Why Not Use Old Missiles To Launch New Satellites?

Orbital presses U.S. lawmakers to end ban on retired missiles, Reuters

"Orbital ATK is pressing U.S. lawmakers to end a 20-year ban on using decommissioned intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) for launching commercial satellites and the effort has raised concern among companies that have invested millions of dollars in potential rival rockets. Orbital Vice President Barron Beneski said in an interview on Friday that the company was pushing Washington to get the ban lifted as part of the National Defense Authorization Act that sets defense policy for fiscal 2017, which begins Oct. 1. The missiles were idled by nuclear disarmament treaties between the United States and Russia in the 1990s. Virgin Galactic and other space startups said in interviews last week they worry that lifting the ban would give Orbital an unfair competitive advantage if it was allowed to use surplus government rocket motors in its commercial launch vehicles."

Keith's note: I know some companies are going to whine and complain about this. But why not use existing hardware that would otherwise be destroyed or left outside to rot - especially when it has already been paid for and now costs a lot of money to store? Every company that whines and complains has its own swarm of lobbyists trying to seek some advantage for the home team. The only caveat I would offer is that since the U.S. government paid for these rockets that they be offered - at the same cost - to any launch provider that wants to buy them. That not only levels the playing field but offers some of these start-ups a chance to jump ahead in terms of experience and capability. Of course this suggestion would simply change who is whining.

Dumping excess boosters on market would short-circuit commercial space renaissance, Op Ed, George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic

"Converting ICBM's to launchers was a bad idea when it was brought up the last three times, and it's an even worse idea now. Two decades of consistent, bipartisan space policy have sparked billions in private investment in a robust domestic commercial space industry. The current Space Transportation Policy, released by the White House in 2013, commits the government to "encouraging ... a viable ... and competitive U.S. commercial space transportation industry" while avoiding actions that might "discourage, or compete with U.S. commercial space transportation companies."

Keith's update: Let the whining begin. How much tax money was poured into Spaceport America so as to give Virgin Galactic a dirt cheap place to operate? And then there's the deal XCOR got in Texas, ULA's subsidies, etc. What is ironic about all of this is that Orbital used to complain about this idea when it thought that used ICBMs would allow other companies to compete with Taurus and Pegasus. When it comes to special favors and commercial space, where you stand depends on where you sit (or launch).

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on April 5, 2016 11:39 AM.

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