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Space Transportation

Lockheed, SpaceX Trade Barbs 215

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-we-all-just-get-along dept.
Lockheed Martin and Boeing have been getting all government launch contracts for the past six years. That is, until SpaceX demonstrated they could reach the International Space Station successfully this year. Asked about the new competition brought by SpaceX, Lockheed CEO Robert Stevens made light of the younger company's success. "I’m hugely pleased with 66 in a row from [the Boeing-Lockheed alliance], and I don’t know the record of SpaceX yet," he said. "Two in a row?" When he was asked about the skyrocketing price of launching his sky rockets, he said, "You can thrift on cost. You can take cost out of a rocket. But I will guarantee you, in my experience, when you start pulling a lot of costs out of a rocket, your quality and your probability of success in delivering a payload to orbit diminishes." SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was blunt about the source of the price difference between the companies: "The fundamental reason SpaceX’s rockets are lower cost and more powerful is that our technology is significantly more advanced than that of the Lockheed-Boeing rockets, which were designed last century." The Delta IV and Atlas V rockets of Lockheed-Boeing average about $464 million per launch, while SpaceX's Falcon 9 launches for $54 million. Its upcoming Falcon Heavy will go up for $80-125 million.
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Lockheed, SpaceX Trade Barbs

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  • Progress! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @09:35AM (#42394023)

    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
    - some baldie

    • Re:Progress! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by taiwanjohn (103839) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @09:48AM (#42394071)

      SpaceX is blowing the competition away. Even the Chinese have said they can't match SpaceX's prices. ULA will continue building Deltas and Atlases for a while yet, but once their current launch manifests are cleared, they'll have a tough time selling any more. Their only hope of survival is if SpaceX can't ramp up production fast enough to devour the entire market. In the meantime, other "NewSpace" vendors are getting into the game, making life even tougher for the "legacy" crowd. I just wonder how long it will take before SLS gets canceled.

      • Re:Progress! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by vlm (69642) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @10:08AM (#42394183)

        Their only hope of survival is ...

        ... market segmentation between commercial and dotmil.

        In ye olden days: "Hmm we've got experience building cost is no object ICBMs, and there's a budding, although small and price sensitive commercial market... lets hit it while we can". Worked OK until real commercial competitors arrived.

        They can go back to the glory days of ICBM building with the proper congressional bribes. Maybe ICBM launched drone strikes or whatever. They'll never sink as long as .mil is around.

        If you demand a bad slashdot car analogy, if no one is building commuter cars, the guys who make Abrams tanks can make fat stacks of cash until Toyota arrives and kicks them out of the market... that doesn't mean the market for tanks is permanently gone or being given to Toyota. Just means the tank company is going back to building tanks, instead of econoboxes or tropical fish aquaria or monitor mounting arms or WTF they temporarily diversified into.

        Now if spacex is all a scam to bootstrap into the lucrative ICBM market, then, at that time, we'll have the epic business battle of the century.

        If you want another really bad analogy, I'm not sure whos on which side but its like trying to pick a fight between a 4 star restaurant and a fast food hovel. Technically you can stuff your piehole at either facility, but in practice its unlikely either will succeed in putting the other out of business.

        • Re:Progress! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by benjfowler (239527) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @10:13AM (#42394211)

          SpaceX would need to have solids, which they've quite deliberately eschewed. As it is, they're thoroughly optimized for space launch, not storable rockets that can be launched at zero notice.

          • Re:Progress! (Score:5, Interesting)

            by smpoole7 (1467717) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @10:30AM (#42394321) Homepage

            > SpaceX would need to have solids, which they've quite deliberately eschewed.

            ULA's Common Booster Core (CBC) is liquid-fueled only. Solids are indeed more storable for the long term, but if you need to vary the thrust for different orbital profiles and payloads, liquid is the only way to go.

            I don't know that SpaceX is even interested in the ICBM market. Elon Musk is a space head who just wants to see people in the stars, and his company is a way to achieve his boyhood dream while making it pay for itself.

            What I want to know is when someone is going to take on the jetliner market. Maybe a SpaceX-like company could come along and eat into that market a swell. Then Airbus will join Boeing and the others in complaining and sweating. :)

            • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

              Fundamentally what SpaceX seems to do is produce their systems in an integrated environment and not worry about a lot of the things the traditional players do. No clean rooms, production designed to scale, things like that. They use a startup mentality and ...more theatrical lighting truss than I would have thought practical. They buy things that make sense now with an eye to the future, but they don't keep idle capacity around.

              Unfortunately, the jetliner parallel would need to eschew FAA certification.

              • by h4rr4r (612664)

                Really?
                You would not drop in cost comparable to what we see in the summary for that risk?

                I would in a heartbeat. I fly fairly often, and when I do it tends to be over one of the worlds large oceans or the other one. If I could get there for $200 instead of $2000 I would consider giving up some safety margin for that. The odds of dying in a plane crash are so low they are not even a thought I have.

                Your odds of dying in car crash per year, over a lifetime or per mile are hundreds of times more likely, yet no

                • Re:Progress! (Score:5, Informative)

                  by Smallpond (221300) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @12:54PM (#42395551) Homepage Journal

                  According to a federal report [nhtsa.gov], you are paying $839 and adding 125 pounds for a much safer car than you had 25 years ago, so yes. People are willing to pay more for safety.

                  I don't think ULA prices being 10X have anything to do with more safety, I think its mostly more overhead and lack of competition.

                  • by h4rr4r (612664)

                    So we are paying about a 6% premium on the cheapest cars for safety. That seems pretty acceptable to me. I think I would accept that level of cost for safety.

                    I am not saying people are not willing to pay for safety, I am suggesting people are not willing to pay 10X for a very small increase in safety. If the cheapest cars were suddenly $150k instead of $15k, people would feel differently.

                    • by h4rr4r (612664)

                      Was this your attempt to be as vague as possible?
                      Other than more fuel being burned from increased weight, what are you trying to say?

                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by Jafafa Hots (580169)

                  How many people do sharks kill every year?
                  How many people does excess dietary fat kill every year?

                  Which of the two are people more afraid of?

                  People are nonsensical beings.

                • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

                  by Anonymous Coward

                  The spacex vs ULA to some upstart vs. Boeing/Airbus analogy is pretty weak.
                  Commercial air transport is already an aggressively competitive business. Many other companies try to compete with Boeing and Airbus in the single-aisle jetliner market and struggle to compete on price, weight and fuel efficiency, to say nothing of attempting to compete in the wide-body airliner market. Look up how China is doing attempting to build a 100% national airliner with Comac. They are years behind and overweight, still rely

            • I think benjfowler is pointing out the fact that for ICBMs you really want the storage flexibility of solid fuel boosters. You can argue all you want about the pros and cons of solids in a non military application but for bombs you want to be able to create Armageddon at the drop of the hat.

              • by cusco (717999)
                Which is why the the continual Luddite refrain that the Apollo program was just a way to build a better ICBM is so nonsensical. Even a Saturn I would have been a horrible ICBM, the thing took days to fuel, needed a special assembly building and very specific launch pad, and could only be maintained in a launch-ready status for a couple of days before it needed to be de-fueled and returned to the VAB for refit.
                • Which is why the the continual Luddite refrain that the Apollo program was just a way to build a better ICBM is so nonsensical. Even a Saturn I would have been a horrible ICBM...

                  Ignoring the ad-hominem attack which does nothing to support your claim, your statement is overlooking something. You claim that the various rockets would have been poor weapon platforms, but your thesis statement is that the Apollo program wasn't tied to ICBM development. You are correct that the Saturn rockets would be lousy weapons, but you overlook that there were a lot of things probably learned in the civilian rocket programs that got applied to ICBM development. A lot of times studying field 'A' wi

                  • by cusco (717999)
                    Ad-hominem attack? Not meant in any way, sorry.

                    By the time the Mariner missions were finished the military had everything they needed for the ICBM program. Face it, throwing half a ton of something into a ballistic orbit and making sure it lands within half a kilometer of your target isn't that hard, not even with 1960's tech. The really revolutionary advance that the Pentagram got from the Apollo program was 'zero defect manufacturing', nothing like it had ever been done outside small craftsman shops
            • SpaceX would need to have solids, which they've quite deliberately eschewed.

              ULA's Common Booster Core (CBC) is liquid-fueled only. Solids are indeed more storable for the long term, but if you need to vary the thrust for different orbital profiles and payloads, liquid is the only way to go.

              Perhaps you've noticed in the West the utter lack of liquid fueled ICBM's - and in the rest of the world, liquids are being steadily phased out in favor of solids. There's a reason for that.

              Not to mention that

            • by router (28432)

              Boeing and Airbus actually compete on jetliners. Embraer et. al. would jump in if they slacked off.

              Boeing and Lockheed-Martin got the federal government to fund the development of two separate EELV rockets, so there would be competition, then spun their rocket businesses off into United Launch Alliance and got rid of the competition between them. Amaze anyone that costs are now half a billion to orbit?

              Spacex can crush them.

              andy

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by benjfowler (239527)

        It's hilarious when the guys from China Great Wall Industry are accusing Musk of lying and cooking his figures....

      • by ilguido (1704434)

        SpaceX is blowing the competition away. Even the Chinese have said they can't match SpaceX's prices.

        I'd like to have some reliable sources for that, because SpaceX said that the launch cost for a Falcon 9 was $35-55 million, than they revised it to $50-56 million, than they published the estimated launch cost ($54 million) for the still non-existent Falcon 9 v1.1 and stopped publishing the costs for the actual Falcon 9 v1.0. The only commercial launch so far was CRS-1: it's a Falcon 9 + Dragon mission that NASA paid approx. $133 million ($1.6 billion for 12 launches) and it carried just 15% of the adverti

        • by router (28432)

          You need to cite a source for those numbers, the linked article says 464M$ average launch price for ULA (Atlas V/Delta IV). SpaceX costs look like all up, 125M$ for AtlasV looks like launch vehicle itself, maybe, no integration or launch costs or sustainment or etc. additional costs. What does ULA get, total, from the Federal and State Govt, for how many launches?

          Proton M looks same, vehicle only.

          Not criticizing, but would love to see the source of that data.

          andy

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @09:39AM (#42394041) Homepage

    Lockheed traded Barb Williams to SpaceX in return Barb McIntosh and a sum of $3 million. No word yet on what that will do for their chances of winning the Goddard Trophy, the long-time rocketry championship, but the expectation is that this will allow Lockheed to unload an unfavorable contract while making SpaceX more competitive in the playoffs.

  • by benjfowler (239527) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @09:44AM (#42394061)

    Musk, is essentially running a massive experiment to see what costs can be squeezed out of building and operating launch systems. Much of it has to do with using off the shelf technology (as opposed to the proverbial gold-plated screws...), and flattening his supply chain.

    Obviously, it's working, as the old guard are getting butthurt that they're uncompetitive after growing fat and lazy off government space and defence contracts.

    Gotta love free markets when they work well.

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @09:57AM (#42394121) Homepage Journal

      Also, Lockheed is a very big, very old company with layers of bereaucracy. The bigger the organization, the more bureaucracy is needed, and the more expensive their wares become. Spaxe-X is still young and lean.

      • by smpoole7 (1467717) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @10:34AM (#42394355) Homepage

        > bureaucracy

        This, this and this again.

        I guess the day will come (I suspect that it'll be long after Musk has assumed room temp) when SpaceX is a giant, ossified fossil that can't adapt to changing markets. It seems to be inevitable.

        My brother is the business guru in our family, and one of his favorite stories involves pizza chains. There's a TON of profit in pizza. Ergo, big chains like Pizza Hut were able to build these fancy restaurants with beautiful decor ... and then along came discounters like Little Caesars to eat away at their market share.

        Smaller, leaner retailers like Dollar General are giving Wal Mart a run for the money nowadays, too.

        Call the Economic Circle of Life. You're born, you go through a rapid growth phase, then you become hidebound and eventually just fade away.

        • "I guess the day will come (I suspect that it'll be long after Musk has assumed room temp) when SpaceX is a giant, ossified fossil that can't adapt to changing markets. It seems to be inevitable."

          No guessing involved. In fact, several Sci-Fi authors predicted as much, decades ago. When we mud-dwellers finally get our fingers out of our asses, and build a colony, that will be almost the end of our innovation and contribution to space exploration. We'll see migration to the colony, just as fast and massive

          • by jamstar7 (694492)
            Got your ticket yet? I'm holding out til I can go to the asteroids.
            • I sure wish. I'm getting old, I got no money, no one's going to offer me a free ride - I guess I'll just die a worn-out old mud-dweller. Maybe my kids, though!! I can cough up some cash to help some of my DNA get up there!

              Still on IRC? I should come visit the old gang . . .

      • by dj245 (732906) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @10:36AM (#42394363) Homepage

        Also, Lockheed is a very big, very old company with layers of bereaucracy. The bigger the organization, the more bureaucracy is needed, and the more expensive their wares become. Spaxe-X is still young and lean.

        Not only that, but their engineering processes are terrible. I had the misfortune of working with them on the replacement for the Alvin submarine [wikipedia.org]. Instead of looking for things which could be purchased off the shelf, they seemed to go out of their way to design completely new parts and write completely new software when an ideally-suited commercial package would have been more functional than the programming garbage they produced. Maybe this is coming from higher up to inflate costs and chargeback to the customer. I certainly found it ridiculous though.

        A couple years ago I had to obtain a TWIC [wikipedia.org] card. When I went to the office to have my biometrics done, all the equipment was branded "Lockheed". And none of it worked right, turning what should have been a 5 minute trip into a 1 hour ordeal. There was about 10 different devices on the clerk's desk, when 3 should have sufficed (scanner, fingerprint reader, camera). There are dozens of companies which make secure badging and identifying products. Lockheed's pile of garbage probably cost 100x as much and isn't as good.

        • by gorzek (647352)

          What you described sounds like a case of "not invented here." Large companies with a lot of inertia are notorious for this. "Nothing produced at any other company could possibly be as good, so let's just make everything ourselves, regardless of whether it's related to our core competency."

          Smaller companies and startups can't really afford to roll everything themselves, so they will look for off-the-shelf solutions as much as possible.

          Incidentally, this is how startups in the software industry smash the old

        • by cusco (717999) <brian DOT bixby AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @01:48PM (#42396129)
          Project managers somewhere like Lockheed only need to get burned once by purchasing something that doesn't work as advertised to want to take everything back in-house. If they have something written in-house that doesn't work they can point fingers and blame their failure on the other group. The internal politics in places like that are more important than having actual process or products that work.
    • by vlm (69642)

      There's a pretty good argument that the core difference between spacex and the defense contractors is spacex is giving up hope, at a very basic level, of selling ICBMs to dotmil. Once they give up on the dotmil market, certain engineering opportunities open, certain bureaucratic opportunities open... Otherwise the existing ICBM mfgr would simply copy spacex. Why not reduce your costs, increase your profits... if you can...

      Example: Flattening your supply chain is a project killer if a congressman has an e

      • by khallow (566160) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @10:30AM (#42394323)

        There's a pretty good argument that the core difference between spacex and the defense contractors is spacex is giving up hope, at a very basic level, of selling ICBMs to dotmil.

        I disagree. The US hasn't made any new missiles since the Peacekeeper. That's about twenty years of no selling of ICBMs. Lockheed doesn't even have a rocket at the moment (the Atlas V is operated by ULA, which Lockheed is a part owner of).

        My take is that Lockheed's niche here is launch services. If you want your payload in space, at some point, you're going to have to put it on a rocket. That's a very specialized task. And the period from launch through to successful deployment in the right trajectory remains one of the riskiest parts of a mission.

        • by PPH (736903)

          "Launch services" is certainly a niche for which a very fat profit can be extracted. Forget all that other expensive stuff that takes actual engineering and building something. That's risky. Just let us push the Big Red Button. And if something goes 'boom!' we just blame the subcontractors.

          SpaceX has flattened the business model, taking on the responsibility for design, construction and launch. That allows them to do the systems analysis and eliminate redundancies that they won't need to do the launch job.

          • My understanding of the SpaceX engine control system is that the launch portion is completely automated; once the vehicle is ignited, the only on-ground task is the safety control officer's in the event the vehicle becomes unstable and needs to be destroyed.

            This is apparent during the latest launch to the ISS: a merlin engine was lost, and the onboard launch system safed the motor and increased burn time on the remaining motors to obtain orbit. While its true that the secondary mission failed due to a small

            • by Chuckstar (799005)

              And you think that with other systems, all kinds of split-second decisions are being made from ground control? Space-X is not fundamentally doing anything differently than anyone else. They've just been able to do it cheaper by starting with off-the-shelf components and decades-newer technology.

  • cost? (Score:2, Funny)

    by slashmydots (2189826)
    He doesn't seem to know the difference between "cost" and profit. He keeps using the word cost but I'm not sure he actually knows what it means. Well boo hoo and let me get out the world's smallest violin now that they have to compete on price in their former monopoly market.
  • IMHO (Score:3, Funny)

    by CryptoJones (565561) <akclark@@@cryptospace...com> on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @10:13AM (#42394213) Homepage
    I, for one, welcome our new SpaceX overlords.
  • some truth (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @11:19AM (#42394657) Homepage Journal

    There's some truth to it. SpaceX is built like an Internet startup - failure is always an option. The "old technology" is from an age when every launch was a national news event and failure was no option.

    Read this:
    http://www.fastcompany.com/28121/they-write-right-stuff [fastcompany.com]

    and then realize that while everything NASA seems to be luxury spending, their software development manages to have at least two orders of magnitude fewer bugs than any commercial software company.

    If your life depends on it - would you rather fly a NASA Space Shuttle or a Microsoft Rocket ?

    SpaceX deserves a lot of credit, no doubt. Among other things, they have revitalized the "space exploration is cool" meme. And with it the willingness to take risks.

    But how about we talk about costs when they've had their first two or three explosions and resulting fallout in costs, publicity, etc.?
    I'd be mightily surprised if the learning wouldn't go two-way. Old tech learns from SpaceX how to cut costs while SpaceX learns from old tech which costs you shouldn't save on.

    • SpaceX is built like an Internet startup - failure is always an option.

      Unfortunately - their users (primarily NASA and other US government entities ATM, but soon other old guard customers) don't agree with that philosophy. So if their philosophy starts putting regularly birds in the drink... the contracts are going to dry up pretty rapidly. So just like a 'net startup looking to grow, they can't flaky for long.

      SpaceX deserves a lot of credit, no doubt. Among other things, they have revitalized the

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        Unfortunately - their users (primarily NASA and other US government entities ATM, but soon other old guard customers) don't agree with that philosophy.

        Satellite customers consider 1-2% failure rates perfectly acceptable. NASA considers losing the vehicle and killing the crew one time in 70 to be 'man rated'.

        So SpaceX have a pretty low bar to reach.

    • by crakbone (860662)
      Nasa's shuttle missions cost about 1.9 billion per launch. Total costs over the life of the shuttle program. So far SpaceX has spent less than 3 billion total on launch facility construction and every launch to date.
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      If your life depends on getting to the destination would you rather have a NASA rocket you cannot afford at all or a unit at a tenth the cost with a very minor increase in risk?

      Risk is part of life, even the shuttle killed a crew every hundred launches and that thing cost a ridiculous amount. You could double that rate and kill two crew every hundred launches but get the cost down to a tenth it would surely be worth it. You would still have no problem finding qualified candidates for those missions.

    • Read this: http://www.fastcompany.com/28121/they-write-right-stuff [fastcompany.com]

      and then realize that while everything NASA seems to be luxury spending, their software development manages to have at least two orders of magnitude fewer bugs than any commercial software company.

      Except that implicit in that is the idea that every bug is a disaster. SpaceX's approach is to have robust engineering rather than perfection. The idea is that small problems should not cascade into mission failures. That's how "real world" engineering works: for example, we don't use chains to hold up suspension bridges any more, because a single crack can cause a collapse. We use multi-strand cables, where cracks don't propagate from strand to strand. The fragile perfection of old-school aerospace is exp

    • Nasa had TWO Shuttle failures that were completely avoidable but were ignored for internal political reasons. Their integrity is questionable.
    • by Belial6 (794905)
      If my life depended on it? Then definitely a Microsoft Rocket. Why? Because I might actually be able to afford the Microsoft Rocket, so I would have some chance of survival. The NASA Rocket would be completely out of my price range, so I would be dead without even taking a chance.
  • by ThePhilips (752041) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @11:22AM (#42394673) Homepage Journal

    "You can thrift on cost. You can take cost out of a rocket. But I will guarantee you, in my experience, when you start pulling a lot of costs out of a rocket, your quality and your probability of success in delivering a payload to orbit diminishes."

    Fishy argument. Most of the payload I gather is pretty cheap stuff to make astronauts' life on ISS possible.

    In a way, price gauging of the launchers has resulted in the reactive price gauging of the payload. But if one can cheaply transport materials to the ISS, some stuff can be actually built and assembled right there - instead of creating the stuff on surface up to the very high standards, required for it to survive the lift off.

    • by Shavano (2541114)

      In a way, price gauging of the launchers has resulted in the reactive price gauging of the payload. But if one can cheaply transport materials to the ISS, some stuff can be actually built and assembled right there - instead of creating the stuff on surface up to the very high standards, required for it to survive the lift off.

      I don't see it. Manufacturing equipment is usually much heavier and often more delicate than the items manufactured.

      • I wasn't taking about manufacturing specifically - more like building/assembling the stuff using off-the-shelf parts. I was also thinking about potential expansion of the ISS. Right now it is made of older space modules, what is rather expensive building material. But probably you are right anyway.

        That was just an idea, follow up on the possibilities offered by cheaper transportation to the space. Just like the accessible infrastructure down here, possibilities expand greatly.

    • by Chuckstar (799005)

      ISS missions are a tiny piece of the pie. The real money is launching very expensive satellites. You really don't want to be blowing those up.

      • I have used ISS as an example.

        But I have looked it costs anyway. From what I can find, average satellite launch costs $10-20M while SpaceX launch costs around $5+M. The cost difference isn't big enough to drastically change anything :(

        Otherwise, the point I was trying to make was that the satellites are so expensive in part because launches are so expensive. One attempts to pack into one expensive trip as much as possible - to make as few trips as possible. If price for launch was magnitude (or two) les

  • by vinn (4370) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @11:44AM (#42394817) Homepage Journal

    Having worked as a contractor for Goddard Space Flight Center years ago on a few projects, I can assure you that SpaceX's way of doing business is completely different than the old school space business. Coming from NASA, which trickles down to Boeing and Lockheed, the standard mentality is do everything at least twice, and usually triple checking all of that. New processes are frowned upon and twenty year old technology is still considered new, potentially even unproven. It is a frustrating way to work for a lot of people because it moves so slow. However, it is fairly safe and effective.

    Now, enter SpaceX. I suspect they have a lot of the old NASA engineers, so they have the experience to cut corners. However, they've designed the thing intentionally to tolerate failures - they stuck 9 engines on the rocket. And you definitely want to tolerate failures, however, it does lead to mistakes. Look what happens though when one engine fails - the extra burn time meant the Orbcomm secondary payload on the last mission failed and never made it into orbit. That wasn't highly publicized, but it was a partial failure.

    Now, what we're going to run into the standard cost/benefit of the extra work that goes into Boeing rockets. Is it worth it? Well, I suspect once you start sticking people on the top of the rockets the tolerance for failure goes down. Personally, I love what SpaceX is doing and I think a lot of the stuff is cutting edge. It is the direction we need to be headed, and I personally think the risks are worth it.

    Better - Faster - Cheaper

    You only get two.

    • by aaarrrgggh (9205) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @12:09PM (#42395039)

      That failure was based on NASAs protocol to not relight the engine, and it was a secondary payload priced on that possibility. More like designed-in risk.

    • by mk1004 (2488060)
      The engine failure cause the loss of the secondary payload only because NASA wouldn't let SpaceX restart the engines due to ISS safety concerns.
    • by C0R1D4N (970153) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @12:26PM (#42395227)
      I do not see anything wrong with having a higher failure rate on unmanned missions if the cost is enough thet you need to fail four times before the cost matches the rocket with a lower fail rate.

      We can have separate standards for manned vs unmanned.
    • However, they've designed the thing intentionally to tolerate failures - they stuck 9 engines on the rocket.

      That's PR posturing - or "making lemonade out of lemons" to put it more politely.

      In reality, big engines are complex and expensive to develop - so SpaceX uses smaller engines that are cheaper to develop and build, which does give fault tolerance... but at the cost of a more complex, heavier, and more expensive plumbing system and thrust structure.

  • Better Engineering (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tjstork (137384) <todd,bandrowsky&gmail,com> on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @12:14PM (#42395073) Homepage Journal

    Musk once alluded to a better manufacturing process for actually building rockets. So, instead of saying that he's taking shortcuts and what not and doesn't have layers of bureacracy, what if he just has a cheaper way to build rockets that are better?

    • Musk once alluded to a better manufacturing process for actually building rockets. So, instead of saying that he's taking shortcuts and what not and doesn't have layers of bureacracy, what if he just has a cheaper way to build rockets that are better?

      Yes. From the Model T to the Pentium, we see the winning product is the one that has the best manufacturing process behind it. Often, the product itself isn't anything special compared to the competition.

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