SpaceX vs NASA

Why is NASA going after SpaceX?


Peyton Waddell, Shark Story Editor

Recently there has been a lot of chatter regarding moves made by SpaceX, but what is SpaceX? SpaceX designs manufacture and launch advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk to revolutionize space technology. Their mission is to make humanity multi-planetary, to make history, and reusability.

It all started with the success of Falcon 9, the first orbital-class rocket capable of reflight. It is reusable with 140 launches, 100 landings, and 80 reflown rockets. It is 229.6ft tall, 12ft wide, and weighs 1,207, 920 lbs. Their Falcon Heavy is the most powerful operational rocket in the world and is composed of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores. Now the Dragon is what some may find the most interesting, considering it can take you into space. The Dragon can take up to seven passengers from Earth into orbit and is the first spacecraft to travel humans to the space station.

SpaceX has come up with an idea of a “second-generation, non-geostationary orbit satellite system to emphasize the key role of ground-based optical, infrared, and radio astronomy for scientific investigation and discovery.” Currently, NASA has expressed some major concern over SpaceX’s new idea which includes the planning of eventually launching 42,000 satellites. NASA sent a 5-page letter to the Federal Communications Commission regarding their skepticism and disapproval.  NASA has several concerns, some regarding the addition of more satellites that may intervene with some of NASA’s projects and accomplishments. Stated in the letter “..concerns with the potential for a significant increase in the frequency of conjunction events and possible impacts to NASA’s science and human spaceflight missions.” More concerns include how it could be dangerous having more objects be so low in the orbit, seeing as they could lead to crashes or “risk of debris-generating collision events based on the number of objects alone..” as their representative Samantha Fonder states in the letter. The risk of the satellites crashing into larger spacecraft, regardless of SpaceX making the claim that there’s a 100% chance that there will be no collisions due to the satellite’s maneuverability. NASA expressed that SpaceX should not be making these kinds of claims with it never being safe to assume that something man-made is 100% error-free.

In response to NASA’s letter listing all of their concerns, Elon Musk had a reply posted on their SpaceX website, under ‘Updates’ published on Tuesday the 22nd. They specify that they are working on, “…maintaining a safe orbital environment, protecting human spaceflight, and ensuring the environment is kept sustainable…”. Continuing in their statement they remind the reader that SpaceX has already done a lot to show their dedication to space safety; building reliable maneuvering satellites, operating at low altitudes to avoid debris if anything were to happen and the satellite crashes, sharing orbital information, and developing an advanced system that allows satellites to maneuver and avoid any collisions with other spacecraft. “SpaceX satellites’ flight paths are designed to avoid inhabited space stations like the International Space Station (ISS) and the Chinese Space Station Tiangong by a wide margin.” SpaceX wants to ensure to NASA and to the rest of the world that their technology is advanced enough to ensure the safety for everything that has come before this plan.

Now that NASA had shared its concerns do you think Elon Musk will be able to follow through with his new revolutionary idea for the future? Only time will tell.