JSC to develop technologies for future human space flight
Posted: October 27, 2001

Sharpening its focus on the next generation of human space flight, a new office at the Johnson Space Center will develop technologies to lead to the next reusable human spacecraft, work that could mean hundreds of millions of dollars of research efforts managed from Houston over the next few years.

JSC's new Space Launch Initiative Office will manage research and development of technologies unique to flying humans in space as part of NASA's almost $5 billion Space Launch Initiative.

"The Space Launch Initiative will develop technologies during the next four years that lead to the design of the next generation of spacecraft, and JSC will lead the portion of that effort focused on human space flight beyond the Space Shuttle," said veteran astronaut Dave Leestma, who will lead the new JSC office. "JSC has the world's leading experts on human space flight. The work done here will be important to the center's future. It will be important to the local economy. And it will be critical for the future of human space exploration."

Development work managed by JSC already has begun with two contracts totaling more than $7 million awarded earlier this year, beginning two innovative projects: designing an inflatable spacecraft airlock and characterizing materials that could protect astronauts from an exploding spacecraft. Numerous other development projects are anticipated to begin next year. The goal of the Space Launch Initiative, headed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL, is to enable a second generation of spacecraft that will be 100 times safer and 10 times cheaper to fly than the Space Shuttle.

"In the next 12 to 15 months, the level of effort and expenditures at JSC related to developing new technologies for the Space Launch Initiative could dramatically increase," Leestma said. "Our goal at JSC is to stay in the forefront of human space flight."

Since it first opened in Houston as the Manned Spacecraft Center in the early 1960s, engineers at JSC have led the development of every United States human spacecraft. The center's engineering expertise includes life support systems, crew escape systems, power generation, structures, thermal control systems, and crew equipment such as clothing and food, among other areas. JSC is also NASA's repository of expertise in planning, training and conducting human space flight. The research and development work to be overseen by JSC in the next few years is expected to encompass technologies related to these fields, creating innovative equipment with a goal of dramatically lowering the cost and increasing the safety of human space travel.

More information about NASA's Space Launch Initiative is available on the internet at: www.slinews.com.