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General Hyten Comments on Proposed use of excess ICBMs for Commercial Launches

By | April 27, 2016
      Bethany ICBM IMG_9512

      A museum ICBM. Photo: Bethany-available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.

      [Via Satellite 04-27-2016] General John Hyten, commander of U.S. Air Force Space Command, has released a statement regarding the current policy debate over whether or not the U.S. government should make decommissioned Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICMB) motors available to commercial companies to use for launching satellites. Industry is divided on this topic, as some believe it would bring small satellite launches to the U.S., while others believe it would stifle the development of burgeoning small satellite launch providers, many of which plan to launch new vehicles for this market this year and in the coming few years, such as Rocket Lab, Virgin Galactic, and Firefly. Hyten’s statement is below.

      At the 32nd Space Symposium I was asked whether I supported the U.S. government making decommissioned ICBM motors available to the commercial space industry. I want to clearly state that I believe this decision is a matter of national policy and law, which rests with Congress. We look forward to working with Congress as this matter is considered.

      I stated that I believe it’s appropriate to consider leveraging the considerable investment that the American taxpayer has made in developing, manufacturing and maintaining these motors. However, in doing so, we must not put the small launch market at risk. We should study the issue carefully to determine if the engines could be sold to commercial industry at a reasonable price, and in reasonable numbers that do not provide an unfair competitive advantage. Doing so would recoup some of the investment that the taxpayers have made, rather than waiting until the motors become unusable and have to be destroyed.

      I absolutely understand and value the health of our launch industrial base, and I’m encouraged by the innovation and investment I see from the industry. We want to encourage this vibrant market, and will do the analysis to make sure that any policy proposal to make the ICBM engines available takes the long term health of the small launch segment into account.