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Space Science

Ariane 5 Has No Chance, Says Elon Musk 188

Posted by timothy
from the when-tony-stark-talks-people-listen dept.
Dupple writes with some remarks by SpaceX founder Elon Musk, as reported by the BBC, on the Ariane 5 launch vehicle: Musk is anything but a disinterested party, but he has some especially harsh words for the ESA rocket: "'I don't say that with a sense of bravado but there's really no way for that vehicle to compete with Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. If I were in the position of Ariane, I would really push for an Ariane 6.' Ariane's future will be a key topic this week for European Space Agency (Esa) member states. They are meeting in Naples to determine the scope and funding of the organisation's projects in the next few years, and the status of their big rocket will be central to those discussions."
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Ariane 5 Has No Chance, Says Elon Musk

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sorry, failed at reading this with a straight face.

    • Austin Power's really messed my mind up regarding rockets: http://www.rocketreviews.com/descon-dr-evils-pocket-rocket-scott-turnbull.html [rocketreviews.com]
    • by ArsonSmith (13997) on Monday November 19, 2012 @08:27AM (#42026029) Journal

      Yea, just wait until some "Regulation" comes his way. You can't compete on a level play field with Government.

      • by Kergan (780543)

        Especially with governments who have traditionally viewed keeping this kind of know-how a matter of national security.

      • And what government would that be?

        • by ArsonSmith (13997)

          Did you want a list? The governments of: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

          Happy?

          • Especially with governments who have traditionally viewed keeping this kind of know-how a matter of national security.

            And what government would that be?

            Did you want a list? The governments of: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

            Happy?

            Not really, Space X is a US company with it's headquarters and launch sites in the USA, those countries can regulate all they want without affecting Elon Musk and Space X in any way. The only regulations Space X has to worry about are Uncle Sams's, and possibly the eventuality that the Pan Galactic Transport Authority might slam Space X with a fine for launching space trash into their hyperspace bypass.

            • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 19, 2012 @09:51AM (#42026723)

              Completely wrong.

              EU legislation can make the market for Space X very limited and increase the cost per launch due to reduced launch frequency of Space X. You want a concrete example of this. For years India's ISRO had the cheapest launch vehicle for LEO. (This is distinct from their GSLV program which hasn't been very successful). PSLV has an excellent success rate and is cheap. For years they tried to get other countries to launch their satellites on the PSLV. None of the countries placed their satellites on the PSLV.

              There is US legislation which prevented any satellite, even a civilian satellite which used US components being launched by countries outside the approved list of launchers, EU, US or Russia. I am not sure if China is now on the list as well. India got on the list a couple of years ago. Now they launch LEO satellites for Israel, France, SE asia and a growing list of countries. It's not just the cost it's legislation.

              EU could very well just legislate for satellites with EU made components to be EU launch only. Or they could just legislate to have all government funded direct or indirect funding to be EU launch vehicles only. Or EU could legislate for all EU television channels to hire only EU launched satellite transponders and if EU television channels need to lease transponders on non EU satellites for broadcast in EU require them to get a governmental waiver which oh just takes 9 months to a year to process. This is just the tip of the ice-burg.

              Don't for a minute think none of this will happen as there will be retaliation from US. So you won't let your satellites launch on our platform good for you. Think of the only two aircraft manufacturers in the world. It's the same equation here. Some countries cannot or will not be allowed to launch their satellites from US. All of them have to use EU.

              Space-x is being delusional here. The market is pretty big and governments will win most of the time. It's also about diplomacy. You launch your puppy on ours we will scratch your back in the UN, WTO and in that free trade agreement.

              • by khallow (566160)

                EU legislation can make the market for Space X very limited and increase the cost per launch due to reduced launch frequency of Space X.

                ESA != EU. They still have to get non-EU players, Norway and Switzerland to go along. If that means that their space industry is precluded from using the best competitor in the field, then it's going to hurt the EU in the long term.

                • by ultranova (717540)

                  If that means that their space industry is precluded from using the best competitor in the field, then it's going to hurt the EU in the long term.

                  It will hurt the people who want to launch satellites. It will help the people who want to build rockets. IMHO the latter industry is the more important one, thus protectionism could well end up helping the EU.

                  Of course this is all assuming the EU will actually bother. Right now we have no reason to think it will, aside from speculation on Slashdot.

              • All that the EU can do to SpaceX is to impact his suppliers (which are few in number.... SpaceX makes most of their own components from raw bulk materials like sheets of aluminum, titanium, and steel) or his potential customers in the EU. Given that few of his customers are in the EU, it isn't all that big of a deal to them and increased regulations by the EU would impact all potential launchers.

                It should be noted that until recently, it was the Ariane rockets that carried the bulk of commercial spaceflight vehicles. In other words, increased regulations on spaceflight (assuming they "play fair" and impose those regulations equally to all companies participating) would mainly kill European companies who are doing (and still doing currently) a very robust commercial business. Much of the reason why they have the launch rate that they do is because they have been very competitive on the world market and undercut American launch companies like Boeing (with the Delta rockets) and Lockheed-Martin (with the Atlas rockets). They worked their way to become compliant with American regulations like ITAR, but were also in a position to avoid ITAR if needed so they could launch vehicles from companies that American launch providers can't because of American regulations. There are some ESA payloads as well as satellites that have been launched by EU members.... but those will likely go to Arianespace anyway regardless of how cheap SpaceX makes their launch prices go and will never be on the table for SpaceX.

                Arianespace can become an EU-only launch provider, but they will give up most of the market by doing so. Elon Musk's assertion here is that he can compete against Arianespace for contracts from countries like Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, and Qatar. None of those countries care or will even pay attention to EU regulations and will go to SpaceX if they can provide a launch for a quarter of the price that Arianespace can offer for the same payload. That should be a no-brainer, especially if SpaceX can deliver the same level of reliability that Arianespace is currently providing.

                That really is the trick for SpaceX right now: to prove that their system is reliable enough that you can be 95%+ certain that the payload will make the trip into the intended orbit. A whole bunch of people are waiting to see if SpaceX can deliver on that promise, and that is the only real selling point at the moment for either Arianespace or RKK Energia for that matter. It has nothing to do with governments, but simply engineering that is well done and quality manufacturing processes.

            • by ArsonSmith (13997)

              We shall see.

      • Arianespace is a private company, with private shareholders.

        http://www.arianespace.com/about-us-corporate-information/shareholders.asp [arianespace.com]

        • by Teancum (67324)

          From the page you listed:

          They include companies from the Ariane industrial team and national space agencies

          Yeah, that sounds like "private shareholders". Almost everything Arianespace gets involved with in terms of major decisions requires diplomats from various governments and frequently decisions are made for political and not fiscal reasons. While not unusual in the EU, you shouldn't confuse this with how SpaceX is financed, as the ownership of SpaceX is entirely from private entities (although it wouldn't surprise me if In-Q-Tel has a small stake in SpaceX already).

  • by queazocotal (915608) on Monday November 19, 2012 @08:18AM (#42025991)

    To paraphrase part of TFA 'We can save money by developing X with components from Y', this is why it's cheaper to now spend money on Y.

    Versus a clean-sheet design.

    Combine that with SpaceX's largely integrated workflow, with minimal external contractors, and you have extreme problems for traditional aerospace to meet the costs.

    Contracts are granted not on the basis of what would make the overall system cheaper, but electoral politics.

    And if SpaceX gets even limited reusability working - http://phys.org/news/2012-11-spacex-story-reuseable-grasshopper-rocket.html [phys.org] - the price crashes further.

    • by Z00L00K (682162) on Monday November 19, 2012 @11:57AM (#42028261) Homepage

      Ariane 5 has been around for a rather long time now and it's a well tried launcher. And it has been improved during the years since the first launch in 1996. And considering that it's rated for up to about 21 tons to low earth orbit or about 10 tons to geostationary I would say it's a decent concept. Of course - they have had their failures, but when you look at the concept of space rockets it's a question of shaving weight as much as possible, so no wonder if things fails now and then when the margin for error is small.

      That said - I would still consider that the Ariane 5 may not be entirely suitable for launching a capsule, even if it has the capacity to take the weight. There may be many modifications needed in order to handle a crewed capsule in a safe and reliable manner. I suspect that a three stage rocket would be more suitable compared to the two stages that the Ariane 5 has. Not that a Saturn V rocket capacity with 120 tons to low earth orbit is needed unless the Moon is the target, but for closer to earth activities it may be good to have something that can lift a bit more than just a crew capsule.

      • by pe1rxq (141710)

        The Ariane is not really a two stage rocket, more a two and a halve. Boosters, Core-stage, and an upper stage.
        Its concept is not unlike what NASA is building right now.

        As for man-rating, it was originally intended to launch the Hermes shuttle. While not fully man-rated at the moment it isn't far off either.
        (Besides the definition of man-rated is a pretty gray area).

    • by Teancum (67324)

      I mean this in the nicest way possible, but SpaceX also doesn't suffer from obsolete union contracts and a bloated bureaucracy internal to the company which is preventing its expansion or even switch to other vehicles. SpaceX has never needed to retool to another vehicle, something which can sometimes cost more than simply building a new factory.

      BTW, I agree with you on the Grasshopper and the eventual plans to make the Falcon 9 fully reusable (including oddly enough even the 2nd stage). Just partial reus

  • Competition always brings out the best (or worst) in any Endeavour. Single-source-vendor vs. multiple vendors for heavy lift into LEO or Async? Hmm....
    • If the vendors are in true free competition, arguably.
      The current vendors are basically not funded in general as rocket launch companies.
      They are funded as aerospace/military welfare organisations.
      Any launches that happen are a side-effect.

      If your primary goal as a legislator is to get jobs for your constituents, it's quite easy to insist that technology X must be included in the vehicle - because you have a massive plant in your constituency doing X.

      This does not result in good values for purchasers of the

  • SpaceX vs. ESA (Score:5, Informative)

    by nojayuk (567177) on Monday November 19, 2012 @08:28AM (#42026033)

    The Falcon 9 has flown four times IIRC; in two cases things went wrong -- on its first launch the orbital payload ended up rolling and yawing in the wrong orbit and on the fourth launch it lost an engine and couldn't deploy a secondary payload successfully and the mission was not a complete success. The Falcon Heavy is still to be completely assembled never mind actually flown.

    The Ariane 5 in ES, GS and ECS configurations has 50 completely successful launches under its belt since the last failure back in 2002. It has a proven track record of delivering twice the payload of the Falcon 9 to LEO and twice the projected payload of the F9 v1.1 to GEO (since SpaceX has not yet attempted a launch to GEO).

    Musk's comments sound like FUD to encourage sales of Falcon 9 launches, nothing more.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by queazocotal (915608)

      "and on the fourth launch it lost an engine and couldn't deploy a secondary payload successfully and the mission was not a complete success." - a couple of points.
      Firstly, the secondary payload was launched on this basis, with the understanding it was not a guaranteed launch, for a reduced fee.
      Secondly, the rocket was actually capable of doing the secondary mission, but was prevented due to NASA rules precluding it.
      (The rules were there to eliminate even the theoretical possibility of the relit second stage

      • Re:SpaceX vs. ESA (Score:5, Insightful)

        by arse maker (1058608) on Monday November 19, 2012 @08:44AM (#42026119)

        That would almost never be true.
        The cost of launch is almost (probably always) a tiny part of the total cost of designing, building and launching something.

        The launch might be $80m, but if you lose a $200m payload its not so good.

        There is insurance which makes the cost analysis more complex, I'm not sure how that would factor in. However it would have to be far more reliable than 1/5 for 1/3 the cost.

        • If launch costs go down, it becomes more economic to make the spacecraft cheaper.

        • Re:SpaceX vs. ESA (Score:4, Interesting)

          by trout007 (975317) on Monday November 19, 2012 @08:57AM (#42026211)

          Insurance can be simplified.

          Suppose you want to insure a $200M payload. Assume the insurance company can get a 10% profit. If the launcher is 80% reliable there is a 1 in 5 chance of paying out. So the even cost would be $40 million. Plus a 10% profit = $44 million.
          For a 90% reliable = $22 million
          For a 95% reliable = $11 million
          For a 97.5% reliable = $5.5 million

          So a company needs to look at a few things. How much cheaper is the launcher and what losses in income will you have during the delay to build a new satellite. You may be able to insure for those loses as well.

          • On the face of it, yes insurance is easy.

            But its more complex. What is being insured? The parts, labor.. design time?
            The cost of employing 100 people for another few years while its being rebuilt?
            What if you can't launch again because of time, not money?

            • by trout007 (975317)

              That's your call. In a free market it's like calling a bookie. "Hey Lou what are the odds on my satellite not making it to it's proper orbit? 10:1 Huh? All right put me down for a hundie mil."

            • by Teancum (67324)

              In the case of the OrbComm satellite, what was lost was a demonstration satellite where the intention was to test the technology in space, to turn on the computers and bounce a few signals off of the satellite. While it would have been incredibly useful to have the satellite go to a higher orbit and to be used for a longer period of time, there were considerable tests and engineering activities that were able to be proven over the few days that the satellite was able to stay in orbit.

              In short, what was ins

              • A 1% chance of the relit stage not performing to target performance, as I understand it.
                Far from a 1% chance of it hitting ISS.

                • by Teancum (67324)

                  The concern was really hitting the ISS. The relit stage was not a concern but rather that there might not be enough fuel to clear the ISS orbit, particularly as more delta-v was needed than was thought left in the 2nd stage. Because the 2nd stage had to burn a little bit longer due to the loss of engine, that pretty much ate up the reserves that NASA felt was necessary to inject the OrbComm satellite into a higher orbit and clear the ISS... so they decided to fly under the ISS orbit instead. That of cour

        • Re:SpaceX vs. ESA (Score:4, Interesting)

          by khallow (566160) on Monday November 19, 2012 @09:57AM (#42026801)

          The cost of launch is almost (probably always) a tiny part of the total cost of designing, building and launching something.

          It's the same "tiny" fraction of the total cost of the payload, roughly 10-20%. The only exceptions are really expensive payloads (say multibillion dollar US DOD/NRO satellties) or really cheap ones (such as test payloads for new launch systems).

          So it's reasonable to expect as launch costs go down, new engineered systems, designed to go up on the cheaper launches, will also drop in cost.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        "At some point, if you're a third the cost, even if you lose one vehicle in five, you start getting a lot more business."
        Companies price their products to what the market will bear, if he could price it at Arianne - 5%, he would. He's having to deep discount and that suggests he's having difficulty attracting customers with so many teething problems.

        "Reliability isn't everything"
        We use to send mobile phones via registered post in the UK. A lot of them were stolen, our contract meant we received the value of

        • by Teancum (67324)

          What reliability issues are you talking about? SpaceX has launched a total of 46 Merlin engines with three failures. That is an 85% success rate... something that most launch companies would be glad to see in the early phases of their launch program. Some of those failures were engineering failures (like forgetting about galvanic corrosion, or that rockets continue to burn even after the engines shut down). Those have been addressed, but it is reasonable to ask what other lessons does SpaceX need to sti

    • Re:SpaceX vs. ESA (Score:4, Interesting)

      by arse maker (1058608) on Monday November 19, 2012 @08:38AM (#42026081)

      Falcon 9 is cheaper and has been pretty successful.

      If I was running the Ariane program I would be worried. You are betting on the Falcon 9 having failures. Otherwise you cannot compete for a large part of the market.

      If the Heavy works, you are out of business. It might be FUD, but it is also true.

      • Re:SpaceX vs. ESA (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dkf (304284) <donal.k.fellows@manchester.ac.uk> on Monday November 19, 2012 @09:10AM (#42026335) Homepage

        Falcon 9 is cheaper and has been pretty successful.

        But is it because they're good or because they're lucky? You can't tell from Musk's comments; one of his tasks is to pitch as high as possible to bring in investors and persuade customers to jump ship.

        If I was running the Ariane program I would be worried. You are betting on the Falcon 9 having failures. Otherwise you cannot compete for a large part of the market.

        If the Heavy works, you are out of business. It might be FUD, but it is also true.

        Right now, you've got someone talking up a product that hasn't actually entered service yet and you're believing them on the basis of an exceptionally short service history with a different system (the Falcon 9 and Ariane 5 are targeted at different types of payloads; you'd probably be better off comparing with the A5 predecessor). It's FUD and vaporware vs stuff that actually exists. We don't tolerate that when talking about software, so why should we be more lenient about rockets? Arianespace will start worrying once the Falcon Heavy has actually lifted a decent number of loads without incident (remember to compare the sum of the launch costs and the insurance, because the satellite owners will surely do that sum).

        • With the Heavy you are right that it hasn't entered service.
          Though none of their products are vaporware. They have delivered.

          Its valid logic to say any one launch maybe lucky, however launching something in to space is so complex that doing it once is a pretty strong indicator that you can do it again.

          If the Falcon Heavy has one successful launch Arianespace will be really worried. Of course if SpaceX then lose the next 3 it will be a disaster. But I said before.. Arianespace would be counting on them to fa

        • by crazyjj (2598719) *

          It's FUD and vaporware vs stuff that actually exists.

          Musk may be engaging in FUD, but the Falcon is definitely not vaporware. It's a real rocket that launches real cheap, and has had several real launches delivering real payload.

    • Re:SpaceX vs. ESA (Score:5, Interesting)

      by trout007 (975317) on Monday November 19, 2012 @08:42AM (#42026107)

      Look at the Ariane 5 flights before 2002. First flight had to be terminated. Second flight didn't reach intended orbit. Then 7 successes. Then a failure to reach intended orbit. Then 3 successes. Then a flight needed to be terminated. Success since then.

      So far in the first 4 flights Falcon 9 has performed better than Ariane 5's first 4 flights. No terminations, one failure to insert in intended orbit and one failure of secondary payload.

      This reinforces Musk's point. You get better the more you fly. As long as they keep flying and learning it will get better quickly. Now right now if I had a Billion Dollar payload I'd pay for an Ariane 5, Delta IV, or Atlas V. But if I was planning a $200 million dollar total mission it would be impossible on anything but a Falcon 9.

      • Re:SpaceX vs. ESA (Score:5, Informative)

        by nojayuk (567177) on Monday November 19, 2012 @09:34AM (#42026543)

        The market SpaceX is competing in already has the Ariane as well as other commercial/military launchers like the Deltas, the HII-B and of course the venerable Soyuz (1700 launches and counting) which is a closer match to the Falcon 9's capabilities. They're playing catchup with their launch price being the big market attractor while they get the bugs out and improve their throw weight.

        What would you be launching and where for 200 mill? A geosync DBS bird costs about 100 million shrinkwrapped for launch with insurance, load integration and launch costs pushing the total price up to about 400 million dollars US after it has been delivered to its final position in the GEO constellation.

        Scientific and telecomms platforms can be put into LEO for a lot less, of course but there are a lot more boosters other than the Falcon 9 that can do this job; the Ariane's speciality is DBS launches, two at a time with a side-order of Space Station resupply and reboost ATVs delivering 6 tonnes plus of payload and fuel per shot in a 20-tonne vehicle (the first commercial DragonX resupply mission carried about 500kg of cargo and no fuel).

        SpaceX still hasn't attempted even a test GEO launch of a single DBS/GEO payload and is incapable of putting the biggest such satellites in place -- INTELSAT 20 launched by Arianespace in August this year massed about 6 tonnes, a tonne more than the uprated Falcon 9 is expected to be able to put into GEO. The same launch also put a 3-tonne DBS into GEO making the entire launch load over 10 tonnes including ancillary materials, way above anything the Falcon 9 will ever be able to do.

    • by eulernet (1132389)

      There are also political issues: Ariane is french but also european.

      Using american rockets is interesting if you focus only on costs, but it is definitely an error if you intend to develop and improve technology.

      It's obvious that europeans will continue to use Ariane, americans will use SpaceX, and russians will use their own system.

      • by crazyjj (2598719) *

        russians will use their own system.

        Soyuz--which has a much longer and better track record than either. But they're just dirty commies, right, so what do they know?

        • Re:SpaceX vs. ESA (Score:4, Informative)

          by SomeKDEUser (1243392) on Monday November 19, 2012 @09:56AM (#42026789)

          you can get soyuz launches from Arianespace. TRhey launch from Kourou, which gives them a higher payload capability than if you bought it directly from the Russians to be launched in Baikonour.

          Arianespace clearly knows that things are moving and that a medium launcher which is very cost competitive is a good idea. Soyouz is almost imposible to beat... And they also know about the need for small launchers, which is why they have added Vega to their lineup -- vega development which are also useful for future booster capabilities.

          Musk talks about Ariane as though it were the only product from Arianespace. Not so :)

    • by Alioth (221270)

      At the same point in Arianne's life (the 4th launch), one Arianne 5 had exploded and not reached orbit, one had partially failed and there had been two successes.

      It's too early days to say whether the Falcon will be more or less reliable than Arianne 5 (which now has a proven track record).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by khallow (566160)
      And when the Falcon 9 has 50 successful launches, what's going to be the argument then? Now is the time for Arianespace to move on this, not when its platform has been rendered firmly obsolete and overpriced for any sort of launch.
      • Re: (Score:3, Flamebait)

        by nojayuk (567177)

        DBS and other geosync birds are getting bigger and heavier for various reasons -- more propellant so they can stay in their orbit slot longer, more solar cells to drive stronger transmitters, more broadcast channels, more fail-soft backup gear etc.

        At the moment the Falcon 9 can (theoretically) put a typical satellite maxing out at about 4 tonnes or so into GEO with the forthcoming V1.1 version increasing that to 5 tonnes. It can't lift the newer birds like INTELSAT 20 weighing over six tonnes as Ariane ca

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by khallow (566160)

          Until the paper-exercise Falcon Heavy with its kludgey fuel-transfer-in-flight mode flies

          I'd call it "brilliant" and "elegant" not "kludgey", but I guess such things are in the eye of the beholder. Just keep in mind that a) it significantly improves the mass fraction of the Falcon 9 Heavy (which rather than the Falcon Heavy, is the true Arianespace 5 competitor) at moderate complexity increase, and b) uses existing components, three copies of the Falcon 9 "core" (the first stage), greatly reducing production costs.

          And as for calling it a "paper exercise", they've already demonstrated the roc

          • by nojayuk (567177)

            Transferring fuel and oxidiser sideways between tankage sections under 3-4 gees of thrust and vibration is, as far as I am aware, going to be a first in rocketry. It takes plumbing, pumps, valve gear etc. meaning major changes to the core and strap-on sections which add to the vehicle weight as well as the cost of manufacture since the cores are no longer physically identical. In contrast the Delta 4 Heavy strap-ons are pretty nearly identical to the core; the central engine just runs throttled down so that

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by khallow (566160)

              Transferring fuel and oxidiser sideways between tankage sections under 3-4 gees of thrust and vibration is, as far as I am aware, going to be a first in rocketry. It takes plumbing, pumps, valve gear etc. meaning major changes to the core and strap-on sections which add to the vehicle weight as well as the cost of manufacture since the cores are no longer physically identical. In contrast the Delta 4 Heavy strap-ons are pretty nearly identical to the core; the central engine just runs throttled down so that when the strap-ons separate it has enough propellant left to continue to orbit without the extra parasitic weight of transfer pumps etc. I don't know why this option isn't available to SpaceX; do the Merlin engines have a throttle-down and/or in-flight start capability?

              Just because something is new doesn't mean it is a "kludge". Also, they have natural ways to throttle down arrays of engines. Just shut down some of the rocket engines as you no longer need the thrust.

              The major cost of a manned Moon or Mars mission isn't the launch vehicles, it's the crew vehicle design and testing and construction.

              No, there is a genuine bottleneck in the cost of getting it into space. Every kg you use adds cost to the mission. As a result, mission cost generally is five to ten times the launch costs. So shaving $50 billion in launch costs yields a additional $200-450 billion reduction in total costs.

            • by voidptr (609)

              Transferring fuel and oxidiser sideways between tankage sections under 3-4 gees of thrust and vibration is, as far as I am aware, going to be a first in rocketry.

              The Space Shuttle would like a word. What do you think was in that big orange tank that didn't have engines on the bottom of it?

              • by nojayuk (567177)

                The fuel and oxidiser from the ET was fed directly into the Shuttle's motor pump intakes; once the valves shut and the ET disconnected that was it. That valve gear and disconnect system was a pain in the arse as it was complicated, a major failure point if it ever let rip in flight and also heavy, cutting into the Shuttle's payload capacity. The SpaceX design for the Heavy requires topping up the core booster's LOX and RP1 tanks from the two outboard booster segments. Instead of using gravity and accelerati

            • Remember the Shuttle? 3 engines that were fed using sideways fuel transfer from the ET?

  • Translated (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 19, 2012 @08:30AM (#42026041)

    "Ariane 5 has no chance,"
    translates to "Arian 5 is our big competitor"

    "Mr Musk said that the cost of producing the current European rocket would kill it as a commercial entity."
    Translates as "Give us a subsidy US military or we can't keep competing on price!"

    "Not only can we sustain the prices, but the next version of Falcon 9 is actually able to go to a lower price,"
    Translates as:
    "We hope to get to the stock market before we burn through our $1 billion in capital, Groupon/Facebook style! Ka-chink!"

    Sounds like marketing to me. Whenever I see a company focus on dissing a competitor, I immediately wonder why they're going negative campaigning.

    • by trout007 (975317)

      Sounds like marketing to me. Whenever I see a company focus on dissing a competitor, I immediately wonder why they're going negative campaigning.

      Usually it's the upstarts that try to tear down the competition. The market leaders never mention the competition. You rarely see Honda, Toyota, Apple, etc mention the competition. Kia always says how much cheaper they are than Honda. Samsung always pokes fun at Apple for being overpriced.

    • Whenever I see a company focus on dissing a competitor, I immediately wonder why they're going negative campaigning.

      Musk doesn't need to diss Ariane 5: his company is taking business away from them without any negativity. The thing that surprises me here is how positive he is about Ariane 6. Given how rapidly SpaceX is improving their product, I don't see how Arianespace, with its slow expensive processes, could ever get ahead with a new vehicle.

    • by Ja'Achan (827610)

      "Mr Musk said that the cost of producing the current European rocket would kill it as a commercial entity."
      Translates as "Give us a subsidy US military or we can't keep competing on price!"

      Fairly sure by "it" he means the Ariane, not SpaceX. I.e. the Ariane is too expensive to be cost-effective.

    • Eh. You have to remember Elon Musk is an engineer first and a sales guy only a very distant second. Most of the time when he's talking, it's the engineer speaking. He's actually quite bad at the now-classic "salespeak" that we're accustomed to hearing from typical corporate mouthpieces. He speaks too much truth.

      "Ariane 5 has no chance" translates as "everybody knows how much an Ariane 5 costs and Falcon 9 Heavy will cost a lot less for the same payload. A whole lot less."

      Same for your second quote.

      "Not

  • If you don't want to RTFA and Wikipedia it

    Launch Cost: $60M
    Payload: 13,150 kg to LEO, 4,850 kg to geostationary.

  • ... Until one of your rockets explode while going up, or even on the launchpad.

    Not to belittle SpaceX, but they have had, what? Four successful launches so far? Ariane has had 62 successful launches out of 66.

    And don't get me started on Soyuz rockets - the first one flew in 1966 - with 1600+ successful launches to its credit.

    Wake me up when SpaceX has had 60+ launches without a hitch. Until then, Musk is just talking P.R. for his firm.

    • by crazyjj (2598719) *

      Musk is just talking P.R. for his firm.

      Yeah, you'd almost think that was part of his job or something.

  • by mbone (558574)

    What more needs to be said.

  • Ariane 5 is and continues to be a success but the premise on which Ariane 5 was built -- heavy payloads -- is a small and shrinking market segment. Ariane 5 can launch two payloads, but matching payloads -- the right orbital configuration and mass constraints -- is not easy.

    Arianespace hedged their bets by bringing this Soyuz launchers over to CSG with a new (ESA-funded) launchpad at Sinnamari. The much smaller Vega rocket is way off in the distance. The reasoning for Ariane 6 (not having to pay the Russian

  • by mbone (558574) on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:50AM (#42027407)

    If we really seriously want to move from the expensive launch vehicle, expensive hardware optimization we are currently in, we probably need to do something like this [fourmilab.ch].

  • You have no chance to survive, Ariane 5, Make your time.
  • by chebucto (992517) * on Monday November 19, 2012 @02:16PM (#42030121) Homepage

    The Falcon Heavy is still in development.

    The Falcon 9 has a 75% success rate and a 25% partial success/partial failure rate after 4 launches.

    The Ariane 5 has a 94% success rate, a 3% partial success/partial failure rate, and a 3% failure rate, after 66 launches.

    Everything I've read says the Falcon series is likely to be very reliable, but the proof of the success is in the launching - and the Ariane 5 has more launches under its belt. I hope Musk succeeds and lowers launch costs for everyone, but he hasn't proven anything yet.

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