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Spy Sat Costs Are 'Unsustainable,' Warns Space Commander

The head of U.S. Air Force Space Command told reporters at a Nov. 7 breakfast in Washington that tightening budgets threaten the nation's space and cybersecurity cabilities. He also said that the high cost of building and deploying national security satellites must come down.

[Gen. William] Shelton warned that producing national security satellites and the costs of launching them are "unsustainable." That limits America's abilities to replace them and increases our vulnerability should any be lost to either hostile acts or to accidents.

Shelton focused heavily on programs or proposals to reduce the cost of space assets, noting that "the satellites we currently employ are clearly technological marvels. They take years to hand build and deploy" and are "very expensive. Consequently, we build the absolute minimum number of satellites, just in time and we don't build spares."

That minimal infrastructure increases the risk of lost capabilities, he warned. Smaller satellites also would be cheaper to launch, and could enable putting multiple payloads on a single launch vehicle.


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