Sequestration And Commercial Space

A source who (for obvious reasons) wants to remain anonymous informs me that 45th Space Wing at Patrick is starting to cut back on maintenance and operations of range safety at the Cape through the end of the (fiscal) year.

I’ll bet I could find other places to cut that wouldn’t impact commercial launches, but the administration’s goal remains to inflict the maximum amount of pain. I should note that apparently the layoffs will start in the next couple weeks. Whether or not they’ll be able to get those people back in October is an interesting question.

11 thoughts on “Sequestration And Commercial Space”

  1. Just like the only place Clinton used the Line Item Veto was on a DoD Reusable Launch Vehicle program. Fifteen trilliion dollars later, “what does it matter?”

    1. Phil,

      Actually it wasn’t a Reusable Launch Vehicle, it was a Military Space Plane. One which was actually very similar to what is in orbit today :-)

    1. I wonder if part of that space budget decline is from substituting drones that provide more timely monitoring and the ability to conduct strikes directly? For the cost of one orbital launch you can build, maintain, and operate a heck of a lot of glorified model airplanes.

      1. There’s a lot more to military space systems than just intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). The military operates communications satellites in three different spectrums. In the UHF band, you have the old UFO satellites and the new MUOS for tactical and mobile comm. In the X-band, you have the old DCSC-IIIs and the new WGS for broadband comm. For strategic communications, you have the old Milstars and the new AEHF satellites. For launch detection, you have the old DSP satellites and the new SBIRS. There’s a whole constellation of different model GPS satellites for position, navigation and timing (PNT) support. There’s also the DMSP birds for weather (including space weather) prediction. Then there’s the whole black constellations of NRO satellites for ISR that I can’t talk about.

        Some of the space missions can be done by drones, primarily ISR and to a more limited degree, comm relay. But many of the other missions can’t. Also, the larger UAVs like the Predator, Reaper, Global Hawk and the new Avenger depend upon satellite communications. I don’t much know about the RQ-170 but suspect it depends on satellite communications as well. The Army’s Grey Eagle can operate with satellite links or local line-of-sight data links. The Army does operate a lot of small UAVs (Raven, Puma, Shadow and Hunter) that don’t need satellites but their missions are scaled to small units up to battalions, so local operations and limited data sharing are the way to go.

        UAVs are great but have their limitations. You aren’t going to replace GPS satellites with UAVs. While you can do some comm relay and BACN missions with UAVs, you aren’t going to replace communications satellites with UAVs, and in fact many UAVs depend on comsats to function. UAVs do a lot of the ISR grunt work but they have not even been able to replace the venerable U-2 yet despite years of effort and many billion dollars of expenditures, much less replacing satellite ISR systems. Add to that the sad fact that the overwhelming majority of our UAVs wouldn’t survive very long in defended airspace, either.

        UAVs can do some things that satellites can’t. They can provide persistant ISR over an area and that’s hugely important. Some of them can not only watch the enemy but attack them with bombs or missiles. UAVs have their place and, if their budgets don’t get whacked too severely, that place will be growing in the years to come. But they can’t replace satellites and aren’t intended to do so.

  2. Seeing as how a huge portion of this “budget” is for launch costs, perhaps they ought to call Elon up and see if he can give them a better deal than ULA :-)

    1.68 billion for 4 launches … versus $128M per Falcon Heavy

  3. Just like the only place Clinton used the Line Item Veto was on a DoD Reusable Launch Vehicle program. Fifteen trilliion dollars later, “what does it matter?”

    He also vetoed Clementine II

    1. Yes, how dare the USAF test a spacecraft to learn how to defend the Earth from NEO impacts. After all protecting America is NASA’s job. :-)

      Funny how the military slamming a projectile into a NEO was considered a violation of the ABM Treaty and NASA slamming a projectile into a comet wasn’t…

  4. Those drones are great until you run in to a technologically sophisticated enemy. I must ask some friends of mine about flight times of former Soviet SAMs.

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