Author Topic: SpaceX SmallSat Rideshare Program  (Read 138603 times)

Offline niwax

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Re: SpaceX SmallSat Rideshare Program
« Reply #40 on: 08/07/2019 08:25 am »
Only 3 ESPA rings was shown in the image of the smallsat adapter. If there is enough customer demand for rides, SpaceX could add a few more ESPA rings to accommodated.

Which brings up how much mass could be launched on a F9 into a SSO orbit from SLC-4E at VAFB that allows the recovery of the core returning to the launch site?

I don't think mass should me much of an issue, each ring with four of the heaviest satellites should come in under 1.5t and sell for $18M. So a pretty full launch with 16 large satellites for $72M should only come in around 6t. So given the prices,  I don't think they expect to exceed 5-7t per flight.
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Offline russianhalo117

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Re: SpaceX SmallSat Rideshare Program
« Reply #41 on: 08/07/2019 01:49 pm »
I see it as a case to eliminate the middle man (ie SI) so payloads don't feel the effects of double profit. SpaceX is either replicating SI's tech for themselves or forcing SI to be a parts supplier like RUAG, MOOG, NGIS et cetera.

Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: SpaceX SmallSat Rideshare Program
« Reply #42 on: 08/07/2019 06:05 pm »
Only 3 ESPA rings was shown in the image of the smallsat adapter. If there is enough customer demand for rides, SpaceX could add a few more ESPA rings to accommodated.

Which brings up how much mass could be launched on a F9 into a SSO orbit from SLC-4E at VAFB that allows the recovery of the core returning to the launch site?

I don't think mass should me much of an issue, each ring with four of the heaviest satellites should come in under 1.5t and sell for $18M. So a pretty full launch with 16 large satellites for $72M should only come in around 6t. So given the prices,  I don't think they expect to exceed 5-7t per flight.

Just looking for mass info. If the 1.5 tonne maximum mass per ESPA ring with smallsats is accurate. Then there is room for about 6 rings with a IMLEO mass of about 9 tonnes including the slot on top of the rings. Which is still within the limits of the core returning to launch site for recovery.

Will be interesting to see how many smallsat & cubesat customers will book SSO bus flights with SpaceX.

Offline mme

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Re: SpaceX SmallSat Rideshare Program
« Reply #43 on: 08/07/2019 07:58 pm »
...
Well no. When one business lowers prices followed by a bunch of others lowering prices that's called competition, and is actually the opposite of collusion.

I'm not claiming actual collusion occurred here, but incumbents deliberately dropping prices collectively to snuff out upstarts before they can become profitable (since they themselves are profitable enough to survive selling at margin or even at a loss for a period of time, then raising prices again) is a known tactic.
You don't claim actual evil intent, just that it's totally evil intent? Not possible that SpaceX sees a business opportunity to improve their profits from an underutilize pad now that they can RTLS at VAFB?
Space is not Highlander.  There can, and will, be more than one.

Online Asteroza

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Re: SpaceX SmallSat Rideshare Program
« Reply #44 on: 08/08/2019 12:03 am »
...
Well no. When one business lowers prices followed by a bunch of others lowering prices that's called competition, and is actually the opposite of collusion.

I'm not claiming actual collusion occurred here, but incumbents deliberately dropping prices collectively to snuff out upstarts before they can become profitable (since they themselves are profitable enough to survive selling at margin or even at a loss for a period of time, then raising prices again) is a known tactic.
You don't claim actual evil intent, just that it's totally evil intent? Not possible that SpaceX sees a business opportunity to improve their profits from an underutilize pad now that they can RTLS at VAFB?

A single company, on their own, even in a commanding position, if it isn't in a true monopoly/oligopoly market situation, is considered socially not evil to undercut competitors (this is treated as aggressive business tactics) though it may be considered by some as underhanded. Accidental collusion between major players is certainly possible, based on reactions to rumors about competitor business plans, but that would be considered entirely coincidental and not evil (most treat this as the capitalist virtuous spiral pressure to lower prices). Actual price fixing cartel collusion is considered socially a general evil, and usually legally considered equivalent to monopoly/antitrust rule violations. SpaceX trying to improve their OPEX at VAFB via forcibly opening up the rideshare market with scheduled services like a cargo liner they may have done on their own, but the rumors spread and the other majors felt forced to follow suit and announce at the SmallSat conference at the same time at comparable pricing. For the non-SpaceX incumbents, this would be a easy way to strangle the small launchers in their crib since the incumbents have the cash reserves to wait it out. The part that feels subjectively evil to the uninformed is the similarity in pricing for announcements that were done in rapid succession, which has the appearance of being prearranged between competitors rather than a pricing response to a competitor announcement with the implied business lag/delay for that response.

Regardless, scheduled cargo liner service on a rocket that actually is launching at a nearly monthly cadence with a high production rate is game changing. Soyuz is the only other rocket with "rapid" and regular service due to ISS duties, while most others neither have the cadence or the production rate. If RocketLabs actually achieves near monthly service this year, they'll be the only other major cargo liner alternative due to cadence and production rate, and probably the only dedicated orbit provider for smallsats as well.

Offline gongora

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Re: SpaceX SmallSat Rideshare Program
« Reply #45 on: 08/08/2019 12:18 am »
A large portion of the rideshare payloads that have launched to date were on Indian vehicles, and they're introducing another new smallsat launcher this fall.  Arianespace is starting rideshare launches on Vega.  For non-US customers the Chinese launchers may be an option.  Japan has a small launcher although it hasn't flown much yet, so may not really be an option.  SpaceX will still probably be the least frequent launch provider for rideshares, but an annual flight to SSO with that much room on it could still be useful.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: SpaceX SmallSat Rideshare Program
« Reply #46 on: 08/08/2019 12:35 am »
...
Well no. When one business lowers prices followed by a bunch of others lowering prices that's called competition, and is actually the opposite of collusion.

I'm not claiming actual collusion occurred here, but incumbents deliberately dropping prices collectively to snuff out upstarts before they can become profitable (since they themselves are profitable enough to survive selling at margin or even at a loss for a period of time, then raising prices again) is a known tactic.
You don't claim actual evil intent, just that it's totally evil intent? Not possible that SpaceX sees a business opportunity to improve their profits from an underutilize pad now that they can RTLS at VAFB?

A single company, on their own, even in a commanding position, if it isn't in a true monopoly/oligopoly market situation, is considered socially not evil to undercut competitors (this is treated as aggressive business tactics) though it may be considered by some as underhanded. Accidental collusion between major players is certainly possible, based on reactions to rumors about competitor business plans, but that would be considered entirely coincidental and not evil (most treat this as the capitalist virtuous spiral pressure to lower prices). Actual price fixing cartel collusion is considered socially a general evil, and usually legally considered equivalent to monopoly/antitrust rule violations. SpaceX trying to improve their OPEX at VAFB via forcibly opening up the rideshare market with scheduled services like a cargo liner they may have done on their own, but the rumors spread and the other majors felt forced to follow suit and announce at the SmallSat conference at the same time at comparable pricing. For the non-SpaceX incumbents, this would be a easy way to strangle the small launchers in their crib since the incumbents have the cash reserves to wait it out. The part that feels subjectively evil to the uninformed is the similarity in pricing for announcements that were done in rapid succession, which has the appearance of being prearranged between competitors rather than a pricing response to a competitor announcement with the implied business lag/delay for that response.

The announcements were done in rapid succession because now is the one time of year the smallsat conference is going on.

There's been a lot of activity in the smallsat launch space recently.  Rocket Lab is launching real payloads.  Many start-ups are claiming rapid progress toward doing the same.  All claim lots of customers.

If you were a company with a medium to large launch vehicle, it's hard to believe you wouldn't see all this change over the last year and say to yourself, "Hey, we could launch those payloads cheaper by bunching them up, we should try for that business".

There's no need to assume collusion or pricing below costs to drive small companies out of business.  The most natural interpretation of the evidence involves normal, ethical business practices with no evil involved.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: SpaceX SmallSat Rideshare Program
« Reply #47 on: 08/08/2019 12:36 am »
It can be viewed as intending to gut RocketLabs et al.

It could also be viewed as trying to encourage development of satellite partners they will need in the future.

It could also be viewed as simply that there are people who want to spend money sending things to orbit and SpaceX wants that money.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: SpaceX SmallSat Rideshare Program
« Reply #48 on: 08/08/2019 12:41 am »
SpaceX clearly think thereís a market worth addressing here, which is quite a change from when Falcon 1 was abandoned because they couldnít find enough customers for it!

Of course ride share is quite different from having your own dedicated launch, so SpaceX will need to be price competitive. Iím not up on pricing from likes of RocketLab, Virgin Orbit, Firefly etc. How does this SpaceX offer compare?

I believe Rocket Lab charges ~$5M for a 150kg payload to SSO, putting their per kg price at ~$33,333. At $2.25M for the same payload and orbit, SpaceX is only charging $15k per kilogram, which is undercutting RocketLab by more than half. Didn't really think they'd become competitors, but it looks like SpaceX just went for the jugular.

EDIT: To add to that, it really depends on how often SpaceX launches these missions. RocketLab has Electrons going up every quarter at least, with intent to speed up the process. I think there are three scheduled Falcon rideshares under SpaceX's new program, at one a year. Not sure how much effort SpaceX will really put into it; the low cost should get them a decent stream of revenue, but I think RocketLab will still be the one to go to if you want to get your payload into orbit faster.

But it all depends on the demand.  The more demand there is, the more often SpaceX will launch dedicated rideshares, and the cheaper each will be per satellite because the cost of the launch will be distributed over more satellites.

Rocket Lab is left between the rock of great demand for smallsat launches makes their competition far more compelling and the hard place of if the demand isn't very great they don't get to launch often enough to be financially viable.

Also, Rocket Lab currently has the dedicated smallsat launch market to itself.  There are dozens of other start-ups trying to get into that business.  Spread that market among a number of companies and it becomes even harder to survive.

Offline high road

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Re: SpaceX SmallSat Rideshare Program
« Reply #49 on: 08/08/2019 07:46 am »
Which is why Rocket Lab is also supplying the Curie and Photon. Which gives them an edge if this market section is too limited for SpaceX to go after. But it would likely be offered en masse on StarShip as well when the time comes.

This 'moats don't work, only the rate of innovation' thing is amazing. As long as enough competitors survive to be at each others' throats, that is.
« Last Edit: 08/08/2019 09:03 am by high road »

Offline M.E.T.

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Re: SpaceX SmallSat Rideshare Program
« Reply #50 on: 08/08/2019 09:52 am »
It all depends on how low SpaceX can really drop launch costs to. If Starship really can eventually launch to LEO for say $30m, then even carrying merely 20 smallsats at $2m each can net them a $10m profit.

Can Rocketlab ever get down to $2m per satellite? Or $1m?

And thatís without even considering the more outlandish SpaceX cost targets of sub-$10m Starship launches.

Offline Prettz

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Re: SpaceX SmallSat Rideshare Program
« Reply #51 on: 08/08/2019 02:17 pm »
Rocket Lab is left between the rock of great demand for smallsat launches makes their competition far more compelling and the hard place of if the demand isn't very great they don't get to launch often enough to be financially viable.

Also, Rocket Lab currently has the dedicated smallsat launch market to itself.  There are dozens of other start-ups trying to get into that business.  Spread that market among a number of companies and it becomes even harder to survive.
Beck sees it just the opposite

https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/08/heres-why-rocket-lab-changed-its-mind-on-reusable-launch/
Quote
What do you think about the competition? SpaceX is entering the smallsat launch market. There are dozens of companies trying to build vehicles like Electron.

Ultimately, I think an increase in launch opportunities is good for everybody. It stimulates more opportunities, and it enables people to get on orbit more often. The limitation for SpaceX, obviously, is that they're flying once a year to one particular orbit. Generally, the kind of customer that's flying on Electron is not looking to rideshareóthey're looking for a dedicated service and all of the massive advantages that gives you. So, you know, from Rocket Lab's perspective, we don't see any challenge or impact to our business. It's a very different customer that will fly on us versus a Falcon 9. But what I would say is there are quite a lot of launch vehicles in the 1,000kg payload range that are under development at the moment, and I think that's going to be a real challenge for those guys. Basically their model is rideshare, and when you're going head-to-head with an established player like SpaceX, you know, that has proven flight credibility and opportunities, that will be a real challenge.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: SpaceX SmallSat Rideshare Program
« Reply #52 on: 08/08/2019 02:46 pm »
He says that, but I think a reusable Electron could actually knock on SpaceX's door for cost to launch these small birds. Particularly if they figure out reusable upper stage (think HIAD) down the road.
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Offline M.E.T.

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Re: SpaceX SmallSat Rideshare Program
« Reply #53 on: 08/08/2019 03:47 pm »
He says that, but I think a reusable Electron could actually knock on SpaceX's door for cost to launch these small birds. Particularly if they figure out reusable upper stage (think HIAD) down the road.

SpaceX just launched 60 Starlink satellites at an internal cost of perhaps $35m - probably down to $30m going forward, with fairing recovery achieved.

Thatís $500k per satellite. Rocketlab canít match that. Thatís a tenth of their best price currently.

Rocketlabís niche is one-off sats that have unique launch requirements. But if volumes grow, then those one-off satellites will be joined by others, and once they exceed a certain number, SpaceX will be there to launch them as a group.

And if the numbers grow enough to justify a regular SpaceX  launch every 3 months, well, how many satellites need to launch so urgently that they canít wait a couple
of months for the next cheap bulk launch?

So Rocketlabís business model only works when satellite numbers arenít too large. Their model is therefore self limiting, paradoxically hoping that the market doesnít grow too much, with a hard ceiling imposed by SpaceXís looming presence.

And all of the above is not even considering Starshipís potential. It is just with F9 booster and fairing recovery.

So Beck can make the diplomatic statements about competition being good for all, but the reality is that of COURSE SpaceX is a critical threat to them.

Edited to add:

A threat not necessarily to their existence as a small provider of niche services with maybe one launch a month - and resultant annual revenue of maybe $50-100m. But to their potential to grow significantly beyond that.
« Last Edit: 08/10/2019 01:47 am by M.E.T. »

Offline Nilof

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Re: SpaceX SmallSat Rideshare Program
« Reply #54 on: 08/08/2019 08:08 pm »
He says that, but I think a reusable Electron could actually knock on SpaceX's door for cost to launch these small birds. Particularly if they figure out reusable upper stage (think HIAD) down the road.

SpaceX just launched 60 Starlink satellites at an internal cost of perhaps $35m - probably down to $30m going forward, with fairing recovery achieved.

Thatís $500k per satellite. Rocketlab canít match that. Thatís a tenth of their best price currently.

Rocketlabís niche is one-off sats that have unique launch requirements. But if volumes grow, then those one-off satellites will be joined by others, and once they exceed a certain number, SpaceX will be there to launch them as a group.

And if the numbers grow enough to justify a regular SpaceX  launch every 3 months, well, how many satellites need to launch so urgently that they canít wait a couple
of months for the next cheap bulk launch?

So Rocketlabís business model only works when satellite numbers arenít too large. Their model is therefore self limiting, pradoxically hoping that the market doesnít grow too much, with a hard ceiling imposed by SpaceXís looming presence.

And all of the above is not even considering Starshipís potential. It is just with F9 booster and fairing recovery.

So Beck can make the diplomatic statements about competition being good for all, but the reality is that of COURSE SpaceX is a critical threat to them.

Edited to add:

A threat not necessarily to their existence as a small provider of niche services with maybe one launch a month - and resultant annual revenue of maybe $50-100m. But to their potential to grow significantly beyond that.

Launch date is one thing, which orbit you need to reach is another. Bulk transport doesn't necessarily work for everyone.

With that said, SpaceX is also gearing up for mass-producing hall effect thruster systems at an unprecedented pace for Starlink, so they could introduce a Starlink-derived SEP tug for rideshare payloads that need a custom orbit.
For a variable Isp spacecraft running at constant power and constant acceleration, the mass ratio is linear in delta-v.   Δv = ve0(MR-1). Or equivalently: Δv = vef PMF. Also, this is energy-optimal for a fixed delta-v and mass ratio.

Offline Lar

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Re: SpaceX SmallSat Rideshare Program
« Reply #55 on: 08/08/2019 08:10 pm »
I suspect Peter Beck isn't telling everything he's thinking. Further, I suspect that RL is nimble enough and competent enough that they can climb up the value chain (there was talk of a multicore Electron, IIRC, and of course there's the other services they provide including a bus ready for instrument/payload integration).  While RL should not get complacent, they are so far ahead of everyone else that they will have time and space to respond. All the other startups that haven't even flown yet should be worried, though.
« Last Edit: 08/08/2019 08:11 pm by Lar »
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Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: SpaceX SmallSat Rideshare Program
« Reply #56 on: 08/08/2019 09:24 pm »
He says that, but I think a reusable Electron could actually knock on SpaceX's door for cost to launch these small birds. Particularly if they figure out reusable upper stage (think HIAD) down the road.

If they figure out upper-stage reusability, I agree, they could beat Falcon 9.

I think it will be far harder for them once Starship is in operation, if Starship can come close to SpaceX's targets for it (not Mars targets, mind you, just SpaceX's targets for launching cargo to Earth orbit).

Their helicopter capture system, in particular, seems pretty expensive to me compared to Starship just landing back at the launch pad.

Online Asteroza

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Re: SpaceX SmallSat Rideshare Program
« Reply #57 on: 08/09/2019 12:29 am »
I'm kinda wondering about other aspects of the similarity in pricing between the various announcements. Does this reflect some sort of supplier, or even a physics based limitation for launchers in the same rough class as Falcon 9? Some backend limitation on range time? There are all sorts of knobs one can turn to fiddle with costs to change pricing, but are there some common limits that keep you from turning the knob past 11 between all these launchers?

Offline high road

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Re: SpaceX SmallSat Rideshare Program
« Reply #58 on: 08/09/2019 06:37 am »
He says that, but I think a reusable Electron could actually knock on SpaceX's door for cost to launch these small birds. Particularly if they figure out reusable upper stage (think HIAD) down the road.

SpaceX just launched 60 Starlink satellites at an internal cost of perhaps $35m - probably down to $30m going forward, with fairing recovery achieved.

Thatís $500k per satellite. Rocketlab canít match that. Thatís a tenth of their best price currently.

That's a group of identical satellites, from a single customer. They'll never get close to 60 satellites on a single launch if they're completely unique designs, from different customers.

And while Starlink's thrusters could eventually be an alternative to Curie, I don't think SpaceX would bother with finding an alternative to Photon. Not unless Photon becomes a major success. At which point Rocket Lab will probably be using that income and experience for the next service to their customers. Exciting times.

Offline meekGee

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Re: SpaceX SmallSat Rideshare Program
« Reply #59 on: 08/10/2019 12:55 am »
I don't know if RL can beat SpaceX, but they can push the price low enough that it won't be worth SpaceX's time and effort to compete.
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