislation to keep the Shuttle flying to close the gap between Shuttle retirement and Constellation flying.
The Human Space Flight Capability Assurance and Enhancement Act of 2009 would:
- Make shuttle retirement dependent on the availability of replacement capabilities for comparable size crew and cargo delivery, whether government-owned or commercial, (assuming a rate of 2 missions a year), or until it is conclusively demonstrated that it is the space shuttle cargo capabilities are not needed to ensure space station viability;
Require International Space Station (ISS) operations and full utilization through at least 2020, and further establish the ISS National Laboratory operating mechanisms and procedures;
Provide for the acceleration of a government-owned human space flight capability to as close to 2015 as possible;
Expand support for Commercial Orbital Space Transportation (COTS) to support ISS — both for cargo and for eventual crew launch capability;
Reaffirm long-term goal of moving beyond low-Earth orbit whether to the Moon, Mars or alternative destinations;
Provide for the near-term evaluation of heavy-lift rocket launcher design options, including shuttle-derived options, to enable the expansion beyond low-earth orbit and accelerate the start of vehicle design activity; and
Authorize top-level funding for all of NASA’s mission activities, but would only address the human space flight policy issues.