Wed, Aug 15, 2012
Encourage Competition For EELV Program
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the panel's ranking Democrat have sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta urging the Pentagon to consider SpaceX and Orbital Sciences for a launch contract for a critical program.
Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI) (pictured, left) and C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger (D-MD) (pictured, right) sent the letter August 2nd. In it, they say the U.S. Government heavy launch capability "lacks domestic competition and is unable to compete internationally due to high costs. These escalating costs leave a growing burden on U.S. taxpayers and our defense and intelligence budgets."
Currently, ULA has the only booster capable of lifting the military's heaviest payloads into orbit ... the Delta IV. Some payloads in the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program will tip the scale at 50,000 pounds. But in the letter, Congressmen Rogers and Ruppersberger say that "the good news is that new entrants such as Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Orbital Sciences Corp. are developing impressive capabilities that are breathing new life into the U.S. space launch market." They cite the Falcon 9 mission that launched a Dragon spacecraft for a successful docking mission to ISS.
"While long overdue, the Air Force should be commended for its current effort to reduce the cost of the ULA arrangement while studying the capability of potential competitors," the congressmen said. But "We are concerned that the Service may offer ULA a five-year "no compete" block buy of launches ... we are concerned that any EELV block buy that goes beyond three years' worth of launches will unnecessarily exclude competition.
"We also believe that we must work harder to reduce the barriers to new competitors for EELV launches, to include eliminating the infrastructure subsidy we provide to ULA and rapidly articulating clear entrance criteria for new competitors."
The Huffington Post reports that the EELV contract could be worth $19 billion. It is expected to be awarded next year.
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