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Successful launch from earlier this week  (Source: SpaceX)
SpaceX launches second successful rocket launch

Space Exploration Technologies recently launched a Malaysian Earth-observing satellite into orbit, marketing its second successful launch.

"Our ground systems were able to pick up communication from RazakSAT on its first pass," SpaceX said in a statement.  "The satellite is communicating as expected and our team will continue to monitor the data closely."

Stormy weather and a helium malfunction delayed the launch of the Falcon 1 rocket for a few hours -- and there was concern the launch would have to be scrubbed -- but it still took off without a hitch.  The RazakSAT satellite was expected to launch into space in April, but a vibration issue located between Falcon 1 and RazakSAT took quite some time to fix.

The RazakSAT will take high-resolution pictures of Malaysia, allowing the government to monitor forestry and fish migration, land management, and other government-led initiatives.

This marks the company's first commercial space launch, and the company is already looking for other companies and nations looking to launch satellites into space.  SpaceX previously had three launches unable to reach orbit, but continues to build momentum for future launches.

In the future, SpaceX aims to make it significantly cheaper to go into space at a lower cost, with the company actively making new rockets.  SpaceX will use its Falcon 1 and its larger Falcon 9 rocket to help launch rides into orbit in the future.

NASA awarded SpaceX a contract in 2008 to help resupply the International Space Station, which will be extremely important when the U.S. space agency retires the space shuttle fleet next year.

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By bradmshannon on 7/16/2009 1:28:56 PM , Rating: 2
Has anyone done a cost comparison of how much SpaceX spends on a single rocket launch compared to NASA? I'm sure there are some big differences in size or whatnot, but it would still be interesting I think.

RE: Budget
By Shig on 7/16/2009 1:45:30 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sure it was cheaper, but I doubt that the SpaceX sattelites are very big. I also doubt SpaceX could launch a full size satelite.

My question is : If the cost to launch a really small sattelite is low, would it be more efficient to launch 2-4 small sattelites that equal one larger one?

RE: Budget
By grath on 7/16/2009 5:57:09 PM , Rating: 2
It depends on the type and application of the satellites in question, their desired useful lifespan, and their location in orbit. In some cases, multiple satellites are indeed launched on the same rocket, but there is always a tradeoff when reducing the size and mass of a satellite. That means a less capable satellite with less available power, less sensitive antennas, smaller optics, and/or decreased lifespan because of smaller fuel tanks and less fuel for reboost or station keeping. Also keep in mind that no satellite, no matter how small, can be considered 'low cost' to launch. To even launch one pound of anything requires a multimillion dollar launch system. So engineers tend to want to squeeze every last drop of capability they can out of a design, and that means they build it as close to the maximum rated up-mass of the system as is reasonable, constantly trying to shave a few pounds off here and there in order to accomodate more propellant to keep their investment useful for as long as possible.

RE: Budget
By Screwballl on 7/18/2009 12:42:39 PM , Rating: 1
That means a less capable satellite with less available power, less sensitive antennas, smaller optics, and/or decreased lifespan because of smaller fuel tanks and less fuel for reboost or station keeping.

Considering the price of current 10+ MP digital cameras and the availability of nuclear material, a few small adjustments could have them sending satellites in orbit for 1/10th of what NASA is.

RE: Budget
By mmatis on 7/16/2009 8:48:33 PM , Rating: 2
The real answer to your question is can 2-4 small satellites do the job of one larger one? There have been pushes for satellite miniaturization for several years, and OSC's Pegasus launcher does fly smaller satellites. However, there are still a significant number of large satellites, and their owners aren't looking to spend money they don't have to. Note that SpaceX is working on the Falcon 9 rocket, which will be able to carry a significantly larger payload if it is successful.

RE: Budget
By kattanna on 7/16/2009 3:06:00 PM , Rating: 2
The Falcon 1 rocket can haul small satellites, like the nearly 400-pound (180-kg) RazakSAT, into low Earth orbit

Falcon 1 launches currently cost about $8 million per flight, SpaceX officials have said.

RE: Budget
By bradmshannon on 7/16/2009 3:11:53 PM , Rating: 4
They need to hurry up and help this little company take off (pun intended) so we can save an assload of money!

RE: Budget
By TSS on 7/16/2009 6:23:43 PM , Rating: 2
this is what i ment in the other post about de-orbiting the ISS with "sell it to the private sector".

imagine what a company like this could do with a ready made space hotel and maybe some extra rocket technology to boot! then the government(s) can start focussing on mining helium-3 from the moon so we can get this "fusion" thing going and leave the enviroment alone, as well as being rid of energy worries.

besides the resources, such a undertaking would surely result in some new fancy technology. plus, it beats turning a $100 billion piece of technology into a giant fireball/ocean litter.

RE: Budget
By RjBass on 7/17/2009 12:02:55 AM , Rating: 2

NASA and other countries involved could add on a few extra "hotel room" modules, charge guest an arm & a leg to get there like the Russians do, and help offset the cost of the ISS.

RE: Budget
By StinkyWhizzleTeeth on 7/16/2009 8:38:11 PM , Rating: 4
By they, do you mean the federal gov?

The government only subsidizes things that are failing.

RE: Budget
By Samus on 7/17/2009 7:28:42 AM , Rating: 2
The government only subsidizes things that are failing.

LMFAO. Give this man a 6!

RE: Budget
By foolsgambit11 on 7/20/2009 5:22:47 AM , Rating: 2
Failing but deemed 'necessary'. Like roads and bridges, farms, power, oil and gas companies, schools, and defense.

RE: Budget
By phantom505 on 7/21/2009 8:40:15 PM , Rating: 2
Shhh.... if you didn't notice the country is still here. And it even functions!!!

Tired of libertarian nonsense. I have yet to meet a company that runs anything better or worse than the Gov.

RE: Budget
By CheesePoofs on 7/16/2009 6:14:40 PM , Rating: 2
SpaceX is a cash flow positive company, so their launch prices should be indicative of actual costs. Currently the Falcon 1 launches sell for ~10 million per launch but it's a fraction of the size of the shuttle. The Falcon 9, which will be able to launch much larger cargo as well as crew into orbit, launches for ~35 million for launching satellites version.

They're vehicle for launching people (Dragon) hasn't yet been developed in its crewed form, but there currently is an uncrewed form (which is identical except it doesn't have life support or a launch escape system), which will deliver cargo to the ISS. NASA bought 12 launches for $1.6 billion total (~$133 million / launch), which I believe is also supposed to cover some development costs, though I'm not positive.

However, to be fair to the shuttle, none of these vehicles are able to lift both crew and anywhere near the amount of cargo the shuttle can. Then again, why should any vehicle be designed to do that when two separate launches work just as well?

RE: Budget
By Solandri on 7/17/2009 12:55:12 AM , Rating: 2
Dunno where you got your costs, but assuming they're right. Falcon 1 costs $10 mil, payload of 670 kg to LEO. That's $15,000 per kg, or $15 mil per ton. (RazakSat is actually 180 kg, but let's go with max payload capability here.)

Delta, Atlas, and Ariane appear to cost around $10-$15 mil per ton of payload in the last 20 years.

So it seems they're in the same ballpark.

RE: Budget
By mindless1 on 7/17/2009 4:47:29 AM , Rating: 2
... because the value of the dollar hasn't changed in 20 years??

RE: Budget
By tmouse on 7/17/2009 8:29:21 AM , Rating: 3
No, if you bothered to check the link, instead of firing off a stupid wisecrack, you would have seen the cost of these systems LEO launches has dropped since the 90's and are lower NOW.

RE: Budget
By CheesePoofs on 7/17/2009 5:26:29 PM , Rating: 2
Falcon 9 has a much better price / kg (or price / ton). Normally the large the rocket the less it costs to launch a pound of payload into orbit, and you were comparing a very small rocket with a heavy lift rocket. Numbers were from SpaceX's site (have since been taken down to be updated for 2009) and wikipedia.

RE: Budget
By FPP on 7/19/2009 4:52:04 PM , Rating: 2
More importantly is reliability. I think Spacex will eventually end up costing comparable to other systems but it is the reliability people will want.

The Spacex philosophy is to fire the rocket and hold it to the pad for checking it operationally before letting it go. This way, any malfunctions on the pad can be aborted without destroying the spacecraft. Spacex arrived at a philosophy of reliability achieved by almost totally building every piece, keeping control of the process. NASA will learn a great deal from their involvement with Spacex.

RE: Budget
By foolsgambit11 on 7/20/2009 5:40:12 AM , Rating: 2
It's a little early to call SpaceX reliable. 5 attempted launches, 3 failures. SpaceX calls one of those a 'partial success', but the rocket didn't make LEO, so I call that a failure. So holding the rocket to the pad doesn't seem to give them enough of a clue as to success or failure of the mission.

On the other hand, the Space Shuttles (vastly more complex pieces of machinery) have had 126 launches with only 2 failures.

I'm not saying SpaceX can't get there, and they certainly learn as much from a failure as a success (although as a business model, success works better), but they're not there yet.

"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer

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