Gentlemen, start your engines. SpaceX's CEO, Elon Musk, has laid down the challenge; a verbal slap in the face, if you will. He's had the bare-faced cheek to insult Europe's Ariane 5 rocket, saying that the "Ariane 5 has no chance" in the increasingly crowded rocket market. Well, to me, that just sounds like a challenge.
SpaceX is the maker of the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, and notable for being NASA's weapon of choice to resupply the International Space Station. This shouldn't give Mr Musk and his jolly band of rocketeers unlimited bragging rights though; one of the major factors in winning contracts was the suspiciously low price that SpaceX are able to charge. Although Elon insists that his prices are sustainable, sceptics wonder if he can keep the sort of reliability you need in space flight; one of the most recent Falcon 9 flights saw a first-stage rocket motor failure.
Truth be told, although SpaceX is being a bit brash, there's no denying that the Ariane rockets are currently a little bit pathetic. The Ariane is a perfectly good rocket, but it's not competitive enough on price or payload. Although there are plans in the works for an upgrade, squabbling between the countries trying to build it (hmm, squabbling in the EU, what a surprise...) is slowing things down. And that can't afford to happen. Not when the Yanks are using a Merlin engine to beat us. C'mon Europe, even if we can't sort the debt out, at least can we put this jumped-up American company in its place? [BBC]
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