Volume 3, No.
House Subcommittee on Space and
Aeronautics hearing on Range Modernization
Part 1, March 24, 1999
The House Subcommittee on Space
and Aeronautics conducted the first of two planned oversight
hearings (3/24/99) to gather information on America's overburdened
and outdated launch range services. Following are overviews of the
Forrest McCartney, VP of Launch Operations
for Lockheed Martin Astronautics
The rising number of commercial
launches (approaching 70% of the overall range usage), a mix of
different missions, outdated technology and outmoded procedures are
straining US launch services, according to Mr. McCartney.
Jay Witzling, VP and General Manager of The
The "turnaround" time is "clearly
inadequate to our future needs,"Mr. McCartney said. "It constitutes
a bottleneck which limits range throughput and will be a distinct
limiting factor in our ability to support high launch
The Air Force is reluctant to
continue shouldering the bulk of the cost of range operations and
views the commercial users as a source of funds to make up for the
shortfall. But if costs are substantially increased, America's
competitiveness will suffer, Mr. McCartney said.
"We face substantially subsidized launch
service providers whose share of the market is already large, and
they are poised to capture more business at our expense," Mr.
McCartney said. "This would result in significantly higher costs
for the American taxpayer, as government space missions would be
forced to carry the entire overhead burden of our space launch
Mr. McCartney said contractors,
state and local spaceport authorities, and the government must
forge a creative partnership to "revitalize the existing ranges and
bring new sites into operation."
Range costs can impact US launch
industry competitiveness in the global market place, according to
Mr. Witzling. "While it may appear logical to ask the commercial
space launch industry to pay for the increased requirements it is
generating," he said, "we believe that the United States should
Ronald Grabe, Senior VP of the Launch Systems
Group at Orbital Sciences Corporation
The range elements and functions
-- including public safety, range operations, launch
infrastructure, and base support -- could be "managed by the US
government, private industry or a quasi government/industry
organization," Mr. Witzlng said. But before cost allocation can be
finalized "we must come to an agreement of the desired end
Mr. Witzling said the US
government and industry should develop a "long-range strategic
vision" for enhancing the competitiveness of America's launch
industry, and defer implementing a cost policy for range services
"until we have collectively identified a desired end state." He
also urged Congress to "fence-off range modernization funds to
allow the range to be upgraded consistent with projected
"The launch services market is not
homogeneous but rather is segmented among launch vehicle classes of
varying lift capabilities," according to Mr. Grabe. "US small
launch vehicle providers are not facing explosive demand for
Loren Shriver, Deputy Director, Kennedy Space
While Orbital is competitive with
other domestic launch service providers, Mr. Grabe said "We are not
price competitive with foreign providers that are subsidized or
utilize excess ICBM hardware."
"The attraction of launching from a US range
is a prime ingredient to our launch competitive position," he said.
"Aspects of our national range facilities such as payload
processing and launch vehicle support are among the best in the
Mr. Grabe said significantly
increasing range fees "would pose a threat to the already tenuous
competitive position of small US launch vehicles." He suggested
costs for using the range services be tied to lift capability
rather than a flat per mission assessment.
He said "policies and regulations
related to commercial launch operator access and use of range
assets need revision." The process to obtain a license to the
property "is unpredictable" and there should be a "single process
for approval to operate safely at all ranges."
"NASA's Space Shuttle and ELV
missions have been placing an increasing demand on range
resources," said Ms. Shriver. "A modernized range for the future
would allow increased capacity, accommodate more launches, and
allow operations costs to be spread over more users thereby
reducing per-launch costs."
"NASA's Kennedy Space Center has begun to work
with the USAF to identify activities or systems where advanced
technologies could improve performance, increase throughput, or
reduce cost of operations," Ms. Shriver said.
About the NSS Capital Capsule
The Capsule is a timely report of highlights from Capitol Hill
hearings and other events involving space issues. Prepared by NSS
staff or volunteers who attend in person, the Capsule provides NSS
members and activists an "insider's" look into the thoughts of our
national elected officials on space issues.
The National Space Society is an
independent, nonprofit space advocacy group with headquarters in
Washington, DC. Its 23,000 members and 75 chapters actively promote
the creation of a spacefaring civilization.