What is the status of Space SE's beta rating as of January 2016, and when will we become a fully graduated site?
It has certainly been chatted about with increasing frequency in The Pod Bay. To track our progress on all the metrics used to determine when we graduate, you can look at Stacker, a site created by one of our Stack Overflow brethren, Eric.
What is needed now is a sustained average of 10 questions a day. 'Sustained' doesn't have an exact definition, probably something like a few months with that average. Around major events like Juno, there is always a spike in questions. On this occasion, now 3 weeks after that event our question rate remains elevated above the 5 questions per day we have sustained so far this year, at around 6 q/day.
We have a few very active members who have largely focused on asking good questions frequently. Their questions comprise a large portion of the growth this year, and I applaud them in particular for making the effort to find truly good questions to ask, and doing so well. We have also had a mixed bag of other questions with a healthy proportion from new users. Our growth in new members and avid members has been a rock-steady and respectably steep upward incline.
There have been bursts of new questions around major events before, it wouldn't be surprising if the rate falls off again. But it seems we can now sustain 5 q/day, at least, which is a significant improvement over last year. Still, in my personal opinion, we are probably a year or more from graduation.
To me the most significant things are that the field of space exploration is growing quickly and shows every promise of continuing to do so, and ever faster, for at least the next decade. Especially, the ability of small groups to launch cubesats should mean that there will be a quickly growing community of relative beginners trying to sort out questions about their projects.
Also there is a certain company that is pretty close to actually having a reusable rocket, and to announcing specific plans to colonize Mars. I expect the public's interest in space will climb as those plans advance, and all the more so as they start to cause increased activity across the space sector. Aside from SpaceX, there are many other fronts that will lead to increased interest from the public down the road - the beginning of sub-orbital tourist flights, progress in the space program of China... SpaceX has been the biggest driver of questions and traffic aside from the big missions that have happened since Space Exploration entered beta (Rosetta, New Horizons, Juno).
When I have mentioned SX.SE at space conferences, people have almost never heard of it. I think there is a huge untapped pool of both hobbyists and professionals out there. If we could make ourselves more visible, I think we'd get a lot more traffic and activity.
So, there is good reason for confidence for many reasons, but my guess is this is still going to take time.
The rule of thumb to graduate a site, in the partial graduation, seems to be about 10 questions/day for a consistent period of time. According to the Area 51 statistics, we have about 5.5 questions per day at the moment. We are well on our way to graduation, but we aren't there yet.
I can also tell you that there's pretty much no chance this site is anywhere close to closing. The community here is awesome, and I don't see that really going away anytime soon.
We are in public beta. And our stats are steadily improving, however we will not know a graduation date until SE informs us.
The process allows for "partial" graduation once site stats indicate we are in a healthy position, so we can have elections etc, with an updated design/CSS etc coming along later.