Lawmakers prodded Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace during the House Armed Services Committee budget hearing Feb. 7 to review the bidding on the Pentagon decision not to purchase any more new C-17 strategic airlifters. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) called the present situation “somewhat of an airlift crisis” considering the ongoing need to project forces. Pace maintained that the determination to limit C-17s to 180 is still right and that last year’s Congressional add of 10 airframes more than takes care of losses through excessive use. Tauscher was not deterred, though, coming right back with: “We know we’re going to need more C-17s.” She urged Gates and Pace to keep the C-17 “line warm.”
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.