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posted by martyb on Wednesday May 10 2017, @01:36PM   Printer-friendly
from the we've-come-a-long-ways dept.

Is there room for launch companies smaller than the United Launch Alliance and SpaceX?

Vector Space Systems successfully launched a full-scale model of its Vector-R rocket on Wednesday in Mojave, California. The test flight, which remained under 50,000 feet for regulatory purposes, allows the company to remain on track to begin providing launch services for small satellites in 2018, said Jim Cantrell, the company's chief executive and cofounder.

The Arizona-based rocket company is one of a handful of competitors racing to the launch pad to provide lower-cost access to space for small satellites. These satellites are generally under 500kg in mass and often much smaller (the industry trend is toward smaller, lighter, more capable satellites). The Vector-R rocket will eventually be capable of launching a payload of up to 45kg to an orbit of 800km above the Earth. Other companies trying to reach this market include US-based Virgin Orbit and New Zealand-based Rocket Lab. Neither company has begun commercial launches.

[...] The market seems ready for micro-launchers. For now, smaller payloads must typically "share" rides to space on larger rockets, and they cannot count on a launch date. Instead of being treated as excess cargo, Vector intends to offer these small satellites the capability to launch within three months of demand. Vector will launch these small payloads into any desired orbit from Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska or Cape Canaveral in Florida. Launch costs will range from $2 million to $3 million.

Also at NASASpaceFlight.


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  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday May 10 2017, @09:15PM (1 child)

    by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Wednesday May 10 2017, @09:15PM (#507753) Journal

    Compare $2-3 million per launch to $60-90 million for SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.

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  • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday May 10 2017, @09:40PM

    by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday May 10 2017, @09:40PM (#507765)

    The secondary payloads on the Falcons/Ariane don't pay nearly that much. The guys with the two 5t GTO sats pay most of the cost.
    Surely, they do cost more than the 2-3M these guys ask, but the total cost (replacement, insurance, delays, loss of opportunity) has to include the risk. Ariane success doesn't make news, SpaceX success is becoming routine: you pay for reliable service.

    Hence my agreement with the prior post stating
    > actually follows the strict quality control practices necessary for not just one or two successful launches, but repeatably successful launches.
    Because if they don't, their only other option is hoping for their competitors to also fail, and then nobody wins.