- Apr 17, 2006
- Lake Forest, CA
Nevertheless, Musk got all of the glory Friday night, and understandably so. He built SpaceX from the ground up, surviving three launch failures that almost killed the company and endless scorn from much larger competitors who never believed this weird guy from South Africa could threaten their billion-dollar businesses. Today, Musk stands at the vanguard of the new space movement that seeks to radically rewrite the economics of spaceflight as the old-guard competitors tremble. In his excellent book Elon Musk, author Ashlee Vance recounts the most dramatic of NASA's saves. From 2006 to 2008, SpaceX endured three failed launches of the Falcon 1 rocket. The fourth, in September 2008, finally succeeded. Still, the company appeared poised to go bankrupt as it struggled to meet payroll in late 2008. Even as its cash ran out, SpaceX was in the midst of capital-intensive transition from the single-engine Falcon 1 rocket to the much more complex Falcon 9 rocket. Moreover, to earn business from NASA to supply the ISS, it would also need to build a delivery capsule.
That fall and early winter marked the darkest hours for the cash-strapped Musk, as both SpaceX and Tesla spent hundreds of millions of dollars on development, with little revenue to show for it. "I could either pick SpaceX or Tesla or split the money I had left between them," Musk told Vance in the book. "That was a tough decision. If I split the money, maybe both of them would die. If I gave the money to just one company, the probability of it surviving was greater, but then it would mean certain death for the other company." The economy worsened that fall, and by December, Musk's money had run out and he'd tapped all the loans he could. Then, two days before Christmas of 2008, NASA announced it was awarding commercial cargo contracts to Orbital Sciences for 19 flights and SpaceX for 12 flights. The contract was valued at $1.6 billion for SpaceX.
That contract allowed SpaceX to finish the Falcon 9 rocket and build the Dragon spacecraft. The Falcon 9 has become the company's workhorse rocket, which offers launches at a steep discount to competitors. With the cargo contract, SpaceX also positioned itself to win a lucrative $2.6 billion contract from NASA to deliver crews to the ISS beginning as early as next year. During most of his tenure as NASA administrator, Charles Bolden has been a steady ally, continually advocating for more commercial cargo and crew funding for private companies.
http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/04/w...t-boat-landing/ Did Orbital Sciences launch any rocket/cargo for NASA in the last 8 years ?
But on Friday night it was all good. Across NASA's field centers, in cubicles, offices, and coffee rooms, the engineers working on various projects were watching. As one young flight controller from Johnson Space Center told me about her experience, "There were about 20 people crowded around my screen, and we were all going nuts." Elon Musk hasn't forgotten NASA, either. The first thing he did during Friday's news conference was to thank the space agency that had made it all possible.