Science

SpaceX to U.S. Air Force: If we’re good enough for NASA, we’re good enough for you

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifts off.

Above: SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifts off.

Image Credit: SpaceX

Elon Musk held a press conference today to announce that the first stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully made a soft landing in the ocean, thus inching the company closer to its goal of producing a reusable rocket that could make spaceflight less expensive.

But that wasn’t the only cost-saving subject on Musk’s mind.

Musk also informed reporters that SpaceX is protesting the military’s current contract with the United Launch Alliance (ULA), which gives the organization near-complete dominance over national defense rocket and aircraft launches.

Musk argued that the U.S. Air Force’s agreement with ULA, a joint-venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, is unnecessarily expensive and said SpaceX could offer the same services at a fraction of the cost. ULA gets $3.5 billion annually from the government, but Musk said SpaceX could save them at least $1 billion.

The problem with this is that the government currently doesn’t allow private companies to bid on military launch contracts, which means ULA has no incentive to keep costs low.

“If our vehicle is good enough for NASA, the International Space Station … [and] every satellite you can imagine,” it’s good enough for┬ámilitary launches, Musk explained, adding that the Air Force’s contracts should be open for everyone to bid.

“If we compete and lose, that’s fine,” he said. “We’re just saying that companies should be able to compete.”