SpaceX vs. NASA: Project Delivery

Elon Musk decided long ago that he cannot afford long projects and therefore also cannot afford to use conventional design and delivery methods, which are notorious for being sluggish. We illustrate Musk’s pursuit of speed by contrasting SpaceX with NASA. Tesla also gets mention.

Bent Flyvbjerg
Geek Culture

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By Atif Ansar and Bent Flyvbjerg

In terms of speed, although SpaceX is significantly quicker in absolute speed-to-market, it is just as optimistic about its schedules as NASA. The figure below shows optimism measured by schedule overruns (delays)of NASA missions compared against SpaceX.

We observe:

  • Frequency: 9 in 10 NASA missions suffered a schedule overrun. For SpaceX, the number is 10 out of 10.
  • Size: For NASA the actual duration of missions were on average +57.2% longer than estimated with a median of +34.8%, indicating that the distribution has a skew to the right (i.e., going over time). Statistical tests supported this conclusion at an overwhelmingly…

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Bent Flyvbjerg
Geek Culture

Professor Emeritus, University of Oxford; Professor, IT University of Copenhagen. Writes about project management. https://www.linkedin.com/in/flyvbjerg/