SpaceX, ULA to Headline SAC-D Hearing on Launch Systems Next Week

SpaceX, ULA to Headline SAC-D Hearing on Launch Systems Next Week

The Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC-D) will hear from both entrepreneurial and traditional space launch companies next week at a hearing on national security space launch programs.

Elon Musk will represent his entrepreneurial company, SpaceX, which has been striving for years to break into the market for DOD space launches, a market now dominated by the United Launch Alliance (ULA), which launches the Atlas V and Delta IV rockets.   ULA will be represented by its President and CEO Michael Gass. 

Cristina Chaplain from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Scott Pace from George Washington University will also testify.

Congress has essentially forced the Air Force to open up its launch market to “new entrants” like SpaceX, although any company must meet certification criteria before it is allowed to compete.   SpaceX is currently going through the certification process, which requires them to achieve three successful launches of any particular launch vehicle configuration. 

The first of those three for SpaceX took place last September. The failure of that rocket’s second stage to reignite has been a source of contention as to whether it met the criteria or not.  The Air Force announced just today that it will count as a successful mission for the purposes of its certification criteria.  SpaceX has had two more successful launches since then — of the SES-8 satellite on December 3, 2013 and of Thaicom-6 on January 6, 2014.  The Air Force is still assessing their applicability towards meeting the certification criteria.

The hearing is on Wednesday, March 5, at 10:00 am EST in 192 Dirksen Senate Office Building.   The hearing will be webcast at the committee’s website

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.