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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  • JS_faster

    This article could have been titled: ” Outgoing USAF Acquisition Chief Worried About Job Prospects After Going Thru Pentagon Revolving Door” if #ParabolicSnark were writing it.

  • Douglas Messier

    Uh huh. He already has a job. Did you read the story?

    Seriously, the Falcon 9 can’t fly all the missions of the Atlas V. It is not yet as reliable, and there will be a period of relying entirely on SpaceX and its single line of boosters. There are serious legitimate concerns about the transition that’s coming up.

  • JS_faster

    You obviously didn’t read my reply with an adequate amount of cynical sarcasm.

  • PK Sink

    I don’t get it. Why doesn’t the military just announce that they will accept a certain amount of Delta launches until Vulcan is ready, just to assure their access to space. That would put a quick end to this whole stupid drama.

  • JS_faster

    Because there is a layer cake of politics involed.

  • DTARS

    I think that ULA should have Bid with Delta 250, million or whatever to let the customer know they are prepared to do there Job, which is to provide assured access to space.

  • Chief Galen Tyrol

    I love #ParabolicSnark!

  • TimAndrews868

    ” the Falcon 9 can’t fly all the missions of the Atlas V”

    So what’s stopping ULA from bidding those launches with Delta IV or Delta Heavy?

  • burritolikethesun

    What fine bullshit from our fella in uniform.