Apr 28, 2020
The U.S. Air Force (USAF) today stands at a crossroads over its launch acquisition strategy. In this report, authors analyze the heavy lift launch market to help the USAF gain clearer insight into the number of U.S. launch service providers that the global heavy lift launch market can support and the impact of near-term decisions on the USAF's ability to (1) meet NSS launch demand using U.S. providers and (2) sustain two or more U.S. providers.
In 2019, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) asked the RAND Corporation to independently analyze the heavy lift space launch market to assess how potential USAF decisions in the near term could affect domestic launch providers and the market in general. This report's authors examined historical and projected levels of demand and supply in the global commercial and National Security Space (NSS) launch markets to help the USAF gain clearer insight into the number of U.S. launch service providers that the global heavy lift launch market can support and the impact of near-term acquisition decisions on the USAF's ability to (1) meet NSS launch demand using U.S. launch service providers and (2) sustain two or more U.S. launch service providers over the next decade.
Using literature reviews, historical launch data, and interviews with subject-matter experts and industry stakeholders, the authors developed launch market forecasts and constructed vignettes to illuminate potential market strategies for U.S. firms.
As a result, the USAF should continue to provide tailored support for three U.S. launch service providers in the heavy lift launch market. Longer term, it should prepare for a future with only two U.S. providers of NSS-certified heavy lift launch services.
Understanding U.S. National Security Space Launch
Understanding the Addressable Commercial Launch Market
Strategic Choices Faced by U.S. Heavy Lift Launch Providers
Assessing the Impact of USAF NSS Launch Acquisition Decisions on the NSS Market
Assessing the Impact of USAF NSS Launch Acquisition Decisions on the Global Heavy Lift Launch Market
Observations and Recommendations
Learning from History