Elon Musk just recently received more than a quarter of a billion taxpayer bucks for a new space venture – only this isn’t something as relatively unimportant as generating juice from your roof or a cool road coupe. This time it’s a national security venture launching satellites for the U.S. military. And SpaceX hasn’t had much luck in that area lately. Let’s examine some recent history.
June 28, 2015: A strut made by SpaceX to withstand 10,000 pounds of force folded up at a fifth of that and the Falcon 9 launch exploded in a ball of flame. Loss: 4 thousand pounds of food and supplies bound for the international space station. A government post-mortem blamed poor quality control at SpaceX.
Sept. 1, 2016: A launch intended to supply Facebook with better communications across Africa blew up on the pad at Cape Canaveral during testing. Loss: A $200 million satellite and the $60 million Falcon 9.
And then this year: The billiondollar Zuma satellite launched in early January failed. No one knows at this point what caused this latest failure. Some experts believe the payload adapter malfunctioned, others point fingers at SpaceX — but the taxpayers are out at least a one with nine zeroes and that’s never a good thing.
I see the future of space travel and commercialization of space in the private sector. Government lacks the courage and the chutzpah to make the kind of leaps we need. But it also should be done by private organizations with private risk capital, not a single company that’s simply figured out how to tap the taxpayers who carry all the risk while a single billionaire collects the rewards and the huzzahs.
Source: Lars Larson (host of the nationally-syndicated Lars Larson Show), “The crony capitalist in free market clothing”, The Washington Times, April 19, 2018, p. B3