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Fact sheet number: FS-2002-04-79-MSFC
Release date: 03/02

Space Launch Initiative Architecture Definition

In a word association game, the term "architecture" would likely be met with answers such as "building," "Gothic," or "Frank Lloyd Wright." At NASA, however, engineers working in the Space Launch Initiative (SLI) would be hard pressed to give a single word response.

When these visionaries of America's next generation space transportation system say "architecture," they're talking about a design process that details not only launch vehicle concepts, but also the sub-systems, components, and interfaces of brand new, reusable launch systems. More specifically, these aerospace professionals are addressing reusable launch system architectures that will dramatically increase safety and reliability while also decreasing costs.

For the SLI, architecture definition includes all components of the next generation reusable launch system: Earth-to-orbit vehicle (the Space Shuttle is the first generation earth-to-orbit vehicle), crew transfer vehicle, transfer stages, ground processing systems, flight operations systems, and development of business case strategies. Three contractor teams - The Boeing Company of Seal Beach, Calif.; Lockheed Martin Corp. of Denver and a team including Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., and Northrop Grumman of El Segundo, Calif. - have each been funded to develop potential 2nd generation reusable launch system architectures.

Just as an architect for a new public building meets with city leaders, general contractors and building inspectors, SLI's approach to our nation's 2nd generation reusable launch system includes periodic reviews of design processes and technologies inherent to architecture development. These reviews include clearly stated objectives to provide both a planning foundation and a basis for measuring the SLI's overall progress. Milestone architecture reviews narrow the field of potential vehicle designs, enabling a clearer picture of America's next generation reusable launch vehicle.

This methodology offers a checks and balances emphasis upon increased safety and reliability, decreased costs and ultimately, new opportunities for NASA, private industry and the Department of Defense to utilize space.

NASA's Space Launch Initiative is paving the way for generational growth of the nation's reusable launch capability. The SLI's strategic business and technical risk-reduction activities will enable our nation's leaders to make a decision by mid-decade about the nation's 2nd generation reusable launch vehicle.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Space Launch Initiative, NASA's priority developmental program focused on empowering America's leadership in space. With a scope of work that is not only NASA-wide but nationwide, SLI includes commercial, higher education and Defense partnerships and contracts to offer widespread participation in both the risk and success of developing our nation's next generation reusable launch vehicle.