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It Is Time for America to Reassert Leadership in Space

By George LandrithNewsmax

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing has opened a wide-ranging conversation about America’s space exploration program. I remember being a young boy and watching with fascination as rockets in the Apollo program lifted off from Cape Canaveral and as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made that giant leap for mankind on the surface of the moon. President John F. Kennedy never got to see the lunar landing, but he set the nation’s sights on the moon and helped establish America’s preeminence in space.

Sadly, by the end of the George W. Bush Administration and during the entirety of Barack Obama’s Administration, America’s space exploration program was all but shut down. Something like that can escape notice for a while, but eventually, the impact will become obvious. Imagine if the Soviets had won the space race! A great deal more than national pride is at risk.

It is high time America reassert its leadership in space. Leaving the cosmos to China would be a catastrophic mistake. The technological, economic, and national security implications are important and very real. To simply cede these matters to China would harm not only the United States, but the rest of the world. The communist Chinese intend to dominate militarily and would love for us to cede this arena to them.

Fortunately, President Donald Trump sees space as an important frontier. Early in our nation’s history, President Thomas Jefferson launched a major exploration of the western half of the North American continent. President Kennedy set in motion America’s successful Apollo 11 lunar landing. Now, President Trump is pushing America towards Mars.

On July 4, earlier this year, President Trump said, “I want you to know that we are going to be back on the moon very soon, and someday soon we will plant the American flag on Mars.” That is a worthy objective and a worthwhile goal!

Landing on Mars and returning safely home again will happen as we reestablish the capability to safely return to the moon. A round trip to Mars is about 18 months. The safety issues are exponentially more complicated than a lunar landing. There is no returning half way once headed to the Red Planet. But once we conquer these challenges, we will again be the clear and undisputed leader in technology and space exploration. That will include valuable economic benefits, obvious technological advancements, and significant national security advantages.

This is a mission worthy of a new generation of American children who dream of becoming astronauts, scientists, and engineers. But there are those who hope to demote NASA into a space agency with small dreams and mundane goals.

For example, Lori Garver, Obama’s NASA Deputy Administrator from 2009 to 2013, has recently wrote an article in the Washington Post arguing that NASA should nix plans to go to Mars and instead make its budget available for more climate science research — something that nearly every other federal agency puts plenty of money towards. According to OMB, the federal government has 19 agencies that funded climate change research to the tune of $13.2 billion in 2017 alone. But Garver sees NASA’s budget and she covets its less than 1/2 of one percent of federal spending. She wants to raid NASA’s budget to fund her own priorities — even more climate change research.

We should all be glad that Garver and her ilk were not around in the 1960’s when President Kennedy was inspiring America to aim for the moon. America needs, and will benefit from, a serious space exploration program.

But people like Ms. Garver are not the only impediment to America’s resurgence into deep space exploration. Newt Gingrich, while supportive of President Trump’s plans to go to Mars, has been advocating for policies that run counter to that goal.

Over the last few years the former Speaker of the House has repeatedly boosted Elon Musk and SpaceX as the future of space travel. From a flurry of tweets lauding the company and its founder, to a series of op-eds, including one where he encourages the government to take on “the role of an investor” in SpaceX, the policies he advocates for in the opinion pages and on social media appear to align with the company’s agenda.

Unfortunately the SpaceX agenda is mostly about getting special concessions and huge subsidies even when it fails to meet contractual benchmarks. While Musk’s prowess in space is questionable, he is a master at public relations campaigns designed to portray him as a forward thinking innovator. But the truth is, Musk is a creature of the D.C. swamp who has succeeded — far less by innovating — than by getting billions in government handouts and subsidies.

Musk’s and SpaceX’s track record on accomplishment and safety are spotty at best. Their delays and failures are commonplace. Yet, they managed to play the Washington swamp game adeptly. As a result, Musk got huge taxpayer provided subsidies for each Tesla he sold and got even larger government provided benefits and subsidies for SpaceX. Musk even managed to get the Obama Administration to pay for contract work that SpaceX failed to deliver on.

I admire Gingrich — I’ve got a photo with him hanging in my office and I signed the Contract with America. But I disagree on his proposed path to Mars that favors Musk’s legacy of failure, delay, and rent seeking. By pinning our deep space exploration hopes on Musk, Gingrich — who has a reputation as being an innovative policy mind — risks miring our space program in the swamp slime and muck that has allowed Musk to make his fortune on the backs of the U.S. taxpayer.

Going to Mars is exponentially more difficult than landing on the moon. It presents a great deal more safety challenges. Musk has proven over the past decade that safety is not his concern. In fact, he seems to view safety as a bother. Our policy makers should take this into consideration when deciding how we will take our astronauts back to the moon and beyond.

The truth is, America already has a capable new rocket that dwarfs the capabilities of the Saturn V rockets that took our astronauts to the moon. The Space Launch System will be online and ready later this year. As with any attempt to design and build something that has never been done before, the Space Launch System had some challenges. Guess what? The Apollo program had many challenges too. Even Lewis and Clark’s mission had challenges and cost overruns. When something has never been done before, developing it isn’t like buying a Betty Crocker cake mix and baking it in the oven.

Real and robust competition pushes all participants to perform their best. But SpaceX has so far been able to avoid real competition. Without any real requirement that it ultimately succeed, SpaceX has been a technological failure, even while Musk has managed a public relations success and gotten paid based on his public relations campaign, more than actual accomplishment. To make it to Mars we must encourage real competition, not Elon Musk’s fake version of competition where he gets paid regardless of what he produces.

Returning to the moon and then going on to Mars is a worthy goal and the right objective! But it won’t happen if NASA becomes just another federal agency studying climate change. And it won’t happen if Elon Musk is able to co-opt the process as he did during the Obama years. Musk’s life goal appears to be famous and rich. But America needs to make it our goal to go to Mars and bring our astronauts safely home again.


Sorry Elon, The Air Force Knows Best

By George LandrithFrontiers of Freedom

The Air Force has received heat recently from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which filed a lawsuit alleging it “wrongly awarded” billions to a few of its competitors, going so far as to write that “by any reasonable measure, SpaceX earned a place in the LSA portfolio.”

Forget for a minute that the Air Force has been more than fair with Musk’s start-up, providing it with a $130 million award just last summer. And forget that in the most recent offering that SpaceX is protesting, the military imposed strict criteria that ultimately resulted in a diverse array of firms, old and new, receiving awards. To understand the baselessness of Musk’s allegations, just follow the news that broke in sync with the release of his lawsuit.

According to a bombshell announcement made by the Department of Justice on May 22—the same day the U.S. Court of Federal Claims publicly released SpaceX’s lawsuit—federal investigators have charged a SpaceX quality assurance engineer with falsifying at least 38 inspection reports for the company’s rockets. These SpaceX rocket parts, which did not pass proper QA inspections, were nevertheless used in seven NASA missions and two Air Force missions. At least 76 uninspected parts slipped through SpaceX’s quality assurance procedures. Needless to say, that’s more than enough to raise some eyebrows.

SpaceX, to their credit, swiftly cut ties with the accused individual, as well as the company for which he worked. They also pointed out that all the missions affected by the falsified inspection reports were successful. However, this isn’t the first time the specter of inadequate quality assurance has haunted SpaceX.

In 2015, after a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket cost the government $110 million by exploding just minutes after takeoff, SpaceX essentially washed its hands of the incident, stating that an outside supplier’s faulty steel strut was to blame. While that may have seemed like reasonable justification at the time, three years later, a NASA report detailed that SpaceX’s implementation of that part “was done without adequate screening or testing,” “without regard to the manufacturer’s recommendations for a 4:1 factor of safety,” and “without proper modeling or adequate load testing of the part under predicted flight conditions.” Those lapses of quality assurance are all on SpaceX, and they are certainly much bigger than one faulty steel strut.

Additionally, Musk also had to contend with the fallout from a 2017 Inspector General report, which found that SpaceX “did not perform adequate quality assurance management.” In total, the auditors uncovered 33 major quality violations, as well as 43 minor infractions.

At a May 8 meeting of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, a NASA official revealed that things have not improved with time. Recently, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon was deemed to have an unsatisfactory parachute system after the capsule sustained significant damage while impacting the ground. The Crew Dragon shuttle itself also suffered a major malfunction during testing, resulting in the entire capsule erupting into flames. Given the shuttle’s ultimate goal of transporting astronauts to and from Earth, the Crew Dragon’s ineffective parachutes represent legitimate stumbling blocks for both SpaceX and NASA.

It would appear that the Crew Dragon explosion was jarring enough to catch the attention of the United States military, potentially placingSpaceX’s partnership as an aerospace contractor for the U.S. government in jeopardy. That may explain, at least in part, why SpaceX has been such a vocal opponent of moving forward with the government’s Launch Service Agreement—the program Elon is currently suing the Air Force over.

In all likelihood, SpaceX recognizes the importance of the LSA but wants to stall the program to give itself a fighting chance to secure a contract. After all, Musk stated previously that his company “missed the mark” when crafting a proposal. Musk’s delay tactics, though, aren’t serving him well. His strategy to postpone the LSA is only generating increased scrutiny toward SpaceX.

Likewise, Musk’s lawsuit against the Air Force is creating the perception that SpaceX understands national security better than the U.S. military. And with SpaceX’s ongoing, public, and embarrassing QA crisis, SpaceX is not in a position to be dictating terms. Musk would be wise to recognize that the Air Force does indeed know best, and that his public crusade against them isn’t doing his company any favors.


Adam Smith And SpaceX: Who Watches The Watchmen?

By George LandrithRed State

If there was any doubt that SpaceX is working behind the curtain to pull strings on Capitol Hill, it’s all but been erased. The sudden groundswell of support in Washington for SpaceX’s policy objectives essentially confirms the effectiveness of Elon Musk’s lobbying campaign. But through the company’s recent political maneuver—purportedly calling in a favor from House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith—SpaceX may have overplayed their hand. If Chairman Smith’s policy positions can be affected by the influence of private firms, is he properly situated as the head of oversight for the Armed Forces?

Over the past few years, Chairman Smith’s cozy relationship with SpaceX has been well documented. In Smith’s 2016 election, SpaceX was the third largest contributor to his campaign, supplying the Representative with an impressive $11,000 in funds. But the gravy train didn’t stop there. The following election cycle, SpaceX stepped up its game, nearly doubling its prior campaign contributions to the soon-to-be Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Throughout the 2018 race, SpaceX contributed a whopping $20,400 to Smith’s campaign. That’s certainly no small fee for Musk’s independent aerospace contracting firm.

There’s solid evidence to suggest that SpaceX’s political expenditures are strategically placed. Out of all the recipients of SpaceX’s 2018 political contributions, Adam Smith ranked as the second-highest beneficiary. SpaceX’s contributions to the future Chairman of the Armed Services Committee were only outpaced by those to Senator Dianne Feinstein, which totaled Continue reading


NASA’s Inspector General Is A Political Hack — Abusing His Office And Fleecing Taxpayers

By George LandrithRedState

The function of an Inspector General (IG) in the federal government is to detect waste, mismanagement, fraud, abuse, and even criminality. Each federal department or agency has an IG. But not all IGs are created equal. Some are fair minded watch-dogs who protect the taxpayer and follow the law in a nonpartisan way. But some are not. NASA’s Inspector General, Paul Martin, has repeatedly proven himself to be a defender of cronyism and a partisan hack.

Congressional leaders passed along whistleblower information to Martin that NASA had employed a Chinese spy and that Obama NASA appointees sought to circumvent the rules prohibiting the hiring of foreign nationals at NASA. Martin was angry with congressional leaders for revealing the spy problem, not with NASA officials for breaching our national security. He did nothing. Within days, the FBI arrested the Chinese spy, Bo Jiang, at the airport as he was fleeing to China on a one-way ticket with a treasure trove of sensitive information. Sadly, this was not the spy’s first data dump. But Martin wasn’t interested in investigating.

Martin isn’t just soft on spying at NASA. He has not protected the taxpayer, or rooted out waste or fraud. For example, NASA employees objected to the special treatment given SpaceX and provided evidence of favoritism, bid-rigging, and a long list of unethical and illegal actions. The entire process was subverted to benefit SpaceX, while the taxpayer was fleeced and competitors locked out. Long before the process was completed, top NASA officials were directing staff to give the award to SpaceX. In other words, the process was backwards — “Fire! Aim! Ready!” Continue reading


Elon Musk’s Increasingly Bizarre Behavior Makes Him An Even Worse Bet

by Seton Motley • RedState

I am opposed to any and all government money going towards picking private sector winners and losers.

In no small part because government doesn’t pick winners and losers – it picks losers at the expense of winners.

Government takes money from winners – people who have good ideas, implement them well, make money…and pay taxes.

And gives it to losers – people with bad ideas, implement them badly…and lose money. They need the government money – because they don’t generate any of their own.

A good idea – doesn’t need government money. No one needs to subsidize ice cream.

The King of All Government Money Recipients – is Elon Musk. Continue reading


Beware the Scent of Musk

By Peter RoffCagleCartoons

Everyone’s still talking about the dramatic tumble in the price of Facebook stock which, if the estimates are reliable, had left its founder – Mark Zuckerberg – more than $10 billion poorer than he was at the start of the month.

It’s a big loss to be sure, but not as potentially significant as the one experienced at Tesla, the electric car company founded by Elon Musk. The price Tesla stock has dropped over 21 percent since the middle of June, and could spend the rest of the summer on a roller coaster ride that leaves investors dizzy.

It not only investors who should be cautious. The U.S. government has partnered, may partner, or is thinking about partnering with Musk on projects financed by tax breaks and tax dollars. That translates to our money, and we’re right to expect Uncle Sam to take good care of it.

Continue reading


Elon Musk’s Transparency Issues Continue

By George LandrithRedState

Last month, I wrote a column highlighting how Elon Musk’s lack of transparency with issues surrounding Tesla and SpaceX would likely lead to more fatalities and security concerns in the years to come.

At the time, front and center in the news was Elon Musk’s short-circuiting of a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation into a fatality-causing Tesla Model X crash, as well as the ostensible three-year cover-up of the reasons for a massive SpaceX explosion. As any regulatory policy analyst will tell you, there are always reasons for fearing sunlight, and they are generally never good ones.

As the breaking news of the day from this week has shown, the case of Elon Musk is of no exception.

Reports from last night indicate that on Tuesday night, two teenagers were killed in Fort Lauderdale due to their Tesla Model S bursting into flames. This incident marks the third Tesla fatality in months.

The NTSB is again investigating the situation. This time, it would be best for Elon Musk to cooperate with their wishes, refraining from hanging the phone up on them or posting non-NTSB vetted crash information on his website. The billionaire can continue posting information that leads readers to think the fault lies with the drivers, not Tesla itself, but with each passing incident, his story will have fewer and fewer believers. There seem to be clear quality control issues on the corporate side. The sooner Musk allows regulators to do their job uninterrupted, the sooner these fatalities will likely come to an end.

The ostensible consequences that come with Musk self-investigating his problems on the Tesla side are bad enough, but things do not get any better when analyzing the recent news surrounding SpaceX’s possible transparency problems.

While Musk’s internal review found a supplier-provided strut, not personal imprecision, was to blame for one of his many rocket explosions, a NASA report that came out three years later contradicts Musk’s reasoning. It seems to blame SpaceX for using a lower-grade part without adequate screening and testing.

Even worse, a Washington Post report from this week demonstrates how Congress and NASA safety advisers fear that a tragedy of equal or worse magnitude will occur with astronauts on board – a milestone that SpaceX still plans on achieving by the end of the year.

SpaceX has been adamant about getting more propellant for its buck by shrinking the fuel in cold temperatures so more can be loaded in tanks, but according to experts, the company may do so at the expense of human lives. For Musk’s plan to work, SpaceX will need to load the propellant just before launch time while astronauts are on board – a huge problem when considering the reasonable possibility of it sparking and exploding. As a result, A NASA advisory group cautioned that Musk’s “load-and-go” strategy is “contrary to booster safety criteria that has been in place for over 50 years.” Another expert stated that NASA “never could get comfortable with the safety risks” because “when you’re loading densified propellants, it is not an inherently stable situation.” Yet Musk is still carrying on as if nothing happened, just as he is with Tesla despite the egregious concerns that come with it. Just how different would the unsettling events in Musk’s orbit be if the NTSB and NASA managed to conduct investigations promptly and without political pressure? We may never know, but the state of play would almost certainly be better than it currently is.

With each passing week, more and more lives continue to become jeopardized by Musk’s companies. Policymakers and auditors must begin addressing the problems at hand with a greater sense of urgency before yet another tragedy occurs. What’s done is done, but that does not mean these problems cannot be rectified now before the start of darker, gloomier chapters. The American people deserve better.


Disasters Show Elon Musk’s Tesla, SpaceX Can’t Self-Regulate Read Newsmax: Disasters Show Elon Musk’s Tesla, SpaceX Can’t Self-Regulate

By George LandrithNewsmax

Few individuals would take comfort in Wall Street spearheading an investigation into its own misuse of bailout funds or Congress self-investigating itself for political corruption. Why then do so many tech enthusiasts look the other way each time Elon Musk unapologetically takes part in similar grotesque conflicts-of-interest?

At the end of last month, a Tesla Model X self-driving car crashed, causing a fatality and prompting an investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board. Given how his company’s stock price recently plummeted due to its high debt, numerous vehicle recalls, and credit downgrade, Musk had clear reason to privately seek prompt closure of this report. But instead of letting this critical investigation run its course, the Tesla CEO irresponsibly acted on impulse and short-circuited the NTSB’s incomplete analysis.

Through a statement, Tesla alleged last week that the driver received several warnings before the crash and had enough time to put his hands on the wheel — essentially, putting blame on the deceased victim and little to none on itself. This move prompted Continue reading


Disasters Show Elon Musk’s Tesla, SpaceX Can’t Self-Regulate

By George LandrithNewsmax

Few individuals would take comfort in Wall Street spearheading an investigation into its own misuse of bailout funds or Congress self-investigating itself for political corruption. Why then do so many tech enthusiasts look the other way each time Elon Musk unapologetically takes part in similar grotesque conflicts-of-interest?

At the end of last month, a Tesla Model X self-driving car crashed, causing a fatality and prompting an investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board. Given how his company’s stock price recently plummeted due to its high debt, numerous vehicle recalls, and credit downgrade, Musk had clear reason to privately seek prompt closure of this report. But instead of letting this critical investigation run its course, the Tesla CEO irresponsibly acted on impulse and short-circuited the NTSB’s incomplete analysis. Continue reading


Why SpaceX Is The Snake Oil Peddler Of The Twenty-First Century

By Beau Rothschild • The Federalist

In the nineteenth century, Americans across the country were mesmerized by “miracle elixirs,” better known as medicine shows, which offered “cure-alls” for everything in the book. Diseases? There was a drink for that. Wrinkles? There was a magic cream for that too. These traveling shows did far more than “heal,” they entertained. Freak shows, magic tricks, and storytelling, among other fun activities, were included on the lists of offerings.

For many, these flamboyant events were awe-inspiring – that is, until the country realized these “miracle cures” were almost completely ineffective. Over time, an increasing number of Americans began referring to these big promisers as “snake oil salesmen.” By the next century, most disappeared, as did their outrageous claims.

Worrisome national security events that transpired this week have convinced some Americans that SpaceX, a rocket manufacturer and launcher for national security missions, is the magic elixir of this generation — only this time, the “magic pills” in question are not only often ineffective, they’re also affecting the country’s national security.

Continue reading


The White House Shoots for the Moon

By Peter RoffTownhall

Earlier this month, President Donald J. Trump signed a space policy directive to “restore American leadership in space.” To the excitement of many, this directive includes sending men back to the Moon and perhaps even Mars. The prospect of making dreams a reality once again is enthralling, something we will do, echoing a previous chief executive, not because it is easy but because it is hard.

To do all this, to optimize performance and ensure a successful, modern-day space program, government appropriators must adhere to a standard set of business protocols. It is essential NASA and the White House have clear goals in mind and ensure the interests of the country are at the heart of every mission. Stating the objective of going to the moon is not enough; bureaucrats need to take the process a step further and iron out precisely what it wants to achieve, how much it will cost to do so, and why the country will be better off as a result.

It is true few companies would turn down a government contract – after all, no one’s checks clear better than Washington’s – but that is not license for decision-makers to issue them carelessly. Every mission must have the clear intent of either advancing national security interests or significantly increasing the country’s scientific progress before the disbursement of taxpayer funds begin. The general rule of thumb should be that if extensive research from private firms has not been conducted on a given topic, it is likely not worth the federal government pursuing.

Continue reading


Can we wean Elon Musk off government support already?

By Jenny Beth Martin • The Hill

Tesla’s new Model 3 has finally arrived, and not a moment too soon. The critics seem to love it, and Tesla management says it’s already received deposits for 500,000 of the vehicles. Perhaps now Elon Musk can finally get his hand out of U.S. taxpayers’ wallets?

Musk is, to be sure, an ideas man. Private, commercial space travel? Check. Washington to New York in less than half an hour in what he calls a “hyperloop” train that will travel at 800 miles per hour? Check. A new kind of tunneling engineering? Check. Solar energy? Check. Electric cars? Check, check.

As wide-ranging as these various entrepreneurial ventures may be, they all have one thing in common – not a single one of them would get funding in a competitive private capital market if it weren’t for massive (and I do mean massive) taxpayer-funded government subsidies. Continue reading


Time for NASA to stop playing favorites with Elon Musk’s SpaceX

By Andrew Langer • The Hill

In the Trump era, one of the few things that both sides of the aisle can agree on is distaste for cronyism, especially when it is the government picking winners and losers. Ironically, one of the biggest offenders is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a bipartisan agency that is generally loved by Americans. One big beneficiary of the agency is Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX.

In June 2015, SpaceX cost taxpayers $110 million when one of its Falcon 9 rockets exploded on a mission to resupply the International Space Station. The company received all but 20 percent of the payment it would have received for completing the mission successfully. Though two years have since passed, the cause of the rocket’s failure remains unclear.

NASA assured the public that the agency would release a public summary of the results from its investigation by this summer. But just weeks ago, NASA announced that it will no longer to do so. “NASA is not required to complete a formal final report or public summary since it was an FAA licensed flight,” a spokesman claimed. Continue reading


SpaceX’s Careful Image Management Hides an Ugly Truth

Elon Musk’s business model is a travesty.

By George LandrithSpectator

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been in recent headlines with a recent launch of a spy satellite. In fact, SpaceX is better at well managed and scripted messaging than it is at actually launching cargo into space in a timely and successful fashion. Always the public relations maestro, Musk announced that he plans to reuse every major component of the rocket by 2018. One of the themes SpaceX has carefully crafted is that it represents the future of “free-market” space flight.

The problem with this public relations hype is that it bears little resemblance to reality. Whether it is SpaceX or Musk’s electric car company, Tesla, the business model is based on lining up billions in taxpayer-provided subsidies and obtaining exclusive regulatory benefits and exceptions. Then, they engage in slick marketing to convince everyone how free-market and innovative they are.

Tesla survives on the back of hefty subsidies paid for by hard-working Americans just barely getting by so that a select few can drive flashy, expensive electric sports cars. These subsidies were originally scheduled to expire later this year, and Tesla is lobbying hard to make sure that taxpayers continue to pay $7,500 per car or more to fund their business model. Tesla even tried to force taxpayers to pay for charging stations that would primarily benefit their business. That is not what Musk’s high priced image managers will tell you, but it’s the truth. Continue reading


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