Space Launch Savings, Sequester Danger

Maj Gen. Robert McMurry, head of space acquisition programs on the Air Staff, said the Air Force has found savings in its space launch enterprise through negotiations with the United Launch Alliance and by opening up some launches to competition to firms such as California-based SpaceX. There are seven launches scheduled between 2015 and 2017 that will be put out to bid, McMurry said, and the Air Force is working to certify engineering requirements on SpaceX’s launch vehicles. Long term, the intent is to open up the entire launch business for competition after 2017, McMurry said. The Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB, Calif., is currently examining how to do this, he added. Sequester cuts are also driving the search for savings, noted Undersecretary Eric Fanning. He warned that if sequester remains unchanged after 2016, space funding would be decreased for the Global Positioning System III program, the Space Based Space Surveillance follow on, and a successor to the defense weather satellite follow on.