Author Topic: Who will compete with SpaceX? The last two and next two years.  (Read 168514 times)

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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A full scale production engine is not powerpoint, I have spoken with Blue Origin employees, and indications are that it is a great place to work. Did you know they can bring their dogs in with them to work?

Some people might not consider others bringing their dogs, children etc to a shared work space great at all.

Unprofessional, disruptive, unhygienic, allergenic and prone to interpersonal animosity whether overt or otherwise.
For the Seattle Washington tech area culture that policy is not out of place. But the one thing not mentioned is that that same tech culture has an unspoken policy and that is if you don't produce significant amount of progress on your work you will be replaced. The area has abundance of engineers and tech people and can attract new people to the area although they may not stay in the area for more than 6 months. Some just can't take the weather conditions. No sun unless you travel out of the area.

Offline Lars-J

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Same goes for developing a second, dissimilar rocket design.  Nothing could be further from Spacex's plans
Other than being single-stick, I'm not sure how you can call ITS and ITSy a "Similar" rocket design to F9.
But ITSy the 9m is an SHLV not a HLV. It is overkill for all DOD payloads. Also I doubt that VI would ever even be considered. It is just that it's per launch costs would be comparable to that of an F9. That element is what could make things interesting.

Did you just contradict yourself in one paragraph? :) If the price is reasonable, it is not overkill. And the very *point* of "ITSy" is to make it work for commercial/govt payloads.

As for VI... The ITS concept was all vertical integration, if you recall the video. "ITSy" might be the same.
« Last Edit: 08/04/2017 05:29 PM by Lars-J »

Offline Nomadd

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 I suppose there will be three pages on the definition of "overkill" now.

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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I suppose there will be three pages on the definition of "overkill" now.
Unfortunately they missed my point about this discussion being beyond the topic since it is about what may occur 6+ years from now not what will take place in the next 2 years. In 7 years we went from first launch of F9 to VTVL of the booster stage with proven reuse of boosters. SpaceX says it is cost effective. So what will happen in the next 6/7 years. In 2010 this current state today was not one of the prevalent visions for that future.

Offline envy887

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Maybe SpaceX will develop a second, dissimilar rocket design and take both halves of the NSS market...


Not going to happen.  Spacex doesn't even want their part
Correct. Hence the lack of priority for VI. Getting certified for NSS launches really is all about disruption, not about putting ULA out of business.

Same goes for developing a second, dissimilar rocket design.  Nothing could be further from Spacex's plans
Other than being single-stick, I'm not sure how you can call ITS and ITSy a "Similar" rocket design to F9.

I think Jim's point is that SpaceX doesn't plan to operate two dissimilar rockets (or take them both through all the NSS hoop jumping) for long enough to push any competitors out of the NSS launch business.

Falcon isn't going to operate for decades after the next generation vehicle is flying.

Offline ZachF

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Mark Twain's quote is directly applicable. 
This is the only place of where rumors of ULA's demise exist.

Launch vehicles that only serviced the military existed for decades.  Martin (now LM) Titan existed on it for four decades.  They only had 3 commercial launches, ever.

Rumors of ULAs demise exist because of their ownership structure.

The launch market has changed considerably in the last 5 years. Back then, during the end of the Shuttle era, with the US launch industry sitting on a 0% market share in commercial launches, there was plenty of interest in throwing public funds at the "Old Space" companies to keep the industry alive. It was looking like the US falling into fourth place behind The Russians, Chinese, and Europeans was an almost assured thing. ULA was a major beneficiary of this. They were paid ~$200 million per launch, got an additional ~$1 billion/year in readiness payments, and made a cool $600 million per year ($50m/launch) in profit to be split between it's two parents. ULA was a money printing machine for Lockheed and Boeing.

Flash foward to now, ULA is no longer the only player in town, and is pretty much the world's most expensive launch service provider in an increasingly competitive field. They no longer control the government launch market, which is set to decline as well. They will soon lose their ~$1b/y readiness payment (which is larger than the profit they make). There is a third competitor on the horizon whom they may be dependent upon for their engines. Their rockets are increasingly looking uncompetitive and potentially obsolete.

This means ULA, which was once a money-printing machine, is going lose it's profit margins, and need billions in investment to compete... And it's corporate parents, run by executives who care most about next quarters profit, will have two decisions.

1. Invest billions in ULA to make it competitive. And you're going to be competing against the (now) richest man on Earth, and one of the savviest businessmen living today, for whom profits are not a priority... And Someone who will likely soon be one of the richest men on Earth who has made a life of upending large industries now multiple times, who also doesn't really care about making a profit. This means ULA will be a profit drag for an indefinite amount of time, when it used to be a solid money-earning venture, and after all of those billions in investment, it still might not make money.

or

2. Sell your assets and IP, make a quick buck, be a hero in the next quarterly profit report, forget about the launch industry and focus on areas you (Boeing, LM) are still profitable in.

ULA has many smart, talented engineers and hard working employees, but the fate of their company does not rest in their hands unfortunately. And for ULA's corporate parents, I think as time goes on option 2 is going to look more and more attractive.

I'd personally put the chance of ULA being disbanded and liquidated before 2030 at above 50%.
« Last Edit: 08/04/2017 06:21 PM by ZachF »

Offline Jim

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I'd personally put the chance of ULA being disbanded and liquidated before 2030 at above 50%.

Equally applicable to Spacex, Orbital, Blue.

Offline ZachF

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I'd personally put the chance of ULA being disbanded and liquidated before 2030 at above 50%.

Equally applicable to Spacex, Orbital, Blue.

It's certainly a nonzero factor, but I wouldn't say it's anywhere near "above 50%"...

SpaceX is the most aggressive, and that can be a problem, but Elon will probably go to the deepest lengths of any of them to keep the company alive. LM and Boeing executives won't be mortgaging their houses and spending their last dimes to keep ULA alive like Elon has and probably would again.

BO is pretty methodical and Bezos has more money than god. Seriously, lets not underestimate this... Bezos' wealth isn't that far removed from the market cap Of Boeing, and he's worth more than Lockheed Martin.

Both will have higher much "pain tolerances" Than the "will it look bad on the next quarter" threshold that is likely for the modern, short-sighted executives that populate firms like Boeing and LM.

Orbital...meh.

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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WE BACK AGAIN TALKING ABOUT NOT WHAT IS LIKELY TO HAPPEN IN THE NEXT 10 YEARS BUT THE 10 YEARS AFTER THAT.

The likely hoods of any of the companies existing by 10 years from now could be all, none or even a completely new set not in existence today.

Speculation on corporate existence beyond the manifest booked launches is not useful.

Offline rsdavis9

But ITSy the 9m is an SHLV not a HLV. It is overkill for all DOD payloads. Also I doubt that VI would ever even be considered. It is just that it's per launch costs would be comparable to that of an F9. That element is what could make things interesting.

But also as I stated we are talking 6+ years out NET 2023 for ITSy operational status. This thread is about what will be the case in just 2 years EOY 2019. So what may be the case four years after that is OT.

So the estimate is per launch f9 is comparable to ITSy?
I don't buy that if you have complete and rapid reuse.
I think ITSy will be per launch a lot cheaper
With ELV best efficiency was the paradigm. The new paradigm is reusable, good enough, and commonality of design.
Same engines. Design once. Same vehicle. Design once. Reusable. Build once.

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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But ITSy the 9m is an SHLV not a HLV. It is overkill for all DOD payloads. Also I doubt that VI would ever even be considered. It is just that it's per launch costs would be comparable to that of an F9. That element is what could make things interesting.

But also as I stated we are talking 6+ years out NET 2023 for ITSy operational status. This thread is about what will be the case in just 2 years EOY 2019. So what may be the case four years after that is OT.

So the estimate is per launch f9 is comparable to ITSy?
I don't buy that if you have complete and rapid reuse.
I think ITSy will be per launch a lot cheaper
The problem is we do not know. It is speculation. Part of the cost is the cost of manufacture and the life (number of flights per unit). What we end with is a range of values with at the low end <$20M and the High end as much as $100M or more.

Again ITSy effect on the corporate competition will not occur in this next 6 years and possible even not in the next 10 years.

Offline cosmicvoid

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For the Seattle Washington tech area .... Some just can't take the weather conditions. No sun unless you travel out of the area.

Except for late June to early September, which is commonly sunny skies, high temps and drought.
« Last Edit: 08/05/2017 02:01 AM by cosmicvoid »
Infiinity or bust.

Offline tdperk

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ULA and Ariane are both very reliable when it comes to launching on time. They  don't need to match SpaceX for price,  just need to close the current large price gap.

LV price is not everything, satellites can cost their owners a lot of money sitting on ground waiting for LVs.

This makes no sense to me when closing the price gap is first matching SpaceX for price and SpaceX has demonstrated an approx 1 launch per two weeks cadence.

Online Robotbeat

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Yeah, both the launch cadence and the reliability objections to using SpaceX are likely temporary. But ULA does offer unique and complicated services for DoD/three-letter-agency payloads, so I think ULA will be fine for the time being.
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Online gongora

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ULA and Ariane are both very reliable when it comes to launching on time. They  don't need to match SpaceX for price,  just need to close the current large price gap.

LV price is not everything, satellites can cost their owners a lot of money sitting on ground waiting for LVs.

This makes no sense to me when closing the price gap is first matching SpaceX for price and SpaceX has demonstrated an approx 1 launch per two weeks cadence.

SpaceX is approaching the time when they can sustain that cadence and provide reliable schedules, but they aren't quite there yet.  SpaceX is still around 6 months behind on their commercial payloads.  They had so many contracts signed for 2017 that they can't catch up at all on the manifest this year with 20 launches.  They're really not likely to get caught up on the manifest before 2019 (assuming there are no more accidents.)

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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The key is with the expansion of used boosters the flight rate will increase. This next flight of a used booster at the end of Sept will keep the flight rate up. As we move into 2018 the ratio of used to all flights will increase. That ratio increase will enable an increase in overall flight rates without the expansion of manufacturing capability at Hawthorne.

Reuse of boosters is a two fold impact for flight costs. One is the direct cost of the flight and the other is indirect cost lowering for the payload operator because of the lower wait time for a flight from greater availability of flight hardware. It is because of this booster reuse that SpaceX will be able to fix their delays for getting payloads into orbit. One of the main items that the competitors ULA or Arianespace uses to attract new payloads. This will put them shortly (about 1 year from now) into a more competitive position for commercial payloads than what they were before. The other item is to have 2 functional east coast pads enabling up to the doubling of the demonstrated launch rate so far this year of one East launch every 18 days. With 2 pads the theoretical is that they could do 1 launch every 9 days into equatorial orbits <60 degree inclinations. At such launch rates that is 40 east launches plus from 6 to 8 west launches. West launches is still primarily limited by payloads that are going into the polar orbits. SLC4E could do up to 20 launches/year.

If the SpaceX comm constellation is deployed, it would use up the capability of the SLC4E for higher inclination orbits about 12 or somewhere around about 300 sats/yr. If some of the launch capability of the east pads is used then it would be possible for a full 800 sat constellation could be deployed in 1 year. The 800 value is the sated level needed for the constellation to be operational and start producing revenue while more sats are added each year. So in 2019 or 2020 the sat constellation could be deployed and become operational. For this is is a problem of how many sats SpaceX could manufacture in 1 or 2 years once production of sats start. The other item is the production of Earth terminals which will be needed to be produce at the rate of 1X to 100X the rate sats are produced or 8,000 to 80,000 units in the same time frame.

Offline Lar

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I think 800,000 units of ground terminals. Which is not an unreasonable number.
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Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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If SpaceX deploys the comm constellation in ~2 years the competition is the HTS geo sats and One Web at that time frame. Later more competition in LEO could occur. So what makes SpaceX's comm constellation in a better competitive position than others?

It's starting point is equal to the final point of the other systems. It would have tremendous growth and expansion of capabilities.  Max data rates are higher than the alternates. Against GEO sats there is also the latency which One Web also shares as an advantage. The advantage against One Web is size and capacity of the constellation network. The sats are 2X the size of One Web and up to 6X in number eventually than that of One Web.  But costs may be close to the same per sat for the cost of sat and their launch. This could well enable a pricing war with One Web where SpaceX could undercut One Web's data prices ($/bit) by as much as a factor of 2. But differently is that One Web is concentrating on end users but SpaceX is concentrating on bulk backhaul. For backhaul SpaceX needs those significant reductions in $/bit to compete with ground systems performing backhaul.

Online Roy_H

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Rumors of ULAs demise exist because of their ownership structure.
...
ULA was a money printing machine for Lockheed and Boeing.

Flash foward to now, ULA is no longer the only player in town, ...
... And it's corporate parents, run by executives who care most about next quarters profit, will have two decisions.

1. Invest billions in ULA to make it competitive. ..., it still might not make money.

or

2. Sell your assets and IP, make a quick buck, be a hero in the next quarterly profit report, forget about the launch industry and focus on areas you (Boeing, LM) are still profitable in.

ULA has many smart, talented engineers and hard working employees, but the fate of their company does not rest in their hands unfortunately. And for ULA's corporate parents, I think as time goes on option 2 is going to look more and more attractive.

I'd personally put the chance of ULA being disbanded and liquidated before 2030 at above 50%.

Well I agree with option 2 (except I'd say 2025), I think it is more likely they will cut ULA loose and let it stand or fall on its own. ULA may find other investors. Maybe even bought up by Bezos, ULA has a lot of expertise in the launch business that Blue doesn't have.
"If we don't achieve re-usability, I will consider SpaceX to be a failure." - Elon Musk

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Rumors of ULAs demise exist because of their ownership structure.
...
ULA was a money printing machine for Lockheed and Boeing.

Flash foward to now, ULA is no longer the only player in town, ...
... And it's corporate parents, run by executives who care most about next quarters profit, will have two decisions.

1. Invest billions in ULA to make it competitive. ..., it still might not make money.

or

2. Sell your assets and IP, make a quick buck, be a hero in the next quarterly profit report, forget about the launch industry and focus on areas you (Boeing, LM) are still profitable in.

ULA has many smart, talented engineers and hard working employees, but the fate of their company does not rest in their hands unfortunately. And for ULA's corporate parents, I think as time goes on option 2 is going to look more and more attractive.

I'd personally put the chance of ULA being disbanded and liquidated before 2030 at above 50%.

Well I agree with option 2 (except I'd say 2025), I think it is more likely they will cut ULA loose and let it stand or fall on its own. ULA may find other investors. Maybe even bought up by Bezos, ULA has a lot of expertise in the launch business that Blue doesn't have.
As a side item some few months ago LM and Boeing no longer have to hold onto ULA. Either one can sell their 50% share independently now. Whether either will sell their portion, unlikely. It makes them a lot of money without much risks.

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