This is going to sound a bit like a no brainer for those space professionals out there who work on space launch, but for those who don’t and happen to see the article this week by DoDBuzz, I wanted to make a few short points.
The premise of the article is flawed from the beginning. The short answer to their flawed question “Why doesn’t the Air Force use Cheap, Reusable Rockets?” is because there are no cheap, reusable rockets-YET. The focus of the article is on the testing of potentially reusable rockets such as the Falcon 9 and New Shepard vs. the “expensive” and “expendable” vehicles used through the unnamed company which we all know is ULA.
Now for the longer answer…the Air Force and the USG broadly have requirements for their space missions that are different than those of the commercial sector like SES who is willing to use a used booster rocket downstage on their next flight with SpaceX. These requirements include something called mission assurance that is to ensure that the rocket doesn’t do things like this to expensive and very important national security missions….
This is the whole reason we have a United Launch Alliance (which by the way are also commercial companies serving a government contract–some articles make it sound like they are government owned…they are not).
Until the SpaceX and others of the commercial market can meet those special requirements AND mission assurance using used hardware…the DoD cannot afford to risk their vehicles. So its NOT that the “Pentagon is more focused on the supremacy of U.S. satellite technology than how the spacecraft are vaulted into space” but that their ability to achieve mission objectives and assured access to space is maintained. Big difference.
This article seems to be designed to serve as lobbying tools for SpaceX and Blue Origin by the author…they are great companies, but they need to meet requirements to get contracts. Not just achieve exciting landings of downstages on pads at sea or land.