The Wall Street Journal reports that “the U.S. wants to inject more competition into the space race, but Pentagon leaders are worried they won’t be able to muster contenders to the starting line.”
“The Pentagon’s challenge centers on ensuring it has enough rocket launchers to send new satellites into space at the end of this decade. Congress has told the department to stop using, as of 2019, the Russian-made engine that it has relied on for nearly two decades to power the Atlas V rockets, which carry many U.S. military satellites. The Pentagon’s current—and sole—launch provider, United Launch Alliance LLC, plans to retire the only other launch vehicle the Pentagon uses to blast payloads into high orbits, the Delta IV rocket, by 2018 to save money.”
“Gen. John Hyten, head of Air Force Space Command, told a congressional hearing this week that losing the two rockets left the military with an obvious problem: Between 2018 and 2022 it will have to find a new way to launch vital spy and communications satellites. ‘The loss of assured access to space would be extremely damaging to national security,’ he said.”
An earlier post on this topic can be found here .