Final Report of Commission on the Future of the U. S. Aerospace Industry

Executive Summary, November 2002

[Note: Reproduced here are the complete sections of the report dealing with space (i.e. Chapter 3 plus an Appendix [PDF 2.5 MB]). Below is the Executive Summary for Chapter 3 (not included in the PDF file). The complete Aerospace Commission report can be found online here.]

Chapter 3 — Space: Its Special Significance


The Commission concludes that the nation will have to be a space-faring nation in order to be the global leader in the 21st century—our freedom, mobility, and quality of life will depend on it. America must exploit and explore space to assure national and planetary security, economic benefit and scientific discovery. At the same time, the United States must overcome the obstacles that jeopardize its ability to sustain leadership in space.

Achieve Breakthroughs in Propulsion and Space Power.

The ability to access space and travel through the solar system in weeks or months instead of years would help create the imperative to do so. Propulsion and power are the key technologies to enable this capability. Future progress in these areas will result in new opportunities on Earth and open the solar system to robotic and human exploration and eventual colonization. The nation would benefit from a joint effort by NASA and DoD to reduce significantly the cost and time required to access and travel through space.

Develop a Next Generation Communication, Navigation, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Capability.

The nation needs real-time, global space-based communications, navigation, surveillance and reconnaissance systems for a wide range of applications. These capabilities will provide the military with the ability to move its forces around the world, conduct global precision strike operations, defend the homeland, and provide for planetary defense. The civil and commercial sectors will also benefit from these capabilities for air transportation management, monitoring global climate change, weather forecasting and other applications. The federal government needs a joint civil and military initiative to develop this core infrastructure.

Revitalize the U.S. Space Launch Infrastructure.

NASA and DoD must maintain and modernize their space launch and support infrastructure to bring them up to industry standards. They should implement our recommendations contained in Interim Report #3 concerning federal spaceports, enhanced leasing authority, and utility privatization and “municipalization.” We recommended that DoD and NASA should:

  • Investigate the feasibility of establishing a national spaceport structure at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) under a single management system; and
  • Seek Congressional approval for
    • Enhanced leasing authority that allows them to lease real property at fair market value and retain lease proceeds to cover the total costs incurred at KSC and CCAFS; and
    • Privatization of NASA utilities at KSC and CCAFS to overcome the budget burdens associated with capital improvements to outdated infrastructure.

In addition, NASA and DoD need to make the investments necessary for developing and supporting future launch capabilities. NASA should also consider turning over day-to-day management responsibilities for its field centers to the respective state governments, universities, or companies.

Provide Incentives to Commercial Space.

Government and the investment community must become more sensitive to commercial opportunities and problems in space. Public space travel may constitute a viable marketplace in the future. It holds the potential for increasing launch demand and improvements in space launch reliability and reusability. Moreover, it could lead to a market that would ultimately support a robust space transportation industry with “airline-like operations.” The government could help encourage this by allowing NASA to fly private citizens on the Space Shuttle.

Sustain Commitment to Science and Space.

The U.S. government should continue its long-standing commitment to science missions in space and focus on internationally cooperative efforts in the future.


The Commission recommends that the United States create a space imperative. The DoD, NASA, and industry must partner in innovative aerospace technologies, especially in the areas of propulsion and power. These innovations will enhance our national security, provide major spin-offs to our economy, accelerate the exploration of the near and distant universe with both human and robotic missions, and open up new opportunities for public space travel and commercial space endeavors in the 21st century.