October 14, 2009, 10:01 PM — As it looks to significantly reshape its future, NASA today said it would partner with the US Air Force Research Laboratory to develop a technology roadmap for use of reusable commercial spaceships.
The study of reusable launch vehicles, or RLVs will focus on identifying technologies and assessing their potential use to accelerate the development of commercial reusable launch vehicles that have improved reliability, availability, launch turn-time, robustness and significantly lower costs than current launch systems, NASA stated. The study results will provide roadmaps with recommended government technology tasks and milestones for different vehicle categories.
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NASA and the Air Force will begin the study by soliciting feedback from the emerging commercial space industry regarding emerging or existing technologies that would most benefit their existing and near-term space vehicle systems.
That list could include any number of commercial space firms from Xcor and Scaled Composites to Orbital and SpaceX.
According to NASA it will look at four categories of space vehicles to develop its roadmap:1.Reusable, sub-orbital vehicles2.Expendable and partially reusable, orbital vehicles3.Reusable, two-stage orbital vehicles4.Advanced vehicle concepts, such as single stage to orbit, air-breathing systems, in-flight refueling, and tethered upper stage
Within those vehicles, NASA and the Air Force will evaluate all manner of flight systems from space entry, descent and recovery systems to avionics, communications and flight control.
"Low-cost and reliable access to space will deliver significant benefits to all NASA's existing missions, from science to human exploration to aeronautics, as well as to our nation's security and to national economic growth," said Doug Comstock, director of NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program at NASA Headquarters in a release.
NASA recently said it would offer $50 million in stimulus money to further develop private commercial spacecraft. NASA said its Commercial Crew and Cargo Program looks to develop and demonstrate safe, reliable, and cost-effective capabilities to transport cargo and eventually crew to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station.