Author Topic: SpaceX's financial position?  (Read 11309 times)

Offline Admiral Thrawn

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SpaceX's financial position?
« on: 08/07/2006 02:58 AM »
I'm interested to know how SpaceX is being funded and in what position they are financially. I read recently that Elon stated the company was operating at a profit, even though they've only launched one rocket and it was a failure, with the loss of a customer's product.

Now I'm all for startup companies like SpaceX aiming to increase competition and lower the cost of delivering payloads to space, but I'm just curious as to how healthy SpaceX is financially.

As they're a private company, do they release financial statements or any other related documentation to the public?

Thanks,

James


Offline yinzer

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Re: SpaceX's financial position?
« Reply #1 on: 08/07/2006 05:08 AM »
In short, no, they don't.

Elon also didn't say that they were operating at a profit, but rather that they expected to be cash-flow positive in the coming year, due to customers putting down more money as deposits for launches than they were going to spend on R&D.
California 2008 - taking rights from people and giving rights to chickens.

Offline aero313

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RE: SpaceX's financial position?
« Reply #2 on: 08/07/2006 04:13 PM »
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Admiral Thrawn - 6/8/2006  10:45 PM

I'm interested to know how SpaceX is being funded...

Elon writes checks from his personal bank account - or maybe he uses PayPal...

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...and in what position they are financially.

According to Fortune magazine, Elon's net worth (admittedly a year or so ago now) was around $300M.  He's admitted to sinking $100M into SpaceX so far.

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I read recently that Elon stated the company was operating at a profit, even though they've only launched one rocket and it was a failure, with the loss of a customer's product.  

As stated previously, don't confuse cashflow with profit

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As they're a private company, do they release financial statements or any other related documentation to the public?

Nope. Not required.

Offline braddock

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RE: SpaceX's financial position?
« Reply #3 on: 08/08/2006 03:02 PM »
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Admiral Thrawn - 6/8/2006  10:45 PM
I'm interested to know how SpaceX is being funded and in what position they are financially. I read recently that Elon stated the company was operating at a profit, even though they've only launched one rocket and it was a failure, with the loss of a customer's product.

Elon comments fairly extensively on the "cash-flow positive" statement in the next installment of the interview.  It was actually the first thing I asked him about.  Or you can read it now in L2...

Of course, cash-flow positive THIS year doesn't equal cash flow positive NEXT year, since the money is coming primarily out of advance launch contract payments...

Offline Admiral Thrawn

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RE: SpaceX's financial position?
« Reply #4 on: 08/09/2006 02:32 AM »
Thanks for the replies. I'd be interested to read the next interview.

I want to sign up for L2, but for some reason I've been unable to access nasaspaceflight.com for the past 2.5 weeks from my home computer. I've been trying to troubleshoot the problem with my ISP, but with no success thus far.

Currently I'm accessing the site with no problem from a work computer which does not use Telstra as the ISP. My home connection is provided by Telstra Bigpond cable (www.bigpond.com.au).

I ran a trace route with VisualRoute 2006, and it connects okay for the first 24 hops.

Once it gets to the 25th hop, there is 40% signal loss, and the connection fails.

The details for this hop are:

IP Address: 64.182.192.5
Node Name: 5-192-182-64.cust.propagation.net
Location: Bedford, TX, USA
Network: C I Host CIHS

I sent propagation.net an email by did not receive a response.

I spoke with someone who had no problem accessing nasaspaceflight, and who also ran a traceroute, and they found that their traceroute failed on the 25th hop like mine, so I suspect there might be a firewall there preventing traceroutes, which is not related to me being unable to access the site.

The only other person I've spoken to who can't access the site is also on Telstra cable. Any idea what could be causing the problem?

 :(

Offline Avron

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RE: SpaceX's financial position?
« Reply #5 on: 09/02/2006 05:11 PM »
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Admiral Thrawn - 8/8/2006  10:19 PM
The only other person I've spoken to who can't access the site is also on Telstra cable. Any idea what could be causing the problem?

 :(

Check the config for timeouts of your IP packets, maybe the config on the target server has been set a little to short for long distance multi -hop traffic..

Offline Avron

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Re: SpaceX's financial position?
« Reply #6 on: 09/02/2006 05:12 PM »
I may have missed this in the past, but I noticed an entry in the SpaceX manifest..

US Air Force     $100 million contract thru 2010     Falcon 1     TBD

whats this connected to?

Offline Jim

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Re: SpaceX's financial position?
« Reply #7 on: 09/02/2006 07:28 PM »
That is the potential size of the contract.  It is an IDIQ contract.   The USAF can order missions as they want, just like the NLS contract.  They have yet to order one

Offline publiusr

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Re: SpaceX's financial position?
« Reply #8 on: 10/17/2006 08:36 PM »
The Ares (Falcon) HLV (not the Ares V HLLV) spaceplane was largely nixed--so small payloads are perhaps more in Musk's reach.

Offline Comga

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Re: SpaceX's financial position?
« Reply #9 on: 10/18/2006 02:30 AM »
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publiusr - 17/10/2006  2:19 PM

The Ares (Falcon) HLV (not the Ares V HLLV) spaceplane was largely nixed--so small payloads are perhaps more in Musk's reach.

Eh? What?  Could you explain this?  Ares 1 is not Falcon 1, and neither is an HLV which I thought meant Heavy Launch Vehicle or Horizontal Launch Vehicle.   The Ares V, which is a Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle is not a spaceplane, at least not the NSAS RS-68 plus solid rockets powered Ares V I know of.  THe rest I can't even guess at.

Offline aero313

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Re: SpaceX's financial position?
« Reply #10 on: 10/18/2006 11:29 PM »
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Comga - 17/10/2006  10:13 PM

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publiusr - 17/10/2006  2:19 PM

The Ares (Falcon) HLV (not the Ares V HLLV) spaceplane was largely nixed--so small payloads are perhaps more in Musk's reach.

Eh? What?  Could you explain this?  Ares 1 is not Falcon 1, and neither is an HLV which I thought meant Heavy Launch Vehicle or Horizontal Launch Vehicle.   The Ares V, which is a Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle is not a spaceplane, at least not the NSAS RS-68 plus solid rockets powered Ares V I know of.  THe rest I can't even guess at.

There seems to be a lot of unfortunate reuse of program names lately.  For example the SpaceX Falcon (lower case) was one of several vehicles selected under the DARPA FALCON (orignally upper case), which stood for Force Application with Launch from CONus.  Unfortunately, the term "Force Application" has become politically incorrect, so it's now the DARPA Falcon (lower case) and the party line is that the program was named after the Air Force mascot...

Same with ARES, which was originally an Air Force program to develop a responsive small launch vehicle (1,000 lb to LEO class) using a flyback first stage and an expendable upper stage (possibly derived from the DARPA Falcon vehicle).  Since it was part reuseable and part expendable, the Air Force came up with the unfortunate name of "hybrid launch vehicle" or HLV, which obviously raises confusion with both hybrid propulsion systems and heavy lift vehicles.  Also, NASA has taken the ARES name for the CLV/CaLV, which are completely unrelated.  Anyway, the Air Force ARES program has been killed, which is why there was a reference to SpaceX.  Confused yet?

And to get back to the original question, the $100M IDIQ contract (which so far has been worth a token $30,000 for a user's guide) was awarded under the Responsive Small Spacelift (RSS) procurement long before the Air Force ARES came and went.  Orbital also received awards under RSS for two different vehicles - Raptor 1 and 2.  Raptor 1 is simply a Pegasus by a different name so they can justify different launch costs without pissing off NASA and Raptor 2 is an internally carried wingless Pegasus that's air-dropped using a Coleman-style pallet.

Offline Comga

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Re: SpaceX's financial position?
« Reply #11 on: 10/21/2006 06:45 PM »
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aero313 - 18/10/2006  5:12 PM

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Comga - 17/10/2006  10:13 PM

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publiusr - 17/10/2006  2:19 PM

The Ares (Falcon) HLV (not the Ares V HLLV) spaceplane was largely nixed--so small payloads are perhaps more in Musk's reach.

Eh? What?  Could you explain this?  ,snip..

There seems to be a lot of unfortunate reuse of program names lately.  <snip>.

Thanks for the refersher on recent history.  I still don't understand the last part of your statement "so small payloads are perhaps more in Musk's reach."

It may be that we are in strong agreement.  SpaceX's original goal of an inexpensive small rocket we a worthy attainable goal.  That problem has not yet been solved, but is manageable.  The short flight of the first SpaceX Falcon 1 showed that they could get this right, if they stay focused. It might even be a profitable business, which would answer the orignial question of this discussion: SpaceX finances.
« Last Edit: 10/07/2013 04:27 PM by Comga »

Offline aero313

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Re: SpaceX's financial position?
« Reply #12 on: 10/22/2006 03:39 PM »
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Comga - 21/10/2006  2:28 PM
Thanks for the refersher on recent history.  I still don't understand the last part of your statement "so small payloads are perhaps more in Musk's reach."

Actually, that wasn't my quote, but I suspect the intent was that with the Air Force ARES program being cancelled, there was one less competitor in the 1,000 lb to LEO class.   Of course, that still leaves Pegasus, Minotaur, Orbital's Raptor vehicles, AirLaunch, the new ATK booster, ESA's Vega, Japan's MV (OK, these two are actually Taurus-class),  Russia's START, Angora, and converted Russian SLBMs.  All competing for the two-or-so launches a year in this class.  Oh, and don't forget marginally-priced secondary opportunities on EELV and Ariane.  And except for Pegasus and ATK, all the others have been developed on Gov't funds, so the launch price doesn't need to include amortization of the development cost.  This isn't SpaceX bashing, just a realistic view of the marketplace.  Granted, the Air Force TacSat program is developing small satellites, but Air Force leaders are cutting those funds for FY08.  Also, except for TacSat 1, the rest (2 through 4) are committed to flying on Minotaur launchers, since the Air Force has already invested in the development of that vehicle.

Offline Danderman

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Re: SpaceX's financial position?
« Reply #13 on: 10/22/2006 04:54 PM »
I don't believe that Elon plans for the Falcon I to be a big money maker for SpaceX, I believe that it is more of a technology test bed. However, given that its launch price is cheaper than virtually all of the vehicles mentioned above, it is not inconceivable that the Falcon I could "retire" many of the competitors. There is another dynamic at play here: as most small launcher are extremly expensive per pound orbited, a significantly cheaper new supplier could serve to enlarge the market. Although the Russian LVs will always be cheap, there are non-monetary costs associated with Russian launches, AirLaunch does not actually exist, Vega is > $20 million per launch, the MV is so expensive that not even the Japanese can afford it, and the Minuteman deririvatives have very low payload capability. That kind of leaves Falcon I vs Pegasus. My prediction is that Pegasus disappears within 12 months of Elon stringing together 2 successful Falcon launches.

Not that I am predicting that Elon is a lock to make his LVs work, mind you.

Offline aero313

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Re: SpaceX's financial position?
« Reply #14 on: 10/22/2006 05:58 PM »
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Danderman - 22/10/2006  12:37 PM

I don't believe that Elon plans for the Falcon I to be a big money maker for SpaceX, I believe that it is more of a technology test bed. However, given that its launch price is cheaper than virtually all of the vehicles mentioned above, it is not inconceivable that the Falcon I could "retire" many of the competitors. There is another dynamic at play here: as most small launcher are extremly expensive per pound orbited, a significantly cheaper new supplier could serve to enlarge the market.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record in this forum, "if you build it they will come" didn't materialize when Pegasus was $6M a launch, so what's different now?  Everyone points to the supposed large number of small and university payloads that can't afford a ride, but frankly even $6M a launch is at least an order of magnitude too expensive for these payloads.

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Although the Russian LVs will always be cheap, there are non-monetary costs associated with Russian launches, ...
As opposed to operating out of Kwaj...

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AirLaunch does not actually exist, ...
...yet, but the DoD has pumped $30M into the project so far, with more likely to come.

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Vega is > $20 million per launch, the MV is so expensive that not even the Japanese can afford it, ...
Yes, but having spent the considerable investment to develop them, foriegn satellites will be forced to use them.  My point was that there will be non-financial reasons for European and Japanese satellite to fly their indigenous boosters, removing them as potential commerical customers.

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...and the Minuteman deririvatives have very low payload capability.
Not sure why you think that, since Minotaur 1 (Orbital's Minuteman II based vehicle) has about 50% greater payload capability than Pegasus, or slightly greater than the advertised (as opposed to actual) Falcon 1 performance.  MSLS might have been a turd, but Minotaur 1 has considerable performance since it uses Pegasus stages 2 and 3 on top of the Minuteman 1 and 2.  MSLS used all three Minuteman solid stages with a Star 37, but this configuration was dropped when Martin couldn't even get it to orbit with zero payload.  But at least Martin's $4.4M projected price more than doubled before the plug was pulled.  This, by the way, was after $70M of Gov't pork, er, investment.  Thanks, Senator Stevens...

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That kind of leaves Falcon I vs Pegasus. My prediction is that Pegasus disappears within 12 months of Elon stringing together 2 successful Falcon launches.
First, Pegasus is already being put out of business by Minotaur.  It's pretty hard to be cheaper than free when it comes to getting your solid rocket motors.  More to the point, the Air Force funded the development of Minotaur and has "ownership" in the program (not to mention that Minotaur keeps some of the ICBM mafia employed in supporting launches).  Second, NASA has invested well over a decade in getting Pegasus certifed and up to their standards (which is in no small part why the price has gone up).  My sources at NASA indicate that SpaceX has a long, long way to go to also satisfy these standards.  In the meantime, NASA will continue to buy their one Pegasus a year.


Offline mr.columbus

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Re: SpaceX's financial position?
« Reply #15 on: 10/22/2006 07:25 PM »
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Vega is > $20 million per launch

Vega also has about 4 times the cargo capacity than Falcon 1 has. Vega = 1500 kg to polar orbit; Falcon 1 < 400 kg to polar orbit. That said, Vega is actually operating in a different market and not competing with Falcon 1. If they would however compete Falcon 1 would be just as expensive than Vega.

Offline aero313

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Re: SpaceX's financial position?
« Reply #16 on: 10/22/2006 07:40 PM »
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mr.columbus - 22/10/2006  3:08 PM

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Vega is > $20 million per launch

Vega also has about 4 times the cargo capacity than Falcon 1 has.

As I pointed out in my post that first mentioned Vega.  My point is still that foreign satellites will be pressured to use indigenously developed launchers, eliminating them as potential commercial payloads.  Want to bet that if ESA has a 1500 kg launcher, all their "small" satellites will come in at around 1500 kg?

Offline edkyle99

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Re: SpaceX's financial position?
« Reply #17 on: 10/22/2006 08:30 PM »
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Danderman - 22/10/2006  11:37 AM

I don't believe that Elon plans for the Falcon I to be a big money maker for SpaceX, I believe that it is more of a technology test bed. However, given that its launch price is cheaper than virtually all of the vehicles mentioned above, it is not inconceivable that the Falcon I could "retire" many of the competitors. There is another dynamic at play here: as most small launcher are extremly expensive per pound orbited, a significantly cheaper new supplier could serve to enlarge the market. Although the Russian LVs will always be cheap, there are non-monetary costs associated with Russian launches, AirLaunch does not actually exist, Vega is > $20 million per launch, the MV is so expensive that not even the Japanese can afford it, and the Minuteman deririvatives have very low payload capability. That kind of leaves Falcon I vs Pegasus. My prediction is that Pegasus disappears within 12 months of Elon stringing together 2 successful Falcon launches.


As I understand it, Minotaur is limited to noncommercial Department of Defense R&D missions that comply with Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty limits.  Pegasus and Falcon 1, on the other hand, can fly for NASA or any other paying customer.    The new ATK ALV would be likewise free to compete in the sub-1 tonne to LEO class with them.  Russia's competition in this category (less than 1 tonne to LEO) consists of the Topol-based Start-1 and a few SLBM's with spotty performance records.

The 1 to 2 tonne to LEO category includes Vega, M-V (which has actually already flown its final mission), Taurus, Rokot, Strela, PSLV, and maybe another one or two that I can't remember right now.

With the EELVs driving launch prices up towards and beyond $150 million for average size payloads, and with the Shuttle payload bay (which all by itself has provided more than 100 tonnes to LEO in some past years) soon being unavailable, there does seem to be a need for a lower cost launcher to handle research, quick response DoD, and small commercial payloads.  Smaller launchers cost much less (regardless of the "dollars per kg" comparison), than existing alternatives, so that seems to be why we are seeing new small-launcher development efforts.

But the field may already be too crowded.

Pegasus has occasionally been called a hot-rod rocket that today serves more as a point of prestige for its maker than anything else.  Orbital Sciences is making more money flying Pegasus stages without wings on Minotaur, OBV, etc., than from Pegasus itself.  Pegasus launch rates have been in decline - often a sign that the end of the program is approaching.

SpaceX Falcon 1 is an interesting effort, but it has yet to prove that it will succeed.  If it succeeds, it seems unlikely to be profitable.  It seems unlikely to me at any rate.

I am intrigued by ATK's "ATK Launch Vehicle".  This could be a new Scout - a kind of Pegasus without wings, but with an all-new control system.  It might be a tad smaller than Falcon 1, and probably easier to launch.  Since it is using existing solid rocket motors, it should be cheaper too.  A NASA that likes ATK for Ares may very well like ALV too.

 - Ed Kyle

Offline Jim

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Re: SpaceX's financial position?
« Reply #18 on: 10/22/2006 08:59 PM »
ATK can price the other solid users out of business.  Fortunately, the group that runs NASA ELV program is not the same as the Shuttle/CLV/CaLV group and will only look at price and success rate

Offline aero313

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Re: SpaceX's financial position?
« Reply #19 on: 10/22/2006 09:22 PM »
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edkyle99 - 22/10/2006  4:13 PM
As I understand it, Minotaur is limited to noncommercial Department of Defense R&D missions that comply with Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty limits.

Not exactly.  There are actually two different restrictions on the use of excess strategic assets for space launch.  First is the START treaty.  START makes no distinction between commercial and government use of assets, it only lays out the requirements for accountability and reporting to the other side.  Mainly, START is concerned that a space launch program isn't being used to develop a new or derivative ICBM, or to hide the stockpiling of assets in excess of the treaty limits.  As an example, Russia allows the use of many START-accountable assets for commercial space launch.  Also note that the START treaty expires in 2007 and I've heard nothing to indicate that the US is working on renewing it.

The other restriction is US policy.  It was the intent of the US gov't that excess strategic assets not compete with commecially-developed launch vehicles.  Ironically, prior to the Minotaur program, Orbital was the biggest objector to reuse of strategic assets.  The restrictions are that these assets can only be used for US gov't missions (not just DoD, by the way) where there is no cost effective commercial alternative.  This restriction is very easy to circumvent, by the way.  Witness the ROCSAT 3 mission flown by Orbital.  This was orignally a commercial launch service sold to the Gov't of Taiwan for the Pegasus launch of a cluster eight small satellites (also provided by Orbital).  As the payload grew in weight, Pegasus could no longer perform the mission and Orbital came up with a clever ploy to get around the restrictions on Minotaur use.  They simply arranged NASA participation in one small experiment on the mission.  Voila, it's now a US government program and Orbital was able to use the Minotaur to launch it.

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