The launching of the unmanned SpaceX CRS-7 rocket in June of this year exploded spectacularly in sky in fewer than three minutes after it was launched. The CRS-7 begin to fly in a less than straight up trajectory after one minute in the air and soon after turned to a downward direction, after which it exploded into almost nothing. The failed launch of CRS-7, described as a “launch vehicle failure” by a voice on the video below, raises questions about SpaceX becoming the Solyndra of the highly government-subsidized space industry.
SpaceX is the creation of Tesla Motors CEO, Elon Musk. Before founding SpaceX in 2002, Musk flew to Moscow to attempt to purchase an intercontinental ballistic missile, Bloomberg News reported. Friends of Musk, Bloomberg reported, staged interventions to talk him out of the idea, and reported that Musk intended to use the missile for “sending a plant or some mice to Mars.”
Failing to get the missile from the Russians, who wanted $8 million for it, while Musk had counted with an offer of that sum for two missiles, they determined they could build the rocket themselves instead. Making heavily government-subsidized electric cars wasn’t enough for the exceedingly ambitious Musk, he wanted to spend millions of taxpayer dollars shooting rockets into space. It’s a great dream, but if it fails, it will be a space-based Solyndra of massive proportions.
After the epic failure and explosion of CRS-7, SpaceX will claims it is on track to sends humans into space by 2017, and eventually wants to offer manned flights to Mars. But the seemingly private space company, that is the great dream of Elon Musk, is heavily funded by federal taxpayer money obtained after extensive lobbying to Congress by SpaceX.
“The private rocket that made history early this morning when it blasted the first commercially-launched payload for the international space station into orbit also was fueled by a decade-long, multi-million-dollar political effort to pry funding from a sometimes skeptical Congress,” Kathy Kiely wrote for the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan group that tracks government spending.
As of that report in May of 2012, SpaceX had spent more than $4 million in lobbying Congress, and had donated more than $800,000 to political candidates, to convince Congress to approve federal funding for SpaceX. As a result, the company received a $1.6 billion contract with NASA for 12 flights to the International Space Station as well as a $440 million contract with NASA to develop the Dragon rocket to carry astronauts in the space. SpaceX claims to have received close to $5 billion in federal contracts.
Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal and Tesla Motors, founded SpaceX in 2002. While he donated the maximum allowed, $35,800 to President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, he also game $5,000 to [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] (R-FL) and $15,000 to the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. Musk donated $25,900 to both major party candidates running for governor of California in 2010, Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman.
Musk is not the only billionaire with space ambitions, reportedly Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos might start a spaceflight company to compete against SpaceX. There are likely to be other competitors in the private space industry that might well grow after the reduction in the NASA budget under the Obama administration.
Some have compared SpaceX, formally known as Space Exploration Technologies, as a potential failure and perhaps the Solyndra of the space industry.
“The hand-holding may have been vital to the company’s success: According to an article published last week in The Space Review, Congress this year provided significantly less money for the commercial space program than the Obama administration requested, and some lawmakers fretted that it would turn into another Solyndra,” reported Kathy Kiely for the Sunlight Foundation.
Musk’s three companies, Tesla, Solar City, and SpaceX have received a total of $4.9 billion in government funding. The funding is referred to as “a public-private financing model underpinning long-shot start-ups,” as reported in the LA Times. The three companies started by Musk clearly wouldn’t exist without massive government funding. Even companies created with huge government funding eventually have to be profitable. And the ones that fail will join the likes of Solyndra, long-shot companies that gobbled up millions only to show no return on the investment of taxpayer dollars. But that never seems to stop the ambitions of folks like Elon Musk, who are willing to gamble with billions of dollars in taxpayer money on pie-in-the-sky dreams and long-shot start-ups like SpaceX.