Author Topic: SpaceX vs Blue Origin - Whose Approach / Business Strategy is Better? Thread 1  (Read 574823 times)

Offline sanman

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And yet it does seem like Blue Origin is aiming for an orbital rocket with a reusable upper stage, even if New Shepard itself isn't that upper stage in final form. After all, they tried to patent the barge landing, they've made BE-3 and BE-3U with liquid hydrogen. Bezos has pubicly stated the benefits of reusability. So howsoever difficult that road may be, their development road so far gives all signs of having committed to that path.

I'm wondering whether, once Blue's orbital rocket is unveiled, if it will come with a reusable upper stage right from the start.


Musk has stated his lofty goal of making humanity biplanetary, while Bezos has stated his vision in somewhat more conventional terms of having millions of people working and living in space. Is this a case of "six of one, half a dozen of the other" - do they both add up to the same thing?

Bezos doesn't seem as focused on Mars as Musk is. That very first CG-animated video put out by Blue ends with the view of the Moon in the sky above, and it just gave me the impression that Bezos intends to go to the Moon first. If that's the case, then would such a path by Blue to the Moon put it on a more sober and viable course as compared to SpaceX's obviously Mars-centric path?

Let's coin the meme for that right now:

"Blue Moon vs Red Dragon" ;)
« Last Edit: 05/03/2016 09:01 am by sanman »

Offline Rik ISS-fan

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Possibly Jeff Bezos is referring to first stage reusability. That might be possible. Second stage reusability is WAY more complicated. The current practice is to not even reenter the upper-stages. Sending them destructively back to the earth is already a large improvement. With a reusable upper-stage you have to control a 7,8km/s deceleration and the structure might not deteriorate to much. (don't forget the dragon capsule is not even reusable, jet) 

Offline jpfulton314

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They both have the right approach given their goals.

Blue's goal seems to be to "Have millions of people living in a working in space."  So they are heavily focused on lower the cost of HSF.  Suborbital is the only large enough market to be able to have enough people fly to realize cost savings.  Then once they have lowered the cost with suborbital, they can start doing orbital tourism, and because of the lower costs due to the suborbital market maturing, there will be a big enough market to be able to mature and lower the cost yet again.  Launching payloads will not be that effective since humans make the problem 2X more complex.

Musk wants to go to Mars. (note how I say Musk not Spacex-I have no guarantee that all of Spacex's owners share that passion)  To do this mostly he needs to be able to launch tons of cargo cheaply.  So he is working on that problem first.  He won't need to launch nearly as many people to achieve his goal, but will need more energetic launches.  So he has gone down the path of make it big first, then put people on it.  Makes total sense.

Personally, I think they must secretly be in cahoots, because they way things are going Blue is working on solving one half of the puzzle while Spacex is working on the other half. (of course, there is some overlap, as seen yesterday)  Then in 10-15 years when they get to the really tough parts that are no longer overlapping they will be in the perfect position to help each other out.

One possibility is a team up with Bigelow Aerospace.  Given Robert Bigelow's goal of producing space hotels and Jeff Bezos' goal of space tourism/development, I would have no problem imagining a press release in 3 - 5 years of Bezos setting up his own space tourism destination, in addition to whatever agreements are in place with Bigelow/ULA, NASA, etc.  The question becomes one of Blue Origin developing a heavy enough launcher to hoist multiple BA-330's, 1150's, or 2100's into orbit.

Cahoots, well, that may be an interesting possibility.  BFR really opens up possibilities.  What if there are multiple BFR's on the horizon?

Offline The Amazing Catstronaut

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Cahoots, well, that may be an interesting possibility.  BFR really opens up possibilities.  What if there are multiple BFR's on the horizon?

I suspect Blue will eventually build a BFR. It won't be for many years though. As for the dragon capsule, it is reusable, it's just not contracted for that I believe. They have done reusabillity testing on some of them.
« Last Edit: 05/04/2016 11:38 pm by The Amazing Catstronaut »
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Offline sanman

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I suspect Blue will eventually build a BFR. It won't be for many years though. As for the dragon capsule, it is reusable, it's just not contracted for that I believe. They have done reusabillity testing on some of them.

You think? I think Blue will start developing its own FalconHeavy as soon as its first orbital rocket is working. Their first orbital rocket will likely be in the F9R class - it'll be reusable from the start, and it will have comparable lift capacity as Falcon9. Then after Blue Heavy is working, then they'll go for their own SuperHeavy comparable to MCT.

As a businessman, Bezos knows the value of economies of scale, and while he won't be fixated on Mars in particular, I think he'll want a SuperHeavy transport to the Moon. He keeps talking about building the "basic infrastructure", analogous to pre-existing phone and fiber lines which were the backbone for his internet business.
To build heavy-duty infrastructure, you want very heavy lift capacity. And that then sets the scene for all those other small businesses to access the infrastructure and make use of it, to allow a space economy, which is what Bezos wants.

I wonder whether if Blue is thinking in terms of multi-core modularity for scalability, a la Angara, or UMLV, or FalconHeavy.

Offline Zed_Noir

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I suspect Blue will eventually build a BFR. It won't be for many years though. As for the dragon capsule, it is reusable, it's just not contracted for that I believe. They have done reusabillity testing on some of them.

You think? I think Blue will start developing its own FalconHeavy as soon as its first orbital rocket is working. Their first orbital rocket will likely be in the F9R class - it'll be reusable from the start, and it will have comparable lift capacity as Falcon9. Then after Blue Heavy is working, then they'll go for their own SuperHeavy comparable to MCT.

As a businessman, Bezos knows the value of economies of scale, and while he won't be fixated on Mars in particular, I think he'll want a SuperHeavy transport to the Moon. He keeps talking about building the "basic infrastructure", analogous to pre-existing phone and fiber lines which were the backbone for his internet business.
To build heavy-duty infrastructure, you want very heavy lift capacity. And that then sets the scene for all those other small businesses to access the infrastructure and make use of it, to allow a space economy, which is what Bezos wants.

I wonder whether if Blue is thinking in terms of multi-core modularity for scalability, a la Angara, or UMLV, or FalconHeavy.

You either go with heavy lift launchers or reusable launchers. Don't need both for space infrastructure. You only do both in one launcher if you want to plop a city on Mars.

Also according the NSF tea readers. The first Blue orbital capable launcher will be more likely to be in the Delta II class.

Offline The Amazing Catstronaut

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You either go with heavy lift launchers or reusable launchers. Don't need both for space infrastructure. You only do both in one launcher if you want to plop a city on Mars.

Also according the NSF tea readers. The first Blue orbital capable launcher will be more likely to be in the Delta II class.

I don't know. It depends on what you define as "infrastructure". Massive monolithic projects to anywhere in the solar system certainly benefit from having launchers that are both heavy lift and reusable in the same package.

Reusability, on purely surface analysis level, scales well. Huge launch vehicles are by their nature extremely expensive if expendable, rendering them inflexible for all but the most important of missions. Reusability offers the potential to make a huge launch vehicle significantly more flexible, adapting it to more mission types, simply by removing some of the financial risk.

This is of course dependent upon you refining your reusability method to the point where the loss of any of your stages is unlikely.
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Offline sanman

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You either go with heavy lift launchers or reusable launchers. Don't need both for space infrastructure. You only do both in one launcher if you want to plop a city on Mars.

What if you want to build a city on the Moon, or at least some hotels?

Reusability now seems to be a baseline requirement for the likes of Bezos and Musk. With the orbital VTVL concept now proven, everything from them will be at least nominally reusable, and built with it in mind. These billionaires love to show off their cost-breaker innovations.

Quote
Also according the NSF tea readers. The first Blue orbital capable launcher will be more likely to be in the Delta II class.

Ok, fair enough, but if Musk is building MCT, then it's hard to imagine Bezos allowing himself to be left behind. It's only a matter of time. The only question is - what will be the nickname of the "Big Blue Rocket"?
« Last Edit: 05/05/2016 03:41 pm by sanman »

Offline jongoff

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I suspect Blue will eventually build a BFR. It won't be for many years though. As for the dragon capsule, it is reusable, it's just not contracted for that I believe. They have done reusabillity testing on some of them.

You think? I think Blue will start developing its own FalconHeavy as soon as its first orbital rocket is working. Their first orbital rocket will likely be in the F9R class - it'll be reusable from the start, and it will have comparable lift capacity as Falcon9. Then after Blue Heavy is working, then they'll go for their own SuperHeavy comparable to MCT.

As a businessman, Bezos knows the value of economies of scale, and while he won't be fixated on Mars in particular, I think he'll want a SuperHeavy transport to the Moon. He keeps talking about building the "basic infrastructure", analogous to pre-existing phone and fiber lines which were the backbone for his internet business.
To build heavy-duty infrastructure, you want very heavy lift capacity. And that then sets the scene for all those other small businesses to access the infrastructure and make use of it, to allow a space economy, which is what Bezos wants.

I wonder whether if Blue is thinking in terms of multi-core modularity for scalability, a la Angara, or UMLV, or FalconHeavy.

You either go with heavy lift launchers or reusable launchers. Don't need both for space infrastructure. You only do both in one launcher if you want to plop a city on Mars.

Also according the NSF tea readers. The first Blue orbital capable launcher will be more likely to be in the Delta II class.

I'd much rather see them pursue airline-like reuse operations than yet another heavy launcher. Fortunately, I think they're more likely to go that route than SpaceX. Going for heavy launchers is great if you have to get to market ASAP to tap the only big existing launch market--GEO commsat launch. But if you can afford to build it and let the market adapt, a smaller vehicle is probably a lot easier to start with for reusability. It just takes new markets time to develop. Stuff like tourism, propellant depots, on-orbit manufacturing of spacecraft and vehicles, etc. None of those need or even really want a FH class vehicle, so long as you have something high flight rate and inexpensive.

My $0.02 of course.

~Jon

Offline TrevorMonty

IMHO Jon is right. A F9R class vehicle that deliver 6-7 passengers to LEO for 5-$10m a seat should be enough to create a new market. The same RLV could also be used for supplying a fuel depot, this would enable BLEO HSF eg moon.
As market develops introduce reusable US and larger RLVs that can lower launch costs even more.

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Musk says humans on Mars. Bezos says humans in space. That's all you need to know to chart interim objectives/goals. Both will increase launch frequency, because neither of those goals are part of govt, military, or commercial launches worldwide.

Humans on Mars - requires two-way HSF of highly reusable SC/RV/LV on two planets - high mass/props meaning heavy launch capability that can be ramped up (like Saturn 1B/V), then ramped down (unlike Saturn/Shuttle).

Humans in space - requires weekly/daily launches with airline like service to few/same locations, where the expectation of service continuity is high.

Neither of these is mutually exclusive, but both will rely on no one but themselves for schedule/program risk issues.

Both will likely have significant in-space propulsion needs. Suggest BO will have a hydrolox logisitical architecture leveraged off of current systems they are flying right now. Suggest SX will leverage off BFR related methalox systems we have yet to see, as an extension of traditional vehicle strategy to be used on two planets.

Both will also "back fill" with other vendors when it suits, and will leave "special case" capabilities (primarily military needed capabilities) to heritage providers as long as is possible. Unclear that habs, power systems, ECLSS, and other related systems fit into BO/SX "silos" very well.

Don't think BO will race ahead on increasing payload to orbit, nor for that matter support much in the way of anything but LEO/GEO for quite awhile (doubt SSO/polar/GTO). They'll probably contract out for any need for unmanned launch of say a hab/station/"hotel", because it would detour from objective of economics of frequent/short HSF, and keeping to a narrow view of where the humans transit to.

SX on the other hand likely will need to become a master at $/kg/dV of unmanned to almost anywhere in the solar system. Because they'll view it as "amping up" capabilities for Mars every two years.

Where Jim's "Demolition Man" Taco Bell SX analogy falls short will be around the awkward needs away from the agendas above. Once Bezos/Musk get rolling, with the basics out of the way, suggest that they will become even more single-minded then before, perhaps even shedding some business capabilities along the way.

Examine Bezos/Musk other core businesses. They are not overreaching scope - AWS could have competed more broadly in verticals, Tesla/Solar City could have gone into more specilized/horizontals too. They are careful to avoid these blunders. Bezo's and his stupid firephone egotrip excepting (or how to waste $100M without really trying). Few more not worth mentioning.

Offline jongoff

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IMHO Jon is right. A F9R class vehicle that deliver 6-7 passengers to LEO for 5-$10m a seat should be enough to create a new market. The same RLV could also be used for supplying a fuel depot, this would enable BLEO HSF eg moon.
As market develops introduce reusable US and larger RLVs that can lower launch costs even more.

With a full RLV, I don't think you need an F9R class vehicle to deliver 6-7 people to LEO...

~Jon

Offline Lar

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I think it won't be too long before reusability (at least for the first stage, if not to LEO) will be "jacks or better to open"
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
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Offline Lars-J

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IMHO Jon is right. A F9R class vehicle that deliver 6-7 passengers to LEO for 5-$10m a seat should be enough to create a new market. The same RLV could also be used for supplying a fuel depot, this would enable BLEO HSF eg moon.
As market develops introduce reusable US and larger RLVs that can lower launch costs even more.

With a full RLV, I don't think you need an F9R class vehicle to deliver 6-7 people to LEO...

~Jon

No, you likely need something bigger.   :) Unless you think 'Blue' is sitting on a real propulsion breakthrough that will allow a fully reusable launch vehicle to deliver ~10 mt to LEO (what you'll need for a 6-7 people spacecraft) with a LV that is smaller than F9R.

Offline TrevorMonty

IMHO Jon is right. A F9R class vehicle that deliver 6-7 passengers to LEO for 5-$10m a seat should be enough to create a new market. The same RLV could also be used for supplying a fuel depot, this would enable BLEO HSF eg moon.
As market develops introduce reusable US and larger RLVs that can lower launch costs even more.

With a full RLV, I don't think you need an F9R class vehicle to deliver 6-7 people to LEO...

~Jon

No, you likely need something bigger.   :) Unless you think 'Blue' is sitting on a real propulsion breakthrough that will allow a fully reusable launch vehicle to deliver ~10 mt to LEO (what you'll need for a 6-7 people spacecraft) with a LV that is smaller than F9R.
May need to factor in reusable US in future. So 20t expendable, 10t fully reusable.

Offline jongoff

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No, you likely need something bigger.   :) Unless you think 'Blue' is sitting on a real propulsion breakthrough that will allow a fully reusable launch vehicle to deliver ~10 mt to LEO (what you'll need for a 6-7 people spacecraft) with a LV that is smaller than F9R.

I guess my point is that most of the mass in a traditional crewed spacecraft are in the very things you need to make an RLV work in the first place. If you design a crewed RLV right, my guess is you can get the mass per person much lower than 1.5mT each...

Specifically:
1- Reusable upper stages need to have TPS and recovery systems for intact landing.
2- Reusable upper stages will typically have at least some level of pointing and maneuvering capabilities (3axis pointing and thrust in at least one direction).
3- If designed to deliver people to a facility, the prox-ops and capture robotics on the facility side can enable a fairly simple upper stage to rendezvous and be captured.
4- If done wisely, and with the facility having the right emergency rescue vehicles, the actual launch vehicle can do first or second orbit rendezvous, enabling much less sophisticated life support to be used.

Probably the single biggest thing a rocket upper stage doesn't have that a capsule does is a launch escape system. But there may be principles that can be used in the design to make those less necessary. Things like not putting high pressure tanks inside of your LOX tanks (or using autogenous pressurization), using more benign engine cycles, using air-launch, designing the vehicle to minimize the maximum dynamic pressure, etc.

Basically people have assumed that the way we've done things since Apollo is the only safe way to do them, and I'm not convinced we've really pushed very far into the design space of crew-carrying reusable space transports. My guess is that there are approaches that are safer than a capsule with escape rocket on a a traditional launch vehicle that also only need say 2-4klb of "cargo capacity" to LEO in order to carry 4-6 people.

~Jon
« Last Edit: 05/06/2016 03:43 am by jongoff »

Offline Robotbeat

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No, you likely need something bigger.   :) Unless you think 'Blue' is sitting on a real propulsion breakthrough that will allow a fully reusable launch vehicle to deliver ~10 mt to LEO (what you'll need for a 6-7 people spacecraft) with a LV that is smaller than F9R.

I guess my point is that most of the mass in a traditional crewed spacecraft are in the very things you need to make an RLV work in the first place. If you design a crewed RLV right, my guess is you can get the mass per person much lower than 1.5mT each...

~Jon
THIS.

Jet aircraft like the 737 (largest version, single-class max) which are made out of aluminum get 200-250kg per passenger, and that includes EVERYTHING, including the wings, engines, wheels, cargo hold, lavatories, oxygen supply system, cabin pressurization system, seats, overhead storage, cockpit, inflatable slides, individual flotation devices, life rafts, etc. With composites, you could do even better (though often the better strength to weight ratio of composites is used for longer wings, higher cabin pressures, etc, not a reduction in per-passenger dry weight).

I think there's a huge potential for benefit in improving the mass required to launch people. I think Blue Origin has attempted at least some investment in this area, more than SpaceX has publicly shown (makes sense as Blue Origin's plan was to focus on suborbital tourism at first... though SpaceX is obviously closer to sending people into orbit, and the original Dragon is not at all a cutting-edge design, nor was it intended to be).

...but SpaceX will probably need to make similar strides for MCT to get to its performance and capacity (100 passengers) and cost numbers.


So yeah, 5 tons for 7 passengers is not at all out of the question, IMHO, and you could probably do 100 passengers in 30 tons if the flight was very short (half an hour?) and you used the very best in composites, better than anything flying today.
« Last Edit: 05/06/2016 03:38 am by Robotbeat »
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Offline jongoff

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I should also point out though, that the approach Blue Origin has taken to-date has been more of a traditional capsule with launch escape system. The capsule on New Shepard seats 6 and weighs ~8000lb, though would likely be heavier for an orbital version. I think we're way too early in the age of the reusable space vehicles for most of the big players to have really thought through how to make passenger carrying full RLVs work best.

~Jon

Offline Robotbeat

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I should also point out though, that the approach Blue Origin has taken to-date has been more of a traditional capsule with launch escape system. The capsule on New Shepard seats 6 and weighs ~8000lb, though would likely be heavier for an orbital version. I think we're way too early in the age of the reusable space vehicles for most of the big players to have really thought through how to make passenger carrying full RLVs work best.

~Jon
It also has a bunch of these HUGE windows. You probably have nearly a ton of mass in those alone, with another ton in reinforcement for the window opening and parasitic mass for all that. Plus more volume than strictly required (6 passengers must have room to float around to look out the windows, not packed in like Cattle-class).
« Last Edit: 05/06/2016 04:56 am by Robotbeat »
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Offline RocketGoBoom

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After watching SX just recover a first stage from a GTO launch, I would have to say that their strategy is rock solid.

The first two successful landings were LEO and we were all wondering if there was even enough fuel to make a landing after GTO launch. Question answered. 

If I were at BO, ULA or Arianespace, I would consider swallowing my pride and going into copycat mode.
« Last Edit: 05/07/2016 12:58 am by RocketGoBoom »

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