Tag Archives: SpaceX

Dress rehearsal completed for SpaceX’s Sunday launch

Capitalism in space: SpaceX yesterday successfully completed the static fire dress rehearsal countdown for its planned Sunday Falcon 9 launch, which would be the third SpaceX launch in 9 days.

The article also provides some good information about the company’s efforts to recover the first stages and the fairings from the past two launches. For example:

This mission [the Florida launch of a Bulgarian satelltie] also included another test per SpaceX’s fairing recovery aspirations. Classed as the best attempt to date, SpaceX has added steerable parachutes to guide the fairing halves to the ocean surface, before it deploys a “bouncy castle” that protects it while it awaits recovery. The technology is still being refined, but Elon Musk believes full recovery could be achieved later this year.


SpaceX expanding facilities in Florida for refurbishing used first stages

Capitalism in space: SpaceX is proposing to expand its facilities at Port Canaveral for refurbishing used first stages.

It appears they need the approval for the work from the port’s Board of Commissioners, though I suspect this board will rubber stamp its approval as quickly as it can.

One tidbit from the story. SpaceX has so far recovered 13 first stages and flown two again. One (the first) has been put on display, which leaves 10 available for reflight. They plan to use two on the first Falcon Heavy launch. The remaining 8 are likely for sale (maybe 10 if the two reflown fly a third time), which explains the negotiations going on with Iridium and others.


First test launches of commercial manned vehicles upcoming

The first unmanned test flights of the manned capsules being built by SpaceX and Boeing are moving forward and appear to be on schedule.

Currently, SpaceX is on track to be the first to perform their uncrewed flight, known as SpX Demo-1, with Dr. Donald McErlean reporting to the ASAP that the flight continues to target a launch later this year. Currently, both NASA and SpaceX hold that SpX Demo-1 will fly by the end of the year – though L2 level KSC scheduling claims the mission has potentially slipped to March 2018.

Regardless, SpX Demo-1 will be followed – under the current plan – by Boeing’s uncrewed OFT (Orbital Flight Test) in mid-2018.

The article is worth a careful read, as it describes in detail the political and bureaucratic maneuverings that are taking place to get the NASA bureaucracy to accept the work being done by these two private companies. Make sure especially that you read the section about NASA’s desire that the vehicles meet an imaginary safety standard where they will only lose a crew once every 270 flights. The NASA bureaucracy has claimed for the last few years that neither spacecraft is meeting this requirement, but according to this article it appears they are finally also admitting that the requirement has really little basis in reality.

According to the ASAP [Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel] meeting minutes, Dr. McErlean said that “While these LOC [Loss of Crew] numbers were known to be challenging, and both providers have been working toward meeting the challenge, it is conceivable that in both cases the number may not be met.”

However, Dr. McErlean cautioned the ASAP and NASA about rushing to judgement on the current and whatever the final LOC number for each vehicle is. “The ASAP is on record agreeing with the Program that one must be judicious in how one applies these statistical estimates. In the case of LOC, the numbers themselves depend very heavily on the orbital debris model used to develop the risk to the system [as] orbital debris is a driving factor in determining the potential for LOC. The orbital debris models have been used and validated to some degree, but they are not perfect. One must be wary of being too pernicious in the application of a specific number and must look at whether the providers have expended the necessary efforts and engineering activity to make the systems as safe as they can and still perform the mission.”

To that last point, Dr. McErlean reported that both providers indeed “expended the necessary efforts and engineering activity to make the systems as safe as they can.” Importantly, too, Dr. McErlean noted that there was no evidence that spending more money on closing the LOC gap for both providers “could [make] their systems considerably safer.”

The ASAP at large concurred with this finding and noted their pleasure at the progress made in closing the LOC gap for both Dragon and Starliner. [emphasis mine]

In other words, NASA’s safety panel is eventually going to sign off, no matter what. Note also that the GAO’s earlier complaints about Boeing’s parachute testing program have now apparently vanished.


SpaceX to try another launch on Sunday

Capitalism in space: SpaceX is aiming for another launch on July 2 in Florida, only 9 days after their last launch there.

That will make three launches in nine days.

Meanwhile, in an interview on The Space Show with David Livingston, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell revealed that, after this year’s planned demo launch of the Falcon Heavy, they plan two commercial launches of the rocket in 2018.

That means the Falcon Heavy will have flown at least three times before SLS even comes close to its first test flight.


SpaceX launches 10 Iridium satellites, lands first stage

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully launched 10 Iridium satellites while also once again successfully landing the Falcon 9 first stage.

This gives them 9 launches for the year, more than any other company or country in the entire world.

One cool personal detail about today’s launch. Diane and I were doing a hike with two friends, and at about 1:20 pm I asked Brian if his Iphone might have signal and could we maybe then watch the launch. Lo and behold, he did have signal, and we were able to connect with SpaceX’s live stream, and were able to take a fifteen minute hiking break to watch the launch and first stage landing while sitting on a mountain trail in the Santa Catalina mountains north of Tucson.

Ain’t technology wonderful?


SpaceX launches satellite with reused first stage, recovers stage

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has done it again. They have placed a Bulgarian television satellite into orbit, using a previously flown first stage.

The landing of the first stage had a moment of fear. Just before the stage was to land, as it was firing its engines during the landing burn, the video showed something hit the water next to the barge, then the image froze and was lost. For about fifteen seconds it appeared that possibly something had gone wrong during the burn. Then the image returned, showing the stage sitting neatly and upright and apparently unharmed, on the barge. Whether this stage will fly a third time will have to wait until they inspect it, but if it does, they will certainly prove without question that the decades of big space engineers telling us that such things were impossible was childish and narrow-minded hogwash.

Remember that the next time someone tells you something is too hard to try to do.


Bulgaria credits SpaceX’s low costs for making its satellite possible

Capitalism in space: The CEO of the Bulgarian company that built the television satellite that SpaceX plans to launch later today said that it was SpaceX’s low costs that made the satellite possible.

Maxim Zayakov, CEO of BulgariaSat and its affiliate television provider Bulsatcom, told Spacefight Now that SpaceX’s push to reduce the cost of space transportation has yielded tangible results for his country. “People don’t realize that, for small countries and small companies like us, without SpaceX, there was no way we would ever be able to even think about space,” Zayakov said. “With them, it was possible. We got a project. I think, in the future, it’s going to be even more affordable because of reusability.”

This is what I have been saying for more than a decade. You lower the costs, you make it possible for more customers to enter the market. This increase in customer base makes it possible for more launch companies to enter the market in response, and that forces the costs to drop further, which starts the whole cycle again. In the end we not only get a robust launch industry, the human race gets to settle the solar system.

The article also confirms that, at this time, SpaceX is only offering a 10% discount for the use of a reused first stage. They say this is because they wish to recoup their $1 billion investment to develop reusability. While this might be true, the real truth is that SpaceX doesn’t need to provide a larger discount. The discounted price of $55.8 million saves satellite companies another $6.2 million, which isn’t chicken feed, and offers them the cheapest launch price anywhere by far. SpaceX in turn makes more money per launch.

Should another company begin to challenge this launch price I would then expect SpaceX to lower the price further. They have the profit margin to do this.

Note that you can watch today’s Falcon 9 launch of the Bulgarian satellite at 2:10 pm Eastern at SpaceX’s website.


House lawmakers push Air Force to use reusable rockets

Capitalism in space: House lawmakers today added an amendment to the Air Force budget that would require the military to “move rapidly to evaluate the potential use of reusable space launch vehicles such as those being flown by SpaceX.”

The amendment was approved by a voice vote in committee.

As noted by Eric Berger at the link, this marks an amazing shift by Congress in a very short time. A few years ago, SpaceX had to sue the government for the right to bid on Air Force launch contracts. At that time Congress was exceedingly skeptical of allowing military satellites to launch on new Falcon 9 rockets, no less ones using used first stages. Moreover, Congress was then eager to protect its big buddy ULA, which then had a monopoly on military launches and was making gobs of money per launch. Now, Congress is all for re-usability and saving money and competition.

This change demonstrates the importance of success. SpaceX has been successful, and with that success the nay-sayers have suddenly vanished. Now, everyone loves them, when only a few years ago they were considered risky and unreliable.

When SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy succeeds and flies several times prior to the first launch of SLS, watch for this same process to occur there as well. SLS will no longer be sacrosanct, and Congress will suddenly discover how much a waste of money it is.


Iridium launches might use reused Falcon 9 first stages

Capitalism in space: Iridium is considering using Falcon 9 previously flown first stages for its later already contracted launches with SpaceX.

Iridium is launching 75 of its 81 second-generation Iridium Next satellites using eight Falcon 9 launches, the first of which took place Jan. 14. In a conference call with reporters June 19, Desch said Iridium’s original contract with SpaceX calls for new Falcon 9s for each mission, but if SpaceX can improve its launch schedule with pre-flown stages, Iridium would consider them for missions in 2018. “While we are currently flying first flown launches, I’m open to previously flown launches, particularly for the second half of our launch schedule,” said Desch.

Desch said there are three criterion by which Iridium would decide whether to use a pre-flown rocket: schedule, cost and reliability — of which schedule is the most important. “Would [pre-flown rockets] improve the current launch plan that I have with brand-new rockets that I’ve basically contracted for a number of years ago and have budgeted for and have paid for?” Desch asked. “That’s the first thing: will they improve my schedule, because schedule to me is very very important.”

I think this tells us that Iridium is waiting to see if this week’s launch of a Bulgarian satellite on a reused first stage is successful. The article also also notes that they are still negotiating over price for using “flight proven” first stages.


SpaceX delays Bulgarian satellite launch to replace valve

Capitalism in space: In order to replace a valve in the payload fairing of its Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX has decided to delay its Florida launch of a Bulgarian television satellite until Friday.

Meanwhile, they have another launch scheduled for Sunday out of Vandenberg. If both fly successfully this will make the weekend very busy for SpaceX.


Air Force budget reveals cost differences between ULA and SpaceX

Eric Berger at Ars Technica has found that the most recent Air Force budget provides a good estimate of the price ULA charges the military for its launches.

According to the Air Force estimate, the “unit cost” of a single rocket launch in fiscal year 2020 is $422 million, and $424 million for a year later.

This is a complex number to unpack. But based upon discussions with various space policy experts, this is the maximum amount the Air Force believes it will need to pay, per launch, if United Launch Alliance is selected for all of its launch needs in 2020. ULA launches about a half-dozen payloads for the Air Force in a given year, on variants of its rockets. Therefore, the 2020 unit cost likely includes a mix of mostly Atlas V rockets (sold on the commercial market for about $100 million) and perhaps one Delta rocket launch (up to $350 million on the commercial market for a Heavy variant).

In other words, the $422 million estimate per launch is the most they will pay. Atlas 5 launches will certainly be less, about $100 to $150 million, while the Falcon 9 will likely be under $100 million. What they are doing is budgeting high so they guarantee they have the money they need to pay for the most expensive launches, usually on the Delta Heavy.

From my perspective, they are budgeting far too high, and if I was in Congress I would insist that this number be reduced significantly, especially considering this Air Force statement on page 109 of the budget document [pdf]:

The Air Force, National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) agreed to a coordinated strategy for certification of New Entrants to launch payloads in support of NSS and other USG requirements which has so far resulted in the certification of one New Entrant. The Air Force continues to actively work with potential New Entrants to reliably launch NSS requirements. The Government may award early integration contracts to ensure each potential offeror’s launch system is compatible with the intended payload. Beginning in Fiscal Year 2018, the Air Force will compete all launch service procurements for each mission where more than one certified provider can service the required reference orbit. [emphasis mine]

The “New Entrant” is of course SpaceX. They are also saying that they are going to encourage competitive bidding now on all future launch contracts.


Jury rejects lawsuit by disgruntled former SpaceX employee

A jury has ruled in favor of SpaceX and against a former employee who claimed he was fired because he complained about management and testing policies at the company.

Though it is hard to say what really happened, it does appear that, once given all the evidence, the jury agreed with SpaceX that the former employee was fired for good cause.


Air Force awards SpaceX contract to launch next X-37B mission

Capitalism in space: The Air Force has awarded SpaceX the contract to launch the next X-37B mission, presently scheduled to launch in August.

The contract amount was not announced, but it certainly is going to be less than ULA charged for its own launches of the X-37B. Also, this launch is scheduled only two months hence, which means SpaceX has to somehow wedge it into its already crowded schedule.


NASA considering using used first stages for Dragon cargo launches

Capitalism in space: With SpaceX’s successful launch on June 3 of a used Dragon cargo capsule to ISS, NASA is now considering using used Falcon 9 first stages for later cargo missions.

“That question has been posed,” Ven Feng, manager of the ISS Transportation Integration Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, said during a post-launch press conference Saturday. “We are looking at it,” he added. “We’re evaluating every aspect of it very carefully, and there is no schedule yet when we might go down that path.”

NASA officials made the same kind of cautious statements several years ago when SpaceX proposed flying a used Dragon capsule. In other words, they are going to do it, it just takes the bureaucracy time to mull the idea over and finally accept it.


Road construction at SpaceX’s planned Texas spaceport

Capitalism in space: A $3 million road project at SpaceX’s planned spaceport at Boca Chica Beach near Brownsville, Texas, is moving forward.

The key tidbit from the article however is this:

Besides the property tax breaks and incentives that Cameron County and other entities around the RGV have already offered SpaceX to come to the Valley, Garcia said they’ll continue to do what it takes to stay on target for a 2018 launch. “Every month we’re going to be on the map,” he said.

It appears that the reason work on the spacepad itself has seemingly stalled is because SpaceX has been waiting for this road work by the state to be completed. Either way, they are aiming for a first launch next year. At that time SpaceX should have four launchpads, 2 in Florida, one in California, and one in Texas.


Lawsuit by fired SpaceX employee goes to court

The jury trail of a lawsuit by a fired SpaceX employee, claiming that he was dismissed because he complained about bad practices at the company, has now begun.

A Los Angeles state court jury will be asked to decide whether Blasdell had good reason to believe testing documents were falsified and whether his firing was unjustified. “He went up the chain of command as he had learned in the Marines was the proper procedure,” Blasdell’s lawyer, Carney Shegerian, told jurors in his opening statement Tuesday. “He had nothing personal to benefit from this other than to do the right thing.” SpaceX made misrepresentations to the federal government, cut corners in areas where safety was concerned and labeled Blasdell “insubordinate” for pressing his concerns, Shegerian said.

Not surprisingly, the SpaceX lawyer disagreed:

“Jason Blasdell is not a whistle-blower and this is not a whistle-blower case,” SpaceX’s lawyer, Lynne Hermle, said in her opening statement. He never observed or conducted any unlawful testing of rocket parts, never complained about unlawful testing, and never brought any concerns about unlawful testing to federal authorities, Hermle told jurors.


SpaceX launches commercial satellite

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.


The press begins to turn against SLS

This report by Eric Berger of Ars Technica, describing the press teleconference today where NASA announced that they would not fly humans on the first SLS flight in 2019, reveals a significant political change.

In the past, most mainstream reporters would routinely accept NASA’s announcements about SLS. If the agency said it was great, their stories would wax poetic about how great it was. If NASA said its greatness was causing a delay, their stories would laud NASA had how well it was doing dealing with SLS’s greatness, even though that greatness was forcing another delay. Never, and I mean never, would NASA or these reporters ever talk about the project’s overall and ungodly cost.

This press conference was apparently quite different. The press had lots of questions about SLS and its endless delays. They had lots of questions about its costs. And most significant, they had lots of questions for NASA about why the agency is having so much trouble building this rocket, when two private companies, SpaceX and Blue Origin, are building something comparable for a tenth the money in about half the time.

During the teleconference, Ars asked Gerstenmaier to step back and take a big-picture look at the SLS rocket. Even with all of the funding—about $10 billion through next year—how was the agency likely to miss the original deadline by as much as three years, if not more?

“I don’t know,” Gerstenmaier replied. “I don’t know—I would just say it’s really kind of the complexity of what we’re trying to go do, and to build these systems. We weren’t pushing state-of-the-art technology, like main engines sitting underneath the rocket or new solid rocket boosters. But we were pushing a lot of new manufacturing, and I think that new manufacturing has caused some of the delays we’ve seen. No one welds the way that we’re welding material at the thicknesses we’re welding.”

…Later, the NASA officials were asked about private companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin, which are also building heavy-lift rockets but at a very limited cost to taxpayers. What would they have to say about just buying those vehicles off the shelf, at significantly lower cost than an SLS launch, and preserving NASA’s funds to execute in-space missions?

Gerstnmaier’s explanations for SLS’s delays and costs, that it is a very complex and advanced piece of rocket engineering, is total bunk. This was supposed to be an upgraded Saturn 5, but it will only be able to lift about 70% of the payload. It is using the actual shuttle engines, and upgraded shuttle solid rocket boosters. While new engineering was required to refit these for SLS, none of that should have been so hard or expensive.

The key here is that members of the press are finally aware of this, and are asking the right questions. With Falcon Heavy about to launched multiple times before SLS even launches once, the continuation of this boondoggle is becoming increasingly difficult to justify.


Two Dragon Mars missions in 2020?

It appears that SpaceX is considering flying two test Dragon capsules to Mars in 2020.

NASA’s manager of science missions, Jim Green, said on Tuesday that the 2020 launch window when Earth and Mars are in favorable alignment for relatively short transits is getting crowded. Speaking Tuesday at the Humans to Mars conference in Washington, DC, Green said, “Every 26 months, the highway to Mars opens up, and that highway is going to be packed. We start out at the top of that opportunity with a SpaceX launch of Red Dragon. That will be followed at the end of that opportunity with another Red Dragon. Those have been announced by SpaceX.” NASA plans to launch a Mars lander in 2020 as well.

Two Red Dragon missions in 2020 have not yet formally been announced by SpaceX. Company spokesman John Taylor told Ars he would have to look into the question of sending two Dragons to Mars in 2020. However, other industry sources told Ars this is definitely under consideration by SpaceX, although no final decisions have been made.

That would mean two Falcon Heavy launches that year, just for this. And it would happen long before NASA manages its first launch of a complete SLS rocket.


SpaceX completes first static fire test of Falcon Heavy core stage

Capitalism in space: SpaceX this week successfully completed the first static fire engine test of the core stage of its Falcon Heavy rocket.

In a tweet, the company said that it completed the first static fire of the core stage of the rocket at the company’s McGregor, Texas, test site last week. The company did not disclose the precise date of the test or its duration. The company included in the tweet a video showing about 15 seconds of the test.

The Falcon Heavy uses three Falcon 9 first stages, or cores, along with an upper stage, an approach similar to United Launch Alliance’s Delta 4 Heavy. The two side booster cores for the first launch will be previously-flown Falcon 9 first stages, but the center core will be a new stage, modified to accommodate the side boosters.

The first launch is scheduled for sometime in the late summer, early fall.


SpaceX to launch Bulgarian satellite in June with used first stage

Capitalism in space: SpaceX will fly its second used first stage in June when it launches a Bulgarian communications satellite.

In a statement, BulgariaSat said its BulgariaSat-1 spacecraft is scheduled to launch in mid-June on a Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The first stage of that Falcon 9 will be the same one that launched 10 Iridium Next satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in January. Maxim Zayakov, chief executive of BulgariaSat, said the use of a reused first stage lowers the launch price and “makes it possible for smaller countries and companies to launch their own satellites.”

The company did not disclose the price it is paying for the launch, including what discount it is receiving for using a “flight-proven” first stage.

Previously SpaceX had said it would charge about $40 million for a launch using a previously flown first stage, so I would suspect the discount is somewhere around that.


California proposes taxes on commercial space companies

We’re here to help you! The Franchise Tax Board of California has proposed new regulations that would allow the state to tax commercial launch companies.

You can read the full proposal here [pdf].

The rules are designed to apply to any company operating in California that generates at least half the money it takes in from “space transportation” — defined as the movement of people or property 62 miles above the surface of the Earth. That’s the internationally recognized line that separates our planet from the rest of space. It would apply to companies that use California as a launchpad, not California companies launching from other states, like Texas or Florida.

Essentially, they will tax any launch from Vandenberg, basing the tax on the distance the payload flies while still attached to the rocket and still the responsibility of the launch provider.

This is essentially a tax on SpaceX, since they are California’s only major launch company. This is also a tax on Vandenberg, the only spaceport in the state. The result? Expect future companies to flee California. Expect new spaceports to spring up elsewhere. As noted in the article:

At least one company has already been lured away from California for the promise of greater financial incentives — though of a more earthly variety. Moon Express, a company working to mine the moon for natural resources, moved from Mountain View to Florida. In an email, the company’s CEO and founder, Bob Richards, said the company “relocated from California to Florida in part due to the State of Florida’s progressive economic development incentives designed to attract commercial space companies


Elton John – Rocket Man

An evening pause: Hat tip Sayomara. This pause is slightly different, and is really two-for-one. The background music is Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” but the visuals are of SpaceX’s future spaceport site at Boca Chica beach near Brownsville, Texas. Apparently someone used a drone to fly over the site and videotaped it. As Sayomara noted, this “shows how far away this site is from being usable.”


SpaceX successfully launches first surveillance satellite

Capitalism in space: SpaceX this morning successfully launched its first National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) surveillance satellite.

They also successfully landed the first stage at the cape. Video below the fold. These first stage landings are becoming entirely routine, which in the long run will probably be their biggest single achievement. Expect this stage to fly again.

Last night John Bachelor emailed me a link to a podcast I did with him from April 2011, six years ago. He has reposted it, entitling it “SpaceX underbids Big Space & the beginning of commercial space supremacy.” During that appearance I noted the signing of SpaceX’s first contract with NRO. That contract led to today’s launch.

About the same time I posted a story describing NASA’s first small development contracts for commercial manned capsules, awarded to Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada, SpaceX and Boeing. In that post, I predicted the following about this commercial effort:

I bet they all get their rockets/capsules launched and in operation, supplying cargos and crews to low Earth orbit, before NASA even test fires its heavy-lift rocket [SLS].

Looks like that’s a prediction that will turn out true.
» Read more


First Falcon Heavy side first stage ready for initial tests

Capitalism in space: SpaceX prepares for first Falcon Heavy launch this fall, with the first side stage ready for its first hot fire static tests while the company prepares the launchpads.

They need to finish repairing the launchpad damaged in the September 1 explosion so that the Falcon 9 can once again launch from there. Once this is done, they have an estimated sixty days of additional work to do with the Falcon Heavy pad. It is expected the switch back to the old pad will take place by August. meaning that the first Falcon Heavy launch will likely happen no earlier than October.

Posted while in the air over Nova Scotia on the way to Israel.


Air Force willing to use re-used Falcon 9 first stages

Capitalism in space: The head of the Air Force’s space division said yesterday that they would be willing to launch satellites using Falcon 9 used first stages.

“I would be comfortable if we were to fly on a reused booster,” General John “Jay” Raymond told reporters at the U.S. Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. “They’ve proven they can do it. … It’s going to get us to lower cost.”


Russia responds to SpaceX reused booster success

A bunch of stories from Russia today appear to express that country’s political response to SpaceX’s success yesterday in launching a commercial satellite using a previously flown first stage.

It appears that these stories are quoting a variety of Russian officials who apparently did not get their stories straight. Also, it appears that much of what they are saying here is pure bluster. For example, in the third link the official makes the silly claim that the ability of their rocket engines to be started and then restarted repeatedly proves they are dedicated to re-usability. And the first two links don’t provide much back-up for the claims that they can complete with SpaceX, especially since SpaceX presently charges a third less than they do per launch, and that is using new boosters. With reused boosters SpaceX’s launch fees will be less than half what Russia has been charging for a Proton launch ($90 million vs $40 million).

Similarly, the claim that they will complete 30 launches this years is absurd. They won’t be able to launch Proton until May, at the soonest, because of the need to remove defective parts from all of their in-stock engines. Soyuz launches are similarly delayed while they check its engines also. To complete 30 launches in only seven months seems very unrealistic to me, especially since the best they have done in a full year this century is 34 launches, with an average slightly less than 30 per year.

Nonetheless, this spate of stories and statements by Russian officials shows that they are feeling the heat of competition, and also feel a need to respond. The first story has this significant statement:

Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos is responding to the challenges with available possibilities, he added. “It has announced a considerable reduction in the cost of Proton rocket launches. The commercial price of this rocket’s launch is considerably higher than its prime cost and we have the potential for the price cut. But customers are giving up our services because the number of payloads [satellites] remains unchanged and does not grow. Correspondingly, a new player on the market snatches away a part of orders,” the expert noted.

Because of Russia’s low labor costs they have always had a large profit margin on their Proton launches. The $90 million they charged was set just below what Arianespace charged for its launches. It appears they are now planning to lower their prices further to match SpaceX.

Posted from the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

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