Author Topic: SpaceX vs BlueOrigin - Whose Approach / Business Strategy is Better?  (Read 131937 times)

Offline meekGee

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BO is very likely to buy ULA at some point, even though there's a lot of baggage that goes with it.

Don't forget that BO is operating under time dilation constants larger than SpaceX's, and while JB's funding means they'll never go bankrupt, it doesn't guarantee they'll ever get it done.

They're also trying to go from zero to world's largest rocket in one step. No F1 or F9 to gain experience on.

Buying ULA help with these issues, and ULA is certainly looking for a way to survive in the  not too long term.

I don't see it. Boeing/LM didn't sell ULA for $4B, I doubt Bezos would want to hand out $5B+ just to buy ULA, what's the point? If he needs experienced people, he'll just poach them.

I do wonder why Blue and ULA didn't partner to build a common first stage using the original smaller BE-4, with 5 engines they can have something in the Falcon 9 thrust range, with potential to do first stage landing.
Well the value is not going up, that's for sure... But at some point ULA is going to be worth more to BO that to anyone else...

And Jeff Bezos has an infinite supply of money, but not an infinite supply of time.  ULA will represent a shortcut, name recognition, access to government...
« Last Edit: 10/06/2017 02:55 PM by meekGee »
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Offline Coastal Ron

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I don't see it. Boeing/LM didn't sell ULA for $4B, I doubt Bezos would want to hand out $5B+ just to buy ULA, what's the point?

Bezos does know how to buy companies, and he does have the luxury of time on his side. Market conditions have also changed since the last offer Boeing & LM had, and they now have years more information about future U.S. Government potential demand. Maybe none of that changes the likelihood that Boeing & LM would sell ULA, but it could.

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If he needs experienced people, he'll just poach them.

A good point, and a strategy that can be quicker and cost less. So the question would be whether there would be other assets that Blue Origin wants that ULA has. And ULA does have a lot of valuable assets.

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I do wonder why Blue and ULA didn't partner to build a common first stage using the original smaller BE-4, with 5 engines they can have something in the Falcon 9 thrust range, with potential to do first stage landing.

A guess would be that it didn't make economic sense, since it's not the upper stage that is the reason why ULA can't compete with SpaceX for commercial launches, it's the ULA 1st stages.
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 DJPledger

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The folks at ULA might be too "old Space". Thinking that you put as few engines in a stage as possible to lower the probability of mishaps from more machinery.
I agree you should not put too many engines on a stage to reduce the no. of parts that potentially can go wrong causing LOM. Hopefully BO does not attempt to follow SpX's obsession with large nos. of engines and designs it's future vehicles after NG with fewer engines than SpX BFR on the 1st stage. BO may end up having the better approach to 1st stage engine no. than SpX but we won't know until they announce NA which will likely be their BFR competitor.
« Last Edit: 10/06/2017 03:24 PM by DJPledger »

Offline TrevorMonty

And realize there's not much different between NG and BFR. Both designed to be fully reusable (eventually for NG). They both use methane/oxygen.

What do you mean "eventually"? Second stage reusability is not part of the initial New Glenn design at all.

SpaceX actually claimed to be working on F9 S2 reuse at various points but eventually decided it will remain expendable. Did BO even mention S2 reuse publicly?
The Blue statements are along line "INITIAL 2nd stage will be expendable". I take from that follow on versions will be reusable, which is in line with their goal of reducing launch costs.

An expendable 2nd is easier to develop and allows for heavier payloads ie 45t compared to something around 30t (my guess) for reusable 2nd stage. For 3stage BLEO missions they will need that extra lift of expendable 2nd stage.

In regards to ULA relationship, these companies working in partnership could provides some serious BLEO lift.  ULA distributed launch system would benefit from NG delivering fuel, 20% more fuel with closer launch windows as NG and Vulcan will use different pads. With NG tanker ACES should be able to deliver around 25t to DSG.
« Last Edit: 10/06/2017 03:47 PM by TrevorMonty »

Offline Patchouli

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BO is very likely to buy ULA at some point, even though there's a lot of baggage that goes with it.

Don't forget that BO is operating under time dilation constants larger than SpaceX's, and while JB's funding means they'll never go bankrupt, it doesn't guarantee they'll ever get it done.

They're also trying to go from zero to world's largest rocket in one step. No F1 or F9 to gain experience on.

Buying ULA help with these issues, and ULA is certainly looking for a way to survive in the  not too long term.
Vulcan is in someways the sub scale test for NG as for being the worlds largest rocket not by a long shot the Saturn V,N1,and Enegia were much larger.

Though I can see ULA and BO eventually having a merger or some sort of partnership.
« Last Edit: 10/06/2017 07:04 PM by Patchouli »

Offline meekGee

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BO is very likely to buy ULA at some point, even though there's a lot of baggage that goes with it.

Don't forget that BO is operating under time dilation constants larger than SpaceX's, and while JB's funding means they'll never go bankrupt, it doesn't guarantee they'll ever get it done.

They're also trying to go from zero to world's largest rocket in one step. No F1 or F9 to gain experience on.

Buying ULA help with these issues, and ULA is certainly looking for a way to survive in the  not too long term.
Vulcan is in someways the sub scale test for NG as for being the worlds largest rocket not by a long shot the Saturn V,N1,and Enegia were much larger.

Though I can see ULA and BO eventually having a merger or some sort of partnership.
Sorry - current largest rocket...

Still though.

And Vulcan, sure, for the engine only, and only if it ever flies.  Not quite the same as building and operating a smaller rocket in-house...
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Online HVM

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How much Blue needs to be delayed, before RE-engined Atlas V with AR-1 becomes a thing? (Will the same upper management continue?) ...Or just more RD-180s.

Offline Lar

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The folks at ULA might be too "old Space". Thinking that you put as few engines in a stage as possible to lower the probability of mishaps from more machinery.
I agree you should not put too many engines on a stage to reduce the no. of parts that potentially can go wrong causing LOM. Hopefully BO does not attempt to follow SpX's obsession with large nos. of engines and designs it's future vehicles after NG with fewer engines than SpX BFR on the 1st stage. BO may end up having the better approach to 1st stage engine no. than SpX but we won't know until they announce NA which will likely be their BFR competitor.
You keep posting this "don't put too many engines on a stage" as if it's true. It's a truism, and truisms often are not actually true. SpaceX has demonstrated that their approach works well for F9.
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Offline Rebel44

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How much Blue needs to be delayed, before RE-engined Atlas V with AR-1 becomes a thing? (Will the same upper management continue?) ...Or just more RD-180s.

Tory Bruno, CEO @ulalaunch: CDR for Vulcan rocket by end this yr; we'll determine engine choice - @AerojetRdyne v @blueorigin before then.
Posted: 5:40 PM - 12 Sep 2017

https://twitter.com/pbdes/status/907629989377576962

Based on that tweet from 12 September, my guess is that if BE-4 conducts a successful full-scale test firing by the end of this year, BO will get the contract, but if not (and especially if they hit another major delay) AR will get the contract.

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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I think one of the defining items between SpaceX and BO is the Manager of the engine R&D programs at the two companies. SpaceX won the lottery when they hired Mueller to design and manage SpaceX in-house engine development. BO has struggled (but not  a lot just more than SpaceX) in their engine R&D taking them longer to accomplish engine development projects.

Offline Rabidpanda

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I think one of the defining items between SpaceX and BO is the Manager of the engine R&D programs at the two companies. SpaceX won the lottery when they hired Mueller to design and manage SpaceX in-house engine development. BO has struggled (but not  a lot just more than SpaceX) in their engine R&D taking them longer to accomplish engine development projects.

Based on what data? By my reckoning Raptor design/development (of the subscale development engine currently being tested) began in the 2012-2013 timeframe. Whereas the current version of BE-4 design/development began in 2014, although Blue had been working on a smaller version for years before that.

Offline mme

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How much Blue needs to be delayed, before RE-engined Atlas V with AR-1 becomes a thing? (Will the same upper management continue?) ...Or just more RD-180s.

Tory Bruno, CEO @ulalaunch: CDR for Vulcan rocket by end this yr; we'll determine engine choice - @AerojetRdyne v @blueorigin before then.
Posted: 5:40 PM - 12 Sep 2017

https://twitter.com/pbdes/status/907629989377576962

Based on that tweet from 12 September, my guess is that if BE-4 conducts a successful full-scale test firing by the end of this year, BO will get the contract, but if not (and especially if they hit another major delay) AR will get the contract.
I read that similarly, but hgas AR demonstrated a successful full-scale test firing? Or do they just "get a pass" because they have more history? I agree that BO needs to outperform AR, I'm just surprised that it's a given that AR would get selected without evidence that they will deliver.
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Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Based on that tweet from 12 September, my guess is that if BE-4 conducts a successful full-scale test firing by the end of this year, BO will get the contract, but if not (and especially if they hit another major delay) AR will get the contract.
I read that similarly, but hgas AR demonstrated a successful full-scale test firing? Or do they just "get a pass" because they have more history?
AR-1 is much further behind on development than BE-4. And there is no certainty of schedule with either engine.

But there is certainty that the "fast path" to an engine for ULA might not arrive as was expected as the reason to attempt the path through a less qualified engine source. SX, BO, and AJR are far from identical.

It was always possible that BO might not be able to source an engine in the necessary time frame. And, it's not simply the race to the test stand - there are many additional "follow-on" commitments that would have to also be met timely - if the "newbie" misses on the test stand, how can you believe that the rest ... also might be missed? Also, at some point you need to ramp up the other program for it to have any chance of meeting its timeline/deliverables.

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I agree that BO needs to outperform AR, I'm just surprised that it's a given that AR would get selected without evidence that they will deliver.
They have delivered in the past, and they currently deliver RL-10, RS-68, and will be delivering for SLS.

Perhaps time is running out for BE-4 to be used by ULA?

Offline Lars-J

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The biggest problem for ULA if they go with AR can be summed up with word - cost.

AR practically hand-builds all their engines. Of course they use 3d printing and modern tools, but it is not a production line in the modern mass production sense. Bezos and BO has a greater vision for the future of BE-4, and would likely (only likely since they are still in development mode) build theirs in a more streamlined and affordable way. Pick AR-1, and costs will *never* go down.

Of course neither AR or Blue can match SpaceX in mass engine production, and since we know that SpaceX plans BFR with lots of engines, a low production cost will continue to be a critical concern.
« Last Edit: 10/11/2017 05:12 AM by Lars-J »

Offline AncientU

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The biggest problem for ULA if they go with AR can be summed up with word - cost.

AR practically hand-builds all their engines. Of course they use 3d printing and modern tools, but it is not a production line in the modern mass production sense. Bezos and BO has a greater vision for the future of BE-4, and would likely (only likely since they are still in development mode) build theirs in a more streamlined and affordable way. Pick AR-1, and costs will *never* go down.

Of course neither AR or Blue can match SpaceX in mass engine production, and since we know that SpaceX plans BFR with lots of engines, a low production cost will continue to be a critical concern.

Another problem with AR costs is that the AR-1 may only be used by Vulcan, and only on a few flights per year until the mid-2020s.  There is a backlog of RD-180s that needs to be flown out as transition from Atlas V continues.
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Offline corneliussulla

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The biggest problem for ULA if they go with AR can be summed up with word - cost.

AR practically hand-builds all their engines. Of course they use 3d printing and modern tools, but it is not a production line in the modern mass production sense. Bezos and BO has a greater vision for the future of BE-4, and would likely (only likely since they are still in development mode) build theirs in a more streamlined and affordable way. Pick AR-1, and costs will *never* go down.

Of course neither AR or Blue can match SpaceX in mass engine production, and since we know that SpaceX plans BFR with lots of engines, a low production cost will continue to be a critical concern.

Yep cost is important but AR is a business with revenues and BO is not.  I expect there must be some guarantees with BO if Bezos stops chasing the dream they must have options to acquire the BE-4 production or something. Bit of a risk though and BO schedule has slipped quite a lot

Offline Chasm

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According to one of the talks ULA has the right of first refusal to buy all of the BE-4 (IP, tooling, factory, ...) if Blue ever decides to not produce it any longer.
I guess that option requires BE-4 to be delivered and selected by ULA in the first place...
I wonder if there is a hard date in the contract at wich ULA can get out and perhaps even exercise a penalty clause in case Blue does not deliver.

ULA needs to make a choice but "Blew up so far. No working engine." vs. "Did not blew up, because they have not even tried yet. No working engine." is not a great set of options.

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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You're describing continuity. As required by all government providers.

(Note that's rather deeply "textured" with other requirements as well. So not as easily complied with as your mention of it might seem.)

There's nothing wrong with having "Mr Moneybags" of any stripe, do businesses that national security depends upon. As long as they "follow through". Remember Howard Hughes? And Hughes Aerospace, later bought up by Boeing? Same deal.

Here's the part that concerns: BO was supposed to have a business by now in "space tourism", where is it? Next, engine sales (BE-3, BE-4) to other providers, where is it? There are others too, but you get the point.

If BO merely threatens business, no matter the collateral displayed, ... can we tell that they will commit to a business, such that continuity/"follow through" matters?

People have the same concerns for SX for HSF, vehicle reuse, reuse economics. Those who aren't professionals don't see these as significant. But they are.

Offline corneliussulla

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It's true SpaceX has yet to prove the viability of block5 as a low maintenance relaunch vehicle. I think shotwell said 10 launches between major refurbs. Then how u get from 10 on F9v5 to 1000 on BFR seems a bit of a stretch. But SpaceX does have a business and has produced working hardware and relaunched orbital class rockets, something BO has not got close to yet. BO seems a bit more secretive than SX so maybe that are making good progress inside that factory.

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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It's true SpaceX has yet to prove the viability of block5 as a low maintenance relaunch vehicle. I think shotwell said 10 launches between major refurbs. Then how u get from 10 on F9v5 to 1000 on BFR seems a bit of a stretch. But SpaceX does have a business and has produced working hardware and relaunched orbital class rockets, something BO has not got close to yet. BO seems a bit more secretive than SX so maybe that are making good progress inside that factory.
Even if BFR flies just 10 times between major refurbs or at max total the amount of the cost of manufacture per flight would likely  be <$50M. Then add to that the cost of processing and profit resulting in a possible price per flight of $85M, that results in a $/kg or $567/kg or $258/lb.

That is still a revolutionary price for access to space.

If in 10 years they can improve to get even just 20 flights that reduces the Price to $60M/flight and $400/kg and $151/lb. Increase to 100 flights would get to a possible price of $40M/flight and $267/kg and $121/lb.

So the key here is that getting to 1000 is not a significant item in the reduction of prices. That the most significance in the reduction of prices occurs in acheiving just 20 flights of gas-n-go.

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