The bad news could get worse for Elon Musk's SpaceX

December 17, 2017 – 09:52 am
Boeing, SpaceX to team with Our teams are reviewing data to determine root cause..."
-SpaceX

The explosion took with it 4, 000 pounds of vital supplies destined for International Space Station astronauts, along with one of a pair of docking stations that SpaceX was supposed to deliver to ISS for installation, enabling later docking of "space taxis" by itself and by Boeing with ISS beginning in 2017.

One week after the, um, SpaceXplosion, SpaceX still hasn't explained why one of its Falcon 9 rockets exploded two minutes into its launch. But here's what we do know.

"Space is hard"

So goes the old trope, but space does seem to be getting harder lately. As tallied by our friends at Spaceflightnow, we have now seen a total of three resupply missions to the International Space Station scuttled by exploding or off-course rockets in the past eight months. Orbital ATK lost an Antares rocket to catastrophic failure back in October, followed by a Russian Progress cargo ship going off course in April. Completing the "law of threes, " SpaceX has now lost its first operational Falcon after a string of 18 successful missions.

This bad news could get even worse for SpaceX, which is currently competing against Orbital ATK, Boeing, and others to win a renewal of its multibillion-dollar contract to provide Commercial Resupply Services to ISS through 2024. The good news in this regard is that at least one of SpaceX's rivals (Orbital) has suffered a failure of its own; so at least SpaceX is not odd man out. The bad news is that Boeing's record of uninterrupted successful space launches as part of United Launch Alliance could argue strongly in favor of NASA giving at least part of the "CRS(2)" contract to Boeing.

Guilt by association
Mario Anzuoni/ReutersSpaceX CEO Elon Musk speaks after unveiling the Dragon V2 spacecraft in Hawthorne, California May 29, 2014

And it gets worse. As recently as May, SpaceX appeared to be on a roll. With a record of safe space launches nearly as good - if not as long - as Boeing's, SpaceX won certification first from NASA, and then from the U.S. Air Force, making it officially one of the U.S. government's favorite space companies. Importantly, these twin certifications opened the door for SpaceX to compete for nearly $25 billion worth of U.S. government space launch business - annually.

Of course, this was before one of SpaceX's rockets blew up and the company essentially shrugged and said, "We don't know what happened." Viewed side by side, we now have SpaceX and Orbital ATK recording two mission failures in their last eight months of flying, versus Boeing's record of 96 launches during the last nine years, with nary a mishap.


Source: www.businessinsider.com

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