SpaceX rockets overtake Boeing with Crew-1 launch
The current score: SpaceX 2, Boeing (NYSE: BA)0.
At 11:01 p.m. EST on November 17, approximately 27 hours after taking off from Cape Canaveral, a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying four astronauts docked with the International Space Station (ISS), marking the second successful trip to the ISS since on American soil since the closure of the Space Shuttle program in 2011.
Equally important to SpaceX, this was the company’s first “operational” mission to the ISS with a spacecraft both human-rated and NASA-certified. Indeed, to date, SpaceX has the only commercial space flight system in operation that meets these two standards. It is because SpaceX crossed this bar that the mission that took off last weekend was designated “Crew-1“even if it was the second SpaceX spacecraft had sent to the space station with astronauts on board.
Boeing, which won a contract with NASA to develop a similar human-capable spacecraft on the same day SpaceX received its contract, has yet to conduct a unmanned test flight of its Starliner spacecraft to the ISS. Its first attempt, which took place almost a year ago, failed to reach the ISS when Starliner spacecraft engines did not fire at the right time.
Boeing is still planning to make a second unmanned attempt (at a cost of $ 410 million which Boeing itself will pay), followed by a subsequent crewed mission to the ISS, but no firm date has been announced for either event, and space observers predict it will be months before a Boeing-transported astronaut sets foot on the ISS.
The first result: With each passing week, Boeing is falling further and further behind SpaceX in the race for corporate space.
The other result: the longer it lasts, the more Congress will have to question NASA’s decision to pay Boeing $ 4.2 billion to build and fly its Starliner (which has not yet reached the ISS), while SpaceX only charged $ 2.6 billion (for Crew Dragons who went there twice).
What this means for Boeing
It quickly becomes embarrassing for Boeing, but the biggest danger to investors is this: what if NASA decides (or Congress tells it to decide) that Boeing no longer deserves to receive a bonus for its rocket launches based on their superior reliability? ?
Based on data from S&P Global Market Intelligence, Boeing’s Defense, Space and Security division is currently the most profitable company To Boeing, producing an operating profit margin of 9.2% on revenue of $ 6.8 billion in the last quarter (compared to a loss of $ 1.4 billion for the Commercial Aircraft division of Boeing ). Granted, that may change now that the FAA has cleared besieged Boeing 737 MAX jets to resume flight. With this clearance in hand, airlines may again be willing to take delivery of 737 MAX aircraft already on order, or to purchase new ones if and when. flight demand is reborn. (That’s the beauty of operating a industrial conglomerate company like that of Boeing. When one division falters, another may be ready to turn around and take over.) Still, investors could be forgiven for wishing that Boeing, whose shares have fallen 45% in the past year. , maybe can start firing all cylinders simultaneously for a change.
And it still could. After all, after multiple launch delays, Boeing’s rocket launch joint venture with Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance, do finally put its NROL-101 rocket into orbit this week – the company’s 141st consecutive successful launch. It must have been a relief for the space company.
Today marks the 141st launch of the United Launch Alliance and our 29th for the National Reconnaissance Office. ULA is honored to continue our national security partnership with @NatReconOfc throwing # NROL101, a payload designed, built and operated by the agency. pic.twitter.com/lnmt4sGWCW
– ULA (@ulalaunch) November 13, 2020
And there is still hope that when Boeing finally makes its next Starliner attempts, the launches will go off without a hitch.
Meanwhile, across the ocean, a few key Boeing rivals are struggling themselves. On Tuesday, for the second time in three launches, an Arianespace Vega rocket failed to reach orbit and resulted in a loss of mission. Two days before that – around the time SpaceX’s Crew Dragon was heading into orbit – Russian news agency TASS announced a series of pay cuts and layoffs in Roscosmos, Russia.
The first event may be of little importance to Boeing, which typically does not compete with Ariane on trade missions, while the last event may seem more related to an anticipated loss of revenue in Roscosmos if NASA stops buying seats. astronaut on Russian rockets now that SpaceX has shown itself capable of taking on this mission. Still, it looks like Boeing isn’t alone among struggling space companies right now.
But that only makes the SpaceX star shines more and more.
This article represents the opinion of the author, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a premium Motley Fool consulting service. We are heterogeneous! Challenging an investment thesis – even one of our own – helps us all to think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.