June 3, 1997
Headquarters, Washington, DC
Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL
NASA has awarded contracts for $1 million each to Lockheed Martin and the Boeing Company to study a possible, future upgrade to the Space Shuttle in which the rocket boosters that power the Shuttle would fly back to the launch site, rather than drop into the ocean for later recovery.
The study effort being led by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, is part of a continuing program to upgrade the current Shuttle fleet -- providing additional safety, improved operability, enhanced performance and reduced costs.
To complement its in-house examination, Marshall is asking each of the contractors for an in-depth concept definition on the liquid fly-back booster.
Proposals from industry will provide data and configuration studies for both the booster and its engine, focusing on the liquid fly-back booster concept -- including analysis and evaluation, model fabrication and wind-tunnel testing.
If the concept is implemented, the unpiloted, liquid fly-back boosters would become the first-stage boosters of the Space Shuttle system.
Under the systems integration concept being studied, a Shuttle launch using the upgraded booster would appear similar to the current system to an observer on the ground.
After separation from the Shuttle, however, the two booster rockets would begin coasting for nine minutes, rather than parachuting into the ocean. Then jet engines would be started, and the unpiloted boosters would fly back and land at the Kennedy Space Center, FL.
Other principal elements of the present Space Shuttle system -- including the orbiter, Space Shuttle main engines and external tank -- would remain essentially unchanged if the new boosters are incorporated.
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