SpaceX news over the past few months has usually been on the disappointing side. However, that is going to change now with what the company did on early Saturday morning.
On Saturday, Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully accomplished the “Iridium-1” mission by launching its 10 communication satellites. SpaceX’s “Falcon 9” rocket delivered 10 satellites to low-Earth orbit for Iridium Communications Inc (NASDAQ:IRDM), a global leader in mobile voice and data satellite communications. These 10 satellites are the first of 70 satellites that SpaceX will launch for Iridium’s next-generation global satellite constellation, “Iridium NEXT.”
This is what SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted:
Mission looks good. Started deploying the 10 Iridium satellites. Rocket is stable on the droneship.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 14, 2017
Iridium is one of the company’s largest satellite customers, and the launch of its 10 communication satellites into low-Earth orbit was exactly the kind of new year start that SpaceX was looking for. Elon Musk’s space company could not complete its target for the year 2016, as it could not continue with the launches following a Falcon 9 rocket explosion last September. This SpaceX news damaged the company’s reputation as a reliable launch partner.
The explosion had jolted the faith of SpaceX’s customers in its ability to safely launch satellites. This is not good for the future prospects of the company founded by Elon Musk, as SpaceX needs to sign new commercial contracts and accomplish its ultimate goal of sending humans to Mars by gaining more expertise and funds.
In earlier SpaceX news, the company had won a $112.0-million contract from NASA, which is another important customer for Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The ability of the company to successfully land its Falcon 9 on the drone ship is central to accomplishing the vision of SpaceX. The reusability of the rockets is the way to reduce the cost of space travel, and SpaceX has to consistently prove that it has the required expertise.
After last year’s SpaceX rocket explosion, there is no room for failure for the company now. Another piece of negative SpaceX news will be too damaging for the company’s financials. According to The Wall Street Journal, internal financial documents and interviews with former employees of SpaceX suggest strong growth in new contracts, but also a fragile bottom line that is most susceptible to failures. (Source: “Exclusive Peek at SpaceX Data Shows Loss in 2015, Heavy Expectations for Nascent Internet Service,” The Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2017.)
As SpaceX gets busy this year with clearing its backlog and winning over new clients, focus will be on how the financial health of the company improves in 2017. If the situation does not improve on this front, the flight to Mars may get more delayed.