[Slate – Phil Plait] SpaceX, as you may know, is making good on its promise to make access to space cheaper and more reliable. Their Falcon 9 rocket is putting payloads into orbit for less money than the big government contractors charge.
As one might expect, government officials who have such contractors in their own districts and states are unhappy with this. And apparently some are willing to smear SpaceX as retribution.
Three House members—Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.)—have sent a memo to NASA demanding that the agency investigate what they call “an epidemic of anomalies” with SpaceX missions.
The congressmen say that SpaceX should be accountable to the American taxpayer.
Development of Falcon 9 and Dragon was supported, but not exclusively funded, by NASA through the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, using Space Act Agreements versus conventional contracts. SpaceX supplemented the NASA funding with its own; SpaceX Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk has said on a number of occasions that the company used no NASA funding for development of the Falcon 9.
Spacex had some delays on some launches but they fixed many of them within hours. The SLS [$3 billion downpayment on a new Space Launch System] is appearing to go a year or two behind its schedule.
NASA has a lengthy record of schedule delays and cost overruns, starting with the agency’s now-defunct Constellation moon program, which was to land a human on the moon by 2020. NASA spent five years and $13 billion on that project before President Barack Obama canceled it in 2010 — though pieces of Constellation, including the Orion capsule, remain as part of the current program.
Constellation collapsed despite annual spending of nearly $3 billion — about what is being spent on SLS and Orion today — and NASA said it actually needed more than twice that amount. But there’s no hope in today’s constrained budget of spending that much on SLS and Orion.
A few people in Congress seem so hell-bent on throwing roadblocks in the way of private businesses that can revolutionize our access to space.