Long-range missiles travel through space, reaching apogees of 950-1100 kilometers, or about five times the altitude of what is generally considered the threshold of low Earth orbit. Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM) are intended to carry a warhead, typically nuclear, as a payload on a suborbital ballistic trajectory. In the United States, ICBMs fall under the purview of U.S. Air Force Space Command. Funding for their maintenance and operation falls within the major force program for DoD space spending.
The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST) and the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) prepare an annual forecast of global demand for commercial launch services. COMSTAC is a group of senior executives from space transportation, satellite, and government organizations.
China has announced plans to develop the Long March 5 heavy rocket.
Japan plans to replace the former M-V launch vehicle, which was active as recently as 2006, with an advanced solid rocket.
The European Space Agency is developing a small launch vehicle, Vega, which will be operated by Arianespace.
India is developing a heavy lift launch vehicle, the GSLV Mk-III, with a test flight planned in 2009 or 2010.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) 2008 U.S. Commercial Space Transportation Developments and Concepts: Vehicles, Technologies, and Spaceports report notes that a variety of orbital vehicles, shown in Exhibit 3f, are currently in development. Vehicles are classified by type either as expendable launch vehicles (ELV) or reusable launch vehicles (RLV). Please note that the FAA lists the Falcon 1 as developmental, even though it has been declared operational by its manufacturer. The vehicles in the upper portion of the exhibit have initial launch dates under contract.
Ground station infrastructure is a key component of space systems providing command control, tracking, and telemetry services for launch vehicles, satellites, and other platforms. Worldwide tracking systems operated by government agencies support launch command and control. In addition, space situational awareness systems like the U.S. Space Surveillance Network track space debris and assist with collision avoidance.
Oklahoma Spaceport received an FAA license for suborbital flights in June 2006. Blue Origin, founded by Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos, received an experimental permit in 2006 for its West Texas launch site. The first test flight from Blue Origin’s facility was conducted on November 13 of the same year.
The availability of U.S. launch sites continued to expand in 2006 and 2007 with the addition of several non-federally funded spaceports. Internationally, there are numerous launch sites both planned and in operation around the world. Exhibit 3n lists current major international launch sites as compiled by the Teal Group and Astronautix.