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SpaceX contains costs with simplified approach

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Sun Jan 30, 2005 5:29 pm
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floridatoday.com by Todd Halvorson (via hobbyspace): The SpaceX Mission Control Center is an 18-wheeler.
Its Falcon rockets don’t require huge mobile service towers or other complicated launch pad systems that are expensive to build and maintain.

Near launch-ready when they leave their California factory, Falcons roll up to a launch pad on an extended flatbed truck that also serves as a rocket erector with a built-in umbilical tower.
And the company’s launch team is made up of 15 to 20 people, rather than hundreds or thousands of workers.

“My goodness, you can’t sell rockets at low prices if you’ve got a standing army,” said Gwynne Shotwell, the company’s vice president of business development.
The skeleton launch team and the company’s ship-and-shoot concept of operations are two ways SpaceX keeps launch costs low.

Others include:

  • A reusable first stage. The first stage of a Falcon rocket parachutes into the ocean and is recovered for use on subsequent missions.
  • In-house production. SpaceX builds its own engines and other systems, making the company and its customers less vulnerable to price hikes from outside vendors.
  • The company — which plans to launch from Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station by late 2006 — already has four missions booked at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and the Reagan Test Site on the Marshall Islands.

    Customers include the U.S. Department of Defense and Bigelow Aerospace, a Nevada company developing inflatable modules for commercial space stations.
    The first Falcon launch is scheduled for later this year at Vandenberg.

    Contact Halvorson at 639-0576 or thalvorson@flatoday.net

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