Elon Musk makes SpaceX case to US Senate for fair competition

Mar 5, 2014
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Elon Musk makes SpaceX case to US Senate for fair competition

Today Elon Musk, CEO and Chief Designer with SpaceX - and head of companies like Tesla Motors - spoke with the Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. There he laid down a speech on the current state of affairs in space travel, NASA supply, and the way competition works within the government in these areas today. He also made clear that, with nearly 50 missions complete and a contracted total of $5 billion on the books, SpaceX is leading the way to a more efficient (and inexpensive) space-bound United States.

In the full statement you’ll find Musk addressing the EELV Program. This is the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, if you did not know, and Musk begins by suggesting that the Air Force and all other agencies involved are simply "paying too high a price for launch."

Musk suggested that while he commends the current effort, the United Launch Alliance (ULA), on their work so far, but suggests that their ever-increasing prices are unsustainable. Through the fiscal year of 2013, the US Air Force paid "in excess of" $380 million for each national security launch, coming up to and surpassing a cool $1 billion per year with the ULA.

Comparatively, said Musk, a SpaceX Falcon 9 price for an EELV mission "is well under $100M". Musk also noted that SpaceX "seeks no subsidies to maintain our business."

elon-musk-wired

As a second major point, Musk noted that the Falcon 9 launch vehicle has had to meet "a number of requirements that were never demanded of the incumbent provider." Because of the tests and certifications that SpaceX has had to go through to become EELV certified has been "various and vigorous", Musk requested that the Air Force "work expeditiously" so that they could move forward to compete "this calendar year."

Musk suggested that though in 2012 the Air Force (under direction from the Secretary of Defense) committed to 14 missions from fiscal year 2015 to 2017, with 5 available this year, the team at SpaceX has "serious concerns that it may not be the case that 5 missions will be openly competed this year."

Another point made by Musk included a fair and open bit of communication between "New Entrants" and the ULA. This would include an acknowledgement of the launch subsidy received by the incumbent as well as implementation of "firm, fixed-price, FAR Part 12 contracts that properly incent contractors to deliver on-time and on-budget."

"Our Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles are truly made in America. We design and manufacture the rockets in California and Texas, with key suppliers throughout the country, and launch them from either Vandenberg AFB or Cape Canaveral AFS. This stands in stark contrast to the United Launch Alliance’s most frequently flown vehicle, the Atlas V, which uses a Russian main engine and where approximately half the airframe is manufactured overseas.

In light of Russia’s de facto annexation of the Ukraine’s Crimea region and the formal severing of military ties, the Atlas V cannot possibly be described as providing “assured access to space” for our nation when supply of the main engine depends on President Putin’s permission.

Given this development, it would seem prudent to reconsider whether the 36 core uncompeted, sole source award to ULA is truly in the best interests of the people of the United States." - Elon Musk for SpaceX

Above you’ll find the final point made by Musk. It’s there that he summons a point about Russia’s current de facto annexation of the Ukrain’s Crimea region, suggesting that the USA’s use of parts for the ULA’s "most frequently flown vehicle" from Russia is no longer an acceptable, dependable situation.


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