Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told the Mobile (Ala.) Press-Register Monday that he can’t tell Northrop Grumman-EADS what to do regarding the Air Force’s tanker competition, but “I will do everything in my power to make sure it is an open and fair competition.” (The Northrop-EADS team plans to assemble their KC-X entrant in Alabama if it wins.) Air Force officials apparently are just as eager to ensure there is a competition—this time to avoid Congressional censure—given the service’s dire need to replace its 45-year-old KC-135s. McCain maintains that lawmakers “have not tried to favor Northrop or Boeing” and, thankfully, acknowledges, “The Air Force needs tankers,” but intimated that new Congressional hearings would take place should the competition evaporate.
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.