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Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne Burns Money on Capitol Hill SpaceX Flame Ad

Satellite Technology

Satellite Technology Feature Article

January 20, 2012

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne Burns Money on Capitol Hill SpaceX Flame Ad

By Doug Mohney, Contributing Editor

If SpaceX (News - Alert) didn't have enough headaches this week between having to push back a February 7 launch date for its space station supply flight demo mission to late March, and fessing up that Vice President of Astronaut and Mission Assurance Ken Bowersox quietly departed the company "at the end of last year" as reported by Space News, it now has to deal with a full-page attack ad running around Capitol Hill and underwritten by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR).  

PWR's ad was featured on Space News’ Facebook (News - Alert) page and on Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne's website On the Facebook page, it had the caption "Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne takes aim at 'Brand X' with new ad running in Capitol Hill-focused publications," and on the site, the ad is listed under /smoke_fire.html. 

"While the other guys launch powerful press conferences, we power launches of people and critical payloads," states the ad, with the first line highlighted in blue text. "In fact, we've powered 14 launches in 12 months with 100 percent  success. While the other guys deliver press releases, we deliver astronauts and important communication, science and national defense payloads. So before you listen to their next promise, scan the [QR code] tag (News - Alert) and watch all 14 zero-fail launches. At"

According to PWR, the ads are designed to highlight PWR’s "very successful launch record," said PWR Director of Communications, Erin Dick, and "that's all there is to it." Dick would not detail where the ads were running, how many ads were placed or how much money was spent on the campaign. "We're not particularly interested in discussing it," she stated, with the amount "not relevant."

To space policy-wonk insiders, SpaceX has had a taste for making flashy announcements at the National Press Club, complete with slick videos. Why PWR feels the need to take a swipe at the U.S.-based upstart when it is touting its own launch record than, say, picking on the Russian or emphasizing a longer-term threat from China, isn't clear, but there is a clear Hate SpaceX club among established rocket companies.

Ironically, PWR's slap at SpaceX while promoting the website echoes comments made by Arianespace Chairman & CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall on December 7, 2011.  "Arianespace’s (News - Alert) unofficial motto is: 'Launches speak louder than words!'," Le Gall said in a company-generated piece. "These days, however, I hear a lot of 'words' but I don’t see too many 'launches.'"

Last year, PWR was more much concerned about spending its discretionary resources in the gap between the shutdown of the space shuttle and the delay in moving forward with the Space Launch System (SLS). PWR executives spent their energy talking to anyone who would listen about the harsh effects delaying SLS would have on the U.S. industrial base and its own skilled workforce. A single-run full page four color print ad in Space News (News - Alert) runs at $13,600, with various discounts available for multiple insertions and upcharges applied for premium placement within the magazine.  

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Doug Mohney is a contributing editor for TMCnet and a 20-year veteran of the ICT space. To read more of his articles, please visit columnist page.

Edited by Stefanie Mosca

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