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Space Science

China Space Official Confounded By SpaceX Price 276

Posted by samzenpus
from the discount-space-travel dept.
hackingbear writes "Declining to speak for attribution, the Chinese officials from Great Wall Industry, a marketing arm of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CAST), say they find the published prices on the SpaceX website very low for the services offered, and concede they could not match them with the Long March series of launch vehicles even if it were possible for them to launch satellites with U.S. components in them. According to the SpaceX website, launch on a Falcon 9 — which has an advertised lift capacity of 10,450 kg. (23,000 lb.) — from Cape Canaveral costs $54 million — $59.5 million. If the SpaceX price is real and its quality is proven, both are big IFs, it is remarkable to see that US can beat China in term of price. Between August 1996 and August 2009, the Chinese rockets have achieved 75 consecutive successful launches were conducted, ending with a partial failure in the launch of Palapa-D on August 31, 2009. If we all learn from SpaceX, maybe soon China will outsource from the US."
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China Space Official Confounded By SpaceX Price

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  • by macraig (621737) <mark DOT a DOT craig AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday April 17, 2011 @06:00PM (#35850510)

    ... maybe soon China will outsource from the US.

    No, they won't. They'll do the same thing they've been doing for generations now: they'll study what we're doing (e.g. SpaceX), both legally and not-legally, copy it at first like a baby learning a new language, then learn how to integrate what they learn into their own way of doing things, and finally wind up doing it better or at least more cheaply than we can.

    • by MrEricSir (398214) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @06:06PM (#35850564) Homepage

      China: if Microsoft was a country.

      • by lennier1 (264730)

        "standards = laws"?

      • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @07:26PM (#35851044)

        Except that Microsoft spends more on R&D than most other companies combined and often enters markets long before anyone else. (See Smart Phone, MP3 Players, Tablets etc...)

        • by paiute (550198) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @07:45PM (#35851152)

          Except that Microsoft spends more on R&D than most other companies combined and often enters markets long before anyone else. (See Smart Phone, MP3 Players, Tablets etc...)

          Black powder, printing, noodles.

          • by SplashMyBandit (1543257) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @09:52PM (#35851672)
            China had a technological lead a long time ago, in the technologies you mention. With the Age of Enlightenment (decreased religious and political control of learning and thought), the printing press, and personal freedoms the West/Russia/Middle East leapt ahead. So, while you mention black powder, (block) printing, noodles, which are all great inventions you are choosing to selectively ignore the mammoth changes the West developed since. For example: free speech, modern printing press, mass literacy, railways, steam/coal/hydro/wind/nuclear power, true understanding of electricity and electromagnetism, true understanding of chemistry, true understanding of much of physics, electromagnetic communication, flight, blah blah blah blah blah. Sure the Chinese were by no means primitive, but you are also missing the elephant in the room when you mention their historic contributions. Hopefully they'll also contribute again meaningfully in the future, instead of just copying and refining ideas as they are doing know. That said, I still personally would not like to be a Chinese citizen living in China, hopefully individuals will have more meaningful existences there too.
            • China will also have to compete against India and Africa as well for cheap labor and technology. Until global economic equilibrium has been reached with regards to the flow of wealth from nation to nation, it will always be more cost effective to outsource vs doing business locally.

              As I've said before. America's problems can't be solved with trickle-down or trickle-up policies. That's because were facing trickle-OUT. So until we can stop the hemorrhaging of wealth from our nation, we'll never pay off our de

        • Except that Microsoft spends more on R&D than most other companies combined and often enters markets long before anyone else. (See Smart Phone, MP3 Players, Tablets etc...)

          MP3 players? [wikipedia.org]
          smart phones? [wikipedia.org] I assume you were being sarcastic when you say Microsoft enters markets long before anyone else.

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          First? Smartphones? You mean after palm? MP3 players? Really? Before apple maybe but not first.

          • by afidel (530433)
            There were CE based smartphones in 2000, two years before the first Treo which wasn't even from Palm but rather from Handspring.
    • by rAiNsT0rm (877553)

      As Japan did before and rose to great heights. We never learn and instead have simply handed over almost all of our technology and manufacturing to them, and not surprisingly they are in the #2 spot now and poised to eclipse the US along with the rest of BRIC in as short as 3 years.Hopefully that will finally be enough to start to get our act together again, but IMO it will be too late.

      • by meza (414214)

        And how much has that hurt you? Are you without a job? In that case, would you have a job if Japan didn't exist? Did development in the US stop because of Japan, or is there other research still going on? Would the Prius have been built in the US if Japan didn't exist? Just curious on the reasoning.

        I fail to see how loosing positions in ranking has any thing to do with that if life actually gets better for everyone. I'm not saying that is the case, just that it is an equally valid explanation.

        • by rAiNsT0rm (877553) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @07:11PM (#35850930) Homepage

          You will see soon enough how much damage it truly has done. As a long-time investor, researcher, and currently in charge of a large global voice and data network for a global corp, I see it first-hand. A lot of research and many great books have been written on this topic, you should check some out and then see if your opinion holds. Japan as Number One, China Inc., and anything on the topic of BRIC are decent starting points in normal prose.

          My personal opinion is that we are heading for a large fall and one that we will not quickly or easily climb out of. My best guess is that in 3-5 years China and BRIC (as well as allies they bring in as they get closer to #1) will start to flex their muscle, you can see the framework in place now. I am also guessing the quickest we could begin to recover will be 10-15 years, with 20 seeming not out of the question. Positions/rankings may not be important to you but they mean quite a lot in terms of resources and where they go, and many of the countries with the resources will go where the growth and numbers are... which is not the US, a number of those ties are already strained or deteriorating. Again, this is my opinion, but it is based on a lot of information. No one has a crystal ball, but I would be very shocked if I'm completely wrong.

      • by jd (1658) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Sunday April 17, 2011 @06:47PM (#35850810) Homepage Journal

        Pfffft. As if America hadn't done the same. America, prior to signing onto international treaties on copyright and patents, was notorious for reverse-engineering European products and then using mass-production (as opposed to specialist workshops) to undercut the Europeans and sell back to them. Indeed, most major nations throughout history have been... loose on morals and ethics in their formative years. The Romans stole all their technologies - and usually stole the countries that invented them too. The only "we" in this equation is humanity, since every nation on Earth that made it big did so on the back of other nations, robbing them at first, then exploiting them later. The usual end result is an addiction to those other nations, resulting in the inevitable death from that addiction.

        (This is why I would like to see a nation actually acheve something honestly for a change. If there isn't that addictive quality, if using others isn't the drug of choice, then you might actually get stable, sustainable achievement. Might. Without any actual case studies to examine, this is a difficult theory to test.)

        • by rAiNsT0rm (877553) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @07:22PM (#35851020) Homepage

          I'm in solid agreement with you mostly, but there is a difference. Greed. Not just greed but artificial constructs such as the current stock market. Many European companies have endured and lasted perfectly fine on stability and flat/zero growth or very low percentages. And there is nothing wrong with that, but many US companies force massive, unsustainable, double digit growth in the name of stock prices and lining executive pockets and once they are run into the ground or fail spectacularly those execs simply move on to another company to rape. This has left many American businesses extremely weak and badly broken which is something that is a much deeper and serious. I think the US can and could innovate again, but first the infrastructure would need to be rebuilt and the desire to do so which we currently lack.

          I actually don't care about patents and "secrets" as they are of marginal value anyhow in the grand scheme of things, it ultimately comes down to sustainability and the product. Every culture has gotten too big for it's britches at some point and most go supernova as a result, innovation be damned.

          • by jd (1658) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Sunday April 17, 2011 @09:44PM (#35851632) Homepage Journal

            Ok, I can buy your argument on greed and artificial constructs. As for your .sig, the Brits used espionage to steal tea secrets from the Chinese. As I said, all nations have used theft to get ahead. (For those interested in the history of tea, the Brits used to drink coffee. They switched to tea to protest government efforts to shut down the trade unions and other "unapproved" organizations. America switching to coffee as a protest against essentially the same government for essentially the same practices is one of history's greatest ironies.)

            • by rAiNsT0rm (877553)

              I actually deal in and drink high-end teas from Japan, China, and India. Hand processed and crafted. Tea history and trade is indeed interesting and I've got a soft spot for it :) Shincha, Gyokuro, Puer, Shui Xian, Huo Shan Huang Ya, Bi Lo Chun, Darjeeling, and the like. If I'm sick or just in the mood my low-end cuppa of choice is either PG Tips or Luzianne.

              • by jd (1658)

                I now almost exclusively drink high-end teas. I used to like Tetley but it now tastes thoo rough for me. PG Tips is good. Yorkshire Gold Blend is also great. If you've not tried it, do so. Of the high end, my preference is for Hao Ya A but I'm not earning enough to keep up. What importers do you use? Upton is ok but some of the high-end tea shops in Portland are getting higher-grade imports than them so I know there's better.

              • by jd (1658)

                Almost forgot. If you like tea history and don't have this link [cuttysark.org.uk], shame on you.

        • by goodmanj (234846)

          Whoever modded this post "flamebait" should look up the history of Samuel Slater [cottontimes.co.uk], Francis Cabot Lowell [cottontimes.co.uk], and others. America lagged far behind Britain at the end of the 18th century, but soon reached parity through a combination of technology purchase [wikipedia.org] and straight up industrial espionage.

      • As Japan did before and rose to great heights.

        I see this notion being repeated again and again, but is there any actual basis for this? It seems to me that this was just a popular myth spread aging industrial economies. It's quite telling that Japanese cars and electronics targeted the premium market. It wasn't that they were making simpler, lower quality goods than the Europeans and Americans. It was because they were making newer, more advanced and higher quality products that they were able to make headway on the international market.

        • by rAiNsT0rm (877553)

          Have a look at the long-selling book "Japan as Number One" well over 30 years since it was published it is still a top seller and extremely highly rated. Also realize that Japan has the most, oldest, businesses still in operation.

    • by Wyatt Earp (1029)

      The problem with that is, no modern technologies the Chinese have copied are "better" than the original. Their APC, tank and aviation products which are copies of Soviet, Russian and western designs are never better than the originals.

      Their attempts at doing it themselves with their attack submarines, boomers, ICBMs and carriers have been costly and often out of service.

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        Their subs have embarrassed the US more than once. And their military is a joke and they know it. They are paying the military welfare. Their military isn't intended to fight. Their military is intended to impress with numbers, as well as keep young males out of the cities. China is urbanizing faster than their economy can handle. People are flocking from the farms to the cities. If China didn't have such a large army, there'd be more bored unemployed males hanging around the slums.

        And China gets th
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by thetagger (1057066)

      They'll do the same thing they've been doing for generations now: they'll study what we're doing (e.g. SpaceX), both legally and not-legally

      Still beats giving American citizenship to nazis who otherwise should have been hung in Nuremberg like you people did.

      • by macraig (621737)

        I never said the United States didn't do the same thing. It certainly did, as have many other nations. I didn't mention it for brevity and because I figured it was self-evident (basic human behavior).

    • The parent is spot on. Even if dead wrong, I seriously doubt the PRC would engage in much/any outsourcing of space launches. The Chinese (and US/Russian/EU) governments consider space launch capability a strategic military and economic asset, degraded or lost at the peril of the nation, regardless of short term economic concerns.

    • by Teancum (67324)

      China might be able to copy the blueprints, but they don't have the skilled workers (SpaceX has raided the workforce of several long-time aerospace companies, including Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, and others), the industrial infrastructure (the SpaceX factory is a former Boeing plant that made 747s), and far and away more important:

      The competitive drive coming from running Silicon Valley start ups that deliberately cuts out bureaucracy and hates hierarchical organizations as only a necessary evil. The People'

  • by Stormy Dragon (800799) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @06:03PM (#35850538) Homepage

    China's big advantage is cheap unskilled labor.

    Space rockets aren't produced in big enough batches to mass produce and generally require a lot of skilled labor. Exactly the sort of product where the US tends to have an advantage.

    • by gman003 (1693318)
      Exactly. We (not just the US, but Europe too) need to focus on skilled tasks (rocketry, programming, precision machinery, etc.), or ones where our geography is naturally superior (mining/drilling whatever is underneath our rocks).
      • by Stormy Dragon (800799) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @06:16PM (#35850666) Homepage

        That is, by and large, what the US does do. Contrary to general impression, US manufacturing continues to increase (in deed, according to the UN Industrial Development Org, the US accounts for 21% of the planet's manufacturing). In 2006, our country produced more than it ever had before. Since then it's fallen off a bit, but due to the recession, not outsourcing.

        Now yes, manufacturing JOBS continue to decrease. But the reality is that it's not because jobs are going overseas; it's because they're disappering entirely. Much like agriculture at one time took a large part of society's labor and then shifted to something that only required a few percent, we are going through a similar shift where a few percent of the population is capable of manufacturing everything.

      • by jd (1658) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Sunday April 17, 2011 @07:12PM (#35850934) Homepage Journal

        It's not enough to focus on skilled tasks. They need to be skilled tasks that the mindset is well-adapted for. Britain's penchant for risk-taking is why it is a key R&D center for not only Formula 1 but Indycar as well. America is risk-averse, which is why it has outsourced a lot of the low-profit, high-investment research (nuclear fusion, supercolliders, etc) to other nations. A lot of the R&D in America is high-profit (such as medical work, advanced microelectronics, etc) and requires relatively little investment once the research facility has been put together. Silicon Valley would never have survived otherwise, given the enormous cost of constructing some of those facilities.

        Monocultures are a Bad Idea (Michigan can help explain that one rather better than it would like) but there's nothing wrong with optimizing to your strengths. Indeed, it seems very likely that if America stopped trying to compete where it is weak and started competing where it is strong, it would not run into so many problems. The same goes for the EU and everyone else. Diverting money to lost causes only achieves inferior progress everywhere else.

        Of course, you have to be a bit careful with federating technologies. Although a federation is nominally superior to over-generalized societies, it is open to abuse. America doesn't produce its own Rare Earths, but depends utterly on China for them. Not because of any scaricity in America, more for convenience. That turned out to be an incorrect path. Politics now utterly controls the availability of critical elements, which is utterly wrong. You've got to have some balance in there.

        Unfortunately, balanced thinking is something corporations (and people in general) are rather bad at.

    • by 0123456 (636235) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @06:10PM (#35850600)

      Space rockets aren't produced in big enough batches to mass produce and generally require a lot of skilled labor. Exactly the sort of product where the US tends to have an advantage.

      Yet the reason why SpaceX believe they can get the costs down to a tenth of the competition is precisely because they plan to mass-produce their rocket components (e.g. three first stages with the same basic design and nine of the same engines on each stage).

      • by ugen (93902)

        I think "mass production" in terms of rockets means "a dozen". It's the kind of "mass production" where China has little to offer.

        • by 0123456 (636235) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @07:38PM (#35851100)

          I think "mass production" in terms of rockets means "a dozen". It's the kind of "mass production" where China has little to offer.

          SpaceX are talking about manufacturing 400 engines per year; there aren't many rocket booster engines that have been produced in three digit numbers, let alone that many per year.

          I believe a single Falcon Heavy launch would have more engines on it than all the SSMEs ever built, for example.

          • by Mr Z (6791)
            Right, but I get feeling that China's "mass production" advantages tend to require a couple more digits in the number than even 400. And if it's all robot controlled for the production, you're not even that sensitive to the labor costs, just materials and energy. goodmanj pointed out below [slashdot.org] that they're very CNC focused, with minimal human labor.
        • by goodmanj (234846)

          Exactly. The way you mass-produce rockets is with high-precision CNC machining and minimizing human hand-work. More robots, less people. This is what US manufacturing is good at -- and if you've seen SpaceX's video tours of the inside of their shop, you've seen how CNC-focused they are.

      • by argStyopa (232550)

        I'm not sure "mass produce" in this context means the Nike version: hordes of semi-literate unskilled laborers slaving for nearly nothing in wages.

        I'd suspect that in this context, it means simply engineering a multipurpose design that's as modular as possible (ie the same systems for multiple stages), and not trying to re-invent a uniquely specialized and perfect wheel each time they need one.

    • by bmo (77928) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @06:11PM (#35850612)

      >China's big advantage is cheap unskilled labor.

      That's changing, though, in case you haven't noticed. They've targeted aerospace. Sure, they're not competitive *now* but do you seriously think that's going stay that way?

      The US automakers thought the same thing in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

      --
      BMO

      • by dAzED1 (33635)
        the japanese had *some* good products at the time, at least. China is one major fiasco after another.
        • by dbIII (701233)
          I'll say something that usually gets some revisionists that think they should be ultra-patriotic annoyed but it's true.
          A lot of very cheap mass produced goods were crap, especially in the early days of die casting. In the postwar period vast amounts of crap came out of the USA in addition to the good stuff, so the wartime "US" standing for unservicable was applied as a joke to just about anything cheap with "made in USA" on it. Then there was crappy Japanese stuff, then crappy Chinese stuff (we've not see
    • by kf6auf (719514)

      Yes, but China also has a lot of relatively inexpensive (but not quite cheap) skilled labor.

      On the other hand, I don't see the US government using Chinese rockets unless there is no domestic supplier.

      • by Rockoon (1252108)
        I dont get why people think the wages imbalance is tilted in China's favor.

        We are right now trading 1 hour of our labor for 10 hours of theirs. After that its just pieces of paper that have no intrinsic value themselves. When push comes to shove, they have worthless pieces of paper and we have things traded at a 10:1 ratio.
        • well, we do have a civilization, both there and there. We have things like business agreements and government obligations. So short of something drastic, like an all-out war between US and China or the US gov't declaring bankruptcy, those pieces of paper obligations must be met. And they *will* be met. Which means we owe China a shitload of money, while they send us all the crap we buy in Wal*Mart.
    • Nailed it. Allow human rights to start creeping in and it'd be interesting to see just how cheap that labor remained.
    • China now has more skilled labour than the US does.
  • Don't worry (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kjella (173770) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @06:03PM (#35850544) Homepage

    If SpaceX truly is better they'll just use the Chinese 3 step program:

    The first ones, you build them and we launch them (teach us to use it)
    The next ones, we build under your supervision (teach us to build it)
    The final ones, we build ourselves on license (assuring completeness)

    After that a remarkably similar Chinese rocket will replace the US one, naturally not paying any foreign royalties. Most everybody involved will care about their own quarterly bonus and will jump ship by then. Did I miss anything? There's no ??? step in this, but tben again it's not a slashdot plan...

    • by Renraku (518261)

      Like they're doing with nuclear reactors?

      GE really fucked up when they decided this was a good idea with the AP1000. China is about to have a ton of cheap and effective and safe nuclear reactors. All in all, they'll have put a small amount of money into it compared to GE and the US. GE will make some money, but will lose in the long run because everyone will want a Chinese reactor that's more efficient and cheaper than what it was copied from!

      Until something goes wrong that makes Fukushima and Chernobyl

      • I wouldn't even be worried about them selling reactors to other countries. The real problem is that they'll take the design, build 100 of them in China and then have a reliable source of cheap electricity for half a century while the luddites in the US would rather continue to burn radioactive coal than build a single new reactor -- and if they screw it up with incompetence it will only cost US companies added bureaucracy as the scaremongers take the opportunity to do everything they can to intentionally bu

    • by H0p313ss (811249)

      If SpaceX truly is better they'll just use the Chinese 3 step program:

      The first ones, you build them and we launch them (teach us to use it)
      The next ones, we build under your supervision (teach us to build it)
      The final ones, we build ourselves on license (assuring completeness)

      Step four is where they allow the lowest bidder to build them out of tinfoil and 2x4s and sell them to the rest of the world at a markup.

  • by bmo (77928)

    >maybe soon China will outsource from the US

    You're kidding, right? This just means it's another industry to target, that's all.

    See, other governments think various things are worth going after. The US government has no such lofty goals. It's all about offshoring as many jobs as possible, even the engineering ones. What, you don't think it's about just the factory floor ones, do you?

    The Chinese think that STEM is a good thing. The US, not so much.

    --
    BMO

  • China hasn't figured out how to make the big-big-rockets yet, but as soon as they can scale up they'll be able to competed on $/lb to orbit.

    I think their current leader Long March 5 is slated to be able to deliver 25 tons to LEO, which is half of what Falcon Heavy promises to do.

    But if the Chinese can scale up to something bigger, they should be able to win the price war, given all their other cost advantages.

  • by brit74 (831798) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @06:12PM (#35850618)
    Maybe SpaceX is low-balling their cost estimates.

    It's also worth pointing out that their pricing has changed over time:

    Current webpage: (http://www.spacex.com/falcon9.php)

    "Price* $54M - $59.5M *Standard launch prices for 2013"

    Their webpage on Jan 2, 2010: (http://replay.waybackmachine.org/20100102224858/http://spacex.com/falcon9.php)

    Pricing:
    SpaceX offers open and fixed pricing that is the same for all customers, including a best price guarantee. Modest discounts are available for contractually committed, multi-launch purchases. A half bay flight of Falcon 9 is available to accommodate customers with payloads in between Falcon 1 and 9.
    Mission Type Price*
    LEO (s/c < 80% capacity) $44M
    LEO (s/c > 80% capacity) $49.5M
    GTO (s/c < 3,000 kg)** $44M
    GTO $49.5M

    *Standard Launch Services Pricing through 12/31/09.

    • by QuantumG (50515) *

      Yeah, it's called "inflation" dumbass.

      • I don't think inflation has been 10% over the last year.

        • Inflation has been significantly more than 10% for the main component of the price, fuel.



  • The Space Shuttle
    The Delta series
    The Atlas Series
    The Araine series

    They were all touted early on as being very inexpensive, prices ended up increasing much faster than inflation.

    Of course those were all designed in the 70s, we shall see what the present brings
    • by 0123456 (636235)

      They were all touted early on as being very inexpensive, prices ended up increasing much faster than inflation.

      The difference is that SpaceX have actually proven they can do things cheaper than the competition. SpaceX developed a new engine and two new launchers and a new reentry vehicle and launched several of them into space for about the same amount of money as NASA spent putting a fake upper stage on top of a shuttle SRB and launching it in a big firework display.

  • by gavron (1300111) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @06:41PM (#35850788)

    This is a common difference between countries that have equatorial regions and none. The US can launch its spacecraft from Florida (or in the alternative Edwards AFB). This allows them to reach the right inclination with LESS energy (delta-V, fuel, money, take your pic). Good explanation at http://www.orbiterwiki.org/wiki/Launch_Azimuth [orbiterwiki.org].

    This is why the Space Shuttle could not simultaneously reach both the International Space Station AND the Hubble Space Telescope. To put it simply, the two were in such different inclinations (think "how do I tilt an orbit wheel over the earth, right, left, flat...") that the shuttle could only reach one or the other.

    SpaceX launching from the US or central America will ALWAYS have to expend significantly less fuel than launches from China.

    Inclination. It's a big word, but it means $$$.

    Ehud
    Tucson AZ

    • by robot256 (1635039)
      China has lots of territory at the same latitude as Kennedy and Edwards, so they can go anywhere the space shuttle can go now. (source) [google.com] They don't have anything comparable to the Marshall Islands, which is actually at the equator, so that gives SpaceX a definite advantage.
    • by Rakishi (759894) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @07:49PM (#35851170)

      You've never looked at a map of China have you? Hint: it's not further north than the US.

      The in progress Wenchang Satellite Launch Center is in fact further south than Cape Canaveral by a decent amount. Xichang Satellite Launch Center is at roughly the same latitude as Cape Canaveral . That said, historically China has built it's launch facilities deep inside the country which puts them further north but also away from prying eyes. Which is likely a politically motivated limitation rather than any geographic or technical limitation.

    • by macshit (157376)

      This is a common difference between countries that have equatorial regions and none. The US can launch its spacecraft from Florida (or in the alternative Edwards AFB). This allows them to reach the right inclination with LESS energy (delta-V, fuel, money, take your pic).
      ...
      SpaceX launching from the US or central America will ALWAYS have to expend significantly less fuel than launches from China.

      Inclination. It's a big word, but it means $$$.

      Wait, what?

      According to Google maps, China's southern-most point (around 18deg N, in Hainan) is well south of the U.S.'s southern-most point (around 25deg N in Florida, or 21deg N in Hawaii)....

      SpaceX has also launched from Omelek Island [wikipedia.org] in the Marshall Islands, which is apparently leased by the U.S. military; presumably China could lease some islands too if that's useful...

    • by wagnerrp (1305589) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @08:11PM (#35851290)

      Cape Canaveral is at roughly 28.5 degrees. The Chinese have satellite launch facilities at Jiuquan (39 deg), Taiyuan (38 deg), Xichang (28 deg), and Wenchang on their southern island at only 19.5 degrees. The equator is 40Mm around, so initial speed at the equator would be around 0.46km/s. At 19.5, you have 0.43km/s; 28 is 0.41km/s; 38 is .36km/s.

      Now what does all this mean? Low Earth orbit is around 8km/s, plus another 2.5km/s in altitude. That means there's all of a whopping 1% difference in delta-V between an equatorial launch, and one from China's northern launch facilities. Now true, fuel budgets run on exponential functions, and a 1% increase in velocity results in a more than 1% increase in fuel and cost, but it's not going to be the determining factor whether a launch system succeeded or fails.

      Orbital plane changes are a completely different matter. The shuttle only has storage room to carry with it enough fuel for a couple degrees difference in plane, but that's because you're traveling 8km/s. It's not like you're in a car or a plane, and can push off something while maintaining your momentum. It all has to be done with thrust, and you have to reduce velocity in one direction, and increase it in another. When you're going a mere 0.4km/s starting from the ground, you only have to add velocity to get where you want to go. That means it is actually more efficient to land and take off again if you want to transition between equatorial and polar orbits.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      "This is a common difference between countries that have equatorial regions and none. The US can launch its spacecraft from Florida (or in the alternative Edwards AFB). "
      What? Edwards? We don't launch any large boosters from Edwards and never have and probably never will . They would have to launch over land which the US just doesn't do for safety reasons. So what are you talking about?
      We do launch from Vandenberg in California but those are polar shots We also launch off of Hawaii using SeaLaunch and from

  • by Palal (836081) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @06:49PM (#35850820) Homepage
    Old Soviet Jokes about the Chinese Space Program: 1. There is a knock on the door in the MIR space station. The cosmonauts open the door and see a Chinese guy. They ask him: "How did you get here". He responds: "Simple you see. We built a human pyramid" 2. TV Bulletin: "Yesterday, the Chinese launched their first satellite into space. During the launch, 2.45 million Chinese suffered a hernia."
  • ...it is a good thing even when US is not winning.
  • "U.S. components; Russian components; ALL MADE IN TAIWAN!"

  • The people in charge of the Chinese space program are probably old-school Communist era types, and are running things accordingly. This will inevitably drive costs up, preventing them from being competitive. If they're really serious about providing cost-effective launch capability, they should probably turn over management of their space program to Foxconn...
  • The rockets from china are flying, they have actual numbers to work with for cost. SpaceX isn't there yet, their numbers are projections. The main cost difference between mass production and prototypes is labour costs, where the Chinese have the advantage. I don't think they would outsource to the USA even if it was a tenth of the price, it's both national pride and national security at stake. Countries succeed because people want them to. Americans are so busy grabbing a piece of the pie (money) that
    • I really want to take exception to this, but I can not. Sadly, you are right on the money, with one little issue. China is in a cold war with the west. They intended to destroy America, followed by EU, than Canada. They hope to pull Australia, Japan, South Korea, and even India into their sphere.
  • ...the Chinese rockets have achieved 75 consecutive successful launches were conducted.

    So, were they achieved or simply conducted? Perhaps they achieved 75 successful conductors to launch...

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