Pad 39-A Dispute Gets Personal

Launch Pad 39A with the space shuttle Endeavour. (Credit: NASA)
Launch Pad 39A with the space shuttle Endeavour. (Credit: NASA)

A cranky Elon Musk has lashed out at Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin and ULA for getting in the way of his plans to lease Pad 39-A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

In an email to Space News, the SpaceX CEO accused Bezos of using a “phony blocking tactic” in a rival bid to control the former space shuttle launch complex.

Blue Origin, which is backed by ULA, wants to convert the pad into a multi-use complex that can accommodate multiple launch vehicles while SpaceX wants the facility for its own use but has agreed to share it if Blue Origin can come up with an actual rocket to launch from it.

From a SpaceX standpoint, we view [Blue Origin] and [United Launch Alliance’s] action as a phony blocking tactic and an obvious one at that. BO [Blue Origin] has not yet succeeded in creating a reliable suborbital spacecraft, despite spending over 10 years in development. It is therefore unlikely that they will succeed in developing an orbital vehicle that will meet NASA’s exacting standards in the next 5 years, which is the length of the lease. That said, I can’t say for sure whether [Blue Origin’s] action stems from malice. No such doubt exists about ULA’s motivation.

However, rather than fight this issue, there is an easy way to determine the truth, which is simply to call their bluff. If they do somehow show up in the next 5 years with a vehicle qualified to NASA’s human rating standards that can dock with the Space Station, which is what Pad 39A is meant to do, we will gladly accommodate their needs. Frankly, I think we are more likely to discover unicorns dancing in the flame duct.

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