Author Topic: Application of Starliner outside of Commercial Crew?  (Read 6771 times)

Offline FishInferno

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We all know that there are applications for he Commercial Crew spacecraft beyond the ISS, such as Bigelow stations and space tourism.  But Dragon 2 is significantly cheaper than Starliner.  How can Starliner compete in the industry after ISS is deorbited?
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Offline QuantumG

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Re: Application of Starliner outside of Commercial Crew?
« Reply #1 on: 03/03/2016 10:42 PM »
It took me a minute there to remember that Starliner is the new silly name for CST-100. Bigelow has said since the beginning that he requires two domestic crew transport providers.. which means they'll do what NASA is doing - keep the more expensive option alive by guaranteeing them flights. How this is ever supposed to result in "competition" is beyond me.
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Offline Ike17055

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Re: Application of Starliner outside of Commercial Crew?
« Reply #2 on: 03/29/2016 09:48 AM »
It would be hard to outdo "falcon full thrust" in the silly name department.  And at least Musk got the message that calling your baby the v-2 was not a great idea...Supporting two providers is essential. There is no competition if there is only one provider. That has been the history of spaceflight to date: simple monopoly where "reliable access" was the goal, not cost competitiveness.  But that is changing, by necessity. Simply swapping one monopoly (ULA) for another (Space X) makes no sense. The result would be the same.  Now, with the this work aimed at creating a private crew flight industry, the next few yeas will be telling as ULA brings new capabilities on line, new providers surface, new partnerships are forged, and the industry develops. Also, We shall eventually get to see the real costs for Space X, instead of the subsidized loss leader launch prices kicked around publicly at this point. Just like in every other business, there is no "permanent" winner to be crowned, and even first-to-market is no guarantee for market winner,  the race is never ending and each entity has to prove and reprove itself continually.

Offline WBY1984

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Re: Application of Starliner outside of Commercial Crew?
« Reply #3 on: 03/29/2016 10:40 AM »
As far as CST-100 destinations are concerned, I wouldn't look to Bigelow. Bigelow Aerospace is a dodgy company run by a UFO nut.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Institute_for_Discovery_Science

Job sites that do employee submitted reviews trash the company, its micromanaging CEO, the constantly changing directives.

https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/Reviews/Bigelow-Aerospace-Reviews-E373179.htm

I think it's scary that the ISS is about to host a Bigelow module (assuming CRS-8 success). CST-100 shouldn't bank on a Bigelow station to expand its flight rate.
« Last Edit: 03/29/2016 10:41 AM by WBY1984 »

Offline MattMason

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Re: Application of Starliner outside of Commercial Crew?
« Reply #4 on: 03/29/2016 11:57 AM »
As far as CST-100 destinations are concerned, I wouldn't look to Bigelow. Bigelow Aerospace is a dodgy company run by a UFO nut.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Institute_for_Discovery_Science

Job sites that do employee submitted reviews trash the company, its micromanaging CEO, the constantly changing directives.

https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/Reviews/Bigelow-Aerospace-Reviews-E373179.htm

I think it's scary that the ISS is about to host a Bigelow module (assuming CRS-8 success). CST-100 shouldn't bank on a Bigelow station to expand its flight rate.

That's a lot of supposition without accredited substantiation and a lot of opinion.

That "dodgy" company has two prototypes still inflated and in space after a decade as well as a prototype to be used on the ISS for two years.

Bigelow may have its problems, but name-calling the owner as a "UFO nut" doesn't afford your comment any brownie points since (1) this was originally NASA technology and (2) no other company has yet to offer any options other for a continuous space presence--not even Boeing, which built several of the ISS modules.

I'm sure we can find many employees in other popular aerospace companies that have their peeves against their former employers. I don't see how this changes the companies' results.
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Offline Jimmy Murdok

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Re: Application of Starliner outside of Commercial Crew?
« Reply #5 on: 03/29/2016 12:37 PM »
They need to believe in the product, make it cost effective and help to create a market. Like it is now, beyond ISS is useless: for LEO orbits, billionaires can use a reliable and affordable Soyuz or will use a discounted Dragon. For Bigelow hotels, if a new Atlas/Vulcan and refurbish of the spaceship is required is not gonna be sustainable.
If refurbish is cheap enough, launch on a Falcon9 can make sense.

Offline jsgirald

Bigelow may have its problems, but name-calling the owner as a "UFO nut" doesn't afford your comment any brownie points since (1) this was originally NASA technology and (2) no other company has yet to offer any options other for a continuous space presence--not even Boeing, which built several of the ISS modules.

While I mostly agree with you, Bigelow's recent 'expansion-layoff' strategy is not encouraging ...
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Offline MattMason

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Re: Application of Starliner outside of Commercial Crew?
« Reply #7 on: 03/29/2016 01:16 PM »
Bigelow may have its problems, but name-calling the owner as a "UFO nut" doesn't afford your comment any brownie points since (1) this was originally NASA technology and (2) no other company has yet to offer any options other for a continuous space presence--not even Boeing, which built several of the ISS modules.

While I mostly agree with you, Bigelow's recent 'expansion-layoff' strategy is not encouraging ...

Nor do things look nice with the imminent downsizing at ULA or changes at SNC after they lost the CCP contract for the manned Dream Chaser. But for SNC, I'm sure they've hired back a few people with the CRS2 contract on the DC-C. Orbital ATK had egg on their face, too.

Employees come and go. It's critical for the business to weather the lean times and keep pushing for business without depleting or demoralizing their workforce to the point were they can't sustain existing work or bounce back when times are better.

All of this space habitat stuff seems to require a lot more perseverance than other businesses. Pioneering affordable, safe, quick-use habitats when it's clear that some are needed for future projects where no one is yet ready to commit to them is clearly a daunting waiting game.
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Online docmordrid

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Re: Application of Starliner outside of Commercial Crew?
« Reply #8 on: 04/01/2016 09:46 AM »
And let's not forget that Bigelow received an award under NASA's NextSTEP-1 program, and the NextSTEP-2 pre-BAA seems friendly to them and OrbitalATK (likely the Super Cygnus hab)

NextSTEP-2....
« Last Edit: 04/01/2016 09:51 AM by docmordrid »
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Offline The Amazing Catstronaut

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Re: Application of Starliner outside of Commercial Crew?
« Reply #9 on: 04/01/2016 01:06 PM »
It would be hard to outdo "falcon full thrust" in the silly name department.  And at least Musk got the message that calling your baby the v-2 was not a great idea...Supporting two providers is essential. There is no competition if there is only one provider. That has been the history of spaceflight to date: simple monopoly where "reliable access" was the goal, not cost competitiveness.  But that is changing, by necessity. Simply swapping one monopoly (ULA) for another (Space X) makes no sense. The result would be the same.  Now, with the this work aimed at creating a private crew flight industry, the next few yeas will be telling as ULA brings new capabilities on line, new providers surface, new partnerships are forged, and the industry develops. Also, We shall eventually get to see the real costs for Space X, instead of the subsidized loss leader launch prices kicked around publicly at this point. Just like in every other business, there is no "permanent" winner to be crowned, and even first-to-market is no guarantee for market winner,  the race is never ending and each entity has to prove and reprove itself continually.

How are SpaceX's current prices unreal? That doesn't make sense. Again, the bleeding money assumption is false rhetoric. SpaceX's prices are only likely to drop as their flight rate improves - they intend to earn money via boosting flight rate, not hiking costs, as has been universally established. ULA effectively aims to do the same, and everybody is cottoning on to the same plan at varying rates. It's the state of industry now.

The likelihood of a monopoly swap is minimal, and also irrelevant to this thread. There's plenty of other threads to claw each other's eyes out measure the totally incompatible entities that are SpaceX and ULA against each other in, even if it has to be something as arbitrary as capsule moniker kewlness.

I can see a new-and-improved starliner being purposed for BEO, especially as cislunar -wince- habitats become more likely in the spectra of possible futures. Remember CST-100 has its origins in BEO designs. Com Crew and Com Cargo are uniquely adapted to assist a mixed BEO architecture if that's the way NASA wants to throw its money (and it should. It'd be the best decision the agency has taken since the construction of ISS).

« Last Edit: 04/01/2016 01:07 PM by The Amazing Catstronaut »
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Offline rayleighscatter

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Re: Application of Starliner outside of Commercial Crew?
« Reply #10 on: 04/01/2016 09:17 PM »
We all know that there are applications for he Commercial Crew spacecraft beyond the ISS
We don't all know that. I suspect the number of flights that occur with Dragon or Starliner outside CC could be counted on one hand with enough fingers leftover to eat a sandwich.

Offline Ike17055

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Re: Application of Starliner outside of Commercial Crew?
« Reply #11 on: 04/02/2016 08:18 AM »
Try reading the full thing. The comments were a response to the question of "how does funding two providers result in competition if one is priced higher?"   Short answer was (and is): giving it all to a single provider becuase they claim to be cheaper (for now) or will deliver first simply results in just another monopoly. It is factual; the goal is creation of a situation that leads to ongoing competition. Thus, two provders needed.  And the point remains valid that SpaceX prices for now are whatever Musk says they are: he answers to no shareholders -- and a lot of doubt exists that those prices will get them to a profitable situation.  Undercutting price as a startup strategy is nothing new. Ask Jeff Bezos.

Offline Lemurion

Try reading the full thing. The comments were a response to the question of "how does funding two providers result in competition if one is priced higher?"   Short answer was (and is): giving it all to a single provider becuase they claim to be cheaper (for now) or will deliver first simply results in just another monopoly. It is factual; the goal is creation of a situation that leads to ongoing competition. Thus, two provders needed.  And the point remains valid that SpaceX prices for now are whatever Musk says they are: he answers to no shareholders -- and a lot of doubt exists that those prices will get them to a profitable situation.  Undercutting price as a startup strategy is nothing new. Ask Jeff Bezos.

I agree completely on the two providers issue. Having a second provider instantly creates a price ceiling for anyone whose business model is predicated on undercutting the competition. It's very much in NASA's best interest to keep two providers running even if they aren't competing on price.

As for SpaceX prices, that's a stickier knot to untangle. Yes, their prices are whatever Musk says they are, but his pockets aren't as deep as Bezos' and he has other interests competing for his pocket, such as Tesla. I do think that more than a decade in, it's pretty fair to say that no matter what the actual launch costs for SpaceX may be, they're bringing in enough money one way or another to keep going even at those prices.

Also, SpaceX is employing a large enough number of cost-saving methods that their launchers should be cheaper than the competition. They use one common engine on both stages, the upper and lower stages use the same diameter tanks and same fuel mix so production uses the same tooling.

Is there a reason why cost-saving methods that work in every other industry wouldn't work for SpaceX?

Offline gregpet

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Re: Application of Starliner outside of Commercial Crew?
« Reply #13 on: 05/22/2016 05:43 PM »
...and a lot of doubt exists that those prices will get them to a profitable situation. 

What I find funny about this comment is that on another thread there was a lot of hand wringing about SpaceX buying SolarCity bonds (per a quick Google search they were up to $165MM as of last August).  For a unprofitable outfit they sure do have a lot of cash laying around...

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: Application of Starliner outside of Commercial Crew?
« Reply #14 on: 05/22/2016 06:06 PM »
We all know that there are applications for he Commercial Crew spacecraft beyond the ISS, such as Bigelow stations and space tourism.  But Dragon 2 is significantly cheaper than Starliner.  How can Starliner compete in the industry after ISS is deorbited?

Lots of talk about the demand side of the equation (i.e. customers), so I'll talk about the supply side - how much effort would it be for Boeing to keep the Starliner/CST-100 around.

We may not know how many spacecraft Boeing intends to build, but they have stated that each vehicle should be able to be reused up to ten times.

Boeing doesn't have to worry about paying for keeping a launch vehicle around, since it uses commercial launch vehicles, so the business cost of keeping the capability available is pretty much the cost of keeping the retrofit and launch operations employees around and proficient.  That still is not inexpensive, especially if those employees can't be shared easily with some other internal programs (like SpaceX can do in Hawthorne).

But once the sunk cost of developing the spacecraft and perfecting their operations is paid for (mostly by NASA), it might not need a lot of customer demand to stay in operation.

Still needs some level of customer demand though.  Not sure where that will come from...
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Offline Ike17055

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Re: Application of Starliner outside of Commercial Crew?
« Reply #15 on: 05/23/2016 12:45 PM »
...and a lot of doubt exists that those prices will get them to a profitable situation. 

What I find funny about this comment is that on another thread there was a lot of hand wringing about SpaceX buying SolarCity bonds (per a quick Google search they were up to $165MM as of last August).  For a unprofitable outfit they sure do have a lot of cash laying around...

cash on hand and profitability are very different things. This is everyday stuff in venture financing.   Look at Amazon.com and how long it had to wait to achieve a record of proven profitable quarters -- yet it had money available for acquisitions and all sorts of development.  This is true in many industries, especially emerging ones or those using new business models/

Offline Patchouli

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Re: Application of Starliner outside of Commercial Crew?
« Reply #16 on: 05/23/2016 07:33 PM »
We all know that there are applications for he Commercial Crew spacecraft beyond the ISS, such as Bigelow stations and space tourism.  But Dragon 2 is significantly cheaper than Starliner.  How can Starliner compete in the industry after ISS is deorbited?

I can't see Starliner really being able to compete with Dragon in LEO as it needs a new SM,heat shied, and airbags for every flight.

A crewed Dream Chaser probably could have gave them a run for the money.

Now beyond LEO things start to look a little more even as the separate service module would allow them to easily add more capability without as many changes to the reentry vehicle.
« Last Edit: 05/23/2016 07:40 PM by Patchouli »

Offline Lar

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Re: Application of Starliner outside of Commercial Crew?
« Reply #17 on: 05/23/2016 08:42 PM »
Two providers does give competition, but if you're the higher cost provider you are long term at risk, as someone may come in and undercut you. Even if they don't undercut the low cost provider, they might drive you out. (assuming changeover costs are nil, but even if not, work the trades)... and if they DO undercut the low cost provider you're really at risk.

IMHO, YMMV
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Offline gregpet

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Re: Application of Starliner outside of Commercial Crew?
« Reply #18 on: 05/24/2016 02:04 AM »
...and a lot of doubt exists that those prices will get them to a profitable situation. 

What I find funny about this comment is that on another thread there was a lot of hand wringing about SpaceX buying SolarCity bonds (per a quick Google search they were up to $165MM as of last August).  For a unprofitable outfit they sure do have a lot of cash laying around...

cash on hand and profitability are very different things. This is everyday stuff in venture financing.   Look at Amazon.com and how long it had to wait to achieve a record of proven profitable quarters -- yet it had money available for acquisitions and all sorts of development.  This is true in many industries, especially emerging ones or those using new business models/

At the risk of going way off topic...

Amazon made the conscious decision NOT to be profitable by plowing all revenue ($107B in 2015!) back in to their business (Kindle, Prime, warehouses all over the country, Amazon Cloud (AWS), etc).  They could have been profitable years ago if they chose to slow down on capital expenditures (building the business).  They rightly chose to keep growing at the expense of profitability (and its paying off now).

Although SpaceX's financial situation is impossible for either of us to know, my money is that they are actually generating revenue in excess of expenses (read: profitability).  Why else could they afford to invest in relatively illiquid assets such as SolarCity bonds.  If they were losing millions of dollars per launch, the reasonable thing would be to keep their money in the bank.  I would also say that you would be hearing a lot more about capital raising (which we don't).  Regardless, neither one of know their situation so lets just agree to disagree.

Offline Lar

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Re: Application of Starliner outside of Commercial Crew?
« Reply #19 on: 05/24/2016 02:31 AM »
If they were losing millions of dollars per launch, the reasonable thing would be to keep their money in the bank. 
Cut away everything except this one statement. It is wrong. The reasonable thing to do with excess funds that you know you are going to have to spend at a date in the future but don't need to spend now, is put them into a safe investment with a term that matches when you need the money. Because otherwise you are giving up return.  Any CFO that didn't do this would get fired by any competent board.

Really, we need to put the idea that cash is the place to be.... to rest. You can argue whether they should have invested in something not as closely connected (T-bills, short term commercial paper, etc) to another one of Elon's enterprises... but not that they should have parked it all in cash. Nope. Cash has essentially zero return (and it may actually start having a negative return in some places). Bad idea.
« Last Edit: 05/24/2016 02:33 AM by Lar »
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Offline douglas100

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Re: Application of Starliner outside of Commercial Crew?
« Reply #20 on: 05/24/2016 07:59 AM »

...Now beyond LEO things start to look a little more even as the separate service module would allow them to easily add more capability without as many changes to the reentry vehicle.

Agreed, but, for example, the LAS system would have to be reworked to allow for a much  heavier service module. A BEO version of Starliner would probably be substantially different from the current one.
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Re: Application of Starliner outside of Commercial Crew?
« Reply #21 on: 05/24/2016 05:25 PM »

...Now beyond LEO things start to look a little more even as the separate service module would allow them to easily add more capability without as many changes to the reentry vehicle.

Agreed, but, for example, the LAS system would have to be reworked to allow for a much  heavier service module. A BEO version of Starliner would probably be substantially different from the current one.
Or you have a detachable propulsion stage instead of embiggening the service module.
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Re: Application of Starliner outside of Commercial Crew?
« Reply #22 on: 05/24/2016 05:41 PM »

...Now beyond LEO things start to look a little more even as the separate service module would allow them to easily add more capability without as many changes to the reentry vehicle.

Agreed, but, for example, the LAS system would have to be reworked to allow for a much  heavier service module. A BEO version of Starliner would probably be substantially different from the current one.

They'd also need to fit solar panels or something on there, batteries aren't gonna cut it. Easiest way would probably be a separate propulsion module that can be ditched in an abort (along the lines of this http://www.russianspaceweb.com/images/spacecraft/manned/soyuz/soyuz_acts_fregat_1.jpg). Or use ACES? After orbital refueling it should have plenty of fuel left for lunar orbital insertion, then separate Starliner to do the rest of its mission

Online TrevorMonty


...Now beyond LEO things start to look a little more even as the separate service module would allow them to easily add more capability without as many changes to the reentry vehicle.

Agreed, but, for example, the LAS system would have to be reworked to allow for a much  heavier service module. A BEO version of Starliner would probably be substantially different from the current one.

They'd also need to fit solar panels or something on there, batteries aren't gonna cut it. Easiest way would probably be a separate propulsion module that can be ditched in an abort (along the lines of this http://www.russianspaceweb.com/images/spacecraft/manned/soyuz/soyuz_acts_fregat_1.jpg). Or use ACES? After orbital refueling it should have plenty of fuel left for lunar orbital insertion, then separate Starliner to do the rest of its mission
ULA actually proposed using ACES with Orion. Most of the existing service module functionality was to be provided by ACES, resulting in a small cheaper service module.
In case of existing Starliner this would work for cargo missions.

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