These are only the latest examples of why the federal government has no viable way to break up with Mr. Musk, at least as long as the United States decides it is going to continue space exploration and deter its biggest superpower rivals. It may denounce him and declare that all Americans should reject his views. But it needs him, or at least his rockets and his satellites, more than ever.
And the White House and Pentagon both know that.
Rarely has the U.S. government so depended on the technology provided by a single, if petulant, technologist with views that it has so publicly declared repugnant. And yet, by the account of administration officials, they have no choice — and will not for a while. Because there are, right now, few viable alternatives.
It is an unusual predicament. If a top executive of one of the traditional publicly held defense contractors — Raytheon or Boeing or Lockheed Martin — had embraced an antisemitic conspiracy theory the way Mr. Musk did, there would be pressure from shareholders and customers alike for a resignation. In fact, advertisers like IBM and Apple and Warner Bros. Discovery have been announcing in recent days that they will pause doing business on X, formerly known as Twitter. Mr. Musk, rather than apologize, has threatened lawsuits.
But SpaceX is privately held, entirely controlled by Mr. Musk. (Tesla, his electric vehicle company, is publicly held.) And so far, while the White House has been outspoken, the Pentagon has been silent.
“It would be good to have alternatives, and the U.S. government has tried to develop some,” Walter Isaacson, Mr. Musk’s biographer, said in an interview on Sunday. “But no other company,” he said, including United Launch Alliance, a Boeing and Lockheed Martin venture, has “been able to make reusable rockets, or get astronauts into orbit, or get some of these heavy satellites into high-Earth orbit.”