Martin Faga, former assistant secretary of the U.S. Air Force for space, wrote in a Defense News commentary piece published Thursday that the service branch focuses on mission assurance as it works to launch national security satellites.
“The Air Force has the job — codified in law — to provide assured access to space at an affordable cost for national security launches,” he wrote. “The Air Force seeks to do this by maintaining two certified launch systems fully capable of meeting all national security launch needs.”
He noted that four rocket manufacturers – SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin – are competing for two contracts to launch up to 30 national security missions from 2022 through 2026.
Faga discussed the advantages of picking two commercial launch service providers under the Air Force’s National Security Space Launch program and how the military branch’s procurement strategy for the program encourages industry partners to further invest in their launch platforms.
“Selecting the two best competitors balances the high costs of matching each satellite with its launch rocket while avoiding dependence on only one launch provider, as we are largely doing now,” said Faga, who is also former director of the National Reconnaissance Office and former CEO of Mitre.