In keeping with authorization from Congress, the Air Force this week formally renamed the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. Now, it is supposed to be called the National Security Space Launch program (NSSL). The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) directed the name modification effective from March 1, 2019. The EELV program was formed almost 25 years ago, long before the arrival of reusable rockets.
While renaming the program, Congress highlighted that this is a novel era when both expendable and reusable launch vehicles should be considered in upcoming solicitations. NDAA proclaimed that the Secretary of Defense shall follow a plan that includes completely or partially reusable launch systems. Congress also guided DoD to continue to work on development to assess and certify launch vehicles using earlier flown systems or components. Col. Robert Bongiovi, Director, Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Enterprise Directorate, proclaimed that the NSSL program is about making launch services more agile and effective for the warfighter.
On a similar note, Boeing came into the news as its KC-46 tanker deliveries to the U.S. Air Force have been rejected. Reportedly, the reason behind this rejection is said to be a series of problems with foreign object debris, the agency’s higher acquisition official proclaimed last week.
Will Roper, Assistant Secretary, Acquisition, Technology, And Logistics, U.S. Air Force, told reporters that it will probably be “some time” before the service starts accepting novel tankers from Boeing. He added that he received some data from the agency team on the foreign object debris, which is being witnessed on the KC-46 line. It is still not determined how far and how extensive into the production line it goes. Roper added that it boils down to culture, process, and leadership in generating systems. A trip to Boeing is almost definitely going to be essential for him to approve DD250s again.