Main Engine Cut Off

Gradually, Then Suddenly

Caleb Henry for SpaceNews, on International Launch Services’ plans for Proton Medium:

“We need to target something between $65 [million] and $55 million as the price point, and the Angara 5 vehicle will not be able to do that,” Pysher told SpaceNews. “That is why it is not really the right fit for the current commercial market as we see it today. We need that family of vehicles that the variants address.”


Compared to Proton-M, which can carry up to 7 metric tons to geostationary transfer orbit, Proton Medium lifts 5 to 5.7 metric tons.

“It fits that sweet spot where we see the medium-class satellite is today, and it competes directly with Falcon 9,” Pysher said.

We’re seeing this strategy from several players in the market with several launch vehicles—ULA with Atlas V, Arianespace with Ariane 6, and ILS with Proton Medium. Cutting costs and optimizing launch vehicles to compete at current Falcon 9 prices is going to work for the next few years, at least.

But this strategy is going to crumble in two ways.

Gradually, then suddenly.

SpaceX is a solid 5 years ahead of the competition when it comes to reusability right now. And by the time the others get around to it—if they ever do—SpaceX will be 5-10 years into operational reusability.

SpaceX has had an incredible 2017 so far, and they’re proving out a lot of the question marks in their business plan. As we move into 2018 and Falcon 9 Block 5 takes flight—again, and again, and again—we’ll start to see everything come into place.

Oh, and compared to ULA, Arianespace, and ILS, Blue Origin is hot on the heels of SpaceX.

Gradually, then suddenly.