The headline of this Wall Street Journal article is about how SpaceX won’t give human passengers a ride to the moon and back, as CEO Elon Musk had promised to do. But the most important part of the article is a reference to what a SpaceX executive said in a little-noticed TV interview last month: that SpaceX expected to launch 18 rockets in 2019, down from as many as 28 anticipated rocket launches this year. “The decline primarily reflects a global slump in manufacturing orders and launch contracts for large commercial satellites,” the article said.
That’s been the central question hovering around SpaceX for years: Is the rocket-launch market big enough for the company to thrive? SpaceX’s financials aren’t disclosed, the company hasn’t had big problems raising money in the recent past, and it’s gotten a wholly positive response after showing some its recent technological breakthroughs. But if it wants to fulfill its mission of helping humanity colonize other planets, SpaceX may need to get more paying customers.