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Spies and ShuttlesNASA's Secret Relationships with the DoD and CIA$
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James E. David

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780813049991

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813049991.001.0001

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The National Security Agencies Abandon the Shuttle

The National Security Agencies Abandon the Shuttle

Chapter:
(p.218) Chapter 7 The National Security Agencies Abandon the Shuttle
Source:
Spies and Shuttles
Author(s):

James E. David

Publisher:
University Press of Florida
DOI:10.5744/florida/9780813049991.003.0008

It soon became evident after the Shuttle's long-delayed first flight in 1981 that it could neither meet the estimated flight schedule nor achieve the original performance specifications needed for the heaviest national security payloads. Other problems plagued the program as well. The DoD abandoned its policy during the first two years of Shuttle operations of having backup expendable launch vehicles (ELVs) for all payloads and assigned the few remaining ones to launch specific satellites. Over the strenuous objections of NASA, it obtained permission in 1984 to build ten new launch vehicles for the heaviest payloads that the Shuttle could not carry. After the secure command and control system and the upper stage became operational, the DoD flew unclassified and classified payloads until the Challenger accident in 1986. The Challenger accident seriously disrupted the DoD's launch schedule, and it quickly began acquisition of several new classes of ELVs. Because performance-enhancing measures for the Shuttle were soon cancelled, the unused West Coast launch complex was mothballed. The DoD flew its last Shuttle missions from 1988 to 1992, presumably with payloads that could not fly on ELVs or that were too expensive to reconfigure to permit this. Its participation in the Shuttle program came to a premature end at an immense cost and with few benefits to show for it.

Keywords:   NASA, DoD, ELV, Challenger, Shuttle

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