Friday, June 20, 2014

SpaceX and ULA

SpaceX and ULA are fighting.  It started when Elon Musk went before the Senate Appropriations Committee to testify how unethical it was for the Air Force to grant ULA a large contract for EELV missions while SpaceX is in the middle of the registering with the EELV program.

In the process, Musk not only made clear the successes of SpaceX but the fact that all Falcon rockets parts are made in the US while the Atlas engines are made in Russia and are subject to Putin.  Then they hyperbole started.  ULA claimed sixty some odd successful launches in a row.  Well, as a company, ULA is not that old.  In fact ULA (6 years old) is younger than SpaceX (12 years old).  But it's the two companies behind ULA that have the successful launches, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.  In my mind, ULA is just a front man.  ULA is really a ploy to compete with the new space companies.  I question that ULA should even be in the EELV program.  Instead it should be Boeing and Lockheed Martin competing still.  The government should have never allowed a sole company to compete for EELV launches.  That's a monopoly.

Now the fight is still ongoing.  It's becoming a 'he said' and 'she said' thing.  It's really pathetic and sad.  What it should boil down to are the price tag.  SpaceX claims it can launch satellites at at fraction of what ULA charges.  In the end that is what matters.  The government has to save money.  It has to keep national security assets and at the same time lower the cost.  That's for all our sakes.

On commercial principles, Congress has a dilemma.  Clearly the Air Force has disregarded competition and fair trade principles in favor of keeping assets flying to orbit.  Should Congress punish the Air Force?  Or, should the EELV program be overhauled?  Some might say that the word 'evolved' could be taken out if all they are going to launch are old Atlas Vs and old Delta IVs.  Maybe the 'expendable' word could be taken out since SpaceX is about to make the rocket reusable.  In any case the program seems broken and/or mismanaged.

In the meantime, let's sit back and watch the drama unfold.  Maybe the fireworks will come before the 4th.  Perhaps some popcorn and a lounge chair is in order.  At any rate, in the end SpaceX seems to be holding all the cards.  It's just a matter of time.  Really, I guess time is what this feud is all about.  After all, time is money.