Author Topic: SpaceX vs BlueOrigin - Whose Approach / Business Strategy is Better?  (Read 122374 times)

Online Rebel44

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I'll say this much, I've never known so many people act like they are falling over each other to join BO. Sadly, if understandably, it's because they are offering incredible salaries and benefits - easily the best in the business...."by a massive margin".

Any info, how many people are they "stealing" from SpaceX and how many from ULA, Boeing etc.?

ULA layoffs likely provided quite a few opportunities for BO to hire experienced people

Offline Lar

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IBM, GE, others tried to push into the personal computing revolution...

Just picking a nit, the IBM PC was revolutionary (despite having basically no new/revolutionary tech) since it legitimized personal computers, and the architecture it introduced is more or less still in use today. So your assertion isn't quite right. IBM shaped it.

The analogy is that if a big player gives a small player legitimacy here, things change. This is happening with SES and others, and their relationship with SpaceX.

PS: NOT an official IBM spokesperson, they'd be daft to make me one!
« Last Edit: 08/23/2017 01:24 PM by Lar »
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

Offline Jim

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If you're (Boeing/LM) so good, why not spin out (as is done in Silicon Valley - Cisco did this a lot) - a startup, co-financed with venture, conquer a part of the SC space, and acquire it again back into the main company. High capital reuse, keeps company culture end to end, secures inaccessible parts of the market, and you don't risk anything but your initial stake. When it works, you own all that market, and increase your market cap.

More likely is their buying one or more of the players in the game just as they gobbled up the space launch and spacecraft players.  That only reduced competition, advancing the technology approximately zero.  Once the satellite industry enters a Silicon Valley-like development cycle, lumbering old school companies are in trouble.  IBM, GE, others tried to push into the personal computing revolution...

New players like Blue and some of the small launcher/small satellite start-ups will own chunks of the field if history is any indication.  Figuring out who and how is the challenge.  Silicon Valley in the 1970s/80s all over again.

Big and unlikely If

Online AncientU

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IBM, GE, others tried to push into the personal computing revolution...

Just picking a nit, the IBM PC was revolutionary (despite having basically no new/revolutionary tech) since it legitimized personal computers, and the architecture it introduced is more or less still in use today. So your assertion isn't quite right. IBM shaped it.

The analogy is that if a big player gives a small player legitimacy here, things change. This is happening with SES and others, and their relationship with SpaceX.

PS: NOT an official IBM spokesperson, they'd be daft to make me one!

'Shaped' is quite different than leading or maintaining a substantial piece of the market.  Not to dis IBM, but they weren't sufficiently agile to innovate and lead as the personal computer market took off... and playing catch-up is a tough game.  I was with GE when they looked into this technology and decided it had no significant future.  General Motors introduced electric vehicles before the market took off and junked their efforts as a non-starter. 

The Bigs get it wrong, IMO, because they cannot see a world in which their tech isn't... big (A.K.A, de-legitify alternate approaches).
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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IBM, GE, others tried to push into the personal computing revolution...

Just picking a nit, the IBM PC was revolutionary (despite having basically no new/revolutionary tech) since it legitimized personal computers, and the architecture it introduced is more or less still in use today. So your assertion isn't quite right. IBM shaped it.

The analogy is that if a big player gives a small player legitimacy here, things change. This is happening with SES and others, and their relationship with SpaceX.

PS: NOT an official IBM spokesperson, they'd be daft to make me one!

'Shaped' is quite different than leading or maintaining a substantial piece of the market.  Not to dis IBM, but they weren't sufficiently agile to innovate and lead as the personal computer market took off... and playing catch-up is a tough game.  I was with GE when they looked into this technology and decided it had no significant future.  General Motors introduced electric vehicles before the market took off and junked their efforts as a non-starter. 

The Bigs get it wrong, IMO, because they cannot see a world in which their tech isn't... big (A.K.A, de-legitify alternate approaches).
I believe it is the failure to concentrate on the business items that can cause the business case to fail. SpaceX, and I believe BO, are both putting the emphasis into the correct areas to be able to make the operational costs be much lower for their partial reusable vehicles than any other expendable vehicle can possibly achieve.

SpaceX did this by way of an evolutionary bootstrap. But BO since it has "excess" funds can go the direct route to the end item (well at least the first step the reusable booster stage) on the first launch. They would then "iron" out any faults during the short <10 flights test/initial operations phase. Then they would go on to the next step of a fully reusable larger vehicle. Much like SpaceX is trying to do right now. Both would be attempting a direct implementation of a fully resemble vehicle after gaining experience with the partial booster reusable vehicles.

Offline sanman

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I believe it is the failure to concentrate on the business items that can cause the business case to fail. SpaceX, and I believe BO, are both putting the emphasis into the correct areas to be able to make the operational costs be much lower for their partial reusable vehicles than any other expendable vehicle can possibly achieve.

SpaceX did this by way of an evolutionary bootstrap. But BO since it has "excess" funds can go the direct route to the end item (well at least the first step the reusable booster stage) on the first launch. They would then "iron" out any faults during the short <10 flights test/initial operations phase. Then they would go on to the next step of a fully reusable larger vehicle. Much like SpaceX is trying to do right now. Both would be attempting a direct implementation of a fully resemble vehicle after gaining experience with the partial booster reusable vehicles.

So you're saying that Blue Origin is less "gradatim" than SpaceX is?   ;)

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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I believe it is the failure to concentrate on the business items that can cause the business case to fail. SpaceX, and I believe BO, are both putting the emphasis into the correct areas to be able to make the operational costs be much lower for their partial reusable vehicles than any other expendable vehicle can possibly achieve.

SpaceX did this by way of an evolutionary bootstrap. But BO since it has "excess" funds can go the direct route to the end item (well at least the first step the reusable booster stage) on the first launch. They would then "iron" out any faults during the short <10 flights test/initial operations phase. Then they would go on to the next step of a fully reusable larger vehicle. Much like SpaceX is trying to do right now. Both would be attempting a direct implementation of a fully resemble vehicle after gaining experience with the partial booster reusable vehicles.

So you're saying that Blue Origin is less "gradatim" than SpaceX is?   ;)
As SpaceX is now, NO. They are the same actually. But as SpaceX was, YES. SpaceX was the true pioneer. Think of BO's NS as the same as SpaceX's grasshopper. They both learned the same things from the operation of these vehicles. But SpaceX is the only one who have been able to turn it into a reusable orbital class booster implementation as of yet. BO must still go through the final refinements of design that losing a few on landing teaches. But they first must have an orbital class vehicle. SpaceX first developed the orbital class vehicle and then adapted it for powered landing. BO will not be doing an adaption but the powered landing hardware and software will be part of the very first vehicle (whether it works or not). This makes BO and SpaceX as they are now the same in design business goals methodologies. But before this point they had different methods that have been converging into a similar set.
« Last Edit: 08/25/2017 03:49 PM by oldAtlas_Eguy »

Offline Lar

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IBM, GE, others tried to push into the personal computing revolution...

Just picking a nit, the IBM PC was revolutionary (despite having basically no new/revolutionary tech) since it legitimized personal computers, and the architecture it introduced is more or less still in use today. So your assertion isn't quite right. IBM shaped it.

The analogy is that if a big player gives a small player legitimacy here, things change. This is happening with SES and others, and their relationship with SpaceX.

PS: NOT an official IBM spokesperson, they'd be daft to make me one!

'Shaped' is quite different than leading or maintaining a substantial piece of the market.  Not to dis IBM, but they weren't sufficiently agile to innovate and lead as the personal computer market took off... and playing catch-up is a tough game.  I was with GE when they looked into this technology and decided it had no significant future.  General Motors introduced electric vehicles before the market took off and junked their efforts as a non-starter. 

The Bigs get it wrong, IMO, because they cannot see a world in which their tech isn't... big (A.K.A, de-legitify alternate approaches).

There is a valuable lesson to learn from IBM and the PC. I was there and I admit my bias... but I think your analysis misses the mark.

IBM came in late. But when IBM came in, all of a sudden, a hobbyist thing that was growing slowly (and maybe had just gotten to the knee in the growth curve) got supercharged, and super legitimate. Big customers fell all over each other to put IBM PCs or XTs or ATs on everyone's desk. And IBM made MS-DOS, and later, Windows, happen. Microsoft became a success thanks to IBM. The market growth and sales growth in the first 5 years after the introduction of the IBM PC was phenomenal. IBM was probably caught off guard at first, as the PC came out of a skunkworks (a few rogue/renegade employees that got some leeway made it happen... ) This in part explains some of the compromises and even bad decisions around the bus, the processor, the memory architecture, how DOS worked, etc. IBM scrambled to catch up... with itself.

IBM was on top though. Clear market leader and standard setter. And IBMs legitimization made a lot of other companies very successful in the third party market. Apple, who arguably was the company that caused the nascent knee in place when IBM blew things wide open, was in dire straits. It took them a while to recover. The Mac was their savior product. (Lisa was too expensive)

But what happened? Why isn't IBM still in this business? IBM got complacent, and the business got commoditized. The PS/2 architecture was an attempt to recapture the mantle, but it was already too late for desktops and luggables. The clone PC companies had already blown past IBM. The Thinkpad was another attempt to recapture the mantle and it did very well ... IBM was again shaping the market but this time for laptops... however it did not last. IBM eventually exited the business almost completely, one segment at a time. (I type this on a Thinkpad. Made by Lenovo).

The lessons here
- Sometimes when the dog catches the bus, the dog will have no idea how to actually exploit that.
- Complacency is dangerous. Being on top this year is no guarantee of success year after next.
- Your competitors are not incompetent.  Betting that they will fail is a losing strategy.
- No one is too big to fail in a market, unless they have government propping them up
- Markets morph and you have to change. Apple reinvented itself several times, after all.

I am sure that both Musk and Bezos have studied this and other business stories of the past, and have drawn the right conclusions.

So to dismiss the very profound effect IBM had on this market is to miss valuable lessons.
« Last Edit: 08/25/2017 03:56 PM by Lar »
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

Offline yokem55

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IBM, GE, others tried to push into the personal computing revolution...

Just picking a nit, the IBM PC was revolutionary (despite having basically no new/revolutionary tech) since it legitimized personal computers, and the architecture it introduced is more or less still in use today. So your assertion isn't quite right. IBM shaped it.

The analogy is that if a big player gives a small player legitimacy here, things change. This is happening with SES and others, and their relationship with SpaceX.

PS: NOT an official IBM spokesperson, they'd be daft to make me one!

'Shaped' is quite different than leading or maintaining a substantial piece of the market.  Not to dis IBM, but they weren't sufficiently agile to innovate and lead as the personal computer market took off... and playing catch-up is a tough game.  I was with GE when they looked into this technology and decided it had no significant future.  General Motors introduced electric vehicles before the market took off and junked their efforts as a non-starter. 

The Bigs get it wrong, IMO, because they cannot see a world in which their tech isn't... big (A.K.A, de-legitify alternate approaches).

There is a valuable lesson to learn from IBM and the PC. I was there and I admit my bias... but I think your analysis misses the mark.

IBM came in late. But when IBM came in, all of a sudden, a hobbyist thing that was growing slowly (and maybe had just gotten to the knee in the growth curve) got supercharged, and super legitimate. Big customers fell all over each other to put IBM PCs or XTs or ATs on everyone's desk. And IBM made MS-DOS, and later, Windows, happen. Microsoft became a success thanks to IBM. The market growth and sales growth in the first 5 years after the introduction of the IBM PC was phenomenal. IBM was probably caught off guard at first, as the PC came out of a skunkworks (a few rogue/renegade employees that got some leeway made it happen... ) This in part explains some of the compromises and even bad decisions around the bus, the processor, the memory architecture, how DOS worked, etc. IBM scrambled to catch up... with itself.

IBM was on top though. Clear market leader and standard setter. And IBMs legitimization made a lot of other companies very successful in the third party market. Apple, who arguably was the company that caused the nascent knee in place when IBM blew things wide open, was in dire straits. It took them a while to recover. The Mac was their savior product. (Lisa was too expensive)

But what happened? Why isn't IBM still in this business? IBM got complacent, and the business got commoditized. The PS/2 architecture was an attempt to recapture the mantle, but it was already too late for desktops and luggables. The clone PC companies had already blown past IBM. The Thinkpad was another attempt to recapture the mantle and it did very well ... IBM was again shaping the market but this time for laptops... however it did not last. IBM eventually exited the business almost completely, one segment at a time. (I type this on a Thinkpad. Made by Lenovo).

The lessons here
- Sometimes when the dog catches the bus, the dog will have no idea how to actually exploit that.
- Complacency is dangerous. Being on top this year is no guarantee of success year after next.
- Your competitors are not incompetent.  Betting that they will fail is a losing strategy.
- No one is too big to fail in a market, unless they have government propping them up
- Markets morph and you have to change. Apple reinvented itself several times, after all.

I am sure that both Musk and Bezos have studied this and other business stories of the past, and have drawn the right conclusions.

So to dismiss the very profound effect IBM had on this market is to miss valuable lessons.
What helped undermine IBM's position in the PC market though was that PC's were (are) collections of components made by lots of different parties, and integrated into a system using standardized interfaces and then is capable of running a vendor agnostic operating system. This drastically reduced the barriers to entry to the business and drove down profit margins.

Now, from what I see in the rocket business, is the complete opposite situation. The launch business is getting more vertically integrated, not less. Everyone getting started has to come up with their own propulsion, avionics, press system, airframe design, etc., and then have to build and maintain launch facilities or try to share those facilities with other providers.

TL, DR: PC's are LEGO's, rockets are not.


Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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Yes public hardware interface standards are nearly non-existent. But there are many many custom private interface documents.

Offline mme

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... --- 8< lots of nested trimming for mme's ADHD addled brain 8< --- ...

There is a valuable lesson to learn from IBM and the PC. I was there and I admit my bias... but I think your analysis misses the mark.
...
The lessons here
- Sometimes when the dog catches the bus, the dog will have no idea how to actually exploit that.
- Complacency is dangerous. Being on top this year is no guarantee of success year after next.
- Your competitors are not incompetent.  Betting that they will fail is a losing strategy.
- No one is too big to fail in a market, unless they have government propping them up
- Markets morph and you have to change. Apple reinvented itself several times, after all.
...
What helped undermine IBM's position in the PC market though was that PC's were (are) collections of components made by lots of different parties, and integrated into a system using standardized interfaces and then is capable of running a vendor agnostic operating system. This drastically reduced the barriers to entry to the business and drove down profit margins.

Now, from what I see in the rocket business, is the complete opposite situation. The launch business is getting more vertically integrated, not less. Everyone getting started has to come up with their own propulsion, avionics, press system, airframe design, etc., and then have to build and maintain launch facilities or try to share those facilities with other providers.

TL, DR: PC's are LEGO's, rockets are not.
TL;DR I think SpaceX is in a similar position as IBM in that others can duplicate and improve on their successes. (I also think SpaceX knows this and won't make the same mistakes as far as there are parallels. But I'm sure they'll make plenty of new mistakes. That's how it goes...)

The issue isn't vertical integration vs. using commodity parts. The issue is a focus on lowering manufacturing costs and taking a risk on the market being willing to accept the product (PCs in the workplace/fly on reusable hardware.) IBM used commodity parts to get to the market quickly and relatively inexpensively.  SpaceX uses vertical integration for the same reason. Suppliers not meeting SpaceX's price points or requirements is the only reason SpaceX is as vertically integrated as it is.

The "secret sauce" of SpaceX is a desire and focus on lowering prices and a willingness to build a good-enough rocket rather than design a perfect one. (After all, perfect rockets have hydrolox upper stages, as few engines as possible and are "right sized" for the mission with strap on boosters.)  If SpaceX legitimizes good-enough, reusable rockets then it becomes easier for competitors to justify investing in developing their own good-enough, reusable rocket. Payloads are way more "hardware agnostic" than off the shelf software.

There are no technological or legal barriers preventing competent engineers at other companies from figuring out how to create competitive reusable rockets. Just like no technological or legal barriers prevented clone makers from reverse engineering the IBM PC BIOS. (Don't get me started on the DMCA...)

All the existing providers and Blue (especially Blue) have boatloads of money or access to boatloads of money so needing a pad and supporting infrastructure isn't really a gating factor.  If Block 5 lives up to it's goals, SpaceX is likely to create many "fast (in launch provider adjusted timeframe) followers".

New Glenn is suppose to start flying by 2020.  Just in time for everyone to be use to the idea of "flight proven" hardware.
Space is not Highlander.  There can, and will, be more than one.

Offline sanman

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What helped undermine IBM's position in the PC market though was that PC's were (are) collections of components made by lots of different parties, and integrated into a system using standardized interfaces and then is capable of running a vendor agnostic operating system. This drastically reduced the barriers to entry to the business and drove down profit margins.

Now, from what I see in the rocket business, is the complete opposite situation. The launch business is getting more vertically integrated, not less. Everyone getting started has to come up with their own propulsion, avionics, press system, airframe design, etc., and then have to build and maintain launch facilities or try to share those facilities with other providers.

IBM's Open Architecture approach helped to leverage the wider supply chain market, and brought in all kinds of 3rd-party hardware providers to hugely boost the platform and its capabilities. But that same approach allowed all kinds of knock-off artists to imitate the platform itself with their own knock-off brands.

Quote
TL, DR: PC's are LEGO's, rockets are not.

Rockets aren't LEGOs, but surely they can similarly cultivate interoperability with 3rd-party vendors (eg. ACES, etc) to expand the options available through their launch vehicle platform. Look at that Sherpa payload carrier - that's a nice novel idea to help deliver spacecraft flexibly. The more 3rd-party stuff that works with your launcher, the better your service offering.

Offline Lar

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We're not talking about OrbitalATK here but they are notorious (in a good way, they make money) for putting together systems from disparate components... If anyone is disproving the "rockets are not LEGO elements" mantra, it's them....

If the "vertical integration is the secret sauce" camp is right, they're in for a lot of pain... SIs may not survive.

SpaceX and Blue are both exceedingly vertically integrated (although we may be guessing a bit about Blue) so at the first order of analysis, this isn't a business strategy differentiator that gives one a leg up over the other.  BUT, SpaceX may be more "good enough" and Blue may be more "get it right, not just good enough"... which is easier for the second guy, as long as they don't dawdle TOO much.
« Last Edit: 08/26/2017 05:49 AM by Lar »
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

Offline Steve G

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I wouldn't be surprised that within five years that Blue Origin and SpaceX would merge. The catalyst that would go beyond their egos and varied visions to joining up would be that both would be both struggling; SpaceX with BFR, and Blue with New Glenn and (New Armstrong?). Their combined resources, money and assets would be an interesting mix, with each assisting the other to come out with a comprehensive space strategy and fleet and a choke hold on the launching industry. Already, both are poised to make every other rocket and space agency obsolete, so one will be stronger than two.

To me, both are businessmen, and both, ultimately, may be a better mix than most would think.

Offline meekGee

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We're not talking about OrbitalATK here but they are notorious (in a good way, they make money) for putting together systems from disparate components... If anyone is disproving the "rockets are not LEGO elements" mantra, it's them....

If the "vertical integration is the secret sauce" camp is right, they're in for a lot of pain... SIs may not survive.

SpaceX and Blue are both exceedingly vertically integrated (although we may be guessing a bit about Blue) so at the first order of analysis, this isn't a business strategy differentiator that gives one a leg up over the other.  BUT, SpaceX may be more "good enough" and Blue may be more "get it right, not just good enough"... which is easier for the second guy, as long as they don't dawdle TOO much.

Vertical integration is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition.


ABCD - Always Be Counting Down

Offline Lar

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I wouldn't be surprised that within five years that Blue Origin and SpaceX would merge. The catalyst that would go beyond their egos and varied visions to joining up would be that both would be both struggling; SpaceX with BFR, and Blue with New Glenn and (New Armstrong?). Their combined resources, money and assets would be an interesting mix, with each assisting the other to come out with a comprehensive space strategy and fleet and a choke hold on the launching industry. Already, both are poised to make every other rocket and space agency obsolete, so one will be stronger than two.

To me, both are businessmen, and both, ultimately, may be a better mix than most would think.

I find this highly unlikely unless there is some kind of tragedy taking Jeff or Elon away from us.. Both leaders are very driven
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

Offline corneliussulla

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It seems to me that the BFR/BFS design at making NG DOA or soon after. It fulfills the NG market with full reusability.

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It seems to me that the BFR/BFS design at making NG DOA or soon after. It fulfills the NG market with full reusability.

Could BO build their own version of BFS and use it with NG first stage? Maybe using BE-3s as engines? Much smaller that BFR/BFS combo, but still pretty substantial compared to any third option available in the forseeable future.

Offline high road

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It seems to me that the BFR/BFS design at making NG DOA or soon after. It fulfills the NG market with full reusability.

Assuming SpaceX (continue to) outpace BO, are able to achieve their cost estimate and build enough BFR's or refly them fast enough to supply the entire market, which should be considerably larger than today at such lower costs per kg. Waaaay too early to call any of that.

Offline sanman

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After the IAC speech, I'm feeling like Musk's answer to "Gradatim Ferociter" is "Qui Audet, Vincit" (Who Dares, Wins)

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