The stock boys are back in the warehouse doing inventory this week. With new life instilled in the shuttle huggers by the Number One former shuttle hater, one wonders just how far into the gap can one go?
External tanks are the obvious question mark. There is sufficient inventory of raw materials in the pipeline, thanks Wayne, to fly at about a twice per year rate until 2014 or so.
SSMEs also have something to add to discussion. Twelve flight sets could be fielded with what's on the shelf. Let's see, two flights a year, that's six years....2014 again.
So the numbers are starting to come up in the ballpark. All but that $3B number, course. But let's not get silly over that.
However, people are also required to make this student body right work. (Un)fortunately, the writing has been on the wall for four years, and many of the engineers at Michoud actually started believing it. Any new assignment is grabbed as fast as the ejector seat handle can be found. The tank contractor has also signalled that D-Day will come sometime in September as the need for tanks beyond 2010 appears to peter out. If the aging shuttle is to be provided an opportunity to take itself out of work via natural causes, instead of the previously proposed rational plan, then something is going to have to change in the next 90 days or so.
What's an Emperor to do?