(p. B3) SpaceX ‘s long-delayed Falcon Heavy rocket, slated for its maiden flight on Tuesday [February 6, 2018], faces uncertain commercial prospects and lacks a clear role in efforts to send U.S. astronauts back to the moon or deeper into the solar system.
The company conceived the rocket at the beginning of the decade, when SpaceX was an underdog fighting to increase its share of launches and needed a beefed-up alternative to a fleet of underpowered boosters. But after spending some $1 billion and grappling with five years of delays and huge technical challenges related to reliably harnessing power from 27 engines, the company is contending with significantly eroded commercial demand for such a potent heavy-lift booster.
The primary reason for the weakened demand is that both national security and corporate satellites continue to get smaller and lighter. So now, even if it performs as advertised, the Falcon Heavy might be Elon Musk’s biggest contrarian bet since he founded SpaceX over 15 years ago.
For the full story, see:
Andy Pasztor. “SpaceX Launch to Test Contrarian Bet.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Feb. 5, 2018): B3.
(Note: bracketed date added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has a date of Feb. 4, 2018, and has the title “New Falcon Heavy Rocket Represents a Major Bet for SpaceX.”)