Pentagon Considering Commercial Launches for Space Experiments

February 25, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Posted in Space Law Current Events | Leave a comment

by Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz with the blog faculty
Source: Space

By Turner Brinton

WASHINGTON — On the heels of its successful November launch, the U.S. Air Force’s Space Test Program has begun planning a mission that could involve hosting military experiments on commercial satellites or hitching a ride to space on a commercial launch vehicle.

The Space Test Program at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., organizes space launches for experiments developed by many government agencies. The most recent STP-S26 mission crammed seven small satellites atop a Minotaur 4 rocket and demonstrated numerous technologies that the military may incorporate into future operational missions.

Not much has been decided about the next Space Test Program mission. The Air Force is interested in potentially hosting multiple experiments on commercial missions planned for launch in 2012 or 2013, according to a Feb. 18 request for information posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website. The service provided technical specifications for 15 experiments that could be considered for commercial launches. A total of 73 experiments are prioritized for launch by the Pentagon’s Space Experiments Review Board.

The Space Test Program has a nearly $50 million annual budget that is expected to remain relatively stable, and its goal is to launch as many experiments as possible with that level of funding, said Air Force Col. Carol Welsch, the organization’s director. More…

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