National aeronautics and space administration
Authorization act, fiscal year 1988

JULY 7. 1987.–Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the

Union and ordered to be printed

 

Utilization of Orbiting Shuttle External Tanks

The Committee notes that the Space Shuttle External Tank (ET) is a potentially valuable resource that should be considered for possible space development. Qualified academic research groups could be awarded ET resources for spacebased research much like the land grant concept of the pest. Using orbiting ETs, universities working cooperatively with industry might be able to increase scientific research opportunities, expand our Nation’s space infrastructure and broaden the spectrum of private space enterprise.

In response to the Committee’s request in House Authorization Report 99-829, NASA has delivered to the Committee a report specifying the technical, operational, cost, and safety requirements for ET orbit insertion. The NASA report “External Tank Utilization on Orbit” states: “The engineering and operating problems involved with this objective are basically within the current state-of-the-art of Shuttle operations, support system and technology.” The report also specifies the impact on Shuttle payload, propellant requirements for station keeping, requirements for accessibility to orbiting ETs, probability of space debris or micrometeoroid damage, and NASA’s estimate of the cost of ET modifications and operations. The Committee appreciates the delivery of this detailed report in response to the Committee’s specific request.

The Committee is pleased to be informed of progress achieved by university groups and NASA in the past year toward realizing the potential value of ET resources: (1) The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), a Z-year old group of 57 universities and research institutions, is leading the “Space Phoenix” program to obtain orbiting ETs and develop them for scientific and commercial purposes using non-government funds; (2) NASA has created a high level committee to work with UCAR on the Space Phoenix program; (3) UCAR and the Government are making good progress toward an agreement concerning transfer of one or more ET’s to UCAR; (4) NASA is supporting studies of a Gamma Ray Imaging Telescope (GRIT) which could be installed in an orbiting ET; (5) Zero gravity simulations of GRIT telescope assembly procedures are being conducted at the Marshall Space Flight Center; (6) A symposium of space scientists has been convened by university groups to consider science experiments that can be conducted in and from space using ETs.

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