Hit Piece on SpaceX Misses Target, Results in Self Inflicted Wound

Credit SpaceX

If you’re going to commit a drive by, at least don’t aim at yourself.

In an article published yesterday in the Washington Examiner, meant as an attack on SpaceX and Elon Musk, staff writer Richard Pollock initiated a series of stumbling, intellectually vacant statements with this whopper:

“The rocket lost power from one of its nine engines shortly after its Sunday launch and only delivered 882 of the promised 1,800 pounds of resupply cargo for the space station.”

What?  The total mass delivered was actually 1,995 pounds; 882 of cargo and 1,113 of packaging.

And then there was this:

“These are not the Falcon 9 project’s first setbacks, as it is at least two years behind schedule and three previous test launches were cancelled.”

“Cancelled?”  Perhaps then, the streaming video of Falcon  9 flights 1,2 and 3 were elaborate fabrications,  just like the Moon landing.  Or, maybe the word he was looking  for was  “delayed, ” the occurrence of which has a strong correlation with the word “test.”

After quoting an anonymous former “astronaut,”  who was presumably brave enough to fly on the Shuttle but is apparently too timid to identify himself (or more likely, his employer) the rest of the article goes on to misrepresent the nature of Space Act Agreements, and attempt to make the case for the wonders of FAR contracting “to ensure cost controls.”

One of the best things about a free press is that fact that people are allowed to make fools of themselves in public, and internet gives everyone a front row seat.  Where was the editor?  Maybe watching NASA video coverage of Sunita Williams opening the cargo hatch  of the second reusable,  crew capable spacecraft  which SpaceX has developed and flown to the station with less funding than Project Orion burns through in a four month’s time.

Clearly the Examiner, which is a very conservative leaning publication, is none to pleased about the apparent success of this aspect of the Obama Administrations’s space policy, even if it was initiated under President Bush, and comes from a strong background of bi-partisan support over many years as outlined in this recent piece  in The Space Review.

Nevertheless, it seems that there is something else at work here, a deep-seated and almost inexplicable hostility to what in any other industry would be heralded by ostensible proponents of smaller government as a quintessential American success story.  As such, it harkens back to previous (and equally dishonest, but at least better written) attacks on SpaceX  by Loren Thompson, and the Lexington Institute as mouthpieces for traditional aerospace interests, of which defense giant Lockheed Martin is a significant contributor.

There is nothing wrong with expressing concerns about the issues of a young company taking on an almost unprecedented challenge with the help of the U.S. taxpayer.  In fact, that is the job of a skeptical press.  But when the degree of success is so undeniable that one has to resort to outright falsehoods to even draw a contrast and present a story, then that becomes the news.

If  Orbital Sciences is successful in conducting its own COTS test flights in coming months, out of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport,  almost in D.C.’s own  back yard no less, it will be interesting to see what if any reaction comes from defenders of arsenal space.  Somehow it seems unlikely that the headlines will shout that Orbital, not to mention Boeing, Sierra Nevada and even ULA  got “insider deals” as well.

About the Author:

Post a Comment