The Next Fifteen Years With SpaceX, Mars and Space

The success of SpaceX Falcon Heavy on its first launch was not just luck. Although this will be confirmed in 2019 and 2020 based upon what happens with about five planned Falcon Heavy launches.

Before the Falcon Heavy flight Musk predicted a 50 percent to 70 percent chance of success because of concerns over the difficulty predicting how the vehicle would respond to extreme aerodynamic stresses and vibrations from the clustered engines.

SpaceX has a 96.88% launch success rate (62 out of 64) with the Falcon 9. This launch success is with five major design changes for the Falcon 9 rocket.

There has been 84% success on landing first stages (31 out of 37). All landings in 2017 and 2018 have been successful other than the loss of the center stage for the Falcon Heavy.

There has been 100% success on re-flights (17 out of 17) of boosters.

SpaceX is learning more about accurately simulating the performance of rockets prior to launch. They are also understanding how to change rockets and still have successful launches.

I would put the over and under for the number of launch failures during Starship Super Heavy testing at two. It is 50-50 or better odds for two or fewer launches to fail.

This would mean that it will cost about $3 billion to develop the Starship Super Heavy. The first phase of the Starlink satellite network will cost another $1 billion.

It would take 60 launches of SpaceX Starship Super Heavy (aka BFS/ BFR) to launch about 12000 Starlink Satellites. Each Starship launch would deploy 240 Starlink satellites. If it costs $10 million to launch the SpaceX Starship, then it would cost $600 million to launch the entire Starlink Satellite network. It would cost about $40 million for each partially reusable Falcon 9 launch for 20 Starlink Satellites per launch. This would mean 600 Falcon 9 launches at a cost of $24 billion. Completing the Starship Super Heavy would make deploying the Starlink Network 40 times cheaper.

It would only take seven launches of the Starship Super Heavy to deploy the first 1600 Starlink satellites.
This would be about $70 million in launch cost. $350 million for one Starship Super Heavy would be enough for the seven launches for 1600 initial Starlink network. The cost is less than the $3.2 billion to launch the first 1600 satellites using Falcon 9. $2 billion in development cost plus $350 million for one rocket and $70 million for seven launches. There are some estimates that mass production of small low earth orbit internet satellites could drop to $100,000 each. This would mean $160 million for all of the first satellites. Even at $400,000 each, the cost would be $640 million.

$1 billion for launch failures and other sub-optimal Starship Super Heavy development.

$4 billion could get SpaceX the working Starship and the commercial viable phase 1 of the Starlink network.

The 1600 satellite commercially viable Starlink Network then starts generating $2 to 3 billion per year in 2023 from premium low latency connections for the financial centers of the world.

SpaceX is targeting 2022 for unmanned orbital launches of the Starship Super Heavy.

This would mean the Starlink network would have its first 1600 satellites working in 2023. The first 4425 satellites would be operating by 2024. The entire 12000 satellite network would be operating in 2025.

SpaceX With Working Fleet of Starship Super Heavies and Starlink Satellite Network

The completed network would generate about $5 billion per year. The 12000 satellite network would generate $10 billion per year initially in 2026 and revenues would grow to $30+ billion per year.

By 2030, SpaceX would have more revenue from the satellite network than NASA’s $21 billion government budget. Boeing is going to earn more than $100 billion in revenue in 2018. Verizon makes $126 billion per year. Comcast makes about $85 billion per year.

The current biggest independent satellite operators make about $2.5 billion per year. Direct TV is part of ATT and makes $40 billion per year.

SpaceX with the completed Starlink network growing larger than Verizon is plausible.

Private Funding of Space Stations, Moon bases and Mars bases

The first unmanned Starship Super Heavy would fly to Mars as part of a test of the rocket in 2022.

Once the first 1600 satellites are operating SpaceX will be able to fund a few dozen Starship Super Heavy flights for moon colonies, space stations and Mars exploration and a Mars base.

Elon Musk and SpaceX have been able to accomplish what they have so far with about $1 to 2 billion per year in launch revenue.

Age of SpaceX and a Trillionaire True Believer in Space

Elon Musk and SpaceX with $100-300 billion per year in revenue and $60 billion per year in research and development budget will drive the new commercial Space Age.

The World is being changed by a billionaire with grand vision. The 2020s and 2030s could see a trillionaire with grand vision.

82 thoughts on “The Next Fifteen Years With SpaceX, Mars and Space”

  1. You are missing the refueling aspect of the BFR. The BFR is designed to be refueled in orbit. Load it up with 200 satellites. Drop of 20. Refuel move to next plane. Drop off 20 more. Also the delta V required to change plane is way less than that of reaching orbit.

  2. LOL, dude, think of the scale of an EMALS system big enough to launch a BFR. It would be a supersized sky scraper. Also, how would they land?

  3. No it isn’t. Because you mischaracterize my point.

    Whether you do so out of ignorance or on purpose, I don’t know.

  4. So you’re equating a forced economic and social model on millions to a voluntary choice for a few? That’s about a 48 million mile stretch, there.

  5. You missed my point entirely. The BFR Spaceship doesn’t “have to visit 12 different orbital planes per flight” and it doesn’t have to be filled, it could be launched with 20 satellites and it would still be a better option than the Falcon 9. If the BFR Spaceship costs LESS per launch …(stop and think about that for a second)… then why would you fly ANY other rocket than the one that costs the LEAST. Seriously, it makes no sense. It DOES NOT MATTER if the rocket is nearly empty and there is wasted space if it costs LESS than any other rocket to launch. Not maximizing payload size is irrelevant.

    This is why the BFR Spaceship is planned to replace the Falcon 9 rocket because compared to the BFR Spaceship, the Falcon 9 will have ZERO advantages for any size payload, no matter how small, because the Falcon 9 will cost MORE per launch.

  6. Did you change your comment system? Did not get a conf email … In any case:

    I hope your predictions for SSH work out … it would be an amazing new era. But I don’t get where you cam up with “Elon Musk and SpaceX with $100-300 billion per year in revenue and $60 billion per year in research and development budget will drive the new commercial Space Age.” There is little of economic value on Mars and Moon, Starlink and it’s follow ons might be $10B/y, business as usual sats are $2B/y and even if you max our tourism and gov’t investment I don’t see it near $100B/y. If all goes great I see maybe $30B in revenue tossing off $10B in profits (during the next 10 years). Of course another money machine could be US Space Force … there is another $12B/y rev and $4B profit.

    I guess we should look at SpaceX as having nearly independent parallel tracks. The SSH which needs $4B beyond what SpaceX’s profits can provide (if they do Starlink as well) and SpaceX regular business which needs to prove FH and Crew Dragon in 2019. I saw FH as a resume builder for BFR->SSH to attract funding.

  7. Moron, the radiation incidence outside the magnetosphere has been measured, we know going to Mars on Musk’s proposed timeline will not expose astronauts past NASA’s current limits with the anticipated shielding.

  8. 100% of people die from ‘something’. So one might as well be arrogant and psychopathic enough to decide that it might as well be for the cause of Communism, via starvation from poor economic planning.

    Not the same thing? Yes, it is.

  9. “WarrenTheIdiot was claiming a 70% death rate from cosmic rays,”

    Umm…yes. Cosmic rays cause…C-A-N-C-E-R. If they don’t outright kill you if the dosage is strong enough.

    NO human being has been outside of the protection of the Earths magnetosphere’s protection for more than a few hours, too.

  10. Man, we’d probably have a Mars colony by now. But the priorities changed once we got to the moon…


  11. WarrenTheIdiot was claiming a 70% death rate from cosmic rays, not all forms of cancer. So that “not quite like that” math is more correct by at least 2 orders of magnitude.

  12. In additions to counter arguments already suggested, there were IIRC a few other architectures which would have been better suited to LEO+.

  13. Nerva weighs a lot more then an RL-10 and doesn’t give better performance. Yes the exhaust velocity was very high (8.3 km/s vs 4.4 km/s for an RL-10) but the fuel density was extremely low (about 14 cubic meters per ton vs. about 1 cubic meter per ton for an RL-10 O2/H2 mixture at 5.5:1). For Nerva it would be the fuel volume not the fuel weight that would limit the amount of fuel that could be brought to orbit. This is often overlooked because O2/H2 is the lowest density fuel commonly used by orbital launch systems and just talking about the weight is a decent enough approximation for O2/H2. However in the case of Nerva, weight alone is not a decent enough approximation. While Nerva might have improved given time we have no way of knowing that it might not have turned out just like the space shuttle, an idea that looked promising but had unforeseen complications.

  14. 100% of people die from “something”. So, I’d rather die on Mars, exploring a new world, establishing an outpost for humanity on another planet. Death is mandatory, how can be your choice.

  15. 100% of people die from “something”. Might as well be on Mars, exploring a planet, establishing a human footprint on another world.

  16. If this is all predicated on Musk making bank from traders buying low latency access, then you can bet certain lobbyists, (ULA) are going to start advocating for a high-frequency trading tax.

    It’s a reasonable idea to slow down the rate of trades, but not one that had much of a chance before.

    Congress’uns, outside of the big trading towns, have more jobs in rocketeering back home than in ultra-high frequency trading.

  17. Musk should move to Texas, or Florida before California raises it’s top tax rate to 90%, and declares that all Californians leaving the state will have their property taxed as if it were sold, as the federal government does when citizenship is renounced. Don’t laugh, if the socialists/democrats can get away with it, they will.

  18. Depends on the type of cancer. Just because you cure it, doesn’t mean it won’t come back again[recurrence rate] in a few years.

  19. But what percentage will be turned into cannibalistic mutants?
    That’s the question that the network producers will need to have answered.

  20. Or go lowtech and use shortwave like the outfits working out of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Bandwidth sucks, but they don’t need much to achieve their HFT arbitrage. It would be interesting to compare end result performance with Starlink in inter-sat routing mode (looking at 3-5 hops minimum between CME and London?) versus shortwave bounce with effectively no hops. Shortwave does need a relay in Alaska for CME to Tokyo.

  21. The math doesn’t quite work like that.

    Let’s say you have 1000 people. And 10% (100 people) will get cancer.

    And 60% of cancers are curable, so 60 people are cured and 40 people die.

    Now you increase the incidence of cancer by 5%.

    So now 105 people get cancer.

    Cure 60%. So now 63 people are cured, and 42 people died.

    The number of people who are cured of cancer has gone up by 5%. 63/60 = 1.05.

    And the number of people who died of cancer has also gone up by 5%. 42/40 – 1.05.

  22. Pretty much, a lot of design compromises necessary for political reasons, like using segmented boosters so that they could be manufactured in a particular congressman’s district, instead of the original one piece boosters to be manufactured on site.

  23. You can only use a short fiber link to one exchange. To get low latency to London AND New York AND Tokyo AND Shanghai… that needs a system like this.

  24. It will be more cheaper if the BFR is launched thru electromagnetic system like the one used by aircraft carrier Ford.

  25. As near as I could tell, didn’t support them. I read quite a bit of documentation on that comment system, and nowhere was there any mention of link capabilities.

  26. No, nothing with an at least 1 in 70 some chance of scattering the reactor across the landscape should ever have been used for assembling a NERVA. And far more shuttles came within seconds of LOC events than actually failed catastrophically.

  27. No, about 2% might.

    Think about it for a minute and learn some thing, you idiot. The BFR/BFS system permits 2 ~ 3 month passages to Mars, once on Mars they won’t be without shielding. Even without shielding, you could be on the surface of Mars for almost 5 years before accumulating the maximum NASA permitted dose predicted to raise the odds of the incidence of cancer by a mere 5%, and about 60% of cancers are curable, so at most it could raise the death rate from cancer by 2%.

  28. Well, it’s a better characterization to say that the BFR/S will be able to go orders of magnitude more places than everything else worth mentioning.
    Refuel a few of them and they can reach Saturn, can’t they? Strictly by the numbers.

    Wasn’t the Shuttle one of those projects that suffered from major unnecessary handicaps, designed by committee or something?

  29. And then the second iteration of interplanetary vessels- one in which we do not come back to Earth. Bimodal Nuclear Thermal Rockets.

  30. WarrenTheApe:
    “70% of people will die from the cosmic rays.”

    Lol, what to expect from this guy except negative comments about any Elon Musk venture?

  31. “Only able to take to us to orbit and back, it was never a path to go any further.”

    Of course it was. We used it to assemble a space station, we *could* have used it to assemble a deep space ship (including nuclear-thermal propulsion if we revived NERVA).

    We just…didn’t. That we failed to make that choice is not the fault of the Shuttle itself.

    This will be true of any other Earth-to-LEO spacecraft. Will we. or won’t we? Even BFR can’t go everywhere.

  32. Because the BFR could launch the first 1600 in seven flights, in terms of mass lofted, that’s about 230 satellites per launch. But only 20 satellites go into each orbital plane, so the BFR would have to visit at least 12 different orbital planes per flight, which is a lot of extra delta V. At least, I think that’s the reasoning.

    But if the satellites have enough individual station keeping delta V to change orbital planes, you can launch them all into the same plane, and then redistribute them. The total propellant mass to do it this way is relatively small, particularly since station keeping thrusters can be high ISP ion engines or something similar.

  33. I like to speculate what would have been. And there are even books about where the space program would be by now, had we not stopped the pace in the late 70s.

    And the main feature of those speculations, tends to be a lack of a Space Shuttle.

    The Shuttle, as wonderful as it was, was a dead end in terms of manned space.

    Only able to take to us to orbit and back, it was never a path to go any further.

    Nevertheless, it was also a lesson. We probably would have always lamented not having the mythical reusable space plane, thinking that Saturn derived or other expendable rockets were foolish wastes of taxpayer money (which they are), and we could have ended up doing it anyway, probably in slightly different form, given the different start dates.

    We could have gone a few times more to the Moon. And give way to the alter-Space Shuttle. But I doubt we could have gone to Mars, no matter how we did it.

    The cost was so huge following the 70s government approach, that any Saturn derived Mars program would have failed miserably. Both budget wise and in terms of safety.

    But I think we could have had some some terrific space stations in the 80s and 90s.

  34. I’m pretty sure Mr Musk could get the money as a loan from most any bank.

    He is just trying to do it without the banks which is fine. He doesn’t need all the money at once.

  35. The cargo version is pretty simple relative to the manned version. Undoubtedly the cargo version is what is actually being developed and the manned version shows up on the PPT slides.

  36. Links are handy things. At the same time prone to abuse. Were I King I would make people post for at least two weeks and 50 posts before earning the ability to post links.

  37. You can pick the fourth option to log in with a custom email.

    You may have an account reserved for you by default, try entering in you email address and waiting for a password reset email which takes several minutes.

  38. The comment system correctly understands that I use my email to comment here but won’t send me a reset email.

    Once again spending time fighting with… checks notes…

  39. The BFR Starship is planned to completely replace the Falcon 9 rocket by costing LESS per launch.

    Why would having to launch to a different orbital plane rule out BFR Starship for the first 1600 satellites? The BFR Starship is capable of reaching any orbital plane that the Falcon 9 is capable of reaching.

  40. What people seem to forget is that these ships and rockets’ existence, even if they only deliver partially in some of their most lofty goals of reusability, is already a game changer.

    They will be cheaper and more available than anything public programs will ever do.

    And that means humanity is going back to the Moon, then to Mars and to occupy space way more than ever before.

    Just think about this: they are building manned interplanetary ships capable of landing in any solid body we care to land on.

    Darn Mars spaceships are being designed and built as of now. If that doesn’t excite you, what TH are you doing here?

  41. I had the same issue. I posted a comment with a link and it seemed to appear in the board, but then it vanished.

    Looks like a moderation option is killing posts with links.

  42. Yes, I think it will be hard to launch 200 plus satellites from a single BFR Starship launch, if for no other reason there will be 80 different planes that the constellation will orbit in, so that would definitely rule out using BFR for the first 1600. Also at Wikipedia they say the entire build out is projected to be $10 Billion suggesting a good portion will be done with Falcon 9 or heavy. If they can pack 10 satellites in a Falcon 9 ($40 million launch) this would be $6.4 Billion just for launch of the first 1600. If they can get 20 per launch then it would be $3.2 Billion. Certainly seems like a doable plan to start such a lucrative and helpful business.
    See wikipedia dot org/wiki/Starlink_(satellite_constellation)

  43. could you imagine where we would be right now if the space program maintained the progress we were making in the 60s and kept going until now. such a shame but space x is getting us there now

  44. I’m somewhat concerned that my test post, with a link, initially appeared to post, but no longer appears. I do hope the comment system isn’t automatically deleting comments with links.

  45. The biggest issue with using the BFR to launch the Starlink system is that it’s bringing too many of them into the same orbit. You’ll need a buss with the capacity to distribute all those satellites across multiple orbits. Either that, or they’ll need enough individual station keeping to distribute themselves.

    <a href=”Testing”>”>Testing html functionality.</a>

    Not really happy with the way it automatically converts links, right in the middle of entering the html. But at least we do get to have links again.

  46. Some people get really annoyed if Space X misses a deadline for a couple years.

    Nevermind the decades of missed deadlines on public space programs.

  47. Logged in to this apparently new comment system with Google, which is the first login option it accepted. Any one know how to shift it to taking a Hotmail account?

  48. For many purposes financial entities already achieve low latency with computers physically close to exchanges with dedicated fiber. I can think of reasons to need global low latency, but unless overall capacity is very limited, I think charging a premium for it will bring less money than charging a low price and getting lots of customers.

  49. I don’t know how they are going to have a starship put that many satellite into orbit in one go. It would make sense for a version of the starship to be designed around it, a little bit like a nuclear submarine silo hatches.

    As for 10 billion per year, i think this is low balling the amount of money they could make by a lot, they could take 50% of the global ISP market (1 trillion $ in 2017) and that’s without counting the 3 billion+ people without access to internet right now. There is nothing that verizon or comcast are going to do about that, they won’t provide global worldwide access, they will be slower and more expensive. A new Kodak in the making.

  50. They still would have to devellop the cargo version of the starship that can put 240 satellite into orbit. That would make it a 3rd version with the Human rated and the tanker. Then they would have to develop a 240 satellite bus and somewhat make it work, this thing would be giant but maybe they can reuse it ? Maybe they could make a satellite laying sharship for that cost, a little bit like a nuclear submarine with hatches 🙂

  51. I’m guessing goldenpaw is the one who sold you on this idea, based on their posts sub-context. Have they reassured you?

  52. Word for word, line by line, the greatest part of original content on this site is in the comment section.
    The articles are largely nothing more than a collection of other peoples articles.
    I do enjoy reading what you’ve collected together, but it’s the COMMENTS that bring me back.

    Believe me when I say, I can, and do, find all of the info you post on my own.

    I just am flabbergasted by how you continually trash the one valuable asset you have.
    The comment section.

  53. Even if it is $50 million per launch the cost of the satellite system is way cheaper than anyone else could deliver. Somewhere at about 10% of the potential competition, First system will have a price barrier that no one in at least the next 10 years will be able to challenge.

  54. The neysayers have been wrong time and again. Lovely article and review of what could very well be a truly grand future. Whether every goal is meet exactly when it was originally set is irrelevant to the larger picture of what is a tremendous accomplishment already, and likely accomplishments yet to come.

  55. $10 million to launch the SpaceX Starship, How so? That is far lower than the price he previously gave. Doesn’t look like he has the money to complete the development of the starship. I would think that he needs to begin deploying the satellite network with his current crop of rockets and use the money to develop the starship. I also don’t see how is he going to complete the development of the rocket, take tourists around the moon, land on the moon and land on Mars with some of the equipment for making fuel all at once in 2022.

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