Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ten Questions for HSF Committee - Question 3

Should Earth orbit be included in the Flexible Path?

The Committee outlines a number of Flexible Path (deep space) destinations. However, it does not list Earth orbit. The Committee's charter is framed so that exploration is viewed as activity beyond low-Earth orbit. However, there are Earth orbits beyond LEO that could be useful for satellite servicing, remote sensing, and other purposes. If the subject at hand wasn't beyond-LEO exploration, we could also consider non-traditional orbits for astronauts in LEO, such as sun-synchronous polar orbits for satellite servicing.

Should these Earth orbit destinations be considered in the Flexible Path? Perhaps they could be considered Flexible Path commercial "off-ramps", based on whether or not the commercial space industry is interested in taking over satellite servicing capabilities NASA develops for Flexible Path Lagrange point observatories and applying those capabilities to Earth-orbiting satellites?

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