|March 24, 2003
NASA is taking new steps to ensure Space Shuttles fly safely into
the future. Last week, during the first of what will be an annual
Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) Summit, NASA led the U.S.
space flight community in a comprehensive debate on the long-term
requirements to extend the life of the Space Shuttle fleet.
The two-day event (March 19, 20) at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility
in Louisiana brought together about 200 government and aerospace
industry professionals. The summit served as an unprecedented forum
to explore, discuss, and determine what the best strategy to safely
and effectively fly the Space Shuttle fleet to support key missions
until at least the middle of the next decade.
"The Service Life Extension Program is off to a good start,"
said NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for International Space
Station and Space Shuttle Programs Michael Kostelnik. "The
SLEP Summit helped us establish the process for all the Shuttle
Program stakeholders to decide what the most important areas of
investment should be," he said.
Summit participants heard from seven SLEP panels: Safety, Sustainability,
Infrastructure, Aerospace Industry, Performance, Operations and
Resources. The panel's recommendations were consolidated and submitted
to NASA's Space Flight Leadership Council (SFLC) by the Integration
The SFLC, composed of NASA's senior Space Flight leadership, identified
60 candidate projects, which are targeted at critical service life
extension issues, for further consideration. A "Tiger Team"
was chartered to prepare an internal submittal within 30 to 45 days
to be vetted during NASA's FY 2005 budget process this summer. The
long-term strategy will be further refined at SLEP Summit II next
SLEP is a key component of the NASA's Integrated Space Transportation
Plan, which is a strategic roadmap for the agency's future in space
transportation, including current and future systems. The Summit
also included discussion of the Shuttle fleet's return to flight.
The fleet was grounded after the loss of the Columbia orbiter and
its crew on February 1. Planning for the SLEP Summit began before
the Columbia accident. The Summit was dedicated to the memory of
the STS-107 crew and the resolve to return to flight.
"Flying our mission safely is our top priority, especially
when we talk about extending the life of the Shuttle fleet. And
we have to improve safety, not simply maintain it, if we want to
keep flying the Shuttle for another 15 years or so," said Bill
Readdy, NASA Associate Administrator for Space Flight. "Once
the Columbia Accident Investigation Board has completed its investigation
and determined the cause of the accident, all of their recommendations
will be addressed and incorporated into our investment plan,"
Additional information about SLEP is available on the Internet at:
For more information about NASA and space flight on the Internet,
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