SpaceX VP Says Starship Already Wins Commercial Launch Deals

A SpaceX executive said the company’s next-generation, fully reusable Starship rocket has already won several commercial launch contracts.

Scheduled to debut at the earliest (NET) in the first quarter of 2022 with a semi-orbital launch that aims to send Starship around 85% of the Earth’s circle, Starship still has a ways to go before it is ready to go. regularly launch payloads. Still, SpaceX is confident enough in Starship’s eventual success to have made it the foundation for each of the company’s future goals, both short and long term. To date, SpaceX’s Falcon rockets have become a spectacularly successful revolution in cost-effective launch through reuse and vertical integration, among others.

With this unprecedented accessibility, SpaceX was able to launch the deployment of its Internet constellation Starlink, launching more than 1,800 satellites and becoming the largest satellite operator in history in less than two and a half years. Where competition is possible, Falcon 9 dominates the global market for commercial launches for small and large satellites. However, despite its astounding success, Falcon 9 remains at least one or two magnitudes too expensive and too limited in performance to achieve SpaceX’s greatest ambitions.

These overarching goals are quite simple and directly related. First, SpaceX – through Starlink – aims to cover the Earth’s surface with high-quality, affordable satellite internet that is either indistinguishable or better than ground-based alternatives, ultimately connecting tens, if not hundreds of millions of people to Internet. Second, SpaceX’s founding goal has always been to make humanity a multiplanetary species by enabling the creation of one or more permanent and autonomous cities on Mars. For the latter purpose, Starship or a fully reusable rocket as it has always been essential – without which it would be prohibitive to launch the mass and volume of supplies needed to build a city on another world.

Recently, if the often hyperbolic SpaceX CEO is to be believed, Starlink’s success has also become dependent on Starship, with Musk saying in a company-wide note that SpaceX as a whole could go bankrupt if Starship does. ‘re not ready to launch more than 200 Starlink satellites. per month by the end of 2022. If it is simply not true that SpaceX is facing bankruptcy, there could be some truth behind Musk’s statement. Worry aside, the gist of Musk’s argument is that Starlink is “financially weak” in the current paradigm, where Falcon 9 sends about 50 300 kilogram (~ 650 lb) satellites into orbit with each launch.

In a similar vein to Starship, Musk believes that the next-generation “Starlink V2” satellites – several times the size of the V1 satellites – will dramatically improve the constellation’s profitability by allowing SpaceX to squeeze significantly more network capacity from each unit. mass of the satellite. However, making the Starlink V2 satellites several times the size would make their launch on Falcon 9 far less efficient – hence the urgent need for Starship.

Contrary to Musk’s doomsday vision, while it could be significantly slower and more expensive to deploy, there’s a good chance that a full Starlink V1 constellation launched by Falcon 9 could still be economically viable. What it probably wouldn’t, however, is exceptionally profitable, which has long been SpaceX’s primary plan to fund its multiplanetary dreams. With a ship capable of meeting its design goals, that could change.

According to Musk and other SpaceX executives, the actual cost – before payloads – of a flight-proven Falcon 9 launch is between $ 15 million and $ 28 million. At an estimated cost of $ 250 to $ 500,000 each, 50-60 Starlink V1 satellites bring the total cost of a Starlink launch to around $ 30-60 million. In a partially reusable configuration, Falcon 9 is capable of launching approximately 16 tonnes (approximately 35,000 lbs) into low earth orbit (LEO).

Starship, however, is designed to launch at least 100 tonnes (~ 220,000 lbs) and possibly up to 150 tonnes (~ 330,000 lbs) at LEO for a marginal cost of as little as $ 2 million. Even if SpaceX is within a distance of that target and never reaches 100t at LEO, a $ 20 million spacecraft launch fully loaded with Starlink satellites would still cost five times less than Falcon 9 per unit mass of satellite launched. . At 150 tonnes for LEO for $ 10 million, Starship would cost 15 times less. If SpaceX ever perfects full reuse and the marginal costs drop to $ 2 million, a 150-ton spacecraft launch could be up to 70 times cheaper than Falcon 9.

For the exact same reasons that it could drastically improve the profitability of deploying Starlink and ultimately make humanity’s expansion beyond Earth affordable enough to be viable, Starship would also inherently revolutionize access to it. ‘space for all other launch clients – not just SpaceX.

According to SpaceX vice president of commercial sales Tom Ochinero, Starship has already started making inroads with the right list of existing SpaceX Falcon customers. While relatively minor and inevitable, this is still a significant symbolic milestone for SpaceX and Starship, as they attempt to deliver a launch vehicle that is so capable and inexpensive that it is retiring its own Falcon rockets. the society.

SpaceX VP Says Starship Already Wins Commercial Launch Deals

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