Why Don’t Other Rocket Companies Test More Rockets?

Why Don’t Other Rocket Companies Test More Rockets?

Brian Wang |
January 18, 2019 |

SpaceX and China have been the builders and testers of new rockets for the last decade. Other countries and companies rarely test new rockets. Many other competing companies and nations have as much or more money, but they just do not test and launch.

SpaceX was formed in 2002. They had the first attempt at flight in March 2006. They successfully flew on their fourth attempt in 2008.

Since their first mission in June 2010, rockets from the Falcon 9 family have been launched 67 times, with 65 full mission successes, one partial failure and one total loss of spacecraft. In addition, one rocket and its payload were destroyed on the launch pad in the fueling process before a static fire test.

Designed and operated by private manufacturer SpaceX, the Falcon 9 rocket family includes the retired versions Falcon 9 v1.0, v1.1, v1.2 and currently active Block 5 evolution. Falcon Heavy is a heavy-lift derivative of Falcon 9, combining a strengthened central core with two Falcon 9 first stages as side booster.

Constellation and Space Launch System

Space Launch System (SLS)has spent $14 billion from 2011 to 2018. It will spend another $6.8 billion from 2019 to 2021. There is about $2.3 billion per year being spent on SLS.

$15 billion has been spent on the Orion crew spacecraft. There is $1.3 billion per year being spent on Orion. There was one pad abort test in 2010 and one orbital test on a Delta IV rocket in 2014. There will be one more unmanned test currently scheduled for December 2019.

From 2005 to 2010, there was about $11.9 billion spent on the Constellation program. This was paid to mainly the same companies working on Space Launch System.

A combined Constellation and SLS spending of $26 billion resulted in one test launch of Ares 1 in 2009.

In 2009, the Government Accountability Office said Orion and Ares I faced significant technical and design challenges. NASA was working to resolve 207 high-risk problems. The most publicized of these was the potential for excessive Ares I vibration to violently shake Orion and its crew during launch. By late 2009—after a test flight NASA engineers had fixed the vibration problem.

There was one test launch of a Delta rocket carrying an Orion capsule in 2014.

In 2016, there was a NASA post about the SLS moving to an integrated test launch by the end of 2018. The test launch is now unlikely to happen before the end of 2020. The SLS and Orion programs are spending about $4.5 billion per year.

United Launch Alliance merged in Dec 2006. ULA operates the Atlas V, Delta IV, and Delta IV Heavy launch vehicles since 2006. The Atlas V and Delta IV rockets were respectively developed by Lockheed Martin and Boeing as part of the EELV program, and first launched in 2002, while the Delta II was previously built and launched by Boeing.

In 2014, ULA began development of the Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle, which is designed to meet medium and heavy lift requirements, and will replace both Atlas V and Delta IV. Development of Vulcan began in an effort to lower costs and end reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines used on the first stage of Atlas V. Vulcan will use the RL10 to power the Centaur V upper stage and a pair of BE-4 engines for its main stage. The Vulcan inaugural flight is scheduled for mid-2020.

Blue Origin

Blue Origin has had about ten test flights of the sub-orbital New Shepard rocket.

Blue Origin has had test firings of the BE-4 rocket.

China Launches and Rockets

China has developed a lot of rockets, performed many tests and performed many launches. In the last decade, it has been China and SpaceX that are developing and testing rockets.

Rockets from the Long March family have a total of 297 launches as of 29 December 2018. 282 were successful, 8 were failures, and 7 were partial failures. The cumulative success rate is 94.9%.

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