Issues Concerning the Future Operation of the Space Transportation System

MASAD-83-6: Published: Dec 28, 1982. Publicly Released: Dec 28, 1982.

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In this study, GAO reports on the operational responsibilities of the Space Transportation System and presents information on operational issues which must be dealt with in the years ahead by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and for which budgetary decisions will most likely have to be made by Congress.

Whether NASA should manage Space Shuttle operations or shift management responsibility to another agency or commercial organization once the shuttle achieves a reasonable degree of maturity will determine whether NASA remains primarily a research and development organization or increases its role in space operations. The delay in a NASA plan to transfer the logistics management of the program to the Kennedy Space Center has raised a question as to whether adequate logistics procedures are being developed and implemented on a timely basis. GAO also had questions about launch and mission control operations. Plans to lease an area near the Kennedy launch site for oil and mineral exploration could increase launch costs and flight safety risks. There is also some question as to whether the current NASA accounting system and procedures will provide adequate data for NASA to manage its Space Transportation System and properly bill other agencies and commercial organizations for its use. In addition, NASA may require additional launch and landing facilities if it plans to maintain or increase the shuttle launch rate. It appears that the Space Shuttle cannot adequately support the traffic demand in the near future. Thus, there is a question as to the need for additional launch vehicles. Since NASA is still working toward its design goals, it should identify how long the developments will continue, how much they will cost, and how they impact on future NASA budgets.

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