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Freedom's redesigns reach the White House.

You say you want to buy a space station but you're short on cash this budget year. Well, take a look at this little number right here - we call it the Big Can. Drive it into orbit for $11.9 billion ....

Last week, still struggling to sell its beleaguered orbiting laboratory to Congress and President Clinton, NASA offered three cost-cutting alternatives to Space Station Freedom, projected to cost $18 billion over the next four years.

In February, Clinton asked NASA to halve the price of completing the Earth-orbiting craft. At the same time, the redesign had to preserve the station's scientific capabilities and still honor prior commitments to international partners (SN: 4/3/93, p.218). The 50-member NASA team found it could not meet these goals within the cost limit set by the White House - $9 billion or less spread over five NASA budgets, 1994 through 1998.

The least expensive of the three space station designs, option C, would blast off in a single package. Informally dubbed the Big Can, this $11.9 billion, 92-foot-long cylinder would be launched with external fuel tank, main engines, and solid boosters cannibalized from a space shuttle. Option B, a scaled-down version of Freedom, would cost $13.3 billion in the next live fiscal years to build and loft into orbit. Option A, a mixture of components designed for Space Station Freedom and flight-ready parts from other sources, would cost $12.9 to $13.2 billion. The redesigned station would operate for 10 to 15 years.

On June 7, NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin sent the new design options to a special advisory panel appointed in April by Vice President Albert Gore to undertake an independent assessment of the space station program. The panel submitted its report to the White House late last week, assessing the three options in terms of cost, inherent risk to crews, and technical feasibility.

The panel rejected option B as too risky, explaining that astronauts would have to spend too much time on spacewalks assembling and maintaining the station. Instead, the advisory panel recommended options A and C as technically simpler and less dangerous to construct.

One likely problem: Rep. George E. Brown Jr. (D-Calif.), chairman of the key authorizing committee for space projects in the House, favors option B as the only design likely to muster lasting support in Congress.

President Clinton will decide shortly which design option he will ask Congress to adopt in the 1994 budget.
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Title Annotation:NASA presents Space Station Freedom plans to Congress and President Clinton
Author:Pendick, Daniel
Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 19, 1993
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