SpaceX says robust market can support four launch pads

September 1, 2016 – 08:25 pm

SpaceX boss Elon Musk sees a day before the end of the decade when his prospering rocket company administers four launch pads, taking up beach real estate in Florida, Texas and California to serve disparate markets for commercial, government and crewed space missions.

SpaceX's most recent launch Sept. 29 was the company's first flight from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Credit: SpaceX
That number doesn't count SpaceX's rocket test facilities in McGregor, Texas, and Spaceport America in New Mexico.

It would put SpaceX in position to snatch up a significant share of the global launch business, with the Falcon 9 rocket and the behemoth Falcon Heavy launching multiple times per month.

"If business is good, and we're able to keep improving the rocket, I think we'll be doing a lot of launches, " Musk said in an interview.

Musk admits his vision is still clouded by the bureaucracy his company, an epitome of vertical integration, aspires to eschew in hopes of reining in costs.

SpaceX's battle to obtain control over a historic space shuttle launch pad in Florida is mired in a government review after a protest from a rival, and the firm's effort to develop a commercial launch pad in South Texas is in a holding pattern while officials obtain the necessary environmental approvals.

And despite its successes, SpaceX is still trying to convince the U.S. military and NASA to put their most costly and critical spacecraft on Falcon rockets.

SpaceX says the Sept. 29 launch of its first upgraded Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket, featuring more powerful Merlin 1D engines and other performance-boosting modifications, was the first of three certification flights required by U.S. Air Force to compete for launches of the military's most critical spacecraft.

NASA is also assessing the new version of the Falcon 9 rocket to launch its most expensive and unique missions, such as interplanetary probes.

The initial wariness of NASA and the Air Force, which shows signs of withering, has not stopped SpaceX from logging a steady stream of contract wins, amassing a total backlog worth more than...


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