Statement of Mr. Sam Venneri Associate Administrator Office of Aerospace Technology 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 an overview of the revitalized commitment to innovation and technology development within Aerospace Technology Enterprise.

The Goals and Objectives of this enterprise reflect the national needs and sustain the Agency’s dedication to the advancement of technologies that contribute to national security, the public
good and the quality of life. Our four Strategic Goals: Revolutionize Aviation, Advance Space Transportation, Pioneer Technology Innovation, and Commercialize Technology provide an
integrated blue print to prioritize our investments and achieve what is not possible today. Today, I will focus on the Advance Space Transportation Goal and the Integrated Space
Transportation Plan. I am very excited about the Agency’s vision to revolutionize the Nation’s space transportation systems.  This vision is being realized through an evolutionary, phased
approach embodied within the Integrated Space Transportation Plan and the Space Launch Initiative. We recognize that privately owned and operated domestic launch vehicles lofting NASA
payloads on a regular basis is the right strategy to free up the agency’s resources for scientific pursuit on the new frontier.  Currently, NASA relies on U.S. commercial expendable launch
vehicle services to meet the Agency freeflyer primary payload requirements.  As NASA continues to expand the limits of human exploration and establish new standards for the full time
presence of humans in space, the need for a safer and lower cost access to space must be developed.  The assurance of reliable and affordable access to space is a fundamental goal of this
Agency, and is directed by the United States’ space policies. In August 1994, the National Space Transportation 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, 2nd Generation architecture reusable launch vehicle by the end of the 1990s. In
addition, NASA was instructed under the Civil Space Transportation guidelines, to maintain the current Space Shuttle system until a replacement becomes operational.  This guidance was
reinforced in 1996 in the National Space Policy. As the lead Agency for research and development in civil space activities, NASA has passionately accepted the challenge or improving the
nation’s civil access to space.  Building upon the successes and the failures of our recent partnerships and technology demonstrator programs, NASA and its industry and academia partners
have developed the Integrated Space Transportation Plan (ISTP).  This plan is the result of the dedication of numerous individuals within NASA, industry, Department of Defense and
academia.  It was not developed easily or quickly.  To enable innovative and revolutionary changes in how NASA meets its launch needs, we were forced to make extremely difficult
decisions.  We determined that some programs, though successful within their respective technical areas, did not support this new plan and were terminated. 

The comprehensive approach outlined in the Integrated Space Transportation Plan provides the Agency with a single integrated investment strategy for all its diverse space transportation
efforts.  Investments in a sustained progression of research and technology development initiatives will enable us to realize our vision for the next generations of reusable launch vehicles.  The
ISTP describes the technical roadmaps and funding for the following: near-term Space Shuttle safety investments, Space Launch Initiative (also referred to as the 2nd Generation RLV) in the
mid-term, far-term technology investments for the 3rd Generation RLV and beyond. 

America’s Space Shuttle is the 1st Generation RLV and it continues to provide our Nation with an unequaled capability.  However, the Space Shuttle requires a significant portion of the
Agency’s resources to operate and maintain.  The focus of ISTP will be to enable NASA to meet its launch needs on commercially competitive, privately operated vehicles near the beginning
of the next decade.  Until that occurs, the Space Shuttle is NASA’s primary launch vehicle for access to the Space Station and missions that require human interaction.  It is essential that we
continue to ensure its safe operation.  Therefore, Space Shuttle safety investments are the first element in the ISTP.

The second element and main focus of the ISTP is the Space Launch Initiative (SLI).  SLI is the highest priority new initiative within the Agency.  Also known as the 2nd Generation RLV
Program, SLI provides the catalyst for NASA and its partners, including the Department of Defense, to explore new space transportation architectures. NASA’s strategic goals for a next
generation RLV are to reduce the risk of crew loss to approximately 1 in 10,000 missions while lowering the cost of delivering payloads to low-Earth orbit to less than $ 1000 per pound.  The
long-term vision is to have a commercially competitive vehicle operational around the beginning of the next decade.  In the interim, SLI’s Alternate Access to Space Station initiative seeks to
enable demonstration of alternative U.S. launch systems to the orbiting laboratory.

The third and final component within ISTP is the technology and research that will enable America to maintain its leadership into the foreseeable future.  The 3rd Generation RLV
technologies and beyond have the potential to enable routine access to space and provide airline-like operations along a vastly enlarged highway to space.

The Space Launch Initiative plans to invest approximately $ 4.85 billion from FY2001 to FY2006.  This recent increase in funding outlined in the President’s FY02 Budget Blueprint
reinforces the Administration’s commitment to maintaining our position as the world leader in the exploration of space.  The Space Launch Initiative is a technology development program
designed to reduce the technical and programmatic risks and cost uncertainties associated with the development of a next generation RLV.  The program employs rigorous systems
engineering and integration methodologies to ensure that every investment contributes significantly to the overall strategic goals and can be efficiently applied to competing industry concepts. 
By mid-decade an informed decision to go forward into full-scale development, with at least two competing full-scale RLV architectures will be made.  It is fitting that the “Blueprint for New
Beginnings” coincides with the dawn of a new millennium. That plan clearly acknowledges that transitioning launch services and vehicles to the private sector is key to opening new trade
routes and advancing human knowledge in the 21st century.

SLI is an agency-wide effort, with significant involvement from all NASA Centers. As Associate Administrator for the Aerospace Technology Enterprise, I will ensure unique capability and
expertise within the Agency will be brought to bear on this initiative to successfully achieve the ambitious goals established for our future space transportation systems.