SPACE.com reported yesterday that some members of Congress may seek to find ways to convert ballistic missiles earmarked for destruction under arms reduction treaties into small launch vehicles. Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-MT), speaking at a space policy conference in Montana last weekend, said he felt it made more sense to use retired Peacekeeper missiles as launch vehicles, particularly if it costs no more to covert them than it would to destroy them. Rehberg said that he and two colleagues, Chet Edwards (D-TX) and Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), plan to “delve into the Peacekeeper use within the arena of non-proliferation.”
Unfortunately, there’s not much more information about what exactly Rep. Rehberg wants to do. ICBM assets are already being converted into launch vehicles through the Air Force’s Orbital Suborbital Program (OSP): a Minotaur 1 rocket, whose lower stages are from Minuteman 2 missiles, launched the STP-R1 satellite for DARPA just last night. The Minotaur costs about $20 million a launch, which may not exactly be “low-cost”, particularly in the eyes of university smallsat developers; it’s also limited to government-sponsored payloads. You can also imagine that companies developing small low-cost launches would also not be pleased to see increased competition from converted missiles.