June Malone
Media Relations Department
(256) 544-0034

RELEASE: 00-048

NASA is beginning a new
journey toward the launchpad with a second-generation reusable launch
vehicle (RLV) system that will be safer and cheaper than today’s
technology, and will rely more heavily on the commercial space business
to meet NASA’s science and exploration goals.

The agency Tuesday published
a NASA Research Announcement entitled “Second Generation RLV Risk Reduction
Definition Program.” It calls for industry proposals as a first step in
defining detailed requirements, and identifying and commencing initial
risk reduction options, to enable a second-generation Reusable Launch
Vehicle competition in 2005, leading to an operational system around 2010.

The studies will serve as a springboard for the five-year,
$4.5 billion effort to reduce the risk associated with building and operating
next-generation launch systems before entering the full-scale development
phase in 2005.

“In the last several years, NASA has initiated several
technology demonstration programs,” said Dr. Row Rogacki, director of
the Space Transportation Directorate at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight
Center in Huntsville, Ala. “We’ve invested in specific concepts.
We’ve partnered heavily with industry on aggressive technology programs.
We’ve made great progress and gained much insight into promising
emerging technologies. We better understand the balance between commercial
and government interests.

“However, NASA has encountered difficult lessons and
delays in key technology projects,” Rogacki said. “We’ve learned
that more development along multiple competing paths is needed. We’ve
learned that commercial markets are not growing as previously projected.

“But there are still possibilities to make access
to space more robust,” he said. “This effort is part of the Administration’s
Space Launch Initiative intended to target these challenges.”

NASA’s strategy has three main goals:

    • A hundredfold increase in safety over existing
      systems and a tenfold reduction in the cost to launch payloads, from
      $10,000 per pound today to $1,000 per pound in a decade;
    • Minimize technical and business risk for the
      full-scale development program, ensure NASA’s requirements are
      met and coordinate with requirements of the commercial space industry,
      support private ownership and operation of reusable launch vehicles
      and other potential systems;
    • Enable more than one commercial option for getting
      to the International Space Station, and affordably meeting NASA’s
      near-term space transportation requirements while providing growth
      paths to meet future requirements.

The studies will address an architecture that covers
not only possible Earth-to-orbit launch vehicles, but also in-space orbit
transfer vehicles, ground and flight operations and the technology and
organization required to support both.

NASA and its industry partners will take advantage
of space transportation programs such as the X-33, X-34, X-37 and Advanced
Space Transportation Program to reduce technical risk and create increased
competition during the five-year risk reduction phase.

The risk reduction program will be a NASA-wide effort
and also will involve the U.S. Department of Defense.

A briefing for potential bidders
will be held Friday, March 10 at 9 a.m. CST at the Marshall Center in
Building 4200, in Morris Auditorium. Industry proposals in various technical
areas are due by June 1. NASA anticipates multiple awards this year resulting
from the NASA Research Announcement.

The risk reduction program is a result of NASA’s
industry-led Space Transportation Architecture Studies in 1998 and 1999,
and the agency’s Integrated Space Transportation Plan developed in
the fall of 1999. In addition to a second-generation reusable launch vehicle,
that plan addressed safety upgrades for the Space Shuttle, a crew return
vehicle for the Space Station and basic technology research. Those elements
are covered in other program plans.

The Marshall Center is NASA’s Lead Center for
Space Transportation Systems Development.

Note to Editors / News Directors:
Interviews, photos and video supporting this release, are available
to media representatives by contacting June Malone of the Marshall Media
Relations Department at (256) 544-0034. For an electronic version of this
release, digital images or more information, visit Marshall’s News Center
on the Web at:


For a program description of the Space Launch Initiative
and a related speech to the FAA by Marshall Center Director Arthur G.
Stephenson, click on: