Mitchell Institute Releases New Forum Paper: Introducing “Fast Space”: Rethinking Access to Space

ARLINGTON, Va (May 8, 2017) —The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies hosted a release event today on Capitol Hill with the authors of its latest Mitchell Forum paper, Introducing “Fast Space”: Rethinking Access to Space. The paper is authored by Lt Col Thomas Schilling, USAF, along with space entrepreneur Charles Miller, Lt Col Peter Garretson, USAF, and Hoyt Davidson, an experienced investment banker and adviser on commercial and military space matters. Schilling currently serves as chief of the commander’s action group for Air University President, Lt Gen Steven Kwast, and led a recent AU study effort with his co-authors on the future of responsive, cost-effective access to space titled Fast Space: Leveraging Ultra Low-Cost Space Access for 21st Century Challenges.

The 12th installment of the popular Forum series, the paper is adapted from the author’s AU study, and takes a hard look at the state of US space launch capabilities, their importance to global military operations, and how this valuable tool can be enhanced to protect American military advantage.

The United States’ operations approach in all domains relies heavily on space, from command and control, to intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities, to ballistic missile defense, the authors state. But this advantage is now at risk as countries around the world gain greater space access and place their own capabilities on orbit. Schilling and his co-authors suggest the embrace of “Fast Space,” as a solution—an ecosystem of concepts, capabilities, and industrial partnerships which make speed “the defining attribute of advantage in space, with regards to both supply and demand.”

This approach would require the US to build up a sortie-on-demand launch capability with higher launch rates, lower sustainable costs, and improve reliability more than current space launch systems. To enable this approach, the authors argue, the US must embrace Ultra-Low Cost Access to Space, or ULCATS, a concept which the private sector has already built technological and industrial capability to achieve in the near future. In order for this system to achieve success, however, the US government should partner with private industry using new acquisition tools and agreements to jump start a cycle of launch cost reductions, giving the US a critical ability to increase agility in its space operations. “Just like with the early history of powered flight, America could lose its lead to a fast follower,” the authors point out. “Now is the time to take deliberate action to increase our lead and build the vehicles, payloads, and infrastructure to ignite this 21st century industrial revolution.”The Mitchell Forum series provides a venue for authors with ideas, concepts, and thoughts on national defense and aerospace power to engage with current and emerging policy debates and issues.

For more information on the series, and inquiries about submissions, contact Mitchell’s Director of Publications Marc V. Schanz at mschanz@afa.org or visit our website, at www.mitchellaerospacepower.org.

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