The Pentagon’s new Under Secretary for Research and Engineering, Michael Griffin, may be the most intellectually gifted public servant in the entire Trump administration. What he is best known for, though, is his extensive background in space technology — most notably as NASA Administrator in the Bush administration. Given his resume, it’s a safe bet that Griffin will be taking a close look at the Air Force’s plan to secure space launch services in the future. He may not like what he finds. The U.S. already has highly reliable launch vehicles for reaching all nine national-security reference orbits, but due to the need to stop using Russian engines and business pressures in the space sector, they are likely to be retired. The methane-powered engines and launch vehicles that replace them could be less reliable, and it will take a long time before their reliability can even be determined. Secretary Griffin may have something to say about that. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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