A friend of mine pointed out this article from “Soldier of Fortune” magazine called “Ending Russia’s Chokehold on the [International Space Station]” and wanted my thoughts: http://www.sofmag.com/ending-russia%E2%80%99s-chokehold-iss. As a systems engineer with some interest in assured space access, I had been thinking about this problem for quite some time. If I had to end Russia’s chokehold on the ISS, I would expand the problem to end Russia’s chokehold on assured space access, and I would do it in this way if I were king for a day:
- Stop buying Russian RD-180 engines.
- Temporarily go sole source to SpaceX with the Dragon capsule and heavily incentivize an open competition.
- Open up competition on a replacement for the RD-180 engine and accept some risk on the SpaceX engine as long as Elon Musk drops the lawsuit against the Air Force and pays for some risk out of pocket “put his money where his mouth is”.
- Allow SpaceX, Orbital, ATK, and Virgin to be exempt from Federal Acquisition Regulations.
- Rethink military acquisitions with regards to civilian space access by applying lessons learned from the big commercial companies.
Assured access to space is important to the United States economy, and to national security. I understand that the Air Force is risk averse and broke at this time, but there a few bureaucratic things it can do to help get the United States out of this mess.