Loren Thompson asks the question “Is SpaceX really commercial space?” While a space-outsider would say “No,” the insider answer is “It depends on how you define commercial space.”
The reason for such an answer is because SpaceX makes much of their space money the old fashioned way: by selling space services and hardware to the government. And if that’s “commercial space,” then everything is commercial space; after all, the government doesn’t have any rocket or satellite factories.
Then what is SpaceX? I’d call it ‘new space’ for lack of a better term.
Yes, SpaceX is penciled in to do the launch ops for the Iridium Next constellation which does appear to be true commercial space and entailed SpaceX beating out the Chinese and the Indians along the way. But without the selling-to-the-government part of the SpaceX company business in place to sustain their operations, would an excursion into ‘real’ commercial space be possible?
“Commercial space” may be an ill-defined misnomer, perhaps best defined by what it isn’t: existing legacy practices with massive levels of government oversight, directed rework, and intrusiveness.