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posted by martyb on Wednesday May 23 2018, @09:57AM   Printer-friendly
from the Spaaaaaaaaaace! dept.

Ariane chief seems frustrated with SpaceX for driving down launch costs:

[...] chief executive of Ariane Group, Alain Charmeau, gave an interview to the German publication Der Spiegel. The interview was published in German, but a credible translation can be found here. During the interview, Charmeau expressed frustration with SpaceX and attributed its success to subsidized launches for the US government. [...] Even as Charmeau decries what he calls subsidies for SpaceX from the US government, he admits that Ariane cannot exist without guaranteed contracts purchased by European governments. To make the Ariane 6 vehicle viable, Charmeau said Ariane needs five launches in total for 2021 and eight guaranteed launches for 2022.

[...] Charmeau said the Ariane rocket does not launch often enough to justify the investment into reusability. (It would need about 30 launches a year to justify these costs, he said). And then Charmeau said something telling about why reusability doesn't make sense to a government-backed rocket company—jobs. "Let us say we had ten guaranteed launches per year in Europe and we had a rocket which we can use ten times—we would build exactly one rocket per year," he said. "That makes no sense. I cannot tell my teams: 'Goodbye, see you next year!'" This seems a moment of real irony. Whereas earlier in the interview Charmeau accuses the US government of subsidizing SpaceX, a few minutes later he says the Ariane Group can't make a reusable rocket because it would be too efficient.

China's first private rocket reaches 127,000 feet on maiden flight:

OneSpace Technology Co., a Beijing-based aerospace company, has successfully launched a suborbital rocket. This was the first flight for China's commercial launch sector.

[...] The mission was designated OS-X0 as it was the first test launch of OneSpace's OS-X rocket. During the flight, the launch vehicle reached an altitude of 127,106 feet (38.74 kilometers) and had a top speed of more than 5.7 times the speed of sound. This was confirmed by Shu Chang, the company's founder and CEO.

[...] OneSpace is not the only Chinese private company developing launch vehicles. Last year, Link Space, another Beijing-based startup, presented the design of its New Line 1 reusable rocket. That company is targeting 2020 for the first orbital flight of its booster.

Although the Space Launch System's promoters are focusing on the vehicle's payload capacity to trans-Lunar injection orbit, NASA now claims that the SLS Block 1's payload to LEO may be greater than the 70 metric tons originally estimated. This comes as the SLS project has been negatively compared to SpaceX's Falcon Heavy:

While a comparison between NASA's SLS Block 1 and SpaceX's Falcon Heavy is often made, the gulf between the two has actually widened. As the Block 1 design has matured, the agency has refined the vehicle's capabilities by a significant amount. Though NASA prefers to position SLS as a deep-space rocket, [Spaceflight Insider] sought a clarification of the vehicle's capabilities to a more common destination for rockets: low-Earth-orbit (LEO).

NASA replied: "Now that the SLS design has matured and the program has more data as a result of progress with hardware manufacturing and testing, our current analysis shows the Block 1 configuration of SLS can deliver an estimated mass of 95 metric tons (209,439 pounds) to low-Earth orbit based on a 200 by 200-kilometer orbit with a 28.5 degree inclination, which is a commonly used orbit in the industry for estimating performance."

See also:

Here's China's plan to compete with SpaceX and Blue Origin:

How China plans to challenge SpaceX with reusable rockets: State contractor says its first reusable rocket could come in two years

Union votes to end ULA strike


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  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 23 2018, @03:05PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 23 2018, @03:05PM (#683128)

    But not for very long, so they should keep contacts of their people who will be let go. Soon everyone and their dog will be wanting to send something into orbit for whichever weird reason, and SpaceX will be overwhelmed like Tesla is now, and whoever steps in and offers more launch capacity or shorter queue will get the job. Either Ariane gets on the bandwagon, or is dissolved and another new company is built from scratch a bit later.

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by takyon on Wednesday May 23 2018, @03:26PM (2 children)

    by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Wednesday May 23 2018, @03:26PM (#683137) Journal

    SpaceX will be overwhelmed like Tesla is now

    I'm not convinced. With Falcon 9 Block 5, the company is hoping to create a rocket so rapidly reusable, that they could launch the same one every 24 hours (and they have 3 launch facilities, soon 4). BFR will be similar except that they won't be destroying the second stage. In practice, that pace doesn't make sense yet. They will be lucky to hit 50 launches a year and it seems like they will be able to meet all of the demand. Not only that, but SpaceX plans to launch thousands of satellites to operate its own satellite internet service.

    The demand for launches will only significantly increase if prices go down. SpaceX is doing that and will eat Ariane's lunch, but for now they don't intend to compete with small launch services such as Rocket Lab.

    http://spaceflight101.com/2017-space-launch-statistics/ [spaceflight101.com]
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_spaceflight [wikipedia.org]

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    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by frojack on Wednesday May 23 2018, @08:47PM (1 child)

      by frojack (1554) on Wednesday May 23 2018, @08:47PM (#683272) Journal

      They will be lucky to hit 50 launches a year and it seems like they will be able to meet all of the demand.

      Demand follows closely upon the heels of capability.

      If the world does the sensible thing, and returns to the Moon permanently, the demand will be insatiable for years to come.

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      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday May 23 2018, @09:33PM

        by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Wednesday May 23 2018, @09:33PM (#683291) Journal

        I agree, but Falcon 9 Block 5 seems to be overengineered.

        1. SpaceX intends to replace all Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches with BFR. There will surely be a transition period in which some customers stick with the more proven Falcon 9, but that's where the company is heading. As I've said before, I don't think the ~5 year delay of Falcon Heavy indicates that BFR will be delayed by years. Falcon Heavy is a design largely made of unchanged Falcon 9 cores, intended to increase the overall reusability of the vehicle while boosting maximum payload. Falcon 9 evolved greatly until Block 5, including many improvements to make reusability possible. Falcon 9 Block 4-5 has something like double the payload capacity of the original Falcon 9, and was able to launch payloads that were originally intended for an early design of Falcon Heavy.

        2. SpaceX has given some numbers:

        https://www.floridatoday.com/story/tech/science/space/2018/05/12/spacex-just-launched-first-next-gen-falcon-9-block-5-rocket-heres-what-we-know-elon-musk/604880002/ [floridatoday.com]

        "SpaceX expects the Block 5 program as a whole to launch about 300 missions before the introduction of BFR into the manifest"

        https://twitter.com/ChrisG_NSF/status/994648157576458240 [twitter.com]

        "About 30-50 Block 5s are planned. Dependent on how many customers demand to launch on a new rocket."

        This activity will be spread out across at least 5 years. So we can see that SpaceX doesn't really need to fly a Falcon 9 first stage more than 10 times, and certainly not 100 times. They may reach a point at which they are flying 60-80 times a year just before BFR is introduced, but that pace in no way necessitates the ability to reuse a Falcon 9 first stage within 24 or even 72 hours. They could just be launching the next one using a different core, or from a different facility (they have 3 launch sites today and are working on a 4th in Texas).

        They will have to carefully schedule just to make two launches in 24 hours on the same booster possible. It's not something they need to do, but likely a way to collect data and grab headlines by announcing to the world that "we can do this, and we will do it routinely with BFR".

        3. SpaceX says you can launch for $50 million on a flight-proven Falcon 9 first stage, compared to $60-62 million on a fresh rocket. That's a nice price cut, but not dramatic enough to create a surge in launch demand. Dramatic will come once BFR can beat that number while offering the capability for more massive and voluminous payloads.

        They are still trying to catch fairings, and they are talking about recovering a second stage with a "giant party balloon" (actually an inflatable heat shield). The first could be doable, and might knock down the price to $45 million. Recovering the second stage still seems like a waste of money and effort with the Falcon 9 design.

        In summary, I don't see the company being flooded with demand (that they can't handle) related to Falcon 9. They will be in a better position once BFR flies, lowering both total launch price and cost per kilogram. Perhaps with the lower launch cost and bigger fairing, BFR will be able to easily launch lots of small payloads at once. If you are only paying for 2-10% of the launch, you might be able to fly a payload even as a small company, university, club, or private individual. CubeSats FTW.

        About the Moon: I don't think there will be major momentum to put colonies there before the EOL of the Falcon 9, and BFR might be necessary to make it happen:

        https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2018/01/spacex-bfr-150-top-target-should-be-moon-colonization.html [nextbigfuture.com]

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