Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Wednesday she is concerned about the ability of commercial providers of space launch boosters to enter the market for national security space launches. During Wednesday’s hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense panel on Air Force budget issues, she asserted that the Air Force is probably paying significantly more than it should today by relying solely on the United Launch Alliance. She noted that Space Exploration Technologies of Hawthorne, Calif., “could compete come 2014.” Space-X produces the Falcon family of boosters. Shilling for the company, Feinstein clamed that it could offer boosters at significantly reduced prices, therefore saving taxpayers “literally billions of dollars.” Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said in response the service shares her concerns and has been working with NASA and the National Reconnaissance Office to develop guidelines that will certify new entrants to the national security space-launch market, with the intention of opening up the market to competition. “We have been concerned about the cost of the [Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle] program and ULA’s performance,” said Donley. He added, “We believe we’ve been paying more than we need to for space launch.” (Donley-Schwartz joint statement)
The Air Force has picked Northrop Grumman over L3Harris and Lockheed Martin to develop and build the Stand-in Attack Weapon, meant to swiftly destroy enemy air defense sites and other high-value targets.