Author Topic: SpaceX vs BlueOrigin - Whose Approach / Business Strategy is Better?  (Read 264745 times)

Offline TrevorMonty

NG was sized to deliver a useful payload to moon.


Offline DJPledger

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Irrespective of that, from BOs perspective, they've been focusing on FH and treating BFR as something that's in the indefinite future.

If Starship goes to orbit in 2020 (as SSTO?) and if  SH is not far behind, or even is part of the 2020 prediction, then NG will not have a grace period.

It's not that NG is too small, it's that it's not fully reusable.

I don't think Blue is focused on FH per se, instead, NG is simply the best they can do right now given their experience and resources. It's not realistic to expect them to come up with a fully reusable superheavy when they're 1/5th the size of SpaceX and haven't launched/landed anything orbital.

If FH wasn't the up and coming thing back when Blue Origin anounced NG, NG would probably be a more F9 sized vehicle, IMO. Much more gradatim.
For better or worse, I don't think Blue worries about what SX is doing. NG was sized to cover the entire existing market plus a fair bit.  FH didn't expand payload size in reusable mode, it's just lowered cost.  Also, an F9 sized NG would have a lot of trouble evolving into a fully reusable rocket and Blue knew that from day 1.

Blue doesn't need to react to BFR yet. It just needs to be a reliable launch service that is in the top 2 price wise for some range of payloads.

I would agree that on one level Blue doesn't really care about any "competitors," whether those competitors are SpaceX or any other company.

At the same time, I'm not sure that ignoring SS/SH is in Blue's best strategic interest. Right now, Elon Musk is saying there's a 60% chance that the full stack will go orbital next year, while Blue isn't currently planning to fly New Glenn before 2021. New Glenn is looking like a great contender when put up against F9/FH and the current field but I'm not sure that it will have the same impact if SpaceX is actively phasing out the Falcon family in favor of something more capable than New Glenn.

Regardless of what Blue actually does, I think the company is paying a very close eye to everything SpaceX does because  Jeff Bezos is a very smart businessman and isn't going to jump into things without knowing exactly what the other players are up to.

New Glenn may not be a good competitor for SS/SH, but I think that once Blue figures out its next step New Armstrong is going to be a different story. In fact, I'd argue that New Armstrong may be able to outcompete SS/SH or its successors in Blue's target niche; whatever that may be at the time.
By the time BO gets NA ready, SpaceX may well have the 2nd gen. larger SH/SS system ready by then. So BO will always likely be playing catch up with SpaceX and never catch them up. The only way I can see BO having any chance of catching up with SpaceX is do ditch NG and start full on dev. on NA now.

Offline TrevorMonty




By the time BO gets NA ready, SpaceX may well have the 2nd gen. larger SH/SS system ready by then. So BO will always likely be playing catch up with SpaceX and never catch them up. The only way I can see BO having any chance of catching up with SpaceX is do ditch NG and start full on dev. on NA now.

If there is a race, who paying for payloads and missions that these big LVs will fly ?

Even NG is too large for current launch market.




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By the time BO gets NA ready, SpaceX may well have the 2nd gen. larger SH/SS system ready by then. So BO will always likely be playing catch up with SpaceX and never catch them up. The only way I can see BO having any chance of catching up with SpaceX is do ditch NG and start full on dev. on NA now.

If there is a race, who paying for payloads and missions that these big LVs will fly ?

Even NG is too large for current launch market.

All that matters is whether it's too expensive for the current launch market. Not even that, whether it's too expensive for the launch market that might emerge as more affordable launchers become operational.

Offline Lemurion

Irrespective of that, from BOs perspective, they've been focusing on FH and treating BFR as something that's in the indefinite future.

If Starship goes to orbit in 2020 (as SSTO?) and if  SH is not far behind, or even is part of the 2020 prediction, then NG will not have a grace period.

It's not that NG is too small, it's that it's not fully reusable.

I don't think Blue is focused on FH per se, instead, NG is simply the best they can do right now given their experience and resources. It's not realistic to expect them to come up with a fully reusable superheavy when they're 1/5th the size of SpaceX and haven't launched/landed anything orbital.

If FH wasn't the up and coming thing back when Blue Origin anounced NG, NG would probably be a more F9 sized vehicle, IMO. Much more gradatim.
For better or worse, I don't think Blue worries about what SX is doing. NG was sized to cover the entire existing market plus a fair bit.  FH didn't expand payload size in reusable mode, it's just lowered cost.  Also, an F9 sized NG would have a lot of trouble evolving into a fully reusable rocket and Blue knew that from day 1.

Blue doesn't need to react to BFR yet. It just needs to be a reliable launch service that is in the top 2 price wise for some range of payloads.

I would agree that on one level Blue doesn't really care about any "competitors," whether those competitors are SpaceX or any other company.

At the same time, I'm not sure that ignoring SS/SH is in Blue's best strategic interest. Right now, Elon Musk is saying there's a 60% chance that the full stack will go orbital next year, while Blue isn't currently planning to fly New Glenn before 2021. New Glenn is looking like a great contender when put up against F9/FH and the current field but I'm not sure that it will have the same impact if SpaceX is actively phasing out the Falcon family in favor of something more capable than New Glenn.

Regardless of what Blue actually does, I think the company is paying a very close eye to everything SpaceX does because  Jeff Bezos is a very smart businessman and isn't going to jump into things without knowing exactly what the other players are up to.

New Glenn may not be a good competitor for SS/SH, but I think that once Blue figures out its next step New Armstrong is going to be a different story. In fact, I'd argue that New Armstrong may be able to outcompete SS/SH or its successors in Blue's target niche; whatever that may be at the time.
By the time BO gets NA ready, SpaceX may well have the 2nd gen. larger SH/SS system ready by then. So BO will always likely be playing catch up with SpaceX and never catch them up. The only way I can see BO having any chance of catching up with SpaceX is do ditch NG and start full on dev. on NA now.

I don't see Blue ditching New Glenn and throwing all its resources into New Armstrong as either necessary or even desirable, let alone likely.

I personally think that one of the biggest things holding back New Armstrong is that Blue hasn't figured out exactly what it's for yet. For SpaceX, it was an easy decision-- SS/SH is a Mars rocket; for Blue Origin things aren't so clear. I don't know if Blue has decided yet on whether to optimize New Armstrong for supporting orbital infrastructure or for Lunar operations and there's only so far the company can go until it makes that decision.

Here's the thing, as long as SpaceX is focused on SS/SH as a Mars rocket all its designs are going to be constrained by the requirements of interplanetary transit. Blue doesn't have those constraints. Jeff Bezos has no particular interest in Mars and Blue's plans and designs are going to reflect that. Just as one example, hydrolox seems to be far better suited for Lunar ISRU than methalox. SpaceX is locked into methalox for all SS uses because that's what's best suited for its Mars plans, but Blue can use hydrolox upper stages where appropriate because they don't have to build around the necessity of refueling on Mars.

Given that, I don't think it's unreasonable at all to suggest that sometime around 2030-2035 Blue may come out with a New Armstrong design that is a much better Moon rocket than anything SpaceX is flying at the time.

It's not a direct competition; Blue is driven by its own internal goals. I don't expect Blue to beat SpaceX on Mars rockets, but that doesn't mean that in a decade or two they can't design a rocket that's better at its primary function than SS/SH is at its secondary function.


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If there is a race, who paying for payloads and missions that these big LVs will fly ?

Even NG is too large for current launch market.

If full reusability works as SpaceX wants it to, the BFR will be able to outcompete Electron on price when launching cubesats.

Not launching a hold full of them on one go, just launching a single cubesat in the cavernous cargo hold of a single 118-meter 4000-ton+ stack.

For a truly reusable stack, the absolute size of the rocket is not a disadvantage. Fuel (especially methane) is really cheap. A properly reusable rocket cannot really be too big once you get one built.

Offline TrevorMonty


If there is a race, who paying for payloads and missions that these big LVs will fly ?

Even NG is too large for current launch market.

If full reusability works as SpaceX wants it to, the BFR will be able to outcompete Electron on price when launching cubesats.

Not launching a hold full of them on one go, just launching a single cubesat in the cavernous cargo hold of a single 118-meter 4000-ton+ stack.

For a truly reusable stack, the absolute size of the rocket is not a disadvantage. Fuel (especially methane) is really cheap. A properly reusable rocket cannot really be too big once you get one built.
SpaceX still need to make return on $Bs invested in design and building of BFR and its infrastructure. In Blue's case Jeff doesn't need are return on his investment.

Launch cadence is another issue with these large LVs. They share airspace with lots of busy airline and shipping routes.


Offline Dao Angkan

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Surely this divorce is a bit off topic for this thread?

Maybe we need a new thread for it.

Anyway, it's possibly relevant to some Blue Origin thread, please move if there is another more appropriate one.

I saw this on CNBC today, they suggest that he may have to give up half of his Amazon shares (currently ~16%). As he doesn't have controlling shares this shouldn't result in too much difference for Amazon (unless his wife decides to divest from Amazon, which they think is unlikely.).

Even if he is reduced to half of his current Amazon shares, I don't think that there should be a noticeable difference to his current $1B/year investment ... but who knows?

Obviously a difficult time for the pair of them, so I think we should try to keep any discussion purely to the financial aspects of this (as Bezos has already stated that he funds Blue Origin through selling $1B of shares in Amazon each year, then I think that anything that reduces his potential investment is worthy of discussion).
« Last Edit: 01/09/2019 08:34 pm by Dao Angkan »

Online Lar

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That was a line drawn. No more posts about the divorce after this one. We just said all that needs saying., Thanks.

And no, we don't at this time need a thread about the divorce. We don't have threads about Elon's finances either.
« Last Edit: 01/10/2019 10:48 am by Chris Bergin »
"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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Irrespective of that, from BOs perspective, they've been focusing on FH and treating BFR as something that's in the indefinite future.

If Starship goes to orbit in 2020 (as SSTO?) and if  SH is not far behind, or even is part of the 2020 prediction, then NG will not have a grace period.

It's not that NG is too small, it's that it's not fully reusable.

I don't think Blue is focused on FH per se, instead, NG is simply the best they can do right now given their experience and resources. It's not realistic to expect them to come up with a fully reusable superheavy when they're 1/5th the size of SpaceX and haven't launched/landed anything orbital.

If FH wasn't the up and coming thing back when Blue Origin anounced NG, NG would probably be a more F9 sized vehicle, IMO. Much more gradatim.
For better or worse, I don't think Blue worries about what SX is doing. NG was sized to cover the entire existing market plus a fair bit.  FH didn't expand payload size in reusable mode, it's just lowered cost.  Also, an F9 sized NG would have a lot of trouble evolving into a fully reusable rocket and Blue knew that from day 1.

Blue doesn't need to react to BFR yet. It just needs to be a reliable launch service that is in the top 2 price wise for some range of payloads.

I would agree that on one level Blue doesn't really care about any "competitors," whether those competitors are SpaceX or any other company.

At the same time, I'm not sure that ignoring SS/SH is in Blue's best strategic interest. Right now, Elon Musk is saying there's a 60% chance that the full stack will go orbital next year, while Blue isn't currently planning to fly New Glenn before 2021. New Glenn is looking like a great contender when put up against F9/FH and the current field but I'm not sure that it will have the same impact if SpaceX is actively phasing out the Falcon family in favor of something more capable than New Glenn.

Regardless of what Blue actually does, I think the company is paying a very close eye to everything SpaceX does because  Jeff Bezos is a very smart businessman and isn't going to jump into things without knowing exactly what the other players are up to.

New Glenn may not be a good competitor for SS/SH, but I think that once Blue figures out its next step New Armstrong is going to be a different story. In fact, I'd argue that New Armstrong may be able to outcompete SS/SH or its successors in Blue's target niche; whatever that may be at the time.
By the time BO gets NA ready, SpaceX may well have the 2nd gen. larger SH/SS system ready by then. So BO will always likely be playing catch up with SpaceX and never catch them up. The only way I can see BO having any chance of catching up with SpaceX is do ditch NG and start full on dev. on NA now.

I don't see Blue ditching New Glenn and throwing all its resources into New Armstrong as either necessary or even desirable, let alone likely.

I personally think that one of the biggest things holding back New Armstrong is that Blue hasn't figured out exactly what it's for yet. For SpaceX, it was an easy decision-- SS/SH is a Mars rocket; for Blue Origin things aren't so clear. I don't know if Blue has decided yet on whether to optimize New Armstrong for supporting orbital infrastructure or for Lunar operations and there's only so far the company can go until it makes that decision.

Here's the thing, as long as SpaceX is focused on SS/SH as a Mars rocket all its designs are going to be constrained by the requirements of interplanetary transit. Blue doesn't have those constraints. Jeff Bezos has no particular interest in Mars and Blue's plans and designs are going to reflect that. Just as one example, hydrolox seems to be far better suited for Lunar ISRU than methalox. SpaceX is locked into methalox for all SS uses because that's what's best suited for its Mars plans, but Blue can use hydrolox upper stages where appropriate because they don't have to build around the necessity of refueling on Mars.

Given that, I don't think it's unreasonable at all to suggest that sometime around 2030-2035 Blue may come out with a New Armstrong design that is a much better Moon rocket than anything SpaceX is flying at the time.

It's not a direct competition; Blue is driven by its own internal goals. I don't expect Blue to beat SpaceX on Mars rockets, but that doesn't mean that in a decade or two they can't design a rocket that's better at its primary function than SS/SH is at its secondary function.

Agreed in general.  I'm as big of a SpaceX fan as others on this site, but we're being a bit premature to claim that SpaceX's SS/SH has the edge over Blue's NG or that the business approach is "better."  Neither is flying or hopping  their next gen rocket yet (though we're hopeful that we'll see BFH/Flying Water Tank hop soon.)  Neither has flown their new engines; we've only seen public videos of test-firing of sub-scale Raptor and full-scale-but-not-full-thrust BE-4.  And of course Elon's tweets on the radically-redesigned Raptor (RRR).

But even if SS gets hopping, there's no guarantee that they'll be able to retire all of the risks.  Can SS survive even LEO orbital return?  To be a real game-changer, SS needs to be fully reusable with little-to-no refurbishment and demonstrate quick relaunch turn-around and in-orbit refueling.

Blue can't skip NG as they have a contract to develop it for Air Force launches.  It's unlikely that Bezos will leave that kind of money/prestige on the table and jump straight to some mythical, undefined New Armstrong rocket that's not even really a paper rocket at this point.  They need to walk (hop, land the booster on a moving ship, get to orbit, survive reentry, refurb and relaunch NG) before they run a marathon (fully reusable second stage, surviving lunar return velocities.)

We really won't have to declare a winner; the market will declare one for us.

Offline Lemurion

It's not even that the market will declare a winner, but that I can easily see SpaceX and Blue Origin serving different markets with each producing a system that better serves its own market while competing for other markets.

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It's not even that the market will declare a winner, but that I can easily see SpaceX and Blue Origin serving different markets with each producing a system that better serves its own market while competing for other markets.

I can't see an expendable system successfully competing with a rapidly reusable RTLS system.  Even if the RTLS system is "too large".

The analogy to A380 vs. 787 is irrelevant, since both systems are equally reusable.  If A380 was reusable and B787 was say 25% expendable per flight, then B787 would be a non-starter, even if it was "sized just right".

The only way for NG to succeed right now is if SH/SS fails to deliver, or has a series of accidents that delays it by several years.
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Offline Lemurion

It's not even that the market will declare a winner, but that I can easily see SpaceX and Blue Origin serving different markets with each producing a system that better serves its own market while competing for other markets.

I can't see an expendable system successfully competing with a rapidly reusable RTLS system.  Even if the RTLS system is "too large".

The analogy to A380 vs. 787 is irrelevant, since both systems are equally reusable.  If A380 was reusable and B787 was say 25% expendable per flight, then B787 would be a non-starter, even if it was "sized just right".

The only way for NG to succeed right now is if SH/SS fails to deliver, or has a series of accidents that delays it by several years.

Iím not suggesting that NG is going to effectively outcompete SS/SH but rather looking to New Armstrong and the future.

SS/SH has the potential to revolutionize space flight, but itís not particularly well suited for Lunar operations. I donít think itís far-fetched to believe that a fully reusable methalox/hydrolox architecture could prove to be a better fit for supporting a Moon base and if Blue follows that path for New Armstrong they could reasonably be expected to become the preferred provider for Lunar operations.

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It's not even that the market will declare a winner, but that I can easily see SpaceX and Blue Origin serving different markets with each producing a system that better serves its own market while competing for other markets.

I can't see an expendable system successfully competing with a rapidly reusable RTLS system.  Even if the RTLS system is "too large".

The analogy to A380 vs. 787 is irrelevant, since both systems are equally reusable.  If A380 was reusable and B787 was say 25% expendable per flight, then B787 would be a non-starter, even if it was "sized just right".

The only way for NG to succeed right now is if SH/SS fails to deliver, or has a series of accidents that delays it by several years.

Iím not suggesting that NG is going to effectively outcompete SS/SH but rather looking to New Armstrong and the future.

SS/SH has the potential to revolutionize space flight, but itís not particularly well suited for Lunar operations. I donít think itís far-fetched to believe that a fully reusable methalox/hydrolox architecture could prove to be a better fit for supporting a Moon base and if Blue follows that path for New Armstrong they could reasonably be expected to become the preferred provider for Lunar operations.

I do think that NG vs SS capability is a bit of a red herring. In the first few years of NG, SpaceX might respond to Blue's pricing but they're not going give away revenue needlessly.  They can't afford to until Starlink is a significant revenue stream.

For Blue's part, what markets let them scale up operations once they have full reuse capability? They obviously don't need funds to get to reuse.  They do need additional funds to go from raw capability to hundred/thousands/millions of people in space. More satellites + Moon COTS + a few homespun missions doesn't get you there.

SpaceX's pursuit of P2P, if successful, is a market that scales their Mars launch capacity as a side effect. 

Blue haven't show off any equivalent plan for growing a profitable customer base.  I'm sure Blue have some ideas, even if it's not directly entering the P2P market.

(As an aside, if P2P fails to work, I don't think we'll ever have a significant human presence beyond 35000ft.  If you can't reliably do global hops, you can't sustain a population in LEO/Moon/Mars)

Online Lar

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(As an aside, if P2P fails to work, I don't think we'll ever have a significant human presence beyond 35000ft.  If you can't reliably do global hops, you can't sustain a population in LEO/Moon/Mars)
This certainly isn't the right thread to debate SpaceX P2P plans but I'm not sure it's a given that P2P MUST work for launch costs to be lowered by orders of magnitude. (the operating regimes are different)

 It's one pathway but there are others, I think. Tankers and giant constellation launches are both approaches that can move the needle quite a bit, and are open to Blue as well as SpaceX. Once the needle is moved that much, high volume space industrialization can move it again.... also open to Blue as well as SpaceX... Virtuous cycle, each improvement opens up opportunities that then move the needle again as they blossom.

Let's take further to the right thread. I'll mod this post once I find it again if no one else posts a link.
« Last Edit: 01/10/2019 02:34 pm by Lar »
"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
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

Offline Robotbeat

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It's not even that the market will declare a winner, but that I can easily see SpaceX and Blue Origin serving different markets with each producing a system that better serves its own market while competing for other markets.

I can't see an expendable system successfully competing with a rapidly reusable RTLS system.  Even if the RTLS system is "too large".

The analogy to A380 vs. 787 is irrelevant, since both systems are equally reusable.  If A380 was reusable and B787 was say 25% expendable per flight, then B787 would be a non-starter, even if it was "sized just right".

The only way for NG to succeed right now is if SH/SS fails to deliver, or has a series of accidents that delays it by several years.
The problem with your logic is that NG is planned to be mostly reusable from the start and fully reusable later. It should be able to compete.
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It's not even that the market will declare a winner, but that I can easily see SpaceX and Blue Origin serving different markets with each producing a system that better serves its own market while competing for other markets.

I can't see an expendable system successfully competing with a rapidly reusable RTLS system.  Even if the RTLS system is "too large".

The analogy to A380 vs. 787 is irrelevant, since both systems are equally reusable.  If A380 was reusable and B787 was say 25% expendable per flight, then B787 would be a non-starter, even if it was "sized just right".

The only way for NG to succeed right now is if SH/SS fails to deliver, or has a series of accidents that delays it by several years.
The problem with your logic is that NG is planned to be mostly reusable from the start and fully reusable later. It should be able to compete.

It will be able to compete because the market total revenue isn't growing fast enough for SpaceX to just slash prices to the point where they are running thin margins. Also because there are no other low cost fully reusable systems set to enter the market any time soon, which means that BFR is only competing with partially reusable systems like NG.

Once another low cost fully reusable system is flying, the partially expendable systems will be in the same position what the fully expendable systems will be in when NG starts partial reuse (which is still some 3 years away). All of this takes time.

Offline Robotbeat

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NG will use partial reuse basically right from the start, like they did with NA.

It's FULL reuse that will take time.

I repeat: NG is planned for *full* reuse.
« Last Edit: 01/15/2019 05:05 am by Robotbeat »
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Offline Lars-J

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NG will use partial reuse basically right from the start, like they did with NA.

It's FULL reuse that will take time.

I repeat: NG is planned for *full* reuse.

That is possibly true (maybe even probable), but we don't KNOW that. Blue has not released anything about a reusable upper stage. Perhaps NA is the one that is planned to be fully reusable. We don't know.
« Last Edit: 01/15/2019 06:21 am by Lars-J »

Offline TrevorMonty

NG will use partial reuse basically right from the start, like they did with NA.

It's FULL reuse that will take time.

I repeat: NG is planned for *full* reuse.

That is possibly true (maybe even probable), but we don't KNOW that. Blue has not released anything about a reusable upper stage. Perhaps like NA is the one that is planned to be fully reusable. We don't know.
Even if reuseable US is long term plan having a expendable US for BLEO or heavy payloads is useful option.

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