SpaceX Satellite Launch Rewrites the Rules


Joe Pappalardo reports: Today SpaceX launched its first satellite into geosynchronous orbit, positioning the young company as a disruptive player in an international launch market. Elon Musk’s company is officially a launch industry upstart. The success comes after two launch delays last week caused by technical glitches.

At approximately 5:41 pm Eastern, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 left the launch pad at Cape Canaveral carrying a 6400-pound communications sat for the operator of the world’s second-largest sat fleet, Luxembourg-based SES. All eyes were on the upper stage, which failed to perform as needed during a demonstration launch in late September. For the rocket to deliver its cargo to high orbit, the second stage had to reignite in space. This time around it succeeded: The upper stage reignited as planned.

This marks an important milestone for the company, which had never before delivered cargo to this pivotal orbit. Even more important, it marks a new level of affordability for accessing space. Monday’s launch will cost SES about $60 million. That’s $200 million less than proven European provider Arianespace charges. Still, while today’s launch is impressive, but it will take years before SpaceX can be considered to have a safety record comparable to longer-standing providers.

SpaceX is unique in the sat launch world. The company got this far with support from NASA contracts, which it earned by launching cargo to the International Space Station. But whereas other commercial sat launch companies are directly subsidized by Russia or the European Union, SpaceX designs and operates its own rockets and spacecraft from government-run spaceports. Other U.S. launchers loft payloads only for U.S. government customers. With SpaceX, the U.S. is back in thecommercial launch business, and at a game-changing price point.

Popular Mechanics

3 Comments on “SpaceX Satellite Launch Rewrites the Rules”

  1. […] Pundit from another Planet Joe Pappalardo reports: Today SpaceX launched its first satellite into geosynchronous orbit, […]

  2. […] SpaceX Satellite Launch Rewrites the Rules ( […]

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