Cronyism in orbit

Defense bills, like those related to agriculture and manufacturing, tend to be filled with special carve-outs and privileges for individual firms.  The recently passed 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is no exception.  Among its many provisions is one that effectively protects SpaceX, Elon Musk's brainchild, from competition from other rocket-manufacturers. The provision in question, Section 1603, requires the secretary of defense to submit written justification for utilizing "space launch services for which the use of reusable vehicles is not eligible." In other words, by introducing obstacles to the Pentagon's future use of expendable rockets, Congress created for the military a default preference for reusable rockets.  The problem?  SpaceX is the sole domestic supplier of reusable rockets. Given NASA's track record with reusable rockets and SpaceX's numerous budget and design issues,...(Read Full Post)