WASHINGTON — The head of Boeing said Jan. 28 that SpaceX’s growing presence in the space industry will force his company to be more competitive in some segments of the market, but that Boeing would retain its edge in more advanced segments.

Boeing chairman and chief executive Jim McNerney. Credit: Boeing
Boeing Chairman and Chief Executive Jim McNerney. Credit: Boeing

During a conference call with financial analysts and media after the release of the company’s 2014 financial report, Boeing Chairman and Chief Executive Jim McNerney addressed the competition Boeing, a partner with Lockheed Martin in the United Launch Alliance joint venture, faced from SpaceX.

“I have respect for SpaceX,” McNerney said when asked about SpaceX’s effects on the market. “I think they offer more limited mission types than we do at this stage. But their combination of focus on gaining capability at improved costs is going to benefit the market.”

SpaceX’s biggest effect, he said, was on those sectors that are particularly price sensitive. “It will make us a better competitor in some segments where cost has become more important,” he said, without identifying those segments.

McNerney said he believed Boeing and ULA would retain their edge in more advanced missions, like human spaceflight. “I see the advantage we have there will sustain itself for a long period of time,” he said.

Boeing’s relationship with SpaceX is complex. While SpaceX and ULA compete for launches, and Boeing and SpaceX competed for NASA commercial crew contracts last year, Boeing is also building commercial satellites that SpaceX will launch. Boeing’s first pair of 702SP electric-propulsion communications satellites is scheduled to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 in February.


Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...