Outgoing USAF Acquisition Chief Worried About Access to Space

Orion Exploration Flight Test launch. (Credit: NASA)
Orion Exploration Flight Test launch. (Credit: NASA)

Outgoing U.S. Air Force Acquisition Chief William LaPlante has expressed concern about maintaining access to space as ULA transitions to a new launch vehicle:

LaPlante leaves his post with at least one nagging concern: ensuring access to space. Congress recently pushed to move away from reliance on Russian-made engines to launch satellites into space, but LaPlante doubts the US can quickly transition entirely to a homegrown engine while simultaneously ensuring competition and maintaining access to space.

“I think the space launch situation is serious for the country.” LaPlante told reporters during a Nov. 24 media roundtable at the Pentagon. “You can get competition, you can get two independent ways to get into space or you can get off the Russian engines — I don’t see how you do all three in the next four years.”

LaPlante’s remarks come on the heels of a controversial showdown between the Pentagon and United Launch Alliance, which until this year was the sole provider of military launch. ULA recently pulled out of the Air Force’s GPS III competition, citing insufficient stores of the Russian RD-180 rocket engine after Congress banned the use of the power plant for military satellite launches after 2019.

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