Author Topic: RocketLab vs Blue Origin - Whose Approach / Business Strategy is Better?  (Read 79968 times)

Offline rakaydos

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So this thread has been joked about in the "VS SpaceX" thread for awhile now, but with the Neutron in the public eye now, I think there might actually be room for some apples to apples comparisons that arnt brutally lobsided. For the entirety of this thread, please do not use the SpaceX company name- refer to them as "The market leader" instead.

Both companies have a functional small rocket (for different functions), and both have a design for a larger rocket, intended to break into the satelite launch market currently dominated by the Market Leader's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. Both are planning to implement propulsive landing, the practicality of which has been demonstrated by the market leader.

Rocket Lab, who's existing design is a smallsat launcher, is looking to recapture some of the market space taken by the market leader's rideshare program, focusing on mega constelation rideshares and the smaller end of the main launch market. Their new Neutron rocket (though still a paper design at this point) is most directly comparable to an Antares, or a Falcon 9 1.0- about half the capacity of a modern F9. With reuse, Rocket lab may well be able to stake out the low end of the market- being the cheapest practical ride to orbit, though not the cheapest-per-ton. They arnt backed by a billionare, but they do have their Photon satelite manufacturing buisness to keep them going.

Blue Origin, on the other hand, has an existant suborbital human spaceflight design, and is looking to outcompete Falcon Heavy for the lunar and heavy LEO payloads. New Glenn has a head start, but has spent a long time in the Graditam lane. It looks likely to get first launch before Neutron, and has strong hooks in the american defense industry in true Oldspace fashion.

Neither one is ready to compete with the Market Leader's "Next Big Thing", but neither is anyone else. Both will have to operate in that project's shadow for years until they gain the institutional knowelege to match the market leader at their own game... and by then, they may have moed on to something else.

So given all that, what are your thoughts? Whose Approach / Business Strategy is Better?

Offline TrevorMonty

Both well be competing for constelllation launch business from Amazon, Telesat and Oneweb. None of which are likely launch on Market leader given it has competing constellation.

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Offline spacenut

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Rocket Lab doesn't have as much money, but to get started they have a more reasonable sized rocket. 

Online DigitalMan

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I don't agree with your premised of referring to SpaceX as "The Market Leader" while referring to Blue Origin and RocketLab by name. This is a strategy prosecuting attorneys use by referring to 'defendant' and not using their actual name, in order to prevent the audience (jury) from getting attached to them.

I suggest close this thread and start a new one on equal terms.

Offline ncb1397

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The bigger rocket has about 5-6 times the payload capacity (to LEO, with first stage re-use).
« Last Edit: 03/03/2021 07:16 pm by ncb1397 »

Offline spacenut

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Blue has had way more time to get New Glenn operational.  They are going to have problems as discussed.  They are going to land on a moving ship.  They have not practiced landing a ship this large on land much less a moving ship.  New Glenn is an expensive rocket to have a few crashes during a learning curve.  I know they have learned to land a rocket using New Sheppard, but that was straight up and straight down not landing from a parabola to a moving ship.

RL seems to be a copy of SpaceX's F9.  Learning crashes will be less expensive. 

Offline meekGee

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The bigger rocket has about 5-6 times the payload capacity (to LEO, with first stage re-use).

Irony.

SpaceX and BO both have the same goal - affect mankind's destiny by opening up space for exo-terrestrial habitation and industry.

Towards that goal, BO has a rocket that's too small, too expendable, and is running so slow that there's a good chance they won't be changing anything.

RL has never had that goal. They want to launch satellites and satellite constellations.

Towards that goal BO has a rocket that's probably too large - unless we're talking about a beast like Starlink.

ABCD - Always Be Counting Down

Offline menomos

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I don't agree with your premised of referring to SpaceX as "The Market Leader" while referring to Blue Origin and RocketLab by name...

I dunno, I think in this context it is useful to try to keep the topic more focused on Blue vs. RocketLab.  If the rule had been to refer to one of those two companies by some other name, then the concern would be very valid, but as it is I think it helps keep the thread on topic.

Speaking on-topic, it still seems like New Glenn has such a head start that it will launch before Neutron, but there is validity to the idea that Neutron is a smaller rocket and *may* benefit more from similarities to RocketLab's existing small orbital vehicle, while Blue may have less effectiveness transferring useful lessons across the giant leap from sub-orbital New Shepard to the "Very Heavy" class orbital New Glenn.

Offline trimeta

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Blue has had way more time to get New Glenn operational.  They are going to have problems as discussed.  They are going to land on a moving ship.  They have not practiced landing a ship this large on land much less a moving ship.  New Glenn is an expensive rocket to have a few crashes during a learning curve.  I know they have learned to land a rocket using New Sheppard, but that was straight up and straight down not landing from a parabola to a moving ship.

RL seems to be a copy of SpaceX's F9.  Learning crashes will be less expensive.

I think this is the key: Neutron will launch after New Glenn (I'd expect about 12-15 months later), but I have a bit more faith in Rocket Lab to have reduced the cost of building Neutron to the point where they can afford a few launches without first-stage reuse, to demonstrate value to the market and get things worked out. Blue Origin, on the other hand, is taking the Old Space approach of "do all the design before bending a single piece of metal, spend as much money as you need to make it perfect, expect everything to work correctly the first time," and if/when they run into problems, I think they'll take much longer to recover.

For example, we've seen what Rocket Lab's Electron factory looks like, they know how to ramp up for serial production, I'm sure that if they first couple of Neutrons don't land, they'll be ready to continue launching (and learning) while they figure things out. Blue Origin, on the other hand, may not have a pipeline of "we've made one New Glenn booster and have five more in flow," because they're relying on reuse from the very beginning, so if they don't catch the first two, that throws the entire schedule out of whack.

Offline DJPledger

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I think Relativity Space's Terran R will be more competitive with BO NG than RocketLab's Neutron. Perhaps we should also start a Relativity Space V BO thread as well.

Offline Lars-J

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I think the idea that Neutron will launch before New Glenn (as expressed by some) is pretty laughable. I don't find it credible at all.

Blue Origin has engines that are near complete. The launch infrastructure is almost done, and factory in place. They are building pathfinder elements and are about to start fit tests. They have experience with propulsive landing from 3 (!!!) vehicles. They have huge financial resources.

Meanwhile Rocketlab don't even have an engine selected, or knows how many they will use. No launch site. No factory. No experience with propulsive landing. Hoping to do it on a shoe-string budget. ($200m)

I get while comparing them is interesting, but Blue Origin would have to be much slower than they currently are IMO not to beat Rocketlab with a new rocket.

My prediction: New Glenn launches in 2023. Neutron in 2025. (if it comes to fruition)
« Last Edit: 03/03/2021 09:05 pm by Lars-J »

Offline trimeta

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I think Relativity Space's Terran R will be more competitive with BO NG than RocketLab's Neutron. Perhaps we should also start a Relativity Space V BO thread as well.

Terran R is certainly closer in terms of capabilities, and with full reuse it may not be much more expensive than Neutron -- although by the time Terran R is flying, Rocket Lab may have announced they're exploring second-stage reuse for Neutron, too. That said, the recent MECO podcast about Relativity Space and Rocket Lab's respective announcements points out that we know very little about Terran R, and the way they announced it makes one wonder what their timeline actually looks like.

Offline HVM

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Yeah Lars, tell me about it, which one RL or BO, has working orbital launch business...          ; )

Offline Lars-J

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Yeah Lars, tell me about it, which one RL or BO, has working orbital launch business...          ; )

True! But do you think that alone will power Neutron across the finish line before New Glenn? If I were a betting man, I would bet on Blue Origin. But I could certainly be wrong. :)

Offline trimeta

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Yeah Lars, tell me about it, which one RL or BO, has working orbital launch business...          ; )

True! But do you think that alone will power Neutron across the finish line before New Glenn? If I were a betting man, I would bet on Blue Origin. But I could certainly be wrong. :)

Here's the real question: which will sooner re-fly a booster? I think this will be a much closer race.

Offline Toast

In terms of who's business strategy is better, I'd have to say RocketLab. They very quickly made the transition from suborbital rockets to orbital rockets, they're hitting a pretty quick launch cadence, they're already quickly moving into orbital reuse, and they're making some smart moves into new markets with the Photon side of things. Neutron is looking like another smart move in the right direction, and their corporate culture seems to be good.

That's not to say I don't think Blue will be successful--they aren't (yet) the runaway hit that SpaceX has been, but New Glenn looks really promising, and I agree with Lars-J that it'll almost certainly be flying a long time before Neutron. But that really just boils down to them having a substantial head start and an insane amount of money at their disposal...that's not a business strategy. Others could follow the RocketLab playbook and be successful, but nobody could do the same for Blue Origin, at least not without convincing somebody to hand them a few billion dollars first.

Offline TrevorMonty

Yeah Lars, tell me about it, which one RL or BO, has working orbital launch business...          ; )

True! But do you think that alone will power Neutron across the finish line before New Glenn? If I were a betting man, I would bet on Blue Origin. But I could certainly be wrong. :)

Here's the real question: which will sooner re-fly a booster? I think this will be a much closer race.
Blue NS already has few times, RL Electron late 2021 or early 2022.

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Offline trimeta

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Yeah Lars, tell me about it, which one RL or BO, has working orbital launch business...          ; )

True! But do you think that alone will power Neutron across the finish line before New Glenn? If I were a betting man, I would bet on Blue Origin. But I could certainly be wrong. :)

Here's the real question: which will sooner re-fly a booster? I think this will be a much closer race.
Blue NS already has few times, RL Electron late 2021 or early 2022.

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Let me rephrase: which will sooner launch with a used booster: New Glenn or Neutron? You could argue that since New Glenn is launching first, and Blue Origin has experience with propulsive landing, it's clearly them, but the loads New Shepard undergoes are much less than a first-stage booster reentry, and Rocket Lab has at least seen what such a reentry does to a booster, so I think it may be closer to a draw. By the time Neutron launches, Electron should be reused, so that experience can go directly into Neutron's design, and I generally have much more faith in Rocket Lab being able to quickly ramp up their flight rate. E.g., if both are reused on their fifth launch, I think Neutron's fifth launch could be before New Glenn's.

Offline TrevorMonty

Will RL build grasshopper or use Electron booster to develop there landing systems.


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Offline jongoff

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Yeah Lars, tell me about it, which one RL or BO, has working orbital launch business...          ; )

True! But do you think that alone will power Neutron across the finish line before New Glenn? If I were a betting man, I would bet on Blue Origin. But I could certainly be wrong. :)

Here's the real question: which will sooner re-fly a booster? I think this will be a much closer race.

Agreed. I did a poll on Twitter on this very topic a few days back. About two thirds thought Blue would fly NG before RL would fly Neutron, but it was a lot closer when I asked who would fly a rocket with a previously flown first stage first. Blue has such a lead that them not getting NG to flight first would be really surprising. But RL could move faster on getting into regular reuse.

~Jon

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