Commercial Launches Pivotal To Obama's NASA Plan
When SpaceX launches the first
Falcon 9 Rocket from Cape Canaveral, possibly as early as next
month, the veracity of President Obama's plan to outsource much of
the space program to commercial entities will possibly be riding on
NASA has invested $200 million in "seed money" to assist SpaceX
in developing the Falcon 9, a nine-engine rocket that the company
hopes will soon be shuttling cargo, and eventually crew, to the
ISS. The Los Angeles Times reports that the agency's contract with
SpaceX is potentially worth about $1.6 billion for 12 cargo flights
in the coming years.
However, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk says even if the
initial launch has some problems, it won't spell the end of the
company or its efforts. "Our success is vital to the success of the
American space program and servicing the space station," he said.
"However, we do not need to be successful on the first flight. It's
rare for a new vehicle to have 100% success right away." Musk said
he thinks if the company can boost a payload into orbit in four
tries, it will be considered a success. "At a certain point, we
need to show the world we can put the Falcon 9 into orbit," he
The SpaceX Falcon 1, a smaller, single-engine rocket, didn't
make it to orbit until the 4th try.
X Prize Foundation chairman Peter Diamandis says there are a lot
of companies who have business plans based on the success of the
Falcon 9. Musk says his company can launch a rocket for around $100
million, while a typical shuttle mission costs the U.S. Government
about $1 billion. "It represents a price point that numerous
commercial ventures use to make their argument," Diamandis told the
paper. "The Obama administration has seen this, and that's why
they've decided to go this direction in their proposed budget."
The Falcon 9 is standing upright at Cape Canaveral's Space
Launch Complex 40 (see above), with engine testing planned for this
week. When it is launched, it will become the first new rocket
launched from the Cape since 2002.