Billionaires Battle as Bezos-Musk Companies Vie for Launch Pad@Bloomberg By Jonathan D. Salant & Kathleen Miller - Sep 26, 2013 11:01 PM CT
In a battle of billionaires, space ventures owned by Internet pioneers Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are relying on prominent former lawmakers as they jockey for control over a historic launch pad at Kennedy Space CenterLaunch Video of Space X Dragon
The Florida launch pad was mothballed after the U.S. retired its shuttle fleet in 2011 and turned to countries such as Russia to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. It’s now coveted by Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, and Bezos’s Blue Origin LLC, which are trying to fill the void for the U.S.
Space X Dragon Music Video
SpaceX, already delivering cargo to the station under a $1.6 billion National Aeronautics and Space Administration contract, has former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott on its lobbying team, Senate filings show. Blue Origin hired two ex-lawmakers, including the former House Science Committee chairman, in May to lobby. In Congress, dozens of lawmakers with opposing views on the issue sent letters to NASA.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re making buggy whips or rockets, the way to get Congress’ attention is to hire a lobbyist,” said Bill Allison, editorial director at the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington-based research group. “Lobbyists can take comfort in the fact that there will be place for them even beyond the final frontier.”
BillionairesBezos, chief executive of Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), is the bigger of the billionaires. He is No. 17 on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a ranking of the world’s wealthiest people, with an estimated net worth of $29.4 billion. Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA) and co-founder of PayPal Inc., is No. 135, with an estimated net worth of $8.8 billion.
The competition began after NASA in May began seeking proposals to operate the launch pad, the departure site for the manned Apollo missions to the moon. The agency plans to spend about $8.7 billion on transporting crews and cargo to the station in the next five years, according to budget documents.
SpaceX and Blue Origin applied for the launch site lease.
“There are a limited number of East Coast established launch sites,” Chris Quilty, an analyst with Raymond James and Associates in St. Petersburg, Florida, said in a phone interview. “Given the fact that both companies intend to ramp up their launch volume, they need to secure enough launch pads to handle that volume.”
Closely held SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, California, has spent $540,000 in the first six months of 2013 to lobby, compared with $500,000 during the same period in 2012, Senate filings show. Its team at Washington-based Patton Boggs LLP includes Lott, a Mississippi Republican.Read More at Bloomberg:
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