Wednesday, May 11, 2005

NASA Restructures CEV Project, Moves Up Timeline

It looks like Michael Griffin is moving in the right direction after all. Not wanting the U.S. to be out of the manned-space business for four years he's moved up the date for first launch of the Crew Exploration Vehicle(CEV) from 2014 to 2010. That will close the 2010-2014 gap with the retirement of the shuttle fleet which the CEV is meant to replace.

Originally the program was slated to select two contractors this year to submit further designs with a final contractor selected in 2008. NASA notified Congress last week that it will select a single contractor in 2006 and set the launch date at 2010.

This may open the door for a consortium of smaller companies including Scaled Composite's Burt Rutan. Their proposal is for their consortium to create a small,reusable capsule for sending and returning humans from LEO. The larger companies would then build the CEV which would remain permanently in space, removing the need for heat shielding and other equipment. The consortium claims that their 4-person vehicle could be flight-ready by 2008.