Prior to this year, the most successful launches SpaceX had performed in any year was eight. But in 2017 the company was able to combine a more efficient production flow, an older Falcon 9 rocket, and an experienced workforce to put its launch capabilities into overdrive. On Monday, SpaceX will go for its 16th launch of the year, doubling its previous record.
This year has seen a number of firsts for the company—the first launch of a Falcon 9 booster, the first reuse of a Dragon cargo plane, the first national defense payload, and a dozen incredible landings. But perhaps the biggest achievement was finally delivering on the promise of a high flight rate.
“They’ve had a busy and busy year in 2017, with launches, recoveries, and reuses all working well,” said Greg Autry, assistant professor of business at the University of Southern California. Moreover, achievements this year should set the stage for even greater achievements in the years to come.
Autry said that contractors are still not getting paid on SpaceX’s reusable launches, of which the company has done three in 2017. This suggests that recycling is becoming normalized and accepted within the company. “This should make the job of the SpaceX sales people even easier,” Autry said. “Barring any delays due to launch failures, I think we’ll see them take an even bigger slice of the market and potentially close to a monopoly in commercial launch.”
For years, competitors in the world’s launch industry have noted, with skepticism, that SpaceX is unable to achieve higher flight rates and fly out its long exposure. Those concerns appear 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 the payload. affect. However, competitors worry, if SpaceX ever clears things up, the company could become a “steamroller” with its low-cost flight opportunities.
On Monday, accepting the weather space, SpaceX will try to launch the Koreasat 5A communication satellite for a South Korean company. The launch window for the Kennedy Space Center-based shuttle opens at 3:34 pm ET. After this, it is 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 a shame if company average for 2014, 2015, we had 2016 combined).
That would easily eclipse the best-selling US-based competitor in the launch business, United Launch Alliance. In 2014, the Colorado-based company launched nine Atlas V rockets and five Delta rockets, for a total of 14 missions. SpaceX could also launch more rockets this year than any other international competitor, including State launch service in Russia and China.
Space historian John Logsdon notes that, especially in the 1960s, the Soviet Union and the US governments launched several orbital rockets in a few years. However, he said, the recent success of SpaceX, “gives evidence to at least many aspects of SpaceX’s business, in particular that the low cost and reliability of the concept will attract customers.”
Whether that ultimately raises enough money to raise meaningful profits, especially to fund its Mars goals, is not in doubt, he added.
Image courtesy of SpaceX