Wall Street Journal – Space Exploration Technologies Corp. said on Wednesday it has invested about $500 million in commercial-space ventures, shedding light on the closely held company’s efforts to develop private rockets and capsules even as congressional skepticism about such projects grows.
The figure is substantially larger than founder and Chief Executive Elon Musk previously spelled out to lawmakers and goes beyond earlier statements that he has invested $100 million of his personal wealth in the Southern California-based maker of launchers and spacecraft. The nine-year-old company, which is widely known as SpaceX, has said little publicly about its overall spending on design, manufacturing, testing, personnel and facilities
Testifying before the House Science Committee, Mr. Musk said the company was created “to advance the cause of space” rather than maximize profits. He added that he has retained majority control of the company “to assure that those idealistic goals of SpaceX remain
The government has invested roughly $300 million in the company, which is considered one of the leading contenders for additional federal financial support.
The White House and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration want lawmakers to appropriate as much as $6 billion over the next five years for such commercial space programs, but bipartisan support for slashing that amount has grown partly because many companies are shying away from committing sizable investments of their own.
Elon Musk reiterated SpaceX pledges to comply with fixed-price contracts if it wins the competition to take astronauts into orbit. He said he would commit to a price of about $20 million per seat per trip, which could begin as early as 2014. The price is roughly one-third of what Russia is now charging NASA for similar missions.
In the next few months, SpaceX hopes to launch its unmanned Dragon capsule to link up for the first time with the International Space Station and deliver a small amount of cargo, followed by the start of regular cargo deliveries probably in late 2012.
To highlight SpaceX’s commercial posture, Mr. Musk said that its approximately $3 billion backlog of launch contracts is about evenly divided between NASA and private-sector customers