Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.
The competition heats up: At a satellite conference on Wednesday SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell estimated that they will be able to cut the price of launch to about $40 million, a 30% cut from their already low prices, once they can reliably begin reusing the first stages of the Falcon 9 rocket.
Given that SpaceX has no intention, for now, of recovering the second stage, she said a launch with a previously used first stage could be priced 30 percent less than the current Falcon 9 rockets.
SES of Luxembourg, SpaceX’s biggest backer among the large commercial satellite fleet operators, has said it wants to be the first customer to fly with a reused stage. But SES Chief Executive Karim Michel Sabbagh said here March 8 that SES wanted a 50 percent price cut, to around $30 million, in return for pioneering the reusable version.
Shotwell said it was too early to set precise prices for a reused Falcon 9, but that if the fuel on the first stage costs $1 million or less, and a reused first stage could be prepared for reflight for $3 million or so, a price reduction of 30 percent – to around $40 million – should be possible.
Shotwell also said they hope to launch 18 times this year, with the first Falcon Heavy launch now set for November. This is another two month delay from their previous announcement, which had said they were hoping to launch in September.
With only two launches so far this year, I must say I am skeptical they can achieve 16 more launches in the year’s remaining 9 months, a rate of about one almost every two weeks. They have never come close to this schedule, and though I believe they can eventually do so, I don’t think they can do it so quickly.