Will Elon Musk Air Force Be a Thing?
Elon Musk Air Force
The first leg of the billionaire space race has been won by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, or should we call it Elon Musk Air Force? The U.S. Air Force (USAF) contract will use his Falcon rockets for launch services in a deal worth $653 million and over 30 missions, starting from 2022 to 2026.
The USAF also awarded United Launch Alliance (ULA) a slice of the deal for 60 percent of the missions, beating challengers Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman. ULA, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, has had a 100 percent success rate over two decades.
Space Force officials made clear that the companies were sourced because of past performance and the elite offerings available, and heaven knows SpaceX has proven itself.
However, Musk took to Twitter to vent his concerns over his co-competitor, ULA. “Because their rockets are not reusable, it will become obvious over time that ULA is a complete waste of taxpayer money,” Musk said.
The lucrative contracts expect to see the Pentagon spend around $1 billion each year on launches.
Saving Tax Payer’s Money
The U.S. Government has been looking to maintain a competitive launch market that is beneficial to the government to reduce costs in the industry and push innovation boundaries on assured access to space.
SpaceX was founded in 2002 to colonize Mars and reduce space transportation costs.
The Space Exploration Technologies Corp. already has an existing relationship with the government, saving them huge sums of money, which may have put the company in better favor. SpaceX announced it’s first launch contracts with the Department of Defense in 2012 – two USAF programs:
- Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) – launched on Falcon 9 in 2015.
- Space Test Program 2 (STP-2) – launched on Falcon Heavy in 2019.
Before that, in 2005, SpaceX was awarded a contract allowing the USAF to purchase up to $100 million worth of launches. Since then, different launch vehicles have been certified, allowing for any payloads classified under national security. Other deals have seen SpaceX launch national security missions. Resupply the ISS, handle U.S. Militaries satellite launch requirements, and more recently launched, and recovered, the world’s first privately funded spaceflight to send a crew to space.
As well as introducing innovations like reusable launch vehicles, SpaceX, with its novel business strategy, has even been able to underprice the Chinese in commercial competitions.
In 2018 the U.S. decided to stop using Russian engines because of international affairs following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and opened up for bids.
The cut-off date for buying the Russian RD-180 engines is December 31, 2022, so after that date, the U.S. Department of Defense will not be allowed to acquire any more of the technology in keeping with Senate amendments in June 2016.
The door was opened to space-tech companies to enter bids for the contract.
Bezos out of the Running?
Blue Origin and Bezos can take some comfort knowing that the company’s BE-4 engine technology was used in the ULA’s pitch.
Bezos described the engine as a “remarkable machine,” adding that “it’s built and tested and designed and engineered 100 percent in the United States.”
The transition from the Russian RD-180 engines will mark a new era in space technology.
It is likely Bezos won’t be out of the space business for long and still could impact the launch market in the next few years. No doubt, both companies will continue to be each other’s most significant competition and one that drives them both in many areas.
SpaceX has certainly bought launch innovation and space travel into a new epoch and seems to be connecting everyone in the industry. Even Tom Cruise recently confirmed his seat onboard SpaceX Crew Dragon to film on the ISS scheduled for October 2021.
Weird Social Distancing “Tech”
Although a gag, we love how one German restaurant gave its customers’ pool noddle hats to don in a funny way to stay a safe distance apart.
Also, in Germany, some Burger King restaurants have given out gimmicky giant crowns that are six feet in diameter.
With a vaccine still at least a year away, and rising numbers of cases, social distancing could be our best way to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Working from home and studying remotely might buy us time to work on treatments, but practically and economically, that can’t go on forever. Hopefully, the tech industry will keep stepping up and creating ways to keep us safe.
If you had the money, would you join the SpaceX Crew Dragon? Let us know in the comments section below.
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