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It’s a space race of the most forgiving genre, plus there’s a new commercial launch company in games and another gearing up for full-scale production. Additionally, Starlink is aiming for the stars – “the stars” in this case not failing.
The billionaire’s battle to boast that no one asked
Richard Branson surprised absolutely no one when he announced last week that he would be aboard the next Virgin Galactic to fly into low Earth orbit, which is scheduled to take off on July 11, and that he would be the space tourism company’s first. to carry a full crew. . Jeff Bezos heads to his company’s reusable phallic rocket on July 20, which means if all goes according to plan, Branson will beat him by just over a week.
If you find that you find it hard to muster a lot of excitement or genuinely feelings about these two grown-up men who burn money in a race to be the first billionaire to spend a few minutes at an altitude technically considered ” space ”by a more or less arbitrary definition, then bravo: do not worry about it. No one should, and yet here we are, writing and reading about it in a newsletter.
These “events” will be worth watching because of the technical achievements they represent for the companies involved and the teams who have worked hard to ensure that either of the spacecraft is capable of transporting. humans safe in space; the billionaires on board are nothing more than simple movable, weight and mass simulators that can provide a surprisingly good, but not quite perfect, simulacrum of a human passenger.
Elon actually gets rare kudos for apparently not caring about this particular brother.
SpaceX and Virgin Galactic deliver
SpaceX and Virgin Orbit delivered payloads on behalf of paying customers last week – the normal course for the former, but unprecedented experience for the latter. SpaceX sent 85 satellites on behalf of customers on its second official ride-sharing mission, along with three of its own, and Virgin Orbit launched its first official trade mission (following its successful demo launch earlier this year), carrying a number of its own. number of small satellites, the first ever for the Dutch army.
If Virgin Orbit is successful in ramping up operations according to plan, a week like this with multiple launches from a number of commercial launch providers capable of sending small satellites could become much more common. Virgin Orbit is now joining SpaceX and Rocket Lab as having the potential to fly any week, and more are on their heels, including Astra (which is now an officially listed company) and Relativity.
Speaking of the latter, Relativity announced a new 1 million square foot factory that will house a large chunk of its massive 3D printers to speed up production of its larger Terran R rocket. The company has yet to fly its Terran 1, the first of its 3D printed spaceships, but that’s still expected to happen later this year.
SpaceX’s Starlink terminal costs more than twice what it costs
Elon Musk virtually joined the MWC conference in Barcelona to talk about Starlink, and when asked what the success of the booming global connectivity service would look like, he said that they would essentially be happy if he didn’t. not bankruptcy. Then if they can get past that hurdle, they’ll start thinking longer term.
He pointed out that everyone who has tried to do what Starlink is trying to do so far has gone bankrupt, and admitted that the company has probably already invested between $ 5 billion and $ 10 billion in its work on the constellation and the service so far, with an additional $ 30. billion should be invested in the long term. He also pointed out that the $ 500 terminal and modem kit that customers have to buy to connect actually cost SpaceX over $ 1,000 to produce, so he’s selling them at a significant loss for now.
Starlink could be a great source of ongoing income, and more consistent and predictable than the launch activity, but it will obviously take a long time to get there. Now it makes sense for the company to launch Starlink satellites with such frequency, as it is aiming for global coverage and the greater customer base that this brings.