Free Ride

The Air Force will have a role in setting requirements for NASA’s new Space Launch System—the newly unveiled massive rocket intended to serve as the ride for future human exploration of deep space—but won’t have to pony up any money for development, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told the Daily Report Monday. “What we want to be able to do . . . is work more cooperatively with the science community and the national security community to see what kinds of requirements they need in this vehicle without [them] being asked to pay anything for it,” said Bolden. “I want it to be a national launch system, and I think we can pay the freight for bringing it into operation.” Bolden said if he can pull in more users, it will result in more rockets and lower unit costs. “The more you fly, the cheaper it is to fly,” he said. However, he acknowledged that the vehicle will necessarily be “a compromise,” and not optimized for NASA’s needs alone. Similarly, the space shuttle “was a compromise,” he noted. In his speech Monday at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md., Bolden described SLS as having an initial capability of lofting 70 metric tons to 100 metric tons, but growing to 130 metric tons. The system will “ensure our leadership in space,” he said.