Statement of Mr. Dennis E. Smith, Program Manager, 2nd Generation RLV Program, Marshall Space Flight Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

before the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Committee on Science House of Representatives

June 20, 2001

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

Thank you for this opportunity to provide you with detailed information on NASA’s vision for the future of this Nation’s reusable launch vehicles – the Space Launch Initiative (SLI).
Before describing the Space Launch Initiative in depth, I would like to take a minute and review the recent history of space transportation development that led us to structure SLI the way we

NASA’s primary mission is to advance goals in science research, technology development and space exploration. The National Space Policy called on NASA to pursue technology
development and demonstration efforts to support future Government and private sector decisions on the development of an operational, next generation, reusable launch system by the end of
the 1990’s. The primary technology demonstrator in this effort was the X-33, an attempt to demonstrate key technologies for a highly efficient, single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) vehicle. As this
Subcommittee knows, the X-33 program encountered a major set back when one of its two composite liquid hydrogen tanks failed while undergoing cryogenic-structural testing.  Continued
NASA investment in the X-33 was not determined to be the best use of SLI funds and the cooperative agreement expired on March 31, 2001.  However, a number of valuable technologies
applicable to future vehicles and important lessons were learned under the X-33 program and have been accommodated in the SLI plan.  For example, the Space Launch Initiative employs a
bottoms-up, rigorous systems engineering approach to define multiple competing architectures and links all technology investments to those systems. This approach will ensure that the
program is resilient to technical and programmatic obstacles and is open to different and innovative technical approaches.

Concurrent with the technology demonstrator projects, NASA sponsored a series of US aerospace industry led future launch studies to identify private sector options for reducing NASA’s
launch costs.  These studies incorporated the X-33 and other space transportation development efforts being undertaken by NASA, the Department of Defense (DoD), and the aerospace
industry.  Within the framework of these studies, NASA pursued a set of evaluative efforts referred to as the Space Transportation Architecture Studies (STAS).  NASA contracted with five
industry teams to develop commercial space transportation architectures to meet the Agency’s specific mission requirements. The Agency’s safety, reliability, and cost goals as well as its
unique mission needs were provided as guidelines to each team.  In response to NASA’s guidelines, the industry teams generated a diverse set of preliminary architecture options that met
commercial needs as well as the NASA unique missions.  The strategic integration of the commercial, and NASA unique and Department of Defense missions served as the basis for
identifying the key risk reduction efforts that would need to be undertaken to reduce technical risks and cost uncertainty prior to  full-scale development decisions. This process served as the
basis for understanding Space Launch Initiative investment levels.

Building upon the knowledge and experience gained through the STAS process and the technology demonstrators initiated in the 1990’s, NASA, and its academic and industry partners
developed the Integrated Space Transportation Plan (ISTP).  The ISTP is a comprehensive investment strategy for achieving the Agency’s strategic goals and objectives for a safer, more
reliable RLV that is less expensive to maintain and operate than today’s current Space Shuttle.
This investment strategy encompasses all of the space transportation efforts including: near-term Space Shuttle safety investments: the Space Launch Initiative; and far-term investments the
3rd Generation of RLVs and beyond.

Today, I would like to focus on the Space Launch Initiative and the recent contracts awarded under NASA Research Announcement (NRA8-30).   The Space Launch Initiative, also referred to
as the 2nd Generation RLV program, is the center-piece of NASA’s Integrate Space Transportation Plan.  NASA recently announced the award of nearly $800 million of initial contracts with
22 companies. These efforts put us on the path to transition to a commercially competitive 2nd Generation RLV architecture around the beginning of the next decade. We believe this is a
critical step to opening the space frontier and for the United States to lead the economic development and exploration of space.  The Agency’s strategic goals for the next generation of RLVs
are to reduce the risk of crew loss to approximately 1 in 10,000 missions, while reducing the cost of payload to low Earth orbit to $1000.00 per pound. 

The Space Launch Initiative is a program for NASA and our partners to investigate new space transportation architectures and invest approximately $ 4.85 billion between FY2001 and
FY2006 for risk reduction and technology development efforts supporting at least two competing industry solutions.  Through this initiative, NASA will reduce the technical and
programmatic risks and cost uncertainties to enable informed decisions prior to proceeding to full-scale development of a 2nd Generation RLV around the middle of this decade.  SLI is based
upon four primary principles: Commercial Convergence, Competition, Assured Access, and the ability to evolve.  Building upon this foundation, we have structured the Space Launch Initiative
to be managed in three programmatic elements: 2nd Generation RLV Program, which includes a Systems Engineering and Requirements Definition Phase and a Risk Reduction Phase,
NASA Unique Systems, and Alternative Access to Space Station.

2nd Generation RLV Program

Within the Systems Engineering and Requirements Definition phase, we are developing the detailed technical and programmatic requirements necessary to link technology and business risk
reduction efforts to competing architectures.  We are working closely with external stakeholders to continually refine and redefine our requirements. This iterative process identifies where
changes in civil requirements can enable NASA to make use of commercial capabilities and maximize the use of innovative, flexible and evolvable solutions.  It is vital that we completely
understand the full impact of requirements on the system to ensure that the overall architecture remains commercially competitive and affordable.  This rigorous systems engineering process
also serves as the basis for critical decisions regarding architecture options and system characteristics to assure the proper integration of the overall program.  Detailed safety, reliability,
performance and cost models of space transportation flight and ground systems are under development.  These models will be used to perform the trade studies necessary to determine how
proposed systems relate to long-term ISTP goals.

As part of the requirements validation process, we established an External Requirements Assessment Team (ERAT) in the fall of 2000.  The team is led by Kenneth Szalai, former Director of
the Dryden Flight Research Center, and will remain active through the life of the 2nd Generation RLV program.  The ERAT team brings an on-going and independent review of SLI program
and technical details and provides recommendations to senior NASA management regarding the program.  Initial reviews, to be completed this fall, are focused on the program plans, technical
priorities and engineering processes. 

The Agency has placed a high priority on reducing the technical and programmatic risks and cost uncertainties associated with the development of a privately owned and operated domestic
2nd Generation RLV.  Specific risk-reduction activities include business development and planning, requirement trades, and technology investments and advanced development, including
ground testing and flight experiments.  Focused investment activities are driven by need of both Government and industry.   Development of these capabilities will be consistent with the
results of the Systems Engineering and Requirements Definition process.

The recently announced NASA Research Announcement NRA 8–30 resulted in the award of multiple contracts for specific risk-reduction activities and technology demonstrations including:
highly reliable rocket propulsion systems; robust, reusable airframe technologies; advanced thermal protection systems; integrated vehicle health monitoring; and streamlined launch
operations, among others.  The program was able to create or maintain competition in key areas to assure the best, most innovative ideas going forward.  We also structured each contract with
a ten month base period plus options so that the program can be adjusted to assure complete connection between the architecture definition efforts and the hardware-oriented risk reduction
efforts. All selections were negotiated to achieve the proper investment balance relative to the total systems engineering effort.  The data rights, as specified under NRA8-30, are to be retained
by the Government

In parallel to these contracted activities we have already begun to identify additional key areas for investment.  For instance, additional focus on crew survival and escape concepts and
technologies, advanced avionics and control systems, power and other important subsystems is required to complete the needed technology portfolio.  We plan to release another round of
procurements this fall to solicit industry for their ideas in these and other potential areas.


NASA’s rigorous systems engineering approach, validated by the ERAT, will continue to evaluate the integrated findings and validate the connectivity between goals, architectures, and
risk-reduction activities.  NASA will also conduct a Non-Advocate Review (NAR), with quarterly updates, to assure continued integration of the overall effort.  The initial NAR will be
completed by the end of September 2001.  These reviews will also contribute to the identification of technical gaps that need to be filled.

To ensure the 2nd generation vehicle is commercially viable, NASA, in collaboration with industry, continues to evaluate and support multiple architectures that can meet the program goals of
safe, reliable, and affordable space transportation.  The Agency is committed to ensuring that the resulting architectures will enable NASA to converge civil requirements with commercial and
military capabilities, and will not pursue vehicles that cannot meet program goals.

The Space Shuttle will be utilized as a “lessons learned” reference point.  Although there is a separate Space Shuttle safety investment program under NASA’s ISTP, the use of the Shuttle as
a reference point will provide valuable insight on how SLI technologies could improve Shuttle safety.  The Shuttle integrated operations models will be used as a reference point to assess the
competing SLI architectures and will assist the Agency and selected contractors in assessing potential benefits of proposed and maturing technologies.

NASA continues to refine its cost credibility plan for ensuring confidence in, and consistency between, NASA, contractor, and independent vehicle cost estimates.  This activity is aimed at
reducing risk for the mid-decade competition and will include links to risk-reduction activities and cost uncertainty updates.  We are also performing an integrated assessment of existing
NASA and industry models and tools.  A plan to initiate product delivery and tool integration will be finalized by a senior manager assigned to the integrated modeling effort and reviewed by
both the External Requirements Assessment Team and Non-Advocate Review group.

NASA-Unique Systems

Many of NASA’s unique mission requirements cannot be served by commercial vehicles alone, since they often require human presence in space.  This effort focuses on developing and
demonstrating designs, technologies, and system-level integration issues associated with NASA-unique transportation elements such as a Crew Transport Vehicle (CTV), cargo carriers,
rendezvous and docking system, crew escape system, crew situational awareness, and other architecture elements not required for commercial application.  NASA-unique elements will be
integrated with commercially provided Earth-to-orbit launch vehicles and other potential commercial systems to form the complete architecture for a 2nd Generation RLV system.

NASA-unique requirements will ensure the Earth-to-orbit system will remain safe, competitive, and affordable within the larger architecture context.  We have contracted with two industry
partners to continue the definition and design of these systems in parallel with the 2nd Generation RLV Risk Reduction process to aid in overall integration.

NASA intends to investigate innovative approaches with broad trade studies and a wide variety of systems solutions to efficiently address NASA-unique requirements.  We are taking extra
measures to clearly define common interfaces between NASA unique systems with the commercial booster elements to maximize the flexibility of architecture designs and to encourage

Alternate Access to Space Station

A critical element of all 2nd Generation RLV architectures includes the ability to fly cargo to and from the Space Station including missions with autonomous rendezvous and docking
capability.  The Alternate Access to Space Station element of SLI seeks to enable demonstration of a domestic capability for augmenting the baselined international and space shuttle supply to
the station. NASA continues to work with both established and emerging launch companies to enable and demonstrate this capability.

NASA will ensure proper integration with 2nd Generation RLV activities, synthesizing common elements and evaluating systems within the context of an integrated architecture.  One example
of this integrated approach is the NRA 8-30 award for the Orbital DART mission – an automated rendezvous and proximity operations (ARPO) experiment.  This flight experiment was
chosen to demonstrate state of the art targeting sensors, automated GN&C algorithms and advanced avionics required for autonomous ISS cargo delivery and support a key element of all 2nd
generation RLV architectures.


We have made significant progress in understanding future space transportation requirements and promising technologies, but much remains to be done to take these advances to the next
level to achieve the goals of enabling safe, reliable, and affordable space transportation systems.  Additional investment is required to reduce business and technical risks and cost uncertainties
to acceptable levels.  Private industry will not and cannot make adequate investments in space transportation risk reduction and technologies.  The aerospace industry is dependent on NASA
pursuing technological advancements to maintain or improve U.S. competitive capability in the international launch market.  The Nation’s long-term investment through the Integrated Space
Transportation Plan, and near-term investment through the Space Launch Initiative, is the necessary key to mitigate these risks, to encourage interest in private financing of future systems, and
to open the door to the space frontier.  The Space Launch Initiative, though not a vehicle development program, will enable NASA and the United States to make the right decisions on the
selection, design and development of the next generation RLV.