Air Force Will Provide Assured Access To Space
|Targeted News Service|
"Space assets have been a key element of warfighting for over 30 years, providing a unique vantage to observe activity around the globe, relay terrestrial communications and provide precision position information," Shelton said.
He explained the challenge is ensuring space services continue to be available, even as the space domain continues to change and evolve. The first step in this process is to assure access to space for national security payloads.
"The loss of even one national security payload - both in terms of financial loss and operations impact - would make our mission assurance costs look like cheap insurance," he said. "We will continue to place emphasis on tough mission assurance principles to do all that is humanly possible to guard against launch failure."
Shelton was joined by Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics the Honorable
"The nation requires robust, responsive and resilient space transportation capabilities that enable and advance our space operations," Estevez said. "The Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program has provided launch services for critical national security payloads since 2002 with an unprecedented record of success."
The growing costs of the EELV program caused the
The restructure allowed the
"This year's budget reduces the (EELV) program by
The strategy focuses on driving competition between private companies for the award of space launch contracts.
"The commercial space launch industry has made substantial progress over the last year," Shelton said. "As a result, we are managing change in the EELV program from a single-provider environment to a multi-provider environment through a certification process. The phased introduction of competition through deliberate certification is the approach chosen to help lower launch costs while maintain a laser-like focus on mission assurance."
One concern members of congress had for the panel of witnesses is the perceived reliance on the Russian RD-180 Rocket Engine, which fuels the Atlas V launch vehicle.
The alternative launch vehicle is more expensive, but the stockpile of RD-180 engines is expected to last up to two years in the event of supply disruption.
"While the RD-180 has served us well, current uncertainty highlights the need to consider other options for assured access to space," Shelton said. "A domestically produced new engine program would revitalize the liquid rocket propulsion industrial base, end reliance on a foreign supplier and aid the competitive outlook for the entire domestic launch industry."
The goal of the DoD remains assuring America's access to space, while still providing economical decisions and processes to provide savings to the taxpayers.
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