SpaceX drops protest against NASA launch decision

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SpaceX has decided to withdraw its protest against NASA’s decision to choose ULA as the launch vehicle for its Lucy asteroid mission.

The company did not provide any reason for the withdrawal. I suspect Musk decided that it was doing SpaceX harm both publicly and privately. Publicly it threatened the launch date of Lucy, which might cause a significant and fatal delay to the mission. That did not make SpaceX look good to the general public.

Privately, I suspect that the protest was hurting SpaceX with NASA officials. They almost certainly did not say so directly, but I am certain they were able to make this clear in any number of ways. This, combined with the agency’s new willingness to consider commercial rockets, like the Falcon Heavy, for its lunar plans, probably convinced SpaceX that it was doing itself more harm than good with the protest.



  • Wodun

    Spacex is also busy right now. Taking some time to get all their projects dialed in is a good thing to do. Adding a mission like Lucy might not be a big deal on its own but it might reduce their overall efficiency for the near future.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Bridenstine has been talking a lot recently about how a Falcon Heavy could launch an ICPS-Orion stack to the Moon as part of that boots-on-the-Moon-in-2024 thing. I think we may well see a formal deal among NASA, SpaceX, ULA and LockMart for development of such a vehicle stack in the near future as both a backstop and a goad to the MSFC-Boeing-SLS team.

    One reason for the protest was that the Lucy mission was something the Falcon Heavy could do. Another reason, no doubt, was annoyance at all the renewed and ramped-up back-room political static Spacex was getting again from NASA and elsewhere via the Alabama Mafia in recent months.

    But developing a real version of Bridenstine’s spitballed Frankenrocket concept could mean a lot of future FH orders from NASA. Plus, SpaceX would need to make nice with ULA to get said job done so – poof! – no more protest.

  • Richard M

    I strongly suspect that SpaceX got what it was really seeking when it filed the protest – the rationale that led NASA to give the launch to ULA. Just off the record.

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