Spacex In Danger of Losing Private Space?

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mr_mark

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Boeing has the Space Adventures contract and is working to secure flights to both the ISS and the Bigelow space station. Virgin Galactic just announced today that they may be teaming up with another private space company for orbital flights. If they team with Sierra Nevada for Dreamchaser which could land at Spaceport America, where does that leave Spacex? Possibly, out in the cold before things even get started. I am greatly worried that Spacex is being outflanked by it's competitors and won't have a place at the table soon unless they can cut some deals. It may be that in the end their greatest asset may not be Dragon but Falcon 9 and Falcon 1e. They are in danger of becoming one of many companies that provide launchers with nothing new to bring to the table. Time to get busy. :shock:
 
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pathfinder_01

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Not really. The Boeing CST100 is built to be launch able on falcon 9 also.

Virgin had not said who they will team with. Could be Space X (although I hope it is dream chaser).

Bigloew will welcome anyone to his station and no commercial station would bar passengers from choosing whichever means they want.

The ISS needs a CRV. The commercial providers don't want to tie their craft up at the ISS. Orion could be it but that is not set in stone. Space X is in a good position to be a CRV because their dragon lab is built to last 2 years in orbit.

Space X can also give joy rides in dragon and the cargo version of dragon can supply more than just the ISS.
 
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bdewoody

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If Spacex is developing the best, most reliable launch platform then they will get contracts. If not then they will either merge or die as has been the case with every aerospace company in the past.
 
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stevekk

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bdewoody":5ewcll7w said:
If Spacex is developing the best, most reliable launch platform then they will get contracts. If not then they will either merge or die as has been the case with every aerospace company in the past.
I agree. The payloads that get launched into space are extremely valuable, either in the value of human life or a multi-million dollar satellite. Launch failures really aren't acceptable. Right now, SpaceX needs to build some confidence in their ability to reliably launch rockets. They only have a handfull of Falcon 1 launches, with a single successful launch, and a partially successful Falcon 9 launch.

That just doesn't compare with the success record of ULA with the Atlas / Delta or the Russians with the Progress / Soyuz.

NASA is giving them a chance to build a string of successful launches with the COTS contract.
 
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samkent

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Spacex has a couple of launchers that HAVE reached orbit.

Virgin and Sierra Nevada have dreams.
 
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oldAtlas_Eguy

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If this next Falcon 9/Dragon flight reaches orbit Space X will be the only one of the three most advanced potential Commercial HSF providers that will have orbited a pressurized space vessel that if it works out will be recovered showing that all the basic systems needed for HSF work. The only remainder is the internal environmental systems for human habitation. This puts Space X ahead of the competition by 3 years. If NASA was really serious about developing an alternative to the Soyuz they could have a Commercial HSF capability by 2012. If NASA has concerns about Falcon 9 reliability they could always fly Dragon on an Atlas V. Qualifying Falcon 9 and Atlas V for being able to fly both CST-100 and a Manned Dragon means that there would be a backup system for everything in case one system, spacecraft or launch vehicle becomes down for failure or serious problem investigation.

In all Space X will still be in the lead even if NASA does not award it a CCDev contract for the next year. Notice that the CCDev contracts duration are for one year to 18 months. They also are for development of advanced subsystems not the complete vehicle. Maybe Space X can get one to develop a land surface landing technology adaption for use with Dragon. Space X has stated they want to eventually be able to do land surface landings with Dragon.
 
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SteveCNC

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samkent":1kckx3po said:
Spacex has a couple of launchers that HAVE reached orbit.

Virgin and Sierra Nevada have dreams.
heh , Sierra Nevada has never and I don't believe will ever build a launch vehicle , they have build propulsion units for satelites and as far as I know do not have any failures to date . While I have heard talk of building a much bigger hybrid motor than what they have done so far , I believe at this point it is still just talk .

Since the talk right now is to launch Dream Chaser on top of an AtlasV , they will have to man rate it for that to happen . If the FalconX comes along and gets it's man rating it will most likely be launched on top of them .
 
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Crossover_Maniac

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I, for one, welcome the stiff competition to drive down the price of space travel.
 
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vulture4

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It isn't a lack of competition that keeps prices high. The market is highly sensitive to cost; even if there were only one supplier, they would try to lower costs since that would expand the market. However they cannot do so because only modest cost reduction is possible with expendable vehicles and reusable orbital vehicles require more resources for R&D than private investment can provide.

Of course NASA could fund commercial RLV development but that would require a focus on supporting private industry rather than flying arbitrary billion-dollar missions. Hey, wait a minute, that was NASA's original mission, before the moon race. NASA naturally blames the administration for not giving it a "goal". NASA needs to present a strategy to the country that will actually provide practical benefits for America. Another Apollo will not do so, regardless of the actual destination. How about developing useful technology?

As for SpaceX it is the only US company with a launch system that is capable of competing for commercial launches, and commercial satellite launches are considerably more profitable than space tourism. ULA is at least 50% more expensive and the Ares costs about ten times as much to launch as Falcon. Moreover, the additional commercial launches Musk has been able to sell will allow him to achieve the required levels of reliability for human flight. Boeing will give him a run for his money, but it will be hard to match SpaceX costs.
 
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oldAtlas_Eguy

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Space X is betting on being able to reuse at least the first stage of the Falcon 9. If they continue to have problems recovering the first stage then the costs will rise and their prices will rival the Atlas V. It cost ~$40 mil for the engines on the first stage. If they cannot be reused at least three to five times, the Falcon 9 price structure would be somewhere around ~$90 mil per flight, to cover a brand new set of engines and first stage tanks for each flight. If they can consistently recover the first stage and can reuse it more than planned, then their prices may even lower. By the way, NASA stipulation in the COTS contract requires Space X to use new vehicles both Falcon 9s and Dragons for each launch. They are also paying for the higher rate as well for this ~$100 mil per flight.
 
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aaron38

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Since the DeltaIV isn't currently scheduled to be man-rated, and the Falcon9 will be, the Boeing capsule would have to launch on the Falcon, and SpaceX has said they'll sell a booster to anyone.

There's also a real need to have independent launch vehicles for redundancy. The last thing a commercial station can tolerate is to have access cut off due to an accident. Two capsule designs allow manned flights to continue. I see that as an asset. But of course there needs to be enough trafic to keep both systems in production.
 
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Swampcat

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aaron38":mevodvex said:
Since the DeltaIV isn't currently scheduled to be man-rated, and the Falcon9 will be, the Boeing capsule would have to launch on the Falcon, and SpaceX has said they'll sell a booster to anyone.
Not quite true. ULA, which operates Delta IV and Atlas V launch systems, is using NASA-provided CCDev money to develop an EDS (that's an Emergency Detection System for the acronym challenged) for both vehicles. The purpose of the EDS is to allow for human rating.

Also, Sierra Nevada intends to use Atlas V for its Dreamchaser spacecraft which requires that launch vehicle to be human rated.

Falcon 9 is not the only choice.
 
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Skyskimmer

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I think you guys are thinking a little to far in the future, it won't be until 2015 until anything starts to change. By then almost anything could happen. Recovery of the first stage I think is a trivial issue, they haven't done on test flights yet which don't mean a whole lot that's why there called test flights. Don't look too deep into things that haven't happened.

My only fear is that the competitors sell well below their costs for a few years just to knock spacex out of the race, and then soon as he gone go back to bussiness as usual.
 
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DarkenedOne

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Skyskimmer":1tbblxwl said:
I think you guys are thinking a little to far in the future, it won't be until 2015 until anything starts to change. By then almost anything could happen. Recovery of the first stage I think is a trivial issue, they haven't done on test flights yet which don't mean a whole lot that's why there called test flights. Don't look too deep into things that haven't happened.

My only fear is that the competitors sell well below their costs for a few years just to knock spacex out of the race, and then soon as he gone go back to bussiness as usual.
No way. SpaceX is successful because they have designed a very efficent system. They have a bunch of relatively young, ambitious, and hard working people working for them. They also do not have the overhead that all these older firms have.
There is just no way that they are going to be out done by these large firms that survive on lucrative government contracts.
 
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stevekk

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DarkenedOne":1cjg4v3a said:
Skyskimmer":1cjg4v3a said:
I think you guys are thinking a little to far in the future, it won't be until 2015 until anything starts to change. By then almost anything could happen. Recovery of the first stage I think is a trivial issue, they haven't done on test flights yet which don't mean a whole lot that's why there called test flights. Don't look too deep into things that haven't happened.

My only fear is that the competitors sell well below their costs for a few years just to knock spacex out of the race, and then soon as he gone go back to bussiness as usual.
No way. SpaceX is successful because they have designed a very efficent system. They have a bunch of relatively young, ambitious, and hard working people working for them. They also do not have the overhead that all these older firms have.
There is just no way that they are going to be out done by these large firms that survive on lucrative government contracts.
Those "Young, ambitious" engineers like to get paid just as much as us old crusty guys do. In fact, some of those young guns are more willing to jump ship if they see the grass and paycheck is greener on the other side of the street. Us old guys get tired of job hopping after a while.

Those big government contracts are a two-edged sword. They help supply the needed revenue to cover the development costs of smaller programs. Boeing doesn't need NASA to cover funding for the CST-100 program, it could probably fund that 20-50 million effort internally. But, the corporation gets used to big profits from each program. If program X doesn't look like it will give a decent return on investment, they can drop the program. They have so many different lines of business, it doesn't matter. SpaceX only does space. If they can't make money on Dragon / Falcon, they don't have any other business lines to fall back on. They have to be successfull or go out of business.
 
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Skyskimmer

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My only worry about spacex besides as I said being drastically undercut by boeing as a corporate assault, is that they may not face any competition at all. I wouldn't be surprise if spacex, simply keeps it's price at 3 million a ton, for the next 30 years. This would kill spaceflight IMHO.
 
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Ruri

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Spacex is closer to flying a crewed vehicle then the other three contenders.
A flight ready Dragon already exists Dream chaser is still at the mockup stage and the CST-100 is still just power points and CAD files.
OSC has not shown much interest in a crewed version of Cygnus so they probably won't be competing with Spacex in crew flights any time soon.
On to specs only Dream Chaser beats Dragon in some specs.
DC has a more benign reentry,more cross range, and I think it also has more delta V then any other vehicle except for Orion.
Though nothing comes close to Dragon in storage and Dragon is the only vehicle with a TPS rated for a Mars return.
SNC has claimed DC can perform a lunar return using skip reentry if about 80kg of AVcoat are added to the hottest parts of the vehicle.
Boeing's capsule probably could perform a lunar mission as well with a beefed up TPS and propulsion since it's Apollo derived.
I don't think Boeing's LVs will under cut Falcon because F9 achieves it's performance without liquid hydrogen which add greatly to operating costs not even Atlas V can come close it still has an expensive engine the RD-180,has the disadvantage of being vertically integrated and requires both kerosene and hydrogen.
The CST-100 might even end up riding on F9 some times.
 
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Valcan

Guest
Ruri":1h62qiuj said:
I don't think Boeing's LVs will under cut Falcon because F9 achieves it's performance without liquid hydrogen which add greatly to operating costs not even Atlas V can come close it still has an expensive engine the RD-180,has the disadvantage of being vertically integrated and requires both kerosene and hydrogen.
The CST-100 might even end up riding on F9 some times.
Boeing has stated as much. They want to use any domestic launcher they can maybe even a aranie.
 
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stevekk

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Ruri":fvnklcjg said:
Spacex is closer to flying a crewed vehicle then the other three contenders.
A flight ready Dragon already exists Dream chaser is still at the mockup stage and the CST-100 is still just power points and CAD files.
A Cargo-only version of the Dragon may exist, but a Dragon capable of carrying a human crew does not.

Unless of course, you like placing people in a tin can with no life support and then launching them into the vacuum of space. And SpaceX supporters will argue that the Falcon 9 has a 100 percent success rate, so there is no need of a launch abort system, since every launch will be successful. Even if they do lose a Dragon capsule or two, it doesn't matter since their customers paid in advance.
 
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oldAtlas_Eguy

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To human rate a Dragon and Falcon 9 the following is needed over the Cargo Dragon: a human computer interface in the capsule, seats, life support, and an abort 0 altitude system. SNC has demonstrated a 0 altitude system, basically a new type, a pusher system that can be used once on orbit to increase the orbital height instead of being thrown away during ascent. This would be placed between the second stage and the Dragon support module. A prototype was successfully tested under a CCDev contract. The interface implementation is mostly software and ergonomic engineering problem that requires use of experienced astronaut evaluation of the proposed layouts, possibly even some centrifuge tests with astronauts exercising the controls under simulated max acceleration. Designing the life support system is not difficult but certifying it takes a lot of work and testing under multiples of conditions. A cargo Dragon is not a Human rated Dragon but it certainly isn’t as far away as the other candidates.
 
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