Air Force Wants A Bigger Pie In Small Launch Space
Chief of Acquisition for US Air Force Will Roper stated that he wants greater role for Air Force in launch of small satellites for specific missions as the nation’s military is seeking more private – public collaborations in space research. Billionaire Sir Richard Branson who is also the founder of spaceflight firm Virgin Galactic met leaders of US Air Force to discuss about how his organization can do business in future with them in satellite research and communications. A division of Virgin Galactic called Virgin Orbit has recently developed Launcher One which is a satellite launch vehicle that can be deployed from Boeing 747 aircraft.
The firm has been tasked with flying a small test satellite with this launch vehicle for the defense department during this year. Several other firms like Virgin Orbit are offering services to launch small satellites in US like Rocket Lab and Stratolaunch. Roper stated Air Force wants to tap into these capabilities of these private operators as they are more responsive when compared to large satellites that take a long time to manufacture, launch and start functioning. As these small satellites can be launched from a large aircraft they can be put up when needed.
He said that Air Force was very keen in small launch capabilities and in using small satellites that can be put into orbit in shortest possible time as delay gives adversaries an opportunity to think of ways about removing them. Ellen Lord Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment stated during her visit to Virgin Orbit’s facility in California that Pentagon should work with small satellite launch providers to ensure that their capabilities are available when required by the military. Even Roper said that though large satellites are important and will be part of the military’s long term strategy, small launches are more exciting. He said that Air Force is looking at encouraging private businesses engaged in space launches to pitch their ideas to military.