Author Topic: Astra Space  (Read 409999 times)

Offline jongoff

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Re: Astra Space
« Reply #220 on: 02/07/2020 10:48 pm »
It was cool getting a tour of their shop again last night. It's crazy how much they've grown over the past few times I've visited. It's good that they're no longer pretending to be stealth.

~Jon

Offline Ben

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Re: Astra Space
« Reply #221 on: 02/08/2020 12:25 pm »
Also interesting that they were able to test fire their engines inside their HQ building, that's quite a clever setup.
The building is definitely unique in the industry, a Korean War-era two cell jet engine "hush house". It had been sitting basically abandoned since the Navy moved out in the 90s. Having engine test co-located with engineering, fabrication and assembly is a real productivity gain compared to the common industry practice of having test in a different city or state (or country).

It's not just that you spend less time shipping hardware and people around, which is a big gain, but also that communication is much easier when you can just grab the relevant person and show them an issue. I'm convinced that a portion of the disproportional productivity of XCOR, Masten, Armadillo in their heyday was because they avoided the need for a lot of communication, interface control, reports, etc that are required by the "this rocket was built in all 50 states" process of the namesake of this forum.

Swiss Propulsion Lab is the only other group I've met with a comparable facility, and I'm not sure if they still use theirs. http://www.spl.ch/old/facilities/index.html bottom of page.

Refurbing an abandoned naval building does present HVAC, plumbing, natural light, noise, and other human factors problems, it's not all roses.

Offline Draggendrop

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Re: Astra Space
« Reply #222 on: 02/09/2020 01:39 am »
SpaceNews article for Feb 8th...

Astra unveils plans for frequent, low-cost launches

https://spacenews.com/astra-unveils-plans-for-frequent-low-cost-launches/

Offline ringsider

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Re: Astra Space
« Reply #223 on: 02/09/2020 07:05 am »

Another interesting fact, which distinguishes Astra from Rocket Lab: They trade off reliability against extreme cost savings. Which makes sense: The biggest market for smallsat launches are constellations - and if you lose some of your mass-manufactured satellites on launch but pay only half the money for launching, you will pay less on the bottom line.

I don't think that is very smart at all. It's a cavalier attitude towards customers, akin to an auto manufacturer saying "Sure, our brakes aren't 100% reliable and sometimes your children will get killed - but it's a cheap car and you have lots of kids, amiright?"
« Last Edit: 02/09/2020 07:05 am by ringsider »

Offline john smith 19

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Re: Astra Space
« Reply #224 on: 02/09/2020 08:39 am »
I'm having trouble with this narrative.

The SN story says they have raised $100m and got a flight ready vehicle out of it.

This is impressive.

But at $1m/flight they are going to take a lot of flights (way more than 100) to pay off their investors.

The only ways out are a)Mfg and operations of the vehicle and its launches are much lower than any other ELV b) Recovery and refurb of the booster

a) Sounds implausible unless they have a highly skilled, multi skilled team (to keep the head count way down) and use existing hardware (like large diameter plastic pipe for example)
b) Used to be considered impossible at this scale, but now RL are trying it perhaps not.
MCT ITS BFR SS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFSC engined CFRP SS structure A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of Earth & Mars atmospheric flight.First flight to Mars by end of 2022 TBC. T&C apply. Trust nothing. Run your own #s "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" R. Simberg."Competitve" means cheaper ¬cheap SCramjet proposed 1956. First +ve thrust 2004. US R&D spend to date > $10Bn. #deployed designs. Zero.

Offline PM3

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Re: Astra Space
« Reply #225 on: 02/09/2020 09:59 am »
This thread shows the typical pattern for early reactions to disruptive business models. There is a new company with smart people, smart concepts and smart investors (e.g. Airbus is one of those who gave the $100M for Astra), and then most people have concerns. This Amazon will never make money. This Tesla will soon be bankrupt. This Astra's business model wont work.

There have been 30 launcher companies who applied for participation in DARPA Launch Challenge. Astra is the only one left - they outperformed all the other 29, including Virgin, who will probably fail because their launcher is too expensive.

So far I see only positive indications for Astra, except for the two test failures - but remember that SpaceX started with three launch failures ...
« Last Edit: 02/09/2020 10:05 am by PM3 »
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Offline HeartofGold2030

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Re: Astra Space
« Reply #226 on: 02/09/2020 10:05 am »
This thread shows the typical pattern for early reactions to disruptive business models. There is a new company with smart people, smart concepts and smart investores (e.g. Airbus is one of those who gave the $100M for Astra), and then most people have concerns. This Amazon will never make money. This Tesla will soon be bankrupt. This Astra's business model wont work.

There have been 30 launcher companies who applied for participation in DARPA Launch Challange. Astra is the only one left - they outperformed all the other 29, including Virgin, who will probably fail because their launcher is too expensive.

So far I see only positive indications for Astra, except for the two test failures - but remember that SpaceX started with three launch failures ...

Outperformed is the wrong word, considering Virgin dropped out purely because they saw little to no economic benefit in participating. I think the fact that everybody but them has dropped out, says more about DARPA’s launch challenge than Astra itself.

Offline PM3

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Re: Astra Space
« Reply #227 on: 02/09/2020 10:11 am »
Outperformed is the wrong word, considering Virgin dropped out purely because they saw little to no economic benefit in participating.

The Launch Challenge price money (12 M$ for the winner) was known from the beginning, so why did they participate at all?

Virgin dropped out because they did not get their launcher ready in time, and because it turned out too expensive (therefore no more economic benefit). Astra managed the opposite in both regards, presuming that their Rocket 3 will not explode like Rocket 1 and 2 did.
« Last Edit: 02/09/2020 10:18 am by PM3 »
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Offline QuantumG

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Re: Astra Space
« Reply #228 on: 02/09/2020 10:12 am »
I don't think that is very smart at all. It's a cavalier attitude towards customers, akin to an auto manufacturer saying "Sure, our brakes aren't 100% reliable and sometimes your children will get killed - but it's a cheap car and you have lots of kids, amiright?"

Sounds exactly like the right message to me: there's no reason for satellites to be treated like they're precious and irreplaceable.

Human spaceflight is basically just LARPing now.

Offline ringsider

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Re: Astra Space
« Reply #229 on: 02/09/2020 10:28 am »
I don't think that is very smart at all. It's a cavalier attitude towards customers, akin to an auto manufacturer saying "Sure, our brakes aren't 100% reliable and sometimes your children will get killed - but it's a cheap car and you have lots of kids, amiright?"

Sounds exactly like the right message to me: there's no reason for satellites to be treated like they're precious and irreplaceable.

People get angry when FedEx busts things like plastic toys and computer parts. Paying whatever millions for a launch that has the attitude of "dude, your satellite totally got wiped out!" is something I imagine Rocket Lab and others will enjoy.

Disruptive? Maybe. Kodiak charges $500k a launch (it's on their website, in the business plan), and hiring two hundred staff in San Francisco is about the highest cost model there is, so there's scope for skepticism.

Offline Skyrocket

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Re: Astra Space
« Reply #230 on: 02/09/2020 11:37 am »
Sounds exactly like the right message to me: there's no reason for satellites to be treated like they're precious and irreplaceable.

Depends much on the type of satellite.

Mass produced nanosat constellation satellites can be indeed treated this way (e.g. Planet's Doves, Spire's Lemurs, Swarm's SpaceBEEs). For these a rocket like Astra is (or might be) attractive. If you simply can pull another batch from the shelf and launch again, a cheap, less-reliable launcher is a viable option.

Pretty much any other satellite need to be treated like they're precious and irreplaceable as it is a one off mission, where a replacement need time to be ready Then a more expensive but more reliable is the best way to go.

Offline Lars-J

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Re: Astra Space
« Reply #231 on: 02/09/2020 05:51 pm »
This thread shows the typical pattern for early reactions to disruptive business models. There is a new company with smart people, smart concepts and smart investors (e.g. Airbus is one of those who gave the $100M for Astra), and then most people have concerns. This Amazon will never make money. This Tesla will soon be bankrupt. This Astra's business model wont work.

There have been 30 launcher companies who applied for participation in DARPA Launch Challenge. Astra is the only one left - they outperformed all the other 29, including Virgin, who will probably fail because their launcher is too expensive.

So far I see only positive indications for Astra, except for the two test failures - but remember that SpaceX started with three launch failures ...

Maybe... but the very low cost targets indicate that they have similar issues to what the Vector business model would had. (NOTE I am just comparing their business model, this groups is CLEARLY far more competent from a technical point of view)

And by that I mean problems related to launch costs (someone mentioned high costs at Kodiak), basic payroll and other fixed costs, which means making a profit requires and absurd number of launches... Which is suspiciously what they are promising. (Hundreds per year??) Hmmm.

Can they pull it off? I hope so. But I think people are justified in being skeptical about their business plan.

Astra will very likely succeed in reaching orbit soon, but I fully expect their prices and flight rate targets be significantly adjusted shortly thereafter.

Offline brussell

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Re: Astra Space
« Reply #232 on: 02/10/2020 03:27 am »
Disruptive? Maybe. Kodiak charges $500k a launch (it's on their website, in the business plan), and hiring two hundred staff in San Francisco is about the highest cost model there is, so there's scope for skepticism.

Ouch. This guy knows hiring in San Francisco.

Offline ringsider

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Re: Astra Space
« Reply #233 on: 02/10/2020 08:07 am »
Mass produced nanosat constellation satellites can be indeed treated this way (e.g. Planet's Doves, Spire's Lemurs, Swarm's SpaceBEEs). For these a rocket like Astra is (or might be) attractive. If you simply can pull another batch from the shelf and launch again, a cheap, less-reliable launcher is a viable option.

Mass produced constellation satellites is what we were just talking about, see the quote in post #224.

When a launcher goes kablooey, everything is lost. What if they lose an entire launch of circa 20 sats? Would you fly with them on the next flight?

Quote
If it is not part of a constellation, insurance will migitate the risk for individual sats in the same way as constellations do.

Satellite insurance risks and therefore costs are directly linked to the reliability of the launcher. Unreliable launcher => expensive insurance, like insuring a car if you have convictions for drunk driving or whatever.

Online gongora

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Re: Astra Space
« Reply #234 on: 02/10/2020 02:51 pm »
Split off the more recent posts into a new thread as the numbers being thrown around no longer had much to do with Astra.

https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=50108.0

Offline PM3

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Re: Astra Space
« Reply #235 on: 02/10/2020 04:12 pm »
Split off the more recent posts into a new thread as the numbers being thrown around no longer had much to do with Astra.

https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=50108.0

You did not get the point of my posts. It was not about publishing concrete numbers (we don't know those numbers), but about proving that what Eric Berger reported about Astra ...

Quote
At Astra, failure is an option
...
They are moving fast, aim to be insanely cheap, and are rigorously following an iterative design process. Perhaps most importantly, they’re willing to fail.
...
Astra has crafted what it sees as a solution for this, a rocket neither exquisite nor perfect. “We’re actually not shooting for 100 percent reliability,” London said. Instead, Astra is willing to trade a small amount of reliability for a big cost savings.

can be a viable and robust business model. Robust, because it works even under pessimistic assumptions regarding reliability.

Such overagressive moderation will not improve contents in this forum. For me it is rather deterring to contribute here.
« Last Edit: 02/10/2020 04:15 pm by PM3 »
"Never, never be afraid of the truth." -- Jim Bridenstine

Offline Comga

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Re: Astra Space
« Reply #236 on: 02/10/2020 05:50 pm »
Bloomberg article details have been rehashed in Space News
Launching from Kwaj is news to me, although it was probably in the original article.
SpaceX proved it was pretty tough to get anything, but particularly a rocket's worth of LOX, out at Kwaj.
That's not a cheap place from which to launch.
Let's hope their next launch goes well, and that they can show us how this all works long term.
What kind of wastrels would dump a perfectly good booster in the ocean after just one use?

Offline Lars-J

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Re: Astra Space
« Reply #237 on: 02/10/2020 06:06 pm »
For a low cost operator, they sure managed to pick expensive and/or difficult launch sites: Kodiak and Kwaj

Online Bananas_on_Mars

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Re: Astra Space
« Reply #238 on: 02/10/2020 06:23 pm »
Satellite insurance risks and therefore costs are directly linked to the reliability of the launcher. Unreliable launcher => expensive insurance, like insuring a car if you have convictions for drunk driving or whatever.

Who needs insurance?

Planetlab says they don‘t(in 2015), as insurance premium would be on the order of 10-12 percent.

With a 5 percent failure rate, you would still come out on top when not buying insurance, if loss of a launch doesn‘t mean your company dies.
« Last Edit: 02/10/2020 06:24 pm by Bananas_on_Mars »

Offline ulm_atms

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Re: Astra Space
« Reply #239 on: 02/10/2020 06:34 pm »
For a low cost operator, they sure managed to pick expensive and/or difficult launch sites: Kodiak and Kwaj

I thought others picked those type sites because there was nothing around and no one wanted them to go boom next to their operational pads?

SpaceX F1 starting at Kwaj instead of Vandenberg for example.

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