SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell: “We would launch a weapon to defend the US”

The audience seemed impressed that SpaceX is one of the world’s coolest companies and also a staunch patriot

SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell speaks to audiences around the world and gets lots of questions.

During an appearance on Monday at the Air Force Association’s annual symposium, Shotwell was thrown a question she said she had never heard before: “Would SpaceX launch military weapons?”

“I’ve never been asked that question,” Shotwell said somewhat surprised. Her response: “If it’s for the defense of this country, yes, I think we would.”

The room packed with Air Force service members and military contractors burst into applause. They seemed impressed that SpaceX is one of the world’s coolest companies and also a staunch patriot.

Before the Q&A session, Shotwell delivered a 20-minute presentation that mostly featured promotional videos of SpaceX’s spectacular Falcon Heavy mission in February. The videos also drew cheers from the crowd.

Shotwell didn’t have much to say about the military launch business other than that SpaceX spent “a lot of time building our relationship with the Air Force. And we’re now in a good position. We’re competing. We’re wining some, and losing some.”

When asked how bad is the Air Force acquisition system, Shotwell said the Air Force has not cornered the market on red tape. The “most challenging” government customer for SpaceX has been NASA, she said. The company is preparing to launch its Crew Dragon capsule with astronauts onboard, a mission where failure is not an option, she said. The Air Force has asked SpaceX to make its rockets more reliable for national security satellites, but that still does not compare to the pressure of taking humans to space safely.

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