Author Topic: SpaceX vs BlueOrigin - Whose Approach / Business Strategy is Better?  (Read 58890 times)

Offline sanman

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Musk has previously announced intentions to make SpaceX an OEM that would sell launch vehicles to others to operate them. Is there any possibility that Bezos could do the same thing? Or would Blue Origin mainly be a service provider, offering the service of taking people/cargo to space and back? What would business logic suggest as the better choice?

Offline QuantumG

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Musk has previously announced intentions to make SpaceX an OEM that would sell launch vehicles to others to operate them.

Really?
When someone is wishing for a pony, there's little to be gained by suggesting a unicorn would be ever better.. ya know, unless it's sarcasm.

Offline NovaSilisko

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Musk has previously announced intentions to make SpaceX an OEM that would sell launch vehicles to others to operate them.

Citation very much needed, here...

Offline Katana

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Can tapping the space tourist market earlier through suborbital then accelerate advancements for Blue faster than what Spacex has been able to achieve through COTS?

The future revenue of space tourism market may be too small to BO, compared to the development cost and value of New Shepherd booster as hydrolox upperstage.

However, "recent players" (none have success yet) in space tourism market may suffer.
« Last Edit: 11/26/2015 06:35 AM by Katana »

Online edkyle99

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From the calculations upthread, New Shepard has an estimated empty mass of 10t, and holds about 30t of fuel.  So the delta-V will be 421 * 9.8 * ln(4) = 5.7 km/sec.  For the Falcon first stage, it's suspected the empty mass is about 30t, and it's known to hold 386t of fuel (without sub-cooling).  So the total delta-V is 310*9.8*ln(416/30), or about 7.9 km/sec.  So in terms of delta-v provided per stage, the stage using Merlin is far more efficient than the stage using a BE-3.

Of course you are comparing a stage designed for a specific suborbital mission and a return landing every time with one designed for orbital launch .  Here's another comparison.

Replace the Falcon 9 second stage with a BE-3 power LH2/LOX stage.  You will find that the second stage weighs much less and that it should be possible to remove two of the first stage Merlin engines altogether and still put the same mass to GTO.  Indeed the first stage can be shrunk, required to carry 30-80 tonnes less propellant.  The entire rocket weighs 85-120 tonnes less at liftoff.  Less rocket for the same payload.  That's where the savings accrue. 

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 11/26/2015 06:57 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline Robotbeat

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Still same number of ground crew, except more complication since now you need deep cryogenic hydrogen. Your tanks are also a similar size, so you don't save on the hardware costs.

I don't see the advantage there.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline Zond

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As human beings, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are quite different, but in their roles in their business ventures there are probably more similarities than differences.

I don't know what you're trying to say here... Jeff isn't a walk around manager who has to have his finger in everything like Elon. I can't even imagine Elon running a company like Amazon. You won't be hearing any cutesy stories about Jeff teaching himself rocketry from scratch. You really won't find two more different entrepreneurs. This is a good thing in my opinion.

There are plenty of reports about Bezos also being a control freak and micromanager. Two examples:
http://www.theverge.com/2015/1/6/7500443/jeff-bezos-reportedly-approved-even-the-very-smallest-decisions-on
http://www.businessinsider.com/jeff-bezos-makes-ordinary-control-freaks-look-like-stoned-hippies-says-former-engineer-2011-10?IR=T

And you wanted a cute story about Bezos teaching himself rocketry? Here you go:
http://www.newspacejournal.com/2009/02/09/blue-origin-and-jeff-bezoss-reading-habits/
« Last Edit: 11/26/2015 07:32 PM by Zond »

Offline nadreck

As human beings, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are quite different, but in their roles in their business ventures there are probably more similarities than differences.

I don't know what you're trying to say here... Jeff isn't a walk around manager who has to have his finger in everything like Elon. I can't even imagine Elon running a company like Amazon. You won't be hearing any cutesy stories about Jeff teaching himself rocketry from scratch. You really won't find two more different entrepreneurs. This is a good thing in my opinion.

If Elon were running Amazon it would have a different character that is for sure, vastly different if he had founded it, but he would still be stuck by his role managing a company operating a commercial cloud, order fulfillment, and media company doing a lot of the same things as Bezos does. Arguably one of the reasons Musk moved on from PayPal was that the cost to that organization of Musk learning to manage a large business left everyone better off with the deal with eBay. Musk may still speak and act from his natural character in his roles at SpaceX and Tesla, and I am sure Bezos does the same, but in both SpaceX and Tesla Musk is concerned with far more than 'sticking his finger' in the engineering. He may do that, but it is, possibly sadly for him, a much smaller role than dealing with the organizational issues.  Jeff probably delegates more of every aspect of his job than Musk does, and as such Jeff can probably manage 'more' than Musk can, but both of them must spend more time engaging and refereeing people and in the process figuring out who can really do what, than actually doing professional work in their areas of competence.
It is all well and good to quote those things that made it past your confirmation bias that other people wrote, but this is a discussion board damnit! Let us know what you think! And why!

Offline leaflion

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Still same number of ground crew, except more complication since now you need deep cryogenic hydrogen. Your tanks are also a similar size, so you don't save on the hardware costs.

I don't see the advantage there.

Lets compare the Saturn V and the N-1.  Both weigh about 6.25 million lbs GLOW. One was all first stage Kerolox and with hydrolox 2nd and 3rd stage, the other was all kerolox stages.

Saturn V had 2X the payload-momentum capacity.  In terms of efficiency using any metric you want a hydrolox upper stage rocket wins, even with the N-1 using the most high-performance kerolox engine ever built (except for reliability  :-\)

Online Zed_Noir

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Of course you are comparing a stage designed for a specific suborbital mission and a return landing every time with one designed for orbital launch .  Here's another comparison.

Replace the Falcon 9 second stage with a BE-3 power LH2/LOX stage.  You will find that the second stage weighs much less and that it should be possible to remove two of the first stage Merlin engines altogether and still put the same mass to GTO.  Indeed the first stage can be shrunk, required to carry 30-80 tonnes less propellant.  The entire rocket weighs 85-120 tonnes less at liftoff.  Less rocket for the same payload.  That's where the savings accrue. 

 - Ed Kyle
Still same number of ground crew, except more complication since now you need deep cryogenic hydrogen. Your tanks are also a similar size, so you don't save on the hardware costs.

I don't see the advantage there.

Why shrink the F9 core tankage. Just make the upper stage fitted with the current core and get more lift performance. Especially for GTO, GSO & BEO flights.

In the unlikely event that SpaceX & Blue have a joint venture. Humor me. Something like the Falcon Heavy top off with a BE-3U powered "kick stage" could make missions to the outer Solar System cheaper with shorter transit time to target.  :)  Of course just as likely as a dancing Unicorn in the fire trench. Oh, wait....

Offline LouScheffer

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Still same number of ground crew, except more complication since now you need deep cryogenic hydrogen. Your tanks are also a similar size, so you don't save on the hardware costs.

I don't see the advantage there.

Lets compare the Saturn V and the N-1.  Both weigh about 6.25 million lbs GLOW. One was all first stage Kerolox and with hydrolox 2nd and 3rd stage, the other was all kerolox stages.

Saturn V had 2X the payload-momentum capacity.  In terms of efficiency using any metric you want a hydrolox upper stage rocket wins, even with the N-1 using the most high-performance kerolox engine ever built (except for reliability  :-\)

OK, the metric I choose is $/kg to orbit.  The Saturn 5 is estimated at about $3.2 billion per launch, in current dollars (from Wikipedia), and orbits 120,000 kg.  The N1 was estimated as 604 million 1985 dollars per launch ( http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/n11964.htm ), or about 1.33 billion in current year dollars, and orbits 95,000 kg.  So on this metric the N-1 wins by almost a factor of 2, 14000 $/kg to 26600 $/kg.

Look, it's perfectly clear hydrogen has more energy per kg than kerolox, and hence allows a lighter first stage for the same performance.   That's simple physics and not in dispute.  But hydrogen has drawbacks as well, and hence may not be the most economical choice.  It's not a good first stage fuel (not dense enough).  So now you need a two-fuel system.  This implies different engines for the different stages, more specialists on your launch team, and now your second stage engine is produced in low volume.  All of these can be solved, but it costs money.  On the whole, is the hydrolox upper stage cheaper?  Like all engineering, it's a question of tradeoffs.

Take Ed's example of a hydrolox upper state for Falcon, then reducing the first stage to 7 Merlins.  That's three less Merlins, which are rumored to cost about $1 million each.  How much does a BE-3 cost?  If it's more than 3 million you are already behind.  Even if it's less than 3 million, hydrogen might still be a losing proposition once you add in the ground infrastructure and support, amortized over missions.  And if they get re-use working, then the cost of that additional first stage mass may be smaller yet, reducing hydrogen's advantage still more. 

Overall, there can be no credible claim for a hydrolox upper stage reducing cost without running the numbers.  And the empirical evidence runs the other way - the hydrolox upper stages belong to the high cost vendors.  Why do you suppose that is, if a hydrolox upper stage should lead to a low system cost?


Offline Robotbeat

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... In terms of efficiency using any metric you want a hydrolox upper stage rocket wins, even with the N-1 using the most high-performance kerolox engine ever built (except for reliability  :-\)
...metric of cost where you can only afford one engine. In that case, I'm confident kerolox wins over hydrolox. Delta IV is super expensive for its capability, while Zenit and Falcon 9 launchers are cheap.

Now sure, if development cost doesn't matter (so you build multiple, totally different first stage engine(s) from upper stage engine(s)) and you ignore operations cost, it's clearly better to do both. But if you include development costs and operations cost, it's not at all clear that doing both is optimal.

How many rocket engines has Blue Origin now developed?

They developed some sort of peroxide rocket engine.

Some sort of peroxide/kerosene rocket engine (we think).

BE-3, hydrolox.

What did SpaceX develop?

Merlin kerolox
and
Kestrel kerolox.

They were able to get to orbit much, much faster by keeping it simple. Musk couldn't afford to spend a decade and half a billion and still not be anywhere near orbit and a self-sustaining, high-revenue business.

From an economics perspective where money is actually limited, I'd say a full-kerolox rocket is far superior to a full-hydrolox rocket. Maybe methane/LOx (or another simple high-Isp and high-density hydrocarbon like propylene or propane) would be even better, I'm not sure.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline Robotbeat

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Blue Origin likely would've been MUCH further along if Bezos had devoted as much mental bandwidth to Blue Origin as Musk has devoted to SpaceX. I think that might be changing, though.

...not that this was necessarily a suboptimal strategy. By focusing on Amazon, Bezos significantly increased his net worth, which gives more ammo for Blue Origin.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline RocketGoBoom

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Blue Origin likely would've been MUCH further along if Bezos had devoted as much mental bandwidth to Blue Origin as Musk has devoted to SpaceX. I think that might be changing, though.

...not that this was necessarily a suboptimal strategy. By focusing on Amazon, Bezos significantly increased his net worth, which gives more ammo for Blue Origin.

I think SpaceX likely has far more ammo than Blue Origin. This is not simply a comparison of their individual net worths ($46 billion to $13 billion). Neither Bezos or Musk can easily sell large amounts of their stock. They need to maintain ownership of their primary companies to maintain control. If they sold $1 billion of their stock, their stock prices would likely dive.

SpaceX has a viable business model already that is attractive to outside investors. SpaceX has proven the ability to raise $1 billion in cash from investors such as Google and Fidelity. There is cash flow and probably profits that can be demonstrated to investors. It is easy for outside investors to understand a profitable business model from launching satellites for commercial companies, NASA and the military. With the 50+ launch manifest, there is a business model for investors.

Blue Origin doesn't really have a viable business model yet. Space Tourism is very questionable right now. Selling engines to ULA for Vulcan is sort of chump change.

As of right now, SpaceX has far more ammo in this space race.

Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin could potentially put the screws to SpaceX but doing a launch into orbit. At that point they could likely start building their own manifest for future commercial launches. Wouldn't that be an interesting competition? I have no doubt that Blue Origin could grab a piece of the SpaceX manifest within a few years.

« Last Edit: 11/27/2015 03:39 AM by RocketGoBoom »

Online Zed_Noir

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...

Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin could potentially put the screws to SpaceX but doing a launch into orbit. At that point they could likely start building their own manifest for future commercial launches. Wouldn't that be an interesting competition? I have no doubt that Blue Origin could grab a piece of the SpaceX manifest within a few years.

Maybe not. IMO it is most likely the Blue manifest will be build with customers from ULA, Ariane & ILS. The high cost launch providers. Customers who wants cheaper launches but could not get a slot with SpaceX. Presuming Blue will be cheaper than the high cost providers, but not as cheap as SpaceX.


Offline leaflion

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Still same number of ground crew, except more complication since now you need deep cryogenic hydrogen. Your tanks are also a similar size, so you don't save on the hardware costs.

I don't see the advantage there.

Lets compare the Saturn V and the N-1.  Both weigh about 6.25 million lbs GLOW. One was all first stage Kerolox and with hydrolox 2nd and 3rd stage, the other was all kerolox stages.

Saturn V had 2X the payload-momentum capacity.  In terms of efficiency using any metric you want a hydrolox upper stage rocket wins, even with the N-1 using the most high-performance kerolox engine ever built (except for reliability  :-\)

OK, the metric I choose is $/kg to orbit.  The Saturn 5 is estimated at about $3.2 billion per launch, in current dollars (from Wikipedia), and orbits 120,000 kg.  The N1 was estimated as 604 million 1985 dollars per launch ( http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/n11964.htm ), or about 1.33 billion in current year dollars, and orbits 95,000 kg.  So on this metric the N-1 wins by almost a factor of 2, 14000 $/kg to 26600 $/kg.

Look, it's perfectly clear hydrogen has more energy per kg than kerolox, and hence allows a lighter first stage for the same performance.   That's simple physics and not in dispute.  But hydrogen has drawbacks as well, and hence may not be the most economical choice.  It's not a good first stage fuel (not dense enough).  So now you need a two-fuel system.  This implies different engines for the different stages, more specialists on your launch team, and now your second stage engine is produced in low volume.  All of these can be solved, but it costs money.  On the whole, is the hydrolox upper stage cheaper?  Like all engineering, it's a question of tradeoffs.

Take Ed's example of a hydrolox upper state for Falcon, then reducing the first stage to 7 Merlins.  That's three less Merlins, which are rumored to cost about $1 million each.  How much does a BE-3 cost?  If it's more than 3 million you are already behind.  Even if it's less than 3 million, hydrogen might still be a losing proposition once you add in the ground infrastructure and support, amortized over missions.  And if they get re-use working, then the cost of that additional first stage mass may be smaller yet, reducing hydrogen's advantage still more. 

Overall, there can be no credible claim for a hydrolox upper stage reducing cost without running the numbers.  And the empirical evidence runs the other way - the hydrolox upper stages belong to the high cost vendors.  Why do you suppose that is, if a hydrolox upper stage should lead to a low system cost?

Congratulations.  If you take cost of Saturn V program/# of launches and compare it to the flyaway (a.k.a. the marginal cost of 1 vehicle, no development operations or overhead costs https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flyaway_cost) cost of the N-1 you have a metric where the N-1 is better. 

Also the Saturn V could lift 140,000 kg to LEO, not 120,000 kg.  Not sure which version of Wikipedia you're using...

My point is that as things get bigger efficient architecture becomes important. At EELV sizes and below, all kerosene can be the right choice.  I've never said it isn't the right choice for Falcon 9, it is.  However when you get to super-heavy lift, hydrolox is worth the trouble.

Offline sanman

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Sorry if this has been discussed to death before - but why did BlueOrigin go for the hydrolox approach from the start, as contrasted with SpaceX's choice of kerolox? Is it because Bezos has a purist attitude of only going for the most high-performance/top-rung propulsion systems, as compared to the economy of kerolox? Is it because when Bezos went hunting for rocket designers, he mainly found people whose expertise was in hydrolox? Was Bezos' budgetary advantage the reason why they went for this more difficult fuel choice? Given what we know that New Shepard's mission profile is supposed to be, could the same capability have been developed more expensively or less expensively with the kerolox approach?
« Last Edit: 11/27/2015 04:52 PM by sanman »

Offline Jarnis

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Oh boy, I was afraid of this. As soon as I saw the Blue Origin video, I just knew it was going to turn into a presumably never-ending battle between Blue fans and SpaceX fans on many levels.

I suppose this thread can be the main battleground so it doesn't take over other areas.

Wait, what should I do? I'm a fan of both of them.

 :o

Offline TrevorMonty

Sorry if this has been discussed to death before - but why did BlueOrigin go for the hydrolox approach from the start, as contrasted with SpaceX's choice of kerolox? Is it because Bezos has a purist attitude of only going for the most high-performance/top-rung propulsion systems, as compared to the economy of kerolox? Is it because when Bezos went hunting for rocket designers, he mainly found people whose expertise was in kerolox? Was Bezos' budgetary advantage the reason why they went for this more difficult fuel choice? Given what we know that New Shepard's mission profile is supposed to be, could the same capability have been developed more expensively or less expensively with the kerolox approach?
For correct answer ask Bezo.  My guess. The BE3 was also developed as an upper stage engine where hydrolox is king, especially for BLEO missions. Blue are trying to sell it as an upper stage engine to ULA, NASA and most likely Orbital.
It may also be used as booster engine in Boeing/ Blue XS1 vehicle.

Beside higher ISP, hydrolox engines are clean burning so no dechoking required, which maybe an issue with RP1 engines. Has option of autogenous, uses hydrogen and oxygen gases to pressurize the tanks instead of He, which is only getting rarer and dearer.
« Last Edit: 11/27/2015 09:35 AM by TrevorMonty »

Offline rayleighscatter

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Neither Bezos or Musk can easily sell large amounts of their stock. They need to maintain ownership of their primary companies to maintain control. If they sold $1 billion of their stock, their stock prices would likely dive.
Bezos probably could, Musk probably couldn't. Amazon's market cap is a order of magnitude greater than Tesla's so a billion dollar sale is a drop in the bucket (in fact Bezos did a 500+ million sale last summer and the market didn't react). If Musk attempts a billion dollar sale right now he's handing over a significant portion of Tesla.

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