Author Topic: SpaceX vs BlueOrigin - Whose Approach / Business Strategy is Better?  (Read 171704 times)

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However that disposable rocket strategy has been superseded by the advent of reusable rockets, where it behooves owner/operators to be more vertically operated.

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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.

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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.

Offline 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 ...

Online Lar

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

Offline 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.
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Offline 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 »

Offline 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.

Offline hektor

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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.

Any idea why a tanker is preferable to - say - a container ship ?
« Last Edit: 01/05/2018 04:24 PM by hektor »

Online Lar

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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.

Any idea why a tanker is preferable to - say - a container ship ?
Total guesswork
- cost
- easier to convert to having a landing platform since the deck extends all the way across (a container ship has a cavernous hole that goes several containers down into the hull)
- easier to refit to allow taking on ballast water if desired to lower or increase mass
- double hull is more resistant to sinking than a single hull
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Offline Chasm

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Another plus are systems to flood the tanks with inert gas. (AKA exhaust)
OTOH you have to deal with nasty residue during the conversion.

My thought was a general cargo ship. Something already designed to carry deck cargo.

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Different than the barge. It's a ship underway, achieving stability by forward thrust.

Although in increases drag (no so much of a problem), you flood compartments to bring the CG lower in the water while underway.

This creates the effect of like a moving sea anchor, which is rock solid and can accept the transient load of landing with the least wear/tear on booster and ship.

After load is safed and secured, pump out to lessen drag and increase speed to return to port.

Geometry also important here of cross section against CG of landing/landed booster, so it won't topple in cross winds.

Offline AncientU

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Lightly loaded ships handle horribly in any swell at all... wallowing in any cross swell.  They'll need to keep this vessel at least half loaded or comparably ballasted for stability purposes.
« Last Edit: 01/06/2018 11:38 PM by AncientU »
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