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The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics is the

technical society whose membership of 25,000 engineers, scientists,

and students represent all the disciplines of the aerospace profession. Clearly, space is our business. We have frequently presented

testimony on future space programs before subcommittees of this com

mittee and elsewhere, and we appreciate this further opportunity to

express our views to the full Committee on this 20th anniversary of

our nation's first successful space flight.

In the past two decades, the U. S. space program has come nearly

full circle.

Our initial efforts were of necessity exploratory, seek

ing to develop the technology and capability needed for more ambitious

future endeavors.

The manned lunar missions demonstrated how success

fully we accomplished that phase. In the decade of the 1970's, we have turned more and more to the utilization of our space capabilities

to improve the quality of life here on Earth.

Applications to communi

cations, meteorology, resource detection and education, and the develop

ment of new scientific knowledge about the Earth, Sun, solar system, and the stars have become the principal focus of space activities.

Now, we are preparing to begin again the process of maturing a

whole new gamut of capabilities. The advent of the space shuttle both enlarges our ability to perform applications-oriented missions and opens

news vistas of what we can accomplish in space.

Other witnesses at

these hearings will describe some of these prospective new missions,

many of which are described in previous AIAA publications which have

been placed in the records of this Committee's activities. Many AIAA

members believe that whereas we are devoting adequate attention to

the applications (including scientific exploration)

and these are

certainly both excellent and necessary

we are not preparing properly

for the potential expansion of space activities which is made possible by the introduction of reusable space transportation systems. These

concerns were expressed by members of our Technical Committee on Space

Systems, and endorsed by our Board of Directors, in our critique of

NASA's "Outlook for Space" study several years ago.


they are still applicable today.

Our concerns fall into two categories: technical and managerial.

We can dispose of the managerial concern quickly: it is simply that

one of NASA's basic purposes

research and development of new space

technologies, systems, and capabilities

should not be allowed to

become secondary to the operation of applications programs, with the consequent deemphasis on advanced programs designed to support future


We recognize, of course, the need for someone to operate our

space systems

Earth resources, space transportation, astronomical

and scientific satellites, and so on

but we should not foreclose

on our preparation for the future in order to do so.

We believe this Committee should initiate the exploration of the various approaches to implementing the operational aspects of space activities. Possible options are to expand NASA's charter, as was

suggested by former AIAA President Daniel Fink in Astronautics &

Aeronautics back in 1973; to set up new federal agencies; to transfer

operational activities to an existing cognizant federal agency (as was done with weather satellite operations); to encourage private industry to take over operations, as was the case with communications satellites; or, when operations have a multinational application, to

organize an international consortium such as Intelsat.

Even the

shuttle, once it has reached operational status, should perhaps be operated by an entity more like a commercial airline. It is a

transportation system, and NASA's job should be improving it and developing follow-on capability, not selling tickets or performing

engine and airframe maintenance.

The forthcoming competition of the

ESA Ariane launch vehicle for shuttle payloads emphasizes the need for careful thought on this question.

I would like to turn now to our most serious concern: the lack

of technology programs directed at the fulfillment of the promise of


Note that in concentrating on technologies, I do not mean to

ignore the important task of defining new space missions for the


However, there are a number of AIAA publications already in

the record of this Committee and its Subcommittees which suggest new

missions; many more are suggested by other witnesses at these hearings.

But without the basic technological capabilities, none of these new

missions will be viable.

Although the general attitude of emphasing applications to the detriment of future capability development prevails almost across the board at NASA, I will limit myself in this paper to only three examples of technologies which we believe are essential to our future in space,

and which are not now receiving adequate attention.

These three areas

are propulsion, power, and large space structures.

The lack of a sound NASA rocket propulsion technology program, identified over three years ago by NASA's own Research and Technology

Advisory Council, is already beginning to affect plans for proper

shuttle utilization. Many of the shuttle's prospective customers re

quire higher energy orbits than the shuttle orbiter can provide; especially geosynchronous orbits and Earth-escape trajectories.


projected interim upper stage and spin-stabilized upper stage do not

begin to meet the capabilities required of a standardized orbital

transfer vehicle

and the principal lack is that of a good, advanced

liquid-propellant rocket engine, which in the long run could reduce

transportation costs and make the shuttle system economically more


As a consequence, the shuttle may suffer a serious loss

of potential business; e.g., to the ESA Ariane launch vehicle I

mentioned earlier.

But the lack of an active and viable rocket propulsion technology program has even more serious consequences: a loss of intrinsic cap

ability in this area.

Our impressive past successes in space were

in no small measure the result of several decades of building propul

sion capability: test facilities, production facilities, support

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facilities, propulsion hardware, and, most important, people. NASA's cadre of experienced rocket propulsion personnel is dwindling rapidly,

(as are key NASA cadres in other space technologies).

There are no

new people coming along to replace them, because there are few programs

for them to work on.

The industry cannot develop new engines on their

own; such high-risk efforts classically are performed by government


And because virtually all space activities require pro

pulsion, the absence of a strong, continuing program of research and

technology implies an approaching obsolescence in our entire future

space program, which is what these hearings are, hopefully, aimed at


The weakness of NOW's space power technology program will not

be felt quite so soon

in propulsion, but it could turn out to be

more serious a limitation in the long run.

It is already evident

that even the shuttle's fuel-cell powerplant, basically an Apollo

derivative, will limit several projected Spacelab and other missions.

And fuel cells are only short-term power sources.

The next commercial

phase of space activity generally recognized as the development of new and improved comunications functions will require substantially

greater power than the maximum of a few kilowatts now available from

current photovoltaic power supplies. Projections to more ambitious programs in the industrialization of space, which I will touch on

later, identify on-board electric power as one of the principal limita


Photovoltaic supplies might be able to be used up to perhaps

50 kW, but higher power levels, such as are needed, for example, by

the space-based propellant processing system which General Dynamics has suggested as a means for expanding shuttle capabilities, probably

require more compact systems.

Yet, aside from one extremely high-risk

400 kWe heat-pipe-cooled reacter design employing even higher-risk thermionic converters, there are no nuclear reacter space power sources

under active consideration today.

And even the high-risk 400 kWe

system study does not include a reacter technology development effort.

The final point of technical concern I wish to bring to your attention is the lack of a responsible, coherent research and technology program aimed at understanding the fabrication, deployment, utilization, evaluation, and maintenance of large structures in space. The preponderance of space activities which have been suggested for the late 1980's and 1990's will require not only the higher levels of onboard power I have already mentioned, but also the use of much larger

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