Two More Questions SpaceX Might Have Asked of ULA

In the six weeks which have passed since SpaceX’s Elon Musk and ULA’s Michael Gass squared off in Congressional testimony over the EELV program, SpaceX has completed another successful mission with the Falcon 9, the ninth overall and the fourth of the Falcon 9 V1.1/ F-9R. ULA has also completed two more launches, both by the Atlas V. However, with the Falcon 9’s reliability and comparatively shorter track record the only credible card in the ULA deck, each successful Falcon launch chips away at that argument, bringing more scrutiny to the enormous cost differential between  the two boosters.

Meanwhile, rising tensions in the Ukraine have only gotten worse, as Russia annexed the Crimea, and appears to be behind escalating violence in eastern Ukraine.  As a result, the optics, and the risks, of relying on a Russian main engine for U.S. defense launches have become increasingly problematic.

As both left the hearing on March 5, it was with an assignment to report back within a month with written questions and answers posed to each other. Yesterday, industry publication Space News published the respective responses, which are linked below.  In general, there appears to be no “knockout punch” on either side, but the real action is in deeds, not words, and the near recovery of the Falcon 9 first stage on the April 18 CRS-3 mission to ISS may say a great deal more than anything on paper about where this is all headed.

SpaceX questions to ULA

ULA questions to SpaceX

Here are two other questions which if posed, might have shed a light on the issue.

“Mr. Gass, please identify any  projected EELV payload which cannot fly on some version of the Delta IV booster.”


“Mr. Gass, given your repeated assertions that a block buy would reduce the unit cost of both the Atlas V and Delta IV rockets, please explain the cost savings to DOD which could be achieved through focusing defense production on the Delta family exclusively. ”


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