SpaceX shifts some Starship/Super Heavy construction to Texas


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Capitalism in space: SpaceX has decided to shift some of the construction of its new Starship/Super Heavy rocket from Los Angeles to its Boca Chica facility in Texas.

In tweets later Jan. 16, Elon Musk, the founder and chief executive of SpaceX, said that development of the vehicle itself, including the Raptor engines that power it, would continue in Hawthorne, while at least the prototype versions of Starship are built in Texas. “We are building the Starship prototypes locally at our launch site in Texas, as their size makes them very difficult to transport,” he said.

A shift to South Texas, industry sources said, could be a way to reduce expenses, given the lower cost of living there versus the Los Angeles area. However, that region of Texas has a much smaller workforce, particularly in aerospace, compared to Southern California.

Meanwhile, I keep hearing from my sources in the industry that SpaceX is facing more serious problems because of the coming decline in the manufacture of large geosynchronous satellites. The smallsat revolution appears to be the cause, and SpaceX’s larger rockets are not ideal for launching these tiny satellites. I am not entirely convinced of this pessimistic conclusion, but if SpaceX is in trouble it will likely be a tragedy for manned spaceflight. The smallsat rockets cannot put people in space. Neither can the gigantic government rockets like SLS. Without innovative companies like SpaceX building and launching large rockets for profit, the development of the large inexpensive rockets needed for human travel will be significantly hampered.

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3 comments

  • wodun

    IIRC, it was on the Space Show where Shotwell said they overestimated the market for FH. Don’t remember when, last year or so.

    A big part of SpaceX’s future income is supposed to come from their own satellite constellation, so who knows how things will turn out.

    For SH/S, it is important that Musk’s cost predictions are accurate. If so, its a game changer.

  • stevem

    I’ve read that Directv does not plan on replacing their existing geosynchronous satellites. Apparently, they will add new customers and migrate existing customers to OTT (Over The Top) technology using internet connections. Basically, cable TV via an app.

    The wide-scale deployment of 5G wireless also poses a competitive challenge to Spacex and others who plan to launch constellations of satellites for delivering internet. Verizon, T Mobile, and AT&T are deep pocketed competitors that want to replace cable with wireless. They aren’t going to let Spacex take away customers without a competitive response.

    Time will tell, but I’m concerned as to whether or not Spacex’s Starlink can make enough profit to fund their future plans.

  • Edward

    Robert wrote: “I keep hearing from my sources in the industry that SpaceX is facing more serious problems because of the coming decline in the manufacture of large geosynchronous satellites.

    I have recently read that geostationary satellite orders are down by about half, last year. The smallsat revolution is blamed. I suspect that in a couple of years, SpaceX will have half a dozen fewer launches than it would have had otherwise. Geostationary communication satellite operators are uncertain how the smallsat communication constellations will affect their business models, so they are currently being cautious and conservative.

    However, SpaceX has a major advantage in price, and I suspect that they can go lower in order to attract more customers. Other good news is that the geostationary market, although important, is not the only market.

    SpaceX may also be a good provider for constellations that require large numbers of satellites in each orbital plane, at least for the initial launches of each generation. This is what they did for Iridium’s second generation satellites, although those satellites are more in the medium size range (500 kg to 1,000 kg).

    I suspect that in the long run, smallsats and large satellites will complement each other, and business for both types will increase, even if the major purposes of either of them are different than they are now.

    I am not entirely convinced of this pessimistic conclusion, but if SpaceX is in trouble it will likely be a tragedy for manned spaceflight.

    Once there are commercial space stations (space habitats) on orbit, in two or three years, there will be a much larger demand for manned access to space. SpaceX and Boeing are well placed to take advantage of this market, because their manned space vehicles will come online in a year or so. Sierra Nevada may even enter the market with a manned version of Dream Chaser.

    It was sort of a chicken or the egg thing, because Bigelow could not put up habitats and other companies could not plan for space habitats without reliable transportation there, and government transports (the very few that there are) are largely only for government space stations. There have been very few commercial or tourist uses. It was NASA’s commercial manned program that made all the difference and got the ball rolling. I suspect that commercial manned space activities will be a large boom for the space business.

    I am not pessimistic at all.

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