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From: Eric9/21/2017 8:02:16 AM
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SpaceX's superfast satellite broadband network might be called 'Starlink'

The company plans to launch a constellation of thousands of satellites to provide affordable global internet.

By Shubham Sharma
September 21, 2017 07:09 BST

SpaceX's satellite broadband network could be called StarlinkROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty ImagesSpaceX might name its satellite-based broadband internet network 'Starlink', according to a new report from Geekwire.

The name comes to light with the discovery of two applications SpaceX filed to get 'Starlink' trademarked from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The first set of documents – filed on 21 August 2017 – notes a host of services that might be covered under the upcoming satellite network.

Some of the key services mentioned in the application were "Satellite communication and transmission services," "wireless broadband communication services," "high-speed wireless Internet access," "satellite photography services," and "remote sensing services, namely, aerial surveying through the use of satellites".

Meanwhile, the second application filed on the same date, focuses on "Satellites for scientific and commercial purposes; equipment for receiving, processing, and transmitting voice, video, data and information via telecommunications and wireless signals," and other products that might be needed for the network.

Back in 2015, Elon Musk announced the multi-billion satellite project as a way to provide low-cost broadband internet with fiber-like speeds across different parts of the world and to fund the company's Mars settlement program. The idea of launching a constellation of thousands of satellites is expected to be an additional revenue generator in the long-run. Musk estimates the project would cost around $10bn (£7.4bn) over a period of five years.

The mission of full and continuous global coverage would be accomplished by stationing the satellites at specific heights and angles to cover all of the latitudes on Earth. The company intends to launch the small satellites in phases, starting 2019 until the system reaches full capacity in 2024. It will also demonstrate the technology with the launch of two satellites, one before the end of this year and another early next year, according to Patricia Cooper, SpaceX's vice-president of satellite government affairs.

Apart from this, not many details have surfaced about the plan for taking the network of satellites off the ground. Musk could provide more details next week when he speaks at the International Astronautical Congress, Australia, on September 29.

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From: Eric9/22/2017 9:17:01 AM
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SpaceX to kick off October with two launches and landings in 48 hours

By Eric Ralph
Posted on September 21, 2017


SES-11 to be the last launch from LC-39A ahead of pad modifications for Falcon Heavy

After successfully weathering Hurricane Irma, SpaceX is preparing to remedy a slow month with three or even four launches in October.

Beginning on October 2nd, schedules have firmed up for the launch of SES-11 aboard a refurbished Falcon 9 first stage. SES, a Luxembourg-based satellite communications company, took the courageous and pioneering step of purchasing the first reused Falcon 9 for a commercial launch, culminating in the successful SES-10 mission in March 2017. Following that successful first reuse, SpaceX would later launch Bulgariasat-1 aboard a similarly-refurbished booster. SES-11 will become the third commercial reuse of an orbital rocket when it launches early next month from SpaceX’s LC-39A launch pad, and is currently expected to attempt a landing on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean....

The rest of the story:

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From: Eric9/25/2017 8:39:50 AM
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  • Boeing & Aerospace
  • Business
  • Technology

  • In space capsules, there’s little room but big improvements

    Originally published September 24, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    This artist concept shows Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 Starliner flying in space. The Starliner is a reusable spacecraft that can transport passengers to the International Space Station. (Boeing)

    Boeing and SpaceX are relying on the tried-and-true gumdrop-shaped capsule design as the two companies each develop spacecraft under NASA contracts to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station.

    Samantha Masunaga
    Los Angeles Times (TNS)

    LOS ANGELES — In 1961, an American astronaut reached space for the first time and soared through the heavens in a gumdrop-shaped capsule.

    Since then, people have flown to the moon, created space planes and designed rockets that return to Earth for precision landings. But when astronauts lift off next year from U.S. soil for the first time in six years, their vehicle of choice will be another capsule.

    Boeing and SpaceX are relying on the tried-and-true design as the two companies each develop spacecraft under NASA contracts to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station.

    Despite the sleek spaceships of sci-fi imaginings or the familiar winged body of the shuttle, engineers have returned to the seemingly clunky capsule again and again for a simple reason — it works.

    “The capsule is a very durable technology,” said Matthew Hersch, assistant professor of the history of science at Harvard University. “It may not be romantic to fly, but it’s going to get you there and back safely.”

    Since the end of the shuttle program, the U.S. has relied on Russia to transport its astronauts to and from the space station in the Soyuz spacecraft, another capsule.

    Boeing and SpaceX said they are confident their vehicles will fly next year, despite recent reports from the U.S. Government Accountability Office noting that delays for the two companies have pushed the first test flights past the initial deadline.

    The new spacecraft have a number of features that weren’t available on earlier capsules — touch-screen displays, large windows, more powerful electronics and lighter materials.

    A new spacesuit from SpaceX that is designed for its crewed flights. (The Associated Press)

    The spacesuits that astronauts will wear also have been slimmed down. SpaceX has released several photos of its spacesuit, which Chief Executive Elon Musk said was tested to ensure astronauts would stay safe even if the pressure in the capsule dropped suddenly. Boeing’s “Boeing blue” spacesuit is about 40 percent lighter than previous suits, and the gloves were specially designed to let astronauts interact with touch screens.

    In the early days of the U.S. space program, astronauts lamented riding in anything that allowed for such limited human control. Borrowing the name from something you swallow didn’t enhance the appeal.

    Initially, there was great enthusiasm for making those spacecraft look like airplanes, but it was difficult to create wings that could navigate various parts of a mission and survive the heat of re-entry, Hersch said.

    Any spacecraft rated to carry humans has a specific set of requirements. It must be efficient in its volume with enough space for all necessary life systems, but have as low a mass as possible. It also has to withstand tremendous G-forces, pressure and heat during launch and re-entry.

    The heat shield on a capsule’s blunt, slightly curved bottom helps protect the crew as the vehicle re-enters the atmosphere.

    Capsules are aerodynamically stable when traveling at supersonic speeds during re-entry and require little maneuvering to return to Earth in an emergency, giving them “inherent stability,” said David Giger, senior director of Dragon development engineering at SpaceX.

    “What’s really interesting about capsule design is it’s aerodynamically efficient both on ascent and descent,” said David Barnhart, director of the USC Space Engineering Research Center. “It only takes one event to take it back down, which is essentially a re-entry burn, and that’s good because it minimizes moving parts and complexities.”

    In creating spacecraft for NASA’s commercial-crew program, both Boeing and SpaceX have built on the example of their predecessors.

    Boeing constructed its design based on some of the data from the 1950s- and ’60s-era Mercury and Gemini, as well as NASA’s Orion, a crew spacecraft that first flew in 2014 and is scheduled to ride into space atop the agency’s Space Launch System rocket in 2019.

    Rob Adkisson, right, chief engineer with the commercial group program of Boeing, with David Schiller, leader of the commercial crew aerostructures integrated product team at the Boeing Huntington Beach, California, test facility, examine a capsule heat shield component. (Al Seib/TNS)

    Rob Adkisson, Boeing’s chief engineer for the commercial crew program, said the CST-100 Starliner’s compact capsule design matches its mission as a “people mover,” compared with the larger space shuttle that essentially functioned as a “truck back and forth.”

    “It looks a lot like Gemini and Mercury,” he said of the Starliner. “But it’s quite a bit different.”

    The Chicago aerospace giant’s Starliner will blast into space on an Atlas V rocket before deploying and docking autonomously at the space station. When returning to Earth, the spacecraft will jettison its service module, deploy parachutes to slow down and drop its heat shield so the vehicle’s air bags can inflate for a softer ground landing.

    Mannequins riding the Starliner during a recent test were “barely jostled” inside, Adkisson said. The capsule is designed to be reused 10 times.

    A version of the capsule is undergoing tests at a Boeing facility outside Los Angeles where space structures for the Apollo program, the original Delta and Delta II rockets and parts of the space station were also cleared before their missions. The CST-100 Starliner capsule is set to make its debut test flight in June 2018, with a crewed test flight two months later.

    “You design robust margins into what you do, demonstrate that everything operates as we expect it to,” Adkisson said. “That gives us a lot of confidence and gives our customer a lot of confidence that we’ve got it nailed.”

    One major development is the fine-tuning of the capsule’s heat protection. The Starliner’s base heat shield has an ablator, a proprietary material that absorbs energy on re-entry and only chars “like a marshmallow,” said David Schiller, leader of Boeing’s commercial crew aerostructures integrated product team.

    The base heat shield and its four backshells located around the crew vehicle are made of composite materials. A glass-phenolic honeycomb core is wedged between the composite layers, like an ice-cream sandwich, to provide high strength while staying lightweight. The entire vehicle is covered with thermal protection, including a type of woven ceramic “blanket” similar to the ones used on the space shuttle, and ceramic tiles on the backshells to deflect heat.

    Like Boeing, SpaceX also looked to previous capsules when it first embarked on its Dragon spacecraft.

    Back then, the company, headquartered near Los Angeles, was still very young, so engineers looked at the legacies of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. The lessons are incorporated in its Dragon 2 crew transporter capsule, along with those learned from developing SpaceX’s Dragon 1 vehicle, currently used by NASA to take supplies to the space station.

    The Dragon 2’s abort system is a marked change from the capsule used in the Apollo program, which used a rocket on a tower located at the top of the capsule and was discarded on the way up to orbit. SpaceX’s launch-abort system can be used at any time during the ascent and stays on the capsule so it can be recovered on splashdown — part of the company’s emphasis on reusability, said Giger of SpaceX.

    The SpaceX capsule will also use more automation, such as its docking ability, to improve safety and allow the crew to focus on crucial tasks, Giger said. The company is also working on developing the capsule’s precision landing capability in the ocean so recovery crews can arrive within minutes.

    “Just because it looks like a capsule does not mean the inherent technology is the same,” Giger said.

    Dragon 2, which will ride into space on a Falcon 9 rocket, is set to make its first test flight in February 2018, and a crewed flight will come four months later.

    In the meantime, the capsule’s hardware is going through qualification testing and software is being developed and evaluated, said Garrett Reisman, director of space operations at SpaceX and a former NASA astronaut who flew on two space-shuttle missions.

    “We’re trying to take a giant leap forward in safety,” Reisman said. “We have the opportunity to do that through design, improvements in technology and also by leveraging all the history that our partner NASA brings to the table … to make sure we don’t repeat mistakes made in the past.”

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    From: Eric9/28/2017 9:30:27 AM
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    SpaceX's Elon Musk, Lockheed Martin Announcing Updated Mars Plans Tonight

    By Mike Wall, Senior Writer | September 28, 2017 07:00am ET

    Tonight (Sept. 28), SpaceX and Lockheed Martin will unveil their latest plans for getting people to Mars. Both companies will do so at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide, Australia. First up is Lockheed, which will announce updates to its "Mars Base Camp" concept at 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT; 7:30 a.m. Friday local Adelaide time). You can watch the presentation via Australia's Science Channel.

    Then, at 12:30 a.m. EDT Friday (0430 GMT; 2 p.m. Adelaide time), SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk will reveal changes to the company's Mars-colonization architecture, which Musk first announced last year at the 67th IAC in Mexico. [ SpaceX's Interplanetary Transport for Mars in Images]

    "Major improvements & some unexpected applications to be unveiled on Friday at @IAC2017 in Australia," he said via Twitter Monday (Sept. 25).

    Artist's illustration of SpaceX's planned Interplanetary Transport System launching a colony ship toward Mars. This artwork is based on the architecture Elon Musk unveiled in September 2016; the SpaceX founder and CEO will reveal an updated version on the night of Sept. 28, 2017.
    Credit: SpaceX

    "Headed to Adelaide soon to describe new BFR planetary colonizer design in detail @IAC2017. This should be worth seeing. Design feels right," Musk added in another tweet Tuesday (Sept. 26). (BFR stands for Big F***ing Rocket.)

    SpaceX webcast Musk's talk at last year's IAC live and is expected to do so again for the upcoming presentation; check or the company's Twitter feed (@SpaceX) for updates.

    Lockheed's idea centers on a six-person space station, which company representatives have said could be orbiting the Red Planet by 2028 or so. The astronauts aboard this Mars Base Camp could perform a variety of valuable scientific and exploration work, from operating rovers in near-real time on the surface to scouting out spots for future crewed landings, project team members have said.

    "The presentation will include a look at how Mars Base Camp aligns with NASA’s lunar Deep Space Gateway, and a debut of a crewed Mars lander concept," Lockheed representatives said in a media advisory about Thursday's IAC talk.

    At last year's IAC meeting, Musk unveiled SpaceX's planned Interplanetary Transport System (ITS), a huge, reusable rocket-spaceship combo designed to help establish a million-person city on Mars in the next 50 to 100 years. The 40-foot-wide (12 meters) booster would feature 42 Raptor engines and be more than twice as powerful as NASA's Saturn V moon rocket. The ITS spaceship, meanwhile, would be capable of carrying a minimum of 100 people to the Red Planet.

    Though Musk hasn't revealed what the "major improvements" to this original design might be, there's reason to believe the new iteration may scale things back a bit. In July, a Twitter user asked Musk for hints about the new architecture. "A 9m diameter vehicle fits in our existing factories ... " Musk responded.

    Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published on

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    From: Eric9/29/2017 9:12:14 AM
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    Musk Wants to Build a Rocket That Will Get You Anywhere on Earth in an Hour

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    From: Eric9/29/2017 9:13:50 AM
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    Elon Musk shrinks SpaceX Mars rocket to cut costs

    SpaceX aiming for human Mars mission in 2024 Thomson Reuters Posted: Sep 29, 2017 3:03 AM ET Last Updated: Sep 29, 2017 3:03 AM ET

    SpaceX CEO Elon Musk detailed the long-term technical challenges that need to be solved in order to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars. (Mark Brake/Getty Images)

    To cut costs, Elon Musk's SpaceX company has shrunk the size of the rocket ship it is developing to go to Mars, aiming to start construction on the first spaceship in the first half of next year, Musk said on Friday.

    SpaceX plans its first trip to the red planet in 2022, carrying only cargo, to be followed by a manned mission in 2024, Musk, who serves as chief executive and lead designer of Space Exploration Technologies, said at a conference in Adelaide, Australia.
    NASA's first human mission to Mars is expected about a decade later.

    Musk had previously planned to use a suite of space vehicles to support the colonization of Mars, beginning with an unmanned capsule called Red Dragon in 2018, but he said SpaceX is now focused on a single, slimmer and shorter rocket instead.

    'We want to have one system' "We want to make our current vehicles redundant," he said. "We want to have one system. If we can do that, then all the resources ... can be applied to this system. I feel fairly confident that we can complete the ship and be ready for a launch in about five years."

    SpaceX CEO Elon Musk spoke at the International Astronautical Congress on Friday in Adelaide, Australia. (Mark Brake/Getty Images)

    The rocket would be partially reusable and capable of flight directly from Earth to Mars, could still carry 100 passengers, and could also be used for fast transport on Earth, Musk said.

    Lockheed Martin Corp announced separate plans for a manned Mars journey on Friday, unveiling concept drawings of a "base camp" space station orbiting Mars and landing craft that would carry four astronauts to the planet's surface.

    "We know its cold, it's pretty inhospitable, so we start with the robots and then we go down with these landers," Rob Chambers, Lockheed's director of human space flight strategy, told Australian Broadcasting Corporation in an interview.

    NASA aims to reach Mars in 2030s Chambers gave no date, but the planned mission would be a joint expedition with NASA, which aims to reach Mars during the 2030s.

    Mars is typically 225 million kilometres from Earth and landing the first humans there, after what traditionally has been seen as a six- to nine-month journey, is an extremely ambitious goal.

    SpaceX, which Musk founded with the aim of colonizing Mars, is one of several private and government-funded ventures vying to put people and cargo on the red planet, and other destinations beyond Earth's orbit. founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space venture is also designing a heavy-lift vehicle called New Armstrong that will be capable of Mars transport.

    Russia and China are each preparing for manned missions to the moon and Russia has agreed to work with NASA planning a "deep space gateway" space station in lunar orbit, which would serve as a staging post for future missions.

    © Thomson Reuters, 2017

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    From: Eric10/4/2017 1:36:38 PM
    2 Recommendations   of 275
    Musk: SpaceX 'Aiming' to Break Rocket Landing Record

    This WeekendElon Musk has an ambitious goal in mind

    By Mike Brown on October 4, 2017
    Filed Under Elon Musk & Satellites

    Elon Musk is planning something incredible.

    On Wednesday, the SpaceX CEO set his company a new big challenge: two rocket landings in the space of just 48 hours, over the coming weekend. If the team can do it, it’s good news for the company’s long-term goal of sending humans on a manned mission to Mars in 2024.

    The pressure is on to successfully land two Falcon 9 rockets in short succession after their payload has been delivered into orbit. The first launch, scheduled for 6:53 p.m. Eastern time on October 7 from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, will take a SES-11/EchoStar 105 single communications satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit. The satellite will provide TV broadcasts for North America.

    The second, set for 5:37 p.m. Pacific time on October 9 from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, will send a constellation of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit. This is the third of four scheduled launches for the wider satellite constellation, and it’s part of Iridium’s goal to offer mobile voice and data coverage anywhere in the world.

    If SpaceX can pull it off, it’s good news for the planned interplanetary transport system that could take humans to Mars, the latest version of which Musk unveiled at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia last week. Landing rockets instead of crashing them means the company can use them again, which means humans can move further distances by setting up refuelling stations on distant planets. SpaceX could send a rocket to Mars, land it, refuel it and send it back to Earth. The key is perfecting that quick-turnaround reusability at this early stage with Falcon 9 missions.

    The last time SpaceX came close to two launches within 48 hours was in June, when it achieved two drone ship landings in the space of two days, one hour and 15 minutes.

    This weekend’s two missions won’t be landing on the same launch pad, though. While the SES-11 mission will land on the Atlantic Ocean-based droneship Of Course I Still Love You, which has played host to six out of eight successful landings, the Iridium NEXT mission will land on the Pacific-based Just Read the Instructions, the latest iteration of which has achieved two successful landings out of three.

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    From: Eric10/4/2017 1:43:34 PM
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    SpaceX's next rocket could see Florida's Space Coast add activity

    Marco Santana
    Contact Reporter
    Orlando Sentinel

    October 4, 2017

    A component of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s plan to establish spaceflight to Mars gained a critical component recently when he announced how he intends to pay for it — and part of the plan involves more frequent flights that can use smaller rockets.

    By developing a smaller vehicle, with a booster and ship that could replace the company’s Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Dragon spacecraft, SpaceX could more frequently launch into low-earth orbit, increasing revenue opportunities.

    That money could then be poured into the development of the BFR.

    Musk’s plans could bring more work to Central Florida and the Space Coast, a state official said Tuesday.

    “This location remains the spot in the U.S. that makes the most sense to do any serious deep-space exploration from,” said Dale Ketcham, Space Florida’s chief of strategic alliances.

    Musk said the company would build a stock of Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecrafts, in case some customers prefer those vehicles, before they focus primarily on BFR.

    SpaceX has plans to open a third launch site in the south Texas town of Brownsville. Along with Cape Canaveral, SpaceX launches from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California.

    Another potential revenue source: A trip from London to New York in the future via SpaceX craft could be completed in as little as 29 minutes, Musk said.

    In what was essentially a grand finale to a 42-minute speech at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia, on Friday, Musk said the rockets SpaceX would use to ferry supplies and gear to the Red Planet could be used on Earth to speed air travel.

    It would significantly decrease travel time, he said.

    “If we are building this thing to go to the moon and Mars, then why not go to other places?” he said.

    In a digital mock up of the technology, a group of passengers was ferried out from New York City to a launch pad in the ocean.

    They then board the flight and the rocket takes off.

    After the rocket separates from a booster — a process SpaceX rockets perform every launch — it would carry passengers into space for a brief period of time, before ultimately landing on a pad at the planned destination.

    Musk at the conference last year introduced the idea of a massive rocket used to transport humans and gear to Mars known as BFR.

    The potential high-speed travel is part of Musk’s continuing pursuit of making humans an interplanetary species, with his frequently stated goal being to send humans to Mars.

    The first rocket to land on Mars could get there as early as 2022, Musk said.

    Ketcham said any Musk’s plans may sound sensational but that he still didn’t doubt his ability to pull them off.

    “The guy has earned the credibility to be taken very seriously,” he said.

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    From: Eric10/5/2017 12:12:49 PM
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    Verified account @SpaceX
    3 hours ago

    Static fire test of Falcon 9 complete—targeting October 9 launch of Iridium-3 from Vandenberg AFB in California.

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    From: Eric10/5/2017 3:35:11 PM
    1 Recommendation   of 275

    SpaceX Seeks Ambitious Launch Tempo Surpassing Current Rivals

    Elon Musk’s company targets about two launches per month, but goal falls short of even more aggressive tempo projected earlier

    The SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage rocket lands after carrying the U.S. Air Force X-37B spaceplane into orbit at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on Sept. 7. Photo: Spacex/Zuma Press

    Andy Pasztor

    Updated Oct. 5, 2017 1:58 p.m. ET

    Elon Musk’s SpaceX aims for one rocket launch roughly every two weeks on average through the end of 2018, exceeding the schedule of any other space company or government around the globe.

    The heady tempo underscores Mr. Musk’s strategy of relying on reusability and other efficiencies to dominate the space-transportation market. For years, leaders of Space Exploration Technologies Corp., as the company is formally called, have held out semimonthly launches as a cherished goal.

    But the latest numbers, unveiled at a space symposium last week in Australia, suggest Mr. Musk has put aside for now more ambitious goals for launching swarms of SpaceX satellites and ramping up operation of a heavy-lift rocket that has encountered delays.

    According to Mr. Musk’s latest projections, SpaceX by the end of December aims to blast off seven more rockets on top of the 13 already successfully launched this year, followed by 30 more next year. “If SpaceX does do something like” that in 2018, Mr. Musk told the conference in Adelaide, it will account for “approximately half of all orbital launches that occur on Earth.”

    SpaceX began 15 years ago with a handful of employees located in a warehouse district near a Southern California strip mall. Now with roughly 5,000 employees, it is hailed as a space pioneer that has transformed the launch business and landed approximately $10 billion in contracts in the process.

    Despite SpaceX’s accelerating launches, the latest projections fall short of targets appearing in internal documents prepared about two years ago. The documents, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, cited 27 launches for this year and 44 for 2018.

    The documents projected that SpaceX would be launching once a week by 2019.

    Much of the paring of launch goals appears to stem from significant delays getting SpaceX’s planned internet-via-satellite business and Falcon Heavy booster off the ground.

    A SpaceX spokesman didn’t have any comment. In the past, the company has stressed that internal documents provide a snapshot in time and that projections are routinely revised as business conditions change.

    SpaceX founder Elon Musk is renowned for setting highly ambitious goals as a way to spur employees to boost their performance. Photo: mike blake/Reuters

    Mr. Musk, who founded the company and serves as chairman and chief designer, is renowned for setting highly ambitious goals as a way to spur on employees.

    The internal documents projected four Falcon Heavy launches for this year, including a Pentagon mission, and five in 2018. The rocket, powered by 27 engines, is four years late and is now slated to have its maiden test flight in the next three months.

    The documents also envisioned more than a dozen launches through the end of 2018 dedicated to the early phase of a SpaceX satellite fleet. So far, the company hasn’t reported lofting a single prototype or demonstration payload, and it hasn’t publicly laid out manufacturing or detailed operating plans.

    The internal documents projected that revenue from the nascent satellite-internet business would dwarf the company’s rocket segment in just a few years. At the time, SpaceX envisioned satellite operations garnering more than 40 million subscribers and bringing in more than $30 billion in revenue by 2025.

    Last week, Mr. Musk outlined the 2017 and 2018 launch targets as part of a broader presentation of SpaceX’s revised plans to build the most powerful rocket ever and use it to launch giant, reusable spacecraft to Mars within a decade. He didn’t discuss the proposed satellite venture.

    Mr. Musk said the Mars initiative is expected to draw much of its funding from SpaceX’s projected boom in commercial, scientific and military launch contracts.

    “I’m very excited there is a business case” supporting SpaceX’s Mars ambitions, said Greg Autry, a University of Southern California professor who was a senior member of President Donald Trump’s transition team for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

    Industry officials and space experts have praised SpaceX’s accomplishments so far, including bringing down global launch prices and ending the traditional monopoly on Pentagon launches held by a joint venture between Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp.

    Overall, SpaceX sees frequent launches reusing boosters that already have flown in space as the key to markedly reducing its manufacturing costs, as well as evenutally saving money by relying on a much smaller contingent of ground-support personnel.

    If SpaceX successfully completes the three launches scheduled over the next few weeks, its 2017 total will double its entire launch output for 2016.

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