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Space The Military United States

SpaceX Files Suit Against US Air Force 176

Today Elon Musk announced that SpaceX has decided to challenge the U.S. Air Force's restrictions on rocket launches related to national security. Such launches are done with a Russian rocket right now, and that contract is not up for competition with other rocket makers, like SpaceX. Musk says the company has exhausted other options to become part of the bidding process. "We're just protesting and saying these launches should be competed. And if we compete and lose, that's fine, but why were they not even competed?" He also said it's the "wrong time to send hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kremlin," referencing events in the Ukraine.

At the same press conference, Musk announced that SpaceX's recent attempt to soft-land a rocket booster stage was successful. It landed and was in "healthy condition" immediately afterward. Unfortunately, they weren't able to recover it because it landed in the middle of a rough storm, which eventually destroyed the stage. The storm was rough enough that the Coast Guard wouldn't even send a boat out to help recover it. Musk said, "We'll get much bigger boats next time." SpaceX also plans on landing the stage on shore at some point, which makes recovery easier. Musk made this prediction: "I expect we will be able to land a stage back at Cape Canaveral by the end of the year."
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SpaceX Files Suit Against US Air Force

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  • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Friday April 25, 2014 @03:20PM (#46843611) Homepage Journal

    Translation: some Air Force brass are getting board seats in some corporation X after retirement, so of course they don't want to open the bidding and allow SpaceX to take the contract.

  • by Scot Seese ( 137975 ) on Friday April 25, 2014 @03:32PM (#46843729)

    I suspect the current arrangement with the Russians providing lift tickets to the ISS performs a similar function to the intelligence treaties we signed in the 90s allowing the U.S. and Russia to perform overflights of each others' countries to verify ICBM numbers and troop movements, plus the CIAs fanatical attention to assist the Russians in tracking and controlling any and all nuclear materials to keep it from wandering off in the hands of men like Viktor Bout, "Lord of War" arms dealer.

    By subsidising the Russian space program with this sweetheart no-bid contract, we, the U.S., help ensure that dozens of very highly skilled engineers and scientists with the ability to lead a team interested in designing and building short, medium, or long-range rockets - for whatever purpose - are kept "on payroll" and reasonably content safely and securely inside Russia. Exactly where we want them. Instead of helping a potential aggressor nation like Iran, North Korea, or theocratic / military dictatorship Du Jour develop accurate, long range weapons for suitcases full of cash, women, mansions and national hero-worship.

    The current deal also forces a certain level of cooperation between the space agencies, governments, and builds political good will on both sides. Good Will that Putin is destroying at the moment, but will return providing he doesn't go all Poland '39 on the remainder of Ukraine.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 25, 2014 @04:09PM (#46844007)

    Elon Musk is swimming in the waters of international politics. Big "no no" with this administration currently in office. He's about to get bitch slapped down and possibly lose it all.

    Probably not. The administration hasn't shown that it's terribly interested in the details of Air Force contracting. There are probably Pentagon officials who are very annoyed and would like to slap him down, but this is simply Pentagon conservatism: the Pentagon likes to keep on doing things the way they do them, because that's they way they do them and it's too much trouble to change.

    To the extent that the administration cares at all, they want to sever contracts with Russia (they've already given other orders to that effect), so they're probably mildly on his side. But for the most part, I expect that they don't care much one way or another-- it's not a big item on their agenda.

    With Obama, he can be vindictive!

    Typical content-free Obama-bashing. You want a president who's vindictive, that was Nixon.

    In fact, Obama seems to like Space-X. He was the one who put "Commercial crew transport" as the official U.S. strategy for space access

  • by bigpat ( 158134 ) on Friday April 25, 2014 @04:12PM (#46844029)

    As a taxpayer, I wouldn't usually care about these corporate tiffs, but SpaceX can probably save the government hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars which could be used towards additional capabilities in space... so using SpaceX for launches could allow the Air Force to double its launch capacity at the same cost. Forget about sending money to Russia using ULA rockets, using SpaceX could double or more than double US space capabilities which translates to more communications satellites, more surveillance satellites and more R&D payloads.

    It is boggles the mind that the procurement folks at the air force would sign long term contracts with ULA just a few months before SpaceX has finished jumping through all the Air Force hoops for certification. Seems like a pretty blatant multi billion dollar gift (going out of business gift?) to the United Launch Alliance and is a bad deal for the Pentagon.

    Given the likelihood of certification for SpaceX, at the very least the Air Force procurers should have limited the contract to nearer term launches and not so many.

  • by Thud457 ( 234763 ) on Friday April 25, 2014 @05:06PM (#46844411) Homepage Journal
    McDonnell Douglas handed the DC-X over to NASA who promptly dropped it and set it on fire.

    Man, you make me sad. I remember how COOL that was at the time, it was the FUTURE, landing on a pillar of fire like a proper spaceship. Then we pissed away another 20 years doing nothing with it. May Space X have better luck.

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford