SpaceX wins first new launch contract in 2020


Readers!
 
My annual birthday-month fund-raising drive for Behind the Black is now on-going. Not only do your donations help pay my bills, they give me the freedom to speak honestly about science and culture, instead of being forced to write it as others demand.

 

Please consider donating by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below.


 

Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
 
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

 

You can also support me by buying one of my books, as noted in the boxes interspersed throughout the webpage. And if you buy the books through the ebookit links, I get a larger cut and I get it sooner.

Capitalism in space:The Egyptian communcications satellite company Nilsat this week announced that it has awarded SpaceX the launch contract for its next satellite.

This was SpaceX’s first contract award in 2020.

The article goes into great detail about SpaceX’s present launch manifest, which according to the company has contracts for future launches equaling $12 billion.

Based on public info, SpaceX has roughly 55 customer launches on its manifest. The company also intends to launch as many as 24 dedicated Starlink missions this year and will need at least another 40-50 on top of that to complete the first phase of the broadband internet satellite constellation (~4400 spacecraft). Meanwhile, SpaceX has won at least nine separate launch contracts – two Falcon Heavy missions and seven Falcon 9s – in the last 18 months, but has launched 22 customer payloads in the same period.

In fewer words, SpaceX is effectively launching its existing commercial missions much faster than it’s receiving new contracts. In 2019, for example, the company launched only 11 commercial missions – 13 total including two internal 60-satellite Starlink launches. SpaceX launched 21 times in 2018, a record the company initially hoped to equal or even beat last year, but – for the first time ever – the launch company was consistently ready before its customers were.

It appears SpaceX intends to pick up any slack in launch contracts with Starlink satellite launches, which once in orbit are another major income source for the company.

Overall, it seems to me that SpaceX is quite awash with capital, which reinforces their decision to not take government money to develop Starship. Using their own capital they are free to build as they see fit, with no one from the government who knows less than they do looking over their shoulder and kibitzing.

Share

13 comments

  • Scott M.

    Congrats to Gwynne Shotwell! Although Elon Musk gets all the headlines, she’s one of the main reasons that SpaceX is doing so well.

  • Lee S

    Believe it or not, this pinko socialist over the pond is cheering! Raised on my father’s sci-fi books from the 50’s, I have been hoping to see an asteroid mined in my lifetime… I doubt it will happen, but now I’m sure my kids will see it. And yes… Capitalism has had a lot to do with this fact. Elon Musk has.single handedly changed the space industry for ever. This would never have occurred in communist China. It could have occurred almost as easily in Europe ( we are not quite the oppressed countries you guys imagine), but as I’ve said before… This is the stuff you do so well.
    Go USA… And go SpaceX…. Sometimes there is a reason to be proud to just be human!

  • Edward

    Lee S,
    You wrote: “we are not quite the oppressed countries you guys imagine

    Actually, you are. You just do not realize it.

    Until recently, the American space industry was repressed, too. It was far too difficult to break the stranglehold that NASA and the Air Force had on the launch industry and the manned space program. The European space industry still suffers under a similar repression, and for similar reasons the European people do, too.

    It is what I meant, in another thread, about the subtlety of seemingly minor changes in policy. Something that seems harmless or even helpful can actually stifle innovation and entrepreneurship. For nearly half a century, we thought that the NASA way of doing things would lead to the space economy that, back in the 1950s and 1960s, we expected to have by now. The only reason we now think we will mine asteroids is because NASA chose to buy services that are commercially designed and owned rather than designed to NASA or Air Force requirements.

    Services designed to government requirements: no asteroid mining. The very same services designed to commercial requirements: intentions for asteroid mining.

    Such a small policy change has made such a huge difference in our outlook on the future of the space industry, all in the span of a decade. Had ULA produced their Cislunar 1000 video a decade earlier, most people would have laughed at its absurdity. Instead, in 2016 people said, ‘yes, that is what we want, and it looks like we can get it in that time frame.’ It looks like we may be a couple of years behind ULA’s proposed timeline, but that is due to delays in the Commercial Crew program.
    We still have time to catch up:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxftPmpt7aA (ULA CicLunar 1000, 7 minutes)

    Such a small policy change allows commercial operators to overcome the monopoly and monopsony created by the government control of space.

  • sippin_bourbon

    My biggest fear for the new commercial space program is the government.

    The potential for billions, or trillions of dollars is high in the long run.

    This will not escape the notice of the government. At some point they will move to tax it.
    The more progressive/socialist they are the higher the taxes will be.

    They will either tax it to death or tax it to the point where they feel they can control it.

  • Lee S

    @Edward, there are no rules or regulations over here which are in place to stifle any private space enterprise, but it’s no surprise that the main players are based in the US… You have a much higher concentration of space expertise, along with a much higher concentration of wealth.
    “Actually, you are. You just do not realize it.”….. Stop being so bloody insulting! I am an intelligent man, who has experienced first hand how life works here and over there, I discuss politics with my friends and family in the US…. ( several of which are ex-pats ) , and feel I am knowledgeable enough to form a balanced and informed opinion.
    Your knee jerk reaction to anything I say good about Europe speaks much more about you than me. Unlike yourself, I don’t feel the need to point out all the faults in your homeland every time you comment.
    Please accept my respect for the accomplishment of SpaceX in the spirit it was intended, and not use it as yet another excuse to belittle me, and the country I choose to live in.
    And when/if you ever decide to visit the clean and beautiful city of Stockholm, let me know and I will buy you a beer!

  • Edward

    Lee S,
    You wrote: “there are no rules or regulations over here which are in place to stifle any private space enterprise

    This is how subtle the problem is. Under NASA, it looked like there were no rules or regulations that would stifle any private space enterprise, but it was very difficult to get any private space enterprise started until NASA changed a couple of its policies and methods. We had a hard time seeing how our own private commercial space industry was suffering under NASA’s socialist-type centrally directed priorities. Now that these have been relaxed, we see a booming commercial space industry with investors suddenly clamoring to get in on the launch of new businesses, and we can see better how policies had adversely affected the space business.

    Luxembourg wants to become a major European hub for commercial space entrepreneurs, but they had to make changes to their seemingly innocuous policies and laws.

    You have a much higher concentration of space expertise

    You seem to forget that Arianespace took away America’s launch industry, up until NASA changed its policies and methods for doing space. Europe has a lot of space knowledge, too.

    Arianespace had to beg for a change in ESA and European policy in order for it to attempt to compete against SpaceX. Subtle rules prevented certain amounts of innovation.

    I am an intelligent man, who has experienced first hand how life works here and over there

    As I just stated in another thread, your first-hand experience of life in America is an experience of the result of Obama’s socialist war on the coal industry. Your first-hand experience of life here is actually a look into Sweden’s potential future. I am sorry that you feel insulted, but leftists tend to set their policies and goals based upon feelings rather than basing them upon well thought out ideas that take reality into account.

    Once again, I am sorry to make you feel bad, because you keep telling me how much you like it there, but you like it there based upon feeling good rather than based upon how the real world works under socialism. Socialism seemed to be working well for Venezuela when Chavez gave his book to the newly elected President Obama, that time, but then Venezuela ran out of other people’s money (the money earned by the capitalists that Chavez overthrew). California is following in those footsteps, right down to the power outages.

    Unlike yourself, I don’t feel the need to point out all the faults in your homeland every time you comment.

    That is an interesting statement. Apparently you do not read what you write.

    Please accept my respect for the accomplishment of SpaceX in the spirit it was intended, and not use it as yet another excuse to belittle me, and the country I choose to live in.

    Actually, the topic of my response was the suggestion that SpaceX’s disruption of the space industry “could have occurred almost as easily in Europe” because you are not overly oppressed, there. You felt bad that you turned out to be wrong about that opinion, but there it is. Your space industry has been and continues to be stifled in ways similar to the way NASA harmed our space industry. Luxembourg is making strides in opening up opportunities for Europe’s space industry, and it acknowledged that, like NASA, it had to make changes in order to bring those opportunities there.

    I am sorry that you feel bad that your chosen continent is not yet as conducive to commercial space as you think it is, but I think that you and your country will not make its own strides until you all, over there, understand where the problems are. I only have one country that I can use as an example of how to do it better than it has been done in the past and better than it is being done now in the rest of the world.

    You see that as belittlement. Maybe that feeling is what you all need in order to make the changes that will encourage similar rapid strides in your own space industry.

    The Statue of Liberty was not intended to be a beacon that beckons people to the U.S. but was intended to be a light shining upon the rest of the world to show a better way of doing things. I am trying to be a similar shining light for you.

    My recommendations are similar to Robert’s. As we saw, it does not take major changes in order to be more encouraging to space entrepreneurs. A system does not have to be perfect in order to work well enough to thrive. Strive to improve, and don’t worry about perfection. You praise SpaceX, so be more like them. Strive to reduce the cost of the space business. SpaceX works hard to bring its products to market sooner rather than later, which is also good, but it misses some opportunities for efficiency. These can be opportunities for other companies to improve on what SpaceX has already done.

    Remember that profit is good. It is the reward for increased efficiency.

  • Lee S

    @ Edward…. Oh my gosh…. Even when you are trying to be nice, you are condescending…
    ” I am sorry that you feel insulted, but leftists tend to set their policies and goals based upon feelings rather than basing them upon well thought out ideas that take reality into account.”, “I am sorry to make you feel bad, because you keep telling me how much you like it there, but you like it there based upon feeling good rather than based upon how the real world works under socialism.”, …. Please do not tell me how, who, what or when I like anything…. One of the reasons I do not like the US is the hubris of its citizens…. Can I ask you to have a bloody good look in the mirror?
    You might not realize it, but right now the US is pretty much the laughing stock of the rest of the western world…. Not my opinion, but try reading some news sites from outside the US…. Do your own research, then call me out if I am wrong.
    I realize you guys consider your country to be flawless and a guiding beacon in the dark regarding world politics, … But you have not looked behind recently to notice no one is following you.
    The US is without a doubt a world leader in the Space game, and to be honest… I love it! Rather our old colony than china!
    Although I’m naturally argumentative, I come here for the cool space stuff, rather than the politics.
    However, ( and this goes for all the other blinkered conservatives on this site), it might behove you to buy a map, a globe, anything that proves that the world don’t end at the western and eastern coasts of the US of A.
    You have had democracy ( of a sort ) for a couple of hundred years….. And think you have the right to dictate to the birthplace of democracy how we are doing it wrong? Hush child…. When your old enough you can join the discussion..
    ( Oh, and your gun laws are stupid, and Epstein didn’t kill himself!)

  • Lee S

    And… Unless I’m very much mistaken… That big old statue you got there in NY ( imitating an ancient Greek statue) was a present from France… By jeebus Europe is a mess 🤣🤣🤣

  • Edward

    Lee S,
    You wrote: “Even when you are trying to be nice, you are condescending

    I was trying to be nice? I thought I was pointing out why you felt insulted. I’m much more sorry that you let your feelings drive your life than use logic, knowledge, or critical thinking in order to live a better life.

    Please do not tell me how, who, what or when I like anything

    Considering that you are the one who told me that you like it there, and that you said so firmly and on multiple occasions, I am not telling you about what you like but reminding you of those multiple times that you insisted that you like living in Sweden. Even over the U.K.

    One of the reasons I do not like the US is the hubris of its citizens

    You are the one who keeps making the emotional arguments that are so wrong that they are easily refuted. You seem to be confusing as “hubris” my being right more often than you are, but really it is just so easy to point out the many and massive flaws in your emotional arguments. You know, like this one, which is based solely upon emotion. In addition, you project my being right as hubris on the part of U.S. citizens as a whole. To me, that hardly seems fair.

    You might not realize it, but right now the US is pretty much the laughing stock of the rest of the western world

    I hate to disappoint you, but the U.S. is always the laughing stock of the rest of the world. This isn’t news to us. It does not matter which president is in office or what his political party is, or whether we just saved the world from tyranny, or were asked to stop some dictator from annexing a neighboring country, or that we ask other countries to be more humane. We are always the laughing stock and the bad guy. You don’t already know that we know this, which means that you know America and Americans less than you think you do.

    Interestingly, you keep asking me to go places where I could be the laughing stock or might hear the phrase “Yankee go home!” — but in the local language, so I might think that it means “please spend lots of money in this country.”

    I realize you guys consider your country to be flawless and a guiding beacon in the dark regarding world politics

    You assume that we think our country as flawless and that every country becomes America, just because I tell you the original intention that the French had for giving us the Statue of Liberty? You really do not understand what I write to you, despite my attempts to not be too brief to be understood. Right now, everyone assumes that the Statue of Liberty means “come here and spend lots of money in this country” — I mean “come here and get lots of welfare money from this country.”

    Unless I’m very much mistaken …

    I told you that months ago. That must be where you got that fact, a fact you are almost remembering. No wonder I have to repeat myself so many times.

    When your old enough you can join the discussion.

    Our Constitution is older than yours, but you still believe that you are old enough to start the discussion with us. Don’t try pulling that “democracy is older than your country” thing on us, again, because our current republic existed when your two countries were monarchies, not democracies. Since then, monarchies went out of style.

    Oh, and your gun laws are stupid

    Many of us agree. The stupid gun laws violate the Second Amendment. The places in the U.S. with the stupidest gun laws are also the places with the most gun violence. These places make laws based upon emotion rather than logic, knowledge, and critical thinking, explaining why they are stupid laws.

    Although I’m naturally argumentative, I come here for the cool space stuff, rather than the politics.

    Although you just can’t seem to keep from bringing up politics all the time, for instance when you compliment our space industry while in the same sentence say things like, “we are not quite the oppressed countries you guys imagine.” It is as though even when you are trying to be nice, you are condescending.

  • Lee S

    Ok Edward…
    One by one…
    1, and 2, i actually thought you were trying to be nice… My bad, I didn’t realize you were actually telling me I am wrong… Again.
    Has it ever occured to you that perhaps you are wrong? Once? Regarding your opinion on where you live? And how other people live there lives in other countries? I doubt it, but perhaps you should, and think long and hard about it. Because, as you use it in your argument so much. And you are actually wrong.
    3, you argue against my accusation of “hubris” as “my being right more often than you are”….. Enough said.
    The rest of your arguments are basically nonsense…. We don’t live under monarchies with power any longer… We ( in Europe ) live under democracy… We hold “royalty” as a state figure, almost 1500 years old,.it’s not up to you or I to demolish a tradition one and a half millennia old… They hold very little power, but bejebus, the American tourists like them!
    As for the US being the laughing stock of the world…. Well,.the day you stop dragging us into unnecessary wars, when you elect an adult to as your commander in chief, and acctually start acting like an adult in the room instead of a bully petulant child….. Perhaps you will gain a little more respect from the countries you think so little of
    (I can guarantee if you ever decide to get a passport and leave the sacred shores of the US, you won’t fall off the edge of the world, and you will never hear the phrase”Yankee go home”… You will only be welcomed, feed good food, filled up with great beer and wine, and given a hug…..your unfounded opinion regarding us over here in Europe is telling…. Don’t critisize what you don’t understand Edward… The lands that birthed your great nation are still doing ok…

  • Lee S

    Sorry, I forgot to mention, your gun laws are stupid, and Epstein didn’t kill himself..

  • Edward

    Lee S,
    You asked: “Has it ever occured to you that perhaps you are wrong? Once? Regarding your opinion on where you live?

    Oh, yes. I have been corrected several times, over the decades. I once actually believed my government-employed grade-school teacher when she said that the Supreme Court is there to protect our rights. Even as she said so, there had been plenty of cases in which the Supremes, rather than protect our rights, had destroyed some of them in favor of an overbearing government.

    On the other hand, you clearly do not consider the possibility that you are wrong, or that I am right. You still believe that your limited experience with a socialist-destroyed American town and a couple of relatives who live here means that you understand what it is like here.

    I do not talk so much about how people live in other countries as I talk about their miserable, failed, destructive socialist systems. Mostly, I just parrot back to you what you have said about how you — personally — live. Up to now, I have assumed that you have been telling me the truth. Once again, it is now occurring to me that perhaps I am wrong about your veracity.

    You seem to project your failed knowledge about how other people live onto my statements.

    The rest of your arguments are basically nonsense

    Just because you are unable to understand them does not make them nonsense.

    We don’t live under monarchies with power any longer

    As I said, it has gone out of style. You have insisted that you live in a democracy, and I believe you on that. Perhaps I am wrong on that, too?

    We hold “royalty” as a state figure, almost 1500 years old,.it’s not up to you or I to demolish a tradition one and a half millennia old… They hold very little power,

    You continually tell me what I already know, then you insist that I didn’t know it, that I am wrong about other people. As I said before, “you know America and Americans less than you think you do.

    Well,.the day you stop dragging us into unnecessary wars

    We drag you? You guys are the ones who keep asking us to fight little skirmishes as well as worldwide conflagrations. Now you blame us! As I said, we Americans are always the bad guys, even when we help you out. Trump is right: you guys keep getting free rides from us. You don’t even appreciate what we do for you, and you personally keep denying that we help you out. You make us out to be the bad guys. This is the kind of poop that we have had to put up with for decades, but if we don’t help out the ingrates of the world, then the real bad guys, the tyrants, socialists, and communists will win. How do you think Eastern Europe ended up under the Soviet’s boots?

    Perhaps you will gain a little more respect from the countries you think so little of

    Perhaps, but probably not. We get no such respect for helping you out, only insults and demands for even more help, sometimes with the false promise that you will finally respect us for our assistance. As I said, it does not matter who we elect as president or what party he is in, the overall foreign response is the same. Nice try, though. However, your entire comment is evidence that your suggestion is disingenuous.

    The lands that birthed your great nation are still doing ok

    Well that is what I understand, and that is what I criticize. You could be doing so much better. Indeed, you guys have tried to bestow freedom and liberty upon yourselves in order to be more like the prosperous Americans, but you didn’t realize that freedom and liberty are birthrights, not rights bestowed by your leadership. The subtle difference in those attitudes is what keeps you from being as prosperous, just as the subtle difference in the old way that NASA and the Air Force did things kept America’s space industry from expanding and being prosperous.

  • Edward

    Lee S,
    You said: “And you are actually wrong.

    Something that demonstrates that you are not the adult in the room is that you so often tell me that I am wrong about things that I didn’t say. You twist arguments in order to make a point that I was wrong when I was not.

    Thought-invoking statements have not worked on you, but it turns out that the use of emotion-invoking statements resonates better with you. Unfortunately, so far my emotional statements do not convince you that your system fails every time it is used, but perhaps I will eventually figure out what will do the job. Unless, that is, my comparison worked, the one between NASA’s old socialist way of doing things (NASA as sole customer and sole supplier) failing to develop space in a timely way vs NASA turning toward the free market capitalist system and discovering that capitalists have long been eager to develop space sooner rather than later — if only NASA would get out of the way and become one among many customers of many suppliers.

    I am amused that you have tried to make me feel bad about my country, only for you to discover that the flaws you have pointed out have been part of my knowledge-base for decades. I suppose if you discovered that your chosen country’s gun laws are stupid then you would feel bad about the country. I guess that the matter of whether Epstein killed himself is also meant to make me feel bad about my country, you know, a country in which prison guards slip up and now it looks like a murder that was supposed to look like a suicide. Well, I guess imperfect prison guards comes with being human, and an imperfect country of humans comes from it being run by humans, for humans, and certainly there are those who do not like my country and wish it would perish from the earth.

    Please continue to praise my country’s space accomplishments, but please do not also throw in insults, thinking they are obligatory.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *