Implications of Joint NASA/DOD Participation in Space Shuttle Operations

Gao ID: NSIAD-84-13 November 7, 1983

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided its assessment of joint National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Department of Defense (DOD) participation in space shuttle operations and Air Force activities concerned with developing and acquiring a dedicated DOD shuttle operations control facility.

GAO found that, with the advent of the space shuttle, a trend has developed toward increasingly integrated NASA/DOD space operations. However, this relationship is complicated by the agencies' differing missions and objectives. This is particularly true with respect to DOD requirements for classified operations. A large portion of the cost burden for many military shuttle requirements is being borne by NASA, and extensive, long-term NASA support to DOD will be required for launch and landing operations, tracking and data acquisition services, and backup to DOD mission control systems. While NASA support to DOD is growing, the civilian program's future direction is not clear because the organization of future shuttle operations is undecided, and overall civilian space goals are still being defined. With the assistance of NASA, DOD is developing a shuttle operations and planning complex to be used solely for military missions. The complex would be equipped with the higher levels of security needed for such missions and would provide direct and exclusive military control of shuttle flight operations. However, GAO found that the development costs and system design options being considered for the complex could reduce the mission effectiveness of DOD.


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