Author Topic: Who will compete with SpaceX? The last two and next two years.  (Read 147801 times)

Online Coastal Ron

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Most of those Hawthorn & McGregor engineers are not new product development engineers.  They're production and test.

I'm baffled by this statement too.

At their Hawthorne facility they have new product development going on for Falcon 9 Block 5 (i.e. upgraded legs, upgraded fins, upgraded octoweb, etc.), recoverable fairings, and Dragon spacecraft. All of that work is applicable to the BFR/BFS.

At their McGregor test facility that has always been the place for new product development, and they have been working on not only the upgraded Merlin engine, but for years now they have been working on Raptor - which is to be used on the BFR/BFS.

They do have production and test personnel at both locations, and they are still ramping up.

But I don't see any evidence of a lack of new product development engineers - where are you thinking they went?

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Some evidence of lack of a serious R&D staff assigned to ITS can be gleaned from the incomplete state of the 2 year delayed ITS plan finally revealed last September and the real soon now delayed announcement of an ITS update, likely a serious revision of the incomplete (q.v. development cost, launch site aspects, etc.) insufficiently vetted September 2016 plan.  It is not news as Elon has said that re-assigning the development team to ITS awaits the completion of the items I cited.

As someone that has been responsible for communicating schedule commitments, I've always viewed Musk pronouncements as "Best Effort" dates, not "Not To Exceed" - especially ones that don't have external customers yet.

Also, and we should all remember this, Elon Musk and SpaceX are doing things that just a few short years ago were considered "IMPOSSIBLE!!", so I tend towards cutting them a lot of slack when they change things. I'm just excited that they have committed to trying. YMMV.

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I have always contended that available R&D cash is THE largest obstacle to ITS success and certainly to schedule.

As I already stated, I don't hold them to any schedule date since I'm just pleased someone is doing what they are doing.

As for money, I'm not worried about having enough money for the design phase, but having enough money for production and test of flyable versions of the BFR and BFS is certainly a concern. So I expect we'll hear about additional money being put into SpaceX in the not too distant future. Musk always seem to have a plan for what's next, so we just need to find out what it is...
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Online Robotbeat

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Bottom line: best evidence indicates that SpaceX does not have the requisite well resourced engineering R&D team assigned to ITS nor will they be available real soon now.

The development teams are not the obstacle. As long as they are able to keep paying their staff and maintaining Hawthorne and McGregor they have all the development capacity they need. As soon as they complete their Falcon development which will be by the end of this year.

Building a large pad and a large factory for ITS are more difficult to finance.

Most of those Hawthorn & McGregor engineers are not new product development engineers.  They're production and test. Some evidence of lack of a serious R&D staff assigned to ITS can be gleaned from the incomplete state of the 2 year delayed ITS plan finally revealed last September and the real soon now delayed announcement of an ITS update, likely a serious revision of the incomplete (q.v. development cost, launch site aspects, etc.) insufficiently vetted September 2016 plan.  It is not news as Elon has said that re-assigning the development team to ITS awaits the completion of the items I cited.

I have always contended that available R&D cash is THE largest obstacle to ITS success and certainly to schedule.

Though it probably is true that R&D cash is one limiting factor, look at the progress to date.  Raptor is a third larger than two other engines being developed in parallel by two other companies that have a fraction of the development activities ongoing compared to SpaceX.  Raptor is the most sophisticated of the three engines, too.  Today, a fully operational Raptor is on the stand and testing is moving quickly. Where do the competitors' engines stand?

A sub-scale ITS will be developed on a timeline comparable to that of the vehicles for which these other new engines are destined -- Vulcan and New Glenn -- yet be at a scale that dwarf both.  In fact, it may be operational before the Block 1B of SLS which is primitive technology-wise, had a huge head start, and has Billions of R&D monies.
Heck, there's even an outside chance that a subscale ITS could beat even SLS block I. Even 2019 isn't looking that good for SLS these days. And NASA is vulnerable to delays of both the rocket and the spacecraft.
« Last Edit: 07/17/2017 02:45 AM by Robotbeat »
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Offline philw1776

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Most of those Hawthorn & McGregor engineers are not new product development engineers.  They're production and test. Some evidence of lack of a serious R&D staff assigned to ITS can be gleaned from the incomplete state of the 2 year delayed ITS plan finally revealed last September and the real soon now delayed announcement of an ITS update, likely a serious revision of the incomplete (q.v. development cost, launch site aspects, etc.) insufficiently vetted September 2016 plan.  It is not news as Elon has said that re-assigning the development team to ITS awaits the completion of the items I cited.

I have always contended that available R&D cash is THE largest obstacle to ITS success and certainly to schedule.

I am somewhat baffled by your line of argument. It has been said before that right now only a tiny group is assigned to ITS development. There is however a very capable team for development of Falcon and Merlin that will soon complete their present task. They will then take on ITS. This has been clearly stated by Elon Musk and Gwynne Shotwell, and others. So how do you get to the conclusion there will not be a capable engineering team for ITS development?

We know that there even now is a team on development of Raptor. There has been ongoing development since 2014 at least, resulting in a fully functional, though subscale engine on the teststand that has successfully gone through a long series of tests.

That is not what I meant.  I was responding to your earlier post, but I can see the confusion created.
I say they have to wait until the other items are done and they are not yet done.

My original comments exerpted..
"FH development is not yet done and resources not yet re-assigned.  That won't fully happen until after a flight or so when final flight originated design tweaks get phased in. Crew Dragon engineering efforts will likely continue moving rightward all through 2018 into 2019.  Structural development for ITS had a setback with the premature failure, so it seems, of the 12m composite tank.  Raptor development my be the item most on schedule.  Unknown.

Recent outreach to the US government for milestone funding indicates that, as expected, R&D funding for ITS is a big yet unresolved issue.

Bottom line: best evidence indicates that SpaceX does not have the requisite well resourced engineering R&D team assigned to ITS nor will they be available real soon now.
« Last Edit: 07/17/2017 01:50 PM by philw1776 »
“When it looks more like an alien dreadnought, that’s when you know you’ve won.”

Online AncientU

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Lithium-Aluminum tankage with retractable landing legs... research is done if they revert to that tech for the subscale version.  Avionics essentially done.  Software essentially done.  Grid fins and control technology essentially done.  Landing pad done.  Etc., etc., etc.
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Offline kaiser

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Most of those Hawthorn & McGregor engineers are not new product development engineers.  They're production and test. Some evidence of lack of a serious R&D staff assigned to ITS can be gleaned from the incomplete state of the 2 year delayed ITS plan finally revealed last September and the real soon now delayed announcement of an ITS update, likely a serious revision of the incomplete (q.v. development cost, launch site aspects, etc.) insufficiently vetted September 2016 plan.  It is not news as Elon has said that re-assigning the development team to ITS awaits the completion of the items I cited.

I have always contended that available R&D cash is THE largest obstacle to ITS success and certainly to schedule.

I am somewhat baffled by your line of argument. It has been said before that right now only a tiny group is assigned to ITS development. There is however a very capable team for development of Falcon and Merlin that will soon complete their present task. They will then take on ITS. This has been clearly stated by Elon Musk and Gwynne Shotwell, and others. So how do you get to the conclusion there will not be a capable engineering team for ITS development?

We know that there even now is a team on development of Raptor. There has been ongoing development since 2014 at least, resulting in a fully functional, though subscale engine on the teststand that has successfully gone through a long series of tests.

You're kind of talking past his point.  He's talking about the posted schedule being unobtainable.  Largely because most of the engineering staff is still finishing off FH, Raptor, and others. 

Once those people pivot, then yea, there's your team.  But the actual ITS timeline is really very slippery until FH is flying reliably.  That makes lining up the resources, funding, pad construction, everything else really slippery too.

Nothing wrong with that -- they have a good team.  You're just saying that there's a team, and he's just saying that they're not assigned to ITS yet, and won't be for a while longer.
« Last Edit: 07/17/2017 01:59 PM by kaiser »

Offline philw1776

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Thank you for translating my posts into English.  :)
“When it looks more like an alien dreadnought, that’s when you know you’ve won.”

Online FutureSpaceTourist

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Detailed article from Eric Berger looking at the history of competition, and disagreements, between SpaceX & ULA:

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How America’s two greatest rocket companies battled from the beginning
SpaceX has brought competition into US aerospace. And it only gets hotter from here.

ERIC BERGER - 8/2/2017, 12:30 PM

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/08/how-americas-two-greatest-rocket-companies-battled-from-the-beginning/

Online AncientU

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Couple quotables relative to this thread...

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Despite the accidents and long odds, to a large extent Musk has prevailed against the two titans of US aerospace. Today, his Falcon 9 rocket is cheaper, and it regularly bests ULA’s fleet in bids for commercial and government satellite launches. Musk has continued to innovate, and, if SpaceX succeeds with commercializing reusable spaceflight, he stands poised to dominate the global launch market.

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By various estimates, ULA has received about $13 to $15 billion in ELC payments since the company’s founding in 2006. But partly because of questions raised by Musk and partly due to concerns in Congress, the ELC payments will soon come to an end. The portion for the Atlas line of rockets stops in September 2019, and the Delta component ends a year later.

What happens after this is difficult to foretell. United Launch Alliance has been lobbying Congress and the US military to stop flying the more costly fleet of Delta rockets and to focus on the Atlas V vehicle with its cheaper Russian engine. But without the Delta IV Heavy, the military would have no way to get some of its heaviest payloads to higher orbits. Also, quietly, Lockheed and Boeing have been exploring the possible sale or breakup of ULA. So far, the price has been too high for potential buyers.

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Eventually, the Air Force will down-select to two rockets, and it seems likely that during future competitions one of these two companies will win about 60 percent of the national security launch contracts; the other will be left with 40 percent.

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And so the rocket wars will continue. A dozen years ago there was but one US launch competitor. SpaceX made it two. And with a combination of technical skill, hard work, and bravado, Musk has now improbably superseded the incumbent, undercutting ULA’s prices and forcing the US government to end the ELC payments.

Musk should be well pleased. During that 2014 hearing, sitting right next to Gass, the SpaceX founder declared, “As a country I think we’ve generally decided that competition is a good thing and that monopolies are not good.” And if judging by this definition of competition, then good things have come to those of us who have waited.
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
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Online Coastal Ron

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Couple quotables relative to this thread...

Quote
Despite the accidents and long odds, to a large extent Musk has prevailed against the two titans of US aerospace. Today, his Falcon 9 rocket is cheaper, and it regularly bests ULA’s fleet in bids for commercial and government satellite launches. Musk has continued to innovate, and, if SpaceX succeeds with commercializing reusable spaceflight, he stands poised to dominate the global launch market.

Quote
By various estimates, ULA has received about $13 to $15 billion in ELC payments since the company’s founding in 2006. But partly because of questions raised by Musk and partly due to concerns in Congress, the ELC payments will soon come to an end. The portion for the Atlas line of rockets stops in September 2019, and the Delta component ends a year later.

What happens after this is difficult to foretell. United Launch Alliance has been lobbying Congress and the US military to stop flying the more costly fleet of Delta rockets and to focus on the Atlas V vehicle with its cheaper Russian engine. But without the Delta IV Heavy, the military would have no way to get some of its heaviest payloads to higher orbits. Also, quietly, Lockheed and Boeing have been exploring the possible sale or breakup of ULA. So far, the price has been too high for potential buyers.

Quote
Eventually, the Air Force will down-select to two rockets, and it seems likely that during future competitions one of these two companies will win about 60 percent of the national security launch contracts; the other will be left with 40 percent.

Quote
And so the rocket wars will continue. A dozen years ago there was but one US launch competitor. SpaceX made it two. And with a combination of technical skill, hard work, and bravado, Musk has now improbably superseded the incumbent, undercutting ULA’s prices and forcing the US government to end the ELC payments.

Musk should be well pleased. During that 2014 hearing, sitting right next to Gass, the SpaceX founder declared, “As a country I think we’ve generally decided that competition is a good thing and that monopolies are not good.” And if judging by this definition of competition, then good things have come to those of us who have waited.

Seems pretty clear that they only way to compete with SpaceX is to be comparable to them so that you can split orders with customers that want redundant launch capabilities. Because if you aren't comparable, at least from a profitability standpoint, you won't be able to last against them.

If true, then that makes an argument for Blue Origin to be their eventual competitor, which one way to accelerate that happening is for Blue Origin (i.e. Jeff Bezos) to buy United Launch Alliance. Not saying it would or could happen, but it would certainly reshuffle the current playing deck...   :o
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Offline Zed_Noir

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Couple quotables relative to this thread...

[snip]

Seems pretty clear that they only way to compete with SpaceX is to be comparable to them so that you can split orders with customers that want redundant launch capabilities. Because if you aren't comparable, at least from a profitability standpoint, you won't be able to last against them.

If true, then that makes an argument for Blue Origin to be their eventual competitor, which one way to accelerate that happening is for Blue Origin (i.e. Jeff Bezos) to buy United Launch Alliance. Not saying it would or could happen, but it would certainly reshuffle the current playing deck...   :o

There is no need for Blue to buy ULA. All Blue have to do to force ULA's exit from the field is too announced their interest in bidding for US government contracts after about 3 or 4 successful launch of the New Glenn. IMO

Offline meekGee

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Couple quotables relative to this thread...

[snip]

Seems pretty clear that they only way to compete with SpaceX is to be comparable to them so that you can split orders with customers that want redundant launch capabilities. Because if you aren't comparable, at least from a profitability standpoint, you won't be able to last against them.

If true, then that makes an argument for Blue Origin to be their eventual competitor, which one way to accelerate that happening is for Blue Origin (i.e. Jeff Bezos) to buy United Launch Alliance. Not saying it would or could happen, but it would certainly reshuffle the current playing deck...   :o

There is no need for Blue to buy ULA. All Blue have to do to force ULA's exit from the field is too announced their interest in bidding for US government contracts after about 3 or 4 successful launch of the New Glenn. IMO

By the time they'll buy them, it'll be a fire sale.  A life line.   And it's better for BO to get key people, some IP maybe, real operations know-how, even if it's dated - it'll be more than BO has...   
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Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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There are two items that is valuable to BO that ULA has. The tech of ACES (IVF) and the ability to manufacture ACES. ACES would be perfect 3rd stage for NG. Especially if the design uses a BE3U and a 5m diameter (VULCAN design). It would give the NG unparalleled  BEO capability.

Now back to SpaceX next two years.

2 East coast equatorial inclination pads in operation. 1 polar
FH operational.
CC operational.
Lunar Dragon flight.
Flight rate as high as 30 in 1 year. This year looks to be nearly 20, possibly as much as 21.
Construction of Boca Chica near complete or having first launch by end of the next 2 years.
Raptor goes into limited production.
Designs/plans/schedules/funding on ITS solidify.
Possibility of the upgrade of SLC4 to launch a FH to show that FH can do polar.
FH certification by AF.
FH wins AF competitive bid for 2023 launch time frame.
« Last Edit: 08/03/2017 03:30 PM by oldAtlas_Eguy »

Offline Jim

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Some idiotic posts thinking a company that has yet to fly an orbital launch can take overtaking an existing company on firm foundation.

Edited
« Last Edit: 08/03/2017 04:20 PM by Jim »

Offline Nomadd

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Some idiotic posts thinking a company that has yet to fly an orbital launch can take over an existing company on firm foundation.
Investor groups who can't tell you what they're buying take over companies on firm foundations. Being rich doesn't preclude idiocy.

Online JBF

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Some idiotic posts thinking a company that has yet to fly an orbital launch can take over an existing company on firm foundation.

LM wanted to sell in 2015, but Boeing didn't.  Rumor has it that they have been shopping it around but the price is currently too high.
"In principle, rocket engines are simple, but that’s the last place rocket engines are ever simple." Jeff Bezos

Offline Jim

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Over taking vs taking over

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Some idiotic posts thinking a company that has yet to fly an orbital launch can take over an existing company on firm foundation.

LM wanted to sell in 2015, but Boeing didn't.  Rumor has it that they have been shopping it around but the price is currently too high.
The problem with trying to sell ULA at the moment is that the view of ULA as company and its ability to make money is that the company is in a very slow decline. SpaceX is seen as in a rapid expansion as well as BO. This is one of those factors in the calculation of a company's valuation. I doubt that ULA is valued by the traditional venture capitol valuation measures for as much as SpaceX has been. This can also be seen as a measure of how well they are competing. It wasn't that long ago that SpaceX was the follower (just a couple of years ago) now they are the leader. Now who can compete. Only some other company that is in a rapid expansion mode. And that reduces the count to only 1 company BO. Unfortunately for BO they haven't progress across the start line, launching a Medium/Heavy payload to orbit.

Offline Toast

The problem with trying to sell ULA at the moment is that the view of ULA as company and its ability to make money is that the company is in a very slow decline.

If ULA doesn't turn things around, they could wind up selling off assets and downsizing...which an up-and-coming competitor could snatch up at a good discount. Buying up Beal Aerospace's assets worked out well for SpaceX, and is one of the reasons they were able to grow so quickly. SpaceX, Blue Origin, or even Virgin or Rocketlab would probably be glad to snatch up anything they can. Just depends on whether ULA sinks, and if so how quickly. They've got a long history that's helping them stay in the game right now, but they can't afford to stay this uncompetitive on price with SpaceX eating up marketshare and Blue Origin on the horizon...

Offline Jim

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If ULA doesn't turn things around, they could wind up selling off assets and downsizing
There is no such thing as downsizing.
And other than a factory, they have no assets to sell off.

There was little of Beal's assets other than land used by Spacex

even Virgin or Rocketlab would probably be glad to snatch up anything they can.

Those are non starters and also they couldn't afford them.
« Last Edit: 08/03/2017 04:58 PM by Jim »

Offline mme

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I don't mean this as a diss to ULA but in the near term ULA has no value to Blue and buying ULA would be a distraction.  Merging company cultures is really difficult, time consuming and frankly can be demoralizing to all involved.

Delta IV and Atlas V are getting phased out.  Vulcan won't be reusable.  ACES doesn't exist but maybe there is interesting IP there. I'm sure ULA has great talent but Blue seems to be taking the slow and steady approach.  They'll just acquire the engineers the good old fashion way. Poaching.
Space is not Highlander.  There can, and will, be more than one.

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