What’s wrong with this picture? After complaining for years about lack of competition in the market for launching military satellites, the Senate Armed Services Committee has approved a fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill that could drive the current provider of launch services out of business — conferring a virtual monopoly on new entrant SpaceX. That, apparently, would be the perverse result of a provision stating that no contracts can be entered into or renewed under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program with companies that rely on Russian space technology. The provision was intended to punish Russia for its annexation of Crimea, but it would also preclude the United Launch Alliance from offering both its Atlas V and Delta IV boosters. Atlas relies on a Russian first stage, while Delta would be excluded if it were part of a package that included Atlas. That’s precisely what the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture proposed for a 2012 sole-source award of 36 rocket cores, which would be in jeopardy under the terms of the pending legislation. If the wording of the legislation is not changed, SpaceX — which disclosed last week it has cleared a major hurdle in being certified to compete for military launches — would be the Last Man Standing in a marketplace deprived of its most experienced provider. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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