Archive for the ‘Falcon 9’ Category

Note: this article originally appeared in Air University’s The Wright Stuff

Commercial Space–The Only Way to Fly

By Mark Stout

You may have heard something called ‘commercial space’ is going to significantly change or even revolutionize NASA, and perhaps by extension, the rest of the U.S government’s space requirements as well.  As such, let’s unpack the commercial space concept and along the way, clarify its less-than-precise (and somewhat confusing) name. (more…)


How low can you go?

SpaceX’s bid to serve as the Iridium Next launch agent was cheaper than the Indians and the Chinese.

How low is it?  Shockingly low.

“That $492 million figure would launch all 72 satellites in our constellation,” said Matt Desch, Iridium’s CEO.

So will SpaceX make up in volume what they’re losing in per unit sales?

SpaceX obviously has to first have a successful product before they can start taking government customers away from the big dogs.  If tradition is followed, they can then start amortizing more of their start-up costs by billing to the government.

They’re on their way.  However, like Sea Launch, could their margins be so slim that one failure puts them on an unrecoverable path?

At some point the buyer has to be saying ‘this deal is too good to be true.’  However, both the satellite manufacturing deal and the launch services support the hypothesis that there is a global capacity glut for goods and services and that in effect, it should be a buyer’s market for some time.

So how does one make their money?  By having the U.S. government as a major customer.

What a great irony that SpaceX, the anthesis of the Titan program is using the Titan launch complex/space launch complex at CCAFS and Vandenberg.

SpaceX will be the major launch agency for Iridium next.

Let’s see–here’s my ROM.  As many as nine or ten Vandenberg launches with a massive amount of weight to orbit margin assuming a stack of five or six satellites.  Perhaps other customers will emerge to use up some of that margin, but that adds complexity regarding integration, insurance, and the likes.

Do you think the success of the recent Falcon 9 mission had anything to do with the timing of this announcement?  I’d guess the terms were agreed to pre-Falcon 9 with some sort of verbiage regarding ‘pending successful demonstration of Falcon 9 vehicle.’

Iridium is getting a super deal on the satellites and SpaceX clearly needs other customers than the U.S. government.

Salute to the men and women associated with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 mission! Fantastic!

FWIW, I have high confidence the cheering over the countdown, narration, and telemetry nets may have been edited out!

Watch the Falcon 9 webcast from here.

Now onto SpaceX’s expectation for the launch –let’s describe them as modest–delivered from the SpaceX site:

It’s important to note that since this is a test launch, our primary goal is to collect as much data as possible, with success being measured as a percentage of how many flight milestones we are able to complete in this first attempt. It would be a great day if we reach orbital velocity, but still a good day if the first stage functions correctly, even if the second stage malfunctions. It would be a bad day if something happens on the launch pad itself and we’re not able to gain any flight data.

There is a four-hour window for Friday, and if conditions don’t support the op then, Saturday will be–in the language of launch–the next attempt.

Now that the first GPS 2F-1 has left the rocket ranch, all eyes will be on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 which is set to launch Friday.

I went through their plant in Hawthorne back in November 2009.  I have to say it was fantastic.  They were making structures, engines, fairings, and more there.  BTW, the Falcon 9 is a beast–Atlas 5 sized.

I’m hoping Elon Musk will make more Falcon vehicles even if it means making fewer movies like Thank You For Smoking.