Relative Performance of Defense and Commercial Communications Satellite Programs

LCD-79-108: Published: Aug 10, 1979. Publicly Released: Sep 10, 1979.

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The cost and schedule experience of both the Department of Defense's and the commercial sector's communications satellite programs were reviewed.

The average costs to develop, procure, and launch the military's latest generations of communications satellites have been greater than the most expensive commercial satellites. The military's higher cost have been the result of more sophisticated satellite designs, more costly developmental programs, and developmental schedule delays that require alternative satellite procurements for operational gapfillers. In general, the designs of satellites were comparable in complexity to the most sophisticated commercial satellites of the same generations. The military's two latest generations of communications satellites have experienced high costs and schedule delays due to developmental problems. The problems are directly related to the high level of design sophistication required for these satellites. Unplanned-for cost growth in the military contracts ranged from 15 to about 238 percent over the original prices. In contrast to the military, the highest cost growth of this type in any commercial contract was about 11 percent. Consequently, decisionmakers may not have appropriately considered the potential costs for each program.

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