Boeing’s Commercial Space Plans Spurred Senate Funding Compromise

SpaceX's Falcon 9 on the pad at Cape Canaveral. (Credit: Chris Thompson/SpaceX)
SpaceX's Falcon 9 on the pad at Cape Canaveral. (Credit: Chris Thompson/SpaceX)

The Washington Post has an excellent summary of NASA’s budget standoff that includes some interesting insights into the process. It mentioned how opponents of the President’s commercial space plan focused so much attention on Elon Musk and SpaceX, pointing to a lack of experience as a reason for continuing with NASA’s Constellation program.

Given the attacks on Musk and his company, the Senate compromise funding commercial space efforts passed only after Boeing gave congressional staffers a detailed presentation about its own space plans, participants in the negotiations said. The company announced an agreement last week to develop commercial space taxis for the space station.

The Senate plan provides far less commercial funding than the Administration wants. However, Boeing has said it provides enough money to close the business case on its crew transport, which is being designed to serve ISS, Bigelow Aerospace’s Sundancer stations, and other private facilities.

Boeing’s CST -100 is designed to launch on multiple rockets, including SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V and Delta IV. The latter two rockets are already in service for Air Force and NASA missions, with their development paid for by U.S. taxpayers. ULA is a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, two companies with decades of experience.

These are facts that the Administration really failed to drive home during the debates. It’s very difficult to fathom why almost all of the discussions focused on Musk. Poor salesmanship by the White House and NASA leadership. And also certain members of Congress not wanting to hear it.