SpaceX: More Orders, a New F-9R, but No Legs

A general roundup of SpaceX news as the latest launch week begins.

Tweets from Aviation Week coming from a conference in Paris relay that SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell told an audience that the company had signed 9 new launch orders including possibly “2 to 3 Heavies”  Once confirmed, it would would be solid counter to the string of order announced by Arianespace last week, and another indication that the two companies are pushing rival ILS and Sea Launch further into the background.

The use of the term “possible” where the Falcon Heavies are concerned are reminiscent of previous order from Inmarsat which seemed to hover on the line of capability between the Falcon 9 V1.1 and the Falcon Heavy.

For the moment however, the only specific order announced last week was for a Bulgarian direct broadcast satellite to built on the popular Space Systems/Loral 1300 platform. That order is to be financed by the Export/Import Bank, an institution the U.S. Congress is in the process of considering defunding. If that happens it could significantly impact the orders U.S. satellite builders and launch providers are receiving from smaller nations whose national satellites comprise a growing segment of the ComSat market.

In other news coming from the same conference, Shotwell also stated that ground breaking in Texas for its new commercial launch facility will take place on September 21-22nd,  with construction expected to take two years, occurring in parallel with the SpaceX modifications to KSC’s 39A.

Meanwhile, the Waco-Tribune reports that SpaceX expects to have a new Falcon 9-R test vehicle ready within the next two months to replace the article which self destructed over McGregor on August 22nd. First flights will take place in Texas before moving to SpacePort America in New Mexico for high altitude flights with a much, much wider safety corridor. SpaceX did not confirm the story.

Finally, in a semi-related development, and contrary to previous reports, the SpaceX/NASA CRS-4 flight due to launch from Cape Canaveral early Saturday morning will not include legs or an attempt at soft landing in the ocean. That should perhaps not come a too much of a surprise.  Given the northeasterly trajectory the booster must take, the darkness of the night hour and the apparent quick breakup time of the Falcon first stage as it falls over into the ocean, a recovery effort would have been near virtually futile in any event.


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