“You know, every now and then, it’s good to remind myself … to be more empathetic with my pet’s chew toys.”
– Gen. Mark Welsh, the U.S. Air Force’s chief of staff, reflecting on the dogged questioning
he endured during a March 3 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) used the two-hour budget hearing to chew over one of
his favorite bones of contention: the Air Force’s continued reliance on the Russian RD-180 engine that powers United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket.
Doug Loverro, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, said March 7 that such a distinction may not make much sense for future systems, as boundaries disappear between different types of communications.
The Pentagon is already studying whether to split the strategic and tactical protected communications currently done on AEHF satellites onto separate spacecraft.
SpaceX has launched just two missions so far this year.
Assuming its first ISS resupply mission since last June’s failure lifts off April 4, SpaceX still needs to launch 15 times over nine months — or once every 18 days — to meet the goal SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell shared during Satellite 2016 in early March.
SpaceX has proven they can launch on a quick turnaround. In September 2014, SpaceX launched twice in 14 days, capping a 46-day run that included three launches — once every 15.3 days. But SpaceX has yet to establish a steady tempo. It’s best run to date was four launches in 107 days, or an average of once every 26 days. That happened last year when it launched NOAA’s DSCOVR space weather satellite, two communications satellites and an ISS cargo mission between Feb. 11 and April 17.
The company’s last 18 launches?
That feat took 1,099 days, which averages out to a launch every 61 days.