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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: I Would Only Note...
By trclark81 on 12/28/2012 12:51:08 PM , Rating: 2
While I can't refute what you are saying, I would rather assume that the expense is more from corporate inertia in an area where reliability is more important than cost... LM and Boeing have some amazing engineers all it takes is the higher-ups to finally realize they need to start investing in new designs finally.

Well put. Using the rockets we have now, ad nauseum, on the sole basis of reliability will only result in delivering the space program we have now. The funny thing is that NASA and the USSR's problem in the 50's and 60's was that they were far too careless. It got the job done, but there were a lot of unnecessary risks taken (particularly with Russian designs). But the 70's and 80's reaction to all of that was to close the loop to nearly any risk (from an engineering standpoint) by simply not doing anything new. I think the real answer is somewhere in the middle. SpaceX' real success is not a rocket system or a capsule, but showing that there is, in fact, a middle path where we can be safe and reliable, while not being scared to try something new.

Also the cargo dragons that have flown are not the crewed dragon.. they will share many things but Musk has not flown anything "man rated" yet.

Cargo Dragon is missing only three components vital to become Manned Dragon, seats, life support, and an escape system. Those problems have all largely been solved in blueprint and many are well on their way through testing. The instrument controls on board were a courtesy to the astronauts who would rather not be just 'spam in a can' as it was put in the Apollo days. In reality, even the first two aren't any more than short term barriers. It's the escape system that's the bottle-neck, and Musk has said precisely that even prior to Dragon test flight 1.

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