Current score: SpaceX 2, Boeing (NYSE: BA)0.
On November 17, at 11:01 p.m., approximately 27 hours after takeoff from Cape Canaveral, four astronaut carriers SpaceX Crew Dragon capsules joined the International Space Station (ISS), signaling the second successful voyage from U.S. territory to the ISS. . since the closure of the space shuttle program in 2011.
Equally important to SpaceX is that the company’s first “operational” mission to the ISS was carried out with a spacecraft that is both human and NASA certified. As of today, SpaceX is the only commercial spacecraft system that meets these two standards. Because SpaceX cleared this lane, last weekend’s flying mission was called “Crew-1“even though it was second the SpaceX sent spacecraft with astronauts on board to the space station.
Boeing, which was awarded a contract by NASA to develop a spacecraft with a similar human rating on the same day that SpaceX received its contract, is another successful unmanned Test flight of a Starliner spacecraft into the ISS. His first attempt, nearly a year ago, failed to reach the ISS when Starliner spacecraft engines were not fired at the right time.
Boeing is still planning a second unmanned trial (at a cost of $ 410 million to be paid by Boeing itself), followed by a subsequent crew mission to the ISS, but no fixed dates have been announced for any of the events, and space observers predict months to they will be. before a Boeing-supplied astronaut puts his foot in the ISS.
The first result: Every week, Boeing stays behind SpaceX in the corporate space race.
The other result: The further this goes, the more Congress will have to question NASA’s decision to pay Boeing $ 4.2 billion for building and flying the Starliner (which hasn’t yet reached the ISS) when SpaceX is only 2 ., Charged $ 6 billion (for Crew Dragons). that they went there twice).
What does it mean for Boeing
This will soon be an embarrassing situation for Boeing, but it will be a greater danger to investors: What happens if NASA decides (or Congress tells it to decide) that Boeing no longer deserves the premium? for their rocket launches, based on their outstanding reliability?
Boeing Defense, Space & Security is currently the most profitable business according to S&P Global Market Intelligence at Boeing generated an operating margin of 9.2% in the last quarter with sales of $ 6.8 billion (compared to a loss of $ 1.4 billion for Boeing’s commercial aircraft division). True, that could change now that the FAA has authorized Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to continue flying. With this permission, airlines are again willing to deliver the 737 MAX aircraft already ordered or buy new ones if air travel demand picks up. (This is the beauty of an industrial conglomerate operation like Boeing. If one division is rocked, another is ready to turn around and take up the slack.) Nevertheless, investors can be forgiven if they want Boeing, whose stock It has dropped 45% in the last year, perhaps for the sake of change you could start firing all cylinders at once.
And it still can be. After all, after several launch delays, Boeing ‘s rocket launch joint venture a Lockheed Martin, A United Launch Alliance, did finally, launch its NROL-101 rocket this week – the company’s 14th successful launch in a row. This must have been a relief to the space company.
The United Launch Alliance today launches 141st place and the National Intelligence Agency ranks 29th. It is an honor for ULA to continue our national security partnership @NatReconOfc with startup # NROL101, a payload designed, built and operated by the agency. pic.twitter.com/lnmt4sGWCW
– ULA (@ulalaunch) November 13, 2020
And there’s always hope that when Boeing finally makes the next few Starliner attempts, the launches will go off without a hitch.
Meanwhile, across the ocean, some of Boeing’s key rivals have their own troubles. On Tuesday, for the second time in three launches, an Arianespace Vega missile was unable to reach the orbit and lost its mission. Two days before – around the time SpaceX Crew Dragon was on the run – Russian news agency TASS announced payments and layoffs were underway at Russia’s Roscosmos.
The former event may be of little significance to Boeing, which does not typically compete with Ariane on commercial missions, while the latter event may be more related to Roscosmos ’expected loss of revenue if NASA stops buying astronaut seats on Russian missiles now that SpaceX has demonstrated that able to take over this mission. Nonetheless, Boeing doesn’t seem to be alone among the space companies that are currently struggling.
But that only makes the Star of SpaceX shine better.