Signficant Challenges Face U.S. Space Propulsion Industrial Base Says OSTP

Signficant Challenges Face U.S. Space Propulsion Industrial Base Says OSTP

The U.S. space launch propulsion industrial base faces significant challenges according to a report submitted to Congress on Tuesday by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The report was required by the 2008 NASA Authorization Act.

“Despite the current adequacy of the space launch propulsion industrial base to meet identified space launch needs in the near and medium term, there are a number of significant challenges that pose concerns for the long-term health of this industrial base. Specifically, the current low level of demand for launch services combined with significant production overcapacity (and the fact that reliance on foreign suppliers has further limited dependence on the U.S. industrial base) creates challenges regarding:

Supplier retention and quality levels.
Workforce retention, as well as insufficient practice and learning opportunities necessary to sustain workforce skills.

“Significant challenges also exist on the development side. In particular, known long-term U.S. space launch requirements likely are not sufficient to justify significant U.S. private sector investment in developing new propulsion capabilities and technologies. At the same time, only limited funds are currently being invested by the U.S. Government for U.S. space launch propulsion-related R&D activities.

“Taken together, these factors raise important issues regarding:

The nation’s ability to identify potential breakthrough cost-savings or performance opportunities in launch vehicle propulsion.
The industry’s ability to attract the new talent required to create capabilities for future generations of U.S. space launch vehicles.

“Both sets of challenges are potentially significant and appear to warrant further analysis and review on the part of involved U.S. Government agencies and the U.S. private sector as the nation considers how best to sustain and ultimately advance this important technology area that is vital for maintaining access to space.”

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