SpaceX signs up two more satellite launch customers

Reuters News
|
Posted: Mar 13, 2012 5:39 PM

By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - Space Exploration Technologies, a privately held firm founded and run by entrepreneur Elon Musk, has signed up two more customers for launches on its Falcon 9 rockets, the company announced on Tuesday.

Asia Broadcast Satellite and Satélites Mexicanos, also known as Satmex, hired SpaceX for two launches to deliver a total of four telecommunications satellites into orbit in late 2014 or early 2015, and in late 2015.

"Asia and Latin America represent two of the world's hottest markets for commercial satellite operators," Musk said in a statement.

"Together with Satmex, our co-launch partner, we embark upon an innovative prospect of dual launching four medium-powered satellites on two launches on the Falcon 9," added Tom Choi, chief executive of Asia Broadcast Satellite.

"We are extremely happy to be working with Satmex and SpaceX to dramatically realign the cost structure of space access in order to bring the affordable capacity demanded by our customers," he said in a statement.

SpaceX, which advertises the price of a Falcon 9 launch at between $54 million and $59.5 million, has sold about 24 rocket rides to commercial customers and another dozen to NASA.

The U.S. space agency has hired SpaceX, as well as another company, Orbital Sciences Corp <ORB.N>, to fly cargo to the International Space Station, a $100 billion project of 15 nations which flies about 240 miles above the planet. SpaceX is preparing for a demonstration run to the orbital outpost next month.

Sales of SpaceX rocket rides to non-U.S. government customers mark a turnaround for the U.S. commercial launch industry, which has steadily and rapidly lost market share since its peak in 1998 with 22 commercial launches, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

United Launch Alliance, a joint-venture of Boeing Co <BA.N> and Lockheed-Martin Corp <LMT.N> for example, has only one commercial customer on its launch manifest, which includes flights of both Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets.

United Launch Alliance's last commercial launch was in November 2010, said company spokeswoman Jessica Rye. ULA does not publicly disclose launch prices, she added.

(Reporting By Irene Klotz; Editing by Tom Brown and XXX)