Space Access ’11: SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell

Illustration of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft arriving at the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Gwynne Shotwell
President, SpaceX

1,300 employees and growing….
Expects to grow at 20-40 percent

Falcon 1e is on hold at the moment until next year

COTS Program –

  • $278 million over 4.5 years
  • NASA has added $100 million for additional tests

NASA wants a brand new Dragon after each flight
Used capsules will be refurbished and used for DragonLab (experiments)
Not sure how much it will cost to refurbish – less than they thought based on the first Dragon flight – capsule came back in great shape

Been profitable since 2007 – 13 new orders over the past 12 months for Falcon 9

Orders Breakdown:

NASA – 40 percent
Commercial – 50 percent
International – 10 percent

Ramping up production to build 12 Falcon 9s per year

Questions:

We can have people in orbit within three years of beginning work on the escape system — have already been working on it for years.

Working on stage recovery and reuse — helps make the business viable

Upgraded Merlin engine is on the test stand now — performing very well — will fly mid to late next year…

Wants to build an F-1 class engine…this was the first stage engine on the Saturn V

Lobbyists — had 1.5 lobbyists for many years — just hired four more lobbyists…

Plan to make the engine a lot easier to build…if they’re going to build 400 engines per year, then need to make it easier to build.

Elon is definitely going up, Gwynne not sure she can afford it — she had to pay full price for her Tesla ($100,000+)

When SpaceX goes public, Elon Musk will maintain majority share so that they can continue to implement his vision

COTS Flights

  • Working toward going directly to ISS on the next flight — NASA wants us to get there as soon as possible…need to complete a rigorous certification process before flying to station
  • In the second flight, there will be go/no go decisions after launch on whether to berth with the station
  • If they can’t get to ISS on next flight, will do it on the third flight
  • Want to fly to ISS in September or October.

People who work at SpaceX would work their lives away — gets to the point where we had to send people home for rest — incredible people — loss rate is in the single digits

Beginning a more vigorous public relations campaign — started with Falcon Heavy video

SpaceX would still work on a crew vehicle even if it doesn’t get funded under CCDev — would take longer to do and be focused on other customers — might not meet NASA requirements

California had a huge contingent of aerospace, automotive and aircraft workforce — that’s why they operate in the Golden State — large investment in facilities — will be expanding at test facility in Texas

Had difficulty trying to launch Falcon 1 from Vandenberg — don’t anticipate these problems with the planned Falcon Heavy launch — world has changed dramatically over the last few years…

Lockheed Martin isn’t going to have a say over whether SpaceX flies out of Vandenberg this time (crowd applauded)

DragonLab is a tough challenge — got hundreds of people who could spend a little bit of money to send things into space — difficult to herd all those cats together — working with some groups who are attempting to herd those cats…

Looking at a Falcon 1 heavy — chasing the Minotaur market — need to compete with government built system…

And Gwynne wraps things up to a standing ovation….