Public-Private Partnerships for Space

Space is an essential element of national security, and the US must have multiple pathways to get there, USAF Secretary Deborah Lee James said Jan. 27 at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. After asking for input from the industry, the Air Force determined that public-private partnership is “the best way to ensure access to at least two domestic launch service providers,” James said. And while the US military wants to eliminate dependency on the Russian-made RD-180, we should not fund a rocket engine alone, she said. “We need an entire capability, not just one single component,” added James. Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, stressed that the Pentagon “does not buy rockets or engines. We do not buy launch systems or propulsion systems. What we do buy is the transportation of our satellites to space by launch service providers.” The Pentagon hopes, through competition, to “provide at least two launch service providers with some of the capital they need to develop, test, and certify the launch systems they will use to provide us with launch services in the future.” In return, DOD will have the right to buy launch services at competitive prices, as well as “some degree of assurance that those systems will actually be available,” Kendall said.