Let’s assume for a moment that say ten years into the development of the Gen1 Enterprise NASA concludes that there is no way to have the ship fully deployed by the 20th year since the start of full funding. So is the program then declared a failure and canceled? Well, no. There is actually a sturdy backup plan to still get the Enterprise built.
First, it’s important to recall that the NASA Enterprise program is based on a new law that provides .27% of GDP each year to fund the development of a series of Enterprise ships, one new one every 33 years. However, initially we start with having zero Enterprises. To get quickly get into the age of having Enterprise-class spaceships, a goal is to develop the Gen1 ship at an accelerated pace so that the first ship is completed in 20 years rather than 33. Getting the Gen1 ship done in 20 years gives us a jumpstart for getting humans out into space in a big way.
But if NASA finds that it will take longer than 20 years, say even the full 33 years, to complete the Gen1 ship then the Gen1 schedule is revised as needed. Thus the backup plan is this: If the Enterprise schedule cannot be met, even after every effort has been made to get it fully developed within the 20 year goal, the schedule will be slipped for up to the 33rd year since the start of full funding.
Similarly, let’s say that the 20 year schedule can be met for the Gen1 Enterprise, but instead of a schedule problem there are cost challenges. Say it just can’t get done for under the $1 trillion goal. In this case the schedule can be extended until enough money is obtained. Since the money going to NASA each year for the Enterprise program is fixed at .27% of GDP, the money will eventually be adequate to complete the Gen1 ship. It’s just a matter of time. It takes 20 years to accumulate the $1 trillion for the Enterprise with funding at .27% of GDP. If the schedule is extended to 25 years, $1.3 trillion is available. And if the schedule is extended all the way to 33 years, $2.0 trillion is available.
This is not to say that we in any way want to drag out the schedule for the Gen1 ship beyond its 20 year development goal or to spend more than $1 trillion on it. These should be the official schedule and cost goals given to NASA by Congress and the president. The schedule slips will occur only if NASA cannot complete the ship development on time or if the $1 trillion budget is exceeded.
So let’s be clear: Once the funding is put into law at .27% of GDP, the funds for the Enterprise program never stop going to NASA unless the law is changed. This means that the Gen1 ship will be built; it’s only a matter of time.