NASA has finally retired the space shuttle. This should have been done sooner, and there was disappointingly little scientific comment on the subject. Scientific comment on NASA's programs should be made, and should be taken seriously. It is arguable that they are not as modern as the scientific method could produce.
NASA now needs a new program. An outline of such a program is presented here, which is an example of scientific discussion which should be fully considered. Further research from the scant outline given here is clearly required, but assuming that this outline is reasonably correct, a program along these lines would solve many problems, in a particularly robust manner which would vastly improve America's capabilities in space, improve safety, increase cost effectiveness, and solve other problems such as the orbital debris problem. The author of this Web page has been advocating this program since 1990 and even earlier. Some details of this effort are given in a history page.
An integrated space program is defined here to be a coordinated ensemble of components for carrying out space missions. For example, a large booster is not needed to travel to the moon (or for any other purpose). Rather, the space station has (re-usable) components necessary to travel to the moon. For the crew, the first and last legs of a lunar mission are simply regular flights to and from the station.
Basic principles of system engineering can be applied to the design of the components of an integrated space program:
The discussion given here is intended to make a convincing argument that an integrated space program can be undertaken forthwith. Most suggestions are of a general nature, but still may be of interest. Attempts are made to relate the discussion to existing research. Clearly, integrating an entire large program will require the contributions of many people. The establishment of an oversight committee would be a good start. This could begin developing overall strategy, integrating existing research, and eliminating redundancy; and could continue to fulfill these roles as work progressed.
Several recurring themes occur throughout the discussion. A great deal of research has already been done, and merely needs to be integrated. Design constraints can be relaxed. Approaches previously rejected as infeasible can be reconsidered. An entire target system should be designed before any components, coordinating and revising as necessary to ensure maximum integration and capability.
The backbone system consists of the following components
Additional subsystems include the following.