Military Capabilities

Commercial payloads on excess ICBM motor rockets threaten small launch providers

26 October 2017

Key Points

  • The Pentagon expanding excess ICBM motor launches to commercial payloads threatens small rocket makers
  • It could undercut their business models

Companies developing rockets for payloads weighing up to 400 kg are being threatened by the US Air Force’s (USAF's) pursuit of rideshares for commercial payloads on rockets derived from excess intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) motors.

Companies such as Virgin Orbit, Rocket Lab, Vector Space Systems, and others are developing rockets to serve a burgeoning small launch market. However, private investment fueling those companies could evaporate if the USAF interferes with the market, according to a key executive.

“Real people are putting private sector dollars behind these companies,” Richard Dalbello, Virgin Orbit’s vice-president of business development and government affairs, told Jane’s on 17 October.

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