Over the last several months, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has mounted a frontal assault on the way the Air Force procures launch services for satellites used by the joint force. Among other things, he has sued the Air Force for awarding a sole-source contract to its only certified provider of high-value launches; accused that provider of excessive pricing for its services; alleged unethical hiring practices at the nation’s leading producer of rocket engines; and funded a costly lobbying campaign to influence legislation on the procurement of launch services. However, it is not true that the Air Force is resisting competition from non-traditional launch providers, or that it is dragging its feet on certifying their credentials. SpaceX only recently satisfied the most basic criteria for certification, and the process itself is complicated. More fundamentally, there are multiple reasons for doubting whether SpaceX can ever approach the 100% success rate that incumbent provider United Launch Alliance has delivered in orbiting spacecraft crucial to national security. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
Find Archived Articles: