House committee reexamines EELV

The House Appropriations Committee is having second thoughts about the Defense Department’s decision to fund two EELV providers, Space News reported Friday. (subscription required) According to a committee report accompanying the Defense Department appropriations bill, “the Committee believes fully funding one contractor may be a wiser approach to assured access than the current approach of underfunding two contractors.” The Air Force has insisted that only by having two independent EELV providers, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, will it have its desired “assured access to space”. The committee argues that this approach underfunds both companies, and “could be motivating the contractors to cut corners in a way that could hurt launch reliability.” It seems unlikely that there will be any major changes in the near term, given the opposition a downselect would face from the Air Force as well as the two companies, but it is something to keep an eye on as the Air Force reevaluates its launch strategy.

8 comments to House committee reexamines EELV

  • This, of course, ignores the real issue, which is that the government does far too little in space to ever make cheap or reliable launch possible, and there was nothing in the Aldridge report to change that.

  • This is typical of the on again off again policy shifts that take place as the zeitgeist in the US and its political-economic organizations flounder about, wondering what space is for, and what they can do there. What they do is largely focus on support for geocentric-static culture and its oligarchic hold on power. It is not now, never has been, and likely will not be a policy goal or statement of the US Government, or any government so far, to make Space Settlment by it’s common people a major stated goal of national policy.

    From this stated goal of space settlemet, would grow the need for , the demand for, more and cheaper routine access to low earth orbit. Essentiall, the creation of demand for low cost spacelift, which we have not created demand for by concentrating on geocentric-static-oligarchic cultures. Make no mistake: there is a conflict coming between those who want to settle the inner solar system and gain freedom and choices from doing so, and those who want to maintain control and stasis at whatever the cost. It is as inevitable as the sun rising, or the earth rotating on it’s axis, depending on your point of view.

  • Chris Webster

    Is choosing one contractor necessarily a bad thing? Doesn’t this mean a more competitively selected/priced EELV?

  • No, it means eliminating competition and any pressure for reduced costs.

  • Dwayne A. Day

    Mr. Webster wrote:
    “Is choosing one contractor necessarily a bad thing? Doesn’t this mean a more competitively selected/priced EELV?”

    It is potentially a bad thing. Keep in mind that the primary purpose of the EELV program was to develop rockets to carry national security payloads (spysats at the top of the list, followed by all the rest of the military’s payloads). If the US is reduced to only a single launch vehicle, a failure leading to a grounding could leave the US with no reliable way of placing those remaining satellites in orbit. This has happened at several points in the past. Most notably look back at early 1986, when both the shuttle and the Titan 34D were grounded at the same time due to launch accidents, leaving the US with no means of placing large intelligence satellites into orbit for several years.

    This is the one thing that the military wants to avoid in the future. They want a backup vehicle. Considering that these have now become families of vehicles, a single loss can ground a lot of other payloads, not simply those in the same weight class.

  • Harold LaValley

    Making rockets expendable at 100 million a pop all just to be thrown away.

    If so why has non of the providers begun to make the cost drop. The concepts of manufacturing is to streamline a process in order to reduce the cost of making such an item by that manufacturer. Who usually passes on the saving to the customer.

  • Dwayne A. Day

    Mr. Simberg wrote:
    “No, it means eliminating competition and any pressure for reduced costs.”

    This supposes that having two launch providers for a small, captive market creates any real pressure for reduced costs. It’s not clear that this is true at all. In addition, Boeing is at a bit of a disadvantage ever since they were caught with Lockheed-Martin’s documents and penalized. It’s not an equal setting anymore.

  • Harold LaValley

    More news out on the military use of EELV launch vehicles on the site.