The successful launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket had the entire space industry watching on Tuesday, and the Department of Defense was chief among those following the test flight, a former official told CNBC.
“This opens up a whole new set of capabilities for the Defense Department, and Washington, to be able to put up even more capable satellites and do it at a fraction of the cost of today,” John Young said.
Young was the Pentagon’s Under Secretary of Defense for acquisition tech and logistics and is now a SpaceX advisory board member and consultant. His role for more than two years in Washington was to be the person “in charge of all Pentagon buying,” he said.
After seven years and half a billion dollars in development, Falcon Heavy’s maiden flight had SpaceX CEO Elon Musk saying he wants “a new space race” from both corporations and governments alike. Falcon Heavy “can launch things direct to Pluto and beyond,” Musk said, and each launch starts at $90 million.
“Operationally, this rocket is exciting to me because it is probably a quarter of the cost, or less, of anything we have today — with twice as much capability,” Young said.
SpaceX built Falcon Heavy out of three of the company’s Falcon 9 rockets — a system that has now completed dozens of successful launches over the last few years. The three cores stand side by side to create a 27-engine colossus.
Young says there are missions the Pentagon can now do with Falcon Heavy, to put “a bigger satellite with a bigger aperture or antenna” into space.”
“I don’t think anyone can [compete with this new rocket],” Young said. “Musk said it’s ‘game over,’ and I believe that’s true.”