President Reagan has authorized a program to be conducted by the Defense Department and NASA to develop a system to sharply cut the cost of launching payloads into space, the agencies announced Wednesday.
"It costs $3,600 a pound now to put things up," said Lt. Col. Rick Oborn of the Air Force. "We hope to bring that down to $400."
The Air Force last July issued contracts for $5 million apiece to seven companies, who were given a year to submit design concepts for the "Advanced Launch System."
Could Succeed Titan 4
The launch system is not envisioned to be used for manned flight, Oborn said. It could be a successor to the Titan 4, the newest heavy-lift launcher in the Air Force arsenal.
A Titan 4 can deliver a 32,000-pound satellite into orbit near the Earth. An ALS rocket is expected to lift 100,000 to 150,000 pounds. The Air Force has said it expects the new system to produce savings by 1998, but that it wants the launcher in by 1993-94.
Reagan's action was in signing a report to Congress creating the program. That releases $75 million, provided last year, for the project.
The report specifies that the Defense Department and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration "work together to define and develop ALS, the program's design approach, management plan, costs and test facilities."