Skip to comments.Why More Taxpayer Funding to Elon Musk’s Big F-ing Rocket Would Be a Big F-ing Mistake
Posted on 04/21/2018 9:13:50 AM PDT by Kaslin
For years now, the Pentagon has been in the market for new heavy-lift launch vehicles – rockets that can lift between 44,000 to 110,000 pounds. Currently, the only market options available are either too costly or too reliant on Russian-made parts.
To that end, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced that he will begin devoting most of his company’s efforts on developing the “BFR” – short for Big F-ing Rocket – which will allegedly be so huge and powerful that it will make the company’s previous rocket lines outdated in just a few short years. Musk stated at the South by Southwest conference that it is expected to be ready for short flights next year. This week, he announced that production will soon occur in Los Angeles.
Although already receiving over $70 million in government funding for the BFR, SpaceX announced it wants more appropriations to help it power through to the finish line. But given the company’s rocky history, as well as the steady influx of competition in the aerospace realm, perhaps the Pentagon should not extend Musk’s funding marker until the company demonstrates the ability to fix the security issues in its other rocket lines.
If Musk’s BFR’s script seems oddly familiar, that’s because it is. Previously, SpaceX said it would change the heavy-lift rocket game with its Falcon Heavy – a rocket that launched for the first time in February – but this Disney-esque storyline may not pan out as imagined. Not only did the Falcon Heavy’s core rocket booster crash into the ocean on its inaugural launch, but its for-show Tesla Roadster payload also overshot Mars’ orbit and could collide with something in space years down the road.
While these lift-off issues can be rectified for future missions, there may be more reliability concerns than meet the eye. Things seem far from stable. Both NASA and the Air Force reportedly declined Musk’s offer to put a payload on the launch. Even Musk himself seemed to believe a launch explosion was likely. The third booster and payload trajectory went off course this time, but there may very well be different, independent issues in subsequent launches. And yet, instead of devoting its time to fixing these errors – or the 33 major security issues associated with its other rocket line, for that matter – SpaceX has vowed to spend the bulk of its efforts on developing a new rocket that it wants more taxpayer money for.
Which begs the question: is a lack of faith in the Falcon Heavy’s ability the reason Musk plans to already make it “obsolete” in just a few short years with the ‘bigger and better’ BFR?
The steady stream of outside competition is likely adding to Musk’s uncertainty of the Falcon Heavy’s future and desire to build something new. For example, the Vulcan, a heavy-lift rocket in development by the United Launch Alliance (ULA), is expected to debut by mid-2020. Like SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, it will also be reusable and very cost-competitive at “sub-$100 million.” Unlike the Falcon Heavy, it will use cryogenic oxygen and hydrogen to prevent it from freezing in space after a short period of time – a well-thought out touch that may give it an edge over its competitor.
At the same time, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin is targeting a 2020 debut for its privately-funded New Glenn rocket system. Bezos’s creation will have an entirely reusable first stage and stand at 270-313 feet tall, hence towering over Musk’s heavy-lift rocket. Per DGIT Daily, Blue Origin will unquestionably outrank Musk’s company once the New Glenn takes the skies “unless SpaceX has something else up its sleeve.” Increased competition in the aerospace industry is also expected to soon come from companies like ArianeGroup, Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch Systems, and Orbital ATK, so NASA is under no circumstances beholden to SpaceX.
The problem here appears to be that Musk, who once said that it should be “game over” for all other heavy-lift rockets, may be paranoid about this competition and compelled to assert his dominance.
One of Musk’s most outlandish proclamations came when he stated that he’d “eat his hat with a side of mustard if [the Vulcan] flies a national security spacecraft before 2023.” This was an odd statement for the SpaceX CEO to make given that Falcon Heavy’s February test firing came only after the company promised a maiden lift-off by 2013-2014, Spring 2016, late 2016, and November 2017 – not to mention the numerous broken promises it has made with the Falcon 9, including a fourth straight flight deadline missed just last month due to nose cone problems. If reliability is truly a national spaceflight concern, it’s not due to the company with 125 straight successful launches – it’s because of issues spurred by Musk himself.
While cutthroat competition is a valid reason for any entrepreneur to desire building something more sustainable, it should be done on the company’s own dime. SpaceX has already received over $70 million from the government to develop its BFR rocket. Giving any more than this amount to a company that already has some unresolved security issues when its list of competitors is increasing by the day would be incredibly stupid.
Taxpayers are supposed to finance security assets, not corporate bandages. Washington withholding funding for the BFR until much-needed rectifications are made will increase, not decrease, SpaceX’s output quality. The government’s “do or die” ultimatum has produced favorable results when dealing with past government contractors, and I would suspect equally positive outcomes would occur in the case of SpaceX. The time is now to do what’s right for our national security by demanding accountability.
Not a big fan of Musk in other ways. Big fan of what his rockets can do.
Why would anyone give any credence to such a foul worded sophmoric article.
Lets see who gets to Mars first, Musk or NASA.
Yea the article was ridiculous.
You mean F-ing Ridiculous.
You know something?
The guy is a visionary and a genius. I have ZERO problem giving him tax dollars over ANY government agency to try to do the same.....and probably at 1/10th the cost.
Wow— these clowns don’t know diddly about “apace.”
“Congress pumps pork money to NASA in omnibus budget”
March 22, 2018
“The omnibus budget that Congress plans to pass this week for 2018 gives NASA $20.7 billion, significantly more than requested and funding almost every pork project Congress could conceive of, including a second mobile launcher for SLS.”
The budget gives SLS and Orion more than $3 billion, funds all the Earth science and education projects the Trump administration wished to cut, as well as WFIRST, which the Trump administration wants to cancel because of cost overruns. In general, the NASA budget is a microcosm of the entire spending bill, which does nothing to cut any program anywhere, including Obamacare and a number of liberal programs that the Republicans have repeatedly promised to shut down, until they are in a position to do so. Then they act like leftist Democrats and fund everything.”
Musk also has a great sense of humor.
I’d take one Musk over ten Doctor evil’s....(bezos)
Too disrespectful of his dad!
This guy is an idiot. $70 mil to NASA is nothing, they blow that much on a toilet seat.
What Musk has done with SpaceX on a shoestring budget is nothing short of miraculous.
Although already receiving over $70 million in government funding for the BFR, SpaceX announced it wants more appropriations to help it power through to the finish line.
The rectum who wrote this is obviously in the bag for someone, or on the take. Just a single LAUNCH of the Delta IV Heavy -- which has half the payload capacity of SpaceX' Falcon Heavy -- is $350 million, and basically every dime for its development (and all of the costs of most of its launches) has come straight from taxpayers.
The Falcon 9, on which the Falcon Heavy is based, was developed for around three times that figure, most of that money coming from Musk or other private backers, and the result has been a cheap, reliable launcher that continues to drop in price. The author of the piece is just a rectum. Oh, and he's a rectum. Even Town Scrawl should be too ashamed to print such garbage. Thanks Kaslin.
My proposal is 100,000 Testes D size model rocket engines wrapped with duct tape. And it would create jobs.
Ah the good old days.
back then we would glue the fins right onto the engine....forget the costly rocket.
Little aimable missiles to launch at whatever we wanted....
speaking of childhood i read that Cox does not exist anymore.
Had so much fun with there .049 engines back in the day...
Rather than giving him any more taxpayer money, his assets should be seized and auctioned to pay back at least a fraction of what was already squandered.
SpaceX is a scam like the perpetual Vehicle car of past time. Acknowledge the current design problems, use the tests for publicity, then switch to a NEW design with NEW funding.
Sucker the funders or the Govt deep pockets.
Additionally, Elon Musk bans older workers, illegal yes, but he keeps the younger naive gullible workers to not question the scam. Your retirement tax money at work, scamming.
Yes, a relative was the Cox engineer testing their engines. I wish they had better sound mufflers though.
Two years ago landing a single Falcon 9 first stage was the greatest thing since Buck Rogers. Now, landing two out of three stages simultaneously in a brand new configuration is a giant failure?
The SLS system, run by NASA, was not mentioned in the article. How are they at spending taxpayer money?
It seems NASA is much better at wasting taxpayer money than SpaceX is.
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