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In 1994, the National Space Transportation Policy laid the framework for appropriate government agencies to maintain strong launch systems and infrastructure while modernizing space transportation capabilities and encouraging cost reductions. More than a decade later, through combined Department of Defense (DoD) and industrial investment, the two Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) families of U.S. rockets (Atlas V and Delta IV) have proved to be maturing, reliable state-of-the-art technologies. In 2004, Congress directed the Secretary of Defense to establish a panel of experts with extensive space launch and operations background to address the future National Security Space launch requirements and the means of meeting those requirements. DoD selected RAND to facilitate and support this panel in its deliberations between May 2005 and May 2006. This report analyzes the National Security Space Launch Requirements Panel’s major findings and recommendations. In short, the Panel concludes that, because basic rocketry principles, use of chemically derived thrust, and multiple expendable stages seem certain to remain the design of choice for operational space launch vehicles, the EELV can satisfy all known and projected NSS requirements through 2020.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Baseline National Security Space Requirements

  • Chapter Two


  • Chapter Three

    Launch Infrastructure and Industrial Base

  • Chapter Four

    Space Launch Economics

  • Chapter Five

    Architectures and Operational Concepts

  • Chapter Six

    Launch Technologies

  • Appendix A

    The Current NSS Launch Manifest, 2001-2020

  • Appendix B

    Related Materials

  • Appendix C

    National Security Space Launch Panel Members

  • Appendix D

    National Security Space Launch Panel Contacts and Speakers

The research described in this report was prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The research was conducted in the the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the OSD, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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