Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Air Force's Space Program

Due to long term neglect of NASA, the Air Force has had to take up the job that NASA was supposed to do. From Foreign Policy:
America's civilian space program may be on life support, now that the Space Shuttle's gone. But its military space program is very much alive -- and about to get much, much bigger. In the coming decades, the U.S. Air Force plans to pour an additional $36 to $40 billion into its effort to put military and spy satellites in orbit using commercial rocket services. 
The Air Force is using that cash to add 60 launches between 2018 and 2030 to its $35 billion rocket launch effort called the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle. EELV is the Air Force's program to pay private businesses to build and launch the rockets that carry Defense Department satellites into orbit. This planned cash infusion would make EELV one of the Pentagon's top ten spending programs, InsideDefense points out. This comes just two years after the EELV program began experiencing massive cost increases -- that sucked funding from other space initiatives -- due to a spike in the price of rocket production. (Interestingly, one of the rockets currently used in the EELV program, the Atlas V, relies on a Russian engine to get it off the ground.) 
For almost a decade, the air service has purchased launches from a joint business venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing called United Launch Alliance. However, the Pentagon has recently decided to introduce real competition to the EELV program starting in 2018. Rocket-makers ATK, Lockheed, Orbital Sciences and Elon Musk's SpaceX are all planning to bid to send the military's satellites into space between 2018 and 2030.

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