No Use for Reusables, AFSPC Chief Says


Though officials working on the Reusable Booster System vowed to study technologies that could move forward after it was terminated last year, the prospects appear slim. 

The primary customer for such a system, Air Force Space Command, is uninterested. "Every study I’ve ever looked at has been overly optimistic on what we would save [with] reusables," AFSPC chief Gen. William Shelton tells Aviation Week. “I'm scarred by my Shuttle experience.” Though highly effective, the Shuttle was also highly expensive, he says. 

RBS was designed to develop a prototype booster capable of vertical takeoff and horizontal landing. 

Lockheed Martin had just begun work and testing toward a goal of building a prototype vehicle around 2015. But, funding was jerked last year after the National Research Council raised questions about the program and the approach of selecting only one manufacturer to build a concept. 

Reusables have long been the Holy Grail of the launch world. But, in today's tight budget environment, skepticism seems to bee keeping the concept grounded. This is in part because the Air Force's costly Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) system has a flawless record and had become a workhorse launch program. So, the urgency is not there to leap ahead on technology.

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A Century of Aviation Week

Aviation Week & Space Technology is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. In a series of blogs, our editors highlight editorial content from the magazine's long and rich history.


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