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The competition heats up: Russia’s Proton rocket today successfully launched another commercial communications satellite.
The troublesome Briz-M upper stage still has to get the satellite to its proper orbit, so stay tuned. Nonetheless, this launch, only a few weeks after their last commercial Proton launch, suggests they were serious about launching nine more commercial launches this year.
Meanwhile, we wait for SpaceX’s first commercial launch by the Falcon 9 rocket. Their launch manifest still claims there will be three such launches before the next Falcon 9/Dragon mission to ISS later this year, but two of those launches were supposed to have occurred already. The non-occurrence of the March MDA/Cassiope launch out of Vandenberg is especially puzzling, as there are few scheduling conflicts at that rarely used spaceport.
The Falcon 9 delays at this point are beginning to be worrisome, and suggest the skepticism of some about SpaceX’s ability to compete might have merit. SpaceX has got to launch a commercial satellite soon in order to quell those doubts.