Many companies can afford and buy expensive launches (Ariane etc) so they prefer SpaceX to save money.

Many other companies can't afford Ariane launches but they would afford Falcon 9 launches. Lower prices generate a bigger consumer market.

SpaceX wants to put thousands of their own Starlink satellites in orbit.

So what prevents SpaceX from maiking a launch every one or two weeks? Or one each three weeks.

One source says payload fairings are slow to make. Yet they can hire more people so where are the major bottlenecks that slow the launches?

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    $\begingroup$ SpaceX has pretty much stopped producing Falcon 9 boosters; they are reusing their ~15 existing boosters for all the capacity they need (10+ launches per booster) until Starship can take over. Yes, payload fairings are slow to make, but they are getting better at recovering used fairings. The real reason SpaceX hasn’t invested in more launch capacity at the moment is they don’t have enough customers. The “lower prices would generate a bigger consumer market” assumes there is are more consumers that can use the capacity. SpaceX would be doing much less launches if it wasn’t for Starlink. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 21:17
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    $\begingroup$ Adding manpower to a late project makes it later. If you add unexoerienced personell to fairing manufacture, the workers with experience need time to transfer knowledge. Time used for talking and not for working. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 21:19
  • $\begingroup$ @CourageousPotato - There are more such consumers. Those using Ariiane or Delta at this moment. Plus those who cant afford paying more than 2k USD per kg - there are plenty of TV operators in need of cheap satellites $\endgroup$
    – Joe Jobs
    Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 22:33
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    $\begingroup$ related: Why would autonomous auto-destruct ramp up launch tempo/cadence? and Who's "winning" with launch rate/cadence? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 2:38
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    $\begingroup$ Glen Shotwell said they plan to produce 10 Falcon 9 boosters in 2020. So they are still making them. Problem is that the launch market just isn't that big. The lift capacity that Space-X plans to have with Starship is miles ahead of any demand. Musk must either be thinking "Build it and they will come" or he plans to be his own customer with Starlink, and other internal projects. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 12, 2020 at 3:37

1 Answer 1


There are many components they need for each launch.

First stages - they are getting very good at reusing these. Building a few a year, keeps the fleet fresh and enough boosters to not entirely be the limiting factor. (There are only 5 active boosters as I write this). These require larger tankage and 9 engines.

Also, they need to land them somewhere, barge or landing pad, and there is transport time from the landing site. Longer for a barge as you might imagine. Several days.

Second stages - Shorter tankage, and only one engine, but they are never reused. So the rate of building second stages can be a limit on cadence.

Fairings - they are working on reusing these, since they require a large autoclave (Not a cheap facility) and take time to manufacture. To speed it up they need another (or more) autoclaves as a bottle neck and large expenditure.

Launch facilities - this had multiple issues. As you can imagine, 1.5 million lbs of thrust on anything and going by anything, will do a fair bit of damage no matter how strong you build it.

They have worked hard at tweaking the facilities to harden what needs to be hardened and quickly replace what needs to be replaced.

They have three launch facilities. But only one for manned flights, which is also the only Falcon Heavy facility. Converting from single stick to Falcon Heavy is a task that takes some measure of time. (Unknown how long moving the very large and heavy plugs to change takes)

How quickly can you reuse a single pad? That is probably one of the biggest limitations.

TEL - Transporter Erector Launcher - They only have three.

Processing facilities - while each launch facility has the ability to prep a booster, not all are the same size. The LC-40 pad has only room for one core at a time. LC-39A has room for 5. SLC-4 appears to only have room for 3 at most.

All these combine to control the maximum cadence.

  • $\begingroup$ If Starship needs payload fairings then they have to extend the payload fairing production capacity anyways. Since they want to launch one Starahip per week that needs a lot of manufacturing even when reusing those fairings $\endgroup$
    – Joe Jobs
    Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 22:39
  • $\begingroup$ As of 2020, SpaceX operates four launch facilities: Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E), Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A), and South Texas Launch Site. $\endgroup$
    – Joe Jobs
    Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 22:44
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeJobs I dunno if Boca Chica counts. :) At least not for F9. But good quibble. $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 0:14
  • $\begingroup$ I think they need more launch sites anyways for the big plans with Starship ahead. The time to bring back first stages from the sea is not a limiting factor since they dont have to use the same booster for next flight. Maybe they dont want to destroy competition by stealing all their clients $\endgroup$
    – Joe Jobs
    Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 0:45
  • $\begingroup$ could do with a few sources... $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 22:48

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