Space missions: SpaceX is faster and more cost-efficient than NASA
A new study from the internationally renowned project management expert and Villum Kann Rasmussen Professor at the IT University of Copenhagen, Bent Flyvbjerg, concludes that in using a scalable platform strategy, SpaceX is more efficient than NASA when it comes to launching missions into space.
Villum Kann Rasmussen Professor at the IT University of Copenhagen, Bent Flyvbjerg, is not without cause known as the Mastermind of Mega Projects. Analysing extensive datasets, the researcher and his team have previously published research that exposed the economic downside for cities hosting the Olympics and project management fallacies that have led to massive over-expenditure and failure to meet deadlines in mega projects such as the Channel Tunnel and the Copenhagen Metro constructions.
In a new research paper entitled “How to Solve Big Problems: Bespoke Versus Platform Strategies,” published in Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Bent Flyvbjerg and his University of Oxford colleague Antif Ansar examine space missions with the goal of determining the criteria of success in one-off major projects.
“In the paper, we test our thesis that mega projects based on a modular and scalable platform strategy are far more efficient than corresponding projects based on a bespoke model where special components and tailored technological solutions are developed. We conclude that SpaceX’ platform strategy is ten times cheaper and twice as fast as NASA’s project model on comparable missions,” says Bent Flyvbjerg who is Head of Danish Institute for IT Program Management (DIIP) at ITU.
The remarkable conclusion is based on data from 203 space missions undertaken between 1963 and 2021 of which NASA accounts for 181 and SpaceX 22. The research documents that SpaceX’ platform strategy is less prone to over-expenditure and exceeding timeframes. By planning and executing projects using reproducible modules and components and relying on previously proven methods and technologies, the company has created a development strategy that is both scalable and adaptable to change.
This is not the first time Bent Flyvbjerg has proven the efficacy of modular planning and building on technologies and components that have previously proven their worth. Earlier this year, the researcher published a paper in the Harvard Business Review in which he determined that the vast majority of mega projects encounter the same development problems because they rely on custom-made components and technologies instead of scalable and reproducible components.
“The best approach to take when planning projects of this magnitude is to use proven technologies which are relatively easy to upscale and reproduce in a modular fashion,” says Bent Flyvbjerg. In his and Antif Ansar’s recent publication this maxim has proven applicable in the space industry as well, but it can also make a difference in the development of public mega projects and in tackling some of the challenges society faces.
“Sectors such as healthcare, education, climate response, and national defense, in which projects typically suffer from over-expenditure and scheduling issues, may learn a lot from the private sector approach in terms of using a platform strategy based on scalability, reproducibility, and reliance on established know-how,” says Bent Flyvbjerg. Theis Duelund Jensen, Press Officer, Tel: +45 2555 0447, email: firstname.lastname@example.org