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Elon Musk  (Source:
Lockheed said SpaceX is inexperienced and is cutting corners by cutting costs

SpaceX is the underdog that proved a private company can rise to the occasion and send a rocket into space, but can it step up and transform the Air Force as well?

Lockheed Martin and Boeing have had a strong hold on the Air Force's launch missions for the last six years. But last month, the Defense Department instructed the Air Force to find a new contractor to break the launch monopoly in an attempt to cut costs. In early December, it was announced that SpaceX was selected for trial missions.

SpaceX scored a $900 million contract with the Air Force for two launch missions in 2014 and 2015. The trial missions will test to see if SpaceX can successfully carry military and spy satellites.

As expected, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which are partnered in a venture called the United Launch Alliance (ULA), are not too happy about it. They took a few jabs at SpaceX's inexperience in both space launches and in the military.

"I'm hugely pleased with 66 [successful missions] in a row from ULA, and I don't know the record of SpaceX yet," said Robert Stevens, chairman and chief executive at Lockheed Martin. "Two in a row?"

Lockheed Martin also took a stab at the Department of Defense's search for cheaper alternatives to ULA, saying that cutting corners will have poor results.

“Cost doesn’t matter at all if you don’t put the ball into orbit,’’ said Stevens. “You can thrift on cost. You can take cost out of a rocket. But I will guarantee you, in my experience, when you start pulling a lot of costs out of a rocket, your quality and your probability of success in delivering a payload to orbit diminishes.’’

SpaceX Elon Musk fired back, saying that "All of SpaceX's Falcon 9 missions have reached orbit and completed all primary mission objectives." As far as costs go, Musk said that SpaceX's equipment is cheaper because it contains better technology.

“The fundamental reason SpaceX’s rockets are lower cost and more powerful is that our technology is significantly more advanced than that of the Lockheed-Boeing rockets, which were designed last century," said Musk.

The ULA’s Delta 4 and Atlas 5 rockets cost about $464 million per launch, more than double a previous estimate of $230 million.

SpaceX stepped in with its Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket as a means to send supplies (and eventually astronauts) to the International Space Station (ISS) after NASA retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011. This left American astronauts with no way to the ISS except aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket, but these seats became very costly.

SpaceX launched its Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket to the ISS for the first time back in May for a test supply run. After that successful trip, SpaceX and NASA signed a $1.6 billion contract that allows SpaceX to complete 12 supply trips to the ISS and back.

On October 7, SpaceX made its first official supply run as part of that contract. It arrived October 10, making the trip a success.

Dragon is due to make its second run in January 2013. SpaceX is also looking to send the first manned Dragon capsule to the ISS somewhere between 2015 and 2017.

SpaceX is also making huge strides in the use of reusable rockets with its new Grasshopper Project. The Grasshopper Project is a Falcon first stage with a landing gear that's capable of taking off and landing vertically.

Source: The Washington Post

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RE: costs
By trclark81 on 12/28/2012 12:35:52 PM , Rating: 2
I think the Orion situation is not so much a hate thing as a reaction to some of the critical comments about Dragon and other commercial companies. Quite often the criticisms leveled against the private ventures are equally or even more so applicable to Orion (running behind, more expensive, hasn't flown yet, etc).

It doesn't make it a bad spacecraft. Heck, in my opinion it was the one and only thing that should have survived the expiration of Constellation. I was thrilled when everything else was circular filed and Orion was kept.

The SLS issue is the same, though slightly lesser magnitude, as Ares. It's bigger than it needs to be for its intended mission (see Augustine, et al), it costs more than it should, and it will take forever and a day to build. That's not Orion's fault. If Orion had a functional launcher it could fly in relatively short order.

That said, I want SLS to succeed because I do see a benefit to an wholly-owned NASA rocket with eyes firmly toward BEO. But I think it could have been done in a better fashion than the 'everything for everyone' approach it was built under that caused so many problems with STS. In short I fully believe SLS is the rocket congress wants, not necessarily the one NASA wants for the job.

But, back to the point, Orion hasn't flown yet and won't before manned Dragon. And it is being built by Lockheed which has built exactly as many manned space vehicles as SpaceX (read 0). It is more expensive and it is over initial time estimates. And so naturally when someone starts on a litany of all the risks and problems with Falcon/Dragon, the first reaction of those who support it is to point out the exact same flaws in SLS/Orion. But I think they should both be built. I just think the debate needs to fairly note the benefits and flaws of both systems instead of pointing out one system's flaws in a vacuum.

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