2
Background

The fundamental goal of U.S. commercial space policy is to support and enhance U.S. economic competitiveness in space activities while protecting U.S. national security and foreign policy interests. . . . Assuring reliable and affordable access to space through U.S. space transportation capabilities is fundamental to achieving national space policy goals. Therefore, the United States will . . . promote reduction in the cost of current space transportation systems while improving their reliability, operability, responsiveness, and safety (NSTC, 1996).

This chapter provides background information for readers who may not be familiar with space launch activities at the ER or WR. Individual sections describe national space launch policy, how responsibilities are divided between the ranges and users, the basis for safety standards, and commercial cost drivers associated with space launch.

NATIONAL SPACE LAUNCH POLICY

In the past, the U.S. space launch industry was dominated by missions sponsored by the Air Force, NASA, and other federal agencies. Now, however, the space launch industry is rapidly becoming a commercial enterprise in which the government emulates commercial customers, shifting from direct management of launch programs to the purchase of space launch services from U.S. commercial launch companies in an open, competitive market. The President’s 1994 space policy describes the new scenario:

U.S. Government agencies, in acquiring space-launch related capabilities, will, to the extent feasible and consistent with mission requirements, involve the private sector in the design and development of space transportation capabilities, encourage private sector financing, . . . [and] encourage private sector and state and local government investment and participation in the development and improvement of U.S. launch systems and infrastructure (NSTC, 1994).

In response to this policy and the underlying economic realities, the three primary space launch customers—the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), NASA, and the private sector—are moving toward purely commercial modes of operation:

  • DoD space-vehicle acquisition programs are increasingly purchasing space launch services instead of launch vehicles. The U.S. Navy has already changed entirely to this mode. According to current plans, DoD will be 100 percent reliant on the commercial space launch industry by 2004 when the last heavy-lift Titan IV has been launched and the new Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles are in operation.

  • NASA has already shifted entirely to commercial launch vehicles for its unmanned launches, and the space shuttle is transitioning to private-sector operation and maintenance. New reusable launch vehicles (RLVs) are being developed as commercial ventures.

  • The private sector market for launching commercial payloads continues to expand as the information age looks for a ride into space. This is a global market in a global economy, and the United States must succeed in commercial terms to maintain a strong space launch position.

Because the ongoing competitiveness of commercial space launch in the United States is important to a broad range of commercial and government activities, the Air Force is committed to improving the cost effectiveness of range operations. However, issues beyond the control of the Air Force limit what the Air Force can accomplish on its own. These issues include:

  • aligning national missions to allow the ER and WR to support both commercial and government launches efficiently

  • developing a national standard for launch range safety with consistent and universal principles at all U.S. ranges



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Streamlining Space Launch Range Safety 2 Background The fundamental goal of U.S. commercial space policy is to support and enhance U.S. economic competitiveness in space activities while protecting U.S. national security and foreign policy interests. . . . Assuring reliable and affordable access to space through U.S. space transportation capabilities is fundamental to achieving national space policy goals. Therefore, the United States will . . . promote reduction in the cost of current space transportation systems while improving their reliability, operability, responsiveness, and safety (NSTC, 1996). This chapter provides background information for readers who may not be familiar with space launch activities at the ER or WR. Individual sections describe national space launch policy, how responsibilities are divided between the ranges and users, the basis for safety standards, and commercial cost drivers associated with space launch. NATIONAL SPACE LAUNCH POLICY In the past, the U.S. space launch industry was dominated by missions sponsored by the Air Force, NASA, and other federal agencies. Now, however, the space launch industry is rapidly becoming a commercial enterprise in which the government emulates commercial customers, shifting from direct management of launch programs to the purchase of space launch services from U.S. commercial launch companies in an open, competitive market. The President’s 1994 space policy describes the new scenario: U.S. Government agencies, in acquiring space-launch related capabilities, will, to the extent feasible and consistent with mission requirements, involve the private sector in the design and development of space transportation capabilities, encourage private sector financing, . . . [and] encourage private sector and state and local government investment and participation in the development and improvement of U.S. launch systems and infrastructure (NSTC, 1994). In response to this policy and the underlying economic realities, the three primary space launch customers—the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), NASA, and the private sector—are moving toward purely commercial modes of operation: DoD space-vehicle acquisition programs are increasingly purchasing space launch services instead of launch vehicles. The U.S. Navy has already changed entirely to this mode. According to current plans, DoD will be 100 percent reliant on the commercial space launch industry by 2004 when the last heavy-lift Titan IV has been launched and the new Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles are in operation. NASA has already shifted entirely to commercial launch vehicles for its unmanned launches, and the space shuttle is transitioning to private-sector operation and maintenance. New reusable launch vehicles (RLVs) are being developed as commercial ventures. The private sector market for launching commercial payloads continues to expand as the information age looks for a ride into space. This is a global market in a global economy, and the United States must succeed in commercial terms to maintain a strong space launch position. Because the ongoing competitiveness of commercial space launch in the United States is important to a broad range of commercial and government activities, the Air Force is committed to improving the cost effectiveness of range operations. However, issues beyond the control of the Air Force limit what the Air Force can accomplish on its own. These issues include: aligning national missions to allow the ER and WR to support both commercial and government launches efficiently developing a national standard for launch range safety with consistent and universal principles at all U.S. ranges

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Streamlining Space Launch Range Safety increasing the funding priority assigned to range modernization consistent with the importance of maintaining a robust and competitive space launch capability Issues such as these are being examined by the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, the FAA, the media, federally funded research and development centers, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Congress, and others (see Appendix D). Support of Commercial and Government Launches The Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984, 49 U.S.C. Subtitle IX (as amended), makes the U.S. Department of Transportation responsible for licensing and regulating nongovernment launch activities conducted in the United States (or anywhere in the world if a U.S. corporation controls the launch) and for the reentry of RLVs. The act assigned the FAA the responsibility of issuing safety approvals for launch vehicles, safety systems, processes, services, and personnel. Intended to encourage the commercial space industry and increase access to range facilities, the act specifies that “the Secretary of Transportation shall facilitate and encourage the acquisition by the private sector and state governments of (a) launch property of the U.S. government that is excess or otherwise is not needed for public use; and (b) launch services, including utilities, of the government otherwise not needed for public use.” This policy subordinates commercial space launches to government missions at the WR and ER, a limitation that does not reflect the growing importance of commercial space launches. Recognizing the launch ranges as national assets for which the Air Force serves as a steward and rewriting the range mission to put commercial launches on an equal footing with other launches would better align the mission statement with the actual role of the ranges. National Standards The convergence of existing range safety standards into a single national standard for commercial and government launches could simplify the safety process faced by users who launch from more than one range. Philosophically, the need for safety is the same whether a vehicle is launched from Florida, Montana, California, Alaska, or anywhere in between. The population density and environmental conditions are different, but the same level of safety should be provided. Commercial companies that use the WR or ER must meet the standards imposed by the Air Force (i.e., EWR 127-1 and related documents). In addition, every contractor has its own safety regulations and must abide by local and federal laws. In many cases contractors are bound by laws from their home states even when using a range in another state. Rules and regulations that are considered acceptable off base at commercial locations should, in general, also be acceptable on base. Fundamental public safety standards should be the same no matter where the operation is conducted. Several launch locations, such as NASA’s Wallops Island, have their own safety documentation, much of it originating from EWR 127-1. Numerous U.S. launch sites, including Wallops Island and new launch sites operated or being considered by new launch service companies, are not under the control of the 30th or 45th Space Wings or any other part of the Air Force. An important issue, then, becomes whether the contents of EWR 127-1 are necessary and sufficient outside Air Force authority. Some documents from other ranges eliminate many of the design solutions included in EWR 127-1 in favor of simply stating performance requirements. The FAA, which is responsible for licensing commercial launches, has undertaken an initiative to develop commercial launch standards that would apply nationally. The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation has amended its licensing regulation to address commercial launches from federal launch ranges. It also has released notices of proposed rule-making for licensing commercial launch sites and commercial RLVs. The Air Force is helping the FAA develop regulations related to launches from nonfederal launch sites. Even if a national standard were created, it is not clear how it would be used. A national standard could be referenced by the FAA, but a standard broad enough to be applied nationally would require detailed implementation guidance at specific sites. Also, it is not clear how a national standard would affect the process for updating EWR 127-1, the level of detail used to specify requirements in EWR 127-1, or how those requirements are enforced. To help answer questions such as these, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics developed an industry consensus on a national standard (see Appendix D). Priority of Range Modernization Congress is funding modernization of the ER and WR to reduce recurring costs and to keep the United States globally competitive. Under the Range Standardization and Automation (RSA) modernization program, the Air Force is planning to update satellite data relay systems, improve safety equipment, and reduce turnaround time (the time required to reconfigure ground systems between launches). However, the modernization schedule has been extended several times because of budgetary constraints and the low priority assigned to this effort. ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE RANGES AND USERS The ER, with its launch base at Cape Canaveral Air Station, is under the cognizance of the 45th Space Wing, head-quartered at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida. The WR’s

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Streamlining Space Launch Range Safety launch base is at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and is under the cognizance of the 30th Space Wing. Both wings report to the 14th Air Force and AFSPC. The history of these two great ranges is the history of the American space program and its contribution to national defense, the ending of the Cold War, and our current space-based military and economic capabilities. A good discussion of the history and current status of the WR and ER can be found in Chapters 4, 5, and 6 of the Range IPT Report (USAF, 1998). Although the ER and WR are considered here primarily in their space launch role, both ranges also function in their historic role as test ranges for national defense systems. The ER is the site for all test launches of Trident submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) by the United States and the United Kingdom. The WR is the site for all test launches of U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Over the years, both ranges have supported research, development, and training for a myriad of other programs associated with missiles, aircraft, rockets, and other weapons. Within the DoD, the WR and ER are managed as major range and test facility bases under DoD Directive 3200.11, “Use, Management, and Operation of DoD Major Ranges and Test Facilities” (Paragraph 4.2.9.8.). Significantly, as national space ranges, they also come under the purview of DoD Directive 3230.03, “DoD Support for Commercial Space Launch Activities,” and the mission charter of AFSPC. Only recently have the WR and ER been managed and operated using a common range safety document. Their range safety programs did not begin to converge until the late 1980s, and no common document governing range safety at both ranges existed before 1995, when EWR 127-1 was issued. The 30th and the 45th Space Wings, who manage and operate the ranges, provide the following services for launch customers: municipal services and infrastructure necessary to conduct a launch campaign at the site management of the siting of the launch pad (explosive arcs, environmental clearances, etc.) a permissive environment for the launch entity’s acquisition of necessary support services on the ground, either through wing contracts (for government launches using traditional acquisition programs) or launch-customer contracts and purchases (for commercial launches and government launches obtained through commercial launch service contracts) range equipment, systems, and services to monitor and track space launches and to ensure public safety during launch; commercial customers reimburse the government for the wing’s marginal costs of providing these services for each launch For all launches, EWR 127-1 vests full authority and responsibility for public safety in the wing commander. The chief of safety at each wing serves as the commander’s designated representative to carry out the range safety program, which includes the following tasks: enforcing public safety requirements and defining launch area safety and launch-complex requirements for mission flight control and other launch support operations reviewing and coordinating changes with range users and providing range safety approvals for operational procedures, as well as oversight of all prelaunch operations at the launch complex and launch vehicle or payload processing facilities as they relate to the safety of the public and launch area. reviewing, providing range safety approval, and auditing operations at a launch complex and associated support facilities for launch-complex safety concerns in accordance with launch-complex safety training and certification programs. The responsibilities of the safety offices at both ranges encompass three functional areas, each of which is involved in protecting the public. System safety reviews and approves the design and implementation of safety systems in all launch systems. Flight safety, which is responsible for the safety of flight operations, includes planning launch support, establishing allowable mission parameters, monitoring the vehicle and ground systems during countdown and flight, and issuing flight termination commands when necessary. Ground safety, which is responsible for the safety of ground operations, includes industrial safety and responding to emergencies during ground operations. Under EWR 127-1 range users have the following responsibilities: providing safe systems, equipment, facilities, and materials conducting operations in a manner that is safe and complies with applicable portions of the range safety program obtaining reviews and approvals of all safety documents for their programs submitting data for flight control operations, obtaining range safety approval, and participating in safety-critical operations complying with all other applicable laws and regulations Commercial range users are highly motivated to carry out these responsibilities in a way that maintains high levels of safety. As noted in the Range IPT Report: Commercial users have an interest as great or greater than the government in operating launch sites and in conducting launch campaigns safely. A flight failure or safety incident severely impacts the launch manifest and the ability of the

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Streamlining Space Launch Range Safety commercial user to attract new or follow-on business (USAF, 1998). For DoD launches, the 30th and 45th Space Wings have exercised a significant mission-assurance role in the past, but this role has been diminishing recently because of changes in Air Force procurement practices and organization. NASA assumes mission-assurance responsibility for shuttle launches and monitors the work of commercial launch providers for its other launches. For commercial launches, however, the wings have not been assigned any roles or responsibilities associated with mission assurance. The success or failure of commercial launches is the responsibility of the launch company. The mission of the wings is to ensure that every flight can be terminated safely—if it fails. Range safety requirements and responsibilities are related to mission assurance but should be distinguished from nonsafety functions (such as mission assurance) so that safety offices can focus on their primary task (i.e., safety), and range users can be flexible in resolving mission assurance concerns. SAFETY STANDARDS Space launch is a potentially dangerous business. Early in the space program risks were largely unknown, and, as a precaution, isolated areas were selected as launch sites. The range safety program has developed to its present state in response to four factors: increasing range and explosive power of launch vehicles increasing encroachment of civilian populations and municipalities on the launch sites increasing sensitivity to public risk growing concern that a serious accident involving the general public would inhibit important space programs An early goal used to define launch safety standards was to ensure that the public would be subject to no more risk from space launches “than that imposed by the overflight of conventional aircraft” (EWR 127-1, 1997). This goal has since been broadened to ensuring that the risk to the general public from space launches be no higher “than the risk voluntarily accepted in normal day-to-day activities” (EWR 127-1, 1997). The foundation for both goals is rooted in the legislative history of Public Law 60 from the 81st Congress, but neither goal is legally mandated. Even so, the ranges have well-defined safety standards based on evolving analysis techniques, technology, and regulations. Two standards at the heart of the current range safety programs at the two ranges are critical to the discussions in this report: The standard of collective risk to the general public, expressed in terms of casualty expectation (Ec), must be less than 30 × 10−6 for each launch. This implies that one serious injury or fatality can be expected to occur for every 33,000 launches, or once every 1,000 years for a launch rate of 33 per year.1 The overall goal for reliability of the flight termination system (FTS) is 0.9981, with air and ground subsystems each meeting a reliability of 0.999.2 Range safety is based on two primary, complementary elements: The launch hardware is designed to be safe and is then managed, maintained, and operated to ensure that the design levels of safety are achieved at all times. The range operators can reliably monitor launches in progress, and, if something happens in flight that could compromise public safety, they can shut down the vehicle propulsion system so the vehicle follows a ballistic flight path to a known, safe impact point. Finding 2-1. Range safety personnel and procedures have well protected people and property. In the history of the U.S. space program, no members of the general public or launch site workers have been killed or seriously injured during a launch accident. COMMERCIAL COST DRIVERS Cost will be a key driver in future space launch competitions, and range costs are an important element of total launch costs. Range operators and commercial launch customers incur three kinds of launch costs: The cost of maintaining and operating the ER and WR, which during fiscal year 1998 was $731 million, exclusive of military pay. More than half of the budget ($418 million) was dedicated to infrastructure. The remaining $313 million was spent on range and launch support contracts. Of the total, $603 million was an uncompensated budget burden on the Air Force and U.S. taxpayers (USAF, 1998). The Air Force’s desire to reduce this burden through more efficient and less costly range safety processes is one of the factors behind current efforts, including this study, to improve range efficiency. Reimbursable costs, which are paid to AFSPC by range users to offset the cost of range operations. This amount was $128 million in fiscal year 1998 (USAF, 1998). The amount paid by commercial launchers is a business burden directly related to global competitiveness. The launch companies’ internal costs of complying with range safety rules, which are another direct business burden. 1   Collective and individual risk are discussed in more detail in Chapter 3. 2   FTS reliability is discussed in more detail in Chapter 4.

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Streamlining Space Launch Range Safety Launch companies also face the opportunity cost of business lost to foreign competitors with less costly range safety systems and processes. An important by-product of establishing a more efficient range safety system would be improved U.S. competitiveness. Inconsistencies between the two ranges and between the range safety and acquisition organizations result in redundant and sometimes conflicting or risk-averse requirements being levied on the launch providers, which increases range certification costs and operational complexity. Range safety requirements impact user costs in a number of ways. A user may wish to launch a new vehicle or a derivative of an existing vehicle on one of the ranges. The Atlas V is an example of a derivative vehicle currently under development. The total cost for range safety certification is estimated by Lockheed Martin at $1.8 million, of which the flight segment cost will be approximately $600,000 (not including launch operations procedures). Lockheed Martin has estimated that there are more than 18,000 requirements in EWR 127-1, of which 10,778 had to be addressed individually for the Atlas V. A change in one segment of a launch vehicle can require recertification of all vehicle range safety systems to the latest requirements, not the requirements that were current when those systems were originally certified. For example, the booster for the Taurus launch vehicle, which was certified for flight on the WR, was upgraded from a Minuteman to a Castor 120 stage. Recertification for both ranges required an upgrade from 1989 certification standards to the 1995 version of EWR 127-1. Total nonrecurring costs for the recertification were more than $1 million, including more than $750,000 changes to onboard hardware. These changes also increased recurring costs by $60,000 per vehicle. A launch vehicle certified for flight on one range still requires separate certification for flight on the other range. The process of certifying the Atlas II for flight on the WR began in 1993, after it had been certified and flown successfully from the ER. The certification process still was not complete in mid-1999. At that time, the cost associated with recertifying the Atlas II for the WR had exceeded $1 million. Eighty percent of that cost was related to meeting the flight safety requirements in Chapter 4 of EWR 127-1. For the Atlas IIAS, the WR required recertification of the FTS antennas, even though antennas of that design had been flying for nearly 30 years on both coasts. Lockheed Martin reported that the WR required qualification testing of three sets of hardware at a total cost of $300,000. (Unexpected problems unrelated to antenna performance were encountered during testing, which added to the cost.) Ultimately, the antennas were certified with no changes in design (Smith, 1999). In addition, the WR required recertification of the Atlas IIAS electrical box shock mount isolators, which had flown successfully at the ER, for use with FTS systems. Testing of the mounts and boxes cost an additional $300,000. Going the other way, the manufacturer of the Pegasus launch vehicle estimated that certifying the Pegasus for launch at the ER cost about $1 million and took more than six months and four labor-years of engineering staff time, even though the Pegasus had been launched many times from the WR. Range safety offices may also require that users pay for tests to assess the effectiveness of specific design solutions. The WR requires that ground box acceptance testing of each FTS component be conducted in a special facility provided by the WR. This facility also is used for retesting to extend the shelf life of range safety components when required to meet launch schedules. At the ER, however, users have the option of conducting these tests as part of their normal vehicle manufacturing process. Also, the WR process requires that users provide the range with a new test set or modify an existing test set whenever changes are made to the design of the receiver or FTS. In one example cited by Lockheed Martin, the costs of providing a test set to the WR exceeded $1 million. On the positive side, Orbital uses the WR to test all Pegasus FTS boxes regardless of the ultimate launch site, obviating the need for duplicate test facilities and equipment but entailing additional transportation time and expense for launches conducted anywhere except the WR. Many factors affect the cost and effort of certifying a launch vehicle on one range after it has operated from the other range. The committee did not conduct an independent analysis of the need for the testing described above and does not assert that any or all of it was arbitrary or capricious. Clearly, however, there is room for improvement in developing common test and certification practices, and more standardized requirements between the ranges would help address this problem. REFERENCES DoD (U.S. Department of Defense). 1998. Use, Management, and Operation of DoD Major Ranges and Test Facilities. Department of Defense Directive 3200.11. January 26, 1998. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Defense. DoD. 1986. Department of Defense Support for Commercial Space Launch Activities. Department of Defense Directive 3230.03, October 14, 1986. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Defense. EWR 127-1 (Eastern and Western Range Safety Requirements). 1997. Available on line at: http://www.pafb.af.mil/45sw/rangesafety/ewr97.htm January 20, 2000. NSTC (National Science and Technology Council). 1994. National Space Transportation Policy (NSTP-4). August 5, 1994. Washington, D.C.: The White House. NSTC. 1996. Fact Sheet: National Space Policy. September 19, 1996. Washington, D.C.: The White House. Smith, D. 1999. Atlas FTS Antenna Requalification. Briefing by Dan Smith, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, to a panel of the Committee on Space Launch Range Safety, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, Colorado, June 24, 1999. USAF (U.S. Air Force). 1998. Range Integrated Product Team Report. Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.: Air Force Space Command. Available on line at: http://www4.nas.edu/cets/asebhome.nsf/web/aseb_related_links?OpenDocument March 10, 2000.