Elon Musk and SpaceX poor substitute for strong NASA

It was always curious that President Obama had NASA on his radar so early in his administration.  Why would there be such a planned reduction in the support of NASA and a push to have it replaced by infant private-sector efforts?

Recently, on June 28, an Elon Musk SpaceX vehicle loaded for a resupply mission to the International Space Station exploded in a “vehicle launch failure.”

SpaceX has made two previous attempts to land the first stage of its rocket -- once in January and again in April. Both attempts at landing failed.

And last October, a cargo spacecraft developed by Orbital Sciences destined for the ISS exploded just after the company was awarded a $1.9 billion contract with NASA.…

Separately, one person died last fall -- just days after the Orbital Sciences incident -- when a craft developed by Virgin Galactic intended for eventual civilian passengers exploded during a flight over California.

Crony capitalistic ventures seem beelined for failure.  Solyndra?  Battery cars like Musk’s other ploy, Tesla, in a world of $50 oil?

Meanwhile, and remarkably under this administration and with its attitude toward NASA, we have become dependent on the rockets supplied by an adversary, Russia.  Anyone see a potential problem here?

Should the Russian government yank its supply of rocket engines for United States launches, critical national security satellite missions could be delayed up to four years, experts told a joint Senate hearing

United Launch Alliance (ULA)'s Atlas 5 rocket is the workhorse of heavy satellite launches in the United States, but the booster requires a Russian RD-180 engine to get off the ground.

The RD-180 engine powers the first stage of United Launch Alliance's (ULA) Atlas 5 rocket, which is used almost exclusively to launch American military satellites and other government payloads.

The synergies and shared technologies between a strong NASA and a strong military are invaluable.  Yet it seems they have been intentionally decoupled.  As noted here:

NASA has also been useful in developing and preserving technologies with important military applications. The sensors used on interplanetary probes are similar and sometimes identical to the ones used on the most advanced spy satellites. Life support technologies developed for the shuttle find their way into the flight suits worn by pilots who fly high altitude military jets. And while America has not built a new ICBM or submarine launched nuclear missile for decades, NASA, by keeping the solid rocket motor industry alive has insured that if the decision were made to build a new type of missile for the US nuclear deterrent force, the Defense Department could do so without having to rebuild the nation's solid fueled rocket making expertise from nothing.

By keeping America's space industry alive and healthy NASA has in the past directly contributed to overall US global power. As the agency succumbs to confusion and a lack of clear direction its ability to help keep America secure and prosperous will inevitably diminish.

So as the private efforts stumble in an attempt take up the slack left by a hollowed out national space program, as we become dependent on the rocketry supplied by an adversary, and as other world powers ramp up their missile technology, one must wonder who stands to benefit from such trends.  Certainly not the United States of America.

It was always curious that President Obama had NASA on his radar so early in his administration.  Why would there be such a planned reduction in the support of NASA and a push to have it replaced by infant private-sector efforts?

Recently, on June 28, an Elon Musk SpaceX vehicle loaded for a resupply mission to the International Space Station exploded in a “vehicle launch failure.”

SpaceX has made two previous attempts to land the first stage of its rocket -- once in January and again in April. Both attempts at landing failed.

And last October, a cargo spacecraft developed by Orbital Sciences destined for the ISS exploded just after the company was awarded a $1.9 billion contract with NASA.…

Separately, one person died last fall -- just days after the Orbital Sciences incident -- when a craft developed by Virgin Galactic intended for eventual civilian passengers exploded during a flight over California.

Crony capitalistic ventures seem beelined for failure.  Solyndra?  Battery cars like Musk’s other ploy, Tesla, in a world of $50 oil?

Meanwhile, and remarkably under this administration and with its attitude toward NASA, we have become dependent on the rockets supplied by an adversary, Russia.  Anyone see a potential problem here?

Should the Russian government yank its supply of rocket engines for United States launches, critical national security satellite missions could be delayed up to four years, experts told a joint Senate hearing

United Launch Alliance (ULA)'s Atlas 5 rocket is the workhorse of heavy satellite launches in the United States, but the booster requires a Russian RD-180 engine to get off the ground.

The RD-180 engine powers the first stage of United Launch Alliance's (ULA) Atlas 5 rocket, which is used almost exclusively to launch American military satellites and other government payloads.

The synergies and shared technologies between a strong NASA and a strong military are invaluable.  Yet it seems they have been intentionally decoupled.  As noted here:

NASA has also been useful in developing and preserving technologies with important military applications. The sensors used on interplanetary probes are similar and sometimes identical to the ones used on the most advanced spy satellites. Life support technologies developed for the shuttle find their way into the flight suits worn by pilots who fly high altitude military jets. And while America has not built a new ICBM or submarine launched nuclear missile for decades, NASA, by keeping the solid rocket motor industry alive has insured that if the decision were made to build a new type of missile for the US nuclear deterrent force, the Defense Department could do so without having to rebuild the nation's solid fueled rocket making expertise from nothing.

By keeping America's space industry alive and healthy NASA has in the past directly contributed to overall US global power. As the agency succumbs to confusion and a lack of clear direction its ability to help keep America secure and prosperous will inevitably diminish.

So as the private efforts stumble in an attempt take up the slack left by a hollowed out national space program, as we become dependent on the rocketry supplied by an adversary, and as other world powers ramp up their missile technology, one must wonder who stands to benefit from such trends.  Certainly not the United States of America.