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COLORADO SPRINGS: SpaceX does not look likely to get what it most wants from Capitol Hill in its battle against the United Launch Alliance and the Air Force: more launches sooner.

Support for competition between the two companies remains vibrant, with Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Jim Clapper, director of National Intelligence, separately calling today for increased competition in the business of launching America’s national security satellites.

But Levin’s committee, in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act, did not do what SpaceX owner Elon Musk most wanted: break up the block-buy purchase of rocket cores from ULA.

After his formal Capitol Hill briefing on the NDAA this afternoon, Levin told reporters that the SASC wants “to get them [SpaceX] certified as quickly as they can so they can compete. Until they’re certified we want to be able to keep the program going and we want to get the benefit of that block-buy program, four billion bucks savings. We try to balance.”

The Air Force is spending $60 million and has 100 people working to see if SpaceX’s rockets and launch processes are reliable enough to warrant the United States risking its most expensive satellites by contracting with Musk to loft them into orbit.

The bill includes language to “ensure as much competition as possible,” the senator said.

As a sweetener, the SASC added $100 million to the bill to start development of a domestic alternative to the Russian’s RD-180, something Gen. Willie Shelton, head of Air Force Space Command, said earlier this week he personally supported. At least one Russian official, a Deputy Prime Minister, has said the Kremlin would refuse to sell more RD-180s to the United States as long as they are intended for the Pentagon.

Here in Colorado Springs, DNI Clapper voiced vibrant support for greater competition for national security launches, which his budget usually pays the highest rates –$350 million each — for because NRO satellites are often the size of s school bus.

“I do want to give a shout-out to SpaceX,” he told the National Space Symposium here, noting that he recently visited their plant and launch site. “I’ve been tremendously impressed with their ingenuity, drive and aggressiveness.”

Barring success in the courts, which may alienate his main customer, Musk may just have to wait to be certified and then press harder. Sen. Levin said emphatically that the committee would not change the requirements for certification.

Comments

  • Gary Church

    “$100 million to the bill to start development of a domestic alternative to the Russian’s RD-180,-”

    That’s what somebody wanted; free money. We don’t need a new kerosene engine. What a scam.

    As for Musk, his company will never launch a spy satellite. His antics have shown the Air Force he is not to be trusted.

    • http://brokenfang.com JDHillhouse

      Musk’s lawsuit against the Air Force may be the biggest blunder he has ever committed.

      It’s not just Gen. Shelton who is angry over Musk’s lawsuit against the Air Force. As someone told me, until the lawsuit, many were fine sitting on the sidelines watching Musk beat on ULA, a fellow member of the anti-Constellation cabal. That’s just karma at work. But the lawsuit forced people to take sides. And it’s just a numbers game now. The Air Force has more friends than does SpaceX. And they will get even.

      • Gary Church

        So few of us JD….the few, the proud, the real space advocates.

        I go so sick of the new space mob and their infomercial that I had to become my own one-man real space mob. Been banned from 3 forums for it due to hate mail to the moderators, been put on the new space hit-list……. and learned there is no reason to ever try and agree with these Ayn-Rand-in-space cyberthugs. They just want to fill up the page with their garbage.

        • http://brokenfang.com JDHillhouse

          Yes, like you I’m not exactly on the NewSpace Xmas card distro list.

          • Chris Prophet

            So in a nutshell what you are arguing for is ‘Old Space’ companies like ULA and business as usual. ULA are a real poster child, they are effectively a bank who subcontracts everything: engines made in Russia, airframes from europe etc. Admittedly the small flag they paint on their rockets is done by an American but I can’t speak for the paint.

            ULA pushed the price so high for launch vehicles they effectively gifted all commercial launches to ESA, Russia and China. Do you really believe there is any possibility of future development with ULA when they don’t actually do anything except move money around? SpaceX builds 70+% components in house, under one roof and charges realistic rates, prices even the Chinese can’t compete with. They call it ‘New Space’ for a reason – it’s the future and not some unviable, blurry nostalgic vision of how space development used to be.

          • Gary Church

            Delta IV; made in Alabama. You lie. But that’s what New Space does….always.

          • Chris Prophet

            Suppose you are right the future is a lie – until it happens. Despite ULA’s best efforts to retain space as the property of national governments, commercial space exploration is coming – and soon.

          • Gary Church

            Space is expensive; there is no cheap. New Space will go down in flames when investors realize there is nothing behind all the smoke and mirrors. Satellite launches will not keep SpaceX in business. If they suddenly reduce their expenditures to somehow scrape by they will never transport astronauts. Either way it is a taxpayer rip-off. Calling it “exploration” is the dead giveaway; no money to be made exploring. It is essentially a tourist scam.

          • Gary Church

            And if I seem harsh Chris, I have nothing but rancor and disgust for the New Space cyberthugs that have insulted and bullied on forums for years. Their toxic Ayn-Rand-in-space psychopathic agenda has made me their sworn enemy. The bizarre and ass-backwards logic of their infomercials has mislead and misinformed the public and has been the worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration.

          • Chris Prophet

            Whereas the line that space is completely inaccessible and costs a billion dollars to even think about is the truth. Nice try sticking your thumb in the status quo dam. Think you’ll need a bigger thumb when SpaceX land their Falcon 9 booster at the Cape this year proving 70% of launch costs are recoverable.

    • Beomoose

      Boeing and Lockheed have both sued the DoD on multiple occasions, failed to meet performance goals and deadlines on multiple projects, and some of their employees have even gone to jail for playing fast and loose with procurement. But SpaceX is not to be trusted…..

      • Gary Church

        Not with Spy Satellites according to the Air Force.

        • Beomoose

          The Air Force is still proceeding through the certification process with the goal of putting spy satellites on Falcon 9. If they felt SpaceX could not be trusted, they’d stop certification.

          • Gary Church

            The Air Force will never launch a spy satellite on a SpaceX rocket. Musk just made sure of that. Screwing around with a vital national security asset is not going to be forgiven.

          • jamesh65

            Well, I hope you enjoy paying triple the amount of tax for the same launch then….!

  • Don Bacon

    No wonder Americans’ approval of Congress hovers at about five percent.
    Levin could be the poster boy.

  • Gary Church

    Maybe Shelton has a job lined up on the Atlas when he retires. Got to get that new engine working right; cha-ching!

  • Ivor O’Connor

    “The Air Force is spending $60 million and has 100 people working to see if SpaceX’s ”

    That means they flew a few people to have a meeting. The helicopter, maintenance, and crew for supporting this trip ended up costing $60 million. Lets not confuse BS with results.

  • Joseph White

    There was a time when we didn’t need to depend upon the Russians to get to either ourselves or our equipment to space. We had big rockets of our own, as well as a shuttle system that worked. It’s such a damned shame that we’ve gotten rid of our space systems, and the Russians are making millions off of us.

    • Mike

      Ya, it is amazing what we can not afford anymore after we cut the taxes on the richest Americans shortly after the Republican Revolution….. Now we have a huge deficit, can’t afford our space program and the Conservative ultra Wealthy (CUWs) have a few more Limousines and are giving billions to their Republican Congressional lackeys…. Perhaps something to remember come November, aye?

    • Ivor O’Connor

      Russians are giving us bargain basement prices. Even when they dramatically up their price to 70 million an astronaut in 2017 it will be a deal. Or compared to the old Space Shuttle specially built for low earth orbit. The cost per astronaut ended up working out to somewhere between 300 and 500 million per astronaut. So even comparing the Russian’s future high price of 70 million to the Space Shuttle’s lowest price of 300 million the Russians are giving us a great deal. Of course when SpaceX starts putting astronauts up at 20 million a pop we’ll have an even better deal.

      • Gary Church

        Of course SpaceX may never send anyone into space. It is still years away and I doubt they will ever fly anyone. The space station is the only place they can go and that worthless collection of tin cans and solar panels is not going to last forever.

        • Ivor O’Connor

          Of course the sun may not rise in the east tomorrow. About just as likely as SpaceX not launching humans. Only red tape keeps SpaceX from not launching humans tomorrow. But I’m sure you are not stupid and already knew that just like you probably already know that SpaceX has been launching satellites for the private sector.

          • Gary Church

            Years behind schedule and no denial from SpaceX about the Forbes magazine story saying the Dragon is about a billion dollars and several years from being qualified to carry anyone.

            That means you are doing what all SpaceX fans do; regurgitating infomercial B.S.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            You care to actually include any references? Or would you rather just make crazy sounding accusations?

          • Gary Church
          • Ivor O’Connor

            So this is your bible on all things negative about SpaceX? Because SpaceX prices have risen from 30 million to 60 million a launch? Even at 100 million it would be cheap compared to the nearly 400 million ULA is currently charging to launch Russian made rockets.

            Furthermore the link you supplied is old. SpaceX had only launched two Falcon 9s when that piece was written. Now SpaceX has launched 8 Falcon 9s. And so much of the Forbes article talks about how the first three test rockets blew up. Test rockets paid for by Musk himself. The actual cargo rockets, the 8 Falcon 9s launched so far, have yet to blow up.

            There is no real need to address the Forbes article. It was just a sensationalist hit piece hoping to capture some emotion. SpaceX through actual results has since proven to be the real stuff. (Though I applaud Forbes for questioning things that at the time seemed to them too good to be true. Results though speak louder and SpaceX has since proven themselves with results.)

          • Gary Church

            Not my bible. What are you babbling about?
            SpaceX has proven themselves? Not proving anything with an inferior lift rocket using a cluster of low thrust engines designed in the 60s. Junk.
            What results? They launched an internet whiz kid’s hobby rocket and have to make money off of it now instead of borrowing.

            Goodbye SpaceX.

          • jamesh65

            And the latest F9 flight makes 10 successes from 10. At this rate even Gary C will have to start eating his words, tasteless thought they may be.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            I just wish they would get that first stage to land on ground.

            There must be some sort of acceptance testing. I’d like to know what that testing will consist of and when it will happen. Somehow I don’t think it will be happening anytime in the next couple years despite rumors to the contrary.

            They might as well crank up the number of flights to two per month and make it obvious they are a real alternative to ULA.

          • jamesh65

            I’d prefer they just take the time that is needed to get the job done. They don’t need to hurry, but they do need to get it right. They are already faster at stuff than most of their competitors.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            Yes. I often think SpaceX should just work it’s manifest off as fast as possible. Then I think they could probably make more money if they worked the reusable in first. Not that my random thoughts matter. SpaceX will do great given whatever is thrown at them.

          • justin

            What’s your IQ son? Why are you making an argument about timing based on an old article from few years back..iQ..2?

          • Gary Church

            If I am 2 than you must be 1.

          • Kdog

            Is this the article written by the same Loren Thompson that conveniently forgot to mention that he is a paid shill of Lockmart?! That Loren Thompson?! He got subsequently annihilated in a subsequent article:

            http://www.forbes.com/sites/beltway/2011/06/03/spacex-loren-thompsons-deceit/

          • Gary Church

            Annihilated? Eye roll.

          • Kdog

            Several years away by the present risk-averse government-bureaucrat land. However, nothing prevents Spacex from sending its own private employees into space ASAP.

          • Gary Church

            They why don’t they? Too risky I guess. That prevents it. You are making so much sense.

        • Lucky

          I read your words and I cannot believe my eyes.

          “…that worthless collection of tin cans and solar panels…” ?!

          The ISS is the finest piece of American lead International science and technological cooperation. It is the best example of what the humanity should do instead of wars. It also is a brilliant platform of proving space technology and materials, not to talk about human space adaptation.
          It is the first small step of humanity before going to conquer the Space, it is the space ABC… and a lot more that you are so blind to see.

          • Gary Church

            It does nothing but suck up 3 billion dollars a year and go in circles. Unless you count floating Canadians singing David Bowie songs.

          • Lucky

            I cannot comment your reply but all I can see is that you have an imposed blindness to common sense and concentrate on arguments I suppose serve your hidden purpose.
            Nor I can stop noting your language extremely closed to russian VP Rogozin…

          • Gary Church

            I am not even going to google “Rogozin.” Thanks for the fan mail.

    • Gary Church

      We have a big rocket of our own; the SLS. If the next administration supports it instead of using it as a political football then it will fly astronauts long before SpaceX, which is years behind schedule.

      • Ivor O’Connor

        The SLS has a snowballs chance in hell of succeeding. Just like their Space Shuttle before it. These monstrosities are what you get with committees controlled by politicians. But hey, if we have to waste money then lets waste it on new rockets rather than on the other government led boondoggles.

        • Gary Church

          Yes, why how could it succeed after those 100 shuttle missions using the same hardware? Those 200 flawless SRB firings and the most efficient and powerful hydrogen engine ever made- nothing compared to SpaceX. The hobby rocket is a joke;
          Take a look at real power- 3.6 million pounds of thrust is no boondoogle.
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfUYdvaALBc

          • Gary Church

            He donated to the campaign and told Obama he could do it; Obama gave him a shot and he failed. The next administration will say thanks for wasting tax dollars but no thanks. If the inferior lift astronaut taxi is ever ready the ISS will no longer be in service anyway. 30 years of space stations going in endless circles is enough.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            Very impressive rockets. You do realize however that the current SpaceX Falcon 9s take more weight to GTO than was possible with the Space Shuttles at 4% of the price. And with less chance of blowing up.

          • Gary Church

            More SpaceX fan club misinformation. Completely untrue. The Shuttle lifted over a hundred tons counting the Orbiter as payload. It was a system in the same class as the Saturn V. That most of that was wings and landing gear is the mistake the SLS is correcting. You do realize that the Space Shuttle flying over 100 missions with crew while the Falcon has flown none makes your statement ridiculous?

          • Ivor O’Connor

            Yeah, I guess you could say it lifted more weight if you counted itself. Kind of like a fat person saying he is lifting 500 pounds when he picks up a 10lb weight.

            However if you are talking about lifting satellites into GTO the Space Shuttled could only do 3,810 kg. SpaceX lifts 4,850 kg satellites to GTO. More weight at 4% of the SS price. Please look it up. Here are the links:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_shuttle

            http://www.spacex.com/falcon9

            Like I said before. I hope the SLS works and is economical. However it is another government run committee controlled by the whims of politicians…

          • Gary Church

            The Shuttle is not the SLS. You are misleading and misinforming. SLS uses the same type of boosters and engines.

            I am sure you can get oohs and ahhs telling people the shuttle could only lift 4 tons on 7 million pounds of thrust and the Falcon can lift 5 tons on 1 million pounds of thrust.
            It’s SpaceX magic.

            The problem is SpaceX is all magic; smoke and mirrors.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            Only confusion here is on your side. I don’t know how you could confuse my quotes about the SS and mistake them for the SLS. I don’t think you are confused though. Just another squirrelly troll hoping to confuse people.

          • Gary Church

            Thanks for self-identifying; most Musk fanatics will not do that:)

          • Ivor O’Connor

            It keeps me honest.

          • Gary Church

            That word cannot be used anywhere near SpaceX. It’s a scam.

          • Gary Church

            What you are saying is that the space shuttle can only lift 4 tons to GTO using 7 million pounds of thrust at lift off while the Falcon can lift 5 tons to GTO using 1 million pounds of thrust at lift off?

            That’s magic! Actually, you are just misleading anyone reading your comment with numbers. Like I said, the shuttle was a launch vehicle in the same class as the Saturn V while the Falcon is an inferior launch vehicle that cannot lift as much into orbit as either the Atlas or the Delta despite having greater thrust at lift off.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            Really you are just making a total fool of yourself. You don’t believe the specifications supplied by the vendors themselves. You don’t understand the specifications or the physics behind it. And then you call it magic.

            Are you sure you aren’t just playing devils advocate. Trying to remove the teeth from those who might actually not understand?

  • Araya

    They should give SpaceX a chance I was also longtime a sceptic of SpaceX but SpaceX has so far surprised me positively with their success, they build and test a Medium Lift Rocket (Falcon 9V1.1) how is also extreme cheap and develop the strongest Rocket (Falcon Heavy with 53 Tons payload!) since the Saturn Moon Rocket.

    And I would also prefer a 100% made US Rocket how cost also just ½ to 1/3 of the ULA launches with the Atlas V and helps in the same time the Russian space industry do not forget what Russia is the enemy and to be depended on Putin is not wise as they see now. So should SpaceX prove what their Heavy Lift works the DOD should give it a chance them not so it should force the ULA to establish a 100% US Solution the dependence one Russian RD-180 is simply a shame for the USA !

    • Gary Church

      You need to write better if you want people to read your comment. It get’s really irritating; I am not going to even try anymore.

      The Falcon heavy is not the strongest rocket since Saturn in development; that would be the SLS. We are not dependent on the Russian RD-180. Very little of anything you so poorly wrote is true.

  • Gary Church

    The SpaceX Falcon rocket was built to take astronauts to the ISS. It was supposed to happen fast and cheap and it is about a billion dollars and still years away. Fail. It would be faster and cheaper in the long run to human rate the Delta IV heavy.

    The ISS was the result of the underfunded and poorly conceived NASA space transportation system (the Shuttle). With not enough enough money to go anywhere else……..The best scenario for continuing space exploration would be to de-orbit the ISS.

    The space age began in 1968 with the launch of Apollo 8 and ended in 1972 with the return of Apollo 17. Human Space Flight Beyond Earth Orbit (HSF-BEO) is scheduled to begin again NLT 2021 with Space Launch System (SLS) mission EM-2.

    After a half a century of going in the wrong direction we will leave Earth again. Confusing SpaceX with actual space exploration is their favorite PR tactic.
    Real space advocates understand the best thing for space exploration would be for SpaceX to go out of business.

  • Gary Church

    It seems like everyday another one of my comments has been removed. Why don’t you just remove them all? Jeez. Why do I even waste my time here?

    • jamesh65

      Beats me.