Bipartisan Bill Aims to Keep Shuttle Flying, Close Spaceflight Gap

Space Shuttle


Today, Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas (FL-24) and Congressman Bill Posey (FL-15) introduced legislation to maintain a robust human spaceflight program, minimize the spaceflight gap, and protect Space Coast jobs.

The Human Spaceflight Capability Assurance and Protection Act would extend use of the International Space Station (ISS) through 2020, allow NASA to continue flying the Space Shuttle, and push to accelerate a next-generation NASA-developed space vehicle. A companion bill has been introduced by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) in the U.S. Senate.

“This bill is intended to maintain a robust human spaceflight program that will protect Space Coast jobs, enhance our national security, and generate scientific and technological advances that boost our economy,” said Congresswoman Kosmas. “While most agree that use of the Space Station should be extended through 2020, there is only one existing vehicle that we know can fully service and support the ISS, and that is the Shuttle. Our bill would extend the life of the ISS while allowing the Shuttle to continue flying in order to provide whatever support is needed for that extension.”

“At the same time, our legislation fills in some of what we feel was missing from the President’s proposal by instructing NASA to develop a clear plan for the future of human space exploration with set goals, timelines and a next-generation NASA vehicle,” Kosmas added.

“Our bill takes a critical first step toward closing the gap by extending Space Shuttle flights,” said Rep. Posey, a lead cosponsor of the bill. “The Augustine Panel said this was the only way to close the gap from this end and we do that in this bill. I’m pleased to join Representative Kosmas and Senator Hutchinson in forging bipartisan, bicameral legislation to close the space gap and keep America first in space.”

In addition to Kosmas and Posey, original cosponsors of the bill include Representatives Corrine Brown (D-FL), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Jim Costa (D-CA), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Ron Klein (D-FL), Stephen LaTourette (R-OH), Charlie Melancon (D-LA), John Mica (R-FL), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Adam Putnam (R-FL), and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL).

The Human Space Flight Capability Assurance and Enhancement Act of 2010 would:

  • Allow for Shuttle extension to fully service and support ISS: Make shuttle retirement dependent on the availability of replacement capabilities for comparable size crew and cargo delivery, whether government-owned or commercial, or until it is conclusively demonstrated that the Space Shuttle cargo capabilities are not needed to ensure space station viability;
  • Maximize investment in ISS: Require International Space Station (ISS) operations and full utilization through at least 2020, and further establish the ISS National Laboratory operating mechanisms and procedures. Instructs NASA to report to Congress on what resources and equipment are needed for ISS extension;
  • Develop New NASA-Led Vehicle: Provide for the acceleration of a government-owned human space flight capability to as close to 2015 as possible; Provide for the near-term evaluation of heavy-lift rocket vehicle design options, including Shuttle-derived and Constellation-derived options, to enable exploration beyond low-earth orbit and accelerate the start of vehicle design activity;
  • Encourage Commercial Development: Directs NASA to issue safety requirements for human rating commercial crew vehicles; expand support for Commercial Orbital Space Transportation (COTS) to support ISS — both for cargo and for eventual crew launch capability;
  • Increase NASA Funding: Authorize top-level funding for all of NASA’s mission activities, but would only address the human space flight policy issues. Provides increase over the President’s request of $1.3 billion for FY2011 and $2.1 billion for FY2012 for continuation of the Shuttle (at a rate of 2 missions a year) and additional ISS resources;
  • Establish Exploration Vision: Reaffirm long-term goal of moving beyond low-Earth orbit whether to the Moon, Mars or alternative destinations.

  • Brian Koester

    Constellation stands a chance of surviving, at least parts of it – since the President has clearly stepped in it by Canceling it at the same time Shuttle was due to expire…

    But I think the Members of Congress are clearly asking for more than they are likely to be able to get consensus on amongst their fellow members.

    The politically same path for the President would have been to extend Shuttle for one extra flight,allow Private NewSpace to handle ISS, and back the current HLV in the form of ARES V, and for for a NEO mission.

    This would keep enough of the old program alive, keep the numbers of Job losses at what have long been understood and expected and put the whole issue on the back burner.

    But it is now TOO LATE for the President and his space policy, while he and his administration are trying to control events instead of being controlled by them (and this is why they are going to have this summit).

    The perception is that he is effectively shutting down Human Space Flight – even PAST the previously understood gap.

    The summit is unwise politically from the Presidents point of view and is really a no-win situation for him as I see it barring a 180 turn to keep 70 percent of Constellation.

    The House of Representatives and the Senate even may turn over to Republican control in 2010 – and then it really gets interesting — Would Republicans be more likely to keep the program since more of the centers are located in ‘Red’ States??