However you feel about Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, he has a reputation for having lots of money and lots of guts. His entrepreneurial spirit has extended beyond automotive pursuits into areas as bizarre as The Boring Company – a business he intends to use to spearhead a network of high-speed underground tunnels to trim his LA commute – and as lofty as SpaceX, an effort Musk hopes will eventually put earthlings on Mars.
It’s SpaceX that’s been widely discussed as of late, as a launch earlier this month sent a classified satellite named “Zuma” into space on behalf of the U.S. government. But it didn’t wind up in space; instead, it crashed into the Indian Ocean.
There’s been what appears to be some blame-shifting as it relates to Zuma’s failed attempt to reach orbit, though SpaceX says it wasn’t its rocket – the Falcon 9 – that screwed up.
Either way, Bloomberg is reporting that it’s unlikely that SpaceX or satellite builder Northrop Grumman – or their insurers – will be on the hook for the cost of this botched mission. Apparently, the companies need to hold third party liability insurance in order for the FAA to grant them a commercial launch license but, since no one was harmed and no third party property damaged, they won’t pay out. Bloomberg also speculates that SpaceX and Northrop Grumman have limited liability contracts with the government.
They also say that some of these types of advanced satellites cost somewhere in the billion-dollar range, and if Zuma needs to be replaced, it will be the American taxpayer that pays for it – we just may never know who was at fault.
Business Week’s Max Chafkin also raised the option that this is all just a smokescreen and that the classified mission is, in fact, well underway. I guess we’ll find out when we get the bill.