On Thursday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted out some shade at aerospace competitors Boeing and Lockheed Martin, referencing the statement a SpaceX representative had made earlier in the day calling on Congress to allow private corporations to explore deep space.
“Worth noting that Boeing/Lockheed […] get a billion dollar annual subsidy even if they launch nothing,” he wrote. “SpaceX does not.”
NASA often contracts out missions to private corporations like SpaceX, Boeing, and Lockheed through its Commercial Orbital Transportation Service (COTS) program, but only when the missions don’t involve traveling further than Earth’s low orbit. That means that the expensive and complex deep-space projects planned by companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin must be undertaken without any help from the agency.
Tim Hughes, SpaceX’s senior vice president for global business and government affairs, testified before Congress on Thursday to advocate that NASA adopt a new approach.
Hughes suggested that the government launch another program like COTS, but for deep space. He argued that COTS has been “an historic success” that’s both allowed NASA to save millions of dollars and helped the United States dominate the commercial space launch market, which had been commanded by Russia and France before the program.
Which company does Hughes credit for single-handedly reinstating the United States’ power in this market? Hint: It’s not Boeing or Lockheed.
“SpaceX has brought this multi-billion dollar market back to the United States,” he said.
Check out the graph he referenced.
The graph shows that SpaceX has steadily gained a larger share of the market every year and has now overtaken both Russia and Europe.
It wasn’t lost on Musk that SpaceX’s market share far surpasses those of the “other U.S.” companies. Later on Thursday, he tweeted this:
That’s definitely some shade — but it’s merited.
In 2015, Boeing was NASA’s top contractor, receiving 12.04 percent of the agency’s total contract funds. Lockheed was third (with 9.28 percent) and SpaceX was sixth (with 3.89 percent). Last year both Boeing and Lockheed took smaller shares of the contracted funds, and SpaceX moved up to the fifth position with 5.25 percent.
Clearly, SpaceX is becoming increasingly important in the American aerospace industry, especially with its (so far) unique ability to reuse rocket boosters. It’s remarkable that the company has been able to grow so quickly with much less help than NASA’s long-time contractors receive. Musk knows this, and apparently he’s more than willing to remind us of it.
Watch Hughes’s testimony below (beginning around 30:20), and read his statement here.