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“SpaceX does not launch on schedule,” Monteith said Sept. 20 during a space warfighting panel at the annual Air Force Association Air Space Cyber Conference. “They launch on readiness.”
This launch-when-we’re-ready-to-go attitude has had an impact on SpaceX operational needs and costs, said [Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, commander, 45th Space Wing], who also is director of the Air Force Eastern Range, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida. “They have forced us — and I mean forced us — to get better, infinitely better, at what we do,” he said. “We are adopting commercial business practices and becom[ing] more efficient and more affordable. Working with them, we have been able to reduce our main launch footprint by 60 percent and reduce the cost of a single launch by over 50 percent,” he said. “Based on the autonomous flight safety system they developed with us they will help us get to 48 launches a year.”
The autonomous flight safety system replaces the ground-based mission flight control personnel and equipment with on-board positioning, navigation and timing sources and decision logic, the Air Force notes. The system is meant to reduce range spacelift cost, increase schedule predictability and availability, operational flexibility, and launch-slot flexibility.
Gee, the Air Force has only been running the Kennedy launch range now for about a half century. I wonder why they couldn’t figure this out sooner. Could it be because, before SpaceX’s arrival, no one was interested in saving money or launching frequently? Could it be they were all happy with their plush, safe, government jobs and contracts, and didn’t feel a need to do things better?
Damn straight it could be. Before SpaceX the American launch industry was a sick puppy, unwilling to innovate or compete. Thank god that has all now changed, and the reason it changed is because of freedom and competition, hallmarks of American greatness.