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Space Council seeks urgency in NASA exploration plans



SILVER SPRING, Md. – The National Space Council will likely press NASA to its upcoming meeting to speed up its plans to return to the moon as the agency continues to study alternative approaches for the next flight of its Orion spacecraft.

Scott Pace, executive secretary of the National Space Council, said March 21 the need for urgency in NASA's return to the moon will be a theme of the council's next meeting March 26 in Huntsville, Alabama. That meeting, announced March 20, will include two panels of experts who will weigh in on the status of those plans

"Our civil space sector, especially human spaceflight, I think needs a greater sense of urgency," Pace said in at noon at the American Astronautical Society's Goddard Memorial Symposium here. "We're looking for the vice president at providing the next meeting." Vice President Mike Pence chairs the council

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced March 1

3 that the agency is looking at alternatives to the Space Launch System for flying exploration mission (EM) 1, the next uncrewed flight of the Orion spacecraft that will test the spacecraft on a mission around the moon. Bridenstine said that the reason for looking at the possibility of using commercial launch vehicles for that mission was to keep it on schedule for mid-2020.

The core stage of the SLS, whose difficulties have led to the risk of further delays in EM-1. "What is meant to say is that we need to keep our schedule commitments, and that is absolutely deadly serious about keeping those commitments to keep the American people engaged, to keep our stakeholders engaged, and keep our partners engaged." 19659002] NASA is also working with Boeing to look at ways to speed up development or SLS to keep it on schedule for a 2020 launch. Bridesstine hinted about those studies tweeting in March 15, saying teams were "working overtime to accelerate the launch schedule" for SLS. Neither NASA nor Boeing have since worked on those efforts, despite requests to both organizations for additional details.

who introduced Pace at the luncheon. "I think he's got a great way forward and I look forward to working with him to have SLS a success for EM-1 and EM-2," he said.

Among the topics that the ongoing study will look at, he said, "alternatives to the green run" for SLS, a static-fire test of the SLS core stage at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi where the stage's four RS-25 engines are fired for the full duration of a launch , about eight minutes. Current plans call for the core stage to be shipped from the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where it is being built, to Stennis for the green run test, and from there to the Kennedy Space Center for launch preparations.

Pace didn It was possible to build the green run test, which would cut several months from the current schedule. In its place, the core stage, attached to its solid rocket boosters and upper stage, would be fired briefly on the path at KSC, similar to the static-fire tests that SpaceX performs for its rockets shortly before launch.

NASA's full fiscal year 2020 budget request document, released March 18, noted that NASA's human exploration and operations mission directorate "chartered an assessment of other activities planned to achieve a launch in 2020" of SLS on March 4. That study will evaluate alternative approaches for hardware processing and facilities utilization for key components. The goal of this activity is to maintain an early as possible launch date. ”That review is scheduled to be completed by April 15.

That assessment will be followed by an“ independent schedule risk review ”to be led by the office of the chief financial officer at NASA. That review will be completed by late spring, after which NASA will consider “potential updates to the EM-1 and EM-2 launch planning dates.”

The current agency baseline commitment 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 getting EM-1 out, we also want to be in a position to fly EM-2 successfully and safely by 2022," he said.

Pace, in his remarks, emphasized the window of opportunity that now exists for NASA to implement its exploration plans, one that has suggested will be open for only a limited time. "NASA and industry have to execute on plan," he said. “We have a limited window here. We're not racing the Soviet Union, but we're racing complacency. ”


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