BIG AND COOL, BUT WHO WANTS IT?

NASA not ready to sur­ren­der space to Musk

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - James Dean

SpaceX’s Fal­con Heavy rocket blew minds last week with more than 5 mil­lion pounds of thrust, two booster land­ings and de­liv­ery of CEO Elon Musk’s Tesla sports car on a path into deep space. “It can do any­thing you want,” Musk said of the po­ten­tial for the world’s new most pow­er­ful rocket, but at the same time, he down­played his plans for it. He is al­ready work­ing on a big­ger rocket to fly hu­mans to Mars. The ques­tion is, who wants to use the Fal­con Heavy, and what does it re­ally mean for the space in­dus­try?

The Pen­tagon, some com­pa­nies and NASA sci­en­tists will wel­come the rocket’s bar­gain base­ment $90 mil­lion price for oc­ca­sional launches of very heavy satel­lites.

Fans of SpaceX and a more en­tre­pre­neur­ial ap­proach to space­flight see the Fal­con Heavy as an op­por­tu­nity to jump-start deep space ex­plo­ration, and as proof NASA should give up de­sign­ing and fly­ing its own rock­ets.

NASA re­gards the rocket as a com­ple­ment to — not a re­place­ment for — the much more pow­er­ful, ex­pen­sive and so far un­seen Space Launch Sys­tem rocket that the agency is de­vel­op­ing in hopes of launch­ing a crew around the moon by 2022.

“The is­sue is whether there are cus­tomers and a mar­ket for this

CRAIG BAI­LEY/USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

SpaceX’s Fal­con Heavy rocket launches Feb. 6.

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