America's access to space assuring future affordability
Ehrlich, David A.
Looney, Robert E.
McNab, Robert M.
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This thesis evaluates the U.S. government policies that mandate the DoD launch government payloads only from vehicles produced domestically as a means to protect America's national security interests. Unfortunately, over the past decade, the commercial space launch industry has suffered several programmatic and economic setbacks, culminating in the DoD being forced to financially maintain the commercial space launch industry. The result is a quasi--government-run program, plagued by overruns and consuming a preponderance of the DoD's appropriated space-systems budget. How can the DoD afford to continue with its current strategy, given the realities within the industry? The evaluation of this question requires a better understanding of three issues: challenges within the domestic space launch industry; an analysis of domestic and foreign launch systems; and a review of outside contributing factors. It is apparent that the DoD's efforts to subsidize the industry are viewed as being essential, based on current policies. However, this strategy may, in fact, be weakening the U.S. space launch industry and creating a single point of failure that could jeopardize the DoD's ability to access space.
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