Author Topic: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison  (Read 88999 times)

Offline CorvusCorax

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SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« on: 10/02/2021 11:15 pm »
SpaceX and Blue Origin often get compared.
Both companies were founded at a similar time.
Both companies were considered "new space" when founded.
Both companies were initiated by tech billionaires*1
Both companies set to design and build reusable rockets.
Both companies design their own engines, some of which use methane+oxygen
Both companies fly people on their capsules.
Both companies bid on contracts from NASA, defense and other high profile contracts for programs such as Arthemis
Both companies are somewhat involved with a sat-internet constellation

That is however also more or less where the similarities end.

*1Edit: Admittedly there was a large wealth gap. Technically Musk did not become a billionaire until way past the finance crisis, when SpaceX had already achieved orbit. For the early years SpaceX was very short on cash making orbit on a shoestring budget. See also this article which compares Blue Origin to SpaceX from the perspective of Blue Origin's management:
Revealed: The secret notes of Blue Origin leaders trying to catch SpaceX

Eric Berger obtained notes from a 3 year old study that Blue Origin commissioned to compare itself with SpaceX.

The business concept between the companies has been compared on NSF in recent threads such as:

SpaceX vs Blue Origin - Whose Approach / Business Strategy is Better
Thread 1: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=38883.0
Thread 2: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=48833.0
Thread 3: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=49535.0
Thread 4: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=53186.0

all of which have been closed by mods, with the final conclusion that the companies are now too diverged to even meaningfully compare the business strategy and approach anymore, suggesting the founding of a new more general thread (this one)

The latest staged combustion methalox engine development programs, BE-4 and Raptor have also been compared in detail:
https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=47513

This thread is still open but kind-of stalled due to lack of updates on BE-4 -- while there is continuous data on new Raptor variants emerging, the latest data on BE-4 is over a year old with the only news being that there's no news.

This can also be followed in detail in the single thread with updates about BE-4:
https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=39674.0

And the various threads with updates about Raptor and it's development:
Thread 1: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=41363.0
Thread 2: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=47506.0
Thread 3: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=52988.0
Thread 4: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=53555.0

Now it should be mentioned that SpaceX vs. Blue Origin is a "hot" topic, with "friendly competition" starting on the top with the founders of each companies having fun at each other on twitter, continues in US court rooms throughout quite a number of cases some of which involve 3rd parties such as NASA and FCC (which I would encourage forum members to list and summarize in this thread, since it is quite on-topic) and of course has also led to quite some heated debates in this very forum.

As such the expected life-time of this thread is understandably quite low. But - as with the "Raptor vs BE-4" thread, which has outlived its predicted (in poll) life time with perseverance that borders on "spirit" and "opportunity" - may they rest in the martian sand - members in this forum have repeatedly shown that despite all odds human values such as "staying on topic" - "being excellent to each other" and "arguing against methods, not against people" can prevail - in a community such as this.

The biggest mistake often made - that leads to threads going down the drain - is stating opinions as if they were fact. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and sharing them is fun, but please clearly state what is your opinion and what is a fact that you have a source for. The discussion will be much better that way and have less misunderstandings.

In the Blue corner:
With the goal of millions of people working and living in space.
Founded September 8 2000
aprox 3500 employees
with 1 currently flying vehicle type, 23 successful suborbital launches, 1 failure -  one manned flight
Blue Origin

In the Red corner:
With the goal to colonize Mars and make life multi-planetary.
Founded May 6 2002
aprox 9500 employees
with 4 currently flying vehicle types, 130 successful orbital launches, 4 failures, 4 manned flights (one still ongoing)
Space Exploration Technologies

Let's get this started and collect together as many comparative facts as we can.
« Last Edit: 10/05/2021 09:00 am by CorvusCorax »

Offline RotoSequence

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #1 on: 10/02/2021 11:56 pm »
Both companies have motivated employees that believe in the stated visions of their respective leaders.
In the Red Corner, Elon Musk seems to believe in making humanity multiplanetary by colonizing Mars with his whole heart.
In the Blue Corner, Jeff Bezos doesn't seem to have similar commitment to their stated goals of industrializing cislunar space.
« Last Edit: 10/03/2021 12:55 am by RotoSequence »

Offline RedLineTrain

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #2 on: 10/03/2021 12:23 am »
One contrast is the ownership structure of each.  SpaceX is a venture-backed startup, with the founder owning about 40% of the company. A relatively large portion of employee compensation is from stock awards.  As far as we know, Blue is owned almost entirely by it's founder and hasn't taken on outside investors.  A relatively large portion of employee compensation is from salary.

Both are majority controlled by their founders.

Important to note that the large majority of the market value of SpaceX is from its Starlink satellite service.  Blue's founder also has a future satellite service, but it is held by Amazon, of which he owns a much smaller share.  Some 8%.

These companies compete for some of the same pool of today's best and brightest.
« Last Edit: 10/03/2021 12:29 am by RedLineTrain »

Offline Jimmy Murdok

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #3 on: 10/03/2021 12:35 am »
On a normal scenario, we would all be cheering for BO. SpaceX is the clear dominator and BO would be the number 2 pushing to get a place and compete, we would feel the Rocky effect.
Instead SpaceX still feel fresh, trying new things, fighting the old space while BO is suing NASA on top of a legacy team.

SpaceX is achieving and failing in public, fighting battles in all fronts achieving success here and there, being quite transparent and sharing their passion for what they do.

At this point is not that I’m not cheering for BO is that I’m starting to loose some faith in their capacity to engineer, keep talent and deliver. Rocket Labs, Relativity, Astra or Firefly feel that are managed by a more competent and focused team. BO will have orbital results, but I really hope to see a change in the management that brings them back to my favourites.

Like Fox Mulder would say, I want to believe… but maaan, they make it so hard

Edit:typo
« Last Edit: 10/03/2021 08:06 am by Jimmy Murdok »

Offline Lars-J

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SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #4 on: 10/03/2021 12:36 am »
Did we need a new thread for this?

Haven’t we beaten this “dead horse” enough (the comparison between SpaceX and Blue Origin) that this comparison is? What more is there to discuss that the that all the previous threads linked to by the OP has not yet uncovered?
« Last Edit: 10/03/2021 12:39 am by Lars-J »

Offline CorvusCorax

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #5 on: 10/03/2021 12:59 am »
Both companies have motivated employees that believe in the stated visions of their respective leaders.
In the Red Corner, Elon Musk believes in making mars multiplanetary with his whole heart.
In the Blue Corner, Jeff Bezos doesn't seem to have similar commitment to their stated goals of industrializing cislunar space.

I think we have insufficient information to judge the commitment of each founder "at heart" value. This is "interpretation"

However, what we can objectively compare is their invested effort.

Elon Musk is not just founder but also CEO and chief engineer of SpaceX and personally involved in every major and many minor technical aspects of  the various development programs at SpaceX. This has been the case since early days and documented for example in Eric Berger's book, but also recently demonstrated for example by the recent "Everydayastronaut" interview in Starbase, where Musk was briefed on current affairs regarding the launch mount and other details in front of running cameras.

This leadership style is somewhat controversial and has been criticized by both employees and ex-employees, as Musk is both very demanding and also often micro-managing, but nevertheless SpaceX has impressive results to show for it.

In contrast, according to recent reports Jeff Bezos "doubled his efforts" with Blue Origin, by now spending "2 whole afternoons a week" there to be briefed on the latest updates, while the company is run by a hired CEO, Bob Smith.

Smith interestingly also has a reputation of being micro-managing and he has extensive experience in aerospace research including a PhD in aerospace engineering, worked on Shuttle and for ULA, etc...  but his ability to inspire and motivate the workforce seem to be lacking if recent news reports from ex blue origin employees can be trusted. Also he is not - to my knowledge - financially invested in the company.

So while Blue's founder might be financially invested, and put at least some his money where his mouth is, his involvement seems otherwise minimal and operational questions are left to hired managers.

SpaceX founder had not just invested a significant part of his fortune (in 2008 more or less all he had left) but keeps an ongoing personal investment of time, blood, sweat and tears to a much greater degree.

« Last Edit: 10/03/2021 01:17 am by CorvusCorax »

Offline CorvusCorax

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #6 on: 10/03/2021 01:04 am »
Did we need a new thread for this?

Haven’t we beaten this “dead horse” enough (the comparison between SpaceX and Blue Origin) that this comparison is? What more is there to discuss that the that all the previous threads linked to by the OP has not yet uncovered?

Quite the contrary, this comparison constantly keeps popping up again and again in all sorts of threads where it is clearly off topic and derails whatever technical discussion was meant to happen.
The recent discussion on "business approach/strategy" was stopped by mods because the discussion kept coming back to a more general comparison. So the obvious way forward is - let's have this general comparison, and let's have it right here, that way mods have a place to move anything that pops up elsewhere to - if the quality of the post is high enough to not be outright deleted.

Obviously the discussion in this thread needs some discipline, otherwise the thread won't live long. We all know that :-) Want me to start a poll regarding the expected thread life-time - again?

Offline Joseph Peterson

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #7 on: 10/03/2021 01:34 am »
Did we need a new thread for this?

Haven’t we beaten this “dead horse” enough (the comparison between SpaceX and Blue Origin) that this comparison is? What more is there to discuss that the that all the previous threads linked to by the OP has not yet uncovered?

The last business strategy thread has 788 replies and 124k views.  Like it or not a significant number of NSF members want to read and talk about SpaceX vs BO.  If there is a dedicated thread those conversations can be here instead of mixed throughout other threads.  My opinion is this makes it easier for those who aren't fans of "dead horse" beating to choose to avoid SpaceX vs BO conversations.

Disclaimer:  I happen to be one of those who keeps an eye on the SpaceX vs BO conversation.  I do hope we can be excellent to each other and this thread will say open for a long time.

Offline RedLineTrain

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #8 on: 10/03/2021 01:47 am »
One contrast that we learned today is that Blue operated through the pandemic mostly remotely, while SpaceX operated entirely in person.

Online Coastal Ron

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #9 on: 10/03/2021 02:43 am »
On a normal scenario, we would all be cheering for BO.

I still cheer on Blue Origin the ideal, but what Blue Origin actually is has become kind of fuzzy, so it is hard to cheer something that isn't clear. For instance, the current goal Blue Origin has on their website is:
Quote
We're committed to building a road to space so our children can build the future.

I think that is a less clear goal than what Jeff Bezos used to have, which was something about getting millions of people out into space living and working.

And if Jeff Bezos thinks he is building the road to space, I'm not sure what he would do if SpaceX perfects the Starship transportation system. Change his goal?

So maybe that is a good comparison, in that SpaceX may have found a way to build a fully reusable "road" to space, but Blue Origin is focused on a semi-reusable "road".

My wish is that SpaceX and Blue Origin would NOT be competing with each other because they are focused on the different parts of challenge for expanding humanity out into space. For instance, at this point it may make sense for Blue Origin to focus on what humans will do once they get out into space.

But they ARE competing, to some degree, so comparisons will always be made...  ;)
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 CorvusCorax

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #10 on: 10/03/2021 09:59 am »
My wish is that SpaceX and Blue Origin would NOT be competing with each other because they are focused on the different parts of challenge for expanding humanity out into space. For instance, at this point it may make sense for Blue Origin to focus on what humans will do once they get out into space.

But they ARE competing, to some degree, so comparisons will always be made...  ;)

In a way "healthy" competition would be a good thing. Musk - as far as the SpaceX side is concerned - has repeatedly stated that he welcomes competition, and I think - even though the financial side of SpaceX might be easier to close if there is none - he honestly believes that and the majority of SpaceX workforce also welcomes the challenge. Nothing like a fellow runner on your heels to keep you motivated ;)

So the issue is not that there are competing entities for what SpaceX is doing. There are others, although they have quite a bit to catch up to - Peter Beck's Rocketlab to name one, which originally chose a niche where they are not competing but pivoted more and more to the exact path SpaceX had taken. Which prompted humorous but encouraging comments from SpaceX's founder on twitter and ... well the famous hat-dinner on Peter Beck's side. (Lesson learned: True gourmets eat their hats need sauce, they are too dry otherwise.)

Rocketlab is quite a few years behind SpaceX. But they are launching, orbital, and have a clear path forward that leads them to catch up, so even their existence would force SpaceX to not get complacent. We have seen with Rocosmos, Arianespace and ULA that it only takes a few years of complacency to get overtaken and rendered irrelevant by a newcomer in the market if the rate of innovation is high enough.

But let's not get too deep into the Rocketlab thing (
For background:
Rocketlab vs SpaceX thread: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=45787.0
Rocketlab vs Blue Origin thread: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=53225.0
)

One big issue is, which I think is the reason for your statement, Blue Origin is not being a "healthy" competitor for the most part.
The competing approaches keep falling behind, most drastically with HLS - with an approach that is very "old space" - unambitious in it's road forward and capabilities (some call it Apollo all over again) and overly expensive (whether Blue Origin "gambled" for renegotiations as NASA claimed in their response to GOA, were just greedy, or were incapable of offering at a competitive price, I can't tell)

But Blue Origin then acts like the classroom bully and tries to compete in the court room instead of on the playing field. And this had been the case right from the get-go, utilizing patents to form a moat which SpaceX had to challenge in court, fielding complains with GAO and in court against the HLS award, and using excessive secrecy and muzzle-gags to their employees to reduce the amount of publicly available information to a minimum in the delusional hope of keeping a potential technological advantage that way.

SpaceX definitely has the better approach in that regard. The best strategy to keep a technological advantage over a competitor is a higher speed of innovation. As the "currency" of technological advantage is time (X is n years ahead of Y), this is quite obvious, and at the current rate of innovation, Blue Origin has no real chance of catching up with SpaceX, as they fall behind more with every passing year.

Trying to eliminate or harm competition instead of besting them can be a successful strategy in the right political environment, but it is not something that benefits society as a whole, as it leads to less innovation, not more. NASA has noted that in very non-ambiguous words in their response to GOA, stating that Blue Origin's behaviour is threatening the whole program and the United States chances of getting back to the moon ever.

(This has been quoted multiple times in various threads but I cannot find it right now so I quote the source:
https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/22887155/r_76c___MOL_Blue_Origin_B_419783.1__Final_Corrected_Copy__Public_Redacted.pdf
page 2:
Quote
Plainly stated, a protest sustain in the instant dispute runs the high risk of
creating not just delays for the Artemis program, but that it will never actually achieve its goal
of returning the United States to the Moon. What begins as a mere procurement delay all too
easily turns into a lack of political support, a budget siphoned off for other efforts, and
ultimately, a shelved mission.
)

As such, SpaceX would be better of without competitors, since these legal attempts to hamper and slow down progress are demotivating for the engineers and scientists working on the program - at SpaceX but to an even larger degree at Blue Origin itself, as various recent leaks have demonstrated the workforce' disdain at the leadership's legal strategy as well as badmouthing campaigns against Starship ( quote: "immensely complex and high risk" ) - which completely backfired as SpaceXers are now walking around with T-shirts with that quote and Blue Origin has become the laughing stock of the industry for that shallow smear campaign.

But this also shows Blue Origin is more than just a bunch of trigger happy layers. There are engineers who try to get ambitious projects forward. BE-4 is behind schedule and due to Blue Origin's secrecy, stats and information have been lacking, but it is a sophisticated and ambitious engine development (as I have stated multiple times in the BE-4 vs Raptor thread. If not for Raptor getting developed simultaneously, BE-4 could easily be considered the United States best and most modern high thrust engine development) Similarly New Glenn has potential, if it were only getting anywhere close to an orbital flight. But it's development speed, while seemingly at snail pace compared to Rocketlabs or SpaceX is still heavily "blue shifted" compared to old space cost-plus developments such as SLS or Orion.

So maybe it does come all down to leadership and management, as the top level priorities at Blue seem to be - unhealthy?

Can we somehow phrase that more objective and fact based?
« Last Edit: 10/03/2021 10:00 am by CorvusCorax »

Offline AlexP

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #11 on: 10/03/2021 11:21 am »

I still cheer on Blue Origin the ideal, but what Blue Origin actually is has become kind of fuzzy, so it is hard to cheer something that isn't clear. For instance, the current goal Blue Origin has on their website is:
Quote
We're committed to building a road to space so our children can build the future.

I think that is a less clear goal than what Jeff Bezos used to have, which was something about getting millions of people out into space living and working.

And if Jeff Bezos thinks he is building the road to space, I'm not sure what he would do if SpaceX perfects the Starship transportation system. Change his goal?

So maybe that is a good comparison, in that SpaceX may have found a way to build a fully reusable "road" to space, but Blue Origin is focused on a semi-reusable "road".

My wish is that SpaceX and Blue Origin would NOT be competing with each other because they are focused on the different parts of challenge for expanding humanity out into space. For instance, at this point it may make sense for Blue Origin to focus on what humans will do once they get out into space.

But they ARE competing, to some degree, so comparisons will always be made...  ;)
Even "millions living and working in space" is far too woolly, it's not something the public or even the workforce can really get a hold of and feel it's something that's being aimed for. You can basically say any space company is working towards that.

They've really missed their opportunity to define themselves with the Moon as SpaceX have with Mars, and now SpaceX are eating their lunar lunch as well.

Offline joek

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #12 on: 10/03/2021 01:21 pm »
Even "millions living and working in space" is far too woolly, it's not something the public or even the workforce can really get a hold of and feel it's something that's being aimed for. You can basically say any space company is working towards that.

They've really missed their opportunity to define themselves with the Moon as SpaceX have with Mars, and now SpaceX are eating their lunar lunch as well.

Agree. Always thought Musk's choice of Mars was astute (regardless of what people might think of it). It is tangible enough to be a working and achievable goal, and enough of a stretch to drive SpaceX for years-decades. Not to mention while also developing capabilities which can be applied to cislunar space.

Blue's tangible goals on the other hand don't much differentiate them from other providers. Lower cost of access to space. Check. Go to the moon. Check (sort of). Then what? A miracle occurs? If Blue wants that to happen, they need to better articulate the vision and start pouring concrete around it.

Beyond the "vision thing" there is execution. There are clear differences between SpaceX and Blue which should be Intuitively Obvious to the Casual ObserverTM and addressed up-thread or in other threads. Fundamentally, we can see clear differences in approach. SpaceX has built capabilities and revenue streams, then leveraged those to take the next step. Blue appears to want to take the next step first, or skip some of those steps.

Offline ulm_atms

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #13 on: 10/03/2021 01:27 pm »
I think we have insufficient information to judge the commitment of each founder "at heart" value. This is "interpretation"
snip...

I agree with everything you say except this part.

Over all this time, I personally think we do.  Elon is WAY more committed to SpaceX then Jeff is committed to BO.  If something thinks otherwise...I would love to hear the reason(s) why.

Elon literally put all his money where his mouth was with F1 #4....orbit or bust.  Can anyone say Jeff would of done that?

Offline meekGee

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #14 on: 10/03/2021 04:13 pm »
Even "millions living and working in space" is far too woolly, it's not something the public or even the workforce can really get a hold of and feel it's something that's being aimed for. You can basically say any space company is working towards that.

They've really missed their opportunity to define themselves with the Moon as SpaceX have with Mars, and now SpaceX are eating their lunar lunch as well.

Agree. Always thought Musk's choice of Mars was astute (regardless of what people might think of it). It is tangible enough to be a working and achievable goal, and enough of a stretch to drive SpaceX for years-decades. Not to mention while also developing capabilities which can be applied to cislunar space.

Blue's tangible goals on the other hand don't much differentiate them from other providers. Lower cost of access to space. Check. Go to the moon. Check (sort of). Then what? A miracle occurs? If Blue wants that to happen, they need to better articulate the vision and start pouring concrete around it.

Beyond the "vision thing" there is execution. There are clear differences between SpaceX and Blue which should be Intuitively Obvious to the Casual ObserverTM and addressed up-thread or in other threads. Fundamentally, we can see clear differences in approach. SpaceX has built capabilities and revenue streams, then leveraged those to take the next step. Blue appears to want to take the next step first, or skip some of those steps.
I don't think Musk chose it for its various inspirational/practical qualities.  I think he wants to settle Mars since it's the logical place to set up a colony. The advantages you list are true, but they are a consequence of that.

There's a subtle difference here, but I think that difference makes, well, ahem, the difference.



ABCD - Always Be Counting Down
« Last Edit: 10/03/2021 04:50 pm by meekGee »
ABCD - Always Be Counting Down

Offline CorvusCorax

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #15 on: 10/03/2021 06:56 pm »
Even "millions living and working in space" is far too woolly, it's not something the public or even the workforce can really get a hold of and feel it's something that's being aimed for. You can basically say any space company is working towards that.

They've really missed their opportunity to define themselves with the Moon as SpaceX have with Mars, and now SpaceX are eating their lunar lunch as well.

Agree. Always thought Musk's choice of Mars was astute (regardless of what people might think of it). It is tangible enough to be a working and achievable goal, and enough of a stretch to drive SpaceX for years-decades. Not to mention while also developing capabilities which can be applied to cislunar space.

Blue's tangible goals on the other hand don't much differentiate them from other providers. Lower cost of access to space. Check. Go to the moon. Check (sort of). Then what? A miracle occurs? If Blue wants that to happen, they need to better articulate the vision and start pouring concrete around it.

Beyond the "vision thing" there is execution. There are clear differences between SpaceX and Blue which should be Intuitively Obvious to the Casual ObserverTM and addressed up-thread or in other threads. Fundamentally, we can see clear differences in approach. SpaceX has built capabilities and revenue streams, then leveraged those to take the next step. Blue appears to want to take the next step first, or skip some of those steps.
I don't think Musk chose it for its various inspirational/practical qualities.  I think he wants to settle Mars since it's the logical place to set up a colony. The advantages you list are true, but they are a consequence of that.

There's a subtle difference here, but I think that difference makes, well, ahem, the difference.

ABCD - Always Be Counting Down

This is a good point. We know that the stated goal of SpaceX is identical to the reason the company was founded. Musk had the goal of going to Mars first, he only then noticed (after the famous escapade with the Russian ICBMs) that the only way to achieve this goal is to found a rocket company and have it successfully develop a fully and rapidly reusable launch system. As such SpaceX goes that mind with utmost dedication. Even side-projects such as Starlink are just a means to have sufficient funding to reach Mars.

Granted some people dispute that and claim the whole Mars story is just a PR stunt by Musk, but I think there is sufficient evidence to be found on NSF and in L2 to say with certainty that SpaceX truly exists to make life multiplanetary. As such its easy for the workforce to get behind that goal, because it's consistent and believable. There won't be a case at SpaceX where an employee is lured in by that goal and then disillusioned because he ends up working on and towards something completely unrelated.

Now Blue Origin has stated it was funded with the goal to enable a vast in-space economy, but the main problem is that this goal as stated does not come with as clear a roadmap how to reach it. As such even the marks that exist on Blue Origin's roadmap are a bit arbitrary and it is nowhere as clear how they will lead to the stated goal.

The suborbital space tourist business, while providing useful pathfinders for rocket vertical takeoff, control and landing, and things like life support and auxilliary spacecraft systems - is in itself a dead end. It's nothing but a glorified and hyper-expensive rollercoaster ride and barely longer than that. There's a minor scientific advantage for suborbital payloads in keeping them pressurized and under more benign loads than on sounding rockets, but Virgin can likely offer the same cheaper and better - and most importantly - could scale it up to a larger spaceplane that could seat a hundred people if the concept ends up financially viable, something not possible with a capsule.

No other venture by Blue Origin has even gotten close to operational level.

New Glenn will have a hard time being competitive in a market squeezed between Rocketlabs Electron and Neutron from below, SpaceX Falcon 9 from the side and Starship from above, simply because it enters too late and at a technological level that will be outdated and non-competitive from the get go. That severely hampers the growth potential, so the chance of it significantly advancing a space economy are limited. It might at best be able to provide affordable launches for Amazon's project Kuiper, but even that project is a LEO constellation for earth - with no roadmap forward towards a significant in-space economy.

Project Jarvis might be able to give New Glenn an edge over the current direct competition, but considering SpaceX has considered a reusable upper stage for quite some time and abandoned it as not feasible in favor of Starship, it's hard to see how Blue Origin could get this to an operational level at a time at which it still matters. It would have to happen before Starship becomes operational as a reliable payload carrier, and even then it would have less growth potential than the latter.

BE-4 engines will be sold to ULA and likely generate some revenue, but the amounts of engines sold will not be a game changer, with the largest growth potential still being on the New Glenn side.

HLS and blue moon - as designed by the national team was a "flags and footprints" design heavily influenced by Apollo and - as NASA rightfully criticized - had little growth potential into any futuristic space economy scenario. Any upscaling for a sustainable presence would have required a complete redesign.

That means the only projects that might have any real potential to actually provide as much as a road towards a sustainable in space economy with growth potential is the still elusive and top secret New Armstrong project.

Which to the majority of Blue Origin's workforce seems to be complete vaporware.

This was OK, when New Armstrong was first mentioned in 2016 because one could assume that it was equally advanced as SpaceX future project - at that point in time called "Interplanetary Transport System" (ITS) was an early stage development project and it could be assumed Blue Origin could have internally have a similarly (not yet) advanced development project.

But in 2021, with Starship prototypes flying repeatedly and the first orbital flight attempt planned for later this or early next year, it's clear that Starship will be a competitor for New Glenn, not New Armstrong, and New Armstrong won't be flight ready until well after Starship is likely well established, possibly having to compete with whatever SpaceX will make **after** Starship
(Such as a speculated fully reusable 12 or 15 meter vehicle)

And under the current conditions it becomes clear to past and current Blue Origin employees and anyone seeking a job in the space industry that the fastest route to "millions of people living and working in space" takes a shortcut past Blue Origin and likely might utilize the SpaceX express highway - even though this road is technically going to Mars.

Because slow is smooth and smooth is easy and easy is not trying hard enough.

So what could Blue Origin do better?

I'd say a goal based roadmap would work.

Q: What could provide income for millions of people to work in space?
A: Asteroid mining and giant habitable space stations providing an in space economy.

Q: What is needed to mine asteroids and build these giant space stations?
A: Giant - in space refuelable rockets to haul ore and building material, deep space propellant synthesis on/near to be mined asteroids, and ginormous in space robotic assembly plants.

There's obviously a bit of a chicken egg problem as you need the giant assembly plants to make giant deep space transporters, asteroid mining to build the assembly plants but there's several ways to solve that.

One way could be giant rockets launching material from earth. This is a convenient first step, the one SpaceX took, but Starship would be way too small in this case. Blue Origin could be working on a launcher with 1000 tons payload capability. A true space superfreighter.

Another way is automation. Blue Origin could work on in space - self replicating - 3d printers that get deployed to an asteroid and slowly turn that asteroid into useful machinery - basically bootstrapping a space economy using raw materials and robotics only.
Although that would kind rise the question why you'd still want millions of people working in space, if the robots can do it better and more efficient without wetware.

One could also do something in the middle or a combination of both.

Each of those approaches would lead to the world thinking Jeff Bezoz has gone completely bonkers and megalomanic, as these approaches are far beyond what anyone has ever attempted, but they would be valid roadmaps to what Blue Origin's stated goal actually is. And they said the same about Elon Musk. Repeatedly.

So maybe Blue's problem is that they consistently aimed far too low and unambitious.

Offline joek

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #16 on: 10/03/2021 07:12 pm »
I don't think Musk chose it for its various inspirational/practical qualities.  I think he wants to settle Mars since it's the logical place to set up a colony. The advantages you list are true, but they are a consequence of that.

Hmmm... "since it's the logical place to set up a colony"? Agree. That it is a "consequence of that"? Disagree. It was and is a significant factor. Close enough to realize; far enough to drive aspirations.

Back to the point of this thread: Where does that leave Blue? Think there is plenty of room for Blue to occupy somewhere in between (or beyond) but they have not done so. They need to do so in a more concrete fashion.
« Last Edit: 10/03/2021 07:13 pm by joek »

Offline trimeta

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #17 on: 10/03/2021 07:28 pm »
I've often thought that if Blue Origin wanted a "moonshot" in the same way that SpaceX has Mars colonization, they should have gone for "create a reason for millions of people to live and work in space." One of the big issues with that potential future is the lack of industries which are economical to do in space: no one's going to put stuff in orbit solely to reduce terrestrial pollution, there has to be a profit motive. Blue Origin could have focused on making in-space habitats significantly cheaper (to reduce cost overheads), or advancing in-space manufacturing for materials that actually require zero-gee (like organs and ZBLAN fiber optics). Instead they went with a "if we build it (launch capacity), they will come" mentality -- which falls apart when someone else (SpaceX) builds it better. At that point, if you truly believe in Blue Origin's vision, you can best accomplish it by working for SpaceX.

Offline punder

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #18 on: 10/03/2021 07:45 pm »
In a world free of Jeff’s ego, BO’s best bet at this point would be selling its rocket engine business to ULA, then concentrating on habitat modules, highly efficient in-space tugs, large deployable structures technology, etc., all designed for the Starship payload bay. In other words, focusing on creating in-space infrastructure for people living and working in space, the stated original goal of BO.

Not holding my breath.  :)

Offline CorvusCorax

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #19 on: 10/03/2021 07:52 pm »
In a world free of Jeff’s ego, BO’s best bet at this point would be selling its rocket engine business to ULA, then concentrating on habitat modules, highly efficient in-space tugs, large deployable structures technology, etc., all designed for the Starship payload bay. In other words, focusing on creating in-space infrastructure for people living and working in space, the stated original goal of BO.

Not holding my breath.  :)

Let's add large scale in-space manufacturing to the list. Also in-space propellant synthesis. Basically anything needed for an industry except "getting there". All of that is needed and SpaceX isn't bothering to work on it yet in the hopes someone else would do it.

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