Looking to the 1990s: Will shuttle compete?



The space shuttle is designed to be the major vehicle for manned United States space flight for the next several decades. The shuttle is also designed to be the major service vehicle for operating earth-orbiting experiments, satellites, and other payloads. The high development costs are having an influence on the entire space program and are likely to produce a new balance of geophysical, commercial, and military space applications. It is likely that as more commercial and military funding sources are called upon to support the missions, the payloads may reflect less of the scientific goals of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Shuttle 3, which lifted off this past March, carried numerous instruments for geophysical measurements; for example, the microabrasion foil experiment for obtaining data on micrometeorite densities and which was designed by a British group at the University of Kent and is the first experiment to originate from outside the United States. The current shuttle 4 has numerous experiments but also has a large classified package.