George Sowers was recently interviewed by the Denver Business Journal about the $642 million in Air Force satellite launch contracts awarded this month to United Launch Alliance and SpaceX. Sowers was Vice President and Chief Scientist at ULA before joining the Space Resources faculty at Mines.
From the story:
ULA, an 11-year-old joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co., had been the sole space-launch provider for U.S. military and spy agency missions for a decade until Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX won its first national security launch contract in 2016.
Since then, ULA has lost in head-to-head competitive bidding for all four GPS satellite launches the Air Force has awarded.
“The GPS are viewed as more risk tolerant than the others ones are — they’re right in SpaceX’s wheelhouse,” said George Sowers, a former ULA executive who today teaches space engineering at the Colorado School of Mines.
Alternately, the two missions ULA won from the Air Force on March 14 are more costly, complex launches of satellites directly into geosynchronous orbits 22,000 miles away, almost twice as distant as the GPS satellites.
“Certainly SpaceX hasn’t yet demonstrated the ability to do a direct-injection mission to geosynchronous orbit, and ULA has many times,” Sowers said.