Chair Force Engineer

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Hurry Up and Wait

NASA has released the schedule for the final ten space shuttle missions, claiming that the program will wrap up with the final mission in May-June 2010. But let's think about this for a second. The current plan counts on launching five missions in 2008 (three down, two to go) and five in 2009. This will be a tall feat to accomplish with just three orbiters. It's even harder when one considers all of the challenges the shuttle workforce must overcome to put each massively-complex machine into orbit. Add to that the Congressional pressure to fly the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the space station.

What does it all add up to? A gut feeling that we'll be wrapping up the shuttle program in FY11 instead of FY10. Unless NASA insists on a hard cutoff at the end of FY10 that would ground all unflown missions. Hopefully the schedule pressures will not get the best of the shuttle team, particularly at a time when working on the shuttle program is perceived to be a step below working for Project Constellation.