Enlarge / A Soyuz rocket launches from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. (credit: NASA)
As recently as 2013, Russia’s venerable fleet of rockets commanded nearly half of the global share of the commercial launch market.
Since then, the emergence of other players, most notably SpaceX, has considerably shrunk the once-dominant Russian position.
This year, although Russia has made 17 successful orbital launches, only about a third of them have flown for paying customers other than the Russian government or the International Space Station.
By contrast, SpaceX has made 16 launches this year, 11 of which have been for commercial customers.
A SpaceX projection for 2018 suggests that disparity will continue to grow if the company continues to increase the flight rate of its Falcon 9 rocket.
Recognizing its dimming market position, the Russian rocket corporation, Energia, has fast-tracked development of a new medium-class launch vehicle that it is calling Soyuz-5.
This rocket could replace the existing Soyuz rocket that carries cosmonauts and astronauts into space while competing with SpaceX for commercial payloads.
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