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ULA gets a so called subsidy (currently purported to be $800 million a year, since it is being considered to be cancelled) for Assured Access to space.

Their lack of a bid on the GPS3 launch contract has bothered congress critters, who say, if we pay for this assured access, and you do not bid, what are we getting out of the money?

Thus the question: What do we get out of the funding?

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  • $\begingroup$ A "benefit" is a moral subjective concept which only exists for one single individual. "The government" is not a subjective individual and thus no government can ever have any benefit. So what individual do you replace your abstraction "government" with here? I'm sure there are individuals who have gained ALOT from this trick to fool naivists who say "they are the government and our doings are therefore good for you, so you don't need to think about it, just assume it blindly!". You have to analyze a government as a gang of greedy individuals in order to understand why gov's do what they do. $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Feb 1 '16 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ @LocalFluff Do not disagree, was trying to be more polite about and support the fiction that govt does things of benefit. $\endgroup$ – geoffc Feb 1 '16 at 17:57
  • $\begingroup$ youtube.com/watch?v=2Ff_5jF_3QU&t=4029s And it's \$1 Billion ;) $\endgroup$ – TildalWave Feb 1 '16 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ I imagine the subsidy also gives the government easier access to ULA's progress, developments, patents, etc. $\endgroup$ – Joe L. Feb 2 '16 at 4:43
  • $\begingroup$ @LocalFluff: your definition of benefit is incorrect. A benefit can be to a group as well as an individual. No definition of 'benefit' I've found excludes governments. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Feb 2 '16 at 7:50
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The goals of Assured Access to Space are (PDF of a hearing by the House Committee on Armed Services, page 14):

The existing policy, codified in federal law, requires that assured access policy and spending, at a minimum, achieve the following two objectives:

  1. the availability of at least two space launch vehicles (or families of space launch vehicles) capable of delivering into space any payload designated by the Secretary of Defense or the Director of National Intelligence as a national security payload; and,
  2. a robust space launch infrastructure and industrial base.

In other words: if necessary, the government pays to keep the launch provider from going bankrupt. The benefit to the Government is the knowledge they'll be able to launch their satellites when they need to, rather than having to wait in line with commercial customers, or worse, not be able to launch at all because a link in the supply chain controlled by foreign governments is blocked from delivering critical components.

The program failed in one respect: it continued to rely on critical components from foreign companies (i.e. the Russian RD-180) via waivers.

Assured Access is a common construct in the defence world. Companies that are strategically important are kept afloat instead of being left to fend for themselves on the open market.

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