Department of Defense (DOD)´s space projects which ideally COMPETE with NASA's...
In 2001, the
Department of Defense only got around
$6 million annually for reusable launch vehicle research, compared to
NASA´s $5 billion over 5 years for its controversial Space Launch
Initiative. If the D.O.D. can get the USA's reusable launch
vehicle program back on track, then that technology could someday have great
commercial applications such as space tourism, same day delivery, and one
hour travel to any major city worldwide. We might even rebound from
our country's substantial loss
in world launch marketshare. Luckily for space enthusiasts,
the Air Force seems increasingly interested in reusable launch vehicles even
though it won't be funding the controversial
X-33 , as this
states. New Mexico Senator
Domenici's Office has been at the forefront of the movement to give NASA
long overdue competition from the Department of Defense,
trying to make
guaranteed loans available from the D.O.D. for reusable launch vehicle
research in the private sector. Thus far his
not prevailed (yet).
There is reason for optimism if greater interagency competition actually emerges. According to Dr. Zubrin´s book "Entering Space", the Air Force created the predecessor DC-X rocket with a budget of merely $60 million back in 1994. It could take off on more than one occasion DURING THE SAME DAY, -and- it required a ground crew of merely 14 people (yes, 14). Let´s contrast that with the Space Shuttle which costs around $600 million per launch, has an enormous ground crew of several thousand different tax-subsidized bureaucrats and contractors, and a turnover time of many months (assuming it even lasts long enough to repeat a mission, if its internal parts don´t misbehave like the O-rings fatally did a decade and a half ago, or its foaming process much more recently). NASA´s Shuttle doesn´t help the budding space tourism industry much either, as some of those serving it feel nervous whenever an upstart private venture threatens to make NASAobsolete. Meanwhile, as both Boeing AND Lockheed co-operate the Shuttle through their joint venture of USA, pressures exist for them not to outperform it with their own potentially competing ventures.
Anyway, as Dr. Zubrin´s account goes, NASA predictably responded to the DC-X´s success half a decade ago by lobbying to keep the military from becoming too powerful in space. The DC-X was then completely transferred to NASA, where it conveniently evolved into the unsuccessful X-33 program. $1.3 billion dollars later, it is worth noting that the DC-X was no isolated example of the fruits of interagency competition though. The Air Force also brought us the $80 million dollar Clementine lunar mission back in 1994 (both under General Pete Worden). Supposedly, Clementine was by far the cheapest lunar or planetary mission ever flown, and it forced NASA to rethink its policies and embrace the Faster Better Cheaper approach. This story is also fully discussed in Dr. Zubrin´s Entering Space, as is the fact that NASA successfully lobbied to keep the DOD from getting to have a Clementine II..