Feeds

Elon Musk wants SpaceX to launch spy sats – and will sue US gov to do so

Rocket biz longs to elbow Lockheed Martin and Boeing out of the way

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

SpaceX has vowed to sue the US government for the right to compete for contracts to launch spy satellites – a market worth up to $70bn that's monopolised by Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

The California-headquartered upstart, founded by internet tycoon Elon Musk, has only just sent up supplies to the International Space Station.

SpaceX has eyed up the billion-dollar black ops market before: it set up offices in Chantilly, Virginia where the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the National Reconnaissance Operations Centre are together located. The NRO is a joint operation of the US military and intelligence services, and frequently launches payloads of surveillance satellites about which few details are released to the public.

Musk's firm said over the weekend that it will file a legal challenge today at the US Court of Federal Claims against the US Air Force's latest Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) contract with United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which was signed last year.

The deal guarantees the purchase of 36 rocket cores from ULA for use in "national security launches", and SpaceX argues that it was agreed without any competition from other providers.

“This exclusive deal unnecessarily costs US taxpayers billions of dollars and defers meaningful free competition for years to come,” Musk said in a statement.

“We are simply asking that SpaceX and any other qualified domestic launch providers be allowed to compete in the EELV program for any and all missions that they could launch.”

According to the space rocket firm, each ULA launch costs about $400m, four times as much as it would cost if the secret spy sats were blasted off using SpaceX hardware. The startup said the EELV contract is the fourth largest procurement programme in the entire US Department of Defence budget and that officials had already announced that it had exceeded its estimated cost per unit by 58.4 per cent.

Musk also appealed to national pride and current animosity towards Russia after its actions in Ukraine by pointing out that the ULA's launch vehicle, the Atlas V, uses Russian engines from a Russian company.

“In light of international events, this seems like the wrong time to send hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kremlin,” he said. “Yet, this is what the Air Force’s arrangement with ULA does, despite the fact that there are domestic alternatives available that do not rely on components from countries that pose a national security risk.”

SpaceX's move to open up the EELV procurement programme also has backing from Senator John McCain, who sent two letters, one to the Air Force and the Department of Defence, asking for investigation of the lack of competition in the $70bn programme.

"By some estimates, competition in EELV could save taxpayers up to $1 billion annually and help ensure that this program can be counted on for delivering needed military space capability at the most reasonable cost," he wrote to DoD inspector general Jon Rymer.

"With that in mind, the Air Force’s apparent deviation from the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s direction that competition in this program be 'aggressively' pursued and from internal DoD policies and instructions on competition is profoundly troubling." ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Ex-Soviet engines fingered after Antares ROCKET launch BLAST
Speculation rife, but Orbital claims it's too early to tell
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
NASA: Spacecraft crash site FOUND ON MOON RIM
'What fun!' exlaims NASA boffin who found the LADEE
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
OK Google, do I have CANCER?
Company talks up pill that would spot developing tumors
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Protecting against web application threats using SSL
SSL encryption can protect server‐to‐server communications, client devices, cloud resources, and other endpoints in order to help prevent the risk of data loss and losing customer trust.