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Elon Musk's SpaceX keeps winning US military contracts — here's why, according to an aerospace expert

Oct 18, 2020
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Elon Musk SpaceX
SpaceX founder and chief engineer Elon Musk. REUTERS/Steve Nesius
  • The US military’s increasing need for fast transport explains why it keeps handing contracts to SpaceX, according to a leading aerospace expert.

  • Steve Nutt, professor in aerospace engineering, told Business Insider that SpaceX is the US’ best alternative to “stodgy, slow” traditional contractors.

  • it comes at a time when the Department of Defense is “retooling” in light of growing global political tension, Nutt said.

  • “The rockets that SpaceX has been asked to supply would address that need — delivering hardware and support supplies rapidly to anywhere in the world,” Nutt said.

  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has secured three military contracts in as many months — and one aerospace expert believes the deals won’t end there.

The US Department of Defense (DoD) increasingly wants to transport supplies faster, according to Steve Nutt, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering at the University of Southern California.

SpaceX can fulfill that need at a time when the US military is “retooling” because of growing global political tensions, Nutt told Business Insider.

“The rockets that SpaceX has been asked to supply would address that need — delivering hardware and support supplies rapidly to anywhere in the world,” Nutt said.

Traditional contractors have proven to be “so stodgy, slow, and expensive that SpaceX is the only alternative,” he said.

In August, SpaceX won a slice of a billion-dollar agreement to launch new rockets for the Space Force. Two months later, it secured a $149 million Pentagon contract to make satellites that can track missiles.

Then, less than a week later, on October 8, the US military said it was teaming up with SpaceX to build a rocket capable of delivering weapons around the world at 7,500 mph. 

A 7,652-mile journey from Florida to Afghanistan could be completed within about an hour with such a high-speed rocket, per The Times.

In comparison, a US C-17 Globemaster, a military transport aircraft costing $218 million with a maximum speed of 590 mph, would complete this journey in about 15 hours.

The DoD’s need for speed is increasingly important given rising global political tensions between the US and other countries, such as North Korea, Nutt said. 

“The days of heavily armored tanks and lumbering trucks are fading,” Nutt said, as they are “too easy to target and destroy.” 

The DoD wants to be able “to deploy forces quickly, preferably without detection,” said Nutt. It means that, theoretically, the military can quickly get in and out before enemy forces attack, reducing the risk of casualties and damage, he said.

“The US military are retooling and adjusting for future conflicts,” said Nutt, adding: “Unfortunately, I think we’re entering another arms race.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

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