Musk spent half an hour on stage with Lieutenant General John Thompson, USAF's chief of Space and Missile Systems Center, in a discussion mostly aimed at Musk advising the around 60 companies present.  Musk and SpaceX have deep ties with the US Government and the Department of Defense. A key part of the company's business is launching satellites and other defense-related payloads as part of deals worth tens of millions of dollars.
Lt. Secretary Thompson and Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary responsible for the takeover of the Air Force, appeared to speak Silicon Valley's language during the event. They spent their time on stage discussing how they hope to make the military procurement process less bureaucratic and time-consuming.
"Gone are the days when all innovation, all technology comes from the Department of Defense or from the federal government," Thompson said. USAF tries to do things differently and experiment with how we can work more closely with the commercial aerospace market.
Musk asked Thompson questions about how SpaceX and Tesla, his electric car company, decide which tasks to outsource and what to do internally. And he talked about how to get top talent and his approach to business management.
Musk and the Air Force are not always on the same page. His performance at the Pitch Day event comes as SpaceX fights against the US government for contracts awarded by the USAF. Specifically, SpaceX objects to Launch Service Agreement (or LSA) contracts announced in October 201
8 and included more than $ 1 billion for three of its competitors: United Launch Alliance, Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman. SpaceX did not receive any money during that awards ceremony.
The contracts were not mentioned by Musk or officials in the Air Force who spoke on Tuesday. The Pitch Day event is a new type of procurement effort in which the military provides small investments of less than $ 1 million each to young aerospace companies developing technologies in which the air defense is interested, such as satellite and ground imaging devices.  The Air Force has previously held LSA awards as an example of the military doing things right by promoting competition among rocket manufacturers and investing in new technologies.
LSA contracts aim to support massive new launch vehicles that are still under development. United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed, was awarded up to $ 967 million for the upcoming Vulcan Centaur rocket. Northrop Grumman, which is building a launch car called OmegA, will receive up to $ 792 million. And Blue Origin will get $ 500 million for its New Glenn rocket.
SpaceX disputes these contract awards because it wanted to land some of the LSA money for its line with existing Falcon rockets and the Starship vehicle, an early-stage gargantuan rocket that Musk has said could launch large military satellites and potentially someday send humans to Mars.
SpaceX said in court filings that military officials determined that Starship made "the entire SpaceX portfolio the & # 39; highest risk" of all options under consideration for LSA awards, a claim that SpaceX called "unreasonable."
Blue Origin, Northrop and ULA have all signed as interveners in SpaceX's contract trial so they can participate in the lawsuit.  SpaceX has sued the US government once before: The company fought for the right to bid on military launch contracts in 2015. And the company won that fight, ending a decade-long monopoly as the ULA he wanted to launch military payloads.
SpaceX will be allowed to compete for money in the next round of LSA contract awards even as the legal battle continues.
The company "wants to serve as the Air Force's long-term space launch provider," Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement, offering "proven launch systems capable of performing the full range of national space launch missions and requirements.
These days, air defense officials often talk about the importance of competition and smarter contracting processes.
It was actually something of a punch line on Tuesday's Pitch Day.
Thompson was crazy in his opening remarks at the two-day event that "only the US government procurement system may come up with a title of an event called & # 39; Space Pitch Day & # 39; and then take two days to execute it. "
The roughly 60 startups at the event, previously monitored by the Air Force, are chopping off a portion of the $ 50 million that the Air Force made available for investment. The money will be distributed to companies And the military is not looking for owner positions, which makes it an opportunity for entrepreneurs who want to keep tight control of their businesses, but are willing to partner with the USAF.
The event for the pitch day comes after a similar event was held in New York in March where 51 companies were awarded up to $ 158,000 each.