In sharp (and welcome) contrast to my last post, witness the power of this fully armed and operational free market:
Today, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) successfully completed its first geostationary transfer mission, delivering the SES-8 satellite to its targeted 295 x 80,000 km orbit. Falcon 9 executed a picture-perfect flight, meeting 100% of mission objectives.
Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at 5:41 PM Eastern Time. Approximately 185 seconds into flight, Falcon 9’s second stage’s single Merlin vacuum engine ignited to begin a five minute, 20 second burn that delivered the SES-8 satellite into its parking orbit. Eighteen minutes after injection into the parking orbit, the second stage engine relit for just over one minute to carry the SES-8 satellite to its final geostationary transfer orbit. The restart of the Falcon 9 second stage is a requirement for all geostationary transfer missions.
As one might expect, the Wall Street Journal had a bit more coverage of the business angle. Here’s the (literal) money bit:
Before the mission, SpaceX said by 2015 it planned to double rocket production to about 24 annually.
If SpaceX achieves its goals, it will vindicate a host of satellite manufacturers, operators and space agencies that have revised business plans based on the availability of the Falcon 9. In some cases, SpaceX foresees competing head-to-head with Europe’s Arianespace, which often launches dual satellites aboard its heavy-lift Ariane 5 ECA rocket.
SpaceX emphasizes that it developed the original Falcon 9 for under $300 million—or roughly half of the Pentagon’s overall cost to launch a single spy satellite on the heavy-lift version of the Delta IV rocket initially developed by Boeing.
Industry officials estimate SES got a discount from the roughly $60 million SpaceX officials have talked about as the typical price tag for such a launch. Many industry officials, though, predict SpaceX’s prices eventually will climb to about $100 million per launch.
Keep in mind these “industry officials” are almost certainly just spouting the company line while hoping it comes true, particularly if SpaceX pulls off a successful recovery and reuse of a Falcon 9 first stage next year. If that happens, that crashing sound you hear will be the
Borg Collective Boeing/LockMart/USAF/NASA launch business model collapsing.
No power in the ‘verse can stop it.