Written By Guest Blogger Karen Cramer Shea
Katrina was a very powerful but nobody expected its destruction could reach all the way to Low Earth Orbit. The External Tank Factory for the shuttle is in New Orleans. While initial reports were optimistic the continuing deterioration of the situation in New Orleans looks bad for the external tank plant. The reports of looters and fires sound even worse.The satellite photo looks like the area is flooded. (compare to the Google Map, looking at the area to the east of I-510).
The work force is scattered, their homes destroyed, along with the entire infrastructure of New Orleans. NASA is talking about a delay of the next shuttle launch until May. I think that is very optimistic. They may be able to move workers to Florida to modify the tanks they have.
Another year delay in the International Space Station would make completion by deadline impossible. If the Michoud plant is badly damaged how much are we willing to pay to fix it? This cost should be considered when looking at the cost of the Shuttle Derived Heavy Lift Vehicle since, if the major repair of the facility will not help ISS construction, it should be considered part of the the new launcher. Which may eliminate any cost advantage over, starting from scratch with a Boeing built Saturn 5 derived launch vehicle.