Author Topic: SpaceX vs BlueOrigin - Whose Approach / Business Strategy is Better?  (Read 87902 times)

Online Robotbeat

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 26452
  • Minnesota
  • Liked: 6376
  • Likes Given: 4638
Why? Because a billion in strings-free capital a year is more than enough when added to non-diluting income from launch and engine customers. If he sought outside investment, he'd be diluting his control. Dumb. No reason to do that.
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 sanman

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3513
  • Liked: 403
  • Likes Given: 1
So you feel Bezos' billions means capital isn't a constraint for him, and that control is a necessity at this juncture.

When would these assumptions change, to enable him to go public? Will it be once Blue is clearly profitable?

What about when Bezos wants to develop New Armstrong? That could cost a hefty chunk of cash.
Or what if he wants to deepen his Blue Moon lunar delivery service by establishing a Moon base?

And at least Bezos is just focused on one vision - the space vision - whereas Musk is trying spearhead multiple transformative efforts. I sometimes feel Musk should just do the Keiretsu thing and set up a holding company as a central hub to underpin his agenda, and then he can use it to shift cash amongst his various transformative enterprises (SpaceX, Tesla, Boring Company, etc) as needed.

Online Robotbeat

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 26452
  • Minnesota
  • Liked: 6376
  • Likes Given: 4638
Bezos is worth over $70 billion. It's completely unnecessary to seek outside capital, even to develop New Armstrong.

Bezos seems to prefer building business through seeking customers for suborbital flights, orbital flights, and engines. I'm sure that will continue. No dilution required, ever.
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 mme

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 967
  • Santa Barbara, CA, USA, Earth, Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy, Virgo Supercluster
  • Liked: 1164
  • Likes Given: 2843
...
What's Bezos' excuse for not taking Blue Origin public sooner rather than later?
As I've said other places, Bezos' net worth is more than the combined value or the top 3 IPOs in history.  His "excuse" for not taking it public is that he'd have access to significantly less money than he does by keeping it private.  And he'd lose control of the company and likely be forced to focus on "share holder value" rather than building capabilities and infrastructure that may not pay off for 20 years if ever.
Space is not Highlander.  There can, and will, be more than one.

Offline Chasm

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 165
  • Liked: 68
  • Likes Given: 0
Via reddit stock options are not part of the payment at Blue. [source]

As discussed at length Jeff has enough money to fund Blue out of pocket for a long time to come. It's not like he is burning the money in a bonfire either, is see it more as redirecting the growth of this wealth into another company.
Other than Blue and some usual stuff he also puts some small part of his money into projects that are interesting but cash starved like the 10000 year clock and occasionally into other investments are way out there. Sticking some money into an idea that maybe, theoretically, in better world, could work and be a game changer like General Fusion. It's interesting to to hear some of the long Wendelstein 7X interviews, when they are talking about the commercial and oddball projects and why they are not that relevant. Boils down to that at the end of the day there only one important number in fusion, the product of temperature, density and confinement time. [See Lawson criterion.] Get that number high enough by any means and the fusion energy problem should be solved. For Lockheed Martin and their compact system that number was so low they were not able to fill vacancies when they they presented it at a conferere.


Elon on the other hand has multiple ventures filled with all kinds of investors. Stock options are the carrot of choice to sweeten wages and long working hours. We can see some tension with the investors and through their complaints about what looks to be increasingly complicated constructions to keep him in control.
Fueling projects with other peoples money is not without drawbacks. Not exactly a new insight.

One of the bigger complaints was Ponzi scheme. Make customers prepay at contract signage, and not just a little bit. Always sell the future and don't ever forget to regularly add something even more far out.
Have the accusations been substantiated? No. Has SpaceX collapsed yet? No. Does it even matter? Not really. Still we see more wavering across the companies. Solar City, the fix that got put in and the waves that were caused by said fix being a prominent example.



So there are much more differences between the two than Moon vs. Mars.
What is hard to tell from the outside but seems quite funny is this: The Jeff at Amazon has the reputation to be thrifty, esp. in some of the stories from the early days. Building office furniture out of shipping crates and so on and so forth. The Jeff at Blue seems to be much more generous. Much less complaints about work conditions too, apparently no revolving door for engineers either.

Painting with a very broad brush Elons companies seem to be closer to the Amazon system. Spend less, work smarter, squeeze all work out of everyone. I wonder how a company founded by him in a decade will look.

Online Coastal Ron

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3144
  • I live... along the coast
  • Liked: 1969
  • Likes Given: 2322
So you feel Bezos' billions means capital isn't a constraint for him, and that control is a necessity at this juncture.

When would these assumptions change, to enable him to go public? Will it be once Blue is clearly profitable?

Once Blue Origin is profitable, why should Bezos take it public?

The reason you give up ownership of a company you are building is so that you can have access to capital, but Bezos will have not only his own wealth that he can contribute (i.e. owner equity), but future profits.  Why go public?

Quote
And at least Bezos is just focused on one vision - the space vision - whereas Musk is trying spearhead multiple transformative efforts. I sometimes feel Musk should just do the Keiretsu thing and set up a holding company as a central hub to underpin his agenda, and then he can use it to shift cash amongst his various transformative enterprises (SpaceX, Tesla, Boring Company, etc) as needed.

Let's not forget that Elon Musk ran out of money in 2008 trying to keep both SpaceX and Tesla afloat (he had to ask personal friends for short-term loans), so early on while SpaceX was still figuring out how to build and launch rockets he had to rely on outside investors.  By the time of the Tesla IPO in 2010 (when Musk became a billionaire), SpaceX had successfully launched the first Falcon 9, and SpaceX was making money on profit from the NASA COTS program and taking in customer deposits for future launch services.

Elon Musk could not have built SpaceX without outside investors.  Jeff Bezos doesn't have that problem.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline Ludus

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 705
  • Liked: 234
  • Likes Given: 104
So far, I'd say SpaceX, because they have more of the discipline of engaging with real customers. One of the major lessons in Silicon Valley startup culture is that there are risks to investing too much in ideas that aren't grounded in real sales. Because Bezos has plenty of capital, Blue Origin is free to do almost anything which may be a disadvantage.

SpaceX initial F1 ran into the classic startup issue that lots of people said they'd want launch services from a small rocket like that when asked, but when it came time to actually place orders and put up money not so much. The concept of a Minimum Viable Product is a response to that. Trying to get real orders ASAP to get early reality checks before investing too much in a product that won't really sell. Getting real customer feedback to influence development.

Amazon is extremely grounded in real markets. Everything it does has that empirical data driven quality. With Blue Origin though, Bezos is treating it differently.

It's not clear how much of a real market even exists for suborbital space tourism. It doesn't matter much to Virgin Galactic because it's more of a promotional vehicle for Virgin brands than a stand alone business. Similarly Bezos doesn't really care how much money can ultimately be made by New Shepard, it's just a convenient arbitrary goal for building rockets. Neither approach is as grounded as SpaceX's.
« Last Edit: 04/20/2017 03:37 PM by Ludus »

Offline sanman

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3513
  • Liked: 403
  • Likes Given: 1
I'd say everything of SpaceX's is grounded up to Falcon Heavy. Gwynne Shotwell, who is the more grounded face of the company, has spoken in very sober conventional terms about the market advantages of everything up to FH. But is ITS as well-grounded as the rest of SpaceX's family of rockets? ITS seems like a big leap of faith - the kind of huge leap Bezos hasn't yet made, and likely wouldn't make by departing from "Gradatim Ferociter".

Unless SpaceX is able to convince NASA to underwrite ITS missions, then it would seem SpaceX is headed towards shakier ground - especially when you see Blue moving to close the gap by readying New Glenn to take on Falcon in a few years. Once New Glenn is up and running, SpaceX may have its hands full fending off the competition, so that ITS goes on the back-burner.


Offline Lars-J

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3241
  • California
  • Liked: 2543
  • Likes Given: 1515
ITS seems like a big leap of faith - the kind of huge leap Bezos hasn't yet made, and likely wouldn't make by departing from "Gradatim Ferociter".

Is ITS really more of a leap from FH than NG is from NS? People seem to underestimate the size of NG.

Offline Eerie

  • Member
  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 737
  • Liked: 98
  • Likes Given: 6
ITS seems like a big leap of faith - the kind of huge leap Bezos hasn't yet made, and likely wouldn't make by departing from "Gradatim Ferociter".

Is ITS really more of a leap from FH than NG is from NS? People seem to underestimate the size of NG.

ITS is:

1. Bigger than any rocket that ever existed. Seriously, ITS is in the bloody Sea Dragon range. You'd have to to attach three Saturn V together to get more payload to LEO.
2. Made primarily of composite materials, which was never done before.
3. Reuses the second stage, which is also a brand new thing.

New Glenn, on the other hand, is just a scale-up of Falcon 9 with some incremental improvements.

So, NG is certainly more realistic, at this point, than ITS.
« Last Edit: 04/21/2017 08:18 PM by Eerie »

Offline Lars-J

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3241
  • California
  • Liked: 2543
  • Likes Given: 1515
ITS seems like a big leap of faith - the kind of huge leap Bezos hasn't yet made, and likely wouldn't make by departing from "Gradatim Ferociter".

Is ITS really more of a leap from FH than NG is from NS? People seem to underestimate the size of NG.

ITS is:

1. Bigger than any rocket that ever existed. Seriously, ITS is in the bloody Sea Dragon range. You'd have to to attach three Saturn V together to get more payload to LEO.
2. Made primarily of composite materials, which was never done before.
3. Reuses the second stage, which is also a brand new thing.

New Glenn, on the other hand, is just a scale-up of Falcon 9 with some incremental improvements.

So, NG is certainly more realistic, at this point, than ITS.

You managed to miss my point, which has nothing to do with what is more state of the art.

SpaceX has an existing orbital launch system. Blue Origin does not. It is about comparing the leap from each of their own organization point of view. Blue Origin so far only has New Shepard. SpaceX has accomplished more.

But there is no reason to get antsy about such a statement, since past performance is no guarantee of future success.

Offline Chasm

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 165
  • Liked: 68
  • Likes Given: 0
On the cooperate side switching to orbital, and more importantly to operational is more complex. On the SpaceX side Elon is supplying the pressure, they don't have forever to develop ITS.
There is also pressure on the Blue side. It does not matter too much if NG the is best thing since sliced bread, just that it works and flies orbital. They have to get with the program and do things for real.

Technology wise the problems are squarely with ITS. There is no real question if NG will work, just if Jeffs anti ship missile is more effective than Elons until it does.  ;D

Online Robotbeat

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 26452
  • Minnesota
  • Liked: 6376
  • Likes Given: 4638
ITS seems like a big leap of faith - the kind of huge leap Bezos hasn't yet made, and likely wouldn't make by departing from "Gradatim Ferociter".

Is ITS really more of a leap from FH than NG is from NS? People seem to underestimate the size of NG.

ITS is:

1. Bigger than any rocket that ever existed. Seriously, ITS is in the bloody Sea Dragon range. You'd have to to attach three Saturn V together to get more payload to LEO.
2. Made primarily of composite materials, which was never done before.
3. Reuses the second stage, which is also a brand new thing.

New Glenn, on the other hand, is just a scale-up of Falcon 9 with some incremental improvements.

So, NG is certainly more realistic, at this point, than ITS.
NG is 35x thrust of NS. It's (at least) two stages. Has far more complicated maneuvering and entry procedures than NS. It uses a more advanced cycle.

It's /orbital/, which means a lot more energy for BOTH stages.

Yeah, I'd say FH to ITS is a smaller step, proportionally.

Remember that FH will ALSO feature a reusable second stage now. And SpaceX has a bunch of reentry experience with Dragon.

The reason you're confused is because you're not really appreciating the scale of capability that SpaceX will have achieved with FH. This is a seriously big and sophisticated rocket. ITS will actually be significantly simpler, though bigger & with slightly more engines (42 vs 27, much smaller than the 7:1 for NG:NS). And a 5.5x thrust ratio is much, much smaller than the 35x ratio for NG:NS.

SpaceX has been making HUNDREDS of very high performance (WRT thrust to weight ratio) engines for a while now. Blue Origin has made a handful of BE-3/4s.

So ITS will use a new engine, will have more thrust, and will use more carbon fiber than the interstate, COPV, legs, and fairing that SpaceX now makes out of composite, but it's largely a scale up of what SpaceX will already be doing operationally with Falcon Heavy. New Glenn is an entire different kind of vehicle from the small New Shepard.

So the step is relatively smaller for SpaceX, unquestionably.

And I think SpaceX will take a relatively gradual approach to ITS. ITS may not start out at full thrust, for instance. A lot of the parts may be tested in subscale first, maybe even pressed into money-making service before full scale is reached. Musk tends to modify his plans to accomplish the end goal if things aren't working with the original plan.
« Last Edit: 04/22/2017 12:33 AM 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 Oli

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2064
  • Liked: 355
  • Likes Given: 54
So the step is relatively smaller for SpaceX, unquestionably.

SpaceX doesn't exist in a vacuum. For the industry, and thus for SpaceX, ITS is a far bigger step than Falcon.

Online Robotbeat

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 26452
  • Minnesota
  • Liked: 6376
  • Likes Given: 4638
So the step is relatively smaller for SpaceX, unquestionably.

SpaceX doesn't exist in a vacuum. For the industry, and thus for SpaceX, ITS is a far bigger step than Falcon.
But we weren't talking about the industry, we were talking about the companies. For SpaceX, who has already changed the definition of what is possible and (assuming it works) will do so again with Falcon Heavy by recovering all 4 stages, ITS will be a smaller relative step than New Glenn will be from New Shepard.

Please, we cannot have a discussion when the goal posts keep moving.
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 AncientU

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4306
  • Liked: 2579
  • Likes Given: 3605


ITS is wonderful from a human species perspective, but EM's plans to start colonizing Mars in the next decade has no business case. Worse, all he's presented so far is the transport system. He, or another entity, still have to come up with the Mars habitat and sustainable facilities.

Musk has said that ITS will be the hab for the first missions. However, I agree with your general point that we're not seeing surface infrastructure, and that has a long lead time.

Cheers, Martin

We are seeing the technology for vital surface systems (0):

Solar electric collection and storage facilities, 100-300MW range (1)
Electric/autonomous vehicles (2)
Autonomous charging facilities (3)
Space-based, all surface (wide band) communications (4)
High speed ground transportation to operate in low atmospheric density environment (5)
ISRU fuel production prototypes/demos (Red Dragon payloads)
Large-scale, cutting edge ECLSS systems as part of the BFS
Additive (versatile) manufacturing
Tunnels...
AI.

If you are seeking an inflatable hab, then maybe that is a piece that will be purchased open market or have as a technical contribution from another company.  One BFS could land about 20 BA-330s.

The SpaceX/Musk business approach: become a general industrial powerhouse; balanced make or buy options for everything needed
The Blue/Bezos business approach: build the rocket and lander, and they will come; no surface facility/capability development

(0) Take a step back and consider the scale of what EM is planning -- he's not taking a minimalist approach, so don't look for small scale surface facilities/infrastructure.  Think BIG...
(1) https://arstechnica.com/business/2017/03/elon-musk-on-batteries-for-australia-installed-in-100-days-or-it-is-free/
(2) https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/tesla-is-now-testing-autonomous-vehicles-on-public-california-roads/
(3) http://www.cnbc.com/2015/08/06/tesla-unveils-new-charger-that-can-plug-itself-in.html
(4) https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/nov/17/elon-musk-satellites-internet-spacex
(5) https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/17/spacexs-second-hyperloop-pod-competition-will-focus-on-top-speed/
(6) you get the idea

Note: One giant missing piece is on-orbit refueling; expect leaps forward on that within 1-2 years.
« Last Edit: 04/22/2017 03:42 PM by AncientU »
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Offline Patchouli

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4137
  • Liked: 105
  • Likes Given: 192
Even though I'm not a big fan of Bezos I consider Blue's approach lower risk and feel it has a much greater chance of success.

As for facilities and a rocket in between New Shepard and  New Glenn they already have that with Vulcan and ULA.
By the time New Glenn flies the BE-4 and BE-3 will already have a flight history.
« Last Edit: 04/30/2017 05:50 PM by Patchouli »

Offline Hyperion5

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1608
  • Liked: 1121
  • Likes Given: 219
Even though I'm not a big fan of Bezos I consider Blue's approach lower risk and feel it has a much greater chance of success.

As for facilities and a rocket in between New Shepard and  New Glenn they already have that with Vulcan and ULA.
By the time New Glenn flies the BE-4 and BE-3 will already have a flight history.

It helps that Bezos has the money to go with his approach, whereas Musk, always the perennial extreme risk taker, did not.  Considering how little money Musk had at one time, SpaceX's achievements since his and SpaceX's near bankruptcy in 2008 are pretty astounding.  It has dozens of launches under its belt, has proven out first stage reuse on an orbital rocket, currently has the world record holder for most efficient LV to LEO, and it even delivers more of its mass to GTO than the Atlas V!  It's also worth remembering that the Falcon Heavy will top that record while also being the most potent rocket since the Energia (by payload).  While the New Glenn is a big rocket, that's also something of a hindrance in terms of reuse.  It's not even as efficient a lifter as the Saturn V or a Delta IV, and it's coming decades after both.  Given reuse is all about getting the costs down, I'm surprised to see Blue Origin isn't as aggressively mass optimizing its rocket as it could.  There's no good reason why a New Glenn shouldn't top 4% or even 4.5% of mass reaching orbit.  In comparison, were SpaceX to build a similar RLV with 8 Raptor engines (7/1 config), you can pretty much guarantee it'd be setting new efficiency records. 

« Last Edit: 05/03/2017 03:06 AM by Hyperion5 »

Online Lar

  • Fan boy at large
  • Global Moderator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7989
  • Saw Gemini live on TV
  • A large LEGO storage facility ... in Michigan
  • Liked: 4791
  • Likes Given: 3231

It helps that Bezos has the money to go with his approach, whereas Musk, always the perennial extreme risk taker, did not.  Considering how little money Musk had at one time, SpaceX's achievements since his and SpaceX's near bankruptcy in 2008 are pretty astounding.  It has dozens of launches under its belt, has proven out first stage reuse on an orbital rocket, currently has the world record holder for most efficient LV to LEO, and it even delivers more of its mass to GTO than the Atlas V!  It's also worth remembering that the Falcon Heavy will top that record while also being the most potent rocket since the Energia (by payload).  While the New Glenn is a big rocket, that's also something of a hindrance in terms of reuse.  It's not even as efficient a lifter as the Saturn V or a Delta IV, and it's coming decades after both.  Given reuse is all about getting the costs down, I'm surprised to see Blue Origin isn't as aggressively mass optimizing its rocket as it could.  There's no good reason why a New Glenn shouldn't top 4% or even 4.5% of mass reaching orbit.  In comparison, were SpaceX to build a similar RLV with 8 Raptor engines (7/1 config), you can pretty much guarantee it'd be setting new efficiency records. 
The most amazing thing about the efficiency? Unlike those trying to shave the last excess gram off a rover payload, SpaceX optimizes for cost. The efficiency is there because it's the cheapest way to get that payload mass to orbit.
"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

Online Robotbeat

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 26452
  • Minnesota
  • Liked: 6376
  • Likes Given: 4638
Even though I'm not a big fan of Bezos I consider Blue's approach lower risk and feel it has a much greater chance of success.

As for facilities and a rocket in between New Shepard and  New Glenn they already have that with Vulcan and ULA.
By the time New Glenn flies the BE-4 and BE-3 will already have a flight history.
I agree that having $75 billion to play with is preferable. Not exactly a fair comparison, though. With that much money, it barely even matters what approach Bezos takes.
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

Tags: