Author Topic: Discussion with Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO, SpaceX  (Read 33548 times)

Offline dlapine

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Re: Discussion with Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO, SpaceX
« Reply #120 on: 06/05/2014 09:37 pm »
Is there anything on the "Would like to participate" comment on the domestic RD-180 production.

the comment was not about domestic RD-180 production. It was about development of a new US hydrocarbon engine.

They would be crazy not to compete for that. It funds their rocket development team and makes SpaceX the goto company for rocket engines for the next 10-20 years.

For SpaceX it would probably be a good move, but I doubt USAF would allow a launch company to compete. If they did, the other launch companies would be extremely reluctant to buy engines from a competitor and that then defeats the whole purpose. (Besides: If the engine is also used in an EELV class vehicle of their own USAF also lose the advantage of dissimilar redundancy).

I think for example ULA or Orbital would even more afraid to be (or be seen to be) at the mercy of Elon than Rogozin, even though their fear would probably be (mostly) unfounded.  ;)

More to the point, won't SpaceX engines be designed from now on for non-expendable vehicles? They may well be expended, but the design will include reusability as part of any new design. Not sure that SpaceX engines would be a good fit for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles.

That being said, any engines funded by such a program would potentially be under "ease of access rules" or an open design (well, an ITAR restricted version) such that US firms could purchase or license to build with reasonable terms.

Offline HMXHMX

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Re: Discussion with Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO, SpaceX
« Reply #121 on: 06/05/2014 09:56 pm »
Is there anything on the "Would like to participate" comment on the domestic RD-180 production.

the comment was not about domestic RD-180 production. It was about development of a new US hydrocarbon engine.

They would be crazy not to compete for that. It funds their rocket development team and makes SpaceX the goto company for rocket engines for the next 10-20 years.

For SpaceX it would probably be a good move, but I doubt USAF would allow a launch company to compete. If they did, the other launch companies would be extremely reluctant to buy engines from a competitor and that then defeats the whole purpose. (Besides: If the engine is also used in an EELV class vehicle of their own USAF also lose the advantage of dissimilar redundancy).

I think for example ULA or Orbital would even more afraid to be (or be seen to be) at the mercy of Elon than Rogozin, even though their fear would probably be (mostly) unfounded.  ;)

More to the point, won't SpaceX engines be designed from now on for non-expendable vehicles? They may well be expended, but the design will include reusability as part of any new design. Not sure that SpaceX engines would be a good fit for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles.

That being said, any engines funded by such a program would potentially be under "ease of access rules" or an open design (well, an ITAR restricted version) such that US firms could purchase or license to build with reasonable terms.

We really don't design expendable liquid engines (except for those using ablative nozzles).  Even in the 1950s, our specs called for 12 starts, since you'd be firing the engine in qual testing and for calibration prior to vehicle integration.

The only items of a liquid engine that need attention for long term reusability are generally the hot section (chambers/nozzles) and bearings in the pumps.  Creep in the turbine is a minor concern and seal wear on valve may be but only when the engine is cycled hundreds of times.

As an example, there is at least one "expendable" RL-10 used in test that went through >350 starts.

Offline ThereIWas3

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Re: Discussion with Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO, SpaceX
« Reply #122 on: 06/05/2014 10:15 pm »
USG "has been fine" without SpaceX only because they did not know they could have
eventually gotten the same service at half the price ULA was asking
« Last Edit: 06/05/2014 10:15 pm by ThereIWas3 »
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Offline dlapine

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Re: Discussion with Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO, SpaceX
« Reply #123 on: 06/05/2014 10:18 pm »
Is there anything on the "Would like to participate" comment on the domestic RD-180 production.

the comment was not about domestic RD-180 production. It was about development of a new US hydrocarbon engine.

They would be crazy not to compete for that. It funds their rocket development team and makes SpaceX the goto company for rocket engines for the next 10-20 years.

For SpaceX it would probably be a good move, but I doubt USAF would allow a launch company to compete. If they did, the other launch companies would be extremely reluctant to buy engines from a competitor and that then defeats the whole purpose. (Besides: If the engine is also used in an EELV class vehicle of their own USAF also lose the advantage of dissimilar redundancy).

I think for example ULA or Orbital would even more afraid to be (or be seen to be) at the mercy of Elon than Rogozin, even though their fear would probably be (mostly) unfounded.  ;)

More to the point, won't SpaceX engines be designed from now on for non-expendable vehicles? They may well be expended, but the design will include reusability as part of any new design. Not sure that SpaceX engines would be a good fit for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles.

That being said, any engines funded by such a program would potentially be under "ease of access rules" or an open design (well, an ITAR restricted version) such that US firms could purchase or license to build with reasonable terms.

We really don't design expendable liquid engines (except for those using ablative nozzles).  Even in the 1950s, our specs called for 12 starts, since you'd be firing the engine in qual testing and for calibration prior to vehicle integration.

The only items of a liquid engine that need attention for long term reusability are generally the hot section (chambers/nozzles) and bearings in the pumps.  Creep in the turbine is a minor concern and seal wear on valve may be but only when the engine is cycled hundreds of times.

As an example, there is at least one "expendable" RL-10 used in test that went through >350 starts.

Fair enough. I was thinking more specifically about liquid engines design to fly more than once, rather than just restarted. I'm only aware of 2 main engines (not counting thrusters), the Merlin and SSME. And potentially the Raptor.

SSME was considered cost prohibitive for other vehicles due to its reusable nature. A new engine program might shortsightedly suggest that the new design not be reusable to save on costs. A new engine developed by SpaceX might be cheaper even with reusability multiple flight capability.  :)

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Re: Discussion with Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO, SpaceX
« Reply #124 on: 06/05/2014 10:35 pm »
Is there anything on the "Would like to participate" comment on the domestic RD-180 production.

the comment was not about domestic RD-180 production. It was about development of a new US hydrocarbon engine.

They would be crazy not to compete for that. It funds their rocket development team and makes SpaceX the goto company for rocket engines for the next 10-20 years.
Outside funding is nice but the question would be do Spacex want to be the goto company for rocket engines?

They have an engine. They have cash flow. They already know their engine team is good.
Actually they have a low cost LV that pretty much uses one LRE kind. That's the valuable thing right now. Not just the engine.

IMHO its overbuilt. Which makes sense given the unknowns of reuse.

And I don't think its about cash flow. I think its about market control at this point. Because then they can change the direction of the industry as they desire. It already seems to be happening, even before they've proved much. That's what's driving many crazy about these guys - how come they get so much attention having done so little.

Remember, this is a field dominated by what you did do and its results, not by what you might do.


If the US governments RFP for a new big engine fits in with Musks schedule to develop a new big engine then they may compete. If not I'd guess they have enough to be getting on with.

The question you have to answer is "How does doing this help Elon get to Mars better/faster/cheaper/safer?" If it doesn't why expect Spacex to do it?
Fair enough. Perhaps the question is "how does SpaceX operate to achieve such goals?".

If they control the market, they can change the costing for components/services. Right now its ... peculiar. Due to volumes and "value pricing"/lockouts.

Note that not needing LRE's from AR, AR encourages them into LRE's from AR. That's an example of market control.

And BTW let's not forget that US Senator who's keen to drop FAR25 cost reporting on a project that was originally bid as a Firm Fixed Price contract?

Let me suggest that the way US government policy and corporate management decisions over decades  mean that the government needs Spacex more than Spacex needs a government research contract.  :(
I think that's going to backfire rather badly. I predict ULA will take a hit as a result.

Back to buy/sell engines. What you'd really want is at least two engine providers and three-four LV providers. For max advantage. But you don't have the volume even for one and two.  If you change the market to reuse, then you have a bimodal distribution and asymmetrical costing. Why you'd want market control is to have things favor "your way" in this arrangement.

SpaceX has a "good enough" story for volume. ULA has a rock solid story for top end launch services any kind.

If you control, you want your fixed costs lowest. All services as a package. That's the game.

AR is saying to SpaceX, "let us have the engine business, and you don't have that on critical path". To accept that, you'd have to get under the existing Merlin and "buy out" / "head off" Raptor for them to "buy" instead of "build". Doesn't sound easy.

SpaceX selling engines would be more about underwriting Raptor/BFR development, somewhat like the Russians do/did. They'd never fear being undercut on launch, and could selectively control what fell into their "lump" of the bimodal curve.

The hard part about that would be the overlap in the RFP/RFQ bid to win. And we don't know that, or any Shelby nonsense that might come along for the ride. Too soon to tell.

But govt/AF launches with one engine type does not sound very "assured" to me. Seems like you end up with 2-3 providers and 2 engines either way. Only two combinations here I know, unless you think the Russians will be let back into the chicken coop...

Offline savuporo

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Re: Discussion with Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO, SpaceX
« Reply #125 on: 06/05/2014 11:44 pm »

The question then is, what propulsion work does SpaceX have in it's backlog to keep the engine R&D team busy - and that means design and development, not manufacturing obviously.

Raptor and future versions of the Merlin seem like a lot of work.


If they are not mostly done with Merlins and just about to wrap up Raptor from R&D side then i think they have a problem. The question any decent exec will ask, what is this team that i hired going to be doing 6 months and 2 years down the road, and how do i measure their success.
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Offline Jim

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Re: Discussion with Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO, SpaceX
« Reply #126 on: 06/06/2014 12:42 am »
USG "has been fine" without SpaceX only because they did not know they could have
eventually gotten the same service at half the price ULA was asking

The "same" service is still not a given.  It has yet to be provided even once.

Offline Jim

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Re: Discussion with Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO, SpaceX
« Reply #127 on: 06/06/2014 12:52 am »

Sorry, but like the use of the term "evolved"  of the Atlas V from the original Atlas, or the Delta IV form the original NASA sponsored Delta design, this is pretty much total fantasy. That's like a Porsche being "evolved" from a horse because they both have 4 supports touching the ground. :(

Sorry, but hey are evolved and the term is 100% dead on.

Delta II > Delta III > Delta IV.   All three share the same avionics.  Delta III upperstage became the Delta IV upperstage.  GEM 40 to 46 to 60. 

Atlas II > Atlas III & Titan IV > Atlas V All three shared the same avionics. Used some of the Titan pad infrastructure, same upperstage.  Same first stage propellants.

Proper analogy:  911 being evolved from a Beetle

« Last Edit: 06/06/2014 12:53 am by Jim »

Offline AncientU

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Re: Discussion with Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO, SpaceX
« Reply #128 on: 06/06/2014 01:06 am »

Let me suggest that the way US government policy and corporate management decisions over decades  mean that the government needs Spacex more than Spacex needs a government research contract.  :(
Not really.  The USG has been fine without SX
What definition of "fine" are you using?
The "fine" that launches most national security payloads on non-allied(adversarial at times) nation's engines?
The "fine" that cannot deliver its astros or supplies to a $100B space station?
The "fine" that has lost 100% of the international commercial launch market?
The "fine" that had a HUGE development program cancelled because the end product of that effort would be too expensive to operate even if it were given to the Nation as a present?
The "fine" that is attempting yet again to build a HVL that doesn't lift what US did fifty years ago?
The "fine" that is using forty year old technology to build that HLV?
The "fine" that will watch the fiftieth anniversary of landing on the Moon pass without the ability to even get an astro off the ground on a USG vehicle?
The "fine" that has started a dozen new engines and finished zero in the last few decades?
The "fine' that watches its space development dollars go to jobs programs in 'preferred' Districts year after year -- and accepts it as standard operating procedure?

By "fine" you probably mean asleep and contentedly snoring away, right? 
That's the only definition that makes sense.
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