SpaceX challenges spy satellite industry

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

SpaceX spy satellite
SpaceX was the first private company to work with NASA and launch supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

The USA’s military defense headquarters, the Pentagon, has worked exclusively for decades with the companies Lockheed Martin and Boeing to launch satellites. According to Elon Musk – co-founder and CEO of rocket company SpaceX – the government is wasting their money by not working with him. Now, all three companies are fighting for  $70 billion contracts.

Musk is definitely brave for poking at the long-standing relationship between the government, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing. Collectively known as United Launch Alliance (ULA), the two companies completed 69 successful launches, which include satellites for spying, GPS, and weather. However, it seems like ULA is getting more money as the years pass by for the same amount of work!

For example, the government pays each company about $1 billion per year, whether they launched 4 rockets or none. The Government Accountability Office – an agency that basically keeps track of government spending – found that over the course of a 12-month period, spending on ULA launches jumped from $28.1 billion to $64 billion! To make matters worse, the ULA uses Russian engines to power their rockets. Since the USA government is having political issues with Russia over their meddling with Ukraine’s independence, this fact is not easily overlooked.

So, it’s no surprise to see Musk throwing his hat in the ring, offering SpaceX as the answer to these problems. Not only is he certain that his company can keep costs well below $100 million per launch, they build their own engines right here in the good ol’ U-S-of-A. SpaceX also has plenty of experience with government agencies, like their current work with NASA shipping payloads up to the International Space Station (ISS).

Though Musk made a strong case against ULA in favor of his company, there is no guarantee he will be granted the contracts. After all, Lockheed Martin and Boeing have a lot of political influence, and their longtime partnership with the Pentagon won’t be broken easily.

Images courtesy of SpaceX.