16.891J | Spring 2003 | Graduate
Space Policy Seminar


The term project accounts for 40% of the class grade, and is performed by the class as a group.

A Strategy for the Development of a Reusable Launch Vehicle


The Shuttle was developed in the late sixties. It’s operational life can take it through 2025. Many have called for NASA to develop a new reusable launch vehicle that will substantially reduce the cost of launch to orbit. However, this has been tried before with a great deal of money spent before the project was cancelled (X-33). This project will develop the strategies to develop a new reusable launch vehicle in the 2025 timeframe.


  1. A publishable, scholarly research paper. Due: Lec #12.
  2. A detailed outline of the research paper. Due: Lec #8.
  3. A bibliography of all sources consulted. Due: Lec #9.
  4. A presentation for the class that summarizes the research paper and leads the group in a scholarly discussion of the issue. Due: Lec #11.
  5. A set of readings to be distributed to all visitors, to provide them with background. Due: 1 week prior to presentation


The project will accomplish the following tasks:

  1. Review past NASA and Air Force attempts to develop a reusable launch vehicle.
  2. Assess the possibilities for international cooperation in the development of such a vehicle.
  3. Determine the potential commercial viability of such a system.
  4. Study the potential NASA/Air Force joint requirements for such a vehicle.
  5. Propose (cost-effective) strategies for the development of such a vehicle.