WASHINGTON: When the Air Force issued a Request for Information about an engine to replace the RD-180 it began to look as if they were serious about committing to build the first new rocket engine in decades. But we also received two new RD-180 engines from Russia the same day as the RFI went out, the United… Keep reading →
[UPDATED with SpaceX comment] WASHINGTON: For the first time in a decade, the Air Force has opened its primary space launch program to competition. That’s something startup rocket company SpaceX and Congress have pushed for vigorously. It’s also a long-anticipated blow for the United Space Alliance — formed by Boeing and Lockheed Martin – which has… Keep reading →
After three years of the “age of austerity” in Western military spending, investors’ imperatives and corporate strategies show one indication of how the defense-industrial base will evolve over the next decade. Investors want public companies that demonstrate an attractive risk-adjusted total return, not just M&A-fueled arbitrage plays. In response, companies are husbanding or harvesting their financial… Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: It is shaping up as one of the great corporate brawls in the aerospace world: snappy and feisty and hungry newcomer, SpaceX, versus the titan of heavy launch, the near-perfect expression of big corporatism, the Boeing-Lockheed Martin United Launch Alliance. The focus of their competition is obscure to most Americans: the purchase by the… Keep reading →
CAPITOL HILL: The Pentagon’s top space officials told Congress today they have launched a study to ascertain if the United States can build its own rocket engines so expensive and large spy and GPS satellites don’t have to be launched using Russian rocket engines, as they are now. Gen. William Shelton, head of Air Force Space… Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: The most expensive conventional weapons program in history just scored a major win, with the F-35 program’s estimated acquisition costs plunging $11.5 billion. This is no program estimate that critics might savage. This comes from the Government Accountability Office’s definitive annual Assessment of Selected Weapons Report. The GAO did not mince words in identifying… Keep reading →
OSD recently appointed a new acting deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for space policy, and, assuming he keeps the job beyond January, he (or his replacement) might consider shifting his attention to some of the very difficult challenges facing space programs in the Defense Department.
First among those would be efforts to build military space systems that better serve the joint fight. We have long known that our dependence on space ensures that adversaries will try to negate its advantages. Russia and China have been exploring various ways to do so, and India has announced that it, too, perhaps for other reasons, is interested in developing anti-satellite capabilities. Making sure that military missions depending on space will be assured is one of the loud imperatives in the current US National Space Policy. Keep reading →
There’s a lot going on in the U.S. Air Force, but for the Senators at this morning’s Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the USAF budget, just one mattered: How budget cuts would impact their home states. While such parochialism is as shocking as gambling in Casablanca, it raises a red flag for the full-scale Base Realignment And Closure round the Pentagon has requested. The Defense Department is already considering recommendations from the bipartisan Council of Governors to roll back some of the changes. If politicians are this unhappy about the relatively small cutbacks to bases and reshufflings of squadrons in this year’s budget request, how receptive are they going to be to BRAC? Keep reading →
We hope professional staff at the House Armed Services Committee, as well as their colleagues on SASC, HAC-D and SAC-D, will read this commentary by the respected space and intelligence expert, Bob Butterworth, before Thursday’s HASC hearing on national security space. I spent much of my five years at Space News covering the enormous problems caused the last time America tried to save lots of money on space hardware and operations. Butterworth argues here that, essentially, we blew it after the last defense downturn when we tried to do more with less in space. Read on.
The scariest part of the projected budget for national security space is not the cuts. It is the ensuing proposals that promise ways to do more with less. Adopting them without close and careful analysis can easily bring on far more damage to national security space capabilities than the cuts ever will. Keep reading →