Space Shuttle Replacement

What NASA proposes doing in the near future (the next 20 years or so) is to continue operating the current fleet of Space Shuttles, but make continuous improvements to the fleet to increase performance (payload to orbit), safety, and reliability. You might have heard in the news recently that the Orbiter Columbia, the oldest member of the fleet, just returned from the Palmdale facility after almost a year and a half of upgrades. One particular item of interest was the installation of a "glass cockpit" that replaced many of the mechanical dials and gauges on the flight deck with far more advanced digital displays.

The drive and hype about creating the next generation vehicle to replace the Space Shuttle comes and goes in cycles, with the last such episode occurring in the early and mid 1990s with the announcement of the X-33. I would expect a replacement vehicle to be well underway by 2025. But as long as the Space Shuttle fleet is still getting the job done, and done well might I add, NASA will continue to use this vehicle.
- answer by Aaron Brown, 27 May 2001

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