Hyten Backs Plan to Use Decommissioned ICBMs for Satellite Launches

Gen. John E. Hyten
Gen. John E. Hyten

The head of the United States Space Command says he supports the idea of using decommissioned ICBMs to launch commercial satellites.

U.S. Air Force General John Hyten said that spare ICBMs should not be given away for free, nor dumped en masse into the commercial marketplace.

“I would like to figure out how to get some value out of the hundreds of millions investment we have in those excess ICBMs, but we cannot destroy the small launch business in doing that,” said Hyten during a press conference at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. “There’s got to be a way to find the sweet spot.”

Hyten noted that the Air Force will not decide the issue, which could affect hundreds of millions of dollars in potential rocket launch orders in coming years. “This is going to be a national policy decision,” he said. Lifting the ban on using mothballed nuclear missiles requires action by Congress.

Orbital ATK is pressing U.S. lawmakers to end a ban on using ICBMs for launching commercial satellites, an initiative that has raised concern among companies, such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, that have invested millions of dollars in potential rival rockets.