Main Engine Cut Off

Orbital ATK For and Against Government Subsidies

Caleb Henry writing for SpaceNews, today:

Four U.S. lawmakers complained to DARPA and the Pentagon this week that the project appears to run afoul of a national space policy that discourages the government from developing space systems and services it could otherwise buy from the private sector.

“DARPA’s RSGS program will subsidize a single company with several hundred million dollars’ worth of space hardware and launch service, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer, to directly compete with commercial satellite servicing systems that Orbital ATK and other companies are developing with their own private capital. Even worse, we estimate that DARPA will provide about 75% of the program funding but retain only about 10% of its capability, a highly questionable and inefficient use of public funds,” Orbital ATK said.

And back in May, this, from Jeff Foust, also of SpaceNews:

The present-day debate, where Orbital ATK seeks a policy change to allow it to use ICBM motors to provide lower cost commercial launches, mirrors one from the early 1990s that established the current policy that restricts those motors’ use. And, in the intervening quarter century, some of the key players have switched sides.

The irony hurts.

It’s also no mistake that Orbital ATK posted two videos of the Mission Extension Vehicle on YouTube this week: one showing a typical mission profile, and one of a simulation with real hardware.

Relatedly, I still recommend checking out the episode of The Space Show with Jim Armor of Orbital ATK that I linked to back in December.