The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is betting billions of dollars on the success of so-called commercial launch providers such as SpaceX. And money isn’t the only thing it’s betting: with the Space Shuttle retiring and its planned successor canceled, there won’t be much left to NASA’s signature human spaceflight program if something goes wrong with the commercial providers. Yet even a cursory examination of SpaceX performance to date reveals reasons for concern. Three of its seven launches have failed, launch dates have slipped by years, and costs typically end up being much higher than originally planned. That doesn’t mean that SpaceX founder Elon Musk is wrong in his quest for a high-volume, low-cost launch provider, but it does suggest that the space agency needs to be careful about not overcommitting to an unproven enterprise. I have written a posting for Forbes.com this week on the dangers involved, which can be found here.
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