Well, apparently someone spoke a bit too soon…Florida Today, in its article, NASA Conducting Study About Shuttle, is reporting that NASA is currently looking into what issues exist for extending the Shuttle program. So far, the biggest issue isn’t whether suppliers can be found or Shuttle recertification, but money. Will Congress pay the $2.4 billion to fly the Shuttle in order to maintain our nation’s independent human spaceflight access to the Space Station?
On the plus side, any extension for Shuttle means a funding increase for Constellation, should Constellation continue. How’s that?
When NASA’s Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS), which laid the ground work for Project Constellation, was completed in November 2005, it called for the Shuttle to be retired in 2010 and that program’s annual fixed-costs of $1.5B [Augustine, p. 50], of which 90% is from Kennedy Space Center, Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control, the engine test stands at Stennis Space Center, and the Michoud facility in Louisiana to be inherited by Project Constellation. If Shuttle continues to fly, Constellation does not have to take-in those fixed costs and can instead use that extra $1.5B, more accurately $1.1B, for its own purposes.