An article yesterday gave incorrect figures for the Air Force's rocket-related budget requests. The Air Force is seeking an additional $1.3 billion for this year and next to begin two programs that would provide large and small rocket boosters to launch satellites once programmed to be carried on shuttles. Additional funds would be needed in the future to complete both programs. One would add 13 large rockets to the 10 Congress approved last year; the other would seek smaller rockets to launch the Navstar satellites, 18 of which will make up the Global Positioning Network and provide navigation information to military and civilian users.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration plans to resume shuttle flights by mid-1987 with a sharply altered program that will be heavily dominated by military launches required by the Department of Defense, top NASA and Pentagon officials said yesterday.
Rear Adm. Richard H. Truly, the space agency's associate administrator for space flight, told a Senate subcommittee that NASA is mapping a future flight schedule that will start within 18 months with a "fully operational" mission aimed at replacing the tracking and data satellite destroyed in the Jan. 28 Challenger accident.
But as much as two-thirds of future shuttle flights may have to be devoted exclusively to launching defense satellites to alleviate a growing backlog of Pentagon payloads that have been grounded because of the Challenger accident, Secretary of the Air Force Edward Aldridge told the space science subcommittee.
Moreover, if Congress does not fund a new orbiter to replace the Challenger, leaving NASA with a three-orbiter fleet, "it will be DOD the Department of Defense flying the shuttle all by itself," said Aldridge.
The comments by Truly and Aldridge reflect sweeping shifts in U.S. space policy that are expected to be recommended later this week by a special Reagan administration interagency task force set up after the Challenger disaster.
The task force, which has scheduled a final meeting for Friday, has tentatively decided on a $5 billion to $8 billion recovery program that calls for a new $2.8 billion shuttle orbiter along with a fleet of large and small unmanned rockets for the Pentagon, according to administration and congressional sources.
A consensus is also emerging from the task force, with strong opposition from NASA, that commercial satellites should be gradually shifted off of the shuttle payload schedule to spur development of private rocket industry, according to the sources.
But the task force has been deadlocked over how to fund the program, with Office of Management and Budget director James C. Miller III insisting that it be "budgetary neutral," requiring NASA and other affected agencies to come up with corresponding cuts in other programs.
"I understand the hang-up in forwarding the request to the executive branch is money," said Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.) at yesterday's hearing. "In other words, the OMB, I am told, would like to take it out of the hide of NASA . . . . "
"The whole proposal is dead in the water until budget offsets are found," said one source familiar with the task force work.
Truly and Aldridge declined to comment on the task force's recommendations at yesterday's hearing. But Aldridge outlined a heavy schedule of military launches that, agency officials said later, would leave less and less room for commerical and scientific missions.
A one-year shutdown in the shuttle will create a Pentagon backlog of 10 satellites that will grow even more serious if the delay extends to two years, he said.
"If the down time is two years, DOD will have serous problems with 21 high-priority payloads waiting on the launch pad," said Aldridge. "During this two-year period, over 35 shuttle flights would be canceled, requiring those payloads to be reallocated to later shuttle missions, converted to expendable launch vehicles or just canceled."
Some of this backlog may be eased if the Air Force gets the $1.3 billion it seeks for 10 new large unmanned rockets. But even with the rockets, the Pentagon will still require that four to six shuttle flights per year be devoted to launching its satellites, Aldridge testified.
At least half of these satellites are so large they will require the entire cargo bay of the shuttle while the remainder would take up about one-third of capacity, he said.
Aldridge, a member of the administration task force, said launching commercial satellites "is not an effective use of the shuttle program" and that they should be "off-loaded" so that private rocket companies can develop a market.
Meanwhile, the Orlando Sentinel reported that some families of Challenger's seven crew members are being notified that the astronauts' remains will be released for burial in two or three weeks.
"No definite date has been set," said Dr. Marvin Resnik of Akron, Ohio, whose daughter, Judith, a scientist, was making her second shuttle flight.
NASA will not comment on recovery and identification efforts, and conflicting reports have emerged about how many crew members have been accounted for. Some sources said the remains of one astronaut have eluded recovery.
The space agency "told the families that possibly by the end of this month or by the first week of May they will finish with all the forensics, the pathology work," Marvin Resnik said in a telephone interview with the Sentinel.
"They hope they will have identified them all. Apparently they have not identified them all. They are not intact. They have identified practically all of them."