The recent explosion of a SpaceX rocket should raise concerns about going with the lowest bidder on sensitive national security launch contracts, the chief of the United Launch Alliance wrote in a letter to top Pentagon officials this month.
Tory Bruno, ULA’s chief executive, urged the Air Force to postpone the deadline for bids, saying it should take time to explore the impact of SpaceX’s rocket failure while also taking into account both companies’ experience and past performance.
The Pentagon should have particular reservations, Bruno wrote, given that SpaceX has now had two of its Falcon 9 rockets blow up, which he said “serve as a reminder of the complexity and hazards intrinsic to space launch services.”
“This strategy defies both law and logic and puts hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and Warfighter mission needs unnecessarily at risk,” he wrote.
The letter is the latest salvo in one of Washington’s most contentious contractor feuds, one that has pitted a pair of the world’s most powerful defense contractors against a brash billionaire looking to shake up a calcified market by offering launches far more cheaply. And it’s the most glaring example yet of a competitor going after SpaceX for its pair of explosions.