Air Force and NASA officials recently agreed with the
primary recommendation of a 120-day study team that the Air
Force and NASA should continue to assess building a joint
Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) demonstrator.

After scrutinizing shared technologies and mutual
requirements for space access, the study team’s top
recommendation to the Air Force and NASA was that the two
organizations should work together to assess building a joint
operations demonstrator vehicle. The study also concludes
this demonstrator could eventually lead to a follow-on cargo
vehicle for both the Air Force and NASA, as well as to a
crewed vehicle for NASA.

NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe; Air Force Undersecretary and
Director of the National Reconnaissance Office Peter B.
Teets; and General Ed Eberhart, Commander of US SPACECOM and
NORAD, discussed the 120-day RLV study’s findings and
recommendations April 10 at a Senior Space Partnership
Council meeting in Colorado Springs, Colo., and agreed in
principle with the study’s recommendations.

Another significant development of the meeting was a mutual
agreement by the principals to continue a cadre of
experienced Air Force people to work with NASA to proceed
with joint study efforts, which include refining concepts of
operations, requirements, figures of merit, and design
reference missions. These efforts would support the fielding
of a joint operations demonstrator vehicle as well as follow-
on vehicles, which may evolve from that effort.

Officials from both organizations said they would like to
move forward with an integrated technology planning effort
that would address the requirements of both agencies.

“We see the Space Launch Initiative as a team effort to
develop alternative reusable space launch systems that would
enhance national security and increase the safety and
reliability of our space exploration efforts,” said NASA
Administrator Sean O’Keefe. “The findings of this study
indicate that there are many areas where we can save taxpayer
money by sharing technologies and integrating our planning

Other study highlights include the following:

* Development funding would be necessary in the out-years to
support a joint operations demonstrator vehicle

* There is a documented need for a new RLV system that
supports commercial launch leadership.

* RLV is identified as having the potential to contribute to
a transformational warfighting capability and to addressing
NASA’s need for a Space Shuttle replacement.

* Potential RLV commonality exists between NASA and DoD in
areas like technology development, cargo lift requirements
and launch architecture elements. A demonstrator could
provide DoD early limited operational capability and provide
design heritage for an operational system.

“This study, its recommendations, and our subsequent
agreement shows we believe there is significant potential to
be gained from a combined Air Force/NASA RLV effort,” said
Teets. “By combining strategies, harmonizing technologies and
eliminating duplication of effort, we believe we are on a
watershed course guided by sound business principles and a
heartfelt desire to meet the future national security
challenges of our nation.”