The Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center is pushing ahead with a “launch service agreement” for future military missions in space that seems to be full of defects. First, it requires prospective providers to develop a new heavy-lift rocket even though the head of U.S. Strategic Command is signaling that he will oppose developing the kind of big, expensive satellites that require such lift into orbit. Second, it assumes a level of future demand for launch services from private companies that is not supported by current market trend data. Third, its aggressive development schedule adds considerable risk to military space plans without adding any capability beyond what is already resident in the legacy launch-vehicle fleet. Fourth, the likely level of savings from the proposed launch service agreement amounts to a mere two hours worth of federal spending over many years — and that’s before the higher costs associated with using unproven new vehicles and engines are factored in. The whole plan needs to be rethought with an eye to matching future military needs and reducing risk. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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