Friday, June 30, 2006

Development of Space Shuttle

Even before the Apollo moon landing in 1969, in October 1968 NASA began early studies of space shuttle designs. The early studies were denoted "Phase A", and in June 1970, "Phase B", which were more detailed and specific.
In 1969 President Richard M. Nixon formed the Space Task Group, chaired by vice president Spiro T. Agnew. They evaluated the shuttle studies to date, and recommended a national space strategy including building a space shuttle.
During early shuttle development there was great debate about the optimal shuttle design that best balanced capability, development cost and operating cost. Ultimately the current design was chosen, using a reusable winged orbiter, solid rocket boosters, and expendable external tank.

The Shuttle program was formally launched on January 5, 1972, when President Nixon announced that NASA would proceed with the development of a reusable Space Shuttle system.[1] The final design was less costly to build and less technically ambitious than earlier fully reusable designs.

The prime contractor for the program was North American Aviation (later Rockwell International), the same company responsible for the Apollo Command/Service Module. The contractor for the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters was Morton Thiokol (now part of Alliant Techsystems), for the external tank, Martin Marietta (now Lockheed Martin), and for the Space shuttle main engines, Rocketdyne