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Since SpaceX is privately held, I'm not able to find information about whether they are actually turning a profit on their launches of reusable rockets. (Perhaps they are conducting launches, but at a loss.) Is there any publicly available information about that?

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    $\begingroup$ One thought: Many (most?) of their launches are Starlink launches, which means they are their own customer. So even if you had access to all their accounting, it would be hard to know how profitable the external-facing launch business would be without the economies of scale that come from so many Starlink launches. $\endgroup$ Sep 2, 2022 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ They could have positive cash flow on a per-launch basis, but still not have paid off all the development costs. Accounting can be fairly difficult, particularly without any actual data. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Sep 2, 2022 at 17:54

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I doubt very much that you will be able to find any significant details about SpaceX profitability beyond the occasional vague or "aspirational" tweet from Musk. As you have pointed out SpaceX is a private company. It does not have shares that can be traded on the stock exchange nor is it required to publish financial reports like public companies are.

To make the problem harder their business model is large and variegated with vast incomes and expenditures. These including the whole Starlink enterprise which may or may not run at a large small or no profit at some time, commercial satellite launches, private ventures like Dear Moon, NASA contracts for Starship, HLS, ISS resupply and crew rotation. All helped along by the hundred million or so that Musk put in initially, the contribution of the other private shareholders and bank loans.

You can argue round in circles whether SpaceX is profitable or not based on all of that. But SpaceX is not a traditional company, unlike most companies whose entire reason for existence is to make a profit, SpaceX was created for Elon Musk's purposes and marches to the beat of a different drum. Money is vitally important to SpaceX, but only as a means to an end not as an end in itself so SpaceX doesn't have to make a profit.

But beyond that, is the reuse of Falcon 9 profitable? I would be utterly shocked if Falcon 9 flights were not highly profitable. We don't know for sure, but not throwing tens of millions of dollars of precision engineering into the Atlantic Ocean after each launch is a vast saving compared to what must surely be modest recovery and refurbishment costs. Some boosters have flown more than ten times and I believe there have been more than one hundred booster re-flights in total. In recent years SpaceX has captured the majority of the space launch market, they're not stupid.

It could be argued that NASA was unable to refurbish the Shuttle economically so why should SpaceX? But the NASA's approach although technically effective was financially ridiculous.

Two tiles applied per worker per week? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_thermal_protection_system#Slow_tile_application

This is how SpaceX apply their tiles: https://www.reddit.com/r/SpaceXLounge/comments/m4ii51/video_of_spacex_installing_starship_heat_shield/

Will the first Starship or two crash and burn, yes they will. But they will learn from those experiences and fix whatever failed. They might spend longer but even at one tile an hour it would be more than an order of magnitude faster than NASA and although I’m not normally a betting man I’d wager they will find something that takes them no more than a few minutes/tile.

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    $\begingroup$ I'd say that the best evidence for SpaceX's profitabilithy regarding Falcon 9 is that they are substantially undercutting the prices of competitors, even though they have an overwhelmingly large share of the market for space launch and at this point have no need to offer their services below cost. Falcon 9 has also now proven itself to be among the most reliable launchers in history, so there should no longer be a risk premium causing SpaceX to offer cheap flights. $\endgroup$
    – Dan Hanson
    Sep 2, 2022 at 19:07
  • $\begingroup$ It's a good answer. As a non-engineer, resusability sounds like a good idea to me as well. But there is surely work involved in checking the rockets before launch. Reusability didn't work out so well in the shuttle program. I guess that uncertainty is what's behind my question. $\endgroup$
    – adam.baker
    Sep 3, 2022 at 5:35
  • $\begingroup$ There is a lot of work and expense involved in recovery and refurbishment, but fishing for rockets worth ten million plus dollars a pop has got to be worth it surely? There is a vast difference between how SpaceX runs the Starship program and the way that NASA administered the Shuttle program. Look at the thermal protection tiles: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… 2 tiles applied/worker/week! Now look at how SpaceX are doing it: reddit.com/r/SpaceXLounge/comments/m4ii51/… $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Sep 3, 2022 at 6:09
  • $\begingroup$ I've expanded on that in the body of the answer for future reference $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Sep 3, 2022 at 6:22
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    $\begingroup$ When the government stopped not caring how much it cost to win the race, because of that one thing we did to 'win', it was downhill. We've been riding our own coattail into the ground for the last 53 years after putting a man on the moon. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Sep 3, 2022 at 21:34
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The Wall Street Journal published a story about this very question. It's behind a paywall, but here are the pertinent figures:

The privately held company generated $55 million in profit on \$1.5 billion in revenue during the first quarter of 2023, according to results in documents viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Before SpaceX’s small quarterly profit at the start of this year, the company reported about \$5.2 billion in total expenses for 2022, up from \$3.3 billion the year earlier, the documents show. Revenue doubled to \$4.6 billion, helping the company reduce its loss last year to \$559 million from $968 million.

So... not a lot of profit, anyway.

(I guess my question asked about the reusable launches specifically, but the sources of the income and expenses aren't disaggregated in the article.)

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    $\begingroup$ I saw that article too. I was sad that the starship/super heavy development costs weren't broken out. I was also surprised that they lost money for a couple of recent years. $\endgroup$ Aug 18, 2023 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble apart from what they're spending on Starship (which we know to be more than the HLS contract is worth), they built and launched 4000+ satellites starting in 2019, developing multiple new generations of Starlink satellites and user terminals in the same period, and only started to see significant revenue from Starlink relatively recently. I'm a little surprised they're making a profit overall...maybe they're bound by Falcon 9 launch rate, and can't just spend that money on more Starlink sats. $\endgroup$ Aug 18, 2023 at 17:06
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Yes, according to The Wall Street Journal, SpaceX made a profit of $55\ million$ on $1.5\ billion$ in revenue during the first quarter of 2023 ². This is a significant improvement from the previous two years, where the company had reported losses ². The report also suggests that SpaceX's financials offer a clue into how the company is faring while it ramps up Starlink and races to get the Starship rocket flying ¹.

Adapted from a conversation with Bing, 8/23/2023

(1) Elon Musk’s SpaceX turns profit after two years of losses: report. https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets/elon-musk-s-spacex-turns-profit-after-two-years-of-losses-report/ar-AA1fpAsN.
(2) SpaceX reportedly turned a profit in the first quarter. https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets/spacex-reportedly-turned-a-profit-in-the-first-quarter/ar-AA1fpvWs.
(3) Rocket Lab's Future is More Than Just Rockets. https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/companies/rocket-labs-future-is-more-than-just-rockets/ar-AA1fvIox .
(4) Revisiting SpaceX’s $36\ Billion$ Valuation After Its First... - Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/greatspeculations/2020/06/02/revisiting-spacexs-36-billion-valuation-after-its-first-manned-mission/ .
(5) SpaceX revenue: $2 billion from rockets last year, Jefferies ... - CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/20/spacex-revenue-2-billion-from-rockets-last-year-jefferies-estimate.html.

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    $\begingroup$ "Adapted from a conversation with Bing, 8/23/2023" I approve of this disclaimer and support this kind of light use of genAI. I'm not sure what the AI policy says about this though. $\endgroup$ Aug 29, 2023 at 21:38

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