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FYI Number 135: November 6, 2001

Task Force Recommendations on Managing Space Station

The first two principal findings could not be clearer: "The ISS [International Space Station] Program's technical achievements to date, as represented by on-orbit capability, are extraordinary." However, "The existing ISS Program Plan for executing the FY 02-06 budget is not credible."

These were two of the findings of the ISS Management and Cost Evaluation Task Force that were contained in a 40-page report to the NASA Advisory Council. The report was released on November 2. Thomas Young, former president and Chief Operations Officer at Martin Marietta Corporation, chaired the task force.

The task force was announced in late July, following revelations in April of a projected $4+ billion increase in space station construction costs in the 2002-2006 time period. Space station development costs are capped, by law, at $25.0 billion. The result points to a downsized station with downsized research.

This report recommends significant management changes. Of perhaps greater interest to the research community are the task force recommendations regarding research. NASA now envisions the station having a three-person crew instead of the original seven-person crew. The report states, "The scientific community is confused and considers the reduction to a three-person crew, from the seven-person crew baseline, to have a significant adverse impact on science."

To mitigate this impact, the task force found "There are opportunities to maximize scientific research on the [three- person] core station with modest cost impact." It suggests: "The crew time available with a permanent crew of three persons can be effectively doubled by extending sortie mission crew time aboard the ISS. This can be accomplished by overlapping planned Soyuz exchange periods so that the visiting crew is aboard ISS for a period of 30 days every 5 months. Using existing Extended Duration Orbiter (EDO) capability could allow for Shuttle docked time of up to 14 days. The increased research benefit derives primarily from offloading ISS maintenance tasks to the visiting Shuttle crew. However, there will be significant microgravity constraints due to the Shuttle being docked to the station, as well as crew transfer and maintenance operations."

Looking ahead, the Task Force stated that the "end state" for the program "should be defined in terms of the science priorities recommended below:

"Establish research priorities. The Task Force is unanimous in that the highest research priority should be solving problems associated with long-duration human space flight, including the engineering required for human support mechanisms, and

"Provide the Centrifuge Accommodation Module (CAM) and centrifuge mandatory to accomplish the top priority biological research. Availability as late as FY 08 is unacceptable, and

"Establish a research plan consistent with the priorities, including a prudent level of reserves, and compliant with the approved budget.

"Provide additional crew time for scientific research through the use of extended duration shuttle and overlap of Soyuz missions.

"Create a Deputy Program Manager for Science position in ISS Program Office. Assign a science community representative with dual responsibility to the Program and OBPR [Office of Biological and Physical Research]."

Initial reaction to the Task Force report by House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Ranking Minority Member Ralph Hall (D-TX) was favorable. The committee will hold a hearing on this report tomorrow.

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3095

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