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SpaceX’s launch manifest for 2013 includes three commercial launches in addition to its cargo flights to ISS.
All told, it appears that 2013 will a crucial year for SpaceX. They first need to solve the question of that engine failure from their October Falcon 9 launch. Then they need to begin putting into orbit the long list of private satellites that they have contracts for but have held off launching pending the success of the NASA deal. Once they do that, set to begin next year, they will have proven – beyond a shadow of a doubt — that they are for real.
And on that subject, Elon Musk had some thoughts yesterday about his European competitors: “Europe’s rocket has no chance.”
SpaceX’s Falcon is a new entrant to the launcher market. It has so far made only four flights, but it has a backlog already of more than 40 contracted launches. Its quoted price under $60m per flight is proving highly attractive to satellite operators who have to pay substantially more to get on an Ariane. “Not only can we sustain the prices, but the next version of Falcon 9 is actually able to go to a lower price,” warned Mr Musk. “So if Ariane can’t compete with the current Falcon 9, it sure as hell can’t compete with the next one.”