DENVER (CBS4) – Replacing the shuttle and its crew with a commercial vehicle took another step forward on Monday that could mean a great deal Colorado-based space industry jobs.
Since its first flight nine years ago, the Atlas V has flown 26 missions without a single failure. The payloads aboard the trusted workhorse have always been unmanned. Now the Atlas V will be evaluated for human flight.
“With the shuttle landing here in a few days, it does not mean an end to human space flight,” said Ed Mango, NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager. “It means that chapter is going to finish and we’re going to pickup with a new chapter.”
On Monday the United Launch Alliance hosted a joint news conference with NASA to announce the two parties have entered in an agreement. It’s to evaluate the suitability of the Atlas V for carrying a commercial astronaut crew into space.
“This entails a part-by-part, system-by-system review of the design analysis and test pedigree of the Atlas,” said George Sowers, UAL Vice President of Business Development.
Next month Lockheed Martin’s Colorado-built Juno spacecraft will be launched atop an Atlas V on a journey to Jupiter. If Atlas V is eventually rated for human spaceflight, it could mean additional jobs for Colorado.
“Yeah there is potential for a significant number of jobs in a number of different ULA sites, including Colorado as well as Alabama and Florida,” Sowers said.
Selection of the commercial spacecraft to replace the shuttle is still being worked out.
It is the beginning of a partnership ULA and NASA. NASA wants to be able to service the International Space Station by the middle of the decade.
The agreement is unfunded but allows NASA to collect technical information on the potential expanded capability of ULA’s Atlas V rocket.