SpaceX is to space launch as Hyundai has become to the automotive industry. And I mean that in the absolutely most positive way possible. In both cases, we’re talking about value that can’t be ignored.
SpaceX’s planned Falcon Heavy, based on three Falcon 9s merged into a single launch vehicle, is certain to shock Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
First, with a massive lift capability, up to 117,000 pounds to low earth orbit, over twice that of a Delta IV heavy.
Next, with sticker shock. A Falcon Heavy is likely to run about 40 to 50 percent of the cost of an Atlas V or Delta IV.
All other things being equal (don’t dismiss EELV’s perfect to-date mission success rate), we’re talking twice the lift at half the price. The government will ignore that at it’s own peril.
At those prices, the government could do a couple of risk-reduction flights and still be light years (ok, a really long way) ahead on the fiscal front within only a couple more Falcon Heavy launches.
Will the space launch incumbents employ legions of lobbyists and lawyers in response? Don’t be surprised.