SpaceX successfully launches satellite into geosynchronous orbit. A very big deal.

On 12-3, SpaceX put a satellite into a high-earth orbit. The Luxembourg satellite operator SES will settle their sat into geosync orbit.

This is a major deal for SpaceX because it proves they can lift into geosync orbit. That means the satellite will appear to remain in the same place relative to the ground.  They have a lot of contracts to do so and can now try breaking into the market for lifting Pentagon satellites. Up to now, they have only lifted to low-earth orbit.

Two great articles today explain the launch:

As an accountant, here are some tidbits from the articles on the market and economics of launching payloads that caught my eye.


  • SpaceX is now a serious competitor in the large sat market.
  • Lower cost and faster launch rate than competition – SpaceX’s goal.

SpaceX schedule:

  • 50 – number of SpaceX’s contracted launches, half for commercial customers. Ten of the total are supply runs to the ISS.
  • 2 per year – average launches since 2010 by SpaceX.
  • 1 per month – launch rate for next 2 years needed to meet SpaceX’s announced manifest.
  • 24 per year – announced rocket production for 2015.

This launch:

  • 7,000 pounds – weight of SES-8 satellite.
  • $60 million – SpaceX’s advertised price for a launch – supposedly SES got a discount as the first customer.
  • $8,570 per pound – cost of lifting SES-8 at the posted price.

Other tidbits:

  • $300 million – development cost for Falcon 9 lift vehicle.
  • $600 million approximate – lift cost for one spy sat on heavy-lift Delta IV.
  • Half price – SpaceX price as portion of their competitors’ prices based on comment I saw somewhere (don’t remember where)

Launch market:

  • $2.4 billion – size of market for lifting large satellites.
  • Atlas V and Delta IV – launch vehicles from United Launch Alliance used exclusively for national security related launches.
  • Joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing – dominant player for U.S. spy & military launches (near 100% of launches?)
  • more demand than capacity – Several comments throughout the articles suggests to me that the satellite operators want to put more sats into orbit than what the current capacity in the industry can deliver. This would explain the large backlog of contracted launches. If I’m reading that correctly, the growth potential for SpaceX is huge. Very cool.

SpaceX is privately founded, run, and funded. Currently is closely held.

The frontier is open.

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