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February 12th, 2018 3:34 pm
SpaceX: Private Sector Propels Space Exploration
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Quick:  Name some areas in which government outperforms its private sector counterpart.

Give up?  Don’t be too hard on yourself.  It’s difficult, even impossible to recall any.

That includes space technology.

Last week, Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched the most powerful rocket in the world, the Falcon Heavy, as reported by The Wall Street Journal:

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. successfully launched the Falcon Heavy rocket Tuesday on its initial test flight, marking another coup for founder Elon Musk…   With throngs of spectators on hand, the closely held Southern California company defied industry critics by flying the world’s most powerful rocket since U.S. astronauts landed on the moon almost five decades ago.  The 230-foot rocket, which featured 27 engines with the combined thrust of some 18 Boeing Co. 747 jumbo jets, climbed into clear skies at 3:45 p.m. local time.  It carried a Tesla roadster as a dummy payload and publicity stunt.”

Importantly, the article notes that cost-efficiency stands among the Falcon Heavy’s paramount accomplishments:

Large, reusable rockets such as the Falcon Heavy are ideal for deep-space transport from a cost perspective, according to Howard McCurdy, a space historian who teaches at American University.  ‘That’s where the heavy-lift design truly shines,’ he said before the launch.  Given President Donald Trump’s official policy of combining federal and private assets to explore the Moon, Mr. McCurdy called the SpaceX rocket ‘a very important step in that direction…  SpaceX has revolutionized the launch business by vertically integrating operations, slashing prices and reusing the main engines and lower stage of its existing workhorse rockets, the Falcon 9 fleet.”

Additionally, SpaceX’s success marks further progress in remedying a problem that we at CFIF have highlighted for some time:  the dangerous and embarrassing U.S. reliance upon Russian rocketry to continue our space program.

So congratulations to Mr. Musk and SpaceX.  Going forward, it offers cause for optimism and yet another example of private sector success and superior efficiency.

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