A maintainer assigned to Thunder Aircraft Maintenance Unit focuses on loading munitions onto the A-10 during the Load Crew of the Year Competition at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Jan. 13, 2022.

A maintainer assigned to Thunder Aircraft Maintenance Unit focuses on loading munitions onto the A-10 during the Load Crew of the Year Competition at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Jan. 13, 2022. U.S. Air Force / Airman 1st Class Josey Blades

The Air & Space Brief: Nuclear propulsion for satellites, New space launch record, CR threatens B-21, GBSD

Welcome to the Defense One Air and Space newsletter. Here are our top stories this week:  

If future U.S. satellites are to dodge incoming Russian or Chinese fire, they’ll need better ways to move around than today’s fuel-intensive thrusters. That’s why the Pentagon is looking into nuclear-powered propulsion, the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies noted in a new report.  Nuclear propulsion has longer endurance and is nearly twice as efficient as liquid satellite fuel, the report found.

CR costs: A year-long continuing resolution would cost the Air Force $3.5 billion and cost the Space Force $2 billion, the chiefs of those services testified to Congress last week. The cuts would freeze 78 “new start” programs, including the new Ground Based Strategic Deterrent ICBM, which would be delayed past its planned 2029 start. The B-21 new strategic bomber would also be delayed by up to a year. 

A record year for space launches: Global launch attempts reached a record 145 launches in 2021, exceeding the previous record of 143 in 1967, Space Foundation’s Space Report 2021 reported today. Launches supporting SpaceX’s Starlink and OneWeb constellations accounted for much of the increase. Another notable—there were more space tourists last year, 14 total, than all other years combined. 

Loss of a Legend: Tuskegee Airman Brig. Gen. Charles McGee, a veteran of World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War, died Sunday at the age of 102. In his military aviation career, McGee completed 409 combat missions. 

Sign up to get The Air & Space Brief every Tuesday from Tara Copp, Defense One’s Senior Pentagon Reporter. On Jan. 18, 1986, then-U.S. Rep. Bill Nelson, R-Fla., (and now NASA administrator) returned to Earth after a six-day flight aboard Space Shuttle Columbia. 


From Defense One

Military Chiefs Sound Alarm at Proposal to Hold 2022 Spending to Last Year’s Level // Marcus Weisgerber & Tara Copp: In Wednesday testimony to lawmakers, service leaders decry what would be a record-breaking continuing resolution.

China, Russia Building Attack Satellites and Space Lasers: Pentagon Report // Patrick Tucker: The DIA says Chinese lasers could be ready to disable U.S. satellites in low Earth orbit by next year.

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