Nothing Happens in a Vacuum

The Obama Administration’s plan to cancel NASA’s Constellation human spaceflight program might end up sharply increasing the price that the Air Force has to pay for the rocket motors used on its own space launch vehicles, Gary Payton, USAF’s space czar, told Senate lawmakers last week. “The information we’ve seen is that the propulsion systems … might double in price,” he said. The reason: a significant downturn in orders if NASA’s Ares rockets go away as part of Constellation’s demise. Payton said first-stage RS-68 engines on Delta IV rockets would be affected as would Atlas V upper-stage RL-10s. Pratt & Whitney supplies both. He said the Air Force is studying how to minimize the price impact. Asked whether the Administration had consulted the Air Force on any potential repercussions to the military space program following Constellation’s termination, he said it had not. (Payton’s prepared remarks)