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SpaceX successfully launches three satellites

Capitalism in space: SpaceX tonight used its Falcon 9 rocket, including a first stage that had already flown twice before, to launch an Indonesian communications satellite, an Air Force smallsat, and most importantly, the Israeli-built Beresheet lunar lander, the first planetary mission entirely funded from private sources.

You can get some details about Beresheet here. If all goes as planned, it will land on the Moon on April 11 and operate for two Earth days on the surface.

SpaceX was also able to successfully land that first stage, which I think is the first time they have successfully used and recovered a first stage three times. Look for this first stage to fly a fourth time.

The 2019 launch race:

2 China
2 SpaceX
1 Japan
1 India
1 Europe
1 Russia

The U.S. now leads China in the national rankings, 3-2.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • geoffc

    Second stage to do a third flight. B1046 flew three times. This is B1048 I think.

    Can’t wait to see what happens when a stage flies its tenth time!

  • Col Beausabre

    Bob, Shouldn’t the launch of three separate vehicles bring the launch count to three? My logic is that it’s the payloads that matter, not the rocket.

  • Col Beausabre: No. I am tracking the launch industry, not the satellite industry. This was a single launch, performed by SpaceX, just as a previous Indian launch was a single launch, even though it put 104 smallsats into orbit.

    The goal is to see who is accomplishing what in terms of rockets. It has been argued that mass-to-orbit would be a worthwhile metric to also track, but I think that unnecessarily complicates matters. The number of launches reveals very quickly who is getting somewhere, and who is not.

  • Edward

    I am one of those who suggested that mass-to-orbit might be another worthwhile metric to track. It is at least related to launch capabilities; a nation that launches a lot of smallsats (e.g. New Zealand’s Electron, which Robert includes as American, because the company is American) probably lifts less mass than a country that launches several large satellites two at a time (e.g. Europe’s Ariane 5).

    The number of satellites, missions, or constellations may make for another metric for the use of space, but it is not such a good metric for launch capability.

    Number of annual launches to orbit is a traditional metric that goes back to 1957, the opening of the space age.

    In the coming decade, space is likely to become far more useful than it has been in the past, increasing the types of activities that we do there. The Internet of Things is likely to depend heavily on com-sat constellations to help track/communicate with things that are not near internet WiFi connectivity (e.g. deserts or mid ocean). At least three companies are planning commercial space stations to supplement then replace the ISS, allowing for far more space experimentation than even with the ISS. Other companies expect to commercially or privately explore the lunar surface. And SpaceX has a goal of creating profitable colonies on Mars. Eventually there will be space tugs and other spacecraft that perform multiple missions without returning to Earth, thus not needing a launch to perform a mission.

    It would be interesting to have a metric, other than a “Gross Space Product,” to measure the increase in such explorations and experimentation. I don’t expect Robert to be enthusiastic enough about such a metric to follow it through; I’m not, either. (2 minutes, ULA’s Vision for a Self-Sustaining Space Economy) (7 minutes, ULA’s CisLunar-1000, 30 years to 1,000 people working and living in space)

  • Edward: More than any other metric, the one that really counts the most is profit. And the winning number there is not even necessarily the highest. If Rocket Lab can sustain a regular and lush income stream from many smallsat launches, while also gaining great experience as a launch provider, they will set themselves up to do far greater things down the road.

    This more than any is why I favor the launch count as the metric. It tells me who is accomplishing the most.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Agreed. With all due respect to the Col., if N. Korea or Iran decide to launch a 55 gal. drum full of B-B’s into orbit I’m not going to count each B-B as a satellite, never mind as a launch.

  • wayne

    I see there is a hard-freeze warning in effect for Tucson and Nogales as well.

  • wayne

    whoops– wrong thread.

  • Edward

    You wrote: “More than any other metric, the one that really counts the most is profit.

    Profit is the reward for becoming more efficient than the competition. Using a metric for efficiency of a useful product or service makes much sense.

    This more than any is why I favor the launch count as the metric. It tells me who is accomplishing the most.

    This may be why it is the major metric used by virtually everyone.

    You found the word that I was looking for. Measuring the accomplishments that we achieve in space is what I think is more important than mere “Gross Space Product.”

    Landing science instruments and man on the Moon are major accomplishments, but accomplishing Gerard K. O’Neill’s vision — or even ULA’s vision — would have made them even more relevant. Ignoring the Moon for decades failed to accomplish anything.

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