Friday, December 16, 2022

A New Spaceflight Revenue Source?

Had a family issue today and just couldn't get anything done.  

I was going to phone it in, but instead, I'll post a story lead from the Rocket Report and the link.  It made me go "what?" 

Falcon 9 flies a suborbital payload. A recent Falcon 9 launch carried two FIFA World Cup official match balls as part of a promotion for SpaceX's Starlink satellite network and the soccer event in Qatar. Packed inside the first stage of the rocket, the footballs reached an altitude of 123 km, Collect Space reports.

A new revenue stream? ... The match balls are the first known example of SpaceX using its Falcon 9's first stage to fly a commercial payload on a suborbital flight. No details were available on exactly where the balls were stowed during the flight, nor their condition—although it is likely they were deflated. It will be interesting to see if SpaceX attempts to fly any research payloads on future flights to monetize first-stage landings.

Photo from Collect Space

Qatar Airways partnered with SpaceX to give two FIFA World Cup official match balls the ultimate kick — all the way to outer space. The soccer balls (or footballs, as they are called everywhere else but in the U.S.) reached 76 miles (123 km) above Earth while packed inside the Falcon 9 first stage.

The white, blue, red and yellow balls then descended with the booster back to a SpaceX droneship, where they completed the first leg of their 800-mile (1,300-km) trip. The balls were then flown by Qatar Airways to Famad International Airport, where they were handed off to World Cup officials.

"A legendary journey for a legendary tournament, from space to kick off," Qatar Airways stated in a video revealing the feat.

123 km up?  Doesn't that mean they've gone higher than any New Glenn tourist flights?  Gives new meaning to the saying, "it takes balls."




  1. Several astronauts in our past, going back to Mercury, have taken items (coins, stamps) up on suborbital or orbital flights, to give these otherwise common items value - they had gone past the von Karman Line. Yes, I would pay for such item if there were some means of verification. Having been stationed abroad and reared in Miami, I know soccer is beyond a sport; it is a cult. Add to the monetizing of a first-stage flight? No brainer from what I've seen. Sure. Just be certain to ban the sale of van Karman Line futbals in North America. Let's keep them uns over there, and us uns over here, OK?

  2. That seems like a ridiculously... interesting idea. There are lots of sub-orbital science packages that could be launched. I wonder what the cargo capacity of a 1st stage is? Wonder if you can lift more with the booster sections of a Falcon Heavy?

    All very interesting. Very very interesting.

    1. Hmmm! quick hop NY/LA (not that anyone wants to go to either anymore)
      greatest delay'll still be the line at TSA

  3. Novelty items, while novel, don't plumb the depths of genuine science packages that should be flying.

    1. Of course not, but all of history is filled with special mementos, and there's nothing wrong with that. Science payloads should be given priority, of course, but there aren't any yet. I suspect there's a market here, but it isn't really large in the same sense of an orbital trip.

      If this isn't a one-off, SpaceX will be publishing the available payload dimensions and pricing soon enough. The weight will depend on the primary mission's requirements.

      I don't know what the fuel difference between a return to land vs. a droneship landing is, but ultimately the price of this service is going to be commensurate with the cost difference of those two ways of coming home.

    2. No bucks, no Buck Rogers.

      Does the space industry need a viewing audience composed of the common people?

      Maybe, maybe not. But if branding is important, effort is required to keep the brand competitive. Gaining the interest of a large global population - and showing what can be done in ways people hadn't thought about - can reap rewards in near future. Still, if anything, it keeps the brand before the people.

      Hence, soccer balls.

      Too, the partner in this was Qatar. That probably covered the administrative costs of several launches not to mention whatever amount operationally. Again, in the least it opens that door.
      Would it be too much to suggest a bidding war among countries? (The war part being who bumps who in the launch schedule.)

  4. Replies
    1. Except Musk isn't selling the Moon, he's selling Mars.

  5. I can just see it now, the box has "Remove AFTER Flight" painted on it!!

    Not a bad idea for challenge coins...

  6. OK, please don't ban me as this is the tequila talking. Regarding items commanding a higher price merely for having gone really high: suborbital hookers.
    SiG: feel free to delete this. :-)

    1. I think that's a brilliant idea...but the ride on the 1st stage booster might not be terribly comfortable.

    2. Let's see: no oxygen, no seats, not temperature control, no weight available to add all that, just to turn the "mile high club" into the "100 km club?"

      Blue Origin's New Shepard has all of the above, but everything that happens in flight is video recorded and transmitted down. Sounds like it's right up Hunter Biden's alley, but I'll pass on that, thanks.

    3. Robert, you should be banned just for drinking tequila. Nasty stuff. Obviously a lacking of morals.

  7. If I were lacking in morals I wouldn't say (redacted for the sake of decency and those of delicate sensibilities). :-)
    I was too lazy/tired to make a proper gin and tonic.