NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
AUTHORIZATION ACT. 1987
September 16, 1986.– Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union and ordered to be printed.
Mr. Fuqua, from the Committee on Science and Technology, submitted the following.
EXTERNAL TANKS AS SPACE / ASSETS
The Committee believes that the Space Shuttle External Tank (ET) is a potentially valuable resource that should be considered for space development. This idea is not new but would be a significant change from current practice. Studies conducted by the aerospace industry, universities, and private foundations have shown that the ET could possibly be converted into orbiting labs, platforms, and warehouses by technology already proven in Skylab , the Shuttle, and Spacelab, although the studies have not demonstrated the practicality of such conversion.
The Committee believes that NASA and the academic community should be encouraged to further study ET utilization and, in particular, the concept that qualified academic research groups might be awarded ET resources for space-based research much like the land-grant concept of the past. Universities, working cooperatively with industry, might dramatically increase scientific research opportunities, expand our Nation’s space infrastructure and broaden the spectrum of private space enterprise if such usage of the ET is found to be feasable, cost effective, and safe.
Therefore, the Committee requests NASA to study the technical, operational, cost, and safety requirements for ET orbit insertion, basic station-keeping, and life support until universities working cooperatively with the private sector can access them for modification and usage. The Committee directs NASA to report to the Committee on its findings by January 15, 1987. NASA should also make available to the academic community interested in utilizing ET resources in space both these findings and as appropriate, NASA technical expertise.