Executive Summary Spaceborne collection assets are useless if they cannot be put into orbit. Hence, launch vehicles will remain a critical component of the US intelligence collection architecture. Titan IV, the primary launch vehicle used by the Intelligence Community (IC), is prohibitively expensive. In order to meet the needs of all users, the US needs to move to simple, reliable, affordable launch vehicles. Though we believe the US must ultimately develop a new launch vehicle, interim solutions require the infusion of new ways of doing business and decreasing the IC's reliance on the Titan IV. The following recommendations reflect this approach. - If technically feasible, all IC payloads should be taken off of the Titan IV. No Titan IVs should be purchased by the IC after the 1997 buy, and even that should be reconsidered. - The U.S. should examine the viability of advanced technologies to reduce the size of satellites. - The Air Force should modify its Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program to focus solely on the heavy lift problem. The US government should take advantage of the Medium Launch Vehicle (MLV) competition between McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed Martin in order to keep MLV costs low. - All IC payloads should move to the "ship and shoot" approach (i.e., payloads arrive at the launch site ready for launch, with no on-site assembly, testing, etc). - Future IC payloads should conform to the standard interface of the launch vehicle. IC MLV class payloads should be compatible with both the Atlas IIAS/R and the Delta 3. COLLECTION: LAUNCH Launch vehicles are, and will remain, a crucial component of the US space architecture, especially in support of the Intelligence Community. Numerous government studies have espoused the criticality of our space transportation system to the US's assured access to space and have enumerated the many problems plaguing the launch vehicle community (LVC). Yet, nothing has come of these studies but piles of paper. No one has been able to push the solution forward for the real issue the LVC faces: the requirement for simple, reliable, and affordable launch vehicles. Though many organizations have tried, all previous efforts to build a new launcher have failed (ALS, NLS, Spacelifter, etc.) because the US Government (USG) tried to procure these systems doing business as usual. Costs grew substantially and programs were cancelled. The Intelligence Community (IC) is particularly vulnerable to the vagaries of the LVC. Because IC payloads are launched to support national security interests, required launch costs have been paid, regardless of how exorbitant. However, this climate is changing, mainly due to the current austere budget environment. With many of the IC payloads being scaled back or downsized to save costs, it is time to take a serious look at the LVC and decide if it is providing what we need to support intelligence requirements for the 21st century. FINDING: Launch vehicles will remain a critical component of the U.S. intelligence collection architecture. In recent years, the IC has mainly been concerned with the Titan IV (TIV) launch vehicle and, in fact, the IC has been the main driver behind the need for a heavy lift capability because of the size of its payloads. The TIV has become the workhorse of the Community since (and because of) the Space Shuttle Challenger accident. It is the only US vehicle (besides the Space Shuttle) capable of providing a heavy lift capability. The TIV, along with the rest of the United States' launch vehicles, is based upon 1950's ICBM technology. ICBM developments were not optimized for low-cost production and simple, streamlined operations. These missiles were designed in the shortest time possible and built with the emphasis on maximizing performance (i.e., to carry the largest warhead possible) while minimizing the weight of the missile. Thus, very little design margin was allowed to keep the weight of the ICBM low. The Atlas launch vehicle is a perfect example of this. The structural walls of the Atlas missile's propellant tanks (and consequently, those of the Atlas launch vehicle) cannot stand up by themselves because the tanks' walls are extremely thin to save on weight. They must be internally pressurized for structural stability; otherwise, they implode. Hence, it is no wonder that our current stable of launch vehicles is not optimized for cost efficiency, robustness of design, and short operational timelines. Further, no matter how many times we upgrade these systems, their complex designs will never allow for ease of operations, low cost and maximum reliability. There is only so much that can be done with these legacy systems. FINDING: The US needs simple, reliable, affordable launch vehicles. The Titan IV launch vehicle is not the best means of ensuring a viable 21st century collection architecture. Other options -- such as new launch vehicles and changes in satellite design -- must be pursued. The majority of IC payloads use the TIV. It is extremely expensive, unreliable, non-responsive, and pollutes the environment. It is definitely NOT the launch vehicle of the 21st century. The IC has four options to solve the above problems: 1) lighten the spacecraft so they can fly on a Medium Launch Vehicle (MLV); 2) perform product improvements to the TIV to increase reliability, improve responsiveness, and decrease cost; 3) hope the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program is successful at decreasing costs; or 4) develop a new launch vehicle. FINDING: The Titan IV launch vehicle is prohibitively expensive. Though we believe that, ultimately, the country must make the investment in a new launch vehicle as stated in Option 4, we must deal with the realities of today. Also, as stated earlier, there appears to be very little that can be done in the form of upgrades to increase substantially reliability and to decrease costs for these legacy systems. Therefore, we recommend a combination of Options 1 and 3. The IC should reduce its payloads in weight and size to be compatible with the MLV class of boosters, at a minimum, but should strive, using advanced technologies, to attain the smallest satellite size and weight possible. We believe, with perhaps the exception of one program, that all current payloads that use the TIV can be downsized with no degradation in performance. This will drastically reduce launch costs for these programs. RECOMMENDATION: If technically feasible, all IC payloads should be taken off of the Titan IV. Regarding EELV, we believe the Air Force should modify its program to focus solely on the heavy lift problem. Until it is ascertained whether the remaining IC program can be downsized to a MLV class booster, we must protect a heavy lift capability. However, MLV costs are already at the cost goals of EELV and both Lockheed Martin and McDonnell Douglas have committed to a MLV program, regardless of whether EELV lives or dies. This is based upon their forecasts for the commercial market. Hence, the USG should use this competition to its advantage and use both MLV programs, instead of locking itself into one contractor team as EELV proposes. Where is the incentive for the contractor to be low cost when it has a monopoly on the USG market? Allowing this MLV competition to continue would allow lower prices to be obtained and would provide a responsive backup capability if enough foresight went into the redesign of the new IC satellites. The new EELV program should mandate that the heavy lift vehicle be a derivative of the MLV programs so that economy of scale will be preserved (especially if the IC is left with only one program requiring heavy lift). Several EELV contractors are already designing their programs in this way. There are some who predict that eventually there will be a commercial market for a heavy lift vehicle, based on the continuing trend of commercial communications satellites to grow larger. However, based on IC requirements, we do not have the luxury to wait and see if the commercial market will help to drive heavy lift costs down. RECOMMENDATION: The Air Force should modify its EELV program to focus solely on the heavy lift problem. The U.S. government should take advantage of the Medium Launch Vehicle (MLV) competition between Lockheed Martin and McDonnell Douglas in order to keep MLV costs low. We applaud the IC in its current efforts to downsize its new spacecraft programs. Because these programs are entering a redesign phase, now is the opportune time to address launch responsiveness issues. The IC should require that these new spacecraft be designed in accordance with the "ship and shoot" philosophy, i.e., the spacecraft arrives at the launch pad ready for launch. No final assembly should be allowed on-pad nor should prolonged testing. Off-line processing and encapsulation need to become the norm, not the exception. This will help streamline operations at the launch pad, allowing for quicker launch turn-arounds. The IC should also mandate that its spacecraft use the standard launch vehicle interface that is available. This will allow spacecraft to be interchangeable on the booster (and between different boosters) should a problem develop with a payload (or a booster). This, too, will help to streamline operations and reduce costly payload-unique designs. The ability for the IC to choose between an Atlas or a Delta launch vehicle for a MLV is now a reality because McDonnell Douglas has committed to the Delta 3. The Delta 3 will be comparable to the Atlas IIAS. The IC should require that all of its new spacecraft be designed to both launch vehicles' dynamic environments and loads. Hence, their launch flexibility will improve dramatically. It is only through implementation of these concepts that space can truly be "operationalized." Unfortunately, business as usual routinely has satellite program offices forcing the launch vehicle to customize its interface, versus the satellite adhering to the standard interface. This will only be changed if direction comes down from the top. The IC is in a perfect position to mandate these approaches and should do so immediately. RECOMMENDATION: All IC payloads, during their current redesign phase, should incorporate the "ship and shoot" approach (i.e., payloads arrive at the launch site ready for launch, with no on-site assembly, testing, etc.). RECOMMENDATION: All IC payloads, during their current redesign phase, should conform to the standard interface of the launch vehicle. NRO MLV class payloads should be compatible with both the Atlas IIAS/R and the Delta 3. Not all IC programs have been as enthusiastic about embracing new technology and lighter weight materials. Their rationale was based on the economies of scale for the TIV program. If the IC pulled all of their spacecraft off of the TIV except for one program, the costs become prohibitively expensive for that remaining program. That does not mean, however, that we should continue to pay three times as much for launch vehicles for other programs (not to mention foregoing the cheaper satellite costs) to save the perception that the TIV program is affordable. Perhaps the cost savings would be eaten up by the TIV inefficiencies, but it might provide the impetus to devise new ways of downsizing the remaining heavy lift program, so it too could be taken off of the TIV, and provide more support to the heavy lift EELV program (i.e. with only one satellite requiring heavy lift, we need a more cost effective means of providing it). We have embraced a serious and timely examination of small satellite technology and believe that much smaller satellites can perform some, if not all, IC missions, with improved performance and flexibility. These new satellites could potentially use the small launch vehicle (SLV) class of boosters. This SLV class of boosters includes the Lockheed Martin Launch Vehicle (LLV) and Orbital Sciences Taurus vehicle. We must mention some of the development problems this class of boosters is experiencing. LLV has had one failure out of one launch attempt and Taurus has had one success out of one launch (though its sister program, Pegasus, has had numerous failures and has yet to become truly operational, casting doubt on all of Orbital's launch vehicle programs). Though these boosters have had their share of problems, both companies have enormous incentive to make these programs viable from both a cost and reliability point of view. Both companies have commercial satellite programs that must fly on their own respective small launch vehicles. Hence, these companies must ensure that their launch vehicles will perform reliably and take their payloads into orbit. We believe these market forces will provide the impetus required to make these programs operational. If this does not occur, MLVs can always be used, albeit at greater cost (though still much cheaper than the TIV). The remaining heavy lift program presents the IC with a major dilemma. The Air Force has no current plans to continue use of the TIV for Department of Defense (DoD) payloads past the follow-on buy scheduled for 1997. If all other programs are taken off of the TIV, the IC will have the only remaining program using this launch vehicle. Regardless of the number of programs it keeps on the TIV, the IC could very well be forced to pick up the whole tab for the TIV program, based on the Air Force's decision (though, at present, the Air Force has said this will not happen). This would be an increase the NFIP could not absorb. The IC, as a part of the aforementioned follow-on buy, will have procured TIVs for all of its approved programs. Production of these TIVs will be completed by 2000. It could be many years before the next TIV launch vehicle is needed. Thus, a major decision is needed in 2000 on whether or not to procure more IC TIVs. We believe the IC should not purchase any more TIVs after the 1997 buy and that even this buy should be reconsidered. If the IC goes ahead with the 1997 buy, it will have bought, by 2000, all of the TIVs it needs for its approved programs, and then some. As part of the initial block buy, at least two TIVs were procured for spacecraft that have since been cancelled. There may be more TIVs available if other programs discussed earlier are downsized. Thus, the IC has a surplus of TIV vehicles. Based on new designs implemented by Lockheed Martin, a satellite program is not locked into a specific TIV configuration but can use any TIV vehicle. This greatly increases the IC's flexibility in using its surplus TIVs. (These surplus vehicles could be used for the remaining heavy lift program to protect a launch capability if the heavy lift portion of EELV cannot support this program.) Therefore, there is no need for the IC to procure more TIVs, including the 1997 buy, other than protection of the industrial base. If the IC decides to buy more TIVs to keep the production line open, it will, in essence, entail a IC commitment to the TIV vehicle as the heavy lift benchmark for the next two decades, based upon satellite design timelines. In other words, the IC will be buying launch vehicles for satellites that will not fly for years. Because the most cost effective time to switch launch vehicles is between block buys, the IC will be saddled with the TIV for another 20 years. As stated above, we believe this is the wrong direction to take. Hence, no more TIVs should be procured by the IC. RECOMMENDATION: No Titan IVs should be purchased by the IC after the 1997 buy, and even that should be reconsidered. To solve the particular problem of the remaining heavy lift program, R&D should be increased in the area of advanced technologies to support reducing the weight and size of the spacecraft. Alternate methods of performing this mission should also be pursued with increased, objective vigor (at a minimum as a part of the IC's Small Satellite Office's downsizing studies). If neither of these attempts at downsizing succeed, the IC will obviously be left with a requirement for a heavy lift capability but at an extremely low launch rate. Thus, again, increased support needs to be given to EELV to ensure that the heavy lift derivative is closely tied to its MLV brethren. This is the only way that a heavy lift capability will be made affordable. RECOMMENDATION: The U.S. should examine the viability of advanced technologies to reduce the size of satellites. In summary, the IC should attempt to downsize its spacecraft to eliminate the need for the TIV. We believe this can be achieved in all programs save perhaps one. R&D should be increased in technologies that have the potential to help the remaining program reduce its weight and size comparable to the capability of the MLV class of boosters (at a minimum). The IC should also mandate, for its programs going through a redesign phase, that they adhere to the standard launch vehicle interface and incorporate a "ship and shoot" approach. Finally, the Air Force should be encouraged to redirect their EELV program to focus solely on the heavy lift problem while demanding that the heavy lift vehicle be based upon a MLV derivative. Thus, if the IC's remaining program cannot be downsized, then EELV must provide a more cost effective heavy lift capability than the current TIV program. It is only in this way that the IC will be able to rely on affordable, assured access to space for its payloads in the 21st century.
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Page #IC21008 June 5, 1996