March 14, 2012

Private Space Launches Taking Off In Popularity

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), a non-governmental space launching company operated by entrepreneur Elon Musk, has signed up two more customers for launches on its Falcon 9 rockets, the company announced on Tuesday.

Asia Broadcast Satellite and Satélites Mexicanos, also known as Satmex, hired SpaceX for two launches to deliver a total of four telecommunications satellites into orbit before the end of 2015.

“Asia and Latin America represent two of the world´s hottest markets for commercial satellite operators,” Musk said in a statement.

Tom Choi, chief executive of Asia Broadcast Satellite added, “together with Satmex, our co-launch partner, we embark upon an innovative prospect of dual launching four medium-powered satellites on two launches on the Falcon .”

“We are extremely happy to be working with Satmex and SpaceX to dramatically realign the cost structure of space access in order to bring the affordable capacity demanded by our customers.”

SpaceX advertises the price of a Falcon 9 launch at between $54 million and $59.5 million, has sold about 24 rocket rides to commercial customers and another dozen to NASA, which has hired SpaceX, as well as another company, Orbital Sciences, to fly cargo to the International Space Station.

SpaceX is preparing for a demonstration run to the orbital outpost next month.

Sales of SpaceX rocket rides to non-US government customers mark a turnaround for the US commercial launch industry, which has steadily and rapidly lost market share since its peak in 1998 with 22 commercial launches, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

United Launch Alliance, a joint-venture of Boeing and Lockheed-Martin for example, has only one commercial customer on its launch manifest, which includes flights of both Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets.

United Launch Alliance´s last commercial launch was in November 2010, said company spokeswoman Jessica Rye. ULA does not publicly disclose launch prices, she added.


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