SpaceX and the Russian Rocket Mess

Delta1V

Boeing and Lockheed aren’t the enemy, but accelerating a competitive launch business is worth some risks

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes: The first thing to notice is how rapidly Elon Musk’s SpaceX is altering the market for government-sponsored rocket launches.

“Should Congress, however bad the precedent, climb down from sanctions enacted last December curtailing the Pentagon’s reliance on a Russian-made engine to put U.S. military satellites in orbit?”

Witness how frequently the words “to compete with SpaceX” appear in industry statements and press coverage. To compete with SpaceX, say multiple reports, the United Launch Alliance, the Pentagon’s traditional supplier, is developing a new Vulcan rocket powered by a reusable engine designed by Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin.

spaceX

Because of SpaceX, says Aviation Week magazine, Japan’s government has instructed Mitsubishi to cut in half the cost of the Japanese workhorse rocket, and China is planning a new family of kerosene-fueled Long March rockets. “Stimulated by SpaceX’s work on reusable rockets,” reports SpaceNews.com, Airbus is developing a reusable first stage for Europe’s venerable Ariane rocket.

“Yes, say the Pentagon, the national intelligence leadership and the White House, because avoiding disruption to crucial military launches is more important than any symbolic weakening of sanctions against Russia.”

All this comes amid one of those Washington battles ferocious in inverse relation to the certainties involved. Should Congress, however bad the precedent, climb down from sanctions enacted last December curtailing the Pentagon’s reliance on a Russian-made engine to put U.S. military satellites in orbit?

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

Yes, say the Pentagon, the national intelligence leadership and the White House, because avoiding disruption to crucial military launches is more important than any symbolic weakening of sanctions against Russia.

No, says Sen. John McCain, who criticizes “$300 million of precious U.S. defense resources subsidizing Vladimir Putin and the Russian military industrial base,” never mind that Pentagon dollars are not different from private dollars, which flow in abundance to Russia under a loopy sanction that does nothing to curb Russia’s booming engine sales to U.S. private commercial customers and even NASA….(read more)

WSJ



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