SpaceX Postponed the Tourist Flight around the Moon
SpaceX has indicated it won’t launch a pair of space tourists to loop around the moon this year as previously announced, the latest sign that technical and production challenges are disrupting founder Elon Musk’s ambitious plans for human exploration of the solar system.
A new timetable for the flight — now postponed until at least mid-2019 and likely longer — hasn’t been released by Space Exploration Technologies Corp., the formal name of the closely held company.
Over the weekend, company spokesman James Gleeson confirmed the private moon launch has been postponed, without indicating when it might occur. “SpaceX is still planning to fly private individuals around the moon and there is growing interest from many customers,” he said in an email.
The delay comes amid SpaceX’s own projections of a nearly 40% drop in launches next year from as many as 28 anticipated for all of 2018. The decline primarily reflects a continuing global slump in manufacturing orders and launch contracts for large commercial satellites. Partly as a result, SpaceX also is confronting growing industry doubts about market demand for its Falcon Heavy rocket, the company’s newest and biggest launcher, which had its maiden blastoff in March. “People don’t think it’s serious enough yet to figure out how to use it,” Thomas Mueller, SpaceX’s chief propulsion technology officer, said in May, speaking to attendees on the sidelines of a space conference in Los Angeles. Mueller declined to elaborate or respond to questions.
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