NASA and AFRL To Develop Commercial RLV Roadmap

NASA and AFRL To Develop Commercial RLV Roadmap

NASA will partner with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to develop a roadmap for the commercial reusable launch vehicle (RLV) industry, NASA announced Tuesday.

NASA and AFRL hope to plan ahead for the long-range needs of the budding commercial RLV industry by producing a technology roadmap with recommended government technology tasks, milestones for three different vehicle categories, as well as initial budget and resource estimates.

Lori Garver, Deputy Administrator of NASA, was quoted in the press release saying that the project follows “a natural evolutionary path from today’s emerging commercial suborbital RLV industry to growing and developing the capability to provide low-cost, frequent and reliable access to low Earth orbit.” Efforts to address the need of increased cost-effectiveness and reliability date back to the 1970s when reusability in launch systems was first advocated and the Space Shuttle program was being developed. In the 1990s, NASA partnered with Lockheed Martin on the X-33 program to build a commercial RLV called Venturestar, but without success.

The NASA press release also quoted Doug Comstock, director of NASA’s Innovative Partnerships Program, who spoke of the wide ranging support that the RLV industry could provide to NASA activities in space and said the effort acknowledges “the great successes of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in stimulating the American commercial airplane industry nearly 100 years ago.” This NASA/AFRL study thus expands efforts towards increased reusability and ties in with NASA’s commitment to support the commercial space industry.

The roadmap study will begin at the Commercial and Government Responsive Access to Space Technology Exchange 2009, held in Dayton, Ohio from Oct. 26-29.

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