SpaceX successfully launches commercial satellite


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Capitalism in space: On its third try SpaceX today successfully placed an Intelsat communications satellite into orbit.

This was SpaceX’s tenth launch of the year, putting them well ahead of any other company or nation (other than the U.S., of which they are a part).

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12 comments

  • Sayomara

    This is the second payload this year they have used a Falcon 9 for what was originally meant for Falcon heavy flight. The down side is first stage isn’t recoverable but I think that proves the Capitalism in Space point. If the price is right we save the first stage if the price is right we don’t its a good thing. A barber I went to as a kid has a sign on his wall that said “Quick, Fast, Good. Pick Two”

    BTW thanks for the tip on the gap in flights in the other article Bob.

  • mkent

    Of note on this launch: The Falcon 9 demonstrated that it can put a 6.8 metric ton payload into GTO. That puts it in class with the Proton and Delta IV Medium+. With a price less than either of those, Falcon 9 now only needs to improve its launch cadence to drive those two out of the commercial market.

    It also spells big trouble for Ariane. They had recently jacked up the price of their upper position (which can hold a satellite up to 7 metric tons) so as to be able to afford to reduce the price on their lower position (which can hold a satellite up to 4 metric tons). Under the old pricing scheme SpaceX had been winning enough of those lower-position launches to make it difficult for Ariane to pair upper-position / lower-position satellites.

    Ariane won’t be able to do that any more, as SpaceX can now launch the upper-position satellites without a Falcon Heavy.

    For all the hype, SpaceX hasn’t been all that disruptive to the industry. Until now. Now it gets interesting.

  • Dick Eagleson

    mkent,

    SpaceX has been plenty disruptive already. But, if you want to analogize the launch market to a one-against-several sword duel – Three Musketeers-style – SpaceX has, up to now, mainly been “pinking” its opponents in their extremities. But they’re about to be in position to run one or two straight through the body. So you are quite correct that this hasn’t gotten anywhere near as ugly as it is likely to fairly soon.

    I think the Russians go face-down in the dirt first. Proton is in mortal danger. The Soyuz is likely to keep flying because the Euros like it and the Russians need it for too much of their own stuff. Proton has far fewer strictly domestic uses.

    The Euros will keep their launchers and keep launching the Russian Soyuz too, but they will win steadily fewer commercial launches. SpaceX will continue to slice away at their business, but the coup de grace probably won’t occur until Blue enters the market and gives the big comsat boys an alternative that will allow them to be okay with reducing Ariane Group to a bit player at best, and snuffing the Russians entirely.

  • LocalFluff

    mkent,
    Interesting. But I would think that Ariane 5 can win the high end of the market because of its fantastic reliability. 80 successful launches in a row now. Jacking up the price for that until SpaceX surpass their record might be only the good idea they have. JWST will use it because it’s so expensive that launch costs doesn’t matter (they could’ve included the development of a new launcher in their $9 billion budget!) ESA pays for that part any way. Like Japan’s horribly expensive launchers, ESA and Russia will pay for their rockets with tax money just because they can.

  • LocalFluff

    Gotta watch this 1:00 pm EDT:
    https://www.whitehouse.gov/live/vice-president-pence-delivers-remarks-kennedy-space-center

    Wanna bet who the next NASA director will be?

  • Sayomara

    As the coast to launch goes down more companies and people are going to be looking stuff into Space. Until launch every few days its likely there will be a market for other providers just because while Spacex is cheep it likely won’t be able to launch your cargo for a while.

    The real boon here is driving the price down and making sure the next generation of rockets has a low cost and are reusable. Until Spacex Orbital ATK was only other company that had launch another rocket using old Russian engines. ULA was cutting the number of rockets it used and other countries around the world seems fairly happy with existing rockets. Now many countries around the world start to care about space again.

    I don’t see all the other launch companies going out of business and we wouldn’t want that anyways but I see an industries starting to innovate again for the first time in a long time. There has always been dreamers but most of the time it never lead to steel being cut.

  • wodun

    Sayomara
    July 5, 2017 at 7:29 pm
    This is the second payload this year they have used a Falcon 9 for what was originally meant for Falcon heavy flight. The down side is first stage isn’t recoverable but I think that proves the Capitalism in Space point.

    I don’t know what block of F9 this was but they presumably have stages that will be obsolete as the Block 4 and then Block 5 come online. You are right about pricing but the extra inventory probably helps them make that decision too.

  • Sayomara

    wodun

    I have heard nothing solid on when the Block 5 Falcon 9’s are coming online I have read some speculation that SpaceX is waiting to do there Human Dragon testing for the Block 5’s so they don’t have to retest everything a second time for NASA which make sense. I would like to know if SpaceX can build the Block 5 Rockets faster then the earlier rockets or slower.

    The down time in east range also shows why SpaceX has a such a need to get other launch centers up and running.

  • Edward

    mkent wrote: “For all the hype, SpaceX hasn’t been all that disruptive to the industry.

    I largely agree with Dick Eagleson’s reply. The other launch companies looked at the future and realized that they weren’t in it. Several companies have decided to work toward reusability, if only for the expensive engines, and that is the most visible disruption to the industry. This is good, because it forces the industry to increase its efficiency.

    I would have said that the disruption has not yet adversely affected the other companies, but SpaceX has a large backlog of payloads to launch. A second disruption is the reduction in contracts with the other launch companies. This is good and bad. It is bad because when a launch companies goes out of business, the competition is reduced. This is good, because it motivates the remaining launch companies to increase their efficiency in order to stay in business.

    Many of those payloads would have been contracted to other launchers, but some only exist because the low cost of launching on Falcon 9 has made more business models affordable enough to try. A third disruption is an increase in payloads, worldwide. This is good for the industry and worldwide economy.

    As Sayomara mentioned, there are generally three factors to choosing to do business with one company over another: quality, availability, and price. Service and reliability would come under the “quality” heading. It is difficult to be an industry leader in all three factors.

    Right now, SpaceX has the price factor, hands down. They had a couple of accidents that reduced the quality/reliability factor, and their cadence is still too low for them to be a leader in availability, as we have seen over the past six months or so, when payloads moved to other launch companies. However, in the long run, I think that SpaceX will force the industry to improve in all three factors as SpaceX’s availability and quality improve.

    Dick Eagleson is correct: when Blue Origin’s New Glenn is flying regularly, the other launch companies will have to already be far more efficient, in order to compete in the commercial launch business.

  • Edward

    There is a fourth disruption: the success of the upstart startup, SpaceX, has shown the venture capitalists that Newspace companies can do well in the space business, and that has helped other companies find funding, when funding was hard to come by, just two decades ago. This is good, because it has allowed new satellite companies to form as well as multiple smallsat launch companies to form.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Thanks, all, for the kind words.

    Edward is correct that SpaceX has had the price thing in hand for some time and now needs to work on launch availability/lead time and reliability.

    The recent bump up in launch cadence, plus the now-proven ability to successfully re-launch recovered 1st stages, are SpaceX’s answers to availability/lead time issues. The current downtime month at the Cape is going to pass quickly and then SpaceX will once more be all arses and elbows getting their backlog serviced.

    Reliability will be the last matter to be definitively addressed because the only way to prove reliability is to just keep launching without further accidents. If SpaceX can, say, finish this year with two dozen or more successful missions and raise that to, say, three dozen or more next year, Falcon 9 would be well over half-way to matching the success records of Atlas V and Ariane 5, respectively, by the end of 2018.

    That will pretty much complete Edward’s “Holy Trinity.” Falcon Heavy and Dragon 2 will be flying by then too. FH will likely be EELV-certified and SpaceX will have modified its second stages and launch facilities to enable doing the few things for DoD of which only ULA is currently capable.

    In mid-2017, SpaceX already looks like King Kong. By mid-2019, it could well be looking more like Godzilla.

  • Edward

    Dick Eagleson wrote: “By mid-2019, it could well be looking more like Godzilla.

    Well, there’s a scary image. SpaceX is deep within the Los Angeles urban area, and they already have a towering, 14-story rocket sitting out front of their building. Imagine it walking through downtown L.A. like Godzilla walking through Tokyo. (Well, without the “atomic breath.”)

    https://www.google.com/maps/@33.9197569,-118.3267752,3a,60y,90t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s1OK4WNOpiUZvi6AGp8QpHQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

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