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SpaceX successfully launches commercial communications satellites

SpaceX tonight successfully used its Falcon 9 rocket to place a commercial geosynchronous satellite into orbit for the company Hispasat.

The first stage successfully completed its sixth flight, landing on a drone ship in the Atlantic.

The 2023 launch race:

9 SpaceX
5 China
1 Rocket Lab
1 Japan
1 Russia

American private enterprise now leads China 10 to 5 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 10 to 7.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

 

Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

7 comments

  • Richard M

    So, so far this year, SpaceX has managed a launch once every 4.2 days.

    Averaged out over 365 days, that comes out to…87 launches for 2023, if they maintain this tempo.

    Which is short of Elon’s goal (100) for 2023, but by any existing standard for a launcher is frankly astounding. No one has ever done anything like that before – not even the Soviets in their heyday.

  • Richard M: Actually, for most of the 70s and 80s the Russians routinely topped 80 launches per year, hitting 100 once. See the graph in my 2022 global report here.

    Of course, you are right in one sense. The Russians were doing it with multiple different design bureaus, all part of the government. It was not a single private company, doing it for profit. In this sense, what SpaceX has been doing for the past six years is wholly unprecedented, and as you say, astounding.

  • Richard M

    Hi Bob,

    Of course, you are right in one sense. The Russians were doing it with multiple different design bureaus, all part of the government. It was not a single private company, doing it for profit.

    I was just thinking of the launchers, actually. They *did* top 100 launches in 1982, but that was with multiple launch families (Soyuz, Tsyklon-2, Kosmos 3M). They also had 7 failures! Whereas SpaceX is doing 100% of this with the Falcon.

    This is not to knock the Soviets, who really did some amazing things in difficult conditions in space back in their heyday. The regime was despicable, but it’s impossible not to respect the men who made their space program do such things. But even so, they never launched any one vehicle 80+ times, successfully, in one calendar year. So it is amazing to see SpaceX on track to do it this year.

    In this sense, what SpaceX has been doing for the past six years is wholly unprecedented, and as you say, astounding.

    It is indeed!

    And it’s only going to get more amazing with each year to come.

  • Richard M: Ah, yes, you are correct, the Russians did it with multiple launchers (which I was vaguely restating when I said they did this will multiple agencies), while SpaceX is doing it with only two rockets, Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, and maybe a third, Starship/Superheavy.

    As astounding as this achievement is, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Wait till some more private companies begin to gear up their launch pace.

  • Edward

    Richard M wrote: “Averaged out over 365 days, that comes out to…87 launches for 2023, if they maintain this tempo.” [Ellipsis in original]

    That is a big “IF.” SpaceX has been constantly picking up the tempo for the past three or four years. I would be surprised if they failed to reach 100 orbital-class launches with the Falcons alone, but if we add in the Starship orbital tests, and I expect even more. SpaceX’s challenge may be in manufacturing their upper stages at a high enough tempo.

  • Richard M

    Edward,

    I think 100 is within reach. They are producing second stages frequently enough now (2 per week) to make it possible. But everything will have to go just right for it to happen

    My sense when Elon first suggested it was that they’d probably end up around 80-90. That would be a massive feat if they could just do that. It’ll be more than China, all together, will be able to do. It’s more than ULA has launched in the last eight years!

  • Edward

    Richard M wrote: “It’ll be more than China, all together, will be able to do.

    It might even be more than half of all the world’s orbital launches. China may not be able to keep up with SpaceX’s pace. If Rocket Lab and the other commercial launchers do nearly as well as they hope, then commercial space will definitely be more than half the world’s launches. This rapid increase in commercial launches shows how right the space industry was in the 1990s, when they said that there would be much more demand for launches to orbit if the price of a launch would drop to $2,000 per pound.

    Several years ago, we commenters on BTB had pondered the advantage that SpaceX and Blue Origin would have if they didn’t have to spend the money to build an entire rocket for each launch. We started this discussion around the time that SpaceX was experimenting the reentry and landing of a Falcon booster. As a group, we had calculated and concluded that the advantage of flying each booster 100 times was not a tremendous amount better than flying only 10 times, but it helped.* We had focused on costs. A couple of years ago, Peter Beck of Rocket Lab had stated that the advantage his company would have by reusing boosters was that they would have enough boosters to launch frequently. This is an advantage that SpaceX also has.

    There are three or four major advantages that companies can hold over the competition: price, availability, and quality. Service would be the fourth advantage, as there are customers who need easy transactions.** Reusability gave SpaceX the price and availability advantage.

    There is another competitive advantage that I didn’t list above. Being early on the market. SpaceX took advantage of reusability faster than Blue Origin, and by a large period of time. Blue Origin has barely taken advantage of its reusability in its original business model of suborbital space tourism, as its suborbital tourist flights are still few and far between. Blue Origin is late with their reusable booster for orbital launch. This has given SpaceX even more time to secure their foothold on the launch market. Boeing is also late in getting their manned spacecraft operational. It isn’t just a loss of prestige but a loss of market share. SpaceX has been generating revenue with Crew Dragon, but Boeing has not been generating revenue with Starliner.

    Russia started the orbital space tourism industry, but SpaceX has increased its intensity and made space tourism commercial. What we have discovered is that SpaceX’s commercial tourists have experimentation in mind rather than joy rides. So far, all the groups to rent time on commercial manned spacecraft or to use Crew Dragon to go to the ISS took experiments and tests with them, with the intention of commercializing what they learn.

    It isn’t just a massive feat for SpaceX. It isn’t just one company outdoing the leading government in orbital launches. For the rest of us there is an advantage from the 100 launches that SpaceX will have, the ten-ish launches that Rocket Lab will have, and the launches that the other smallsat launchers will have: more services. Each time a commercial space company buys a launch to put its satellite into orbit, it expects to provide services that earthlings are willing to buy. Eventually, space companies will launch manufacturing, and we earthlings will begin to have goods from space to make our lives better. This is the benefit that we are getting and that we will get from this decade-old industry of commercial launch for commercial companies. Government-controlled launches do not provide much of these benefits. For four decades, the most commercial use that government launches gave us was communication satellites. We are now seeing commercial satellites that do so many more missions than we could afford or get from the limited quantity of government launches.
    ________________
    * Ten launches saved 90% of manufacturing costs, but 100 launches only saved an additional 9%. 1,000 launches would only save less than an additional 1%. A $100 million rocket that carries 10,000 pounds to orbit and makes 100 flights amortizes to only $100 per pound. The same rocket that flies only once costs $10,000 per pound, which is the ‘traditional’ cost. It is similar for airliners: a $100 million plane that seats 200 passengers and makes 10,000 flights amortizes to only $10 thousand per flight or $50 per passenger. The major costs stop being the manufacture of the launch vehicle or the aircraft but other factors such as fuel.

    ** NanoRacks made its business model a service that eased the interaction between commercial users of the ISS and NASA, the owner and controller of the American section*** of the ISS. This was so successful that they are now working with a team on their own commercial space station.

    *** Isn’t it interesting that despite the large number of international partners in the ISS it is considered to be made up of two sections: the American section and the Russian section. There are more than a dozen partners of the ISS, with a few of them having made modules or sections, but we really only talk about these two sections. It sounds like there has been some contention in the partnership, a friction between the Russians and everyone else. It seems to me that Russia, as ruled by Putin, sure knows how to annoy or anger everyone.

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