How do SpaceX and NASA compete?
They don’t. SpaceX is a for-profit firm, whereas NASA is a taxpayer-funded entity free to pursue scientific discoveries that aren’t straight linked to monetary achieve.
Perceptions that SpaceX and NASA are competing with each other often pertains to NASA’s Artemis program. In 2004, President George W. Bush announced a plan to retire the House Shuttles and return people to the floor of the Moon. This led to the creation of a crew capsule known as Orion and a rocket that in the end advanced into the House Launch System, or SLS. Orion and SLS are constructed by aerospace firms Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which in flip use their very own non-public suppliers and subcontractors. The autos are assembled at NASA facilities underneath NASA steering, and the ultimate product is owned by NASA. The applications generate tens of hundreds of well-paying jobs in areas the place they’re constructed, and due to this fact take pleasure in robust political assist from their native Congressional representatives.
SLS and Orion are each delayed and over price range. In the meantime, SpaceX has grown from a small startup right into a reputable competitor of conventional aerospace firms. Although SpaceX additionally steadily misses timelines, its supporters argue SLS and Orion are too costly and primarily based on legacy applied sciences which can be outmatched by autos like Starship.
Advocates for SLS and Orion level out that the autos assure the U.S. will be capable to launch giant payloads and people into house. An analogy for that is plane carriers, which the U.S. nonetheless builds and owns although non-public firms can construct comparably giant cruise ships.
NASA’s official place is that SLS and Orion are at present the perfect autos to get people again to the Moon. Moreover, the company can’t change course with out the requisite political assist. SpaceX, in the meantime, doesn’t must reply to anybody however Elon Musk, and might push forward with Starship growth to fulfill Musk’s purpose of sending people to Mars.
How does SpaceX depend on NASA?
With out the funding of NASA, non-public spaceflight at the moment would look very totally different. In 2006, NASA started investing in private space companies with the hope that they might at some point present cargo and crew transportation to the Worldwide House Station. SpaceX was one of many first firms to obtain cash from NASA; the corporate was simply four years previous on the time. NASA paid for roughly half the associated fee to develop SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket.
In 2008, SpaceX obtained a multi-billion greenback contract to fly cargo to the ISS. The corporate was on the verge of chapter and would probably have run out of cash with out NASA. In the present day, SpaceX generates income from a wide range of prospects, however a good portion of its funding comes from flying crew and cargo to the ISS in addition to launching NASA science spacecraft. SpaceX additionally flies payloads for the U.S. Division of Protection, one other taxpayer-funded entity.
How does NASA depend on SpaceX?
NASA didn’t have a alternative prepared when the House Shuttle program led to 2011. Regardless of having 7 years to organize, the company by no means obtained the funding needed to complete development of the ISS and develop a brand new human-capable spacecraft and rocket system, all whereas persevering with to fly the Shuttle—which by the tip of its lifetime price $3.5 billion per 12 months.
Anticipating the necessity for a substitute for ship cargo and crews to the ISS, NASA turned to the aerospace business with a novel proposal: moderately than paying firms to construct NASA-owned autos at NASA-owned services, what if NASA paid firms to construct their very own autos, after which purchased flights on these autos?
In 2008, the company signed contracts with SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Company—now Northrop Grumman—to construct and fly their very own cargo autos to the ISS. The plan labored: not even a 12 months after the Shuttle program ended, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft made the first commercial berthing with the ISS. In 2020, SpaceX grew to become the first private company to send NASA astronauts to the ISS.
With out SpaceX, the one U.S. firm at present able to carrying cargo to the ISS would at present be Northrop Grumman, and NASA would nonetheless be reliant on the Russian Soyuz for crew transportation.