Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
SpaceX has proven to NASA that it is a viable contender in the launch of scientific missions to the International Space Station and now it wants to prove it can also send payloads into space for the US government, stating that it can save the country $1 billion annually in doing so.
However, despite the company’s status as a venerable launch provider, another longstanding “monopoly” over national security launches is preventing SpaceX from getting that chance. Now, CEO Elon Musk just announced that his company is filing an official protest complaining about United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) unfair control over national security launches, according to a report from The Verge.
More than anything else, Musk said he just wants the current deals reexamined.
“Let’s shine some sunlight on this,” he said during a conference call, picked up by The Verge. “As I’ve said, sunlight is the best disinfectant. If everything’s fine, then I guess that’s great. But that seems unlikely to me.”
Musk said the US Air Force would do well to cancel its current 36-core contract that the ULA has recently bid on, and wait until SpaceX receives its formal certification. Once that goal is met, Musk said that a legitimate competition can ensue to see which of the companies is truly most deserving of the Air Force deal.
It seems like a fair scenario for Musk and his SpaceX team, but it is likely one that Boeing and Lockheed will not respect.
When Boeing and Lockheed joined forces in 2006 to begin government launch operations under the ULA name, it ultimately led to the company pulling in $3.5 billion in annual funding from the government, according to a handout distributed at a SpaceX media event today.
Musk is confident that his company can do a much better job at a much lower cost to the government.
“What we feel is that this is not right. That the national security launches should be put up for competition,” Musk said, as cited by The Verge, adding that since SpaceX has made it clear that it can launch NASA satellites, there would be no logical reason to think it couldn’t handle government satellites as well.
With that $1 billion in savings, the government could put that money to far better uses, such as funding an entire year’s worth of operations for a dozen F-16 squadrons, Musk explained.
According to TechCrunch, SpaceX is currently building out several launch facilities in Texas and Florida. In Florida, the company is modifying launch pad 39a at NASA Cape Canaveral facility where the Apollo 11 launched from in the 1969. These facilities could potentially handle future launches for the government if SpaceX was to win itself a contract.