There have been several private space news items over the last month that warrant attention: (1) Robert Bigelow's announcement about the schedule and details for his space station devolopment; (2) Robert Bigelow's announcement that he is working with Lockheed-Martin to study the feasibility of manned flights on the Atlas V; and (3) the approval of the Boeing-Lockheed-Martin EELV (military/intelligence expendable rocket) launch monopoly.
With regard to the Boeing-Lockheed-Martin EELV launch monopoly, I have never understood what Lockheed-Martin hoped to gain by entering into the joint venture and enduring the distraction of changes in its manufacturing chain. Manufacturing of Lockheed-Martin's Atlas V and Boeing's Delta IV rockets is to be consolidated at Boeing's Delta IV plant in Decatur, Alabama. Further, due to a pricing scandal, Boeing has had trouble obtaining orders from the military through the program, leaving Lockheed-Martin the lion's share of business. Lastly, if the military were wishing to downselect from two rocket models to one, the Atlas V would be the surviving model.
(Lockheed-Martin's Atlas V)
Also, I have wondered why the military would allow the joint venture. It is true that both of these rockets are underutilized. Each rocket has launched only two payloads this year. All things equal, combining the efforts of the two rocket programs would save on fixed costs. However, I am very skeptical that costs will be reduced overall. In a cost-plus contracting environment, a company is constrained on cost only by its competition in the market and its reticence to ask for more money from the government. Boeing and Lockheed-Martin are no blushing virgins when it comes to asking for more money, so removing the competition between the two programs would only serve to uncap the cost demands.
In the end, I think the significance of the joint venture to private space launch may become minimal. If SpaceX can execute its business plan, then the need for the EELV program may be called into question. Lockheed-Martin may be able to sustain the political support for Atlas V for a while, but the difference in price between Atlas V and SpaceX's Falcon 9 eventually should lead the military to phase out the EELV program. To be sure, a half dozen launches per year or so would be a golden piece of business for SpaceX in the medium term, but its order book is healthy in any event.