Air Force: two military sat launchers
The U.S. Air Force said last month it remains convinced that both Boeing and Lockheed Martin must keep building rockets to ensure U.S. access to space, although it did not reach its goal of securing $1 billion in extra funding for the companies, according to Reuters.
The Pentagon's proposed five-year budget beginning in fiscal year 2004 foresees $538.8 million in additional budget funding for the companies, which are developing advanced booster rockets to get U.S. military satellites into space. That's just over half of the $1 billion in additional funds the Air Force had sought for its Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle in a bid to offset a continuing downturn in the commercial satellite market. The extra funds will cover the companies' cost of leasing government-owned facilities and various engineering programs.
''It's a good start. It's not as much as we originally hoped for,'' Air Force Undersecretary Peter Teets said in a statement to Reuters. ''We'd like to get more in succeeding years.''
Teets told reporters at a briefing that it was ''very appropriate'' to support the two companies, given the importance of maintaining access to space, as well as the massive downturn in the commercial market, which was initially expected to help offset the cost of the military space launches.
''With the importance that we place on our national security space systems, it's going to be real important for us to have two Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles for the foreseeable future, and two that can be as independent as possible,'' he told reporters. Teets said the United States needed two companies to build the rockets since it was highly likely one of the rockets would eventually fail. Then the U.S. military would be temporarily unable to get its classified satellites into space.
Boeing and Lockheed are developing next-generation EELV rockets, which the military will use to launch new weather, communications, reconnaissance and Global Positioning System satellites. These in turn help orient U.S. troops on the battlefield, provide precise weather data, and control precision-guided munitions.
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