What Comes After the Space Shuttle?

Mark Uhran: So we’re at a major point in transition with the International Space Station Program.

With the ramping down of the space shuttle, we are changing our approach to transportation.  Fortunately, we have, through this international partnership, very reliable vehicles, the Russian Soyuz and the Russian Progress, we’ve also recently demonstrated in Europe and in Japan, cargo vehicles that can rendezvous with the space station.  And then finally, in the United States have contracted with private organizations to demonstrate new cargo transportation vehicle over the next 12 to 24 months. 

We’re confident that those demonstrations will occur roughly on schedule and that we will be able to transition from the shuttle era where we were basically using the equipment an 18-wheeler truck to move large pieces of the space station, large elements like laboratories and solar arrays up to orbit, but for the next 10 years, we’re not going to need the equivalent of an 18-wheeler, we’re going to need the equivalent of a pick-up truck.  And that’s what these international vehicles are and what these commercial vehicles are that we expect to demonstrate here in the next several months. 

These last two flights are essentially propositioning the final spares that we need to make sure that the vehicle will operate safely until commercial transportation systems become available.

We have an extremely capable platform and our view is that we can turn that to productive uses over the next decade.

With the ramping down of the space shuttle, and the beginning of a new space race driven by the private sector, it's a brave new world.

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