Author Topic: Augustine HSF Review SpaceX and Commerical Chat  (Read 56816 times)

Offline mmeijeri

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Augustine HSF Review SpaceX and Commerical Chat
« on: 10/26/2009 04:54 PM »
I've noticed that some people are fans of both NASA launchers and SpaceX while they dislike ULA. I found this perplexing, but it may have something to do with political outlook.

SpaceX looks like the underdog or the daring upstart and it is easy to identify with that. SpaceX's PR also helps with that, it projects an image of an exciting, dynamic, young company. And since NASA is part of the government, people may feel as if they own part of the biggest baddest launcher in the world if it is built by NASA. It "shows" that together we can do more than each individually, it "shows" why certain things are best done by governments, that we shouldn't leave everything to the "whims" of the market.

ULA on the other hand is seen as part of big business, and part of the military industrial complex. It is also the major rival to both SpaceX and NASA launchers. If NASA uses ULA launchers people may feel they are paying for a military-industrial rocket as opposed to partly owning a government rocket. Owning feels better than paying for and the "good guys" are more attractive than the "bad guys".

I don't believe these are particularly good reasons, but it would be better if people were at least honest about them. There are exceptions, some people openly state they prefer SDLV because it enables Shuttle extension. Others say they want Ares V because it is the only way they will see humans on Mars in their lifetime. I don't think those are very good reasons, but stating them openly is refreshingly honest and in principle these are honourable reasons. This openness seems to be the exception though, not the rule. Generally I see people scrambling to come up with technical pretexts for their preferred flavour of SDLV (mass through TLI, fairing diameter, preferred flavour of engine). ESAS did it, but so do some of its most vociferous critics.

Or so it seems to me.
« Last Edit: 10/26/2009 07:05 PM by mmeijeri »
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Offline kkattula

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« Reply #1 on: 10/27/2009 03:34 AM »
It may be a false perception, but from the outside it looks like SpaceX are actively developing a lot of new hardware, whereas ULA have some very cool plans and designs, but are waiting for someone else to fund them.
« Last Edit: 10/27/2009 03:35 AM by kkattula »

Offline Lars_J

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« Reply #2 on: 10/27/2009 04:08 AM »
It may be a false perception, but from the outside it looks like SpaceX are actively developing a lot of new hardware, whereas ULA have some very cool plans and designs, but are waiting for someone else to fund them.

Exactly - the perception is that ULA (Boeing/Lockmart AKA "OldSpace") don't really have any interest in advancing spaceflight. They only want to cash in on their cost-plus contracts and only innovate when a large contract is up in the air. But they do not attempt to grow and expand into more space markets, or open up whole new markets, like most companies would be eager to.

Again, that is the perception. (before the wrath of Jim descends on me) :D

Personally I think there is some degree of truth in that perception, but I suppose there is also cold hard business reality where they do not want to take any chances that would hurt their stock values further.
« Last Edit: 10/27/2009 04:13 AM by Lars_J »

Offline jongoff

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« Reply #3 on: 10/27/2009 04:18 AM »
It may be a false perception, but from the outside it looks like SpaceX are actively developing a lot of new hardware, whereas ULA have some very cool plans and designs, but are waiting for someone else to fund them.

Exactly - the perception is that ULA (Boeing/Lockmart AKA "OldSpace") don't really have any interest in advancing spaceflight. They only want to cash in on their cost-plus contracts and only innovate when a large contract is up in the air. But they do not attempt to grow and expand into more space markets, or open up whole new markets, like most companies would be eager to.

Again, that is the perception. (before the wrath of Jim descends on me) :D

Personally I think there is some degree of truth in that perception, but I suppose there is also cold hard business reality where they do not want to take any chances that would hurt their stock values further.

Another way of putting it is that SpaceX acts more entrepreneurially than the other big launch companies.  Elon put his money in on speculation that they'd be able to deliver a product that would be profitable.  For the most part Boeing/LM/ULA don't act entrepreneurially very often, in a big part due to being publicly traded companies.  I don't think it's that they can't act entrepreneurially so much as that it is hard for them to do so.

That said, I think that as ULA goes on, they aren't going to have a choice--they're going to have to innovate or risk in the long run being marginalized by new entrants.  I happen to know, and be friends with, many members of the ULA team, and I think that at least talent-wise they could do some really interesting things.  My hope is that SpaceX being successful actually helps light a bit of a fire under them as well.

~Jon

Offline kkattula

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« Reply #4 on: 10/27/2009 05:00 AM »
I read ULA's papers on the ACES based exploration architecture, and was very impressed. Not just the pretty new technology, but the synergy from re-applying the same basic technology for multiple purposes. Also the recovery & accummulation of residual propellant at every step.

There's some really good thinking gone into those proposals. It's a crying shame they haven't been funded and empowered to actually buils the new stuff.

Offline sdsds

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« Reply #5 on: 10/27/2009 05:00 AM »
It may be a false perception, but from the outside it looks like SpaceX are actively developing a lot of new hardware, whereas ULA have some very cool plans and designs, but are waiting for someone else to fund them.

Exactly - the perception is that ULA (Boeing/Lockmart AKA "OldSpace") don't really have any interest in advancing spaceflight. They only want to cash in on their cost-plus contracts and only innovate when a large contract is up in the air. But they do not attempt to grow and expand into more space markets, or open up whole new markets, like most companies would be eager to.

Again, that is the perception. (before the wrath of Jim descends on me) :D

Personally I think there is some degree of truth in that perception, but I suppose there is also cold hard business reality where they do not want to take any chances that would hurt their stock values further.

Another way of putting it is that SpaceX acts more entrepreneurially than the other big launch companies.  Elon put his money in on speculation that they'd be able to deliver a product that would be profitable.  For the most part Boeing/LM/ULA don't act entrepreneurially very often, in a big part due to being publicly traded companies.  I don't think it's that they can't act entrepreneurially so much as that it is hard for them to do so.

That said, I think that as ULA goes on, they aren't going to have a choice--they're going to have to innovate or risk in the long run being marginalized by new entrants.  I happen to know, and be friends with, many members of the ULA team, and I think that at least talent-wise they could do some really interesting things.  My hope is that SpaceX being successful actually helps light a bit of a fire under them as well.

~Jon

Everyone should value ULA for what they principally provide:  they provide the U.S. government with rock solid EELV launch capability now, and pretty darn certain offers of enhanced launch and spaceflight capabilities in the future.  (As examples, if the U.S. government contracted for wide-body Centaur, or Atlas V Heavy, or an ACES depot, or any of ULA's other offerings, ULA would deliver with high probability.)  That -- plus on-target delivery of WMD to assure our national security -- is what OldSpace is all about.

NewSpace provides neither rock-solid capability now, nor offers of future capabilities with high-probability of on-time delivery.  That said, they also don't offer to deliver WMD.

An analogy offered with no offense intended to anyone:  we tend to love our pets, but get a totally different kind of value from our attack dogs.

Augustine is/was OldSpace.  It's impressive that he can "get it" regarding NewSpace.  It seemed clear for example that he personally would prefer to see NewSpace handle LEO HSF.  That's amazing!
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Offline gospacex

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« Reply #6 on: 10/27/2009 07:00 AM »
I read ULA's papers on the ACES based exploration architecture, and was very impressed. Not just the pretty new technology, but the synergy from re-applying the same basic technology for multiple purposes. Also the recovery & accummulation of residual propellant at every step.

There's some really good thinking gone into those proposals. It's a crying shame they haven't been funded and empowered to actually buils the new stuff.

Yeah, poor Boeing/LM have to sustain themself on potato scraps... they have only a few tens (or hundreds?) of billions worth of contracts with DoD, where would I expect them to find money to develop, say, a WBC?

Offline MP99

Augustine HSF Review SpaceX and Commerical Chat
« Reply #7 on: 10/27/2009 07:35 AM »
I've noticed that some people are fans of both NASA launchers and SpaceX while they dislike ULA. I found this perplexing, but it may have something to do with political outlook.

SpaceX / Musk are visibly excited about the prospects of carrying crew, have seemingly limiless ambition, and Musk started the whole thing to get to Mars, IIRC.

ULA could easily launch crews, but they've chosen not to.

This is a prudent financial decision.

My pension provider also follows a prudent course (I hope). That doesn't mean I'm going to get excited about them.

When it became clear that commercial crew looks like the future, did they announce a pre-emptive programme to HR a launcher? No.

Don't get me wrong. I know they've done lots of preparatory work on this, and I'm *hugely* impressed with their ongoing work towards depots.

SpaceX was started by someone with a vision, who then actively courted a public who are massively frakked off at an industry that's spent 40 years in retreat from the Moon and beyond.

It's not about the realities of what the companies can achieve, or are likely to in the future, it's about whether they set out to rekindle a jaded public's imagination.

cheers, Martin

Offline JohnFornaro

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« Reply #8 on: 10/27/2009 01:26 PM »
I too get the impression that ULA is "OldSpace" and SpaceX is "NewSpace", whatever my poorly elucidated definition of these two ideas is.  SpaceX is launching stuff.  So are other companies, but isn't SpaceX the "Apple" of this small entrepreneurial group?  Bigelow is selling stuff to be launched, which is good, but different.

Hey, that's my PERCEPTION.  Oh no, the wrath of Jim!  Run away!  (say it like Monty Python's King Arthur)
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline Jim

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« Reply #9 on: 10/27/2009 01:43 PM »


1.    That -- plus on-target delivery of WMD to assure our national security -- is what OldSpace is all about.


2.  Augustine is/was OldSpace.  It's impressive that he can "get it" regarding NewSpace.  It seemed clear for example that he personally would prefer to see NewSpace handle LEO HSF.  That's amazing!


that is totally offbase.   Old space got us to the moon, Old space continues to launch all of NASA's unmanned spacecraft.  Nuspace has failed to get contracts to do this.

1,   ULA and OSC do not build offensive weapon delivery systems.  weapon delivery systems has nothing to do with it.  It is the Apple vs IBM scenario

2.  Incorrect.  Augustine was for commercial space which is not just nuspace.

« Last Edit: 10/27/2009 01:49 PM by Jim »

Offline Jim

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« Reply #10 on: 10/27/2009 01:45 PM »

Yeah, poor Boeing/LM have to sustain themself on potato scraps... they have only a few tens (or hundreds?) of billions worth of contracts with DoD, where would I expect them to find money to develop, say, a WBC?


they already sunk billions into the EELV development.  They have yet to make that back.

Anyways, can we stop the LM and Boeing references, it is ULA.  ULA does not have access to LM and Boeing finances.

Offline Jim

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« Reply #11 on: 10/27/2009 01:47 PM »

ULA could easily launch crews, but they've chosen not to.


No, they want to, they just can't build the spacecraft.  They must work with someone else to provide the capsule.

Offline mmeijeri

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« Reply #12 on: 10/27/2009 01:49 PM »
Hypothetically, at what point does a reusable upper stage become a spacecraft, if ever?
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Offline jongoff

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« Reply #13 on: 10/27/2009 01:55 PM »

Yeah, poor Boeing/LM have to sustain themself on potato scraps... they have only a few tens (or hundreds?) of billions worth of contracts with DoD, where would I expect them to find money to develop, say, a WBC?


they already sunk billions into the EELV development.  They have yet to make that back.

Anyways, can we stop the LM and Boeing references, it is ULA.  ULA does not have access to LM and Boeing finances.

Exactly.  If ULA goes out of business, Boeing and LM shrug and say good riddance--but ULA goes out of business.  ULA has a lot more at stake than either of its parent companies. 

~Jon

Offline JohnFornaro

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« Reply #14 on: 10/27/2009 02:05 PM »
Just for the record, I have nothing against OldSpace in general.  They did get us to the Moon, Alice.  At the same time, they probably need to update their paradigm, but this can't be easy.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline Lars_J

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« Reply #15 on: 10/27/2009 02:26 PM »

Yeah, poor Boeing/LM have to sustain themself on potato scraps... they have only a few tens (or hundreds?) of billions worth of contracts with DoD, where would I expect them to find money to develop, say, a WBC?
they already sunk billions into the EELV development.  They have yet to make that back.

Anyways, can we stop the LM and Boeing references, it is ULA.  ULA does not have access to LM and Boeing finances.

The reason Bowing and LM is brought up is because *you* have on many occasions reminded us that ULA is not allowed develop spacecraft.   So when it comes to developing spacecraft, not just launch vehicles, is it not prudent to include them? Besides, as "co-owners" of ULA, they certainly set ULA policy as well.

Offline gospacex

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« Reply #16 on: 10/27/2009 02:54 PM »
"OldSpace" in my mind refers to organizations, not people. IOW: many, if not most, people working for OldSpace may be very supportive of enhancing our spacefaring capabilities. Some of them are even NewSpace fans.

But OldSpace companies as a whole have no will to do it unless someone covers the cost with sizable margins. They are accustomized to work for govt (DoD and NASA), they don't want to risk.

Offline MP99

Augustine HSF Review SpaceX and Commerical Chat
« Reply #17 on: 10/27/2009 09:16 PM »

ULA could easily launch crews, but they've chosen not to.

No, they want to, they just can't build the spacecraft. They must work with someone else to provide the capsule.

Understood.

And I know a lot of work has been done towards crewed launches. The capsule would presumably be the long pole.

I'm interested whether ULA would fund a launcher HR programme themselves once someone gets serious about a capsule to go on it.

And to repeat, this is about the perception of the two companies, not ULA's competance (which is not at all in question).

cheers, Martin

Online yg1968

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« Reply #18 on: 10/27/2009 11:42 PM »

Yeah, poor Boeing/LM have to sustain themself on potato scraps... they have only a few tens (or hundreds?) of billions worth of contracts with DoD, where would I expect them to find money to develop, say, a WBC?


they already sunk billions into the EELV development.  They have yet to make that back.

Anyways, can we stop the LM and Boeing references, it is ULA.  ULA does not have access to LM and Boeing finances.

Exactly.  If ULA goes out of business, Boeing and LM shrug and say good riddance--but ULA goes out of business.  ULA has a lot more at stake than either of its parent companies. 

~Jon

I have never of a parent company that doesn't care about its subsidiaries. For the parent companies, it's an asset that produces income. A subsidiary is just a legal entity, the people that care about the company are its shareholders and its employees.

Offline Xplor

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« Reply #19 on: 10/27/2009 11:43 PM »
I find this whole “oldspace” - “newspace” discussion intriguing.  What does this mean?  Private investment? Innovative? Why is SpaceX considered “newspace”? I presume ULA is “oldspace”? What about Orbital Sciences?

SpaceX is a startup.  They certainly have set up an innovative corporate style; they have promised very low prices (what happens when a team of 500 Aerospace/Analex/NASA/DoD mission assurance folks walk in the door to ensure the irreplaceable payload is successfully placed in orbit?).  They have made it much further than any of the other dozens of start ups of the last 2 decades.  Despite Elon’s sizeable personal investment most of SpaceX’s development money has actually come from the US government.

The history of “commercial” rocketry in the US is financially a miserable failure.  There have been literally dozens of “Newspace” start ups (Beal, Kistler, …) that have invested billions of dollars only to go bankrupt, not a single success so far (other than maybe Orbital Sciences of the 1980‘s).  “Oldspace” (General Dynamics, Boeing, Lockheed, Lockheed Martin) have also been forced to write off billions against their rocket investments when launch rates, success rates and technical hurdles were worse than expected.

And then throw in politics.  It’s no secret that Griffin HATED ULA with a passion, stacking the ESAS, crew lift, COTS and CRS deck against ULA.  Despite Griffin’s departure Hanley, Cooke and the other Constellation leaders continue to spout the myths that EELV’s can’t be human rated.

Is it any wonder that with commercial rocketries dismal financial history and a customer that wants a competing product (their own internally developed Ares I) that ULA has been cautious when it comes to spending hundreds of millions of dollars developing a product for the NASA human space flight market?

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