On March 10 the Center for a New American Security released a report entitled “Capitalism in Space” that argued the government should abandon its traditional approach to managing civil and military space programs, relying more on “free enterprise” to get what it needs. However, a review of how the leading non-traditional provider of launch services to the government has performed raises doubts about the author’s thesis. Yes SpaceX offers lower prices, but it also has lost two payloads in the last two years while its more traditional competitor, United Launch Alliance, has never lost a single payload in 117 missions. SpaceX launches typically run two years late, which could be a real problem for time-sensitive military missions, or when NASA’s space station is in need of resupply. Once you get beyond the rhetoric and start looking at hard facts, the case for turning over U.S. space needs to entrepreneurial startups looks quite weak. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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