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SpaceX Eyes 19 Launches In 2017 (arstechnica.com) 50

SpaceX has managed to launch fifteen rockets this year as a result of its more efficient production flow over last year, a maturing Falcon 9 rocket, and an experienced workforce. On Monday, the company will go for its 16th launch of the year, doubling its previous record. It plans to launch its 19th rocket before year's end. Ars Technica reports: This year has seen a number of firsts for the company -- first reflight of a Falcon 9 booster, first reuse of a Dragon cargo spacecraft, first national security payload, and a remarkable dozen landings. But probably the biggest achievement has been finally delivering on the promise of a high flight rate. For years, competitors in the global launch industry have noted, with skepticism, that SpaceX has been unable to achieve higher flight rates and fly out its lengthy manifest. Those concerns appeared to have some merit, especially after SpaceX endured difficult financial years in 2015 and 2016, when the company lost two Falcon 9 rockets (one during launch and the other during a ground test) along with a payload. However, competitors worried, if SpaceX did ever figure things out, the company could become a "steamroller" with its lower cost flight opportunities.

On Monday, weather permitting, SpaceX will attempt to launch the Koreasat 5A communications satellite for a South Korean company. The launch window for the Kennedy Space Center-based liftoff opens at 3:34pm ET. After this, it's likely that SpaceX will launch two or three (possibly more) missions in 2017, bringing the company's tally for the year to 19 missions. (That would be one shy of the company's total for 2014, 2015, and 2016 combined).

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SpaceX Eyes 19 Launches In 2017

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  • Meanwhile the french people of Arianespace, from their tower of smugness, must finally start to sweat a little, and maybe, maybe....begin to consider their superiority complex. Problem is, in France, they all come from the same school ("Ecole polytechniquqe, sometimes "centrale"), and are so sure of their genius, that they repeatedly run into the ground all the french industries: automotive (Peugeot), nuclear (Areva), petroleum services (Technip), electric appliances (Schneider) , banking, entertainment, el
    • You mix up France with Europe, and Peugeot is doing just fine :)

      • Well, France is a complete disaster industry-wise, whereas in Europe Germany fro instance is doing just fine... By the way I haven't talked about Airbus, increasingly looking as such: French pride, US research, German production and jobs...The French still have their pride so everything seems OK for them...It's like the joke, the symbol of France is a rooster because it's the only animal capable of singing while standing on a pile of shit... As for Peugeot, they're in better shape than they were a few years
        • I guess you mix something up.
          Peugeot is the mother company of 5 car brands, all french I believe. Second biggest car manufacturer in europe. They have an electric car since last year, the iOn. Citroen, one daughter, has an electric car since roughly 5 years.
          Both together will introduce 4 new completely self engineered in 2019,

          Peugeot was the first one who introduced soot filters in all its diesel cars before legislation demanded it.
          I had a 2004 Peugeot 307, TDI. Over all I liked the car.

          • I don't mean to say that Peugeot does everything bad, far from it. Still I believe if it were not for a lot of poor decisions, they would be in a much better shape... My parents had a 307, nice car, they now have a 308, I preferred the 307 (had an automatic gearbox from Porsche I think). In France I sometimes see Renault "Zoe" electric cars, never seen a Peugeot or Citroen one. 15 years ago there already were some electric cars, prototypes...Putting them in the street in numbers is where it's at, now. Yes P
    • Not fair to single-out France, which does a LOT of things really well. Been there, it's nice. If you're complaining about smugness, or just plain play-it-safe complacency, there's plenty of that going on, world-wide. It takes weird but charismatic people to break the ice and move the species forward, and they don't come around too often.

      • Being french I feel entitled to whine as much as I please ;) French do some things right, but what irks me are the self-inflicted wounds from our CEOs and the like, who make mistake from mistake but never suffer from it since it's such a tight cozy club... Thinking that reusable rockets cannot work, that a private company cannot compete with them, is just one of the latest mistakes, from the upper management of Arianespace. Since they all come from the same school(s) nobody thinks out of the box, nobody cha
    • To a large degree what happened was because of cost cutting. Recently to make the renewables push, and to save the banks, a lot of things were pushed by the wayside. There was some technical failure as well. In Europe, for example, there was a plan to have their own space station and mini-space shuttle in the late 1980s. Because of the cost of the German reunification the station was cancelled, and only the Columbus laboratory on the ISS was made, the shuttle was an utter technical failure because there was

      • s/early 1990s/early 2000s/g

      • Here's a paper on the VOLGA engine:
        https://arc.aiaa.org/doi/pdf/1... [aiaa.org]

        Anyway, as usual, opportunities lost in Europe because of lack of political vision.

      • Interesting. Your are right about the Germans, they usually are much smarter/meaner in the european joint ventures (alternative: the French are idiots who time after time get burnt) The trains are fine, the don't sell very well is the problem. The conventional speed trains, underground cars...are on par with the competition I guess. The high-speed trains were once the best in the world (with the Shinkansen) something to be proud of. Now the competition does the same, the trains never sold as cutting edge te
      • For the nuclear part, the problem for me is not that they are unable to finish EPR reactor (although I guess I would not want one to have a major accident...) it's that they pour billions after billions in nuclear technology, just "because" (France has has good thermonuclear weapons since a long time, and "research" reactors and enrichment facilities, nothing needed here) ...."because" they can't be wrong I guess. Meanwhile they don't invest in wind or solar in a meaningful way, and by the time they realize
  • What would it take to get 30 launches, i.e. Space XXX? Short term space tourism for the 1%, who have the money to join the "100-mille-high-club".

    • by taiwanjohn ( 103839 ) on Saturday October 28, 2017 @04:36AM (#55449189)

      IIRC SpaceX is in fact planning 30 launches next year. I can't find a clear citation at the moment, but I think Gwynne Shotwell said as much in a recent speech somewhere.

      And among those 30-odd missions there will be some significant milestones: 1. First Falcon Heavy flight; 2. First Dragon-2 flight; 3. First crewed flight; and (possibly) a tourist fly-by around the moon. They will probably also refly some "flight-proven" boosters for the third or fourth time next year, as well as demonstrating fast turnaround (say, within 48hrs) of a reflown booster.

      It'll be a lot of fun to watch all that happening.

      • Actually, u think 30 is a minimum number of launches. To do more than 30 though, they need tx to come online by mid year. But their real goal for next year is dragon 2, along with multiple FH.
      • by torkus ( 1133985 )

        IIRC SpaceX is in fact planning 30 launches next year. I can't find a clear citation at the moment, but I think Gwynne Shotwell said as much in a recent speech somewhere.

        And among those 30-odd missions there will be some significant milestones: 1. First Falcon Heavy flight; 2. First Dragon-2 flight; 3. First crewed flight; and (possibly) a tourist fly-by around the moon. They will probably also refly some "flight-proven" boosters for the third or fourth time next year, as well as demonstrating fast turnaround (say, within 48hrs) of a reflown booster.

        It'll be a lot of fun to watch all that happening.

        But don't forget...SpaceX is about to go bust. All these launches and hardware and tech and plans are centuries behind schedule and trillions over budget and can't possibly fly because physics. Also Musk will shortly give birth to the devil and take his place in hades where he will continue to manipulate the world via conspiring banks that no one has ever heard of. /sarcasm

        I'm sure next year will be quite amazing just as i'm sure there will be more hiccups to go with. End of the day...of the few companie

  • ...Eat your heart out!

  • by Mysticalfruit ( 533341 ) on Saturday October 28, 2017 @04:20AM (#55449157) Homepage Journal
    If you're one of the other launch providers, I can only imagine what this must look like.

    For years, these companies laughed off SpaceX as some billionaires hobby. I suspect the laughing has officially stopped and lengthy meeting have begun.

    These other companies in a response to SpaceX have promised reuseable rockets to bring their costs down, but at this point they're dreams on a whiteboard.

    I see a number of problems any competitor is going to have.
    1. In many cases their production line is optimized to prevent funding losses from their governmental sponsors, not to create lots of rockets.
    2. Their cost/revenue structures are bloated.
    2. Once SpaceX sets this pace for launch cadence it's going to be very hard for competitors to keep up. Especially when SpaceX is going to have a literal fleet of used boosters at their disposal. I can only imagine some satellite provider going into talks starting with "If you can't launch 10 a year, then we're walking... oh and we also want them super cheap as well..."

    This race to the bottom is going to be very detrimental to other launch providers who'll have to try to cut corners to save costs and speed up production.
    I expect to see SpaceX's competitors have more failures.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, the Indians launching 104 satellites for 15 million are totally crapping their pants...

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PSLV-C37

      • by Gavagai80 ( 1275204 ) on Saturday October 28, 2017 @06:26AM (#55449363) Homepage

        The number of micro-satellites you can cram in is irrelevant, you could launch a thousand such mini-satellites on a Falcon 9. Literally -- the payload mass of that flight was 3,038 lb and Falcon 9 lifts 30,000+ lbs to LEO. The ISRO is not competitive with SpaceX on cost.

      • Point taken.

        My take on the Indian launch system is this.
        1. It's a 4 stage rocket utilizing toxic hard to handle propellants. Everytime you add a stage, it introduces complexity and places where things can go wrong.
        2. How fast can they manufacture these things? What happens when SpaceX decides to simply junk launch well worn F9's for 5M so they can write them off the books?

        With that all said, buck shot firing a 100+ 3kg satellites into space is cool.
      • You forgot the part where their launcher has a maximum 3800 kg payload capability to LEO where Falcon 9 has over 20000 kg for four times the price, i.e. is about 25-35% cheaper per kg of payload even in expendable mode. You may also have missed the disproportionate pricing of labor - Indian aerospace engineers are like 8x cheaper than US engineers, making SpaceX's vehicle technology appear even more efficient in practice.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      These other companies in a response to SpaceX have promised reuseable rockets to bring their costs down, but at this point they're dreams on a whiteboard.

      The exception to this is Blue Origin [wikipedia.org], which have launched rockets to space, landed them, and reused them. They actually achieved a successful landing before SpaceX did. They're still behind SpaceX overall - they've launched to *space*, but not to *orbit* - but they're solid competition.

    • Almost. Arianespace had publicly said that they "don't believe" in reusable rockets. Their "point" was that "you can't keep a factory running while only manufacturing one or two vehicles per year" (this is what the SLS is attempting to, by the way). Granted, now you see videos like this one [youtu.be]. It seems a lot like "too little, too late" kind of stuff, though.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Which segues perfectly into Musk's plans to start building his super heavy BFR system. The factories will also have to keep churning out Falcon second stages.

        The BFR, if it works, will be an absolute game changer. Rapid launch cadence and cheaper to orbit per kilo than a space elevator.

        • Since Musk wants to "burn the ships" and destroy the Falcon tooling, I wonder whether they plan to stockpile second stages, too, or whether they will keep the second stage tooling.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Saturday October 28, 2017 @06:49AM (#55449415) Homepage

      These other companies in a response to SpaceX have promised reuseable rockets to bring their costs down, but at this point they're dreams on a whiteboard.

      I think they're a little more worried about the near future than the present though. SpaceX has relaunched 3 of their 18 landed boosters, so like 1.16 missions/booster so far. The non-production costs are the same, the second stage costs are the same, none of the boosters have flown more than twice so 50% of the production cost + reduced payload capacity + landing/refurb costs means it's probably not a huge win yet. The most scary thing for them would be the most boring things for us, SpaceX launching the same booster a 3rd and 4th time and pushing the reuse factor up, up and away. Their worst nightmare is a booster flying >10 times like an airplane instead of a rocket.

      What we want to see is the Falcon Heavy, BFR, Dragon 2, manned missions etc. but they're more like capabilities we don't have today. Even the SLS program is so full of pork it's unlikely it'll be shut down just because Musk can launch a FH - hopefully, it's been less than a year away since 2012 [wikipedia.org] - but undercutting the competition on cost will be very noticeable. Then again Musk seems to want to put a lot of money into R&D, so how much prices will drop just because SpaceX's costs drop... we'll see.

      • Important to note that there is one more huge cost saving and that is being able to increase inventory without building another production line. I think their factory is nearing capacity at this point so reusability means they can continue to expand without having to invest in a lot of capex to build or expand their factory. (Which also frees up space for BFR which drives down future costs.)

        Blue Origin is burning a lot of cash right now just to build their manufacturing capabilities.

    • by EnsilZah ( 575600 ) <(EnsilZah) (at) (Gmail.com)> on Saturday October 28, 2017 @07:32AM (#55449477)

      I suspect pants are not even crapped to a sufficient capacity yet.

      Roscosmos recently announced they're going to design a simpler to manufacture, expendable Soyuz 5 rocket that would match SpaceX's current launch prices, in 5 years.

      Ariane is going to bring the Ariane 6 to market in 2-3 years without consideration to reusability, and if I remember correctly, their CEO said it would take on the order of 10 years to develop anything reusable.

      ULA haven't even selected an engine for their next rocket yet, and any reusability considerations are an afterthought years down the line from when the rocket actually flies.

      At this point the best any of the major players are aiming for is to try matching last year's prices 3-4-5 years down the line, as if SpaceX is just going to sit there and wait, and a 10 year development cycle is still a reasonable expectation.

      And by then they'll be bringing out a new unproven design, while Flacon 9 will have a history of 100 flights, 900 operational engine fires.
      SpaceX will have the economy of scale in pad operations of launching every other week or even more rapidly than that.
      SpaceX will have a profit margin to fall back on from their reused rockets that they're currently using to pay off the R&D, to lower prices even futher.
      And they'll have rockets sitting there waiting to match a customer with a free launch slot while their competitors will require ordering a new rocket built a year or so in advance.

      SpaceX is going to eat up the commercial launch sector, and all these companies are going to get are subsidized scraps from their respective governments, and demand for specialized features like ULA's longer lifespan second stage.

      Of course there's still room for Blue Origin to grow into, as well companies that aim to sell cheaper rockets for smaller payloads, and presumably China and India.

      • Competition improves everything. If we could introduce this concept into medicine, we would have eternal life with dentistry we could afford.

  • Please. Any news?????

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