Thursday, May 06, 2010

I was just reading about the re-usable space plane, conventional rockets and the Space Shuttle. It got me thinking. What will NASA do with the retired Shuttles?

There were never that many to begin with. Here is a list:

  • OV-101 Enterprise; Test vehicle only, never meant for spaceflight. First free flight August 12, 1977, on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum outside Washington DC.
  • OV-099 Challenger; Was actually NASA's second orbiter to be put into service, Columbia being the first. Its maiden flight was on April 4, 1983, and it completed nine missions before breaking apart 73 seconds after the launch of its tenth mission, STS-51-L January 28, 1986, resulting in the death of all seven crew members.
  • OV-102 Columbia; Launched on April 12, 1981 , the very first Space Shuttle mission, STS-1. It completed 27 flights before being destroyed during re-entry on February 1, 2003 near the end of its 28th,STS-107. All seven crew members were killed.
  • OV-103 Discovery; First flown August 30, 1984 , Discovery became the third operational orbiter, and is now the oldest orbiter in service. Discovery has flown 38 flights, more flights than any other orbiter in the fleet. The last one to date was completed on April 20, 2010. Discovery will replace Space Shuttle Enterprise in the Smithsonian, which will then be loaned to other museums.
  • OV-104 Atlantis; The fourth operational shuttle launched from the Kennedy Space Center on October 3, 1985. In early 2008, NASA officials decided to keep Atlantis flying until 2010, the projected end of the shuttle program. This reversed a previous decision to retire Atlantis in 2008. It last flew in November 2009. Atlantis is now projected to fly at least one more mission.
  • OV-105 Endeavour; Is the fifth and final spaceworthy shuttle to be built. It was constructed as a replacement for the Challenger. Endeavour first flew in May 7, 1992 on mission STS-49 and is scheduled for decommissioning in 2010. NASA expects to use Endeavour for the STS-134 mission, final shuttle mission. It is likely that Endeavour will then go to March Field Museum near Riverside, California.

The final retirement of the remaining Space Shuttle fleet, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour will be here soon. All three are expected to be placed on public display. And more than 20 museums currently vying for one. Insiders expect the winners to be Either the March Field museum, the Johnson Space Center in Houston; U.S. Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio; the Museum of Flight in Seattle; or the Intrepid Air & Space Museum in New York City.

Where ever the winning museums may be they will need deep pockets to cover expenses. Recently NASA set the price of its museum-bound space shuttles at $28.2 million. In addition the chosen museums will have to pay for ferrying the orbiters atop NASA's modified Boeing 747 aircraft from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to their destination. Then there is the price associated with the display, areas and parking. The clock is ticking. Museums need to raise funds and build the required indoor housing for the shuttles.

A little cheaper would have been acquiring the soviet Shuttle prototype "Buran". But Buran was destroyed in a hangar collapse on May 12, 2002 in Kazakhtan at the Baikonur Cosmodrome The collapse killed 7 workers and destroyed the orbiter. It had flown one time, UNMANNED back in 1988. Construction was started on four others but never completed. Interestingly a unmanned 1/8th scale of the Buran, the BOR-5 ("Kosmos") flew on several sub-orbital flights, and was offered for sale on E-Bay opening at $98,000. The auction failed to attract a bid high enough to merit what the seller wants for it and it was removed unsold.

NASA expects to have the Shuttle replacement craft, Orion ready to fly no later than 2014. Assuming it survives the budget cuts and the Obama administration flip-flops .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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