ULA had reasons for working with New Space.
In their announcement this week, United Launch Alliance (LM and Boeing) described the reasons for working with XCOR on a new innovative Aluminum rocket engine technology:
- Lower Costs: “performance and reliability our customers need at a more affordable price.” The overhead/G&A cost burdens for large companies often makes one hour of effort for a smaller company cost less than at larger aerospace firms - even when you factor in the smaller firm's profit margins.
- Faster to Test and Re-test: “rapid turnaround for build and test cycles that drive innovative learning.” A culture built on the idea of “when in doubt, build” rather than a culture built on “when in doubt, PowerPoint”.
- Right-sized Processes: “small company project management approach.” Larger companies often times have a one-size-fits-all set of processes that may work well for large development efforts but may need to be rethought for smaller, more risk-tolerant efforts. Kudos for ULA/XCOR recognizing the need to match the processes with the effort.
Every industry is replete with examples of large firms working with/buying innovative smaller firms to gain the advantages mentioned above: lower costs, rapid testing, right-sized processes. But first you need to get invited to the dance. New space firms need to demonstrate enough independent success to get noticed by these larger companies. But how do you demonstrate that type of independent success? Lower costs. Rapid testing. Right-sized processes. Congrats, XCOR.