NASA sifts future shuttle maintenance programs

NASA is reviewing a list of 60 recommendations that will shape the course of spending on space shuttle maintenance over the next 22 years.

A panel is reviewing this list, and within the next 30 to 45 days it will pick those of highest priority to fund first, said Mike Kostelnik, deputy associate administrator for the International Space Station and Space Shuttle Programs.

Some of the chosen projects may be funded immediately, while others NASA will request to be funded in the 2005 budget.

The selection process is part of the Shuttle Service Life Extension Program, a reorganization of maintenance operations that reflects how NASA wants the shuttle to be used over the next three decades. The program covers tasks such as improving reliability, performance and safety.

In its 2004 proposed budget, NASA said it is planning to extend the life of the shuttle program as well as open it up to more contracting, according to market research firm Federal Sources Inc., McLean, Va. The agency has $3.9 billion slated for the shuttle program in 2004, an increase of $700 million over 2003, according to Federal Sources.

Kostelnik said March 24 that the list of 60 projects was culled from a much larger list of more than 300 projects collected from NASA engineers, which was compiled before the space shuttle Columbia disaster Feb. 1. He said the investigation into the disaster would influence which projects get funded.

The board's recommendations could result in "$2 million studies or $200 million programs" that would correct the deficiencies found, Kostelnik said. He would not comment on how much he expects the agency would spend for the maintenance program overall.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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