Space-X's Falcon 9 rocket splashed down hard today at the end of its mission, as the company tries to get its reusable rocket technology to stick. This underscores a previous test which ended with a fiery explosion in January. Space-X has a lot banking on the Falcon 9, which promises to reduce costs of rocket launches by a significant amount. United Launch Alliance, the primary competitor of Space-X recently announced plans to recover it's main stage using a helicopter tether system, helping to recover a part which accounts for nearly 65% of each launches costs.
Looking forward, Space-X is likely to be significantly rewarded if the Falcon succeeds. The global number of launches is sure to increase going forward. Space-X had only 6 missions in 2014, yet it is expected to increase this to 17 in 2015. George Nield, an associate administrator at the FAA, predicts the total number of commercial launches to increase to 1,000 by the end of the decade. As one of the few private launchers, Space-X is certain to take up a significant part of this. All of this is not in the air, however. This past January, Space-X raised $1 bn in funding from Google and Fidelity, establishing a $12 bn valuation. And there are many new opportunities for Space-X going forward. Elon Musk, the charismatic founder, recently announced plans for launching a fleet of low-Earth orbit satellites to provide super-fast internet. This is possibly one of the reasons Google has funded them, as it has been pursuing this, albeit with balloons, through its own Project Loon. And Facebook has also been looking into this area. So it is clear that there is appetite for this among the large, cash heavy tech companies.
Space-X's launch might have failed, but it is clear that it is still well placed in a fast growing industry. ULA's recent attempt to catch up through its own program of reusable rockets show how far ahead Space-X is. It seems that for Mr Musk's brand of disruptive innovation, the sky is not at all the limit.
-- Kaan Tuncel