SpaceX’s loses launch contract due to scheduling delays


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Because of SpaceX’s decision to delay its next launch into early January, Inmarsat today decided to switch launch companies for a mid-2017 satellite, dropping SpaceX and signing a contract with Arianespace.

Inmarsat is not abandoning SpaceX, only switching to Arianespace for one satellite. Nonetheless, this decision, coming only one day after SpaceX confirmed the delay, explains to me why SpaceX has been saying for months it intended to resume launches before the end of 2017. Inmarsat had probably told the company that if they delayed into January, they would lose this launch. When SpaceX finally admitted they couldn’t meet the 2016 launch deadline, Inmarsat made the switch.

4 comments

  • ChrisL

    That’s what competition is about. If you can’t meet the buyer’s needs, he goes elsewhere. In the private sector, failure has consequences.

  • Edward

    The good news is that SpaceX is demonstrating seriousness about reliability. They seem to be willing to lose a payload in order to assure that they have fixed their problem and will consistently launch safely. This may be a short-term setback, but if the next many launches go well, it is likely a long-term victory.

    True or not (I think “not”), many people blamed pressure to launch for the Challenger disaster. SpaceX seems to be telling the world that they would rather lose a payload to a competitor than fold from such pressure.

    Although this is not the one that went to Arianespace, EchoStar 23 has some pressure to get on orbit and be operational by the middle of next year, otherwise the Brazilian license may expire for some of the frequencies the satellite is built to use. This may merely be an additional financial cost to EchoStar, as I am guessing that they could maintain these frequencies by paying a fine to Brazil, should they end up missing the deadline.

  • ken anthony

    Selenium boondocks has a good take on this.

  • Edward

    ken anthony,
    It would be a good take, except that it assumes that SpaceX could have been flying for a couple of months.

    So far, I have seen no evidence that SpaceX yet has confidence in the new procedures that they have said should solve the problem, and with this latest delay, I see evidence that they still do not have enough confidence to fly and may even be considering tweaking or testing the procedure some more.

    Having been on the problem solving side of faulty or misbehaving spaceflight hardware, I know that these things are not rushed. Rushing is how other problems are missed and how accidents happen.

    A company or team that does not fully understand the process can end up with a rocket exploding on the pad due to unexpected reactions, and oh!, that’s just what happened to SpaceX. I think it is likely that they are being especially cautious, this time.

    Since their site is announced as “Random Musings from the Warped Minds of …,” I suspect that Selenian Boondocks does not want us to take their musings too seriously.

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