US Access to Space

Last weekend, a SpaceX rocket carrying supplies to the Space Station exploded while staging after launch. This follows an Orbital Sciences resupply rocket explosion last fall and a Russian resupply rocket failure last spring.

USAF General (Ret) William Shelton, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, is lamenting legislation barring the use of Russian rocket engines in our launchers, and his concern is sparked by those failures.

The problem, and it’s a legitimate concern, is that SpaceX and United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, are the only two American reliable rocket companies we have—Orbital Sciences hasn’t succeeded yet—and ULA uses those Russian rocket engines in its launchers. With the legislation, of the two rocket companies (and at least two are strongly desired for safety and redundantly assured access to space), only one will be able to fly until ULA develops another engine.

The other side of the problem, though, is that of the two current American companies, one can fly only with the engines supplied by one of our enemies. That’s not very reliable, either.

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