NASA's Space Launch Initiative: A Program Overview 2002-01-1267
For fiscal year 2001 (FY2001), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) reorganized its efforts to develop a 2nd Generation Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) under the new Space Launch Initiative program. The stated goal of the Space Launch Initiative (SLI) is the development of new technologies over a five-year period that will lead to a decision mid-decade on whether to move forward with a new design, which will eventually replace the space shuttle. This new vehicle will be 100 times safer and 10 times cheaper than today's launch systems. In its FY2001 budget, NASA requested and received $290 million and for FY2002 requested $475 million, a 64% increase although lower than the $610 million NASA initially planned to request for FY2002. The total planned budget is approximately $4.4 billion through FY2005. The capabilities of the resulting launch vehicle will be a failure rate of 1 in 10,000 and $1000 per pound to low earth orbit. To achieve this safety margin, it is widely accepted that the new vehicle will require a complete crew escape system. By comparison, the space shuttle only has escape capabilities to 20,000 feet. Other capabilities include 10 person launch crews (compared to 170 today), one-week turnaround time (compared to five months) and hundreds of flights per year (compared to fewer than 10 times per year today).1 The question is, can SLI's research funds lead to technology which will be able to develop a 2nd generation RLV capable of all (or some) of the above listed objectives? Also, how will SLI and the 2nd generation RLV affect space commerce?