Launch Costs Up

“The price of launch is going to go up,” warned Bruce Carlson, head of the National Reconnaissance Office. In a speech Monday at AFA’s Air & Space Conference, Carlson said that the government-mandated joint venture teaming of Lockheed Martin and Boeing as United Launch Services also dictated “a rock-bottom” launch price. The contract is coming up for renegotiation, and Carlson said he expects a stiff increase. “Stockholders can’t stand” the prices ULA is getting, and he expects the companies to quote higher numbers. “I would,” Carlson said. However, to mitigate costs, he’d be happy with a single government entity—NASA, Air Force, or NRO—negotiating launch services contracts for all three. It would be cheaper than contracting for one and two each, he said, and provide incentive for the joint venture to invest in new facilities if they are assured of work. Carlson also said he thinks the government should “step up to paying for the infrastructure for launch” and charge companies to use it. Preserving launch infrastructure is a national necessity and shouldn’t be left to the vagaries of business, Carlson argued.