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Billionaire Elon Musk, who co-founded PayPal, is creating a rival to the world’s established rocket-launch systems, France’s Arianespace and Russia’s Proton. His business is SpaceX and its Falcon rockets are proving to be a very real challenge to the status-quo. Musk has told the BBC that the Ariane 5 rocket system has “no chance” in terms of what he is doing with his Falcon-9 rocket.
Musk is building what is shaping up to be a very successful business, and he has 40-order mix of future launch contracts signed up from the likes of NASA, SES Astra and others.
“Ariane 5 has no chance,” he told BBC News in an interview. “I don’t say that with a sense of bravado but there’s really no way for that vehicle to compete with Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. If I were in the position of Ariane, I would really push for an Ariane 6.”
The SpaceX CEO (and chief designer) was speaking at the UK’s Royal Aeronautical Society where he was being awarded a gold medal for his work to advance the commercialisation of space.
Musk is operating with a new rocket development system, bringing production line technologies to the manufacturing process. Many of the Falcon’s components are built ‘in house’ and bought in. Musk says this saves cash and production time, enabling SpaceX to launch lower-cost rockets and achieve a speedier rate of launch.
Musk told delegates: “As you increase the volume of production and you have more test firings and more flights, you’re able to increase the statistical reliability of the engines because you see all the issues; you see all the corner cases and odd things here and there where you have so many engines being produced and flown,” he said.
Moreover, he is pricing his launches very competitively at a maximum of $60 million per launch, and frequently less. “Not only can we sustain the prices, but the next version of Falcon 9 is actually able to go to a lower price,” warned Musk.