A New Era in Space Operations

by Simon P. Worden, USAF Deputy for Technology,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Engineering, Construction, and Operations in Space III


The United States has embarked on a bold new course in space. We are in the process of deploying global missile defenses which promises to help realize an extended era of international security hoped for with the end of the Cold War. And, we have begun the next step of mankind's greatest adventure - the Space Exploration Initiative - to provide us with permanent presence on the Moon and Mars. But we are faced with severe economic limitations. We must learn to achieve our goals within resources which may be little more than we have today. This means we must learn to operate in space 'FASTER, CHEAPER, and BETTER.' The SDI program has provided a pathfinder for this quest. The key is to preserve a large fraction of total space spending for space technology - even as space operations demand ever greater amounts of money. For SDI, a vigorous technology program has lowered the cost of an initial deployment of global missile defenses from about $200 billion in 1987 to about $30 billion today. This same technology helps make space exploration feasible at affordable prices. Already, 'lightsat, cheapsat' technology developed by SDI makes interplanetary unmanned probes costing less than $100 million each possible. In addition, low cost launch systems and new, nuclear propulsion technologies will enable low cost deep space manned and unmanned missions. In addition to technology, a revolution in management is needed. Programs must be planned, built and completed in three years or less. The new 'old' idea of frequent, multiple technology demonstrations prior to action missions must be returned to. Single, streamlined decision and management structures must be established - 'we don't need no stinkin' committees!' Space programs used to be fun - unless they become so again, we are going nowhere.

Subject Headings: Space exploration | Space structures | Aerospace engineering | Benefit cost ratios | Moon | Economic factors | Pricing | Probe instruments | United States

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