SpaceX Doubles Rocket Launcher Production to Meet Target Date
By Julie S | Jun 10, 2014 12:34 PM EDT
Striking a balance between cash flow and research, SpaceX announced on Saturday plans to double its launcher production rate in time for the surge of business expected over the next few years.
"We are focused on production and operability for part of the company, and the other part is the innovation piece, and we will continue that forever," SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said, according to Spaceflight Now.
SpaceX is known for its research of reusable space craft that would initially transport cargo and, later, humans to the International Space Station (ISS) and other destinations.
Two components comprised this ambitious plan. Prior to SpaceX's Falcon 1 and Falcon 9, launch vehicles were one-shot affairs, the launch vehicles discarded after one use. SpaceX is currently building a reusable capsule that could land anywhere.
The second component was the Dragon spacecraft, designed to be lifted by Falcon 9 into orbit, initially ferrying cargo, and later, humans.
Starting with one launch vehicle a month, SpaceX has reportedly planned to increase to two a month. Its clients include NASA, commercial satellite operators, and potentially, the U.S. military. The company planned to accomplish this without sacrificing the company's commitment to be the cutting edge of space transportation innovation.
SpaceX currently has 42 missions on its manifest valued at a total of $4.2 billion, but there were delays caused by internal and external factors.
First, the Dragon cargo resupply capsule needed upgrade, delaying the second mission to April 18. Then engineers discovered a hardware contamination in the Dragon's cargo bay. Other problems encountered by the SpaceX projects included an electrical fire at Cape Canaveral that caused a U.S.A.F. tracking radar to go offline; a scheduling problem with the ISS; and a helium leak in the Falcon 9 first- stage liquid oxygen pressurization system.
"We have to execute on our manifest. I think the most recent criticism of SpaceX is can't we fly the missions that we say we're going to fly. I think we'll prove that [we can] over the coming months," Shotwell added.