Lawmakers heard again the aerial refueler “dilemma” facing the Pentagon, this time from Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England. It’s a case of buying the current KC-135 tankers in high numbers and being forced—by “affordability issues”—to replace them at a low rate, England told Senators Wednesday. The one still flying toward the end will “be a very old airplane,” he said. England also supports the predilection toward making the new tanker a hybrid for hauling and refueling. He asserted, “It’s vitally important that we start the tanker replacement program as soon as possible.” (Read more about the tanker issue here.)
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.