In recent years, the traditional aerospace industry has faced disruption from new space companies—most notably SpaceX, but also other players such as Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic. These new companies have pushed hard to lower the cost of access to space through various reusable launch systems.
At the insistence of Congress, NASA has been slow to adopt to the new space industry's attitude toward cost and risk. The agency continues to fund hardware modeled on basic technologies that have legacies several decades old, particularly with the heavy-lift rocket NASA is building, the Space Launch System. Under development now for six years, this rocket remains at least two years from the launch pad, and it will cost billions of dollars to fly.
Whereas civil space has not embraced rapid, low-cost spaceflight, the US military increasingly seems ready to support the new technology. The most recent evidence of this came Tuesday, when Gen. John Hyten, the head of US Strategic Command, met with reporters in Washington, DC. To succeed, Hyten said, the US military needs to accept some failure. This is a similar ethos to that espoused by new space entrepreneurs such as SpaceX's Elon Musk, who has famously said, "Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough."