SpaceX’s near monopoly on rocket launches is a ‘big concern,’ Lazard banker warns

Vikram Nidamaluri, Managing Director of Telecom, Media, and Entertainment at Lazard, speaks throughout a panel on the World Satellite Business Week convention on Sept. 11, 2023.

Michael Sheetz | CNBC

PARIS – A Lazard funding banker sounded the alarm concerning the dominance of Elon Musk’s SpaceX within the rocket launch market, because the trade waits for U.S. rivals to start flying new autos.

“I feel it is a big concern,” Vikram Nidamaluri, managing director of telecom, media, and leisure at Lazard, mentioned throughout a panel on the World Satellite Business Week convention on Monday.

“Having such a dominant launch supplier is in all probability not wholesome simply on the whole for the industrial prospects of the trade,” Nidamaluri added. “No one desires a monopoly choking out one level of the worth chain. There are clearly different gamers which might be ramping up capability however I feel the timeline hasn’t moved ahead quickly sufficient.”

Nidamaluri echoed considerations about a rocket launch monopoly raised by others within the house trade this yr. Rocket launches are a potential bottleneck within the technique of flying beneficial satellites, spacecraft, and astronauts in orbit. Several different U.S. firms are working to launch competitors to SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon rockets, however delays imply American rivals are struggling to field next-generation operational rockets.

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A number of days in the past, SpaceX launched its 63rd mission of 2023 – and the corporate has already topped final yr’s document of 61 missions whereas flying at a blistering common of a launch each 4 days. Beyond the U.S. rocket market, SpaceX leads the world in each launches and spacecraft mass delivered to orbit every quarter. The firm alone retains the U.S. forward of China, the following closest geopolitical competitor, in satellite tv for pc and astronaut launches.

A Falcon 9 rocket launches a Starlink mission on January 31, 2023 from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.


SpaceX Vice President Tom Ochinero, throughout a separate panel at World Satellite Business Week on Monday, responded to Nidamaluri’s concern by framing it round whether or not the rocket-builder would fly satellites of rivals to its Starlink satellite tv for pc web service.

“We’ve confirmed that, yeah, we are going to,” Ochinero mentioned. “We’re a launch firm first, we’re right here to offer launches.”

While Starlink is clearly SpaceX’s “huge inner buyer,” Ochinero famous that the corporate has moved launches for its personal satellites “out of the way in which as wanted typically to offer launches for rivals and clients” alike. SpaceX recently signed a deal to launch 14 missions for Canadian operator Telesat to ship its Lightspeed web satellites to orbit, and has beforehand launched satellites for different Starlink communications rivals equivalent to OneWeb, Viasat, and EchoStar.

“I’m not tremendous fearful about this – we’re right here to launch,” Ochinero mentioned

Tory Bruno, CEO of United Launch Alliance, throughout the identical panel pushed again on the concept that SpaceX has full management of the launch market. ULA, traditionally the following largest U.S. rocket competitor, has accomplished solely two launches to date in 2023, and is working towards the inaugural launch of its next-generation Vulcan rocket within the coming months.

“I admire the sentiment that [SpaceX] will probably be a benevolent monopoly, I do not suppose you are a monopoly and I do not suppose it is our plan so that you can develop into one,” Bruno mentioned.

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