Author Topic: SpaceX vs BlueOrigin - Whose Approach / Business Strategy is Better?  (Read 144293 times)

Offline Darkseraph

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There is a third business strategy to consider that could ameliorate the issues of high vertical integration/low flight rates. Outsource as much of the production of your RLV as possible. Many of the parts of an RLV could be sourced externally or bought off the shelf, avoiding the expense of maintaining huge facilities or standing armies. This would be helpful in variable or low production rates. Basically, the Orbital Sciences strategy.

Although no company has directly tried it for RLVs, new entrants to the launch market are mostly developing small mass produced RLVs. It's worth considering that SpaceX had its demo ITS LOX tank made by Janicki Industries and that DC-X used existing RL10s, avoiding the gargantuan expense of developing new engines.
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Offline e of pi

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There is a third business strategy to consider that could ameliorate the issues of high vertical integration/low flight rates. Outsource as much of the production of your RLV as possible. Many of the parts of an RLV could be sourced externally or bought off the shelf, avoiding the expense of maintaining huge facilities or standing armies. This would be helpful in variable or low production rates. Basically, the Orbital Sciences strategy.

Although no company has directly tried it for RLVs, new entrants to the launch market are mostly developing small mass produced RLVs. It's worth considering that SpaceX had its demo ITS LOX tank made by Janicki Industries and that DC-X used existing RL10s, avoiding the gargantuan expense of developing new engines.
That was very much the Kistler strategy for the K-1: buy the engines, outsource the tanks and integration, operate the result. Heavy initial cost, but in theory avoiding the expense of maintaining in-house manufacturing capability and specific LV manufacturing expertise, as opposed to LV operations/upkeep expertise. The money didn't reach the critical level of getting the initial builds, though--either in the 90s, or on either NASA contract they managed to swing (they were the original second COTS competitor, instead of Orbital).

Online Norm38

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I read a discussion here about the two companies recovery ships and which approach was better.
But this seems an area where cooperation and/or third parties could benefit all.
I doubt either wants to maintain a naval fleet of ships, barges and tugs. If we get to the point where stages are landing in ocean on a weekly basis, that's where I see a general recovery service operating.
Thoughts on that?

Offline Zed_Noir

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I read a discussion here about the two companies recovery ships and which approach was better.
But this seems an area where cooperation and/or third parties could benefit all.
I doubt either wants to maintain a naval fleet of ships, barges and tugs. If we get to the point where stages are landing in ocean on a weekly basis, that's where I see a general recovery service operating.
Thoughts on that?

If you can convince both Musk & Bezos that they are not losing face. Then maybe a separate service to operate the recovery assets might be possible.

However the idea to have one maritime recovery service is not practical currently. SpaceX have small coastal recovery units that are not very fast. While Blue will be using converted VLCC (aka supertanker) or AOE  (aka Fleet Replenishment ship) as Oceanic recovery units that can go at least 20 knots in speed.

Also both Musk and Bezos have heavily vertical integrated companies. Inserting a third party to the mix might not be as efficient and smooth running.

Offline mme

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I read a discussion here about the two companies recovery ships and which approach was better.
But this seems an area where cooperation and/or third parties could benefit all.
I doubt either wants to maintain a naval fleet of ships, barges and tugs. If we get to the point where stages are landing in ocean on a weekly basis, that's where I see a general recovery service operating.
Thoughts on that?
Sounds like asking for trouble to me. Who gets priority when there are resource conflicts? What if the other guy's rocket destroys the recovery ship you need tomorrow (and for the rest of the year)? What about IP?
Space is not Highlander.  There can, and will, be more than one.

Online AncientU

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There is a third business strategy to consider that could ameliorate the issues of high vertical integration/low flight rates. Outsource as much of the production of your RLV as possible. Many of the parts of an RLV could be sourced externally or bought off the shelf, avoiding the expense of maintaining huge facilities or standing armies. This would be helpful in variable or low production rates. Basically, the Orbital Sciences strategy.

Although no company has directly tried it for RLVs, new entrants to the launch market are mostly developing small mass produced RLVs. It's worth considering that SpaceX had its demo ITS LOX tank made by Janicki Industries and that DC-X used existing RL10s, avoiding the gargantuan expense of developing new engines.

The difficulty, which SpaceX encountered from day one, was the the existing aerospace component suppliers are high cost, low responsiveness (take what we have or forget it).  Cannot do business the old way with the old cost structure and compete in the new market.  The Antares approach is along these lines, but getting much hardware from overseas where prices are more reasonable -- yet they are still not selling commercial launches.
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Online Coastal Ron

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There is a third business strategy to consider that could ameliorate the issues of high vertical integration/low flight rates. Outsource as much of the production of your RLV as possible. Many of the parts of an RLV could be sourced externally or bought off the shelf, avoiding the expense of maintaining huge facilities or standing armies. This would be helpful in variable or low production rates. Basically, the Orbital Sciences strategy.

My background is in manufacturing, and I was very happy about the approach that Orbital Sciences took at the time when they pursued the Commercial Cargo contract. There is synergy when you use suppliers/partners that are already building what you need.

However that disposable rocket strategy has been superseded by the advent of reusable rockets, where it behooves owner/operators to be more vertically operated.

Quote
Although no company has directly tried it for RLVs, new entrants to the launch market are mostly developing small mass produced RLVs.

I'm not sure about the long-term prospects of these new smallsat launch services companies, mainly because I'm not sure how much demand there will be. Robust demand can allow for multiple business models, but low demand does not.

Quote
It's worth considering that SpaceX had its demo ITS LOX tank made by Janicki Industries and that DC-X used existing RL10s, avoiding the gargantuan expense of developing new engines.

Companies use vertical integration when they have enough demand to merit doing it in-house. But when you're doing development it may make sense to use outside providers, especially when you don't have the expertise in-house already.
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 Steven Pietrobon

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The Antares approach is along these lines, but getting much hardware from overseas where prices are more reasonable -- yet they are still not selling commercial launches.

That's probably because their launch site is in the wrong location.
Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design #1:  Engineering is done with numbers.  Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.

Online AncientU

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The Antares approach is along these lines, but getting much hardware from overseas where prices are more reasonable -- yet they are still not selling commercial launches.

That's probably because their launch site is in the wrong location.

Not sure I understand... they can launch to space station and any orbit with less inclination.  Maybe don't have as much delta-v advantage because they are further north, but that can only account for a few hundred m/s at most.

What is their restriction (for commercial launches)?
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Offline envy887

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The Antares approach is along these lines, but getting much hardware from overseas where prices are more reasonable -- yet they are still not selling commercial launches.

That's probably because their launch site is in the wrong location.

Not sure I understand... they can launch to space station and any orbit with less inclination.  Maybe don't have as much delta-v advantage because they are further north, but that can only account for a few hundred m/s at most.

What is their restriction (for commercial launches)?

Cost and capability. Orbital's rockets are very expensive, and can't lift much - especially from Wallops.

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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They can do more.
Antares to SSO
But they haven't sold on in three years ...

And yes even with Russian/Ukrainian/Italian content/labor ... still not cheap enough.

Back to BO please ...

Offline Lar

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I understand that Blue Origin prefer Blue to BO as a short form, for fairly obvious reasons.
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Online tater

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I understand that Blue Origin prefer Blue to BO as a short form, for fairly obvious reasons.

People can prefer certain nicknames be used, but that's not how things work in the real world, lol. If they didn't like BO, they should have just called the company Blue to start with, because BO is easier to type.

Offline mme

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I understand that Blue Origin prefer Blue to BO as a short form, for fairly obvious reasons.

People can prefer certain nicknames be used, but that's not how things work in the real world, lol. If they didn't like BO, they should have just called the company Blue to start with, because BO is easier to type.
This forum frequently attracts people from inside the industry. In the real world once you know someone's preference, going against that preference appears intentionally disrespectful, dismissive and/or rude.
Space is not Highlander.  There can, and will, be more than one.

Online tater

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I understand that Blue Origin prefer Blue to BO as a short form, for fairly obvious reasons.

People can prefer certain nicknames be used, but that's not how things work in the real world, lol. If they didn't like BO, they should have just called the company Blue to start with, because BO is easier to type.
This forum frequently attracts people from inside the industry. In the real world once you know someone's preference, going against that preference appears intentionally disrespectful, dismissive and/or rude.

I agree, I'm just saying that the rest of the world is not this forum, so I imagine this might be a losing battle for them, particularly when they are as well known as SpaceX outside the industry and the haunts of space nerds.

Regardless, I look forward to seeing Blue Origin move forward, and I hope their model works for them.




« Last Edit: 12/29/2017 02:57 PM by tater »

Online Welsh Dragon

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I understand that Blue Origin prefer Blue to BO as a short form, for fairly obvious reasons.

People can prefer certain nicknames be used, but that's not how things work in the real world, lol. If they didn't like BO, they should have just called the company Blue to start with, because BO is easier to type.
This forum frequently attracts people from inside the industry. In the real world once you know someone's preference, going against that preference appears intentionally disrespectful, dismissive and/or rude.
It's not our fault they didn't think through their brand name. It's branding 101 really. Disappointing they didn't.

Offline slavvy

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I understand that Blue Origin prefer Blue to BO as a short form, for fairly obvious reasons.

People can prefer certain nicknames be used, but that's not how things work in the real world, lol. If they didn't like BO, they should have just called the company Blue to start with, because BO is easier to type.
This forum frequently attracts people from inside the industry. In the real world once you know someone's preference, going against that preference appears intentionally disrespectful, dismissive and/or rude.
It's not our fault they didn't think through their brand name. It's branding 101 really. Disappointing they didn't.
And there is nothing wrong with Body Odour. Glad I have a body and that it is not odourless.

Offline Rik ISS-fan

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AFAIK Blue Origin is planning to convert a /several surplus panamax tankers into landing vessels. This is the maximum vessel size (800') that can utilize the spaceport berth, planned by port Canaveral. VLCC are far larger.
« Last Edit: 12/30/2017 12:45 AM by Rik ISS-fan »

Offline Ludus

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AFAIK Blue Origin is planning to convert a /several surplus panamax tankers into landing vessels. This is the maximum vessel size (800') that can utilize the spaceport berth, planned by port Canaveral. VLCC are far larger.

Thatís also a real bargain currently since Panamax ships are selling at deep discounts after the opening of the new bigger Panama Canal.

Offline high road

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I read a discussion here about the two companies recovery ships and which approach was better.
But this seems an area where cooperation and/or third parties could benefit all.
I doubt either wants to maintain a naval fleet of ships, barges and tugs. If we get to the point where stages are landing in ocean on a weekly basis, that's where I see a general recovery service operating.
Thoughts on that?
Sounds like asking for trouble to me. Who gets priority when there are resource conflicts? What if the other guy's rocket destroys the recovery ship you need tomorrow (and for the rest of the year)? What about IP?

The idea of outsourcing is that with fixed costs spread over several customers, there will be fewer resource conflicts for each of them. Totally not viable if any mishap may destroy essential hardware that does not have backups. The whole idea is to spread the cost of those backups over multiple customers, rather than each one having to support a fleet of ships of which a few are in port for most of the time.

Probably not viable with only two customers with considerably different hardware, future designs, still trying to change stuff to improve efficiency, etc.

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