Shuttle Operator Proposes Postponing Shuttle Retirement By Taking them Private

This is an interesting development that even United Space Alliance admits is a long shot.

From USA Today:

NASA contractor United Space Alliance is preparing a long-shot bid to continue flying the shuttle as a commercial service after the space agency completes its last three planned missions this year.

Starting as soon as 2013, after construction of a new external tank, the lead operator of NASA’s shuttle fleet proposes to fly twice a year with Atlantis and Endeavour at a cost of under $1.5 billion a year.

If supported, the plan would reduce an anticipated gap of at least four years between launch of the last shuttle mission this year and availability of new privately run crew taxis, a period during which astronauts will depend on Russian spacecraft to reach the International Space Station.

“We thought this was a good option to be put on the table to be evaluated with all the other commercial options, since it’s a vehicle that has really proven itself,” said Mark Nappi, head of Houston-based USA’s Florida operations. “It is safe. We have a lot of history, we understand how to operate it.”

To avoid giving the company’s employees false hope, however, Nappi has told them the proposal is “very much a long-shot.”

NASA had no comment on the idea.

It think it’s a fantastic idea but it pretty much has a snowball’s chance in hell of happening.