Aerospace Corporation Could Play Major Role in Coming Era of Commercial Spaceflight

The Los Angeles Times takes a look at the Aerospace Corporation, a California-based non-profit that is a major behind-the-scenes player in America’s space program. The government-funded brain trust performs substantial independent engineering and program analysis for the military and NASA; it may end up playing a key role in the space agency’s commercial space initiatives.

Wanda M. Austin, president and chief executive of Aerospace, said she saw the El Segundo-based research center taking on new roles that could increasingly bring it out from under the shroud of secrecy.

Under President Obama’s proposal to outsource more space missions to private ventures, the government will want more oversight of missions carried out by private businesses, such as Hawthorne’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX.

Aerospace could be the organization to do that, Austin said.

“There’s a new energy and a new direction for space,” she said. “We’re excited about the promise that the industry holds for us.”

Aerospace is neither a defense contractor nor part of the Air Force, which manages military space programs. Rather, Aerospace is a federally funded brain trust for the Pentagon’s $26-billion space program, which far exceeds NASA’s budget of $18 billion and has increased almost 90% since 2000. Although it’s not well known outside defense circles, it is regarded as one of the nation’s most important assets.

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