PARIS — The June 28 failure of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is almost certain to deal a blow to the revenue projections of numerous SpaceX commercial customers that had been basing their results on being in orbit this year or early in 2016.
Commercial operators whose scheduled launches are now under threat include:
• SES of Luxembourg, which had planned a September launch of a satellite providing the company with a late 2015/early 2016 revenue boost with substantial new-business capacity.
• Machine-to-machine satellite operator Orbcomm of Rochelle Park, New Jersey, whose 11 remaining second-generation satellites were scheduled for launch this year.
• Eutelsat of Paris and ABS of Bermuda, whose twin all-electric satellites take several months to reach final destination in orbit and were scheduled for launch late this year on a single Falcon 9.
• Mobile satellite services provider Iridium Communications of McLean, Virginia, with seven launches planned in 2016-2017 to complete its second-generation constellation.
• ViaSat Inc. of Carlsbad, California, whose ViaSat-2 broadband satellite is needed to return to growth ViaSat’s U.S. consumer broadband business and was scheduled on a mid-2016 flight of SpaceX’s not-yet-flown Falcon Heavy. SpaceX had planned to launch the inaugural Falcon Heavy on a self-funded launch late this year, with three customer missions in 2016 for the U.S. Air Force, a joint Inmarat/Arabsat satellite and for ViaSat.
Spacecom of Israel’s Amos 6 and Sky Perfect JSat of Japan’s JCSat-14 also had been scheduled for launch this year.
Argentina’s Conae space agency had planned two Falcon 9 launches, each carrying a Saocom radar Earth observation satellite. SpaceX has said Conae had made deposits of $25.1 million in 2013 and $41.9 million in 2015 for the two flights.
The initial post-failure focus has logically been on its effect on the International Space Station. The Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket was carrying a Dragon space station cargo-supply freighter and was the third cargo-supply failure in less than a year. As a result, NASA and the other space station partners are more than ever counting on planned cargo flights of Russian and Japanese cargo vessels, planned for July and August, respectively.
But unlike space station managers, commercial satellite operators generally do not store capacity in orbit in the event of supply shutdown except in cases where the backup supply is guaranteed to television broadcasters and is embedded in contract pricing.
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