Claire Leon, U.S. Air Force launch enterprise director. Credit: USAF

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force has created a new senior executive service position at its primary space acquisition headquarters to improve what it describes as the “business of launch.”

Claire Leon, a former Boeing executive, is the new director of launch enterprise at the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, according to an Oct. 3 email obtained by SpaceNews. The move comes as the service begins the competitive phase of its launch program.

Leon retired from Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems in 2013 as vice president of national programs, a euphemism for classified intelligence systems. She had previously served as vice president of the company’s navigation and communication systems and as program director for the Wideband Global Satcom system, on which Boeing is prime contractor.

Leon will “continue the focus” of Scott Correll, the Air Force’s former program executive officer for space launch, who now works as vice president for acquisition and government policy at Aerojet Rocketdyne, the email said.

Currently, virtually all operational U.S. national security missions are launched by Denver-based United Launch Alliance, established in 2006 by the once-competing launch business of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. But the Air Force is in the process of certifying Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s Falcon 9 rocket to launch national security missions, which will reintroduce competition to the market.

“We will be busier than we have been in almost 20 years with acquisition efforts emphasizing increased opportunities for competition and qualifying new launch providers,” Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, the SMC commander, said in the email.

Mike Gruss covers military space issues, including the U.S. Air Force and Missile Defense Agency, for SpaceNews. He is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.