Tossing and Turning

If there’s one issue that keeps Gary Payton, USAF’s top civilian space official, up at night, it’s worry over the space industrial base. “Our costs are going up because a number of second- and third-tier players are getting out of the space business,” Payton told the Senate Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces panel March 10. He said they’re leaving “because they cannot compete effectively with overseas competitors.” The net effect is that the Air Force has to go out and re-qualify new suppliers for these critical components and, in some cases, secure redesigned parts. “That’s a pervasive, difficult problem,” said Payton. And it may eventually lead to diminished parts reliability for everything from satellite solar arrays to batteries on satellites to propulsion systems on satellites and on launch vehicles, he said. “Our own export controls are hampering our industry,” he noted. (Payton’s prepared remarks)