Author Topic: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison  (Read 89180 times)

Online trimeta

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #40 on: 10/04/2021 10:21 pm »
Remember when Elon ditched a load of the Starlink management a couple of years ago, for progress he thought was too slow? Way overdue Jeff doing something similar, or even more radical.

I mentioned it in the General Discussion thread that's since been locked, but I have to imagine that if there's general dissatisfaction with Bob Smith's leadership within Blue Origin, and employees keep seeing these leaks painting him in a bad light, it gives them more incentive to leak even more, hoping to force Jeff's hand and get Bob fired.

Offline noogie

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #41 on: 10/04/2021 10:36 pm »

I think itís lack of leadership, not vision. The nearer term vision is full reusability, being the post office / UPS of near Earth commerce, providing the infrastructure for others to use to build new space businesses / industry. Ok, maybe not as seductive to some as people on Mars? I think the case could be made itís more impactful.

IMHO the leadership - I suspect both managerial and technical - just hasnít been there to make it happen and drive it through.

I think vision does an important thing - getting leadership and the company as whole focusing on what is important and ditching what isn't.
I think instead you have a company that is structured to satisfy Jeff Bezos' next whim rather than one that can execute on a vision.

Offline niwax

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #42 on: 10/04/2021 11:19 pm »
That is very interesting but I think that it misses the root issue.
Jeff Bezos doesn't seem to have a vision to guide the company - something in between the here and now and "millions of people living and working in space" that is too nebulous to act as a corporate vision.
I think that if you dig hard enough, many of the issues with Blue Origin will be from this absence of vision.

I think itís lack of leadership, not vision. The nearer term vision is full reusability, being the post office / UPS of near Earth commerce, providing the infrastructure for others to use to build new space businesses / industry. Ok, maybe not as seductive to some as people on Mars? I think the case could be made itís more impactful.

IMHO the leadership - I suspect both managerial and technical - just hasnít been there to make it happen and drive it through.

I don't see how that's a graspable or impactful vision.

Getting rid of polluting industry? Sure. Great vision and impactful. But where does space figure into it? We make stuff on Earth because that's where it's consumed and that's where the resources are. What exactly should we move to space? Yeah, steel production is very polluting, but Blues investment levels could retrofit ten plants a year to sustainable production instead. Dumping it in from space would be utterly insane. The same goes for basically every single industrial process out there. Moving all industry into a dead Australian desert and airlifting everything would be ten times more fuel efficient...

The big cylinder habitats they show in their pictures are literally the opposite: They are the result of a massive industrial effort to support life in free floating space. There is nothing out there other than being there for the sake of it. Sure, you could say that the processes needed to make that happen would be industry in space, but that is for consumption by a colonisation program and makes no difference on Earth. And surely they would mention free space colonization as their headline then? Otherwise that would be like SpaceX saying their vision was advanced suit technology.
Which booster has the most soot? SpaceX booster launch history! (discussion)

Offline CorvusCorax

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #43 on: 10/04/2021 11:26 pm »

I think vision does an important thing - getting leadership and the company as whole focusing on what is important and ditching what isn't.
I think instead you have a company that is structured to satisfy Jeff Bezos' next whim rather than one that can execute on a vision.

I agree on the vision part. A vision needs to be truthful and ingrained. As I wrote way earlier, Musk *founded* SpaceX to go to mars - there was never even as much as a question to that goal. Many companies have these mottos or visions "by design" - likely thought up by a marketing consultant - just to give employees something to identify with, but its not really truthful as the shareholders might just want to maximize profits.

Although the question is what the shareholder at BO actually wants in the long run. It looks at times like BO is more of a hobby than intended as a profitable company.

However I don't think we know enough about Jeff Bezos to accuse him of driving BO based on "whims" as you implied. From what I read in this and other threads the problem seems to me more lack of involvement than random interference that seems to be the issue.

There is definitely and objectively a problem with an "old space" management. It seems that while - 3 years ago - all the issues were named and reported to Bob Smith - but nothing happened. Was it Jeff Bezos who was reluctant to embrace a more SpacX-ish culture despite the suggestions or was it Bob Smith who canceled that notion?

As trimeta wrote above, there seems to be an increasing dissatisfaction in Blue Origin with the person of the CEO and also his team of old space buddies he brought in as managers to lead Blue Origin in executive roles.

We do know Jeff Bezos would have been happy to have the company led by Gwynne Shotwell instead - who would certainly have installed a more SpaceX-like culture back in the day. Sadly (for BO) and thankfully (for SpaceX) she declined.

So all things considered I think Bob Smith is likely to be blamed for the state of affairs at Blue Origin, while Bezos largest fault seems to be having the company run by the wrong people and not getting involved himself.

I don't see evidence for this "to satisfy Jeff Bezos' next whim" claim.

Online AU1.52

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #44 on: 10/04/2021 11:28 pm »
That is very interesting but I think that it misses the root issue.
Jeff Bezos doesn't seem to have a vision to guide the company - something in between the here and now and "millions of people living and working in space" that is too nebulous to act as a corporate vision.
I think that if you dig hard enough, many of the issues with Blue Origin will be from this absence of vision.

I think itís lack of leadership, not vision. The nearer term vision is full reusability, being the post office / UPS of near Earth commerce, providing the infrastructure for others to use to build new space businesses / industry. Ok, maybe not as seductive to some as people on Mars? I think the case could be made itís more impactful.

IMHO the leadership - I suspect both managerial and technical - just hasnít been there to make it happen and drive it through.


Their other problem is there is no sense of urgency in what they are trying to do. This can be seen by the lack of engagement from Bezos.  Elon knows we only have a limited window to make humanity multiplanetary and just has a great urgency to do all he can. With that you can achieve a lot. Similar to what the USA and the west achieved during WWII - the urgency to end the war ASAP. One thing we all have now as a result are computers. We have space rockets was the result of the cold war!

Offline noogie

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #45 on: 10/04/2021 11:36 pm »

I don't see evidence for this "to satisfy Jeff Bezos' next whim" claim.

I think it is writ large in their HLS actions.
It's clear why SpaceX wanted that contract - it lets them build out technologies for Starship that also let them go to Mars.
Why does Jeff Bezos want that contract so bad that Blue Origin has done what they have done to date?
How does it fit into their wider goals and vision? To me, it smacks of Bezos chasing after the next shiny thing that has his attention at this moment.

Offline AlexP

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #46 on: 10/04/2021 11:50 pm »
That is very interesting but I think that it misses the root issue.
Jeff Bezos doesn't seem to have a vision to guide the company - something in between the here and now and "millions of people living and working in space" that is too nebulous to act as a corporate vision.
I think that if you dig hard enough, many of the issues with Blue Origin will be from this absence of vision.

I think itís lack of leadership, not vision. The nearer term vision is full reusability, being the post office / UPS of near Earth commerce, providing the infrastructure for others to use to build new space businesses / industry. Ok, maybe not as seductive to some as people on Mars? I think the case could be made itís more impactful.

IMHO the leadership - I suspect both managerial and technical - just hasnít been there to make it happen and drive it through.
Is this *The Vision*, though? Full reusability is something that's only recently being pushed, with another of Berger's articles suggesting that Bezos asked his higher-ups about upper stage reusability and was told it would be unlikely to work. And their big project for HLS was expensive, expendable and unsustainable. Maybe New Armstrong is a big part of the vision, but neither we nor apparently most people at Blue know what that is. Is their vision just cheap launch (or really, cheaper launch than there was ten years back)?

I know it's fashionable to bash Bob Smith, but really if he got this report 3 years ago and things have got even worse (gap to SpaceX-wise) since then, what is the point of him?


I don't see evidence for this "to satisfy Jeff Bezos' next whim" claim.

I think it is writ large in their HLS actions.
It's clear why SpaceX wanted that contract - it lets them build out technologies for Starship that also let them go to Mars.
Why does Jeff Bezos want that contract so bad that Blue Origin has done what they have done to date?
How does it fit into their wider goals and vision? To me, it smacks of Bezos chasing after the next shiny thing that has his attention at this moment.

I don't think this is fair, the Moon HAS been a mentioned target them for some time and getting big funding (and, perhaps more importantly, co-operation) from NASA for it would be a big thing for any company, just as SpaceX getting CRS and Commercial Crew was important for Falcon and Dragon. The problem was that the system itself wasn't good.

Offline CorvusCorax

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #47 on: 10/05/2021 12:12 am »

I don't see evidence for this "to satisfy Jeff Bezos' next whim" claim.

I think it is writ large in their HLS actions.
It's clear why SpaceX wanted that contract - it lets them build out technologies for Starship that also let them go to Mars.
Why does Jeff Bezos want that contract so bad that Blue Origin has done what they have done to date?
How does it fit into their wider goals and vision? To me, it smacks of Bezos chasing after the next shiny thing that has his attention at this moment.

I don't think this is fair, the Moon HAS been a mentioned target them for some time and getting big funding (and, perhaps more importantly, co-operation) from NASA for it would be a big thing for any company, just as SpaceX getting CRS and Commercial Crew was important for Falcon and Dragon. The problem was that the system itself wasn't good.

This! Getting to the moon - and a moonlander - if this was what Bezos wanted is in itself not bad from a vision perspective.

But the way the National Team's HLS bid was designed had "old space" written all over it. A giant consortium, all wanting a slice of the cake. A minimal effort solution - involving things the players all might already have had in their drawers - minimal development of new things. I dare say this seems to be Bob Smith handwriting. He would be the type of manager who has this type of thinking ingrained, the connections to get the consortium together across the industry (using personal connections) with the obvious goal of milking the taxpayer - by means of NASA.
Getting the most buck for the bang so to speak.

This is not Bezos handwriting. Bezos neither had the connections in that industry nor the very aerospace+defense specific milking approach. This was something one would expect much more from the likes of "Boeing" than from "Amazon"

Sorry - my bad. Boeing actually wasn't being to blame this time - National team was Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin - but I assume you get my drift ;)

SpaceX approach was the exact opposite. There was no consortium, no extra pockets to fill, only a brilliant (although ambitious) technical approach.
« Last Edit: 10/05/2021 12:18 am by CorvusCorax »

Online matthewkantar

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #48 on: 10/05/2021 12:48 am »
A risky, but I think compelling idea: Bezos should tell B.O. they have another five years at current funding levels, after that they are on their own, no more gravy train.


Offline joek

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #49 on: 10/05/2021 01:05 am »
A risky, but I think compelling idea: Bezos should tell B.O. they have another five years at current funding levels, after that they are on their own, no more gravy train.

Agree there needs to be additional discipline-focus. Not sure that is the best way to handle it, but certainly one way. Would hope and expect Executive management would figure that out sooner rather than later. And if they cannot, then Bezos needs to put his foot down. Soon. Not sanguine of that happening anytime soon based on past performance.

p.s. Common problem... have been through a couple start-up's where infusion of capital was probably the worst thing that happened. Everyone slacked off and things went down-hill from there.

Offline M.E.T.

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #50 on: 10/05/2021 01:52 am »
A few hard truths in no particular order:

Firstly, Blue sees the ďvisionĒ as a tool through which to get more from their employees. They feel they need a vision to inspire their people. By contrast, SpaceX inspires people BECAUSE they have a vision. Subtle, but massive difference. One is authentic, the other is a tool for behavioural manipulation.

My second point is more controversial, but seems supported by the evidence: Not to be ageist, but I donít think you could match SpaceXís pace with an older workforce. Their model is indeed built on the ďsports teamĒ approach. Source young talent, get the maximum from them for 5-10 years and then get new talent.

What makes this beneficial to all involved is that once they leave SpaceX, employees have a resume and experience that can take them to almost any ďmore traditionalĒ space company they choose. (Not to mention their stock options). But that doesnít mean they will replicate their former efforts at the new company, because the very reason they are moving on is to enter a new phase of their lives, perhaps start a family, scale down the 80 hour weeks, etc.

This works for SpaceX, works for the employees, but doesnít necessarily allow competitors to duplicate SpaceXís productivity.
« Last Edit: 10/05/2021 01:57 am by M.E.T. »

Offline AlexP

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #51 on: 10/05/2021 01:58 am »
A risky, but I think compelling idea: Bezos should tell B.O. they have another five years at current funding levels, after that they are on their own, no more gravy train.
Is that the real problem, though? Let's not forget that reportedly one big problem with the BE4 testing program was that they didn't resource it with enough hardware, meaning long waits when they ran into problems and needed more parts. Iterative testing is necessarily expensive in the short term, maybe resulting in a good deal of hardware scrapped as obsolete. But it needs to be contingent on tangible results.

Online Comga

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #52 on: 10/05/2021 02:01 am »
A nit with the OP:
Musk was not a billionaire when he started SpaceX.
He had hundreds of millions from PayPal but under a half billion.
No idea Bezos’ net worth just after the start of this century but he was way ahead in wealth.

Musk made his billions partly from SpaceX, his new-space endeavor, and mostly from Tesla, which is not as disparate from SpaceX as Blue is from Amazon
« Last Edit: 10/05/2021 02:02 am by Comga »
What kind of wastrels would dump a perfectly good booster in the ocean after just one use?

Offline c4fusion

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #53 on: 10/05/2021 06:37 am »
A nit with the OP:
Musk was not a billionaire when he started SpaceX.
He had hundreds of millions from PayPal but under a half billion.
No idea Bezosí net worth just after the start of this century but he was way ahead in wealth.

Musk made his billions partly from SpaceX, his new-space endeavor, and mostly from Tesla, which is not as disparate from SpaceX as Blue is from Amazon

Not trying to dog pile the OP, but I remember like 5 years ago when people argued that Blue Origin would beat or at least match SpaceX in a few years due to the wealth gap between the 2.

Offline woods170

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #54 on: 10/05/2021 07:54 am »
That is very interesting but I think that it misses the root issue.
Jeff Bezos doesn't seem to have a vision to guide the company - something in between the here and now and "millions of people living and working in space" that is too nebulous to act as a corporate vision.
I think that if you dig hard enough, many of the issues with Blue Origin will be from this absence of vision.

I think itís lack of leadership, not vision. The nearer term vision is full reusability, being the post office / UPS of near Earth commerce, providing the infrastructure for others to use to build new space businesses / industry. Ok, maybe not as seductive to some as people on Mars? I think the case could be made itís more impactful.

IMHO the leadership - I suspect both managerial and technical - just hasnít been there to make it happen and drive it through.

Having a vision is one thing. Having good leadership is another. Musk labored hard to have both. And he succeeded. He managed to put extremely capable people in the right leadership positions whilst holding on to his vision in everything he did.

But, having a vision and having the right leadership are only half the story. You can have a vision all you want but without a clearly defined path to achieve that vision, you'll never make the vision a reality.

And that is where Musk is far, far ahead of Bezos. Elon's vision was clear from day one: Get to Mars.
But Elon also figured out how to do it:

1. Get to orbit first (Falcon 1) with a minimal viable product.
2. Use the gained knowledge and experience to get to orbit routinely and start making money (Falcon 9 v1.0)
3. Start figuring out reusability (Falcon 9 v1.1 and further) to dramatically drop the cost of access to space.
4. Improve performance and upscale the rocket to drop cost even further (Falcon 9 v1.2 and further, FH)
5. "Steal underpants" to get much more funding, because Mars will be quite expensive. This is where Elon's prior Silicon Valley experience came in. The "steal underpants" morphed into "wideband internet EVERYWHERE on the planet" (Starlink)
6. Factor in all previously gained experience to get to full reusability and only then start developing the Mars system (Starship development).
7. Get the Mars system operational in existing markets (GEO comsat, LEO) to make even more money.
8. Take the step to Mars.

Additionally to having the path figured out Elon also knew that he would need all the technical help he could get and all the money he could get. Which is why he tried to get NASA and DoD involved from Day 1. And it worked. DoD invested in Falcon 1 and everything that came after it, including Starship (via Raptor). And NASA hopped aboard the minute F1-Flight 4 convinced NASA that SpaceX was not just another Beal Aerospace.

So, per the thread title, how does this compare to Blue?

Well, Jeff has a vision: Millions of people living and working in space. But he lacked a clearly defined path to get there. And he lacked the commitment. Where Musk throws ALL his time at Tesla and Space, Bezos kept Blue around as a hobby project, only recently increasing from one afternoon each week to two afternoons.

Bezos recognized that reusabilty would be needed to dramatically lower cost of access to space. But he failed in understanding that this means also cutting internal cost (which is remarkable considering the way he runs Amazon). Spending $1B on a set of brand new factory buildings and tooling does not equal "cutting internal cost".
Musk on the other hand always tried to get used (and thus cheap) facilities. Just look at El Segundo and Hawthorne. Starship is being built in tents and relatively cheap basic structures like the Boca Chica windbreaks and mid/high bays. Or jus look at the famous story of how LC-40 got its LOX storage tank for a mere $80K. It may not seem that way when viewing recent developments at Boca Chica, but "Super Scrappy" is still very much a way of life at SpaceX.

Bezos also failed to get the right leadership. Exactly because there was no clear-cut path forward, there was no real insight into what leadership was needed. In combination with Jeff's lackluster personal commitment this is what what got them Bob Smith.

But, it's time to get back to the subject of a the lack of a clearly defined path forward: For the first ten years of its existence Blue was basically figuring out how to vertically land a rocket. A suborbital rocket in fact. The next logical step would have been to go for a minimal viable orbital rocket to start making money by entering the comsat and LEO market. But that is not what Blue did. Instead Bezos dreamt up New Glenn. A monster rocket the size of Falcon Heavy. That is way too big a step from a suborbital vehicle to orbit. And it shows: the rocket is late, the engines are late due to huge development issues.

Compared to that the path SpaceX took was much smarter: start with a small, but viable rocket, needing only a simple engine. The next iteration was larger, but not too large, using an improved version of the same simple engine. Once SpaceX got that flying they applied the "Thor-Delta principle": Stretch the tanks and continue iterating and improving on your engine design. Than take another page from Delta history and bundle three of those cores to get a real heavy lifter. That worked like a charm, exactly because they factored in reusability only after the first two rocket designs were flying.

But Bezos on the other hand is trying to do AND Falcon Heavy-sized heavy lifter AND maximum reusability all in once. In doing so he over-stretched the capabilities of his company by a huge amount. Which is why BE-4 is years behind schedule and New Glenn is delayed many years.

Offline CorvusCorax

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #55 on: 10/05/2021 08:58 am »
A nit with the OP:
Musk was not a billionaire when he started SpaceX.
He had hundreds of millions from PayPal but under a half billion.
No idea Bezosí net worth just after the start of this century but he was way ahead in wealth.

Musk made his billions partly from SpaceX, his new-space endeavor, and mostly from Tesla, which is not as disparate from SpaceX as Blue is from Amazon

Great point - I edited the O-post to reflect that. It's a small but important detail since it had huge impact on the companies cultures which now, 20 years later - seems to make all the difference. As reflected by Eric Bergers latest article linked above.

Offline CorvusCorax

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #56 on: 10/05/2021 09:58 am »

Having a vision is one thing. Having good leadership is another. Musk labored hard to have both. And he succeeded. He managed to put extremely capable people in the right leadership positions whilst holding on to his vision in everything he did.

But, having a vision and having the right leadership are only half the story. You can have a vision all you want but without a clearly defined path to achieve that vision, you'll never make the vision a reality.

And that is where Musk is far, far ahead of Bezos. Elon's vision was clear from day one: Get to Mars.
But Elon also figured out how to do it:

1. Get to orbit first (Falcon 1) with a minimal viable product.
2. Use the gained knowledge and experience to get to orbit routinely and start making money (Falcon 9 v1.0)
3. Start figuring out reusability (Falcon 9 v1.1 and further) to dramatically drop the cost of access to space.
4. Improve performance and upscale the rocket to drop cost even further (Falcon 9 v1.2 and further, FH)
5. "Steal underpants" to get much more funding, because Mars will be quite expensive. This is where Elon's prior Silicon Valley experience came in. The "steal underpants" morphed into "wideband internet EVERYWHERE on the planet" (Starlink)
6. Factor in all previously gained experience to get to full reusability and only then start developing the Mars system (Starship development).
7. Get the Mars system operational in existing markets (GEO comsat, LEO) to make even more money.
8. Take the step to Mars.

Additionally to having the path figured out Elon also knew that he would need all the technical help he could get and all the money he could get. Which is why he tried to get NASA and DoD involved from Day 1. And it worked. DoD invested in Falcon 1 and everything that came after it, including Starship (via Raptor). And NASA hopped aboard the minute F1-Flight 4 convinced NASA that SpaceX was not just another Beal Aerospace.

So, per the thread title, how does this compare to Blue?

Well, Jeff has a vision: Millions of people living and working in space. But he lacked a clearly defined path to get there. And he lacked the commitment. Where Musk throws ALL his time at Tesla and Space, Bezos kept Blue around as a hobby project, only recently increasing from one afternoon each week to two afternoons.

Bezos recognized that reusabilty would be needed to dramatically lower cost of access to space. But he failed in understanding that this means also cutting internal cost (which is remarkable considering the way he runs Amazon). Spending $1B on a set of brand new factory buildings and tooling does not equal "cutting internal cost".
Musk on the other hand always tried to get used (and thus cheap) facilities. Just look at El Segundo and Hawthorne. Starship is being built in tents and relatively cheap basic structures like the Boca Chica windbreaks and mid/high bays. Or jus look at the famous story of how LC-40 got its LOX storage tank for a mere $80K. It may not seem that way when viewing recent developments at Boca Chica, but "Super Scrappy" is still very much a way of life at SpaceX.

Bezos also failed to get the right leadership. Exactly because there was no clear-cut path forward, there was no real insight into what leadership was needed. In combination with Jeff's lackluster personal commitment this is what what got them Bob Smith.

But, it's time to get back to the subject of a the lack of a clearly defined path forward: For the first ten years of its existence Blue was basically figuring out how to vertically land a rocket. A suborbital rocket in fact. The next logical step would have been to go for a minimal viable orbital rocket to start making money by entering the comsat and LEO market. But that is not what Blue did. Instead Bezos dreamt up New Glenn. A monster rocket the size of Falcon Heavy. That is way too big a step from a suborbital vehicle to orbit. And it shows: the rocket is late, the engines are late due to huge development issues.

Compared to that the path SpaceX took was much smarter: start with a small, but viable rocket, needing only a simple engine. The next iteration was larger, but not too large, using an improved version of the same simple engine. Once SpaceX got that flying they applied the "Thor-Delta principle": Stretch the tanks and continue iterating and improving on your engine design. Than take another page from Delta history and bundle three of those cores to get a real heavy lifter. That worked like a charm, exactly because they factored in reusability only after the first two rocket designs were flying.

But Bezos on the other hand is trying to do AND Falcon Heavy-sized heavy lifter AND maximum reusability all in once. In doing so he over-stretched the capabilities of his company by a huge amount. Which is why BE-4 is years behind schedule and New Glenn is delayed many years.

Hindsight is 20/20.  Musk's vision was clear, but SpaceX path was not as clear cut as you make it sound. Initially it was something like:

1. Build a small, really cheap rocket and make orbit.
2. Start making some money.
3. Make that rocket 1st stage reuseable (add parachutes)
4. Make more money (higher profit margin)
5. Scale up
6. Make even more money with larger sats.
7. Figure out upper stage reuseability (Entry, Descent and Landing)
8. Have the cheapest launcher possible.
9. Scale up more, so (7) can get used on Mars
10. Send the colonists
-- and somewhere on the way figure out life support, propellant synthesis on Mars and all the other things one can deal with when needed.

They managed step 1, and almost went bankrupt in the process because the first 3 launches failed.
By then they had a number of contracts, but it already became obvious that re-use by parachute simply wasn't working and a different strategy was needed - which needed a bigger vehicle.
With the commercial cargo contract under the belt, SpaceX pivoted, shelved all the small rockets - Falcon1, Falcon5, and went straight up to the Medium Lift rocket Falcon9. Working on capsules and EDL for them.
But reuse still didn't work, so a propulsive method had to be developed (Grasshopper)
Similar roadblocks were encountered with upper stage reuse, leading to the jawdrop announcement that Falcon would effectively be retired (after a sensible transition period) in favor of Starship.

All in all the roadmap has been less of a highway and more a jungle that the SpaceX managers keep trying to hack a walkable path through with a machete. They always knew the direction they want to go, but not in advance if a particular valley is traversable or ends up in front of a cliff. As such SpaceX had to back-pedal a few times.

Blue Origin had a different approach, they went the suborbital route to try out technology with much less risk for New Shepherd, but if I remember right, they planned to land propulsively right from the get go (which also led to this patent dispute regarding landing on a ship)

As such in a way Blue actually had the better and more detailed roadmap in the beginning, which they also stick to. Maybe (quite likely) they are sticking to it a bit too much (sunk cost fallacy and such) when a path planned for ends up more difficult or less optimal than anticipated.

But most importantly, they are just way too slow. There is not enough drive and not enough willingness to stray from the plan and find innovative and alternate solutions when stuff goes wrong. And the reason for that is likely that the guys in the shop that need to assemble a rocket according to a plan made a long time ago have no say to change that plan so it's actually doable. They aren't even asked.

In a way Blue Origin is itself like an orbital rocket. After leaving the pad it follows a preprogrammed path. And if that path ends up encountering more dynamic loads than anticipated, all they can do is raise ullage pressure and hope to somehow power through.

To keep to that fun analogy - With Bezos funds, the rocket is technically flying with KSP's unlimited fuel cheat on - and in theory would have near unlimited Delta-V -- but sadly their propulsion doesn't have enough thrust, and so far their second stage (New Glenn) has a thrust to weight ratio <1.0 and doesn't really get anywhere.


Online meekGee

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #57 on: 10/05/2021 01:57 pm »
I think Starlink was on Musky mind a long time before it was announced.

I mean the concept is obvious and was tried before, going all the way back to Iridium and others.

So at the time that the critics were dismissing the reusability efforts as misguided since "there's no market", Musk did what a competent CEO does - he created the market.

He realized that demand for global coverage is increasing (smartphones, smart cars, etc) and at the same time he is developing the perfect deployment mechanism for a super large "Son of Teledesic".

I think this was obvious to him from the early days of F9 if not earlier - simply because all the necessary information was available back in 2010.

ABCD - Always Be Counting Down

ABCD - Always Be Counting Down

Offline racevedo88

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #58 on: 10/05/2021 02:21 pm »
@corvuscorax

You are correct. in the military when we make a plan we give a mission, and end state and a commanders intent. Because we know that the plan as written will not survive first contact with the enemy.  The problem with BO is that they are trying to stick to the plan as written instead of modifying the plan upon contact with the enemy( schedule changes, engineering challenges, etc). While spacex said my objective, intent and mission is ( to make life interplanetary) and when they encountered the enemy they modified the plan accordingly.  Planning is an iterative process, it never stops, and you need to be ready to modify the plan during execution. Right now that seems to be the biggest hurdle with BO, itís inability to shift plan during execution.

Offline CorvusCorax

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Re: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - A detailed comparison
« Reply #59 on: 10/05/2021 02:26 pm »
I think Starlink was on Musky mind a long time before it was announced.

I mean the concept is obvious and was tried before, going all the way back to Iridium and others.

So at the time that the critics were dismissing the reusability efforts as misguided since "there's no market", Musk did what a competent CEO does - he created the market.

He realized that demand for global coverage is increasing (smartphones, smart cars, etc) and at the same time he is developing the perfect deployment mechanism for a super large "Son of Teledesic".

I think this was obvious to him from the early days of F9 if not earlier - simply because all the necessary information was available back in 2010.

ABCD - Always Be Counting Down

Well, it sure beats "stealing underpants" as a business strategy ;)  but we get deep into speculation what was known to whom when, and how early which alternate paths were discussed internally.

What we can assume - from evidence - is that SpaceX is constantly looking for other ways and alternative approaches and additional sources of revenue, but we only see the ones that actually cause them to pivot and/or develop far enough to become visible.

And this is with SpaceX which is refreshingly transparent. With Blue Origin, we might as well consult (inflatable blue) crystal balls.

"Additional endeavors" that come to mind with BO are Blue moon and shortly later the HLS bid. But I don't think we ever heard of BO abandoning and pivoting anything the way SpaceX abandoned Falcon1, Falcon5, upper stage reuse, bouncy castles, giant fairing catcher nets, ...

It's of course thinkable that BO also seriously investigates and then possibly abandons ideas behind closed doors that never even appear publicly - working on some super secret future-projects, but we have no evidence for that, do we?

If Blue Origin is to be judged by that what is publicly visible, there is not a whole lot to judge them by. I think the highest amount of details becoming public where those described in the HLS bid. Solid aerospace design but nothing game changing.


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