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The competition heats up: In testimony to Congress Wednesday, Elon Musk described how allowing SpaceX to compete as a military launch provider would significantly lower costs.
[Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama)] said the Air Force EELV contracts require compliance with complex oversight and accounting practices that add costs to the program. As a result, he suggested comparing the cost of a SpaceX Falcon 9 and a ULA Atlas or Delta was comparing apples and oranges.
Musk agreed “there is additional cost for U.S. government missions due to the mission assurance process.” And he said SpaceX’s costs for launching a military mission would be 50 percent higher than for a purely commercial launch. Even so, he said, SpaceX could provide a Falcon 9 rocket for around $90 million as opposed to nearly $400 million for a ULA launcher. “Even when you add the Air Force overhead, there’s still a huge difference,” he said. [emphasis mine]
The only reason that Congress is against eliminating the military launch monopoly given to ULA and allowing SpaceX to compete is because the monopoly feeds a lot of pork to the districts of certain but powerful legislators like Shelby.
ULA and Shelby are losing the argument however. The cost differences are too high, and SpaceX has proven that it can do the job efficiently and effectively. Eventually the monopoly will die, and the sooner the better.