Options for Retired ICBM Booster Systems Beyond Commercial Applications

U.S. Code prohibits transferring retired ICBM systems to private industry, but advocates would like to utilize them to create a low-cost launch service provider. Opponents argue this would unbalance the market and stifle innovation. What is the full suite of current opportunities for retired ICBM systems, and what benefits might be realized by exploring those options?

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wide shot of ICBMs in museum

The options for post-retirement uses of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) booster systems are controlled by Title 51, Section 50134, of the U.S. Code. This policy prohibits the transfer of retired ICBM systems to private industry that seeks not to mothball these systems, but use them for commercial space launch purposes. Advocates for change would like to create a low-cost launch service provider, whereas opponents to policy change argue this would unbalance the commercial launch market and stifle innovation from emerging companies. While much of the debate has centered around these key points, not enough consideration has been made for other applications of ICBM booster systems post retirement. Debates aside, one must consider the strategic options for retired ICBM systems other than commercial space launch, which would be advantageous to the U.S. government and the overall space industry.