SpaceX on upcoming plans with the Falcon 9 / Dragon system, COTS Capability D and benefits to the US economy

Saturday, February 14, 2009


SpaceX has a fairly detailed press release featured here that I wasn't sure whether I was going to write about but taking a look at it in detail it also gives some pretty interesting numbers on what benefits the company expects to be able to give the American economy if COTS Capability D (which basically means the ability to transport people to and from the International Space Station) is given the go ahead:

What this would mean for taxpayers and high tech jobs in the United States is very significant. Let's consider the default plan under way, which expects that our country will use the Russian Soyuz at the currently negotiated price of $47 million per seat for the period between Shuttle retirement (2010) and Ares/Orion reaching Space Station (2016). Even assuming that we drop the number of US astronauts going to Station from the current 30 per year with Shuttle down to 14 per year, the cost will be approximately $3.3 billion. However, there is also a human cost in the thousands of jobs that the money could have supported back home.

In contrast, F9/Dragon would cost less than $20M per seat and it is 100% manufactured and launched in the United States. We are estimating that it would create well in excess of a 1000 high quality jobs at Cape Canaveral and an equivalent number in California and Texas, where we do our manufacturing and testing. Moreover, the total cost would only be $1.5B, so taxpayers would save nearly $2B.

NASA has already reviewed our cargo F9/Dragon and is comfortable enough to assign it the bulk of the operational transport duties following Shuttle retirement. Although a lot more work would be needed to certify it for astronaut transport to and from the Station, that work can readily be accomplished before the end of 2011, particularly given the empirical flight history it will have by then.

COTS Capability D can be completed within two years from date of funds receipt. In fact, with a little extra money and some modifications to the plan, it can be accelerated even further.

Since COTS Capability D is an existing option in an already competed contract, NASA could exercise it right away, resulting in immediate job creation. It is also worth noting that COTS D, like the COTS A-C funding, is a fixed price agreement and is only awarded as each milestone is achieved. If SpaceX is unable to pass the milestones, no taxpayer money is spent.

If you think this makes sense, please contact your representatives in the House and Senate, as well as Rep. Mollohan and Senator Mikulski who lead the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittees. Please encourage them to fund NASA Exploration in the Stimulus Bill and provide the $300M in funding necessary to begin COTS Capability D.

The article ends with a number of ways to contact Congressional representatives and other people that could have an influence on COTS Capability D.

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