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Committing to the shuttle without ever having a national policy.

Announcing his approval of the Space Shuttle, President Richard M. Nixon said it would replace all launch vehicles except "the very largest and very smallest." U.S. space policy never explicitly committed all launches to the Shuttle without equivocation. How, then, did the U.S. commit all of its launches to the Space Shuttle and nearly extinguish its national ability to produce expendable launch vehicles?

The answer lies in an intricate web of varied organizational and individual objectives leading to de facto commitment. The United States committed all of its national security, military and civil satellites to the Space Shuttle program without ever haying a national space policy of total commitment. Such a national commitment would either have required an explicit national space policy--which never occurred, or the nation's space programs needed to be maneuvered in such a way that the end result was elimination of alternatives to the Space Shuttle coincident with elimination of political jeopardy of cancellation. The de facto commitment was achieved through a finesse of the policy process.

Getting the Idea

Studies of reusable space planes began very early in the United States' space programs' history, but this story starts with the Space Task Group (STG) study of the post-Apollo space program. Chartered by President Nixon, the STG began February 13, 1969, chaired by Vice President Spiro T. Agnew. (1) By March 22, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) agreed to form a joint study of the future of space launching. (2) From the outset, NASA insisted that the Space Shuttle would be a reusable space plane as one part of the "operational" Space Transportation System (STS). The immediate questions became what requirements would drive such a system's design, and what were the roles and responsibilities of the participating agencies?

Over that summer, while the STG focused on the civil space program, Secretary of the Air Force Robert C. Seamans conducted a parallel effort on the future military and national security space programs. The military space program covered those capabilities developed for military operations, principally led by the Air Force. The national security space program was the covert effort run by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), developing and operating reconnaissance satellites. The STG and Seamans' studies would shape the future U.S. space launch program.

Seamans' report went to Agnew on August 4, 1969. Seamans expressed the then contemporary wisdom that expending hardware made Expendable Launch Vehicles (ELVs) more expensive than reusable systems. Seamans recommended avoiding a large development and opting for an experimental program to prove reusable technology. After reducing technology risks, later decisions would be made with confidence in schedules and costs. (3)

The September 1969 STG report concluded that eventual human spaceflight missions to Mars needed a sustainable support infrastructure, based on a permanent space station. The nation had to provide routine access to the space station using an Earth-to-orbit (and return) shuttle. The participants agreed the purpose of the shuttle was to provide a cost-effective space transportation system for all.

Agnew forwarded both the STG and the separate DoD reports to Nixon in September. (4) But Presidential approval was not forthcoming, as Nixon considered the implications of a major expansion of the civil space program, whose costs were only then beginning to come under control as the Apollo program waned. Defense Secretary Melvin R. Laird had recently cancelled the DoD's Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) under pressures from the continuing war in Southeast Asia. At the time, the national security space program was undertaking a major new effort, and the additional budgetary burden of the space station, space shuttle, and flights to Mars were difficult effort to endorse all at once.

Bureau of the Budget Director Robert P. Mayo was leery of the STG's recommendations. On September 25, Mayo told Nixon that it was possible to move forward without significant near-term budget expansion. He suggested sequential development of a Space Shuttle followed by the Space Station. This clever inversion of the STG recommendations allowed the prospect of a cost-effective launch system and temporary or even permanent deferral of the Space Station. Mayo wanted to delay any official response for six months to allow further consideration of the report. (5)

Defining the Idea

During the noticeable delay, NASA Administrator Thomas Paine asked George M. Low, of the Houston Manned Spacecraft Center, to become the NASA Deputy Administrator. Low's mission was to "sell" the Space Shuttle. He understood enough of the politics to recognize that it was impossible, without DoD's people and budget. (6)

At their initial meeting on the subject, Seamans told Low of his qualified support for the Shuttle as a prudently paced technology development. Though encouraged, Low got no commitment from Seamans. (7)

Low expected resistance as he made the DoD rounds, since, after all, he was asking for money. Instead, he found the DoD civilians positive, professing interest in the technology without committing funding. Defense Secretary Laird insisted that Low could count on the DoD to encourage NASA's program, but that NASA would have to "pay its own way." (8)

In their first joint document on the Shuttle, in February 1970, the Air Force and NASA agreed that the STS had to be of maximum utility to both. What "maximum utility" meant remained unexplained. Their goal was reducing launch costs by an order of magnitude, that is, to one tenth of their prevailing costs. (9)

The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Organization (SAMSO) supported NASA's Space Shuttle definition studies, opening a program office to ensure DoD uses for the Shuttle were considered and included in the NASA program. Failing that, the Air Force would have little interest. This new group occupied the same offices that, about a year before, housed the cancelled MOL. MOL's engineers were in danger of being lost, so active participation in the Shuttle program provided a suitably large opportunity to keep an experienced cadre of people qualified to work on space systems. (10)

Nixon responded to the Space Task Group report on March 7, 1970 with what seemed like wonderful news. He endorsed substantially reducing the cost of space launch and other far-reaching goals. Those goals could cover the STG's long-range goal of exploring Mars and everything in between. The only thing missing was funding. (11)

Military requirements for the STS proved decisive for its design. The military and national security space programs projected the growth of their operational payloads into the Shuttle timeframe of 1978-1990. These projections required performance equivalent to delivering 65,000 pounds to low-inclination orbit for transfer to higher altitude (an East Coast mission). The West Coast equivalent mission's near-polar orbit actually made the lower total weight requirement of 32,000 pounds tougher to achieve. Furthermore, this near-polar mission also required the ability to return to a continental U.S. landing site after one orbit. Aerodynamically altering the flight path by 1,100 miles during reentry forced the Shuttle's double-delta wing shape versus smaller stub-wings. (12)

Projections for expected military and national security payload sizes and upper stages required a maximum payload bay of 60 by 15 feet. The minimum Shuttle size accommodating that bay defined the physical size of the Space Shuttle main engines, which had to fit roughly within the diameter of the Shuttle fuselage. Altogether, the military and national security requirements for the size of the payload bay and re-entry capabilities drove the Shuttle's structural size and shape, giving a maximum size for the engines, while the weight of these payloads, structure and fuel on top of all that to achieve a near-polar orbit determined the amount of thrust needed from each engine. (13)

The requirements were far larger and heavier with fewer launches than NASA expected, surprising NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight Dale D. Myers. Myers requested DoD validation of the payload sizes and weights. (14)

The initial DoD response was that if NASA did not accept the sizes and weights, DoD would have to build an ELV to meet its needs. Actually, the Air Force had no additional major launch vehicle development under consideration beyond the various versions of the Titan III, which had been in use for some time. The intent was to push NASA to provide as much capability as possible. Whatever was left over would be accommodated by large ELVs such as the Titan III.

Low agreed with the thinking that a reusable Shuttle was needed and ELVs would provide supplementary capabilities. In October 1970, Low met with Caspar W. Weinberger, Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Low proclaimed the Shuttle as the single, economical system for all future space launches. (15) Privately, though, he considered NASA needed six Titan IIIs per year through the first generation of the Shuttle program. He expected similar DoD needs. (16)

A Shuttle and ELV fleet troubled Myers and other NASA officials because a "mixed" fleet was incompatible with Shuttle economics. To pay its own way, Shuttles had to launch 60 times per year--40 from Kennedy Space Center and 20 from Vandenberg AFB. (17)

Responding to Myers' validation request, the DoD forecast 149 military payloads for launch between 1981 and 1990. That meant the military and national security space programs, the major sources of U.S. space launches, needed only about 15 launches per year, falling far short of the 60 necessary for Shuttle economics. A smaller Shuttle with less performance supported only eight military payloads per year, forcing extensive Titan III reliance. Retaining any ELVs severely diminished the Shuttle's economic attractiveness. (18)

NASA's strategy needed all the military and national security traffic, but even after incorporating the larger payload bay within its own program costs, NASA faced a significant shortfall of civil and commercial launches thereby threatening Shuttle economics. (19)

Selling the Idea

NASA projected the large number of Apollo era space launches would not only continue but actually increase. Having gone to the Moon and returned, the U.S. was a truly space-faring nation, and that meant launching things into space more often and more routinely. That was the dream. Reality was about to change radically. Some key assumptions about future needs based on past accomplishments were being undermined.

The solid-state electronics revolution was about to make satellites more reliable and longer-lived. Solid-state devices were replacing high-voltage vacuum-tube systems at an accelerating rate. Solid-state devices not only drew less power; their smaller size enabled more backup systems in satellites. Pound for pound, solid-state systems packed vastly more capability than their vacuum-tube predecessors. Lower power and greater redundancy led to increased satellite reliability, and reliability translated directly into longer lifetimes. Longer lifetimes meant fewer satellites needed to be built and launched. Had the revolution occurred five years earlier or later, the decisions and subsequent history of the U.S. space launch capability would have been radically different.

Shuttle launch projections assumed the average, short lifetimes of satellites prior to solid-state electronics. Some programs, anticipating eight to ten launches per year based on their experience through the mid 1960s. By the early 1970s, these same programs demonstrated they only needed to launch 1 to 2 times per year. By the late 1970s, the launch demand changed to once every several years. The future launch needs underlying the initial Shuttle studies exceeded actual needs by more than an order of magnitude.

SAMSO had contracted for enough ELVs to cover its early projections of a high launch demand. The Titan IIIs to support the expected high launch rates of the 1960s were delivered for $9 million per unit in the early 1970s. However, the longer lifetime of satellites made such production rates too high, and soon an excess of Titans existed. By 1974, Titan production had to be severely reduced to near minimum economic production rate under six vehicles per year to accommodate earlier over-production. The Titans' declining number drove their unit cost up, reinforcing the Shuttle advocates' claims about high ELV costs. Such claims were, however, artificial. (20)

As the cost for each launch began to go up, the DoD's cost to participate in the STS began to climb as well. The Air Force's responsibility beyond the Shuttle's western launch site evolved to include orbit-to-orbit reusable space tugs to take payloads from the Shuttle to higher altitudes. Shuttle missions were planned for orbits at 100 nautical miles, and the maximum altitude was expected to be about 300 nautical miles (depending on payload), so the infrastructure of reusable vehicles laid out by the STG included a reusable upper stage to take things such as communications satellites up to 22,000 nautical mile altitude. As budget pressures reduced NASA program content, the Air Force assumed the responsibility to develop an interim upper stage until funding became available for the reusable space tug.

In late 1971, Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E) John S. Foster, discussing the Shuttle with Low, explained he thought the technology worth pursuing. NASA could not implement Foster's strong views on how to proceed because Foster insisted that the Shuttle had to be built along with a place to go: a space station. That ran counter to OMB's insistence on building the Shuttle first, and presupposed the importance of human presence. (21)

OMB remained unconvinced about the cost-effectiveness of human spaceflight and whether any scientific grounds justified it. On December 29, 1971, NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher and Low took a briefing and a letter to OMB Deputy Director Weinberger. The letter included a comprehensive overview of the Shuttle's background and concept definition work and recommended developing a small, 40-foot payload bay excluding many DoD and some NASA payloads. The letter was at odds with the briefing charts describing the purpose of the Space Shuttle program as a replacement for all launch vehicles. The letter was not used, and it is not clear if the letter was even discussed. Low appears to have been hedging his bets, anticipating Weinberger's push for the less costly Shuttle with the smaller payload bay.

Instead, the OMB staff insisted on exclusive use of the Shuttle for launch, which required accommodating all DoD payloads. Meeting with OMB Director George Shultz on January 3, 1972, Fletcher and Low were surprised at the strength of OMB's insistence on the 60-foot payload bay. Replacing all existing launch vehicles was still about budget, based on false assertions of the economics of reusability, and had little to do with space policy. (22)

Two days later, Fletcher and Low discussed the Space Shuttle with Nixon for about 40 minutes. Nixon supported the program enthusiastically. He announced the U.S. would proceed with STS development to achieve routine access to space, taking the place of all launch vehicles except "the very largest and very smallest." (23)

Immediate Administration and Congressional concerns arose over the cost of maintaining both expendable and reusable launch vehicles. DoD officials insisted the Shuttle had to demonstrate its performance, cost-effectiveness, reliability and operational status before any commitment could be considered. (24)

So concerned were OMB and the Air Force over the validity of NASA's cost projections that Fletcher emphasized to Low the need to reduce Shuttle costs to about $5 million per flight to regain Air Force interest in the program. (25) Low needed large amounts of development funding. The funding needed would only be possible with a phase out of all existing expendable boosters. (26) The booster phase-out would only happen if the Shuttle could launch everything, including the largest and smallest, contrary to Nixon's announcement. Although Fletcher expected continued DoD interest, the military remained officially committed only to consider the Shuttle for most of its launch needs. (27) Harsh reality demanded the DoD had to continue to launch its satellites to meet military and national security commitments and operational needs, regardless of what happened to the Shuttle.

The Shuttle would always be in jeopardy without firm DoD commitment. To counter the weak support in a draft policy prepared by the DDR&E staff, he asked Foster to orchestrate a firm policy statement coupling supporting the program with a plan for the phase-out of ELVs. Foster agreed to provide a letter. (28)

The November 1972 result was Deputy Secretary of Defense Kenneth Rush's Shuttle Planning Guidance. This established a DoD Shuttle User Committee chaired by the Air Force (i.e., Seamans). A quid pro quo arrangement offered the Air Force lower costs per flight due to their development of the western Shuttle launch and landing site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The Air Force committed to developing a Shuttle upper stage booster and other capabilities. Rush's planning guidance was the last conceptual step short of committing large-scale funding to the Shuttle. (29)

When Dr. Malcolm Currie replaced Foster as the DDR&E, Low worked to gain his trust on the Shuttle program. (30) Currie avoided an excessively risky policy of committing exclusively to the Shuttle. He established December 1982 as the initial date for Vandenberg Shuttle operations. He also allowed as long as five years for a possible transition of some programs, but not all, to the Shuttle [my italics]. Although the Shuttle's cost savings appeared attractive, military and national security reliance on space capabilities demanded a hedge against uncertainty. Consequently, Currie directed retaining "a prudent back-up launch capability using existing boosters." (31) The Shuttle program was, at last, in DoD and Air Force policy. Low had gotten active participation, though less than he had wanted. And even that was too much for some.

In the spring of 1974, Leonard Sullivan and members of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (Program Analysis & Evaluation) staff threatened to reduce Shuttle funding. This would affect support to NASA, Vandenberg development, and the space tug. They objected to the Shuttle program, saying it had neither cost savings nor any benefit to DoD. Without DoD benefit, funding should stop. Sullivan's objections gained support and reinforcement by Dr. Albert Hall and his staff of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence). (32) They forced a major rethinking of DoD's participation the Shuttle program.

Sullivan had already convinced Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger that the supposed benefits of DoD support to the Shuttle were dubious. (33) Schlesinger barely supported the space tug, and felt no inclination to move forward on any aspect of the Shuttle or Vandenberg. He questioned the defense benefit derived from increasingly costly participation in the NASA Shuttle program. (34)

Substantive differences existed in the methods used by NASA and Sullivan's staff in calculating the Shuttle's costs and savings to payloads. Schlesinger never believed in early program cost estimates, and looked even more askance at claimed cost savings. The result was the 1974 amendment to the 1970 Memorandum of Agreement on the Space Transportation System. The rhetoric of decreasing costs by an order of magnitude had already become too unrealistic, so the goal became "reducing operating costs significantly below those of present systems." (35)

Fletcher, worried about DoD backing away from participation levels used for planning the overall STS, appealed to Schlesinger on June 21, 1974. Fletcher claimed "a decision which implies that the DoD will not rely on the shuttle for its space activities in the 1980s, could be used by Congressional opponents of the program to attack and perhaps even cut back the shuttle development program." (36)

Schlesinger did not want to be the member of the Administration who killed the Shuttle program. Yet neither could he commit to a program in whose claims he had so little faith. Schlesinger told Fletcher the Shuttle was too risky for full commitment. (37) Fletcher abandoned the cost-benefit argument, claiming that the Shuttle's real benefits derived from its imaginative uses. Unimpressed, Schlesinger agreed only to continued studies and activities of little cost to the DoD.

DoD staff disagreements on the status of the Shuttle program and the degree of military and national security involvement led to an internal DoD review of the Shuttle. The review forced opponents of the program and advocates of the technology developments to strike a compromise. Sullivan forced the DoD position that NASA would fund all the Shuttle orbiters, and that the Air Force would use these orbiters interchangeably with NASA. The exact terms for use of the Shuttles were details to be defined later, but the orbiters were to be a common national asset. In return, the Interim Upper Stage (IUS) would be developed by the Air Force, adding to the Air Force commitment to build Shuttle facilities on the West Coast for access to polar orbits. With his staff in agreement on the compromise, Schlesinger agreed to minimal partnership in the Shuttle program, but refused to go along with full support. Deputy Secretary of Defense William P. Clements formalized DoD's position on the key issues in an August 1974 letter to Fletcher. The Air Force would develop the low-cost upper stage (the IUS) for use "concurrently with the Shuttle in 1980." (38) Vandenberg remained part of the agreement, and would be available for Shuttle operations in December 1982. Having said that, Clements still expected "to launch essentially all of our military space payloads on this new vehicle and phase out of inventory our current expendable launch vehicles." (39) "Essentially all" was not NASA's hoped-for "all." The strongest statement of support for the Shuttle to that date had important consequences inside the DoD.

First, the statement called for some satellites to be "dual-compatible" or capable of launch by either ELVs or the Shuttle until the Shuttle proved itself. Until the early 1970s, when the Shuttle program began, satellites were optimized for a specific ELV, squeezing out every possible ounce of performance. The missile heritage of ELVs caused satellites to be long and thin, suited only for their specific ELV. The long period to redesign and build satellites meant that DoD needed to start redesigning immediately (in 1974).

Second, the number of Titan III launch vehicles was nearly adequate to cover launch needs until after the six developmental Shuttle flights in 1981. The combination of incipient payload redesign, an adequate number of Titan IIIs, slowing production rates of Titans, and underlying technological factors, forced a further reduction in the launch rates of the Titans. Lower launch rates meant fewer launches over which the fixed production costs could be amortized, so ELV launch costs had to go up yet again.

Third, the announcement committed the DoD to large-scale funding in the STS program and legitimized the Shuttle so that "everyone assumed it would replace ELVs, and that was the policy." Yet formal policy only recognized a commitment of "essentially all." (40) An assumed DoD policy of transition did not have the same character as dedicated use of the Shuttle, which had yet to occur.

The Air Force schedule for the western Shuttle launch and landing site's 1982 availability solved a few of NASA's transition problems. (41) Starting in 1982, NASA could convert immediately from ELVs to the Shuttle.

Making the Shuttle "Cancellation-Proof"

The inauguration of the Carter Administration meant a different set of policymakers to guide the Shuttle within DoD. Dr. Harold Brown became the new Secretary of Defense. Former NASA official Dr. Hans Mark assumed control of the military and national security space programs as he was the new Air Force Under Secretary and Director of the National Reconnaissance Office. Mark strongly supported the Shuttle, and with Brown's support, pushed constantly for a more rapid transition of payloads to the Shuttle. The team in place in DoD by 1977 could insure the consummation of DoD's support.

Mark suspected that the Shuttle would run into cost problems, simply because NASA had committed itself to the success of too many technology and design choices for them all to work correctly. Eventually, some problem would require significant additional funding. Mark believed the Shuttle was important for the nation because of its technology, its promise of lower cost and routine space operations, and for national prestige. The Shuttle had to be made safe from cancellation. (42)

The planned date for exhausting the existing inventory of Titan IIIs overlapped the initial operations phase of the Shuttle, but the overlap duration was unknown. The Shuttle was clearly going to be late and its performance too low. Mark moved quickly in 1977, appearing to implement the dual-compatibility policy. The key was a temporary ELV that could handle some early Shuttle-class payloads for the DoD. His options ranged from extending production of technologically newer Titans to pushing for an early commitment to the Shuttle and then riding out the rough spot of the transition. He chose a middle course that resulted in an eventual national commitment without a national policy of commitment. (43)

The seminal idea sprang from the fact that Titan IIIs did not get their payloads all the way to orbit. Instead, Titan IIIs relied on an upper stage to get payloads to their final low earth orbit or for boost to higher orbits. The Titan III's standard orbital insertion stage was the Transtage, which was incompatible with the Shuttle. To Mark, "dual-compatibility" required a new Titan, the Titan 34D, to use the Interim Upper Stage (IUS), which was the Air Force's Shuttle upper stage program. This appeared to allow any satellite using the IUS to launch on either the Shuttle or the Titan. Mark ended Titan III production in favor of the new Titan 34D, thus forcing the transition to the IUS, causing significant payload redesigns, and increasing space program costs for all large payloads. (44)

This Titan 34D was "an austere backup," in essence a hedge against delays in Shuttle initial operations. (45) Mark did not want a continuing Titan 34D production line, tempting satellite program managers to delay or forego transition to the Shuttle. There were to be no more than the initial order for 16. The austere program ensured that there would be no gap in launching Titans (between the Titan III and the Titan 34D), and helped reduce the risk of a gap between ELVs and the Shuttle, but it set an end to production of large ELVs. (46)

With the Titan 34D decision, Mark also accomplished a sleight of hand in policy. He incorrectly referred to the Clements-promulgated policy of dual-compatibility as "Shuttle-compatibility." This was no simple word change. Compatibility with the Shuttle no longer implied the ability to launch on ELVs. Aside from their inability to fit on a Transtage in the case of Titan, satellites had to be built and tested to the very different acceleration, vibration and acoustic environment of the Shuttle. Compatibility with the Shuttle's launch environment meant that the same satellite could not simply be plucked off a Shuttle and put on a Titan. Shuttle-compatible satellites could not change to the Titan without going through extensive re-qualification for the Titan's launch environment. This would entail further costly and lengthy delays.

The final part of this finesse was another, seemingly small word change. From "Shuttle-compatible," it was tiny step to ensure that new satellites would be designed to take advantage of the Shuttle's unique capabilities. A new term appeared: "Shuttle-optimized." In 1977, the House Committee on Appropriations examining the Space Shuttle heard that "'Shuttle-optimized' payloads have a greater potential for cost savings than 'Shuttle compatible' payloads." (47) The reason was:

The term 'Shuttle compatible' implies a payload design compatible with Shuttle launch: it may or may not be compatible with ELV launch. The term 'Shuttle optimized' implies a payload designed to exploit the unique capabilities of the Shuttle- i.e., retrieval, on-orbit service, large weight and volume, etc. The 'Shuttle optimized' payload is not likely to be compatible with existing ELV launch capability. (48)

Whereas "Shuttle-compatible" might be accomplished with some structural changes and re-qualification, Shuttle-optimization entailed a complete redesign of most satellites. Shuttle-optimized payloads might have been retrievable or serviceable in space, as Mark indicated. More to the point, Shuttle-optimization's redesign certainly meant wider and sometimes shorter repackaging. DoD Shuttle flight charges were based on linear feet of the payload bay occupied, not weight or width. Wider repackaging became attractive, since less linear space could reduce an individual satellite program's flight charges, and allow cost sharing through ride sharing. (49)

Shorter and wider redesign with the same weight did not fit the payload designers' mentality. Instead, many satellites actually just grew wider and heavier (hence more capable) than their ELV-optimized counterparts. Mark began insisting that any satellite-related matter briefed to him had to discuss the applicability of spacecraft servicing, maintenance, repair in orbit, and retrieval. Satellites designed for repair and servicing by astronauts incurred yet more weight increases.

On ELVs, payload weights tended to approach the maximum launch capacity demanding every bit of performance. However, that approach in the Shuttle meant problems. The Shuttle's performance was falling short, so the engines needed to work at 104-percent thrust. Eventually, even this power became insufficient for some of the larger satellites, necessitating lighter filament-wound casings for solid rocket boosters to launch the specified payload weights. Consequently, payloads planned for the thrust and acceleration promised by the Shuttle designers then had to start all over in their structural, vibrational and acoustic analyses because the lighter and more powerful Shuttle solids and higher thrust main engines changed all of these. And that led to more payload cost increases.

Although never officially acknowledging the Shuttle as the only launch vehicle for its payloads, "Shuttle-optimization" had the same effect, since only the Shuttle could launch Shuttle-optimized payloads. DoD continued to hedge against any national space policy that hinted at total commitment, insisting on words about "prudent backups" for assured access to space. While "prudent backups" might appear to preclude complete commitment to the Shuttle, the Air Force was not permitted to develop a new ELV that could act as the backup, prudent or otherwise. (50) This shift in policy was crucial to sustaining the Shuttle program, since the greater the progress toward Shuttle-optimized payloads when the inevitable Shuttle problem occurred, the more likely the solution would be to fix rather than cancel the Shuttle. (51) Congress would either pay to fix the Shuttle or redesign all payloads to go back to expendables. Satellite redesigns were very expensive, as evidenced by the costs to move from expendables to the Shuttle. The faster and less costly option would be to fix the Shuttle. (52)

Thus it is unsurprising that President Carter's 11 May 1978 Presidential Directive/NSC-37, "National Space Policy," laid out the nation's intent to use the "unique capabilities" of the Shuttle. NSC-37, the principal space policy document of the early Carter Administration, contained the policy language committing the nation to exclusive STS use, without ever explicitly admitting to a policy of commitment. The language about replacing "all but the very largest and the very smallest boosters" was gone (in just six years). Rather, the STS was "to service all authorized space users--domestic and foreign, commercial and governmental." (53) Although perilously close, this was not an explicit national policy of commitment to the Shuttle, as seen in the subsequent national policy and in Carter's related actions. In October 1978, the next major policy statement, NSC-42, "Civil and Further National Space Policy," described how best to utilize the Shuttle. The idea that improving or fixing the Shuttle was preferable to canceling it resulted in policy direction for "incremental improvements in the Shuttle [to] be made as they become necessary." NSC-42 again called for backup ELVs, though without a program to supply these the result was national commitment. (54)

Shuttle-optimization finessed the commitment of all payloads to the Shuttle. That finesse, however, was probably not clearly understood by Carter, despite his having signed the policies. Carter did not interpret the national policies as a national commitment, as seen in his attitude towards large and expensive programs. A year after NSC-42, Carter wanted to cancel the Shuttle. He entered office having promised to cancel a large program, and considered either the North American B-1 Lancer bomber or the Shuttle. In 1977, Defense Secretary Brown rescued the Shuttle program with Mark's help when OMB was hoping to save funds by reducing the number of orbiters. Using an argument based on the technical parameters of the Shuttle's performance and the number of orbiters available in case of an accidental loss of one of these, Brown was able to deflect OMB's arguments. Brown and Mark convinced Carter not to cancel the Shuttle because of its potential for future economy in space and its technology development. Carter cancelled the B-1.

Then in November 1979, having been put off once, Carter again considered canceling the ever more costly Shuttle. All of Mark's policy finesses would be for naught if Carter cancelled it. (55) Mark put together the case and presented it to Carter on November 14. The President relented. Carter's two cancellation attempts were doubly significant. (56)

First, Carter clearly did not believe his policies had committed the nation to the exclusive use of the Shuttle; no explicit language in any policy document did that. The commitment sprang from the Shuttle-optimization language finesse coupled with Mark's termination of ELVs, and disapproval of any "prudent backup" development program.

Additionally, the second rescue stands as the key turning point in the commitment of all U.S. payloads to the Shuttle. The commitment depended on the space policies then in place, but nothing guaranteed the continued commitment of money and Administration support to the Shuttle. After removing the jeopardy of loss of political support, the national commitment no longer needed an explicit policy statement.

The Shuttle had still not flown, and therefore had not been proved. The crucial point of de facto commitment had passed, but that was not the end of the ELV backup.

Not an End--a Beginning

Americans returned to space after the Apollo program on April 12, 1981, when astronauts John W. Young and Robert L. Crippen flew the first Space Shuttle mission. President Ronald Reagan said they had "made us all feel like giants again."

In November 1981, Reagan expanded the Carter space policies, directing expeditious transition to the Shuttle. National Security Decision Directive 8, "Space Transportation System," mandated the first priority of the STS was becoming fully operational and cost effective. The "prudent ELV back-up" policy became approval to operate ELVs "until the capabilities of the STS are sufficient to meet its needs and obligations." (57) The policy added that unique military considerations might dictate special launch capabilities, partly addressing the DoD concern over Shuttle performance requirements. This new escape clause obviously hedged against the Shuttle's shortfalls. The policy put the burden on the military to prove the Shuttle was incapable of meeting some unique requirement. That would have been a public policy donnybrook, as the Air Force would have to publicly disclose what in all likelihood would be a highly classified program, and then it would be the Air Force's claim against NASA's about how well the Shuttle would perform. Implementing the unique military capabilities escape clause proved extremely difficult. With NASA's strong support in Congress, any indication that the Air Force was considering the use of the escape clause would bring a swift reaction.

PD-37's Shuttle-optimization was repeated by Reagan's next major space policy, National Security Decision Directive 42, "National Space Policy," on July 4, 1982. As he stood in the foreground of an actual Shuttle, he directed "spacecraft should be designed to take advantage of the unique capabilities of the STS." (58)

In reality, robust, survivable, operational space systems cost a lot of money. The initial DoD-NASA Shuttle pricing agreement, based on high launch rate assumptions, allowed a flat price for the Air Force over the first three years of Shuttle operations. That price took into account a very favorable quid pro quo for the DoD because of the Air Force's investments in the STS. The actual cost, however, had risen well beyond anyone's expectations. As the real launch rate of the Shuttle plummeted, the workforce did not decrease accordingly. Furthermore, the earlier economic trades between reusable and expendable systems had hinged on the size of the launch, recovery and refurbishment workforce of the reusable system. If that remained comparable to the size of the manufacturing and launch workforce of the expendables, then the cost differences between the two systems would be negligible. By the time of the first launch of the Shuttle, however, its necessary workforce grew to about 6,000 people, versus about 600 required to manufacture and launch a Titan. Rather than saving an order of magnitude in cost, the Shuttle represented an actual increase of more than an order of magnitude. Something had to be done to offload some of the cost.

NASA had agreed to a flat price over the first three years of operations despite their increasing costs. In February 1982, the General Accounting Office (GAO) found that NASA had locked "into a pricing policy that encourages Space Transportation System use at NASA's expense and at the expense of the space science, applications and aeronautics programs." GAO stated that it "believes DoD and other Government agencies should bear a greater share of the Shuttle's early years' operations costs. (59)

The first serious run at the "unique capabilities" escape clause came on March 4, 1983, when Lt. Gen. Richard C. Henry, Air Force Space Division Commander, voiced prescient concern over the wisdom of commitment to the Shuttle. The lengthy ground processing delays of the Shuttle Challenger on its first mission in April 1983, if applied to the fleet of four Shuttles, "would develop a backlog of launches that would take months to years to work off. This represents a considerable threat to the continued vitality of the national space program and in particular, could impact national security through inadequate launch support of priority DoD spacecraft." (60) Henry put numbers to the "National Space Policy's" "prudent backup." He made the case for a mixed Space Shuttle-ELV fleet, introducing the idea of using each type where it was best qualified. His idea would continue producing ELVs at a low rate, serving as the basis for an alternative if the Shuttle fleet were ever grounded. The letter proved controversial, because the idea of a mixed fleet seemed to indicate the DoD was preparing to abandon the Shuttle. The additional cost of a mixed fleet also had little Congressional support.

Later that month, with encouragement from Air Force Under Secretary and NRO Director Edward C. "Pete" Aldridge, Martin Marietta Corporation proposed the unthinkable: a commercial launch vehicle. The idea was not entirely new, but this was the first serious proposal by a major supplier. Martin Marietta executives believed a market existed for commercial Titan IIIs. They called for a government guarantee of a certain number of commercial launches paid for launch by launch (there being no budget to do otherwise). Before the Air Force finalized an agreement, however, OMB determined such an action would constitute an illegal subsidy. Jumping on the bandwagon, Congressional leaders expressed concern that DoD's encouragement of continued ELV production signaled a lack of support, and accused DoD of attempting to abandon the Shuttle. NASA officials complained that launching commercial satellites on the Titan would undermine the financial basis for commercial use of the Shuttle. (61)

Commercial launch had merit, particularly in light of the Administration's thrust to create a commercial space sector. Commercial space launches would maintain a small industrial base without direct government subsidy. The Administration formalized the ground rules for such a commercial enterprise in its May 1983 policy statement, "Commercialization of Expendable Launch Vehicles." But the rules were strict, and consensus policymaking required mention of the role of the STS in commercial space launches. It set goals for optimizing STS management and operations to achieve routine, cost-effective access to space exploiting the unique attributes of the STS, and private sector commercial launch operations. (62)

The government was precluded from subsidizing commercial launch vehicles. The new policy called for NASA to continue to offer the Shuttle to all users, but directed that NASA pricing beyond 1988 had to recoup "full costs" for commercial and foreign flight operations. That created a predicament for the Shuttle's commercial use. The Shuttle and the commercial ELV providers faced competition from the European ARIANE booster. To remain a viable commercial launch supplier, NASA had to liberally interpret the meaning of "full cost recovery." The one thing it could not mean, somewhat obviously, was charging a commercial satellite the entire cost of a Shuttle launch. Most communications satellites cost considerably less than the several hundred million dollars the U.S. invested in each Shuttle flight. NASA could only interpret "full cost recovery" as the incremental cost of consumables in each flight. (63)

With commercial satellite programs paying only for consumables, the government's cost per launch had to go up again. The mandate to achieve full cost recovery forced NASA to attempt to get a larger share of the actual STS operating and fixed costs from DoD. The result was that the Air Force would have to pay far more for a flight than a commercial satellite, despite the quid pro quo arrangement for exchange of mutual services. The Air Force had yet to launch a payload, and its costs continued escalating due to causes beyond its control.

Official DoD public support for the Space Shuttle continued. DoD concerns about performance and reliability were addressed directly with NASA. Either officially or actually unaware of the problems with the Shuttle, Congressional supporters of the Shuttle continued to foil Air Force requests for an ELV backup. The Air Force's issues related only to an expendable backup and keeping the ELV industrial base intact until the Shuttle demonstrated its performance and reliability.

The original schedule for the Shuttle had called for many more flights by the end of 1983 than had actually occurred. The DoD satellites built to conform to "Shuttle-compatibility" and "Shuttle-optimization" formed a launch backlog. As the backlog increased, satellite programs had to pay more money to store their satellites, further increasing the costs of transition to Shuttle.

The DoD satellites in orbit were reaching the ends of their predicted lifetimes. Replacements were urgently needed for some of the highest priority satellites. Urgency accentuated the DoD's already high priority for launch. When the Shuttle launch rate proved to be far lower than originally advertised, there were only a small number of possible launches available each year. That meant many lower-priority NASA scientific payloads were being forced to slip their schedules. The net effect was an increasing bow wave of military-related launches that would dominate the NASA schedule for several years to come, just as Henry had predicted. That led to grumbling in the press about the "militarization" of the Shuttle, and even led to ludicrous charges that the Air Force wanted to take over the Shuttle program. The only way NASA could reduce the backlog was to increase its launch rate, which was proving very difficult to do.

The Air Force, as DoD's launch agent, had to work through this increasingly difficult transition. Somehow, satellites awaiting launch had to be provided for. At the Air Force's request, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger issued his 1984 Defense Space Launch Strategy to add DoD support for commercial launch vehicles. The letter was issued to reiterate DoD's continuing support for the Shuttle, but also to document the unique military requirement for assured access to space, allowing the commercial launch vehicle backup solution. (64)

In the near term, however, something had to be done within the allowable framework of national space policy. The Air Force prepared to study how to modify existing ELVs to launch Shuttle-optimized payloads. Senator Garn and Congressman Boland, in a joint letter from the perspective of overseeing the NASA programs, expressed concern that the Air Force was preparing to abandon the Shuttle. On January 25, 1984, they wrote to NASA Administrator James Beggs asking him to charter an independent study of alternative backups to the Shuttle. The result was a study performed by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering through the National Research Council. (65) In the interim, Representative Don Fuqua, Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology, wrote to Defense Secretary Weinberger that, in effect, he did not believe the Air Force's proposal to limit the backup ELVs to two per year, writing "many observers believe the actual use of expendable launch vehicles may be much greater." (66) Laying out all the arguments marshaled by NASA against the backup ELVs, he called the DoD request to fund these backup ELVs a "rush to judgment ... counter-productive [to] research and development." In a coincident letter to Representative Joseph P. Addabbo, Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations' Subcommittee on Defense, Fuqua wrote "I urge you not to support or sustain a DoD decision to develop and use expendable launch vehicles." (67)

When the National Research Council (NRC) study began to show signs of supporting the Air Force's intent to use alternative technologies to backup the Shuttle, Boland and Garn, using the weight of their two appropriations committees, issued a June 1984 letter to express their concerns that the commercial effort "has not been well conceived." In particular, the Air Force emphasis to use some technology base other than the Shuttle drew their pointed criticism, because for "all practical purposes, the RFP [Request for Proposal] is structured in such a way as to exclude the realistic consideration of a 'shuttle derived' expendable launch vehicle." No amount of testimony to the contrary seemed to convince them. (68)

While Aldridge continued to publicly support the Shuttle and the Air Force's commitment to it, he and his staff became increasingly concerned that the Shuttle was a house of cards waiting for a stiff wind. (69) Too many things could happen to the Shuttle that would cause the whole STS to be grounded, and with it, all U.S. space launches. Although he wanted the Shuttle to work through its problems, he had the dual responsibilities to steer and protect the military and national security space programs. In a sense, he was as constrained by prior policy as was NASA. Without overturning the commitment to the Shuttle, then, he had to orchestrate a policy alteration that would provide a feasible alternative when the Shuttle inevitably failed in some way. Such an alternative, he knew, would also make possible a recovery from the loss of a Shuttle, were that to happen.

The 1982 National Space Policy provided part of the justification Aldridge needed. If the DoD demonstrated a unique need not met by the Shuttle, then it could procure some ELVs. Reagan's August 15, 1984 "National Space Strategy" included a crucial new mandate to assure access to space under conditions of peace, crisis, and conflict. Assured access was a unique national security requirement the Shuttle could not meet. If Shuttles were ever grounded, access to space was not assured, and this DoD unique requirement was unmet. Thus, assured access to space permitted acquiring a limited number of complementary ELVs. The concept that the ELVs were a complement to the Shuttle rather than competition was important. A complement recognizes the continued existence of another system, such as the Shuttle. The Air Force was neither abandoning nor undermining the Shuttle. National security and defense dictated the need to provide the prudent backup. Eventually, NASA and the DoD would have to come to grips with the numbers to be procured. (70)

The 1984 "Strategy" expanded the mandate for full cost recovery after October 1988. Under the Strategy, NASA had to achieve routine and cost effective access to space, making the STS operational and cost effective by 1 Oct 1988, at which time it was to start full cost recovery. Once again, a policy statement used "operational" without definition. This time, however, the policy provided the means to understand the intent of the term. Recognizing that the earlier publicity about the Shuttle's being an "operational" space launch vehicle had created mistaken impressions, the President directed DoD and NASA to define what constituted a fully operational and cost effective STS. Their report was due to the President by 31 December 1984. (71)

When the NRC study results showed strong support for the Air Force's effort, Weinberger was able to respond to Addabbo that "This strategy to acquire and employ complementary ELVs (CELVs) has the strongest support from all the users of space launch vehicles and the National Research Council." By the time of his September 1984 letter, Weinberger also had the support of the President, expressed in the "National Space Strategy." (72)

The need for some ELV backup to the Shuttle was endorsed by both independent and joint NASA/DoD studies. Finally, the Administration and Congress accepted the need. However, acceptance was not forthcoming from NASA Administrator James M. Beggs. Beggs continued insisting that the complementary ELV would undercut the Shuttle's economics and was the first step in the Air Force's abandonment of the Shuttle. Beggs claimed even two ELVs per year jeopardized Shuttle flight rates.

Based on the "National Space Strategy's" rules, the Air Force had proceeded with a solicitation for a Complementary Expendable Launch Vehicle (CELV). In an unprecedented move, NASA submitted various government designs based on Shuttle components to compete with industry proposals. The proposal evaluation looked unfavorably on the risk of using Shuttle-derived hardware to complement the Shuttle. Should a defect in the Solid Rocket Boosters ground the Shuttle fleet, for instance, this would also preclude a Shuttle-derived CELV's access to space. When the results of the evaluation became clear and the choice would not support the NASA-proposed solution, relations got very strained between the agencies. (73)

Aldridge felt so strongly about the need for the expendable backup that he refused to give up. Finally, he appealed directly to Beggs for NASA acceptance of the CELV program. Heading to a late afternoon flight out of town in mid-February 1985, he negotiated with Beggs over the phone, conceding whatever it took to gain Beggs' agreement. Their mutual agreement was documented as National Security Decision Directive 164, the "National Security Launch Strategy." The price was high, requiring the DoD commitment to rely on the STS as its primary launch vehicle and to fly one third of all STS flights available during the subsequent ten years. Furthermore, Shuttle prices would be changed so that the DoD would pay an annual fixed fee and, in addition, charges per flight at the marginal or incremental cost per flight (a variable rate depending on the total launches for the year in question). In return for these and other concessions, the Air Force was allowed to acquire 10 CELVs to be launched at a rate of two per year from 1988 to 1992. By 1992, the Shuttle would either have proven itself or the need for additional backups would have been justified. (74)

Uncommitting to the Shuttle

On January 28, 1986, eleven months later after the Aldridge-Beggs telephone agreement, the Space Shuttle Challenger destroyed itself and its crew of seven just 73 seconds after liftoff. Discussing the ramifications later that day, one Pentagon space policy analyst pointed out that it would be easier to figure out what had not changed in the wake of the disaster than trying to list everything that just changed. The leaders of the U.S. space programs had to rethink their approach to space to a time before the 1969 Space Task Group.

Certainly gone was the wisdom of committing all launches to a single national launch vehicle. Limitations on the CELV backup sought by DoD were no longer valid. ELVs once again became a key element of the national launch capability. The timing of the CELV acquisition was an exquisitely close call. A few more months' delay, and the ELV industry would have lost the ability to start back up without a delay of several years. As it was, reestablishing the production lines led to a lengthy gap in U.S. space launches.

Aldridge led the reestablishment of the national space launch capability. With his unique dual responsibilities for both the national security and national defense space organizations, Aldridge was able to rapidly affect the necessary changes, obtain the necessary funding and coordinate the activities that were the fastest route to recovery. He instituted a version of the mixed fleet emphasizing ELVs as the primary access to space. Through statesmanship and the support of his Air Force and NRO staffs, he created a sensible fleet of medium and heavy ELVs providing the capacity to work off the backlog of nationally critical satellites.

On January 16, 1987, Reagan's next National Security Decision Directive, "United States Space Launch Strategy," made the necessary modifications to national policy, superseding the Beggs-Aldridge agreement, and extensively modifying the launch provisions of all other policies. It promoted a balanced mix of Shuttles and ELVs. NASA was directed to use the Shuttle by emphasizing its unique capability for human access to space, but not for commercial and foreign payloads (except for those payloads already under contract that could only ride on STS). (75)

The commitment to the Shuttle that was never officially explicit policy had nearly become a disaster for the nation's access to space, were it not for the persistent vision of a few people, most especially Edward C. Aldridge, who could differentiate the rhetoric of policy from the good of the nation.


(1.) President Richard M. Nixon to Vice President Spiro T. Agnew et al, Subj.: Space Task Group Charter, Feb 13, 1969; President's Science Advisor Dr. Lee A. DuBridge to President's Science Advisory Committee, Subj.: Post-APOLLO Space Program Study, Jul 3, 1969.

(2.) NASA Letter to the Secretary of the Air Force, "Terms of Reference for Joint DoD/NASA Study of Space Transportation Systems," Apr 4, 1969. There was nothing exceptionally new here, as there had been many joint studies of launch programs in the past. Any comprehensive review of the future of a national space program must consider the launch infrastructure, and this was different only because both NASA and DoD had become very interested in the idea of reusable launch systems.

(3.) Secretary of the Air Force Seamans to Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, Subj.: Post Apollo Space Program Concerns, Aug 4, 1969.

(4.) The Seamans report was forwarded separately due to classification issues.

(5.) Bureau of the Budget Director Robert P. Mayo to President Richard M. Nixon, "Space Task Group Report," Sept 25, 1969.

(6.) NASA Deputy Administrator George M. Low, Personal Notes No. 1, Jan 1, 1970, p. 9, from personal papers held at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

(7.) Low notes #1, p. 10; Low Memorandum for Record, Jan 28, 1970.

(8.) Low Memo, Jan 28, 1970.

(9.) NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine to Secretary of the Air Force Robert C. Seamans, Subj.: Invitation for Joint Study, Apr 4, 1969; Deputy Administrator George M. Low, "Space Shuttle Discussions with Secretary Seamans," Jan 28, 1970; Department of the Air Force and National Aeronautics and Space Administration, "Memorandum of Agreement Between the Department of the Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Concerning the Space Transportation System," Feb 17, 1970; NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine to President Richard M. Nixon, Subj.: Future NASA Directions, Jun 23, 1970.

(10.) NASA Deputy Administrator George M. Low, Memorandum to Administrator Thomas Paine, "Telephone Conversation with General Phillips," Mar 16, 1970.

(11.) White House press release, Office of the Press Secretary, Statement by the President, Space Task Group Report, Mar 7, 1970.

(12.) The technical jargon of the program dubbed the ability to alter the flight path on re-entry the "cross-range" requirement.

(13.) NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight Mr. Dale D. Myers and Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Research and Engineering Mr. Grant L. Hansen, Cochairmen. "Space Transportation System Committee Summary of Activities for 1970," Jun 1971.

(14) Department of Defense and National Aeronautics and Space Administration, "Meeting Minutes, 54th Meeting of the Aeronautics and Astronautics Coordinating Board," July 10, 1970.

(15.) NASA Deputy Administrator George M. Low to Office of Management & Budget Deputy Director Caspar W. Weinberger, Oct 28, 1970.

(16.) NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight Dale D. Myers to Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Research & Development) Grant L. Hansen, May 25, 1971; Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Research & Development) Grant L. Hansen Response to NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight Dale D. Myers Jun 21,1971; and NASA Deputy Administrator George M. Low Memorandum, "Space Shuttle Program," Oct 12, 1971.

(17.) Secretary of the Air Force Robert C. Seamans to NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher, July 7, 1971.

(18.) Air Force Assistant Secretary (Research and Development) Grant L. Hansen to NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight Dale D. Myers, Subj.: Impact of Shuttle Small Payload Bay, Jun 21, 1971; and Seamans to Fletcher, July 7, 1971.

(19.) Seamans to Fletcher; July 7, 1971.

(20.) Author interview with Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force, Jimmy D. Hill, July 1992; The price is confirmed and explained in detail in Plattner, C.M. "Air Force Stressing Operational Economy," Aviation Week & Space Technology, Sept 9, 1963, pp. 54-55. The specific number of Titans that represented minimum economic production rate is not a confirmable number and represents an estimate based on subsequent experience and the restarting of the production lines after the CHALLENGER explosion.

(21.) NASA Deputy Administrator George M. Low to Administrator James C. Fletcher, "Discussions with Johnny Foster," Dec 2, 1971; NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher to Office of Management & Budget Deputy Director Caspar W. Weinberger, Subj.: Space Shuttle Course of Action, Dec 29, 1971; NASA Deputy Administrator George M. Low, Personal Notes No. 61, Jan 2, 1972, pp. 3-4; NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher to Office of Management & Budget Deputy Director Caspar W. Weinberger, Jan 4, 1972; NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher to Office of Management & Budget Deputy Director Caspar W. Weinberger, Subj.: Meeting with OMB Director, Mar 6, 1972.

(22.) Office of Management and Budget Assistant Director Donald B. Rice to Office of Management and Budget Director George P. Shultz, Subj.: "NASA Letter on Scientific Results of Apollo 15," Sept 20, 1970; Fletcher to Weinberger, Dec 29, 1971; and Briefing Charts for NASA Administrator Fletcher Meeting with OMB Deputy Director, Dec 29, 1971; NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher to OMB Deputy Director Caspar W. Weinberger, Subj.: Space Shuttle Decisions, Jan 4, 1972; Fletcher to Weinberger, Meeting with OMB Director, Mar 6, 1972; National Aeronautics and Space Council Meeting Minutes, White House, Washington, DC, Apr 3, 1972.

(23.) David N. Parker, "White House Schedule Proposal," Dec 31, 1971; NASA Associate Administrator George M. Low, "Meeting with the President on Jan 19, 1972," Jan 12, 1972; White House press release, Office of the Press Secretary, Presidential Announcement on Space Shuttle, Jan 5, 1972.

(24.) Paine to Seamans, Apr 4, 1969; Hansen to Myers, Jun 21, 1971; Seamans to Fletcher, July 7, 1971; NASA/USAF "Summary of Activities for 1970;" Under Secretary of the Air Force Dr. Hans Mark to Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, "Maintaining TITAN III Production Capability During Shuttle Transition," Nov 9, 1979; Air Force Space Division Commander Lt. Gen. Richard C. Henry to Air Force Systems Command Commander Robert T. Marsh, Subj.: Space Shuttle and Space Station Concerns, Mar 4, 1983; and Deputy Secretary of Defense William P. Clements to NASA Administrator Dr. James C. Fletcher, Subj.: Shuttle Commitment, Aug 7, 1974.

(25.) Low Personal Notes, No. 65, Feb 27, 1972, p. 2.

(26.) Low was mistaken on the degree of influence that was held at the time by the DDR&E. The DoD Directive, "Development of Space Systems," # 5160.32, had been changed by Deputy Secretary of Defense David Packard in 1970. Until that date, the DDR&E held greater responsibility for preliminary research in new ways of using space technology, and would have been able to direct Service programs such as the Shuttle development. After that date, the DDR&E was responsible only for monitoring space technology activity, and control resided in the Air Force.

(27.) National Aeronautics and Space Council Meeting Minutes; Clements to Fletcher, Shuttle Commitment, Aug 7, 1974.

(28.) NASA Deputy Administrator George M. Low. Personal Notes No. 80, Nov 4, 1972, pp. 1-2.

(29.) Deputy Secretary of Defense Kenneth Rush Memorandmn for All Departments, "DoD Planning fox the Space Shuttle," Nov 13, 1972.

(30.) Low routinely shared internal NASA memoranda with Currie, as several copies in both Low's papers and the NASA History Office show. An example is Deputy Administrator Low to Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, "Space Shuttle Upper Stage Decision," Oct 10, 1973, which also carries the annotation that Currie agreed to the statements contained therein. Other memoranda that went to Fletcher also were shared with Currie.

(31.) Director of Defense Research & Engineering Malcolm Currie to Secretary of the Air Force Dr. William C. Seamans, "DoD Space Shuttle Planning," Aug 7, 1973.

(32.) NASA Deputy Administrator George M. Low, Memorandum for the Record, "Telephone Conversation with Mal Currie on July 23, 1975," July 24, 1975.

(33.) NASA Deputy Administrator George M. Low to Administrator James C. Fletcher, "Space Shuttle Discussions with Mal Currie," May 20, 1974.

(34.) Low to Fletcher, "Space Shuttle Discussions."

(35.) NASA Deputy Administrator George M. Low, Personal Notes No. 122, Jun 8, 1974, pp. 1-2; NASA Deputy Administrator George M. Low, Memorandum For Record, "Meeting with Mal Currie," Jun 17, 1974.

(36.) NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher to Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger, Jun 21, 1974.

(37.) Fletcher to Schlesinger, 21 Jun 1974; NASA Deputy Administrator George M. Low, Memorandum For Record, "Meeting with Secretary Schlesinger," July 17, 1974.

(38.) Clements to Fletcher, Shuttle Commitment, Aug 7, 1974.

(39.) Ibid.

(40.) Hill interview.

(41.) Chairman, Space Shuttle Payload Planning Steering Group John E. Naugle to NASA Associate Administrator, Office of Applications Mathews, "Transition Plan from Expendable Launch Vehicles to the Shuttle/Interim Upper Stage," Jan 28, 1975; and Low "Telephone Conversation with Mal Currie on July 23, 1975."

(42.) Hill interview; Author interview with former Secretary of the Air Force Dr. Hans M. Mark, Oct 19, 1991.

(43.) Author interview with Lt. Colonel Russell C. Cykoski, TITAN project manager, Oct 29, 1991.

(44.) Mark interview; Reed Testimony; Cykoski interview. Mark's 1991 reconstruction of events did not correspond with what actually happened. He claimed not have terminated TITAN production, when he actually did terminate TITAN III, and then capped the production of the TITAN 34D through a final block buy.

(45.) Testimony of Air Force Systems Command Commander General Alton D. Slay, Hearings Before the Committee on Armed Services, DoD Authorization for Appropriations for Fiscal Year 1979, Senate, 95th Congress, 2nd session, S.2571, pp. 3859, 3939.

(46.) Cykoski interview.

(47.) "Space Shuttle Appropriations for Fiscal Year 1979," Hearings before Subcommittees of the Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, 95th Congress, 2nd Session, p. 364.

(48.) "Space Shuttle Appropriations for 1979," p. 363.

(49.) The wider and shorter payloads allowed a concept called "manifesting," or combining several satellites on one Shuttle launch, as long as they were going to roughly similar orbits. By the time satellites were being redesigned to favor manifesting, the intent of having the Shuttle pay for itself had been overruled by Congress. Manifesting allowed NASA to receive more revenue per launch, helping to defray the rising costs of a Shuttle launch.

(50.) The TITAN 34D was not a candidate for the long-term backup, since its production quantity had been limited and in any event, Shuttle payloads were going to grow in weight beyond the 34D's capability. The latter was an inevitable result based on historical satellite design approaches to use every bit of available performance. The Shuttle had more capability than the TITAN 34D.

(51.) Author interview with Colonel John C. Bailey, a former satellite program manager; Hill interview.

(52.) Hill interview.

(53.) National Space Policy, Presidential Decision/NSC-37, May 11, 1978.

(54.) Civil and Further National Space Policy, Presidential Decision/NSC-42, Oct 10, 1978; Mark Interview.

(55.) Mark Interview; Secretary of the Air Force Hans Mark "Meeting with the President on Space Shuttle Issues," Briefing and Issue papers, Nov 14, 1979.

(56.) Mark, "Meeting with the President on Space Shuttle Issues," Nov 14, 1979.

(57.) Space Transportation System, National Security Decision Directive 8, Nov 13, 1981; National Space Policy, National Security Decision Directive 42, July 4, 1982.

(58.) "National Space Policy."

(59.) General Accounting Office Final Report, "NASA Must Reconsider Operations Pricing Policy to Compensate for Cost Growth on the Space Transportation System" MASAD 82-3, Feb 23, 1982.

(60.) Lieutenant General Richard C. Henry, Commander, Air Force Space Division, to General Robert T. Marsh, Commander, Air Force Systems Command, Mar 4, 1983.

(61.) During this period, the author was involved with the discussions involving the U.S. Trade Representative, NASA and DoD officials to establish a "level playing field" for U.S. companies to compete with the European ARIANE launch vehicles. These discussions, and the irregularly recurring "pricing" negotiations between the Air Force and NASA on Shuttle reimbursement, also supported by the author, made abundantly clear the extent to which NASA officials viewed any U.S. commercial launch vehicles as threats to Shuttle economics. These same concerns also motivated NASA to compete against private launch vehicle development in the Complementary Expendable Launch Vehicle source selection.

(62.) "Commercialization of Expendable Launch Vehicles," National Security Decision Directive 94, May 16, 1983.

(63.) "Commercialization of Expendable Launch Vehicles." Costs over and above the consumables were paid by the Government. This was the basis for the claim by the Europeans that Shuttle was subsidized, after the U.S. complained about European subsidies to ARIANE.

(64.) Department of Defense, "Defense Space Launch Strategy," Jan 24, 1984.

(65.) Senator Garn/Representative Boland to NASA Administrator, Jan 25, 1984.

(66.) Representative Don Fuqua, Chairman House Committee on Science and Technology, to Honorable Caspar Weinberger, Apt 12, 1984.

(67.) Representative Don Fuqua, Chairman House Committee on Science and Technology, to Honorable Joseph P. Addabbo, Apt 13, 1984.

(68.) House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, Joint Letter to Honorable Caspar Weinberger, Jun 6, 1984.

(69.) From the author's personal experience.

(70.) "National Space Strategy," National Security Decision Directive 144, Aug 15, 1984, unclassified Fact Sheet.

(71.) "National Space Strategy."

(72.) Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger to Honorable Joseph P. Addabbo, Sept 24, 1984.

(73.) Such a claim is hard to document specifically, and derives from the author's experience as part of the continuing discussions between NASA and the Air Force as part of the Air Force Secretariat Office of Space Plans and Policy, and can be found throughout the time period in media articles in the New York Times, Aviation Week and Space Technology, and as evidenced by the exchange of letters from Congress, cited above, concerning the different views of the "real intent" behind the Air Force's CELV effort.

(74.) "National Launch Strategy," 25.

Dr. Temple has a long involvement with the national security and national defense space programs, starting with his early work on the Space Shuttle program while in the Air Force in 1976. Subsequently, he held positions in Air Force Systems Command, the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, and the National Reconnaissance Office prior to retiring. He currently works as a systems engineer on space programs. He holds degrees in astronautical engineering, management, operations research, and science and technology policy. He is the author of the recent American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics book, Shades of Gray, National Security and the Evolution of Space Reconnaissance.
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Author:Temple, L. Parker, III
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Date:Sep 22, 2005
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