August 15, 2021

ANALYSIS: TRUE. Boeing’s Spaceship Problems Show Just How Amazing Musk’s SpaceX Is.

Boeing continues to work on valve problems that delayed the launch of its Starliner space capsule. No new date for the launch, originally scheduled for July 30, has been set, and The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday evening the delays could last months.

Everyone knows that getting to space is hard, and the delays aren’t really affecting Boeing ‘s (ticker BA) stock. Boeing, of course, has a much bigger business selling commercial airliners. What’s more, the delays aren’t all caused by Boeing. There has to be space to launch and everything has to be in the right orbit. Instead, the Starliner story shows just how impressive SpaceX is.

The Starliner is a reusable crew capsule designed to take astronauts to the International Space Station, or ISS, and back. The program is part of NASA plans to bring crewed launch capabilities back to the U.S. After the Space Shuttle was retired about a decade ago, America relied on foreign countries to take astronauts into space.

But America can now launch astronauts into space again, thanks to SpaceX. Elon Musk’s space company has ferried astronauts to the ISS a few times—first in May 2020 on a certification flight and most recently in April.

The SpaceX success seems even more impressive considering that SpaceX’s Dragon capsule sits atop SpaceX rockets with engines built by SpaceX. The Boeing Starliner capsule sits atop a United Launch Alliance, or ULA, rocket. Some of the engines are made in Russia, while others come from suppliers such as Aerojet Rocketdyne (AJRD).

ULA—a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin (LMT)—and Aerojet are established space players. SpaceX was founded in 2002. It’s a teenager.

Now SpaceX has contracts with NASA and the Defense Department. Its products will eventually end up on the moon and Mars. The next test flight space investors get to see might just be an orbital flight for SpaceX’s huge Starship.

Space is hard for anyone. But the contrast is real, between management focused on results, and one that seems more focused on process.

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