Will SpaceX overtake NASA in 2020?

NASA and SpaceX are two of the biggest space travel organizations in the world, determined to make interstellar travel a reality. But are they working side by side, or are they more focused on outpacing each other instead? Is NASA falling behind?

Let’s find out.

SpaceX vs. NASA

SpaceX Module

In order to understand whether NASA and SpaceX are friends or foes, it’s important to first understand what each organization stands for.

You are probably well aware of NASA. Short for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA has been around for over 60 years.

It was established in 1958 when it succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Since then, NASA has been responsible for extensive research on aeronautics and aerospace, along with conducting civilian space programs.

On the other hand, Space Exploration Technologies Corp, commonly known as SpaceX, is a relatively newer organization established, less than 20 years ago. It was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, a South-African born American engineer, industrial designer, and technology entrepreneur.

Many people get confused between NASA and SpaceX, which is only understandable since both organizations have the same interests – or almost the same anyway.

While they both are leading aerospace companies, there are some major differences between the two.

To begin with, NASA is owned and funded by the federal government, whereas SpaceX is a completely private organization. SpaceX specializes in space launch services and, as such, has become one of the main service providers for NASA in terms of launching commercial, military, and research satellites.

However, SpaceX was founded with one main objective – enable people to live on other planets. And that is exactly what it is continuously working upon.

NASA, on the other hand, has a lot more on its plate. It is always working on multiple projects ranging from environmental protection and national defense to interstellar travel and more.

So, Which One Is Better, NASA, or SpaceX?

Given the time period in which it has established itself as an aerospace giant, SpaceX, no doubt, is a mighty successful company. However, to say that it is better than NASA or vice versa would be jumping the gun.

SpaceX and NASA are both superior in their own different way. In other words, this means that they each have their weak spots too.

For instance, SpaceX provides cutting-edge technology that NASA has lately been falling behind on. But the private organization heavily relies on funds from the government.  

Nonetheless, NASA has various other resources along with the technical capabilities that no other space organization, including SpaceX, can do without.

However, as NASA is increasingly outsourcing its technical work to different space travel companies, the question arises whether the federal agency might be nearing its doom.

Will SpaceX Overtake NASA in 2020?

To answer this question, we shall look at it from another perspective: can SpaceX thrive without NASA?

SpaceX’s founder, Elon Musk, has done an exceptionally amazing job in terms of raising the company from the ground up. He initially used the funding from some of his other companies, such as PayPal – an online payment service that he sold for $1.5 billion to invest in SpaceX.

As the company quickly gained traction, NASA too, took action to leverage its advanced space solutions.

It awarded SpaceX $278 million to develop the state space agency’s now-workhorse Falcon 9 rocket.

A SpaceX Rocket

It also funded the SpaceX Dragon project in 2012. Dragon is a spacecraft that provides cargo runs to the International Space Station (ISS). It is known as the first private spaceship to land on the ISS and is actively serving the crew onboard to date.

Upon the success of the project, the two companies also shook hands to construct a human-rated version of the spaceship. Named as ‘Crew Dragon,’ this spacecraft is uniquely designed to launch astronauts directly in the orbiting complex.

The Crew Dragon was launched on its first demonstration mission in March last year. It docked with the ISS and then returned to Earth successfully. Although splashing into the Atlantic Ocean is not the type of landing that they want for future riders, it proves SpaceX’s capabilities to provide safe and reliable space travel for anyone who wishes to board the spacecraft.

This, in turn, shows that SpaceX might just be a step away from realizing its dream of transporting civilians into space and soon settling onto Mars.

To one of NASA’s posts on social media commending SpaceX’s work, Elon tweeted, “SpaceX could not do this without NASA. Can’t express enough appreciation.”

This pretty much clears all doubts as to whether or not SpaceX plans to overtake NASA.

The private company knows full well that it won’t be able to survive for long if the financial support from the government were to be cut off. Meanwhile, NASA has come to rely on SpaceX for space commute.

The Strategic Partnership

It might not be official, but one glance at the collaborative history of both space agencies shows that they have might very well have struck a partnership with each other.  

In fact, in the wake of the upstart company, NASA stated that it was changing the way it does business through its Commercial Crew Program. The program aims to encourage the development of spacecrafts to release the burden on the federal agency. As part of the program, NASA also awarded $4.2 billion to Boeing, an American multinational corporation, to work on their astronaut taxi called CST-100 Starliner.

Bottom Line

SpaceX was created with a vision to revolutionize space technology – and it is surely doing that to the best of its abilities.  It has designed, manufactured, and launched some of the most highly advanced rockets and spacecraft – all in line with its mission to enable a multi-planetary life.

Through technical expertise and funds, NASA is helping it turn its vision into a reality. But more importantly, NASA is also leveraging the company’s services to make a positive impact on the world that we currently live in.

So, to sum up this article on ‘will SpaceX overtake NASA in 2020,’ the simple and straightforward answer would be, no.

SpaceX does not seem to have any plans to take over the government organization in the near future. They are putting in joint efforts to embark on new missions and working collaboratively to achieve their goals – whatever they might be.