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SpaceX tightens grip on launch industry – Spectrum News 1

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CALIFORNIA — Elon Musk’s announcement that rocket launch company SpaceX would increase prices 20% made headlines, just as almost every announcement he makes does.
He pointed to supply chain costs, a blight that has struck industries the world over.
The cost increase comes as SpaceX continues its march forward as the preeminent space launch company, while top rivals, few as they may be, face existential threats.
SpaceX is driving forward.
While the cost of materials like nickel, used in stainless steel, has been volatile, launch manifests remain full.
“Everything costs more today as it relates to metals and they use some pretty exotic metals,” said Paul Weisbrich, an investment banker with D.A. Davidson specializing in defense, space and aerospace.
SpaceX has distinguished itself as the cheapest and most reliable game in town, undercutting larger competitors like the United Launch Alliance and less active foreign companies like Arianespace. In a business where each payload can be worth billions, reliability is of the highest value. The SpaceX flagship spacecraft Falcon 9 continues to prove it can be trusted. The two-stage rocket, stands at nearly 230 feet, weighs more than 1.2 million pounds and can deliver payloads in excess of 50,000 pounds. With 144 launches, 104 landings and 84 rockets reused, the Falcon 9 proves its reliability with every mission.
SpaceX has won out with innovation. The company has managed its rocket construction in such a way that the parts can be shipped on trucks instead of by barge. Most notably, it was the first company to master reusable rocket technology, allowing it to reuse the same rocket just weeks after use. Now, it’s asking customers to pay more.
That cost jumps the price from $62 million to $67 million for the Falcon 9. The jumbo-sized Falcon Heavy cost rose $7 million to $97 million.
“No, it’s not price gouging, it’s reflective of higher input costs across the board which, by the way, doesn’t seem to be abating,” Weisbrich said.
The company has succeeded in regularly winning NASA and defense contracts, which has given the company visibility. SpaceX was the first private company to shuttle astronauts to the international space station. For nearly a decade before that, NASA had relied on Russian rockets.
While costs have risen for the Hawthorn-based company, Marco Cáceres of the Teal Group Corp. said the product has proven to be worth it.
“Even raising prices that much they’re still cheaper than their competitors,” he said. “They could launch three or four missions a month and nobody else can do that.”
Other companies haven’t managed to keep up. French owned Arianespace relies on the Russian Soyuz II, a reliable workhorse now threatened by President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. China’s Long March rocket, another proven launch device, doesn’t use reusable technology.
“It’s getting to the point now where it’s almost become a monopoly. Almost every satellite launch now is on a Falcon 9,” Cáceres said. “They’re getting to the point where they may launch 40 missions in a year, which is just unheard of.”
The company continues to make strides. SpaceX has been testing its much publicized Starship, which it has hinted could take flight this year, well before schedule.

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