Continuing Discussions of the Path Forward

The Space Shuttle extended study contracts expired on October 31 and NASA for a second time extended the contracts for another four months. The focus of the continuing effort was still the Mark I/Mark II orbiter sequence with various means of boosting it into orbit. Low reported in early November that “the shuttle configuration is beginning to be focused on a considerably smaller orbiter with external hydrogen and oxygen tanks (but with the same payload size and weight), and with a pressure-fed recoverable booster that might be parallel staged. . . It may be possible to buy a shuttle for an investment cost (including the high pressure [space shuttle main] engine of less than $5 billion with cost per flight of the order of $10 million. . . Solid rocket motors also look promising.” On the basis of these study results, Low suggested that “if NASA were left to its own devices, I think we are now in a position to make a decision to move out with contractor selection and to proceed with the work. I believe it is important to get a decision on this soon and within the FY1973 budget process, unless the decision is the wrong decision.” The wrong decision, in Low’s view, “would be a glider on a Titan III.” But NASA had “not yet done adequate analysis of the glider,” primarily due to the resistance from Dale Myers and his space flight team, and thus NASA “should not absolutely discard it. The next several weeks will tell the story.” Also, observed Low, “NASA is not left to its own devices, and it appears that everyone wants to have their fingers in the pot.” Low also noted that “the only organized effort to either support or not support the shuttle is the so-called Flax Committee.” It seemed to Low to be important for NASA to influence the thinking of Flax and his associates.27

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