SpaceX: New Hope for America's Space Industry

Elon Musk, the founder of Paypal and Tesla Motors, was interviewed on CBS' 60 Minutes a couple of weeks ago. His newest commercial venture, Space Exploration Technologies, more commonly known as SpaceX, is on the verge of a significant milestone: becoming the first commercial company to re-supply the International Space Station(ISS). The SpaceX Dragon space capsule is set to launch on April 30th and dock with the ISS soon afterwards.

The Los Angeles aerospace industry has not escaped the effects of national budget issues. Just last week, the Obama administration announced that NASA would suffer a $300 million budget cut to planetary exploration, a potential blow to the esteemed Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena.

Saturn V rocket at Kennedy Space Center
A Saturn V rocket at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Can America return to greatness?

After retiring the Space Shuttle fleet in 2011, the U.S. has depended on its European allies and the Russian government to ensure that vehicles continue delivering astronauts to and from the space station while it works towards completing the the CCDev capsule to re-establish independence in manned spaceflight.

If the SpaceX Dragon capsule is successful in its mission later this month, it will establish its position as a serious player in the world space launch market. Even more importantly, it will be another stepping stone in Mr. Musk's long-range vision of supplying economical rockets and space vehicles to reinvigorate the U.S. space industry and eventually support manned space exploration.

Operating out of an old Boeing hanger near LAX, Hawthorne-based SpaceX is providing many high tech jobs for the Los Angeles economy, and potentially many more in years to come. Launches of the 9-engine Falcon-9 and the upcoming 27 engine(!) Falcon Heavy will follow on the heels of the Dragon capsule missions.

Fortunately, Mr. Musk had sufficient resources to fund his company through some of the earlier launch failures that could have doomed SpaceX prematurely.  Best of luck to the Dragon!

Space Shuttle Gantry at Kennedy Space Center
Empty shuttle gantry at Kennedy Space Center.

Survey: Do you think that America is ready for commercial entities to take the lead in spaceflight and space exploration?

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