SpaceX becomes NASA’s largest for-profit supplier

Fourteen years after winning its first major contract with NASA, SpaceX has now eclipsed all other major aerospace companies to become NASA’s largest for-profit supplier. Only Caltech (a non-profit organization) does better.

The more the years pass and the more SpaceX garners the contracts. As a result, the rate of launches continues to increase. The company today launches ten times more rockets than its main competitor, relying again and again on its main hobbyhorse: the Falcon 9.

Many of these launches are for SpaceX-specific payloads. However, NASA remains one of its best customers, providing the US agency with a wide range of services at rock bottom prices. Recently, SpaceX received a record $2.04 billion for these services in fiscal year 2022, according to sources. data shared by Aviation Week reporter, Irene Klotz. Only the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), a non-profit organization, received more money ($2.68 billion over the same period).

Thus, Elon Musk’s company presents itself today as NASA’s largest paid service providerahead of the two giants of the American aerospace industry Boeing ($1.72 billion in 2022) and Lockheed Martin ($1.34 billion).

On all fronts

This more than solid relationship with NASA, which has set its sights on SpaceX to deposit the next humans on the Moon, began in 2008. At the time, the American agency awarded the company a contract for 1.5 billion dollars to develop early versions of the Cargo Dragon spacecraft and its Falcon 9 rocket for the purpose of delivering cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). Without this contract, SpaceX would probably have gone bankrupt, as Elon Musk once said.

After being rescued, SpaceX was finally able to successfully launch Falcon 9 in June 2010. The company then began delivering supplies to the ISS as early as 2012. By 2025, the company will have chained almost forty of these cargo missions under two contracts worth more than three billion dollars.

The Crew Dragon Endeavor docked to the ISS. Credits: NASA

In 2014, NASA also contracted with SpaceX and Boeing to develop spacecraft capable of transporting astronauts to and from the ISS in order to no longer depend on the Russians. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon completed its first crewed test flight in May 2020, before beginning operational launches in November 2020. On the Boeing side, the first crewed test flight of the Starliner capsule is now scheduled for no later than early in February 2023.

A few months ago, NASA also made the decision to purchase eight additional launches from SpaceX, but none from Boeing. SpaceX is now under contract to carry out fourteen manned operational missions for NASAfor an amount of 4.93 billion dollars.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets are also widely used to launch a wide range of NASA spacecraft through the solar system.

Finally, the last major post on NASA spending to benefit SpaceX focuses on the Starship. As said above, NASA awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to develop a lunar landing system. Since 2020, NASA has paid SpaceX $1.26 billion for its work.

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