2002 was the last time the USA led the number of space launches, but following the 2003 Columbia space shuttle disaster, Russia topped the list every year from 2003 to 2015. In 2016, Russia fell to third place for the number of launch attempts, with U.S. and China — 22 attempts each — overtaking its 19 attempts (of which 18 were successful).
Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket flew a record 18 missions during the year. United Launch Alliance’s (Boeing-Lockheed Martin) joint venture completed eight U.S. government missions this year aboard Atlas and Delta rockets, including five from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and three from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. That total was down from 12 last year, and half as many as SpaceX has launched in 2017.
ULA tentatively has a dozen government missions scheduled in 2018.
Analysis shows an estimated 2020 cost of $422 million per ULA launch if the Air Force selected United Launch Alliance to conduct them. That combines costs for launches using ULA’s large Delta rocket as well as its smaller, less expensive Atlas V rocket. SpaceX has been awarded two Air Force contracts at far lower per-launch costs of $83 million and $96.5 million.
The September 2016 accident that blew up a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket does not count as a failed mission, since the rocket blew up while it was on the launch pad, and not during a mission.
United Space Launch is leading the Space Launch System heavy rocket development. This program has received $12 billion and yet to have one test launch. Currently the earliest first test launch is Dec 21, 2019. Two more years of funding will cost over $4 billion.
SpaceX will be performing a static fire test of the Falcon Heavy. Yes, the Falcon Heavy development has taken four years longer than originally planned but the Falcon Heavy will easily beat the Space Launch System to reach operational capability.
SpaceX Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9 development will have gotten less than $1 billion in US government funding.
The Federalist shows it does not care about the US Taxpayer when they attack SpaceX government launch contracts and not the bloated United Launch Alliance contracts of the $12+ billion ULA Space Launch System.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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