Study That Takes New Russian Launch Vehicles Seriously Says Air Force Should Support Three Domestic Launchers

Sandra Erwin, for SpaceNews:

The study, prepared by the RAND Corp., looked at the impact of U.S. Air Force space launch acquisition decisions on the heavy lift launch market. It does not recommend that the Air Force change its decision to award national security launch contracts to just two providers later this year. But it does argue that the Air Force should find a way to keep a third supplier in the national security market as a fallback.

RAND analysts predict the commercial addressable market share held by U.S. firms is expected to drop as Arianespace and Russia field new launch vehicles that are better suited to heavier launch. This is of concern to the U.S. Air Force because its Phase 2 strategy assumes launch providers will have a healthy commercial business.

On the list of threats to the commercial launch market, unless and until something drastic changes, new Russian launch vehicles should sit just above the heat death of the universe.