Author Topic: SpaceX - now a satellite manufacturer?  (Read 327841 times)

Offline speedevil

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SpaceX - now a satellite manufacturer?
« on: 01/13/2015 01:55 PM »
http://www.businessweek.com/videos/2015-01-13/musk-says-spacex-will-develop-satellites-in-seattle

So this is where the funding for Mars comes from?

Discussed on the above - the ULA competition lawsuit.
Landing failure (not adding anything to the 'more hydraulic fluid').
Cost plus, governmental revolving door, ...
The Boeing corruption issues, ...

17:37 - 'We're creating an engineering centre in Seattle. Big announcement on Friday. We're going to try to do for satellites what we've done for rockets. Several hundred people eventually, starting with 50 or 60, perhaps 3 or 4 years until 1000.'
q: 'People have lost billions on satellite development' a: 'We might join them! But satellite technology is not very advanced, they are designed to be space proven, and if you start the design at proven technology, you're designing with old technology, which means you're launching with 5-10 year old technology'.
'Small satellites that may or may not work, with technologies a decade or two more advanced and the ability to relaunch rapidly may change the paradigm'.
(paraphrased)
« Last Edit: 09/14/2017 10:57 PM by gongora »

Offline S.Paulissen

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite vendor?
« Reply #1 on: 01/13/2015 02:44 PM »
Unexpected, but not surprising.  Lots of nuance in those words.  Good luck SpX.
"An expert is a person who has found out by his own painful experience all the mistakes that one can make in a very narrow field." -Niels Bohr
Poster previously known as Exclavion going by his real name now.

Online Robotbeat

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite vendor?
« Reply #2 on: 01/13/2015 03:09 PM »
Potentially a much bigger market than space launch. (Even bigger than shuttling tens of thousands of people to Mars and back every year or so... Though not as awesome :) .)

It also gives them something to fill the potential capacity that a full RLV would have, something that's a real challenge.
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 sghill

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite vendor?
« Reply #3 on: 01/13/2015 03:16 PM »
http://www.businessweek.com/videos/2015-01-13/musk-says-spacex-will-develop-satellites-in-seattle

17:37 - 'We're creating an engineering centre in Seattle. Big announcement on Friday. We're going to try to do for satellites what we've done for rockets. Several hundred people eventually, starting with 50 or 60, perhaps 3 or 4 years until 1000.'
(paraphrased)


Flexible, automated mass production will be their keys to the kingdom, and 1000 people designing and building satellites is a ton of personnel if they are trying to change the paradigm of satellite construction- unless these assemblers are paid $12 an hour and they want to launch thousands of them....  For comparison, back in 2009 Tesla was churning out around 600 roadsters a year on average with fewer than 900 employees.  Musk's previous comments about this venture were that he envisioned 700 satellites total.

Even some McGuffin technology or manufacturing shift that allows them to replace a few large expensive satellites with lots and lots of inexpensive satellites cheaply launched will have to conform to the ability of a radio (or laser) signal to send and receive information at a distance, so we're not talking iPhones in space here.  There will be definite boundaries on satellite sizes and complexity because of the physical realities of long-distance communications (that we discussed extensively here); this affects build and launch price per unit and the number of units they will launch even if all other factors are ignored for simplicity.
« Last Edit: 01/13/2015 03:18 PM by sghill »
Bring the thunder Elon!

Online Chris Bergin

Re: SpaceX - now a satellite vendor?
« Reply #4 on: 01/13/2015 03:38 PM »
Yeah, that is interesting indeed!

Online Robotbeat

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite vendor?
« Reply #5 on: 01/13/2015 03:44 PM »
Of course, SpaceX has the advantage of a large RLV, initially a partial RLV (of still quite good payload capability) but by the time this is in full swing, a very large fully reusable launch vehicle which would otherwise have a hard time finding enough customers (currently only 36 or so payloads per year... They'll need 40-100 in order to make full RLV worthwhile).

SpaceX's constellation need not be made of smallsats, they could be as big as typical GSO sats, say 3-5 metric tons. Even with 700 satellites, that's still only 70-100 partly reusable Falcon Heavy (or some future RLV of similar or greater capacity) launches to put that whole thing up, just barely enough to justify a full RLV for a couple years.

So basically, SpaceX will have an enormous advantage over those of the past in that it'll have access to ultra-cheap launch, two orders of magnitude cheaper per kilogram to LEO (by the time their full RLV gets built) than, say, Iridium or ORBCOMM had in the 1990s. (Falcon Heavy is already 1/25th the cost per kilogram that Pegasus XL was in the 1990s.)

Plus they already have some in-house satellite building experience from Dragon.

It makes a lot of sense. Full RLVs don't make sense given the current size of the launch market, so just increase the size of the launch market.

No guarantee of success, of course.
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 Jakusb

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite vendor?
« Reply #6 on: 01/13/2015 03:50 PM »
I guess they need satellites anyway to get to and survive on Mars. Why not revolutionize the market while doing your own development.

Offline ericspittle

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite vendor?
« Reply #7 on: 01/13/2015 03:51 PM »
Personally I think this is awesome, and it would be cool to see if Space X and Elon can do for the satellite industry what they've done for the space launch industry (and Elon and Tesla for the electric car industry, and Elon and Paypal for the payment processing industry, etc, etc).

However, and I'm far from an expert here, wouldn't this open them up to anti-competition lawsuits?

Online Robotbeat

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite vendor?
« Reply #8 on: 01/13/2015 03:55 PM »
Personally I think this is awesome, and it would be cool to see if Space X and Elon can do for the satellite industry what they've done for the space launch industry (and Elon and Tesla for the electric car industry, and Elon and Paypal for the payment processing industry, etc, etc).

However, and I'm far from an expert here, wouldn't this open them up to anti-competition lawsuits?
Has it opened up Boeing to such lawsuits? Boeing developed Delta IV and builds commercial satellites. As far as I'm aware, that wasn't really a problem (though they did have other problems).

It's not like SpaceX is going to turn away satellite customers, and they certainly haven't so far. (EDIT: They were trying to compete for the Cygnus launch and also were in talks to launch Dreamchaser--SpaceX seemed happy to launch it, from what I heard.) They need all the launches they can get, long-term.
« Last Edit: 01/13/2015 04:07 PM by Robotbeat »
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 ericspittle

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite vendor?
« Reply #9 on: 01/13/2015 03:56 PM »
Personally I think this is awesome, and it would be cool to see if Space X and Elon can do for the satellite industry what they've done for the space launch industry (and Elon and Tesla for the electric car industry, and Elon and Paypal for the payment processing industry, etc, etc).

However, and I'm far from an expert here, wouldn't this open them up to anti-competition lawsuits?
Has it opened up Boeing to such lawsuits? Boeing developed Delta IV and builds commercial satellites. As far as I'm aware, that wasn't really a problem (though they did have other problems).

It's not like SpaceX is going to turn away satellite customers, and they certainly haven't so far. They need all the launches they can get, long-term.
Fair point, thank you for your response. This forum is a great place to learn :)

Offline RedLineTrain

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite vendor?
« Reply #10 on: 01/13/2015 03:57 PM »
Looks like their experience with a stake in SSTL was encouraging.

Offline sghill

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite vendor?
« Reply #11 on: 01/13/2015 04:00 PM »
However, and I'm far from an expert here, wouldn't this open them up to anti-competition lawsuits?

Nah, as long as there is one other vendor for similar services (doesn't even have to be satellite-based), the FCC doesn't care, and hasn't since Clinton was in office.  This specific argument was settled 15 years ago, though I'm happy Google is cracking it back open.

http://www.extremetech.com/internet/196675-google-calls-on-fcc-to-mandate-line-sharing-pits-itself-directly-against-comcast-and-other-isps
Bring the thunder Elon!

Offline SoulWager

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite vendor?
« Reply #12 on: 01/13/2015 04:11 PM »
Hopefully this is very bad news for current ISPs.

Offline ArbitraryConstant

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite vendor?
« Reply #13 on: 01/13/2015 04:12 PM »
However, and I'm far from an expert here, wouldn't this open them up to anti-competition lawsuits?
I don't think that's a concern initially. Where that tends to become a problem is if you abuse a dominant position, it's not a priori illegal just to have a dominant position, and I don't really think SpaceX has a dominant position right now.

Nor is it a priori illegal to vertically integrate (in the business sense) and use the resulting efficiencies to compete more effectively.

Offline ericspittle

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite vendor?
« Reply #14 on: 01/13/2015 04:13 PM »
However, and I'm far from an expert here, wouldn't this open them up to anti-competition lawsuits?

Nah, as long as there is one other vendor for similar services (doesn't even have to be satellite-based), the FCC doesn't care, and hasn't since Clinton was in office.  This specific argument was settled 15 years ago, though I'm happy Google is cracking it back open.

http://www.extremetech.com/internet/196675-google-calls-on-fcc-to-mandate-line-sharing-pits-itself-directly-against-comcast-and-other-isps
Makes sense, and the article was interesting reading, thank you :)

Offline Hotblack Desiato

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite vendor?
« Reply #15 on: 01/13/2015 04:16 PM »
maybe they can offer a satellite-barebone, and the customer can equip it with his own special hardware.

does anyone know how much radiation-shielding it takes to use standard electronic hardware instead of special space-hardened electronic hardware? as far as I know, the astronauts on ISS use regular notebooks and cameras (of course high end equipment, since the price is irrelevant, only mass matters). it can't be that much.

Offline Jim

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite vendor?
« Reply #16 on: 01/13/2015 04:17 PM »
There just has to be firewalls between the launch vehicle and spacecraft business, if they are to launch other companies' spacecraft and other companies' are going to launch their spacecraft.

Online Galactic Penguin SST

Re: SpaceX - now a satellite vendor?
« Reply #17 on: 01/13/2015 04:21 PM »
I wonder what that means for those already rather "innovative" vendors like SSTL.  ;)
Chinese spaceflight is a cosmic riddle wrapped in a galactic mystery inside an orbital enigma... - (not) Winston Churchill

Online Robotbeat

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite vendor?
« Reply #18 on: 01/13/2015 04:21 PM »
There just has to be firewalls between the launch vehicle and spacecraft business, if they are to launch other companies' spacecraft and other companies' are going to launch their spacecraft.
They must already need this because of Dragon (with Cygnus, Dreamchaser, and CST-100 as competing spacecraft that may have been launched on F9), correct?
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 MP99

Re: SpaceX - now a satellite vendor?
« Reply #19 on: 01/13/2015 04:43 PM »


However, and I'm far from an expert here, wouldn't this open them up to anti-competition lawsuits?

AIUI, part of Orbital Sciences rationale for developing Antares was to provide a Delta II replacement to improve the economics of launching their existing sat business.

Going purely by analogy, ISTM this new announcement shouldn't cause any issues on this front.

Cheers, Martin

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