SpaceX launches commercial satellite

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Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully launched a commercial communications satellite, only two weeks after its previous launch.

They hope to launch again in two weeks, and then two weeks after that, and then two weeks after that, again. In fact, they presently have four launches listed for June. If they succeed, they will be well on the way to clearing their launch backlog.



  • Edward

    I count 14 planned SpaceX payload launches for the rest of the year plus one Falcon Heavy (payload-less) demonstration flight. Add that to the six Falcon launches so far this year, and SpaceX will have 20 or 21 launches for the year. Wikipedia reports that the Wall Street Journal (at one time) expected 27 launches for this year and that SpaceX president Shotwell hopes for at least 20.

    I remain hopeful that SpaceX will soon reach their desired launch cadence. Perhaps Blue Origin will develop a similar cadence with New Glenn.

  • Edward: If SpaceX manages more than 20 flights, which has been their goal this year, they will more or less match what both the entire U.S. as well as China each accomplished last year. With the other U.S. launches, this would likely make the U.S. lead in yearly launches well ahead of every other nation for the first time since the late 1990s.

  • LocalFluff

    83 orbital launches last year, weren’t there? SpaceX could almost match that alone next year if they do it every other week, since the Falcon 9 is the largest launcher around except for the rare Delta IV Heavy and the once launched Long March 5. Soyuz for example only takes a quarter the mass of an F9. India’s rockets are even smaller. And 9 of last years launches were F9.

    A single company almost achieving a majority of the mass to orbit per year. In competition with all shadowy military projects with unlimited budgets. And making a profit off of it!

  • Joe From Houston

    Amazing feats of rocketry. The turnaround kills the competition. Good job reporting.

  • Alex

    No first stage landing?

  • Richard M

    “No first stage landing?”

    The GSO orbit for the Inmarsat satellite demanded too much fuel to make recovery an option. It demanded nearly every last ounce of performance an F9 can deliver now.

    In fact, this flight was originally slated for a Falcon Heavy. It’s a mark of how much SpaceX has been able to increase the F9 performance that it can now take on a payload like this.

  • Alex

    @Richard M: Unbelievable, SpaceX achieved a payload mass fraction (of total launch mass) for its F9, which is comparable to a launcher which use liquid hydrogen (at least) in its upper stages (as Saturn V or Delta IV heavy for example). This for an all kerosene fueled launcher not yet seen, very high value of 4.1 % is achieved by extreme large propellant mass fraction (=extreme light weight stage structures).

  • ken anthony

    Imagine what they’ll do when they have more operational launch facilities?

    I still worry they will leave their competition in the dust. That could be very unhealthy long term and they are building momentum now. The deep pockets of their rivals may allow them to compete if they get their acts together. Opening up a growing mars colony will greatly expand the need for more launches with a huge potential return. It’s time to expand the economic sphere to solar system proportions (or at least get a start. Opportunity cost is huge.)

  • Edward

    ken anthony wrote: “I still worry they will leave their competition in the dust. That could be very unhealthy long term

    I think that this would be healthy long term, but a problem for the competition short term. The competition would have to adapt or quit, and Blue Origin is already adapting to the reusable rocket paradigm. India is working on their own reusable launch vehicle (RLV). Others are adapting to reusable engines in order to compete.

    It is generally believed that as launch prices fall, more companies, countries, and universities will have greater incentive to launch satellites, probes, space laboratories, and people. It makes sense from a basic economics viewpoint, and it is good in the long term.

    The UK’s Skylon, if it works as intended, may leave SpaceX, Blue Origin, India, and the others in the dust, but that will drive companies into yet another direction of more efficiency. In the long run, even Skylon is good for the industry.

    The RLV is undergoing a revival, after the failure of the RLV in the 1990s.

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