Commercial Space Launch Update; Some Old And Some New

Sadly, nothing to report that’s quite as exciting as a landing (successful or not), but SpaceX and Blue Origin continue to toil away at improving the cost for access to space.

SpaceX has started tests on its first successfully landed rocket.  While the company has indicated this particular rocket will not launch again, the firing tests conducted last week will help SpaceX better understand the stresses its rockets undergo and how well they could perform for subsequent launches.

That said, SpaceX is already competitive in providing launch services, as suggested by its missions launching satellites and providing cargo to the International Space Station.  The company is also authorized to launch military payloads, and has won a contract to do just that in 2018.  That contract was awarded to SpaceX in the absence of a competitor, even though the United Launch Alliance (ULA) is also certified to provide military launch services.  An upcoming bid on a GPS-III satellite launch will be the first time that both companies will vie for the same launch contract.  With SpaceX costs considered notably cheaper than those of ULA, this competition may be one sided, or demonstrate a significant change in the way that ULA does business.

Meanwhile, over in Europe, the continent’s equivalent of ULA, Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL), has taken steps to obtain a supermajority (74%) ownership in Arianespace.  This means that ASL now has the kind of control over the launch company that should allow for the kind economic benefits that ULA (and its two launch vehicle producing owners, Lockheed Martin and Boeing) enjoys from its setup.


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