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Plan to privatize shuttle; now, to a next-generation shuttle

Posted by: RGClark - Tue Dec 27, 2011 6:22 pm
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Plan to privatize shuttle; now, to a next-generation shuttle 
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Space Walker
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Post Plan to privatize shuttle; now, to a next-generation shuttle   Posted on: Tue Dec 27, 2011 6:22 pm
Next Gen Shuttle-Capable vehicle interest as secret effort to save orbiters ends.
December 19th, 2011 by Chris Bergin
http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2011/12/ ... ters-ends/

Atlantis Journal – Epilogue.
by MLD on Dec.19, 2011, under Commercial Space, Space Exploration, Space Policy, Space Shuttle Program
http://www.marylynnedittmar.com/?p=1303

These articles report on a plan to privatize the shuttles for commercial satellite launches only. Considering the costs of shuttle launches it might seem a non-starter. But these articles state those intending to finance the plan believed they could make a business case for profitability.
However, it turned out because the shuttle assets and infrastructure were being re-tasked to be used for the SLS, the plan could not be implemented. So the current plan is use a next generation shuttle based on more up to date technology.
Further background is provided by this interview with Dr. Larry Kuznetz on The Space Show who was part of the plan:

Broadcast 1595 (Special Edition)
Aired on July 19th, 2011
Guest: Dr. Lawrence Kuznetz
http://www.thespaceshow.com/detail.asp?q=1595

About 58 minutes in he discusses the plan to privatize the shuttle. He says they estimated $2 billion to get the program going again and $500 million per launch which would all be paid for by private funds. The business case to make this profitable would be to launch large satellites to GEO.
Kuznetz stated the trend now is toward large satellites since it is cheaper to put up a single large satellite rather than two smaller ones or send up smaller ones more often to replace a larger one. He says that for commercial large satellites to GEO, the Ariane 5 has a monopoly so the satellite companies have no room to negotiate the price to launch these large satellites. According to Kuznetz it would be possible to undercut the Ariane 5 price point with the privatized shuttle.
Interestingly Kuznetz also mentioned there would be other income streams beyond satellite launches that had not been considered before that he said could even be more profitable than satellite launches.
Anyone have any guess what they might be?


Bob Clark

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Post Re: Plan to privatize shuttle; now, to a next-generation shuttle   Posted on: Wed Dec 28, 2011 4:58 pm
If I had to guess, knowing what the shuttle has been used for, I'd say it's the capability to return research payloads to Earth especially in regards to pharmaceutical research. However, I fail to see how it would be possible to make $500 million per launch in this way. Actually, I fail to see how $500m per launch is competitive with anything. Do they really think this will be able to compete against Falcon Heavy? I have no idea what an Ariane 5 launch costs, but it can't be much more than $250m..

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Post Re: Plan to privatize shuttle; now, to a next-generation shuttle   Posted on: Wed Dec 28, 2011 6:22 pm
I think your guess is pretty good regarding Ariane 5 pricing:

according to this report
http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/hea ... /10998.pdf
an Ariane 5 cost $220m in 2009.

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Post Re: Plan to privatize shuttle; now, to a next-generation shuttle   Posted on: Wed Dec 28, 2011 7:33 pm
Well, if you got rid of the orbiter and just used the stack to launch satellites, then it'd be cheaper per kilogram than Ariane 5. Of course, you can't do that, since the orbiter contains the engines. So purely as a launcher, the SST doesn't make much sense to me either.

What about tourism though? Prices for a week on the ISS have been rising quite a bit in recent years, the latest I've heard was $50m. Put five passengers in the shuttle, have it stay in space for two weeks, and you get a $50m/week price tag as well. Also launch a satellite while you're at it and the price drops further. Or put a recreation module in the cargo bay for more fun...

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Post Re: Plan to privatize shuttle; now, to a next-generation shuttle   Posted on: Wed Dec 28, 2011 8:13 pm
It was wishful thinking from the beginning. There was no they could have operated the STS at $500M a mission with the existing infrastructure and maintain what safety there was, and I doubt they could have gotten it underwritten and approved as a non-governmental commercial venture.


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