Sunday, April 25, 2010

SpaceX CEO: ULA Big Winner in Obama Space Plan

An Atlas V launch.

Originally posted by Space Politics ...

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told the Huntsville Times that United Launch Alliance should be a big winner under President Obama's proposed FY 2011 NASA budget.

Musk's comments were in the context of Alabama's U.S. Senator Richard Shelby fighting the proposal, which Musk thinks will bring more jobs to Alabama.

The CEO of a company seeking to carry American astronauts into space says U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, is fighting a new national space plan that would bring billions into North Alabama.

"I just don't understand what his beef is," Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Space Exploration Technologies Inc. (SpaceX), said in a telephone interview Friday night.

"I don't really understand why Senator Shelby is so opposed to commercial crew," Musk said, "given that Atlas and Delta are right there in Alabama, because no one's going to be a bigger winner in commercial crew than United Launch Alliance."

An article in today's Florida Today echoes Musk's sentiment that SpaceX is the outsider in the space race for human spaceflight.

SpaceX has the buzz because they're new. Founder Elon Musk's promise to dramatically slash the cost to orbit is alluring because the industry's been trying -- and failing -- to make that leap for decades. The president's visit to the Falcon launch pad only boosted the buzz ...

The other likely front-runner? United Launch Alliance. NASA's emerging requirements for launching people are coming together in such a way that rockets with a dozen or more flights under their belts are going to get a big advantage when it comes to winning clearance for putting humans aboard.

A rocket with 12 to 14 missions flown is going to face much less scrutiny from NASA in the "human rating" process than one with two, four or even six launches on its resume. A dozen or so successful launches in a row is likely to eliminate extra rounds of expensive -- and time-consuming reviews -- necessary to deem a rocket safe for blasting a piloted spaceship to orbit.

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