New Strategy for Space Launch Vehicles

The Air Force, National Reconnaissance Office, and NASA released a joint strategy establishing the guidelines for certifying new types of commercial rockets for government and national security space launches, including Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle-class missions. The goal is to encourage new entrants into the market. “This strategy is the best balance of ensuring reliable access to space while encouraging competition and innovation in the launch industry,” said Air Force Undersecretary Erin Conaton. “We are committed to providing a level playing field to all competitors in the interest of ensuring the best capability for our warfighters and the best value to the American public.” Under the strategy, issued Oct. 14, each agency still will maintain the flexibility to determine its own mission-unique requirements. The Air Force is expected to publish a new guide laying out the process of reaching certified status. The new strategy follows an October 2010 letter to intent to collaborate on launch requirements and a memorandum of understanding in March on EELV-class launch vehicle acquisition. (SAF/PA report by Maj. Tracy Bunko)