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Exploiting The New Commercial Space Race

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Technical Report

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Air War College, Air University Maxwell AFB United States

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The Commercial Space Launch Act CSLA of 1984 facilitated the involvement of private enterprise in US Government space and space technology activities, including space launch. In 1995, the Department of Defense DoD created the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle EELV program to obtain commercial launch services to ensure affordable space access for US national security satellites. The DoDs acquisition strategy anticipated a strong market for launching commercial satellites that would drive down cost for launching government satellites. The commercial market demand failed to materialize. Since 2006, a joint venture created between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, United Launch Alliance ULA, has provided launches for the EELV on a sole-source basis. Recently the landscape of the commercial space launch industry is being changed by a new group of entrepreneurs motivated by broader interests other than only launching satellites. Despite national and DoD policies that support commercial competition for launching US satellites, the DoD has been cautious to fully embrace the commercial competition in the EELV program. The EELV now faces the possibility of having to move from one sole-source launch provider to another. This paper will examine how the US Government can attract a new generation of innovators to compete for launch service contracts and ensure that US space access is not dependent on foreign-made systems.

Subject Categories:

  • Unmanned Spacecraft

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