14 months ago, SpaceX changed the face of spaceflight.
Announcing the creation of a new Program on Smallsat Rouriare, SpaceX promises to offer “regularly scheduled, dedicated Falcon 9 rideshare missions” in space for satellites “up to 150 kg” at prices ” less than $ 2.25 million per mission “- or less than $ 15,000 per kilogram.
Just a month later, SpaceX expanded and simplified the program by adding the option of hitting ad hoc rides on its own Starlink satellite launch for less than $ 1 million, or $ 5,000 per kilo.
So how are SpaceX plans developed?
On the moon, Alice! (Or at least, to orbit)
Pretty good, really. SpaceX’s first Starlink / Rouriare took to orbit in June 2020, bringing a trio of Earth observation satellites to the US company Planet, with many additional rideshares announced ever since. And as we just learned from our friends at SpaceNews.com, the new SpaceX service is also starting to gain international popularity.
Last week, German launch aggregator Exolaunch announced it had signed an agreement to place at least 30 third-party satellites aboard SpaceX rideshare missions by December 2020, and to launch dozens other satellites by mid-2021.
SpaceX is not the only company offering rideshare services. Sometimes-competitor, sometimes partner with Spaceflight Inc., now owned by Japanese conglomerate Mitsui & Co. and industrial machinery manufacturer Yamasa Co., has been binding customer orders for rocket launches, and purchasing rideshare space on rockets by other companies (SpaceX including rockets) for many years . But now it seems Spaceflight Inc. is gaining competition in Europe from a homegrown rival – and SpaceX has found another partner.
As Exolaunch vice president of launch services Jeanne Medvedeva explained in a statement: “The SpaceX program is a game-changer for the rideshare launch industry that gives new impetus to many small constellations satellite, “which is both” effective “and” reliable. “
This record of reliability (SpaceX has not suffered a single launch mishap in more than four years), when combined with the ultra-low price charges of SpaceX, seems to be growing the market for bundle rideshare launches far out of US borders. According to the SpaceNews story, Exolaunch’s customers in these very places come from all over the world – including Canada, France, Germany, Lithuania, and the UK.
What this means for investors
So, bully for Exolaunch – but Exolaunch does not trade on the US stock exchange. Exolaunch is not a publicly traded company to all, so why are any of these investors important?
First and foremost, Exolaunch’s entry into the rideshare market in partnership with SpaceX means the latter’s rideshare business is gaining momentum. It is becoming more popular, and part of that popularity, it is thought, is due to the very low price SpaceX can afford – as much as $ 1 million to launch a 200-kilo satellite, compared to the nearly $ 6 million privately -charged of Rocket Lab, for example, or the $ 12 million allegedly demanded by Virgin Orbit.
To my mind, this poses a risk to the business models of both Rocket Lab and Virgin Orbit – especially since both companies are based outside of the US, in the very markets that Exolaunch targets. By the time either or both of these companies go into IPO’ing, their potential market size could be significantly reduced.
And second, because SpaceX is piggybacking most of these railroad missions by launching its own Starlink satellites, each paying customer aboard a ride helps pay for the cost of building StarX broadband SpaceX satellite service a little more. Each rideshare makes Starlink development a bit cheaper, and a bit more profitable.
By the time SpaceX finally comes around Starlink’s IPO’ing – as it says it intends to do – it could be more important than it looks.