SpaceX vs the rocket launch status quo

April 3, 2015 – 07:56 am

Elon Musk has rattled the US military space launch market, challenging the monopoly of United Launch Alliance by suing the US Air Force for the right to compete with his company SpaceX. How did SpaceX end up suing the organisation that might become its biggest customer, and could this bold move prove more damaging than it is worth?

Dragon space

For a long time, the Silicon Valley revolution was an exciting but somewhat limited affair; a digital rather than physical upheaval. Young, innovative tech companies turned our experience with software and the internet on its head, changing the world in the process, but they essentially created their own market to rule, leaving the established players in other industries unthreatened.

All that is beginning to change, however. With growing confidence and perhaps convinced of the benefits of diversification after the dot-com bubble burst in the early 2000s, many of California's tech innovators, some of which now rank among the largest companies in the world, are widening their gaze in search of new markets to disrupt.

Google's brainstorming facility Google X is branching out into self-driving cars and renewable energy, while Apple kickstarts the smart television market with Apple TV, Uber brings app technology to taxi transport and Palantir Technologies continues to buck tradition by winning US Government contracts for its security intelligence software.

Elon Musk and SpaceX

South Africa-born Canadian-American inventor and investor Elon Musk is at the very centre of this Silicon Valley expansion. After making his name with online payment brand PayPal, Musk went on to invest in and develop a bewildering range of technologies that go far beyond the digital space, including electric cars with Tesla Motors, solar energy with SolarCity and even a next-generation high-speed train design with his Hyperloop concept.


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