Sunday, February 12, 2012

Leinbach: Commercial Crew is "Going to Happen"

July 21, 2011 — Shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach displays an orbiter Atlantis banner for STS-135 commander Chris Ferguson. Image source: NASA.

Florida Today space columnist John Kelly has a lengthy interview with Mike Leinbach, former Shuttle launch director who now consults for United Launch Alliance.

We talked this week about a wide range of space topics and the most important thing I got from it is that Leinbach, who commands an awful lot of respect from the human space flight community, is perhaps more optimistic about the potential of private companies’ efforts to deliver astronaut crews to low Earth orbit than anyone I’ve heard talk about it, including SpaceX’s Elon Musk.

“This is going to happen,” Leinbach said, repeating the mantra several times. “It’s going to happen.”

Among the highlights of the article:

  • Linebach estimates that the Atlas V will be ready for crewed flight in 2½ to 3½ years.
  • A new launch tower needs to be built at LC-41, which wasn't designed for crewed launches. "A further complication to that effort is developing an access tower that would work for three different designs of spacecraft: from private operators Boeing, Siera Nevada and Blue Origin, the three commercial crew firms who’ve opted to fly on Atlas V."
There’s a palpable excitement across the spaceport right now among the various government and commercial endeavors, Leinbach said, as people look toward what could be next. “The folks I talk to in my company are super excited about the prospects of launching humans on the rockets,” he said.

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