National Aerospace Plane Program: principal assumptions, findings, and policy options
This paper outlines key issues raised by the National AeroSpace Plane Program (NASP) and suggests policy options to be examined further. The need for routine space access and U.S. aeronautical leadership makes NASP a national priority. The costs and uncertainties of NASP, however, necessitate reducing its risks. The author raises the following points: (1) the rate of technical progress, cost projections, and potential applications of NASP technology are uncertain; (2) NASP development costs and possible increases may force tradeoffs with other research and development in subsonic aircraft and launch vehicle technology; and (3) the 1988-1989 fiscal year budget will require decisions on major funding increases for flying "technology demonstrators." The author suggests some policy options to be examined: (1) maintain NASP research efforts, but deemphasize operational applications; (2) hedge NASP research by expanding efforts in other space and aeronautical transport programs; and (3) increase National Aeronautics and Space Administration responsibility for NASP work and ease classification restrictions.