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Alternatives for Future U.S. Space-Launch Capabilities

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A Presidential directive issued on January 14, 2004 -- called the new Vision for Space Exploration VSE -- set out goals for future exploration of the solar system using manned spacecraft. Those goals included returning to the moon no later than 2020. Although sufficient capabilities exist to meet the projected needs of both the U.S. commercial sector and the government for launching unmanned payloads into space through 2020, that is not the case for manned space flight. The proposed return to the moon called for under the VSE and now planned by NASA could require the development of the capacity to launch payloads weighing more than 100 metric tons. No launch vehicles currently exist that can handle payloads weighing more than about 25 metric tons. Thus, NASAs plans for manned space flight beyond low earth orbit LEO could require a significant increase in launch capability. How that capability could be provided and at what cost are the focal points of this study. In considering manned lunar missions, the Congressional Budget Office CBO explored alternatives that would use existing launch vehicles those that would require minor modifications to the designs of existing launchers termed close derivatives as well as those that would call for major modifications to existing vehicle designs to develop essentially new and much more capable launchers. This analysis presents six alternative programs for developing launchers and estimates their costs under the assumption that manned lunar missions will commence in either 2018 or 2020. Topics discussed include Current Launch Capabilities and Projected Worldwide Demand through 2020 Launch Requirements for the VSE Alternatives for Future NASA Manned Space-Exploration Capabilities On-Orbit Assembly, Launch Vehicle Reliability, and Overall Probability of Mission Success Human Safety on Launch Abort Schematic Depictions of Launch Vehicle Derivatives and Cost Estimates for Alternative Launch Systems.

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  • Administration and Management
  • Economics and Cost Analysis
  • Astronautics
  • Manned Spacecraft

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