FAST Space: Leveraging Ultra Low-Cost Space Access (ULCATS) for 21st Century Challenges - New Architecture for Reusable Launch Vehicles and Rockets Through Partnerships with U.S. Commercial Firms
This study, conducted by a team of leaders in industry, research and development, finance, policy and strategy, explores whether and how the USAF can form private sector partnerships to create a virtuous cycle of launch cost reductions of between 3 and 10 times lower than today's costs. Doing so could enable completely new approaches for the Air Force to defend American values. More
This report has been professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction. This study, conducted by a team of leaders in industry, research and development, finance, policy and strategy, explores whether and how the USAF can form private sector partnerships to create a virtuous cycle of launch cost reductions of between 3 and 10 times lower than today's costs. Doing so could enable completely new approaches for the Air Force to defend American values, protect American interests, and enhance opportunities to exploit the unique global advantages of the ultimate high ground. This study looked at the next steps beyond where industry is today and DARPA's XS-1 program. The team was challenged to keep an open mind and explore all approaches that could dramatically reduce the cost of access to space. While we heard about many game changing technologies that have the potential to provide ultra-low-cost access, including scramjets, tethers, beamed propulsion, and gas guns, we found that US industry is making the most significant private investments in fully-reusable launch vehicles using chemical propulsion. A fundamental element of a commercial partnership strategy is to require private industry to co-invest significant private capital, and then let industry lead the system design and choose the technologies they think are ready.
This compilation includes a reproduction of the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.
A Fast Space architecture envisions an ecosystem of concepts, capabilities, and industrial partnerships that make speed the defining attribute of advantage in space. In this approach, speed describes both the supply and demand sides of the space market. On the supply side, Fast Space envisions sortie-on-demand launch capability, made possible through economically viable business cases, high launch rates, sustainably lower costs, rapid turn-around, and higher reliability from emerging approaches that industry is experimenting with. On the demand side, Fast Space enables users at all levels of conflict, from tactical to strategic, to harvest new advantages in and through space. These advantages include persistent command and control (C2), ubiquitous communications, on-demand Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), and new axes for kinetic effects.
Nuclear Deterrence. To strengthen our nation's nuclear deterrent, Fast Space facilitates the disaggregation of strategic warning assets from tactical and operational capabilities. The space architecture could be bifurcated into high-end assets for strategic warning, complemented by a resilient rapidly reconstituted constellation of tactical and operational capabilities. This move to disaggregate enables the establishment of clear red lines for our strategic assets. It makes one asset class operationally vulnerable, in policy and in fact, while making strategic satellites the policy equivalent of sovereign territory— attacks on which trigger overwhelming and devastating responses. Furthermore, Fast Space assets could create conventional coercive leverage over groups or states who consider themselves immune to nuclear threats. Conventional Capability and Deterrent. A Fast Space approach significantly improves our conventional capability, thereby strengthening the deterrent value of our conventional military power. Currently, adversaries have checked our conventional advantage by building anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities that make fixed targets like forward bases vulnerable to attack. These A2/AD capabilities severely weaken the persistence, tempo, and lethality that underwrite our current approach to power projection. Current conditions will not permit the US military to maintain a sufficient density of sensors and effects over the required distances and lengths of time.
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