Space Shuttle’s Demise Hits U.K. Trident Fleet

July 16, 2014, 10:25 a.m.

The end of U.S. Space Shuttle launches three years ago has boos­ted the cost of fuel for Brit­ish nuc­le­ar mis­siles, the Lon­don Tele­graph re­ports.

The price of the sol­id fuel used in Tri­dent 2 D-5 sub­mar­ine-launched bal­list­ic mis­siles leaped by 80 per­cent in just one year, the news­pa­per said in a Tues­day re­port. The United King­dom main­tains 58 of the U.S.-sup­plied weapons un­der a 1982 bi­lat­er­al de­fense pact.

Wash­ing­ton is now lim­it­ing its an­nu­al pur­chases of the weapons to the min­im­um ne­ces­sary to keep the fuel mar­ket afloat, prompt­ing con­cern among some of­fi­cials, ac­cord­ing to the Tele­graph.

Vice Adm. Terry Be­ne­dict, dir­ect­or of the U.S. Navy’s Stra­tegic Sys­tems Pro­grams, warned last month that the ab­sence of fuel de­mand from the Space Shuttle pro­gram is pos­ing prob­lems for an “already-fra­gile in­dustry.”

The United King­dom, though, said such con­cerns had not altered mis­sile co­oper­a­tion with Wash­ing­ton, or a pending plan to re­vamp the Brit­ish nuc­le­ar force.

“The U.S. has sup­plied the U.K. with sol­id fuel-powered mis­siles for over 40 years with an ex­cel­lent safety and re­li­ab­il­ity re­cord. The U.K. also has a suf­fi­cient pool of Tri­dent mis­siles to meet our needs for dec­ades to come,” a Brit­ish de­fense min­istry spokes­wo­man said.

One agency in­sider, though, said the United States has yet to de­term­ine how it will en­sure con­tin­ued sup­plies of mis­sile fuel.

The U.S. Navy wants NASA to pur­chase sol­id-fuel boost­ers for a next-gen­er­a­tion rock­et sys­tem, po­ten­tially sta­bil­iz­ing the mar­ket, the Tele­graph re­por­ted. The U.S. space agency is slated to start work on the planned Space Launch Sys­tem in 2017.

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