October 2005 
Volume 04, Issue 6 
Industry Wrap

Start up eyes rocket pacts

An entrepreneur who said he's ready to spend $200 million of his personal funds to create a family of low-cost rockets recently signed a launch contract with a notable customer: the U.S. government.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, inked a contract for a single launch. A company press release mentioning the launch didn't specify the government-agency customer or the specific type of satellite. According to the Wall Street Journal, the contract envisions construction of a rocket that's slated to be comparable to the largest, most powerful models built by industry leaders Boeing and Lockheed Martin, but at a fraction of the cost.

Outsiders know little about SpaceX's planned heavy-lifting rocket, except that the first one is slated to blast off in less than two years, the Journal said. However, the Journal added, SpaceX's first-ever launch isn't slated until the end of October. 

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who helped found the online payment company PayPal, told the Journal that he hopes to gain market share by using cheaper technology. According to the article, techniques that SpaceX said will save costs include creating modular designs, using fewer parts and shortening prelaunch preparation time.

In spite of skepticism about SpaceX, industry leaders are keeping an eye on the company. According to the Journal, Tom Marsh, a senior Lockheed Martin space official, said at a space conference in August that his company "absolutely intends to pursue, and to pursue vigorously" the smaller-rocket market initially sought by SpaceX.


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