A bipartisan group of 12 House members requested $50 million for the Pentagon’s “Tactically Responsive Launch Program” in a letter sent to the House appropriations defense subcommittee last month.
The 2022 National Defense Authorization Act approved $50 million for the program, seconded by the Senate version of the 2022 defense appropriations bill.
However, the House version of the bill allocated only $5 million for the program, which was established to demonstrate satellite launch capacity on short notice, Breaking Defense reported.
Rapid Space Launch Capability
“The US is currently not prepared to replace or augment space launch capabilities on tactical timelines if capabilities are lost,” the letter addressed to Representatives Betty McCollum (D-MIN) and Ken Calvert (R-CA) said.
Referring to the recent anti-satellite missile test by Russia, the House members stressed the need to “reconstitute space assets and capabilities if such assets and capabilities are degraded or attacked,” Space News said.
“Threats to our critical national security assets in low-earth orbit continue to exponentially increase, both from adversary’s direct-ascent weapons, space-based capabilities, and space debris.”
Pentagon Launch Efforts
Meanwhile, the Pentagon has been running a demonstration through the Space Force called Tactically Responsive Launch since 2020. Last year, the Space Force launched a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket carrying a technology demonstration satellite on 21 days’ notice.
Following the launch, chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond said, “We executed a ‘21-day call-up’ to get a satellite in orbit – pulling the payload, mating it with the rocket, and integrating the combined package onto the aircraft.”
“Agile, responsive capability development, combined with our ability to rapidly launch and insert capabilities into space where we want, when we want, will deny our competitors the perceived benefits of beginning a conflict in, or extending a conflict to, space.”
Responding to the launch, Virgin Orbit subsidiary VOX Space remarked that the company can execute a launch at less than half of Northrop’s $28 million budget.