It’s promising to hear a company take the approach that SpaceX is with regards to the future of manned spaceflight. Specifically, they’re addressing costs in a very upfront and transparent way without divulging too much for competitors. Hopefully, they can really gain a foothold later this year when they launch their first NASA-approved flight to the ISS. Some excerpts for those too lazy to click thru:
The average price of a full-up NASA Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station is $133 million including inflation, or roughly $115m in today’s dollars, and we have a firm, fixed price contract with NASA for 12 missions. This price includes the costs of the Falcon 9 launch, the Dragon spacecraft, all operations, maintenance and overhead, and all of the work required to integrate with the Space Station. If there are cost overruns, SpaceX will cover the difference. (This concept may be foreign to some traditional government space contractors that seem to believe that cost overruns should be the responsibility of the taxpayer.)
That’s motivation – Firm Fixed Price. SpaceX will do it for $133M…if it costs more, it’s on us. If it costs less, well, we’ve done our job better than we thought.
For the first time in more than three decades, America last year began taking back international market-share in commercial satellite launch. This remarkable turn-around was sparked by a small investment NASA made in SpaceX in 2006 as part of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. A unique public-private partnership, COTS has proven that under the right conditions, a properly incentivized contractor — even an all-American one — can develop extremely complex systems on rapid timelines and a fixed-price basis, significantly beating historical industry-standard costs.
China has the fastest growing economy in the world. But the American free enterprise system, which allows anyone with a better mouse-trap to compete, is what will ensure that the United States remains the world’s greatest superpower of innovation.
Re-read that last sentence again. That is how and why America will recover from the current economic woes. Get the government regulation out of the way that prevents competition or innovation and use it to help incentivize and empower American companies.
Note: image (copyright SpaceX) is the SpaceX Falcon9 on the launchpad.