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As the Obama administration conducts a review of the U.S. Space Transportation Policy, the Defense Department recently issued a directive in line with AIA recommendations to bolster the U.S. commercial small launch industry.
Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn issued a directive on the use of excess intercontinental ballistic missiles as space launch platforms July 5, 2011. The directive outlines Defense Department policy, responsibilities and procedures, and specifically states that the acquisition of space launch services using converted excess ICBMs should be conducted in a manner that ensures competition. It acts to limit the adverse impact of excess ICBMs on the space industry while also calling for acquisition policies to sustain and “enhance” the U.S. space launch industrial base.
AIA believes that maintaining continued small launch capability for the nation is critical as small- and medium-sized satellites become increasingly important to national security. Unfortunately, the U.S. government has routinely relied on excess ICBMs for small and medium-sized satellite launch, contrary to the current U.S. Space Transportation Policy. Today, the use of such assets has the unintended consequences of limiting competition and impairing the industrial base by decreasing the near-term demand for new commercial launch vehicles.
Deputy Secretary Lynn’s directive comes after an important step taken by the House of Representatives last year in support of greater competition in the small launch sector. On April 4, 2010, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5136, the National Defense Authorization for Fiscal Year 2011 that included language in its report urging the U.S. military to evaluate the costs of government refurbishment and modification of excess ICBM assets for space launch.
The directive expires in January of 2012, so the government will need to take additional steps. AIA believes that government should look at the full costs associated with excess ICBM modification, storage and maintenance. We also look for more clarity in the Air Force interpretation of the term “conversion.” These issues should be addressed in future Defense Department instructions and as part of an updated U.S. Space Transportation Policy.
Read the DOD Directive
AIA Source: mike.conschafter[at]aia-aerospace.org