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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wants to shake up satellite industry

The Falcon 9 has been approved by NASA to launch resupply missions to the International Space Station, but it hasn't been green-lighted to launch high-value satellites.

By Brooks Hays
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wants to shake up satellite industry
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is anxious to expand his business's presence in the satellite launch industry. File Photo by UPI/Kevin Dietsch. | License Photo

HAWTHORNE, Calif., Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Elon Musk wants to grow the presence of SpaceX in the satellite communications industry. Establishing a profitable satellite operation would bring in the kinds of stable revenue streams that Musk needs to pursue more adventurous missions -- like a manned colony on Mars.

But Musk says a cozy relationship between the U.S. Air Force and other aerospace and defense industry contractors is preventing his company's expansion. Musk and his company have filed suit against the agency its primary private partner, the United Launch Alliance, arguing the two have conspired to create a monopoly on the $70 billion satellite launching industry.

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Speaking in an audio interview with Bloomberg Businessweek from SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, on Tuesday, Musk said his company had no choice to move forward with the lawsuit, as Air Force officials continue to stall on the approval of the company's Falcon 9 rocket.

"The people fighting it [Falcon 9 certification to bid for military launches] are really in the bureaucracy of the Pentagon, and the procurement officers, who then go and work at Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the prime contractors -- which has actually happened," Musk said.

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The Falcon 9 has been approved by NASA to launch resupply missions to the International Space Station, but it hasn't been green-lighted to launch high-value satellites.

Part of Musk's plan for his satellite production operation includes construction of a satellite design and engineering plant in Seattle, Washington. Musk said the plant would employ just 60 at first, but that its workforce could quickly grow to several hundred or perhaps a thousand people.

"We're going to try and do for satellites what we've done for rockets," Musk said.

Musk is hopeful that 2015 is another big year for his companies. SpaceX continues to get closer to perfecting its reusable rocket technology, and Musk's electric car company Tesla is preparing to release its latest vehicle, the Model X -- complete with autonomous driving capabilities.

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