Air University Press


Assured Access: A History of the US Air Force Space Launch Enterprise, 1945–2020

  • Published
  • By David N. Spires
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Book Review by Project MUSE

In Assured Access: A History of the United States Air Force Space Launch Enterprise, 1945–2020, David N. Spires surveys more than six decades of Air Force launch support for the nation’s military, intelligence, and civilian space communities. From their inception as refurbished ballistic missiles, Air Force boosters have launched national security space payloads for the US Department of Defense and the National Reconnaissance Office, as well as for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and commercial and other civilian elements. The basic technology that had produced the expendable launch space boosters of the early Cold War era changed little in fundamental engineering and manufacturing processes from that period until the advent of the evolved expendable launch vehicle (EELV) program at the turn of the new century. Expendable launch vehicles had been the backbone of Air Force space flight until the arrival of the space shuttle, with its promise of routine access to space. By the early 1980s, that promise had become increasingly problematical as space shuttle development and launch rate promises failed to meet projected targets. After 1986, in the wake of the Challenger disaster, the Air Force saw in the EELV families of Delta IV and Atlas V boosters the prospect of responsive, reliable, and affordable space launch. Although the EELV program largely achieved those objectives, new competition from SpaceX and other providers created an altered landscape of more efficient launch systems and reusable and partially reusable boosters. The EELV program gave way to the National Security Space Launch program. The emphasis on more responsive space launch to confront a growing threat to US space assets also embraced the small rocket efforts of the Rocket Systems Launch Program. Together, the National Security Space Launch program and Rocket Systems Launch Program promise assured access to space well into the future.


AuthorDavid N. Spires
ISSNPrint: 978-1-58566-311-8, Digital: 978-1-58566-317-0
AU Press CodeB-173

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