Privatization Of The Space Flight Program

2124 words - 9 pages

Over the last 60 years, the United States Space Program has brought to life things that, as late as the 1950’s, were once believed to be impossible. As a little boy, I remember watching TV in the library at school as the latest space shuttle was going to blast off from its launch pad en route to its destiny in space exploration. As I’ve grown, so too has my never ending curiosity of what lies beyond our own planet and solar system. We have been to the moon, seen unbelievable, up close photos of planets like Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, and just when it looked like we’re about to make a leap into exploring beyond our solar system or possibly sending a manned mission to Mars, it all stops. Along ...view middle of the document...

The privatization of the U.S Space Program is not a new concept. There are traces of today’s major aerospace players as far back as the early 20th century. During the last few decades of the 20th century, companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing became involved in the aerospace industry while still making airplanes. During the 1990’s, both of these companies built rockets for the U.S. government with Lockheed Martin responsible for the Titan and Atlas rockets and Boeing building the Delta. By 2006, Boeing and Lockheed Martin merged to create United Launch Alliance (ULA), an “effective monopoly” in the United States with only foreign competition coming from Russia, China, and the Europeans. (Kakaes, 2012)
There are currently at least 6 notable private companies that are vying for the open space contracts. At the top of the current list is Space Exploration Technologies Corporation or SpaceX, which was established in 2002 by PayPal entrepreneur Elon Musk. SpaceX is currently responsible for the development and deployment of the Falcon 9 which will carry goods to the International Space Station. (Kakaes, 2012) Another key company is Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, VA that has developed the Pegasus and Taurus launchers as well as “established a decent reputation building small-to-medium sized commercial and scientific satellites and space probes.” (NASA Approves Partial Privatization of the Space Program, 2009) Both SpaceX and Orbital won the 1st round of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contracts in 2006 worth approximately $485 Million. SpaceX was awarded contracts totaling $278 Million while Orbital absorbed $170 Million of the original $207 Million that was awarded to Rocketplane Kistler, who had their contracts pulled in 2007 for “failure to meet the agreed upon financial milestones.” (NASA Approves Partial Privatization of the Space Program, 2009) Currently, both SpaceX and Orbital have been hired by NASA to deliver approximately 40 tons of supplies over 20 flights to the International Space Station for a cost of $3.5 Billion. (Borenstein, 2011)
Other private companies that are in talks with NASA to build spaceships that will transport supplies and astronauts to the International Space Station on a “pay-per seat basis” include aerospace giant Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corporation, who is developing a “shuttle-like spaceplane” and Blue Origin, headed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. (Borenstein, 2011) Most recently, Billionaire Paul Allen of Microsoft has launched Stratolaunch Systems which aims to “build the world’s largest airplanes, capable of launching spaceships into orbit.” (Carville, 2012)
The goal of the privatization of space flight and launch vehicles is simple. Reliance on private companies to design, manufacture, and operate all launch vehicles is essential to “give us orbital access to space with greater safety, flexibility, and cost effectiveness, both for cargo and manned missions.” (Carville, 2012)...

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