Spaceception

I'm pretty sure SpaceX put ULA out of business (To some degree)

Could SpaceX put ULA out of business?  

91 members have voted

  1. 1. Could SpaceX put ULA out of business?

    • Yes
      8
    • No
      25
    • Likely, but it depends
      29
    • It's too early to tell
      29


Recommended Posts

You heard of the Falcon 9 launch on December 21st, right? Mind blowing, Game changer, The launch that krakened off/wowed pretty much every rocket company on the planet, yeah, you know what I'm talking about, but did this launch put ULA out of business? I mean, SpaceX already had much cheaper launch costs than ULA ($2,500 lb), but once they perfect these vertical landings, they'll have MUCH cheaper launch costs, probably $900-1400 lbs, which is much cheaper than ULA's $10,000 lb. So what do you guys think about it?

Edited by Spaceception

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that it's still going to be a few years before they actually make reusability profitable and refuse rockets regularly. Maybe spaceX will progress slowly enough that ULA can roll out Vulcan ?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, Hcube said:

I think that it's still going to be a few years before they actually make reusability profitable and refuse rockets regularly. Maybe spaceX will progress slowly enough that ULA can roll out Vulcan ?

 

Perhaps, but I'm pretty sure that the only way ULA can compete with SpaceX is scrapping the "Collect the engine block after each flight" and just land the first stage back on land like the Falcon 9-Heavy-MCT.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
42 minutes ago, Spaceception said:

Perhaps, but I'm pretty sure that the only way ULA can compete with SpaceX is scrapping the "Collect the engine block after each flight" and just land the first stage back on land like the Falcon 9-Heavy-MCT.

You're more than likely right, but I think it depends on a lot of economic factors... If ULA can replace everything except the engine, cheaper than what it costs SpaceX to recover & refurb a full 1st stage, AND have a lower turn-around time, ULA may be able to compete or beat...
I doubt it, tho, and I think you are correct, SpaceX's full-on recover & refurb will end up being cheaper, but I just wanted to point out there are other factors and ways to make things cheaper too...

Edited by Stone Blue

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Way too early to tell for sure, but it's certainly possible. It all depends on how economical re-using the boosters really is.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No. Most (80-90%) of the cost of a rocket is actually employees and operations, not the materials- something that will almost certainly not decline after reusability (especially since the Falcon Core returns covered in soot). Also, the Shuttle showed Resuability can actually be worse.

 

If ULA actually manages to reduce costs to half of right now, it will be due to the design of Vulcan, cutting the fat in operations, and retiring Delta. I have a feeling many will be disappointed when the reality of low cost differences for reusable rockets comes along.

ULA knows this, so they are playing it safe for reusability.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Spaceception said:

You heard of the Falcon 9 launch on December 21st, right? Mind blowing, Game changer, The launch that krakened off/wowed pretty much every rocket company on the planet, yeah, you know what I'm talking about, but did this launch put ULA out of business? I mean, SpaceX already had much cheaper launch costs than ULA ($2,500 lb), but once they perfect these vertical landings, they'll have MUCH cheaper launch costs, probably $900-1400 lbs, which is much cheaper than ULA's $10,000 lb. So what do you guys think about it?

Do you read forums before posting in them ?

We've been discussing this for a week. Do we really have to repost everything we've already said in your thread ?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Think about it, ULA produces the Atlas V. The vehicle has never had a single failure, and the largest variant can carry payload to Mars.

I love SpaceX, but they have a long way to go until they can replace ULA.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Sequinox said:

Think about it, ULA produces the Atlas V. The vehicle has never had a single failure, and the largest variant can carry payload to Mars.

I love SpaceX, but they have a long way to go until they can replace ULA.

They had one partial failure, but that's one in over 60 launches.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Sequinox said:

Think about it, ULA produces the Atlas V. The vehicle has never had a single failure, and the largest variant can carry payload to Mars.

I love SpaceX, but they have a long way to go until they can replace ULA.

If ULA manages to keep to keep the Atlas politically alive, yeah, they do have the perfect record to keep them in the market... until they don't. No such thing as a flawless rocket, just one that wasn't flown enough to fail. And if they do manage to make a cheaper Vulcan, and it also doesn't fail, perhaps they can even make the transition to a new rocket and keep on existing. But those are at least as big "ifs" as those concerning SpaceX's reusability ambitions. And I mean the "more than one flight of a core in a day" kind of comments. And let's remember, that ULA is a difficult political marriage of convenience that could well end in dissolution and a further increase in the number of players, potentially. But all these things will take decades to play out completely, though.

 

Rune. As Churchil said: "This is not the end, not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning". At least for SpaceX.

Edited by Rune

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

IMO NASA will keep ULA alive no matter what to preserve a backup option to SpaceX and Orbital ATK. Having that option paid off for ISS resupply after both Antares and Falcon 9 failed, in addition to the Progress from Russia. If nothing else Congress will keep ULA alive because someone's constituents stand to benefit from it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
40 minutes ago, Rune said:

If ULA manages to keep to keep the Atlas politically alive, yeah, they do have the perfect record to keep them in the market... until they don't. No such thing as a flawless rocket, just one that wasn't flown enough to fail. And if they do manage to make a cheaper Vulcan, and it also doesn't fail, perhaps they can even make the transition to a new rocket and keep on existing. But those are at least as big "ifs" as those concerning SpaceX's reusability ambitions. And I mean the "more than one flight of a core in a day" kind of comments. And let's remember, that ULA is a difficult political marriage of convenience that could well end in dissolution and a further increase in the number of players, potentially. But all these things will take decades to play out completely, though.

 

Rune. As Churchil said: "This is not the end, not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning". At least for SpaceX.

The number of players increasing from the dissolution of ULA is impossible- Delta II is no longer produced, and Delta IV is impossible to run economically.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, fredinno said:

No. Most (80-90%) of the cost of a rocket is actually employees and operations, not the materials- something that will almost certainly not decline after reusability (especially since the Falcon Core returns covered in soot). Also, the Shuttle showed Resuability can actually be worse.

 

80% or 90% is employees.. it depends on how you see it, but that is the wrong approach to understand the real stage booster cost.
So, not sure if you are including the developing cost of falcon heavy, dragonv1, dragonv2 and the MLC in your employees count, or you are just counting the raw material cost which; of course, you need employes + energy to convert that raw material into an engine or a different piece.

Elon musk said that the cost of the first stage is 3/4 of the whole rocket cost, which seems more accurate than the analysis made for NASA in 2011, which they assume it is 40% of the rocket cost.
THen you need to add your profits, but if you can increase your demand, you will decrease your profits to hit a punch to your competence stealing them clients, this is a clear sign that you are the king of the industry, which also attracts more private investments.

Quote

 

If ULA actually manages to reduce costs to half of right now, it will be due to the design of Vulcan, cutting the fat in operations, and retiring Delta. I have a feeling many will be disappointed when the reality of low cost differences for reusable rockets comes along.

ULA knows this, so they are playing it safe for reusability.

 

They can't, their whole company structure and procedures should have a big change for this to happen.
They were very comfortable over these past years without real competence getting huge paids for space vehicles without any new tech development (because nobody demanded), now they are not only behind in tech, they also can not imitate the cost efficiency from spacex.

In 5 years, after some billions of development on its vulcan rocket, at higher production cost, they will be starting to test it, meanwhile recovering the first stage for spacex will be ordinary and they will be trying to recover their second stage and launching many rockets by year.

If I were you, I will not put many hopes in the ULA horse.  Is fat and old.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Spaceception said:

You heard of the Falcon 9 launch on December 21st, right? Mind blowing, Game changer, The launch that krakened off/wowed pretty much every rocket company on the planet, yeah, you know what I'm talking about, but did this launch put ULA out of business? I mean, SpaceX already had much cheaper launch costs than ULA ($2,500 lb), but once they perfect these vertical landings, they'll have MUCH cheaper launch costs, probably $900-1400 lbs, which is much cheaper than ULA's $10,000 lb. So what do you guys think about it?

I'd hold off on too much speculation until they do their first DOD launch, but yeah absent major change at ULA, the writing is on the wall

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The main hurdle with reusability is the state of the engines.

Imagine if your car engine broke every time you used it. You'd have to get a new one for each drive.

For rockets it's even worse. The SSMEs might as well have been new engines after all their refurbishing... So we need a rocket engine that can run for many thousands of seconds and restart a dozen or more times. Okay, the starting mechanism could be replaced, but we're talking thousands of PSI and thousands of degrees K. We either need better materials, or less extreme situations. Or both.

And that's an engineering hurdle. The vast majority of cost for anything is the overhead. Paying people to do their jobs, and stuff like that. It's the majority for quite a few charities, too. It's s big problem.

Mass production will help quite a bit. But it's much more difficult for rockets. Even so, the A-4/V-2 was mass produced in a resource-lacking nation. Albeit it's not as complex or as extreme as modern rockets, but it was still done.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, AngelLestat said:

80% or 90% is employees.. it depends on how you see it, but that is the wrong approach to understand the real stage booster cost.
So, not sure if you are including the developing cost of falcon heavy, dragonv1, dragonv2 and the MLC in your employees count, or you are just counting the raw material cost which; of course, you need employes + energy to convert that raw material into an engine or a different piece.

Elon musk said that the cost of the first stage is 3/4 of the whole rocket cost, which seems more accurate than the analysis made for NASA in 2011, which they assume it is 40% of the rocket cost.
THen you need to add your profits, but if you can increase your demand, you will decrease your profits to hit a punch to your competence stealing them clients, this is a clear sign that you are the king of the industry, which also attracts more private investments.

They can't, their whole company structure and procedures should have a big change for this to happen.
They were very comfortable over these past years without real competence getting huge paids for space vehicles without any new tech development (because nobody demanded), now they are not only behind in tech, they also can not imitate the cost efficiency from spacex.

In 5 years, after some billions of development on its vulcan rocket, at higher production cost, they will be starting to test it, meanwhile recovering the first stage for spacex will be ordinary and they will be trying to recover their second stage and launching many rockets by year.

If I were you, I will not put many hopes in the ULA horse.  Is fat and old.

ULA is not really any "older" than SpaceX- ULA was founded in 2006.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 Any fully liquid fueled rocket can be made reusable as the F9 is by returning the first stage to the launch site. So ULA can do this both to the Atlas V and Delta IV to match SpaceX.

 And the same is true for the launchers of the Russians, Chinese, and Japanese. The only one left out will be  ESA with the Ariane 5 and Ariane 6 launchers which can not lift off without the solid rocket side boosters.

 The situation is especially bad for ESA because they expected to still fly the Ariane 5 for heavy launches. But with the F9 upgrade its payload to LEO in expendable mode is 21 metric tons which matches the Ariane 5 but at 1/3rd the cost.

   Bob Clark

Edited by Exoscientist

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
28 minutes ago, Exoscientist said:

 Any fully liquid fueled rocket can be made reusable as the F9 is by returning the first stage to the launch site. So ULA can do this both to the Atlas V and Delta IV to match SpaceX.

 And the same is true for the launchers of the Russians, Chinese, and Japanese. The only one left out will be  ESA with the Ariane 5 and Ariane 6 launchers which can not lift off without the solid rocket side boosters.

 The situation is especially bad for ESA because they expected to still fly the Ariane 5 for heavy launches. But with the F9 upgrade its payload to LEO in expendable mode is 21 metric tons which matches the Ariane 5 but at 1/3rd the cost.

   Bob Clark

Not exactly... you need to have a restartable liquid engine that can throttle down significantly, and control systems to stabilize the stage on the way down. The merlin was designed for reusability- Existing launcher simply are not set up for it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll just repost this I guess:

We still don't know if recovering a stage actually allows economically viable reusability.

Reusing and refurbishing the first stage might allow some cost savings compared to building a new one, but there are many more factors involved in the cost of orbital launch. The manufacturing cost of the first stage is actually only a small part of the total cost of launching a rocket, maybe only 30% (optimistically). The rest of the cost is mainly the workforce, planning, infrastructure, logistics, R&D, transport, administrative overhead, etc... And there's transport, integration, launch services, and a lot of stuff that isn't recoverable (upper stage, fairing...). 

The payroll of the workforce is the biggest part of the launch cost, and reusability doesn't magically reduce the workforce. SpaceX is just about as lean as a launch provider can be and has already slashed prices as much as they could.  Even with reusability, they will still need a factory and lots of engineers. Even if you need a few less people on the production lines to build less boosters, you need people to refurbish, prepare, and transport the recovered stage, which wasn't needed before. 

And this assumes that the first stage is actually free, which it isn't. It's designed to fly maybe 20 times, but not indefinitely. You could assume that by spreading the manufacturing cost over 20 flights reduces the cost per flight by 95% of the above-mentioned 30% figure, but it isn't even that simple.

Disposable rockets (especially the Falcon 9) are actually designed to be (relatively) cheap, partly because they are produced in numbers. Manufacturing costs diminish with volume, meaning that as launch volume increases, the unit cost of each booster decreases.If you have 50 launches per year, with a disposable model, you need to mass produce 500 Merlin engines and 50 first stages. With 100% first stage reusability, the same factory has to build only 2.5 first stages and 72.5 engines. The result is that due to lower procurement volumes and higher fixed costs, those reusable stages are going to cost a lot more than the disposable ones. Enough to seriously cut into the reduction induced by reusing the stages in the first place. Instead of saving 95% on the manufacturing cost of the first stage, for the same amount of flights, the real cost reduction might only be 50%.

So in the end, what sounded like a 95% (of 30%) reduction of launch cost might only turn out to be a 15% reduction, which has the potential to bring the cost of a Falcon 9 launch from $60 million down to $45 million. It's a nice perk to pass on to your customers, but it's not a game changer.

Now, from the customer's point of view, the actual launch is only a small part of the total cost of a typical project. Maybe, again, 20%. The rest is the satellite itself (the biggest part of the budget), the ground stations, the insurance, and the actual operations. This means that in the grand scheme of things, the total saving that a customer can expect when they put a satellite in service is 15% of 20%, which is only 3%. On a $200 million comsat project, that's a whopping $6 million saving on their total expenses. Again, it's a nice saving, but it's not a revolution.

Note: The above figures are educated guesses, but I believe the orders of magnitude are pretty close.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, fredinno said:

ULA is not really any "older" than SpaceX- ULA was founded in 2006.

Except Lockheed has been around since the thirties or even before. So has Boeing. ULA itself isn't old, but it's parents certainly are.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

*clears throat

Rockets are NOT easy to reuse. If they didn't break after every use, sure. If Turbopumps weren't spinning at double digit thousand RPMs, the temps weren't at thousands of K, and the pressure wasn't enormous, it might be doable.

And reusing a stage brings along even more of an infrastructure, which has startup and overhead costs. You will have to inspect every centimeter vigorously. You will have to refurb the engines, refurb the stage, and re certify it. Even more TLC will be needed. You won't be able to land, refuel, and go. Rockets aren't cars.

Edited by Bill Phil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

SpaceX puts ULA under pressure, surely. Their launch costs are below ULA's, and ULA just leaned back, watching SpaceX, but they did nothing to be able to really compete with SX nowadays. That's their problem now. If reusability concept would work out, ULA will have major problems, if not, they'll have trouble too. So yeah

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One thing is that NASA will not want to be dependent on a single source supplier for launch vehicles, so for that, if nothing else (ie: Politics) it will survive

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This thread is quite old. Please consider starting a new thread rather than reviving this one.

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.