Regardless of the final outcome of the situation in the Ukraine with Russia. US and European relations with Russia will be bad for many years.
Europe will try to have less dependence upon Russian Natural Gas. Europe now gets about 30% from Russia.
Europe and American Banks and investors will try to have less exposure to Russian assets.
The politics are just part of it. Russia is now an unreliable and more risky situation for business.
The US has dependence on Russia for spaceflight.
At the very least, Spacex will get elevated to being an equal competitor for Air Force launches. It is likely that Russian made engines will be phased out for American launches. I believe that Spacex will get more breaks in certification and will get accelerated through manned certification and military launch certification.
Before Ukraine, the West could believe that engaging Russia as partner would be good for relations and good for business.
The U.S. Air Force is looking for new ways to get its spy and GPS satellites into space for less money through their EELV (Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle) program. Currently United Launch Alliance (ULA), the joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, launches these satellites. But the rocket establishment is facing some competition in the form of Elon Musk and SpaceX.
ULA’s Atlas V and Delta IV rockets use Russian-made rocket engines.
Correction – ULA’s Delta IV does NOT use a Russian-made engine. It uses an Aerojet Rocketdyne RD-68.
Elon Musk made his case for Spacex to the US Senate Sub-committee
Elon Musk: “The premise of perfect success for ULA is not quite correct—they certainly have a good record. What would make sense for long-term security is to phase out the Atlas IV, which depends on the Russian engine, have ULA operate the Delta family and SpaceX operate the Falcon family.”
Musk: “I think as a country we’ve generally decided that competition in the free market is a good thing and monopolies are not so good. The reality is, when competition is introduced, reliability is a key factor in competition. Frankly, if our rockets are good enough for NASA, why are they not good enough for the Air Force?”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein asks Musk what challenges he anticipates for SpaceX regarding the certification program currently required by the Air Force.
Musk: “We’re not aware of any issue that would prevent us from being certified to fly missions, completing that certification this year. We are concerned about any delays in the contracting—hopefully those delays don’t materialize.”
Sen. Richard Shelby: “Mr. Musk, do you ignore the fact that ULA currently complies with the mandates that you acknowledge add overhead costs? It seems that you are comparing apples and oranges in your price estimates. And why should SpaceX be exempt from the same auditing and oversight rules that DOD requires of the ULA?”
Musk: “Because the government does not buy launch insurance. In order to improve the probability of success, there is substantial mission-assurance overhead applied. This is why our launch costs are estimated to be 50 percent higher for Air Force flights than commercial flights. So instead of $60 million for a commercial missions, it’s $90 million. But that compares to more like $380 million for ULA.”
Shelby asks Musk what he thinks about ULA’s 68 consecutive launches.
Musk: “I would also like to point out that there were two highly publicized failure investigations, one into Delta IV Heavy and one into Atlas, that the Air Force conducted. ULA has a very good track record; it is not quite as perfect as 68 launches.”
Gass (ULA CEO): “We measure mission success by our customer’s declaration, so if they declare a mission is a success, we use the same record”.
Shelby: “Mr. Musk, in October 2012, a secondary payload aboard a Space X Falcon 9 was sent into the wrong orbit because one of the Merlin engines powering the Falcon 9 failed.”
Musk: “Right. Well, by ULA’s definition of success, that mission was perfect.”
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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