Author Topic: SpaceX vs BlueOrigin - Whose Approach / Business Strategy is Better?  (Read 315674 times)

Offline krsears

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There are many statements here about Blue Origin being "slow". But are they really?

BE-4 engine development started in 2011; first operational flight is expected for 2021. Raptor engine development started in 2011; first operational flight is expected for 2021.

Falcon 9 and Heavy were both planned in 2005; first flight of F9 was after 5 years, FH after 13 years - 6 years late. Blue Origin was founded in 2000; first flight is expected for 2021, after 11 years.

Vulcan was announced in 2014; first flight expected for 2021.

SLS was announced in 2011, but has its roots in the Ares which was developed from ~2006 (?). 15 years until expected first flight in 2021.

Regarding Starhopper & Super Heavy, I think it's very hard to predict when they will both fly. The public hopper construction is percieved as quick progress - but remember that it's rather a flying engine test stand than a Starship prototype. There are huge technical challenges ahead. SpaceX has been working on the "Mars Colonial Transporter" project at least since 2013. Would be 8 years until a first flight in 2021, or e.g. 10 years until 2023, which my guess for SH first flight.

Summary: Compared to other recent or ongoing developments of huge rockets, Blue Origin dosn't look particularly slow to me. Rather average. But they are working much quieter, which may lead to the misconception that there is little happening at BO.

This is 21 years, not 11.

Kendall
« Last Edit: 02/19/2019 03:07 pm by krsears »

Offline PM3

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This is 21 years, not 11.

Right. Have edited my post to fix that. They started working on the engine for an orbital rocket in the early 2010s, so I think ~11 years it still is a valid guess for the time from New Glenn development start to currently planned first flight. Conclusion stays the same.

Online Lemurion

There are many statements here about Blue Origin being "slow". But are they really?

BE-4 engine development started in 2011; first operational flight is expected for 2021. Raptor engine development started in 2011; first operational flight is expected for 2021.

Falcon 9 and Heavy were both planned in 2005; first flight of F9 was after 5 years, FH after 13 years - 6 years late. Blue Origin was founded in 2010 2000; New Glenn first flight is expected for 2021, after 11 years Afaik it is not known when Blue Origin started to work on an orbital rocket, but I think a reasonable guess is that it was not long before starting on the engine. (They had an orbital rocket on their website in 2011).

Vulcan was announced in 2014; first flight expected for 2021.

SLS was announced in 2011, but has its roots in the Ares which was developed from ~2006 (?). 15 years until expected first flight in 2021.

Regarding Starhopper & Super Heavy, I think it's very hard to predict when they will both fly. The public hopper construction is percieved as quick progress - but remember that it's rather a flying engine test stand than a Starship prototype. There are huge technical challenges ahead. SpaceX has been working on the "Mars Colonial Transporter" project at least since 2013. Would be 8 years until a first flight in 2021, or e.g. 10 years until 2023, which is my guess for SH first flight.

Summary: Compared to other recent or ongoing developments of huge rockets, Blue Origin dosn't look particularly slow to me. Rather average. But they are working much quieter, which may lead to the misconception that there is little happening at BO.

[Edit: Fixed the BO founding date error.]

Those numbers look right, but there's another way to look at it.

SpaceX founded 2002, first orbital attempt 2006, first successful orbital launch 2008, number of orbital launches 70*, number of orbital launch systems brought into service 3.
Blue founded 2000, first orbital attempt 2021(projected), first successful orbital launch 2021(projected), number of orbital launches 0, number of orbital launch systems brought into service 0.

As of this writing, Elon Musk is giving a 60% chance of Starship reaching orbit by 2020-- while Blue is still on track for a 2021 launch of New Glenn. SpaceX took four years to develop its first orbital launch vehicle, and another two years to achieve a first successful flight. Blue is on pace for 21 years for its first orbital vehicle.

New Glenn may be proceeding at something approaching the industry average pace, but Blue as a whole is proceeding much more slowly than SpaceX.

*67 Falcon 9 launches including CRS-1, 2 successful Falcon 1 launches, 1 Falcon Heavy launch.

Offline PM3

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Hmm. These comparisons are really tricky, because of different goals and approaches of both companies. Blue originally focused on bringing humans to space, and it looks like they will achieve that within 19 years (compared to 17 years for SpaceX). SpaceX initially focused on launching satellites, which they managed within 6 and a half year, compared to 21+ years for Blue Origin. When averaging that out, Blue really looks damn slow.

Then, compare it to RocketLab - 12 years to achieve their goal, launching a satellite. This makes rather look SpaceX damn fast.

Online Lars-J

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Hmm. These comparisons are really tricky, because of different goals and approaches of both companies. Blue originally focused on bringing humans to space, and it looks like they will achieve that within 19 years (compared to 17 years for SpaceX).

You are conflating/confusing bringing humans to suborbital space vs bringing humans to orbital space.

Offline PM3

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Hmm. These comparisons are really tricky, because of different goals and approaches of both companies. Blue originally focused on bringing humans to space, and it looks like they will achieve that within 19 years (compared to 17 years for SpaceX).

You are conflating/confusing bringing humans to suborbital space vs bringing humans to orbital space.

Sure. I also copied Lemurion's comparison of development time for an expendable smallsat launcher (Falcon 1) to a partially reusable heavy launcher (New Glenn).

Those comparisons are tricky, because both companies went different ways. I fully agree that Blue's progress is overall slower than SpaceX - mostly because SpaceX overall has been extraordinary fast.

https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1067173497909141504?lang=de
« Last Edit: 02/19/2019 07:55 pm by PM3 »

Online Lemurion

Itís true that the Falcon 1 doesnít compare to New Glenn in developmental complexity, but it does reflect an achievement that Blue has yet to reach. Iíd personally consider Falcon 9 to be a good comparative, and both Falcon Heavy and Starship to represent a step beyond New Glenn in complexity.

It is really hard to do a true one-for-one comparison, but for me the fact remains that SpaceX has repeatedly achieved its goals and then built on those goals to step beyond. Blue has yet to achieve either suborbital passenger flight on NS or orbital flight with NG.

Offline envy887

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Right now, I'm appreciating Blue Origin's approach, which they've used to beat SpaceX's far-out BFR proposal in the EELV-2 competition to date. 
Far-out? Seems like you're not giving SpaceX sufficient credit.
It is outside the realm of space launch industry experience.  Way outside. 

 - Ed Kyle

I could have sworn the US launch industry already built and flew a human-rated large diameter HLV with a large reusable orbital stage and high pressure reusable staged combustion engines.

No? Hmm. Must have been imagining things.

Offline PM3

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Itís true that the Falcon 1 doesnít compare to New Glenn in developmental complexity, but it does reflect an achievement that Blue has yet to reach. Iíd personally consider Falcon 9 to be a good comparative, and both Falcon Heavy and Starship to represent a step beyond New Glenn in complexity.

As far as I understand BO's plans, they are trying to build a New Glenn v1.0 which is more capable [1] and higher reusable [2] than today's Falcon 9 Block 5 and has a more sophisticated engine [3]. This would be something more ferociter than a F9 v1.0 and of course take more grandatim to develop ...

[1] 50-100% more payload, 200% more fairing volume
[2] 25 vs 10 flights; Methalox vs. RP1-Lox engine
[3] closed cycle with oxygen-rich preburner vs. open cycle / fuel-rich

No idea if they will really achive that. If so, I guess it will take significantly longer than with Falcon 9.

Offline envy887

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Itís true that the Falcon 1 doesnít compare to New Glenn in developmental complexity, but it does reflect an achievement that Blue has yet to reach. Iíd personally consider Falcon 9 to be a good comparative, and both Falcon Heavy and Starship to represent a step beyond New Glenn in complexity.

As far as I understand BO's plans, they are trying to build a New Glenn v1.0 which is more capable [1] and higher reusable [2] than today's Falcon 9 Block 5 and has a more sophisticated engine [3]. This would be something more ferociter than a F9 v1.0 and of course take more grandatim to develop ...

[1] 50-100% more payload, 200% more fairing volume
[2] 25 vs 10 flights; Methalox vs. RP1-Lox engine
[3] closed cycle with oxygen-rich preburner vs. open cycle / fuel-rich

No idea if they will really achive that. If so, I guess it will take significantly longer than with Falcon 9.

Blue has been working on BE-4 and New Glenn (formerly "Very Big Brother") for quite some time. Their schedule for first flight in 2021 is entirely reasonable, although they will probably need a few iterations to get to New Glenn's ultimate performance and reuse specs. The current performance specs are heavily sandbagged and Blue only needs a few reuses out of the first couple boosters to meet their flight rate expectations.

The advantage of an overly large vehicle is that it has a lot of margin on performance, and that can be traded for improvements in schedule (less optimization) or reuse (less entry stress) etc.

Offline M.E.T.

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Itís true that the Falcon 1 doesnít compare to New Glenn in developmental complexity, but it does reflect an achievement that Blue has yet to reach. Iíd personally consider Falcon 9 to be a good comparative, and both Falcon Heavy and Starship to represent a step beyond New Glenn in complexity.

As far as I understand BO's plans, they are trying to build a New Glenn v1.0 which is more capable [1] and higher reusable [2] than today's Falcon 9 Block 5 and has a more sophisticated engine [3]. This would be something more ferociter than a F9 v1.0 and of course take more grandatim to develop ...

[1] 50-100% more payload, 200% more fairing volume
[2] 25 vs 10 flights; Methalox vs. RP1-Lox engine
[3] closed cycle with oxygen-rich preburner vs. open cycle / fuel-rich

No idea if they will really achive that. If so, I guess it will take significantly longer than with Falcon 9.

Blue has been working on BE-4 and New Glenn (formerly "Very Big Brother") for quite some time. Their schedule for first flight in 2021 is entirely reasonable, although they will probably need a few iterations to get to New Glenn's ultimate performance and reuse specs. The current performance specs are heavily sandbagged and Blue only needs a few reuses out of the first couple boosters to meet their flight rate expectations.

The advantage of an overly large vehicle is that it has a lot of margin on performance, and that can be traded for improvements in schedule (less optimization) or reuse (less entry stress) etc.

With reference to your last point, Super Heavy is an even larger rocket than New Glenn. So it would presumably have even greater margin of performance. So my thinking is that even if the Starship concept turns out to be too ambitious due to heat shield issues or something else, SpaceX need only design a more conventional 2nd stage to fit onto Super Heavy in order to still have a more capable rocket than New Glenn.

So a kind of giant F9 upper stage with a 9m diameter, running on methane, stacked on top of Super Heavy would surely outperform New Glenn. But that would be the Plan B, if Starship doesn't work.
« Last Edit: 02/20/2019 01:39 pm by M.E.T. »

Offline envy887

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The advantage of an overly large vehicle is that it has a lot of margin on performance, and that can be traded for improvements in schedule (less optimization) or reuse (less entry stress) etc.

With reference to your last point, Super Heavy is an even larger rocket than New Glenn. So it would presumably have even greater margin of performance. So my thinking is that even if the Starship concept turns out to be too ambitious due to heat shield issues or something else, SpaceX need only design a more conventional 2nd stage to fit onto Super Heavy in order to still have a more capable rocket than New Glenn.

So a kind of giant F9 upper stage with a 9m diameter, running on methane, stacked on top of Super Heavy would surely outperform New Glenn. But that would be the Plan B, if Starship doesn't work.

Yes. A single Raptor upper stage about the same size as the NG upper stage would have similar performance, even to GEO, thanks to better mass fractions with methalox. A triple Raptor stage about the size of the hopper propulsion module would let SuperHeavy match SLS Block 1B to TLI.

If they put a radiatively cooled nozzle extension on that upper stage Raptor, even a stubby SH with half as many engines could still match New Glenn even with booster RTLS.

Offline M.E.T.

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The advantage of an overly large vehicle is that it has a lot of margin on performance, and that can be traded for improvements in schedule (less optimization) or reuse (less entry stress) etc.

With reference to your last point, Super Heavy is an even larger rocket than New Glenn. So it would presumably have even greater margin of performance. So my thinking is that even if the Starship concept turns out to be too ambitious due to heat shield issues or something else, SpaceX need only design a more conventional 2nd stage to fit onto Super Heavy in order to still have a more capable rocket than New Glenn.

So a kind of giant F9 upper stage with a 9m diameter, running on methane, stacked on top of Super Heavy would surely outperform New Glenn. But that would be the Plan B, if Starship doesn't work.

Yes. A single Raptor upper stage about the same size as the NG upper stage would have similar performance, even to GEO, thanks to better mass fractions with methalox. A triple Raptor stage about the size of the hopper propulsion module would let SuperHeavy match SLS Block 1B to TLI.

If they put a radiatively cooled nozzle extension on that upper stage Raptor, even a stubby SH with half as many engines could still match New Glenn even with booster RTLS.

Very interesting. And would you agree that Super Heavy is a much surer bet than Starship? If so, and based on the rough estimates you shared above, SpaceX might have more room for failure in the Starship quest than some would give them credit for. While a definite setback, particularly for Mars, it need not mean the end of the company by any means. Worst case they might just have to shift gears a bit and do a kind of partially reusable SLS at a tenth the price.

Offline spacenut

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I too feel that Superheavy would be much easier to build than Starship.  It is like a giant F9 booster. 

Online cppetrie

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I too feel that Superheavy would be much easier to build than Starship.  It is like a giant F9 booster.
Elon believes this too. He has said as much. It’s why they are starting with building Starship and proving out its systems before building the booster.

Offline TrevorMonty

The advantage of an overly large vehicle is that it has a lot of margin on performance, and that can be traded for improvements in schedule (less optimization) or reuse (less entry stress) etc.

With reference to your last point, Super Heavy is an even larger rocket than New Glenn. So it would presumably have even greater margin of performance. So my thinking is that even if the Starship concept turns out to be too ambitious due to heat shield issues or something else, SpaceX need only design a more conventional 2nd stage to fit onto Super Heavy in order to still have a more capable rocket than New Glenn.

So a kind of giant F9 upper stage with a 9m diameter, running on methane, stacked on top of Super Heavy would surely outperform New Glenn. But that would be the Plan B, if Starship doesn't work.

Yes. A single Raptor upper stage about the same size as the NG upper stage would have similar performance, even to GEO, thanks to better mass fractions with methalox. A triple Raptor stage about the size of the hopper propulsion module would let SuperHeavy match SLS Block 1B to TLI.

If they put a radiatively cooled nozzle extension on that upper stage Raptor, even a stubby SH with half as many engines could still match New Glenn even with booster RTLS.
Now you 30 engine reuseable booster with expendable US competiting against 7 engine reuseable booster. Guess which ones going to be cheaper to operate per launch.

Offline envy887

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The advantage of an overly large vehicle is that it has a lot of margin on performance, and that can be traded for improvements in schedule (less optimization) or reuse (less entry stress) etc.

With reference to your last point, Super Heavy is an even larger rocket than New Glenn. So it would presumably have even greater margin of performance. So my thinking is that even if the Starship concept turns out to be too ambitious due to heat shield issues or something else, SpaceX need only design a more conventional 2nd stage to fit onto Super Heavy in order to still have a more capable rocket than New Glenn.

So a kind of giant F9 upper stage with a 9m diameter, running on methane, stacked on top of Super Heavy would surely outperform New Glenn. But that would be the Plan B, if Starship doesn't work.

Yes. A single Raptor upper stage about the same size as the NG upper stage would have similar performance, even to GEO, thanks to better mass fractions with methalox. A triple Raptor stage about the size of the hopper propulsion module would let SuperHeavy match SLS Block 1B to TLI.

If they put a radiatively cooled nozzle extension on that upper stage Raptor, even a stubby SH with half as many engines could still match New Glenn even with booster RTLS.
Now you 30 engine reuseable booster with expendable US competiting against 7 engine reuseable booster. Guess which ones going to be cheaper to operate per launch.

In this scenario, expended upper stage costs are going to dominate. Blue is using Al-Li/carbon fiber and LH2 with 2 low production rate engines. SpaceX will use stainless with methalox (no insulation) and a single mass-produced Raptor. SpaceX can probably win that cost battle by $10 million or more.

At $100 million (ballpark) for a NG booster intended for 25 flights, the hardware cost (even with zero refurb) is $4M per flight. SpaceX just needs to get proportionally more flights out of their booster for the higher cost, which isn't unreasonable as they have more experience reflying orbital boosters, are aiming for ~1000 flights per booster, and are doing an easier trajectory with RTLS only. RTLS not only allows for faster, easier, and more booster flights, but also dispenses with the time and cost of a landing boat, return trip, and handling from ship back to launchpad.

Finally, we have fuel costs, which are still very minor. At most there is a few $100k difference.

Offline spacenut

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The advantage of an overly large vehicle is that it has a lot of margin on performance, and that can be traded for improvements in schedule (less optimization) or reuse (less entry stress) etc.

With reference to your last point, Super Heavy is an even larger rocket than New Glenn. So it would presumably have even greater margin of performance. So my thinking is that even if the Starship concept turns out to be too ambitious due to heat shield issues or something else, SpaceX need only design a more conventional 2nd stage to fit onto Super Heavy in order to still have a more capable rocket than New Glenn.

So a kind of giant F9 upper stage with a 9m diameter, running on methane, stacked on top of Super Heavy would surely outperform New Glenn. But that would be the Plan B, if Starship doesn't work.

Yes. A single Raptor upper stage about the same size as the NG upper stage would have similar performance, even to GEO, thanks to better mass fractions with methalox. A triple Raptor stage about the size of the hopper propulsion module would let SuperHeavy match SLS Block 1B to TLI.

If they put a radiatively cooled nozzle extension on that upper stage Raptor, even a stubby SH with half as many engines could still match New Glenn even with booster RTLS.
Now you 30 engine reuseable booster with expendable US competiting against 7 engine reuseable booster. Guess which ones going to be cheaper to operate per launch.

Superheavy wouldn't use just one Raptor engine on an upper stage.  If it is an expendable upper stage it would have more Raptor Vacuum upper engines and probably deliver 200 tons to orbit.  One Raptor  smaller upper stage might fit a Falcon Heavy to increase it's payload to 70-75 tons, but it is not in the works.  SpaceX for now is going fully reusable with Super Heavy/Starship.  They have a lot of potential possibilities if Starship doesn't work out initially. 

Online Lemurion

The advantage of an overly large vehicle is that it has a lot of margin on performance, and that can be traded for improvements in schedule (less optimization) or reuse (less entry stress) etc.

With reference to your last point, Super Heavy is an even larger rocket than New Glenn. So it would presumably have even greater margin of performance. So my thinking is that even if the Starship concept turns out to be too ambitious due to heat shield issues or something else, SpaceX need only design a more conventional 2nd stage to fit onto Super Heavy in order to still have a more capable rocket than New Glenn.

So a kind of giant F9 upper stage with a 9m diameter, running on methane, stacked on top of Super Heavy would surely outperform New Glenn. But that would be the Plan B, if Starship doesn't work.

Yes. A single Raptor upper stage about the same size as the NG upper stage would have similar performance, even to GEO, thanks to better mass fractions with methalox. A triple Raptor stage about the size of the hopper propulsion module would let SuperHeavy match SLS Block 1B to TLI.

If they put a radiatively cooled nozzle extension on that upper stage Raptor, even a stubby SH with half as many engines could still match New Glenn even with booster RTLS.
Now you 30 engine reuseable booster with expendable US competiting against 7 engine reuseable booster. Guess which ones going to be cheaper to operate per launch.

The one that does RTLS rather than requiring a landing ship. RTLS is a huge cost saver on an operational level. SpaceX will be spending more on Raptors than Blue on BE-4 engines but the operational and construction cost gaps wonít be quite as high as that alone would imply. SpaceX is also planning on a higher launch cadence which would also reduce operational costs per flight.

Offline HVM

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Is NSF bit biased? Or is it just me.
BE-4 powerpack accident; "ooh no whole program is in jeopardy!"
Raptor pressure failure (*read as RUD); "you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs"

;P

*(Still hope that parts didn't hit any cows
« Last Edit: 02/21/2019 06:32 pm by HVM »

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