Tesla is cool. Elon Musk's electric car company continues to pump out beautiful, high performance cars that Silicon Valley and, increasingly, the world lusts after.
But as cool as Tesla is, SpaceX, Elon Musk's other company, is even cooler... and much more important.
Though it's easy to relegate SpaceX and its ilk to silly whims of billionaire Space Invaders fans, such a view is short-sighted, as Ashlee Vance's excellent Elon Musk biography uncovers. As "companies turn to space for television, internet, radio, weather, navigation, and imaging services, " high-tech and other industries are going to need a low-cost, high-quality commercial space company.
We're going to need SpaceX.
A big, bloated market
It's not that the US doesn't have home-grown aerospace giants. We do. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Orbital Sciences all originated here, not to mention Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin.
The problem with each of these, however, is that SpaceX trounces them "on price by a ridiculous margin." Blue Origin excepted, our traditional aerospace companies have become addicted to government funds. This cash is dispensed in the billions and has led to gargantuan piles of waste.
Also of concern, "Where these competitors rely on Russian and other foreign suppliers, SpaceX makes all of its machines from scratch in the United States." This might seem like an antiquated concern, but we've already had periods of time when Russia's government intervened to block sales of its (outdated) technology to US companies. Oh, and while SpaceX's current cost is $60 million per satellite launch, Russia charges the US $70 million per passenger to ferry them to the International Space Station.
Today, the cheapest places to get access to a satellite (outside SpaceX) are China and Russia, hardly the most ideal of business partners for US (or European) companies. To make access to space affordable, predictable, and safe, the industry is starting to turn to SpaceX.
Making space competitive
It couldn't come at a more opportune time. The total market for satellites, related services, and the rocket launches has more than tripled in the past few years, largely because the need for satellite access has exploded:
"The machines in space supply the fabric of modern life, and they're going to become more capable and interesting at a rapid pace. A whole new breed of satellite makers has just appeared on the scene with the ability to answer Google-like queries about our planet.
"These satellites can zoom in on Iowa and determine when cornfields are at peak yields and ready to harvest, and they can count cars in Wal-Mart parking lots throughout California to calculate shopping demand during the holiday season.
"The start-ups making these types of innovative machines must often turn to the Russians to get them into space, but SpaceX intends to change that."
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