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12 January 2014


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Commercial launch of communications and other non-government satellites is already routine. Orbital has various non-government launches and clients already. Orbital also make satellites.

SpaceX also has many non-US government launch clients announced, and three recent successful launches with non-NASA customers.

The better question is when will there be enough customers to make all the launchers, facilities, etc. viable businesses in the absence of government clients and subsidies.


As fairhavenhorn points out above, there actually is a decent amount of commercial launch demand out there. For instance, two of SpaceX's last three flights were commercial satellite deliveries (the third, CASSIOPE was for the Canadian Space Agency). The barriers to entry in the launch market are big enough that it's hard for new entrants to get in without bootstrapping off of government contracts.

The key of getting the market large enough that it's economically viable to raise the money needed to enter the industry is probably opening up new markets. Which requires getting launch costs down significantly from where they are today. SpaceX wants to do that, but while I'm pretty sure their landing/reuse strategy will probably work from a technical and a "marginal cost" standpoint, it's not clear if it'll be able to create the new demand fast enough to really drive prices down. Jury's still out on that one.


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