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NASA Space Science

Intelsat Signs Launch Contract With SpaceX 167

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-a-few-more-decades-now dept.
New submitter jamstar7 writes "Following the success of the Falcon9/Dragon resupply test to the ISS comes the following announcement: 'Intelsat, the world's leading provider of satellite services, and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), the world's fastest growing space launch company, announced the first commercial contract for the Falcon Heavy rocket. "SpaceX is very proud to have the confidence of Intelsat, a leader in the satellite communication services industry," said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer. "The Falcon Heavy has more than twice the power of the next largest rocket in the world. With this new vehicle, SpaceX launch systems now cover the entire spectrum of the launch needs for commercial, civil and national security customers."' As of yet, the Falcon Heavy hasn't flown, but all the parts have been tested. Essentially an upgunned Falcon 9 with additional boosters, the Heavy has lift capability second only to the Saturn 5. On top of the four Falcon Heavy launches planned for the U.S. Air Force this year, the Intelsat contract represents the true dawn of the commercial space age."
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Intelsat Signs Launch Contract With SpaceX

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  • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rufty_tufty (888596) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @06:23AM (#40153429) Homepage

    Putting on my strategic management hat I was a little worried when I first heard this news. I should explain:
    In most engineering you have a core group of engineers. Put too many on one project and progress gets slower not faster. Likewise there are only so many good engineers around, adding poor engineers to a group slows the group down disproportionally.
    So the way to be successful is often to have the smallest team you can get away with working on one goal. Even having auxiliary teams that take the technology you develop and apply it to new applications slows the core team down because they need to provide support to the auxiliary teams. No amount of money or clever management or good people can really change this.
    So I was really worried about this particular step of the commercialisation of space because if they get distracted into competing with the entrenched players then they could lose the goal of getting cheap manned presence in space. If they are busy servicing commercial customers will this take their eye off the goal of manned space flight and orbital facilities?
    But then I guess that this commercial offering will keep them honest, accountable and above all visible to their costs so that others have to keep up. That and developing heavy lift is part of the end goal.
    That said I'm a little concerned that on Earth heavy lift is a relatively small part of the transport market. There are very few trucks on the road that carry more than 40 Ton, so why do we need so much spacecraft development focussed on >40Ton.
    I guess the answer to this is that most of the stuff on earth that is >40 Ton of the road is construction equipment and we certaily need a lot fo that in space...

  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @06:31AM (#40153451)

    Launching a two stage rocket to orbit is not exciting. Being able to build a tin can with a propulsion module is not exciting. I congratulate SpaceX for having done it, but it's not a major step forward in space technology.

    It's pretty damn exciting if you are the company doing it. Just because most people take these things for granted doesn't mean we should dismiss the level of SpaceX's accomplishment. Hell, launching a new car company is pretty drab to most, but it is still a technological feat and is beyond the ability of most people who have ever lived (or ever will).

  • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by khallow (566160) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @06:40AM (#40153485)

    So I was really worried about this particular step of the commercialisation of space because if they get distracted into competing with the entrenched players then they could lose the goal of getting cheap manned presence in space. If they are busy servicing commercial customers will this take their eye off the goal of manned space flight and orbital facilities?

    That's not their goal. So you don't have worry about them losing it. And we should be expecting more from these "entrenched players". Some competition will help there. Finally, servicing commercial customers sounds to me a more worthy goal and not at all one incompatible with the others. After all, humans and habitats are payloads that a commercial customer might want launched.

    There are very few trucks on the road that carry more than 40 Ton, so why do we need so much spacecraft development focussed on >40Ton.

    OTOH, there are very few trains or cargo ships that don't carry at least hundreds of tons of payload. And supertankers can go to hundreds of thousands of tons of payload.

  • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slippyblade (962288) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @06:52AM (#40153535) Homepage

    If you play it lose with their lives you're not going to have many 'volunteers', and the time between missions will always be increasing

    I'd have to go out on a limb here and say... no. Even if their was a 25% failure rate (which is obscene and not within the realm of feasibility) I guarantee that you'd have volunteers lined up to man the missions. Would they be as "highly qualified" as a NASA astronaut or Russian cosmonaut? No. But do they really need to be? The commercialization of space will do the same thing that it has done to every other sector and lower the skill requirements to accomplish tasks. Hell - if things go right they'll be lining colonists up at the gate in the next few decades - and I'll be in line even if I only had a 75% chance of surviving.

  • by tp1024 (2409684) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @06:56AM (#40153557)

    This might sound strange, but guys like Intelsat avoid building satellites that can only be launched by one kind of rocket if in any way possible. Most geostationary satellites today cluster around 6 tons. This is the limit for the Russian Proton rocket (launched from Baikonur), the Ukranian/Russian/American SeaLaunch (using a Zenit rocket) and was the limit of the Ariane5 GS (which has been upgraded to the Ariane 5 ECA with about 10t. But ESA has a hard time finding customers for passenger satellites in the 2-3t range to make launches worthwhile.)

    What does that have to do with SpaceX and the Falcon Heavy? Well, ESA is about to decide whether to develop a new smaller rocket - the Ariane 6 ( capable of lifting 3-8t to GTO) - or improve the Ariane 5 to the point that it can deliver about 12t to GTO. (With the idea of launching two of the popular 6t satellites at a time, which would instandly make the rocket much more economical)

    In the latter case, SpaceX will have a much easier time to find heavy satellites for its rocket. Having a competitor is actually important in this business. You don't commit on the order of a billion dollars in building a satellite, just to find out that your only way to launch it is no longer available or recently had an accident (e.g. SeaLaunch or failures of the maiden flights of Ariane 5 GS and Ariane 5 ECA that also failed) and you have to wait several years to get another launch opportunity.

    If ESA goes for the Ariane 6, SpaceX will most likely have to resort to launching several satellites at a time and compete with all the other guys that are also capable of launching "smaller" satellites. Which is bad for SpaceX and the industry in general. At the same time, ESA will find out that the old Ariane 5 will suddenly be in much larger demand for 8-10t satellites (as will be Falcon Heavy).

    Lets hope they are reasonable ... or somebody comes up with something roughly similar to the Falcon Heavy.

  • by trout007 (975317) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @07:40AM (#40153729)

    The death rate of climbing Mt Everest is 1.3%. And that is just climbing a mountain. How much cooler is going into space? 10X?

    Now at this point in my life where my family is depending on me 1.3% is too high. But when kids are older and I can be more selfish 5% doesn't sound that bad. Like everything else it's a personal decision.

    http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_death_rate_on_mt._Everest [answers.com]

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