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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wants to break up a space 'monopoly' in which the U.S. Air Force relies on Boeing and Lockheed Martin to launch military craft into space

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced that his company is in the process of filing a protest against the United States Air Force, targeting the military branch’s contracting procedures, with the case slated for the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
 
Specifically, Musk says the Air Force’s purchase of 36 Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV), which is headed by the United Launch Alliance as the core providers of the launches, “blocks companies like SpaceX for competing for national security launches.  We feel that this is not right.  National security launches should be competitive and not sole-sourced.”


President Barack Obama and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tour the Falcon 9 launch site in 2010.
 
The United Launch Alliance is a joint partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and remains the only company with clearance to launch military payloads into space for the U.S. government.  Instead of coming out and just saying SpaceX should be awarded launch rights, Musk wants his company to have a fair crack at earning the right to at least compete for these launches. 
 
It’s a curious time for SpaceX, NASA, and the U.S. military – the retirement of the NASA space shuttle left the U.S. reliant on Russia for space transportation – but political tensions, including sanctions against Russia, are further complicating the matter.  However, SpaceX successfully traveled to the International Space Station on four separate occasions, so it clearly wants to ensure it has ample opportunities for space launches.
 
Furthermore, Musk said using SpaceX could save taxpayers up to $1 billion, making it a cheaper method than relying on Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Source: Forbes



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How many $$s ?
By M'n'M on 4/25/2014 11:31:06 PM , Rating: 5
Mr Musk, in his presser today, said words to the effect that;

SpaceX charges about 60 M$ for a F9 (commercial) launch. Those costs do not include the chance of further cost reductions if SpaceX can successfully RTLS the booster stage, which he said was 70% of his cost. That, and further cost reduction, is looking more and more likely given the recent ISS resupply mission test results. Even adding an estimated 30 M$ for USAF "mission assurance requirements) means he thinks F9's will run 90 M$/launch. Compare that to the 400 M$/launch for the EELV program.

"We" should all be pulling for an honest re-look into that contract award.




RE: How many $$s ?
By hpglow on 4/26/2014 3:25:57 AM , Rating: 3
There are a number of corrupt contracts we should have under investigation.


RE: How many $$s ?
By marvdmartian on 4/28/2014 7:53:50 AM , Rating: 3
Too true. But I'm betting that Mr. Musk's political contributions are a pittance, compared to those of Boeing and Lockheed.

And we all know how much weight that pulls, in Washington, when it comes to government contracts being awarded, for big dollar deals. When Congress mandates expenditure, it's done, even if the money spent is wasted, and the end product unwanted (like with the extra C-17 aircraft and M1A1 tanks that were purchased).


RE: How many $$s ?
By Jeffk464 on 4/28/2014 2:26:15 PM , Rating: 3
Yup, the M1A1 was my favorite. The pentagon even went public to announce they didn't want or need more tanks and congress pushed it through anyways.


RE: How many $$s ?
By Jeffk464 on 4/28/2014 2:24:16 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, how much influence do you think Boeing has in Congress.


RE: How many $$s ?
By Samus on 4/26/2014 3:28:52 AM , Rating: 5
I think we need a top to bottom review of all government contracts. But...I just smoked a huge joint and am unreasonably optimistic in my thoughts right now.


RE: How many $$s ?
By Mint on 4/27/2014 10:09:27 AM , Rating: 3
In anyone is interested, here is the senate hearing about the EELV program, with Musk, the CEO of ULA, a professor, and various senators all talking about contract, cost, etc. It was one month ago, and rather fascinating:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=he0-SP-BnCQ

Note the senator from Alabama sucking up to ULA...

Thanks to M'n'M for making me aware of Musk's press conference. I'd been waiting for that after reading all the updates on the CRS-3 mission a week ago. Here it is:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_rnija1nOA
It's where we first find out about SpaceX offering $90M per launch vs. ULA's $380M/launch cost.

So here's the interesting thing Musk tells us: The sole-sourced EELV contract was signed back in December, but that was held back from public disclosure until one day after the above hearing.

I think Jason would love writing an op-ed about it all, as it's about technology, space, gov't contracts, the Air Force, and gov't favoritism all in rolled into one.


RE: How many $$s ?
By Mint on 4/27/2014 10:10:43 AM , Rating: 2
EDIT: Sorry, a little posting error. The top link is where we first find out about the costs per launch.


RE: How many $$s ?
By kilkennycat on 5/1/2014 1:14:31 AM , Rating: 2
Thanks for nothing.. Just took a mouthful of coffee when I read your reply and now have to clean it off my monitor :-(


RE: How many $$s ?
By Nightbird321 on 4/26/2014 12:03:31 PM , Rating: 4
But but... that doesn't leave enough margin for tax dollars to circle back as campaign contributions!


RE: How many $$s ?
By MrBlastman on 4/28/2014 12:25:22 PM , Rating: 1
What about National security? The Air Force isn't launching loaves of bread into orbit. They are putting classified equipment into space (or whatever it may be) and it is in our interest to prevent terrorists or foreign countries from sabotaging or spying on it.

What guarantees can Space X make to assure us of this?

There's a reason we don't use Greyhound to bus Nukes coast to coast...


RE: How many $$s ?
By Jeffk464 on 4/28/2014 2:32:18 PM , Rating: 2
They could put a FBI agent in the space X factory for what $100,00-$150,000 a year. Plus what makes you think that there aren't Chinese spies that managed to get hired on at Boeing. The Chinese have proven pretty adept at putting operatives into US military contracting companies.


RE: How many $$s ?
By CalaverasGrande on 4/28/2014 5:11:00 PM , Rating: 3
that is just being silly. What makes you think that SpaceX is any less secure than Boeing? You have employees involved in the program do FBI background checks. Takes all of half an hour each for the printing and interview.

Space X is an American company, so where does "terrorists or foreign countries" even enter into it?


I
By wwwcd on 4/26/2014 3:25:21 AM , Rating: 2
The 'almighty dollar' problem :D This is capitalism not babysitter for science's private works.




RE: I
By hpglow on 4/26/2014 3:31:25 AM , Rating: 2
Boeing and Lockheed are antiquated dinosaurs that need to go away they are costing our tax payers too much money. They both constantly over promise and under deliver but until we make lobbying illegal nothing will change.


RE: I
By Ringold on 4/26/2014 12:29:39 PM , Rating: 5
They don't have to go away, they have legions of extremely smart, talented people -- which would be put to great use, IF the companies faced competition in the government contract arena. It's the current system that needs to go away.


RE: I
By AssBall on 4/26/2014 6:44:23 PM , Rating: 3
Ringold is right, it is not Lockheed and friends who are at fault for the waste of funds, it is the bureaucracy that they have to spend months and years fighting through with an army of lawyers and accountants. Their engineering is top notch.


RE: I
By BRB29 on 4/28/2014 9:34:10 AM , Rating: 2
The problems isn't with LM or Boeing. This has been documented many times. The government has rotating positions for high offices and military. These people holding decision making decisions does not last the duration of the contract/project.

What happens is that the next person in charge that walks in always have a "better idea". These "bright ideas" cost money and time because you basically just scrapped the project timeline and force project managers to redraw, regroup and redesign. Not to mention these technologies are not off the shelf stuff. Everything is built from scratch or just invented.

Costs balloons because buffoons have new ideas. They need to stick with one person and one schedule.


RE: I
By bdunosk on 4/26/2014 8:05:13 AM , Rating: 4
Corporatism != capitalism


Lockheed Martin is a flag
By MicroAviation on 4/26/2014 12:22:30 PM , Rating: 2
Nothing is more cozy and corrupt as the relationship between congress and Lockheed Martin. As taxpayer we get fleeced each day this goes on.




RE: Lockheed Martin is a flag
By danjw1 on 4/26/2014 1:41:32 PM , Rating: 2
Why single out Lockheed Martin? It is true for all the major military contractors.


RE: Lockheed Martin is a flag
By danjw1 on 4/26/2014 1:41:32 PM , Rating: 2
Why single out Lockheed Martin? It is true for all the major military contractors.


yes but
By Bubbacub on 4/26/2014 4:02:03 PM , Rating: 2
I'm totally behind space x, and think that the current eelv launchers are way way too expensive (and in the case of atlas v way too Russian also).

However space x do not have a current launch vehicle that can do everything that the delta iv can do - a number of military payloads require heavy payloads to gto - the plain falcon 9 has trouble getting large loads to gto (the low ISP of kerolox on the second stage is a killer).

Once falcon heavy is flying regularly and proven to be reliable then I think that space x will have a bulletproof case. The test falcon heavy flight is unlikely to be this year, so we are two or three years from getting to parity with ULA in terms of demonstrable safe access to high energy orbits.




RE: yes but
By M'n'M on 4/26/2014 4:23:27 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
However space x do not have a current launch vehicle that can do everything that the delta iv can do - a number of military payloads require heavy payloads to gto

True enough but Musk also said that SpaceX was not contesting all the contract, just the parts they could possibly do now. I took that to mean those flights do-able with the F9.

Of course once that door is opened, the Govt would be wise to re-evaluate whether their interests are really best served by letting a block contract for all the "heavy" flights at this time. At the very least use the potential of FH as leverage to reduce the ULA prices.


RE: yes but
By Grast5150 on 4/28/2014 12:41:49 PM , Rating: 2
bubba,

Your comments is the exact reason why the contract was deemed closed. The government will argue that SpaceX does not have the experience as the awarded vendors. However, how can SpaceX get experience if they are not even allowed to compete.

I say let SpaceX have a piece of the pie and prove their ability to perform.

This maybe bad information but to my knowledge the EELB uses Russian made rocket engines. I have no desire to support the Russian economy in any way. So let SpaceX have a slice of the pie and cut out the Russian money transfer.


SpaceX filing
By cagent on 4/26/2014 3:56:07 AM , Rating: 2
There is a whiff of Musk from the warning of Dwight David Eisenhower of the Military Industrial Complex, now embedded and in need of a lawsuit to the U.S. Federal Court Of Appeals. It does seem to me that SpaceX has standing in this with its current $19 billion dollar NASA resupply contract for 12 flights to the ISS. They recently succeeded on the 3rd Mission with extraordinary research for reusing booster rockets with impressive results and data, in addition to the primary launch goal. SpaceX deserves a hearing to provide the launch service for these military satellites at a reduced cost, securely, in an equal manner. Let the facts bare out.




RE: SpaceX filing
By Bubbacub on 4/26/2014 3:54:27 PM , Rating: 2
1.6 billion not 19.

Orbital got 1.9 billion for 4 fewer launches


Not quite accurate
By mjv.theory on 4/26/2014 5:06:30 AM , Rating: 2
Michael, this is not quite complete and hence not really accurate:
quote:
using SpaceX could save taxpayers up to $1 billion


It should say "using SpaceX could save taxpayers at least $1 billion every year "




Falcon 9 Site Location?
By DN23 on 4/26/2014 10:42:33 AM , Rating: 2
This article was a little incomplete in its information. The location of the Falcon 9 launch site was never mentioned (Space X launches from Cape Canaveral, FL and Vandenberg AFB,CA.) The article seemed to suggest it the Falcon 9 was launched from Russia. Good luck to Space X, I hope they get their fair day in court!




EELV is out of date.
By danjw1 on 4/26/2014 1:49:25 PM , Rating: 2
EELV program was intended to ensure that the US government/military had access to launch capabilities. Now, with private enterprise getting into the launch vehicle business, it is outdated.

SpaceX and Orbital Sciences have both proven the capability to launch payloads into orbit and dock with ISS. Neither seems like they are going away anytime soon. So, given this set of facts, the program should be terminated and launches should be put up for bids by US companies. If, the Lockheed Martin/Boeing partnership want to bid, they should be allowed to.




great job
By SPOOOK on 4/26/14, Rating: 0
RE: great job
By wordsworm on 4/26/14, Rating: 0
RE: great job
By OS on 4/27/2014 5:49:32 PM , Rating: 2
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