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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 21, 1999
                              FACT SHEET
                             May 19, 1999

Over the past nine months, there have been six U.S. space launches, using expendable launch vehicles, which ended either in destruction or with satellites stranded in useless orbits.

Three of these incidents involved national security payloads on heavy-lift Titan IV launch vehicles with associated upper stages; three involved commercial payloads on smaller Delta III and Athena vehicles.

Of the 52 U.S. launches since the beginning of 1998, these six failures represent more than a 10% failure rate. This rate is approximately twice that which we have experienced in the last six years.

Losses total approximately $3.5 billion: almost $3 billion of which is attributable to lost government flight hardware, and more than $500 million in lost commercial satellites and launch vehicles.

A May 18 directive from the President to Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen requests a report later this year on the causes of the failures and corrective actions.

Acting Secretary of the Air Force F. Whitten Peters has directed the Air Force Chief of Staff, General Michael Ryan, to conduct a comprehensive review and recommend changes in practices, procedures and operations to prevent future failures.

Lockheed Martin has initiated its own internal investigation to examine the Titan IV and Athena failures, appointing former Lockheed Martin President Thomas Young to lead the review.

Boeing is also convening a team of government and industry experts headed by the former chief engineer of the Delta II program. Dr. Russ Reck, to look into the problem with the Delta III upper stage.

NASA Administrator Dan Goldin is conducting a review of NASA's expendable launch vehicle oversight process to ensure it continues to afford NASA a high level of mission success.

Dr. Neal Lane, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, will work closely with the Secretary of Defense, the Director of Central Intelligence, and the NASA Administrator on this important issue.