- Parabolic Arc
- June 7, 2023
Lawmakers Seek Review of U.S. Air Force Decision Not to Award Funding to SpaceX
SpaceNews reports that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) are seeking an independent review of the U.S. Air Force’s decision to award contracts to Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems and United Launch Alliance for the development of new launch vehicles. California-based SpaceX was not awarded any funding.
In a Feb. 4 letter addressed to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, Feinstein and Calvert — both with strong ties to the space industry — argue that the path the Air Force has chosen to select future launch providers creates an unfair playing field. Although SpaceX is not mentioned in the letter by name, it is clear from the lawmakers’ language that they believe the company is getting a raw deal because, unlike its major competitors, it did not receive Air Force funding to modify its commercial rockets so they meet national security mission requirements.
Feinstein and Calvert in the letter ask Wilson to “review how the Air Force intends to maintain assured access to space while preserving maximum competitive opportunities for all certified launch providers.” A copy of the letter was obtained by SpaceNews.
At issue are Launch Service Agreement contracts the Air Force awarded in October to Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems and United Launch Alliance. The three companies collectively received $2.3 billion to support the development of space launch vehicles that meet national security requirements. The Air Force started the LSA program in 2016 to ensure future access to space and to end its reliance on ULA’s Atlas 5 and its Russian main engine.
In October, the U.S. Air Force awarded contracts worth more than $2.2 billion for launch vehicle development to United Launch Alliance (ULA), Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman.
ULA of Centennial, Colo., will receive $967 million for the development of a launch system prototype of the Vulcan-Centaur booster.
The agreement includes shared cost investment by ULA. The work is expected to be completed by March 31, 2025.
Northrop Gumman was awarded a contract worth $791,601,015 for development of the OmegA launch system. The company expects to to complete the work by Dec. 31, 2024.
Blue Origin has been awarded a $500 million contract for the development of the New Glenn launch system. The booster will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The work is expected to be completed by July 31, 2024.
145 responses to “Lawmakers Seek Review of U.S. Air Force Decision Not to Award Funding to SpaceX”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
No secret here… SpaceX got money (nearly 100 million) from the USAF for the Raptor engine with a clear anticipation that the Raptor would become the upper stage for the FH and F9…and SpaceX hosed them…no more money
The Air Force wants a C-130 sized payload to LEO but Space X offered them a C-5 and can’t figure out why they came away empty handed. Let’ see how many of the free market types get upset that Space X did not get any taxpayer dollars.
When Lockheed offers a C-5 after having made the C-141 operational, I’ll believe you can do a C-5. When Howard Hughes shows up proposing the H-4 never having done such a large aircraft …. Uhhhh, No. Which era are we in right now?
This particular free market type would just as soon that SpaceX wean itself from taxpayer development money and strings. I don’t have a problem with them selling launches to the government though.
Exactly, CCP, X-33 and the EELV are all good examples of the need to steer clear of government funding, and the micromanagement that is attached to it.
but if they are the only customers you have…you have to listen to your customers…Musk has fixed that. he became his own customer 🙂 see if that works
It probably will since he has nearly 500,000 Tesla’s out there that will be a customer base for the Starlink. Probably will be closer to a million Tesla’s with the factories in China and Europe going online soon.
Nice business model. Your LEO Constellation is cheaper to build then competitors because you are launching at cost on the cheapest launch system available, so it gives you a price advantage over them. Then you have a million instant customers which gives you an even bigger price advantage over the other LEO Constallations.
That is the problem, you are trying to play 3D Chess while still thinking in two dimensions.
sure anything is possible when it is all “aspirational” isnt that the word he uses?
“Aspirational” is a word Musk has used to describe schedules, not the technical and economic feasibility of projects.
ok so where is crossfeed on the FH?
Mooted by serial improvements in the Merlin 1-D.
the first thing you learn in business or go out of business is that 1) the customer is always right when they pay the money or 2) you have to convince the customer what they want can be gotten smarter.
The USAF has some specific goals for specific reasons in terms of what they want for LEO, High Molynia type orbits and GTO and Musk seems oblivious to those. in large measure they have these desires because a new group of sats is about to come on line…and of course the neat thing is that these requirements are really great for a lunar goal
If SpaceX collapses eventually the decision to not do the FH/F9 methane burner will be the turning point
Customer is not always right. Leading the customer toward the right solution is often better than getting dragged around by customer’s inept and half baked ideas. Apple has proven this time and again.
wrong. if you are providing a service the Customer who is paying is always right…
so far the only one who has not held up their end of the stick is Musk…reusability is refurbishment
Wrong, I deal with customers all the time. They are often wrong and in some cases engineers at the customer know this and ask that I present other options to leadership knowing their ask is wrong. World is messy, internal politics at customer is a thing. Grow up.
LOL that assumes you know more about the customers business then they do…
Or you know more in your area of speciality than the customer. Tell me, when you hire a plumber to fix your pipes do you tell him what to do and what tools to use?
Excellent riposte. To answer your rhetorical question, when I hire someone to fix something for me, I watch how he does it and what tools he uses and then get the tools so I can do it myself next time. I also ask questions. I’ve saved a bunch on major appliance repair by doing this.
no one does, but I dont hire a plumber who doesnt have the tools to do the job I want…
and have him/her come in and say “I would use this or that pipe, but if you wait X years they are developing a pipe that will make this one obsolete and is far cheaper, last longer and blah blah blah”…particularly when the claims he or she have had about this have been flawed in the past
That is a good assumption when their business intersects my business. That is why firms outsource products and services to vendors (they are precisely *not* experts in the thing that is supporting their business)
well if a supplier says “I will come up with a product that will do what you want five to ten years from now” I probably would not take them seriously as trying to be a supplier to my business today
But isn’t that the very same promise NASA has been making the America taxpayers, their customers, for decades? At least Elon Musk is risky his own money on Starship. But they you would be probably advising Mr. Ford to get a horse and stop promising folks they will own a horseless carriage if you lived in that era.
The TAxpayers are not NASA customers. The taxpayers are at “best” (and I really hate this analogy) the “bank” for NASA and the entirety of the federal government. if the taxpayers were customers they would in fact be trying on an individual or collective venue use the shuttle or station or whatever services themselves
What Musk seemed to be trying to do with the USAF in his “BFR or whatever it is called bid” is to get the USAF to buy into his project and bankroll it..and the consensus of the USAF from the Sec to the stars who are making the calls is that Musk has not demonstrated that he can as you put it get into the elastic part of the pricing spectrum. ie make the project a financial success
Way to bait and switch, the timeline will be situation dependent and has nothing to do with the fundamental point of customers not always being right. New Glenn was officially announced in 2016 with initial customers orders and won’t fly earlier than 2020 and probably not until 2021. So basically you are full of crap.
Repeating an assertion without evidence doesn’t progress the conversation either.
USAF didn’t originally want anything to do with GPS. Now it couldn’t operate effectively without it. Sometimes the “customer” is a freakin’ moron.
thats not correct. there were questions of GPS working…but the USAF was the lead agency on the Timation series which proved it did
Timation, as with GPS and all earlier versions of satellite-based navigation in general, were Navy projects, not USAF. That, doubtless, accounts for the very considerable aversion to GPS within USAF up until the Gulf War when the freakin’ Army, fer crissakes, used it to ram a hot poker up Saddam’s arse.
that is why the USN did timation…to convince all the “math worked”
Actually the customer is not always right .. heck .. a lot of times the customer is so set in the ways of the past they can not see the an innovation staring them in the face.
“ya but we always did it this way in the past”
“we don’t need no new fangled XYZ”
That is why business have something called a MARKETING dept. where you learn the 1st rule of sales ..
Sell the Sizzle not the Steak
“I understand it cost more Mr. Jones and that is why you should buy it today”
Actually the customer is not always right .. heck .. a lot of times
the customer is so set in the ways of the past they can not see the an
innovation staring them in the face.
“ya but we always did it this way in the past”
“we don’t need no new fangled XYZ”
its not my experience that most successful companies that buy products perform that way. its not my experience either working for a major airplane manufactor or running two successful small business
what appears to outsiders as “no new fangled” things most of the time is a complete lack of understanding of the internal infrastructure of a company that drives most product purchasing decisions
there is a reason 1) Boeing still makes and sales in record numbers the B737 today, 2) has tried to replace it now three times and the airlines wont and 3) probably will replace it in about 10 years.
and its not “no new fangled things”
No secret at all. The big primes are hyper-focused on giving the customer EXACTLY what they requested. We get reminded at proposal time that the way to lose is to try to give the customer what WE want and not what THEY want. Lockheed/Boeing have become masters of this.
The problem is that is not the way to real progress. No customer “wanted” a smart phone, indeed they couldn’t imagine what it could do, until Apple showed them with the iPhone. Customers (government and consumer) always think linearly in terms of wants which means they never “want” an innovation until they see it. The PC and Internet are two other good examples as was the KC-135.
You’re absolutely right. But unless you can convince the customer to buy (political pressure, envy of what the other guy has, marketing, whatever) they still won’t buy. We don’t know what the proposals looked like, but if SpaceX (or anyone else) is selling something the customer doesn’t want, they won’t get the contract. Apple didn’t have to convince everyone, but they did have to convince SOMEONE. Everyone is responsible for their marketing strategy – if you don’t understand your customer, that’s on you.
But the key is to understand their needs as well as their wants. Successful breakthroughs come when you show them something they need, but did not know they needed it until you show them It.
Like the Next Cube? The Cube was everything a middle 1990’s workstation would be in 1988. Sun Workstations got the work.
The Cube in based on what customers wanted, the Sun on what they needed.
Define those differences, because there were very few real differences. I used both a NexTStation and a Sparc 10 and Sparc5. I will really be able to appreciate the differences once you point them out. In my opinion, it was marketing.
Bingo, making the customers they were targeting believe it better satisfied their needs. Engineers are always seeking perfection in satisfying customers wants. Marketers on the other hand specialize in educating customers on what they need.
AT&T spent generations designing a super reliable indestructible phone when they had the phone monopoly because it’s what customers told them they “wanted”, a phone that always worked. But when competition was allowed they didn’t buy those expensive indestructible phones. They bought cheap $9.95 phones and just threw they away when they broke. Why? Because they really just needed a “phone” that worked, that enabled you to hear the other person. “Work” didn’t mean waiting two weeks for a repair person to fix it, it meant tossing it in the garbage and just plugging a replacement in.
Let’s see what the USAF “wants” once the Starship is flying.
And where’s SpaceX’s outreach to the consumer market to drum up business? Again, what’s their solution to the fact that the customers don’t constitute the market as SpaceX want’s it to be? They’re becoming their own customer. I know you’ve been talking this subject with others, I’ll just chime in and say it can go either way and work. Nothing says it has to be one or the other. Sometimes the customer is right, sometimes they need to be led.
so who needs or wants a Starship?
Nobody for right now. If it becomes operational at anything near the claims though, a lot of people are going to find a use for it. Short wait times approaching fly on demand with price under roughly $100M a flight will attract needs and wants. Sub $1M per ton or passenger can ramp up markets fairly rapidly.
I do have some skepticism that the ship will hit the $10M per flight mark anytime soon. Then again, it doesn’t have to to be attractive to prospective entrepreneurs that can’t make a business case with the current launch prices and lead times.
Nobody for right now. If it becomes operational at anything near the
claims though, a lot of people are going to find a use for it. Short
wait times approaching fly on demand with price under roughly $100M a
flight will attract needs and wants. Sub $1M per ton or passenger can
ramp up markets fairly rapidly.
but what happens when it doesnt? because like all musk things in space it wont
Neither of us know for certain whether the big ship will be successful or the game changer.. Your myopia concerning Musk though makes it certain that you will refuse too recognize it even if it does perform.
The real question is how well does it have to work? Falcon 9 is a very very capable launch system. The most capable in the world right now. It’s not utilized anywhere near its more interesting capabilities. For instance remember all the talk about responsive space launch back in the late 90’s and into the Obama admin just before Falcon 9 came of age? There’s a stockpile of Falcon’s that could be tasked such that there’s always one ready to go to conduct a responsive launch. We’ve not seen this even done as a demonstration. Once BF(X) goes ‘operational’ it’s going to suffer from underutilization just as Falcon 9 does today. In proportion, it will be even more underutilized than Falcon.
I would like to see the development be more incremental as well. It makes me a bit nervous that Starship is a major investment and technical risk that depends on a new market. I recognize that Musk and company have more knowledge of the situation than I do. I will admit to annoyance at the bald statements that Starship will certainly fail, and also the statements that Starship will succeed without reservations. It is too early for certainty either way.
And to be clear, I don’t say BF(x) will certainly fail. I do assert it will certainly have troubles and that they will be compounded by how far out on a limb SpaceX is going with this on multiple fronts. I also expect it take longer to get it working than if SpaceX evolved it from Falcon to something like New Glenn, then do the BF(x). I think we’re looking at 10 to 15 years before BF(x) is taking up commercial (non SpaceX) payloads with an acceptable incidence rate. SpaceX will probably be willing to lose batches of Starlink sats given how high their production rates will be.
The Falcon Heavy is in the same payload category as the New Glenn, and its flying… But you seem to think Starships will be falling from the sky like leaves. And its called the Starship, the BFR was the old designed based on composites. He went to stainless steel because its more reliable and a lot cheaper/faster to work with.
As you know the expectation of payload owners and insurance providers is as near perfect a launch record as you can provide. Also as you know the military demands it because its been demonstrated by ULA. Even if a BF(X) fails every two years that will be considered a problem by a lot of payload owners. If the SX failures of the past decade in any way looked systemic they would have scattered to the old providers except maybe the Russians. Likely the Chinese would have gotten their work. I expect BF(X)’s to crash at a rate like airplanes did in the 1960’s. Maybe the market will accept this and start designing their satellites with the BF(X)’s capabilities in mind after the vehicle has been operating for some time.
Forgot to address this …. “
The Falcon Heavy is in the same payload category as the New Glenn”……Come on Dr Matula. That’s just pure spin. Pure spin. Look at what happens when you become an advocate. You know you’re misrepresenting the facts don’t you? Do I need to spell it out for you? Maybe I do, so here we go. The Falcon H in full reuse mode has the same payload to LEO and GEO as a Falcon 9 in full throw away mode. 50,000 lbs to LEO. The Falcon H operates in the same payload range as New Glenn is projected to when it’s in throw away mode. A Falcon H in throw away mode is much like a New Glenn in booster reuse mode. If the economics of refurb are what people say they are, you know that means all the difference. Geezh, stop being such an advocate look what it does to you.
I am sure that he would consider a reasonable offer from the USAF to buy Falcon 9 launch systems, especially as he demonstrated how quickly it could launch the X-37B. But the USAF doesn’t seem to be looking to do so.
the USAF is one of the leaders in the uncertainty of the reusability of the first stage compared to its cost
no. part of my angst with Musk is that while the 9 is a vvery capable launch system in terms of cost and reusability it has not lived up to what it was sold as
He said that he would build the Falcon I and he did. He said he would build the Falcon 9 and he did. He said he would recover the Falcon 9 booster to refly and he did. He said he would build a capsule that could be reused and he did. He said he would build a Falcon Heavy that would have boosters that could be reused and he did. That a pretty good track record. But you will know in a year or so if you are wrong again.
And I can make a list of the things he did not do. Know what the difference between the two lists would be? Public dollars. Space X will be going to public dollars for BF(X), and you know it. In fact you want them to get public dollars for it anyway. Don’t you want government dollars diverted from SLS to BF(x)? It sure seems to from your previous posts.
If he wanted to go after public dollars he would just do what Old Space does and just give NASA what it wants no matter how outdated it is. At cost plus he could get just as bloated as the Old space firms are. But he learned the drawback of public dollars with NASA micromanagement of Dragon2 which is why he moved on to the Starship.
But seriously, you are a cheer leader for the SLS? A rocket that launches only a couple dozen tons more than the existing Falcon Heavy at 10 times the cost? That may be able to launch every year or two? That is not even as good as the Saturn V was?
Isn’t that what he did? He knew there was money in EELV’s and he and his company made an most excellent E(E)LV. As for NASA micromanagement, you know every program that’s not micromanaged by them, he loses interest in and drops. Does that say anything to you?
Cheerlead for SLS? You’re not paying attention. It’s an H-4 too. The problem with SLS is the same problem BF(x) has. No payloads. Like its STS parent SLS eats the budget of its own payloads. At least BF(x) won’t do that. Or at least is not designed to do so from the outset. If BF(x) showed the signs of a well designed and well run program I would want SLS money diverted to it. What would I like to see SLS money diverted to? A lunar lander and a small manned shuttle that can ride on any of the E(E)LV’s on a responsive basis. We can go to the Moon now with Falcon ,and even easier with Falcon and New Glenn, with hardware in hand or almost in hand. All we need is a lander.
I entirely endorse Musk’s eschewal of government funds for SH-Starship. Requesting and getting same would be a Faustian bargain of a sort Musk has already seen the downside of. The letter from Di-Fi and the other Swamp Creatures is less about getting some unrequested and unwanted money for SpaceX and more about getting money for themselves.
“but what happens when it doesnt? because like all musk things in space it wont”
MAN you sound like you are just aching for that to happen .. you say it like you TRUELY do not want it to happen .. what is with you? One day you are singing the praises of SpaceX and over night it is anti spacex and name dropping boeing in post after post ..
Its does not matter whether he wants it to or not. The BF(x) program is going out on a limb in many directions. It would be silly to assume all those development programs will go smoothly and that shortcomings won’t be accepted and worked into the system. If someone emotionally want’s something to happen or not does not matter so long as they come to the discussion with a good idea. You may not want to consider what will happen should BF(x) fall short, however other people do. As a amateur space analyst we should be at least curious as to what it would mean.
What it means is that we get stuck with NASA… Unless Blue Origin starts moving faster.
Falcon won’t stop flying as long as BF(x) is not working and making sales. If SpaceX goes under I fully expect Falcon to land in the hands of ULA. It would be a shame if that happened because if it does history will call them the responsible players, and the BF(x) brigade as a bunch of gambling louts.
You do know America was built by gamblers like Elon Musk? From the first settlers to today this is a nation built by folks gambling on the future. That is the basic problem with the NASA bureaucracy and Old Space, they are too scared to gamble on the future like they did during Project Apollo.
No wonder you don’t understand his motives for the Starship. You probably wouldn’t understand Thomas Edison’s pursuit of the electric light, then using the profits to create the record and movie industries after he made money building better telegraphs. Elon Musk is just a modern version of him. But your viewpoint is common in most of the business students today because schools just don’t teach anymore about the gamblers that made the modern world.
It’s built by gamblers and nobody else? Everyone else is just bunch of hangers on and leaches? Which probably makes us the justifiable rubes to take our tax dollars with and load us down with debit notes to pay for your confidence games. Okay, now I understand better your world view.
A little dose of reality. It takes all kinds interacting with each other. Look at Andy Beal, quit on space then blew just as much money on poker. Well thought out gambling is fine, reckless gambling is not. Time and time again Musk puts his enterprises on the line in all or nothing efforts. And he does so with public money. A fact you always ignore to mention. One of these times he’s going to fail and take it all down with him. You think he’s a bare chested libertarian, but he’d be peddling apps on an I-phone if it were not for the generosity of the US government.
There’s no public money in SH-Starship or Starlink. That seems to be the nature of the complaint being made by the Congresscritters in their letter, Doug’s post about which was the hook upon which this whole mostly OT thread hangs.
My suspicion, by the way, is that said Congresscritters are actually upset because SpaceX not only didn’t take any LSA money, it didn’t ask for any in the first place. Congresscritters like companies that ask for government money, it gives them something to use as leverage when hitting those same companies up for campaign cash. Musk really doesn’t spend very much on lobbying and campaign contributions by historical standards and that seems, finally, to be getting some of the Swamp Creatures spooky.
Musk is now saying he may be able to build starship and super heavies cheaper than Falcon 9s. Less special systems. Stainless is cheap!
I’m guessing SpaceX may build super heavies outside with a tower crane. Having a horizontal beam, a tower crane could hold a scaffolding ring. Eliminating the use of standard scaffolding too.
Who says you can’t bolt Raptors onto a stain steel “water” tower
Using stainless makes the idea of building rockets outside possible.
Got to factor in rain delays though! Lol
I wasn’t Joking!!!
Watching this giant rocket get built outside this Year is going to be a gas!!!!
I guess the Starship part will launch from Texas for its Leo tests and Super Heavy may do launch and return test from Texas as well.
Elon is proving that bigger doesn’t necessarily have to be much more expensive.
I supervised the construction of many commercial buildings in my day, never any highrises.
Watching “simple commerical building techniques used to build a cheap Saturn class rocket is a lot of fun for me.
2019 and 2020 are going to be one hell of exciting years.
Listen to yourself …. “
Thomas Edison’s pursuit of the electric light, then using the profits to
create the record and movie industries after he made money building
better telegraphs”….. Is that what Elon Musk does? NO! He’s using public money to develop high technology launch systems and spacecraft! He’s not using money that Space X made conducting commercial launch activity! And to pay for BF(x) he’s going to banks for loans to make up for the fact that he did not receive government dollars to pay for that program. Elon Musk != Thomas Edison.
No, he’s not using public money, he’s using money he made launching payloads for both commercial and government customers – the money you and RGO seem to think doesn’t exist.
SpaceX going broke and winding up in the hands of ULA? Pardon me a minute while I slap a Monkey Grip patch on that gut I just busted laughing.
ULA is far likelier to disappear than SpaceX. It has less and less loot to send back home to Boeing and LockMart. It wouldn’t surprise me if Bezos soon makes an offer to both parents and takes the problem child off their hands.
. If SpaceX goes under I fully expect Falcon to land in the hands of ULA
it all depends on BO and NG
I’m not saying this would happen, but it could … If the government orders ULA to take it over, they will. LockMart and Boeing are private branches of the government and have government policy as their own. I don’t think they’d take it as a superior commercial product, however it might just be, but given how much it drives the launch industry and how responsive it is, I don’t think the gov ignores it.
What happens if a given project fails – or a given company goes out of business – are legitimate topics of conversation/speculation. What seems odd here is the degree of panicky angst you express, and the degree of certitude RGO expresses, anent the particular project SH-Starship-Starlink and the company SpaceX failing. Why no comparable hanky-twisting anent ULA and Vulcan – which strikes me as the highest probability project/company failure risk here? Or NGIS and OmegA – another fairly likely also-ran combo? In your case, at least, I’d like to think it’s because you recognize SpaceX as a unique national asset. That can’t be true of RGO, though, as, according to him, SpaceX has never done anything noteworthy.
Switch to decaf, Dude, then pull up a chair and watch the show.
Yes I think Musk is leading Space X to ruin, and yes it’s frustrating to watch. And yes they’ll be allowed to die and the primes never will, and that’s frustrating. Why do I double down in arguing with people? Because they pass themselves off as being analytical but act like a bunch of fanboys.
“the primes never will”
The legacy primes are the old Soviet Union and it’s getting pretty close to 1989-91 out there in the larger world. As the late Herb Simon said, “Things that can’t continue, don’t.”
. Why no comparable hanky-twisting anent ULA and Vulcan –
there are no “super claims” being made about Vulcan…its not going to go to Mars in 2024 or 26 or whatever the date is now, its not going to make seats 50,000 dollars to space (or what is the BFS number now)
I dont think you will find anything where I sing any real praises of Vulcan (and SLS I am completely against). I dont think Vulcan has much of a future outside of a military lifter and that is pretty narrow if NG works
“That can’t be true of RGO, though, as, according to him, SpaceX has never done anything noteworthy.”
that is your assumption I’ve never said that
“like all musk things in space it wont”
How else would you recommend we interpret that?
by reading the words. it says nothing about my view on Vulcan which was your point
MAN you sound like you are just aching for that to happen .. you say it like you TRUELY do not want it to happen
since words on the page are written without inflection it is hard to determine “how one is saying it” past the simple statements that the words make
“? One day you are singing the praises of SpaceX and over night it is anti spacex and name dropping boeing in post after post ..”
it was not an overnight shift, it has been about a two year evolution, as I have watched the actual performance of the vehicle. I do sing the praises of Boeing commercial airplane…they are the worlds leading ac manufactor. I dont know that I have sung any praises really of Vulcan.
not sure your point
Anyone wanting to send a payload to orbit without have to wait years for a launch. Anyone wanting to send a payload into deep space cheaply. Anyone wanting to send a payload/crew to the Moon. Space tourists like the one who already bought the first tourist flight to the Moon.
His goal is 100 tons for less than $10 million a launch. That’s $50/lb to orbit if he hits that mark. Compare that to the Falcon 9 at $1,200/lb. Or the Atlas V at $2,400/lb. Or the SLS at $10,000/lb. Even if he misses that mark and its $100/lb its still a game changer for access to space.
The Starship has enough volume to carry 400 tourists into LEO. That is $25,000 a ticket at $10 million a launch. That is less than the price of a ticket on the Pan Am China Clipper in current year dollars.
But best of all, he is not using your tax dollars to do it. Like a true entrepreneur he is using his own money. So really, what are you complaining about?
so who needs or wants a Starship?
The billionaire and wealth creator, Elon Musk, who has created about 75 billion in wealth since selling paypal .. wants it .. That is all you need who wants it. .. END of discussion.
“because like all musk things in space it wont”
In the last 3 years SpaceX has launched 48 times or 1.33 times per month. In the last 2 years they have launched 1.67 times per month..
all musk things in space won’t? Robert do you know how silly you sound spewing such nonsense? That is not even counting how many engines they have recovered saving MILLIONS in production. I remember when you used to call people shills when they spewed the nonsense you just wrote.
Mr. Maezawa, for one.
I disagree. My friends were addicted to their Blackberry phones, they called them crackberry’s, years before the iphone came out. After about a month of playing with PalmPilots it was obvious that the real full functionality of that device was to combine it with a cell phone. Like any piece of high technology you see the pieces in one form or another, and sometimes even a full up prototype years to decades ahead of the real deal. Revolutions, the good ones, are usually rooted in decades of previous work that set the foundation for change.
The Blackberry just had a niche market among techies and financial/political types who desired constant access to email and most clung to it as a “power symbol” long after the first iPhones came out.
But the iPhone was far more than mere email/texting or what the Palm Pilot offered. It had music, camera, video images, navigation, all things the made it attractive to the general public who only had simple text/talk phones before it.
But you hit on my point and again missed it. It was an assembly of what already existed elsewhere. As for putting down the previous ‘power symbol’ …. That’s what all consumer tech companies foster in their customer base. Apple users think they’re special, gifted even, for consuming Apple products and services. Or like the driver of sports car who fancy’s themselves a excellent driver because they purchased a product they think is boutique. That’s just marketing. I’m sure you understand that. I look down on that sort of thing, but I’m surprised to hear a bit of disdain for it from you as well. Or perhaps you only have disdain for it when it happens independent of a corporate marketing dept?
And you are missing the point. It’s not about the technology but how the technology is focused on markets. I was using the Internet in the 1980’s at NMSU, but it wasn’t until AOL packaged it for the masses that it took off.
The Starship is nothing more than a TSTO version of the DC-1. The Starhopper is the DC-X reborn. But unlike Northrop-Grumman he has a pathway to orbit independent of government funding. You aren’t going to see government bureaucrats throw the future away with a RFP as NASA did with its insane selection of Lockheed’s design. I remember listening to the rocket experts from WSMR laughing themselves silly at one of the Spaceport meetings on how stupid NASA was to select the one design guaranteed to fail.
Doing a DC-1 TSTO would have been smart. BTW it’s what Max Faget suggested the STS should have started as. He’s doing a C5 Galaxy TSTO that may come in heavy and be ‘limited’ to the payload capability of a C-141.
Which is still far better than anything else available for LEO. The C-141 was a great aircraft. And a huge improvement on what came before it.
BTW, if you read Elon Musk’s interview you will see the focus is more on $/lb to orbit, not a specific payload target. Again, you are stuck in thinking in the old space paradigm that rocket launches are hard, expensive and infrequent so you have to perfectly match the payload to the launch vehicle. It is like saying that because your car is able to hold 5 people you will only drive it when you have 5 people in it and that it’s a failure because you are not able to carry 6 people in it.
C-5 and C-141 were evolved from other highly evolved aircraft. This is an H-4 out of nowhere. It’s even worse than the H-4, at least the H-4 had Clipper heritage and Pan Am’s operations experience to draw on. BF(x) comes from a series of design studies done in the 1970’s with no continuity of effort in the intervening 40 years. Worse yet they threw out the 5+ years of engineering they had ready for the initial prototype.
The Mosquito came out of nowhere, a bomber as nimble as a fighter made from wood, something the aircraft manufacturers said was nuts. Develop is not always linear. But in terms of the Super Heavy it is linear from the Falcon F9R line of boosters, just bigger with bigger engines. The Starship itself is basically just an Orbiter that lands vertically instead of horizonally.
The Mosquito came out of nowhere, a bomber as nimble as a fighter made
from wood, something the aircraft manufacturers said was nuts.
No airplanes in that era had been made of wood for structure and fabric for covering for sometime.
What you’re describing goes back all the way to the Wright brothers and even earlier. The Mosquito’s structure and skin were a plywood monocoque, not a fabric-covered wooden frame.
The C-141 was a great aircraft. And a huge improvement on what came before it.
has nothing to do with what we are talking about. the C141 was as are all USAF heavy lifters a compromise that is compared to standard cargo aircraft in efficient.
it and all USAF lifters have high wings for one reason…they must also jump paratroopers…that makes them slower and heavy then say a B747 or B777 F version
The PC and Internet are two other good examples as was the KC-135.
all those are myths…and I am for sure of the KC 135
The USAF was desperate for a jet tanker. The KB50 (and KB29) had shown the concept but were totally unsuitable for the B47 with a nominal load that would do the 47 any good both legacy airplanes had serious trouble reaching any altitude…the KC 97 could carry the load…but it was slow…the airplanes started in a kind ofshallow dive…and offloaded fuel
the USAF in particular LeMay had made it clear to both Boeing and Douglas that if a jet plane came suitable for a tanker, he would work to get funding for it, but that due to B47 acquisition he could not get fundingfor the tanker as a new start.
the rest is history. Boeing did not go into the DAsh 80 totally on hope…they knew that if the product worked, the had customers in the USAF and Pan Am.
the airplane would what previous products (Boeing products) had done in both places. The USAF has never had a non Boeing tanker except the KC 10 and they were never happy with it…it was more or less forced on them
You need to study the history of jet tankers more. Yes, they wanted one and held a competition for a jet tanker. But the USAF didn’t pick Boeing or Douglas, they picked the Lockheed design. But since the Dash80 was already flying and it would be many years before the Lockheed design would reach the squadrons, the Secretary of the Air Force forced the USAF to buy 250 KC-135s as an interim tanker until the Lockheed tanker was ready. Long story short, that interim jet tanker is still flying while Lockheed’s design is a long forgotten footnote in aviation history.
Don’t be shocked if the same thing happens with this contract when the Starship starts going to orbit.
You need to study the history of jet tankers
LOL having cut my test pilot teeth on the KC 135R and had a significant role in the KC 46 well to mimic Yoda “an expert I am”
there never was a lockheed design that got off paper. the L 193 was a joke
When you’re deep inside Boeing, the whole world tends to look Boeing-ish I guess. But I’m not going to take any history lessons from someone who thinks USAF invented GPS.
I did not say the USAF invented GPS
why do you need to attribute words to me that I did not say?
a little Trumpy
Why does the USAF want a Raptor upper stage? What can it do that isn’t already done by FH? What USAF/NRO reference orbit and payload mass us not achievable by existing FH performance? Let me save you the trouble, nothing.
no the USAF wants a cryo upper stage for the new birds it has coming
Please provide a reference for this requirement. Even so, they will hit that with BFR cargo and that will have day-one vertical integration an the larger fairing (FH still needs a fairing stretch for all payload volumes). They would need to re-qualify the entire vehicle for Raptor based upper, VI and larger fairing anyway.
BFR cargo and that will have day-one vertical integration an the larger fairing
whenever it happens and if it works…both these are speculative.
Of course, just SLS, Vulcan or SLS ever flying.
I’ve argued against SLS since the day it was “dreamed of”
besides saying “this is OK because A doesnt do it either” is not a way to justify a claim 🙂
Narrator: I am making a generic claim about future events…
is that what you are doing
From your past postings I know you understand the efficiency of having a high Isp upper stage. This shows in Atlas V’s inferior performance to LEO but higher upmasses to GTO over Falcon 9. I have not run the numbers on power density of LOX/CH4 vs LOX/LH2 but a vac Isp 380 sec is nothing to sneeze at and is quite a improvement over 311 sec. Also consider LCH4 is as cryogenic as LOX removing the problems of dealing with LH2 in cruise/coast. If a vac Isp of 380 sec is achievable Space X will have a real gem on it’s hands for a upper stage or as the basis of a high thrust tug. If I were the USAF, I’d be interested.
You’ve fallen into the Isp rat hole and shall never get out. The EELV program has reference orbits and masses to achieve USAF/NRO requirements. This isn’t an open ended proposition. As long as your firecracker can throw 6.6 mT to GSO that’s it. It doesn’t matter how you do it, with a puny 20K pound thrust high Isp Hydrolox engine or a monster 200K pound thrust Kerlox engine. Stop infantilizing the rocket equation for a minute. And to point a finer point on how the rocket equation allows two ways to skin that cat here is the graph:
Yes, cryo upper stage makes long duration cold soaks easier, no heaters required, but Hydrogen comes with a mess of down sides too. It is a systems engineering trade, not a clear cut winner.
I fully understand that good enough is good enough for now. There are offices of the government that are pursuing what can be had for a future capability. Those future capabilities don’t even necessarily need to be tied to a current program. There was, is, and always will be offices within the government like AFRL who will pursue higher Isp, no matter what the state of the art is. Whether these people have more or less influence over where money goes varies with time. 380 sec of Isp with LOX only levels of propellant handling difficulty is something that is attractive to the folks who’s job it is to develop real world capabilities. Yes they’re Isp chasers, and that’s their job. They’re told to be so.
And like many corners of the government, it’s a dumb job not well aligned to any bigger strategy.
We’re not the Chinese, we don’t have cadres of party hacks running through the government and society to make sure we are furthering a grand strategy. Dumb is subjective.
I must have missed where we were the Chinese in Apollo era. And I am not demanding we go back to the Apollo era, I am demanding the government be efficiently executing on some narrow strategies rather than jobs in certain districts.
Roco was an enforcer within NASA and their contractors. He was not enforcing policy on the USAF, the Navy or the US Army. They had their own policy people. Isp chasing is a policy. An Isp chaser does not step back and say hey Cpt XXX let’s dissolve our office because Falcon 9 is so close to the capabilities that Centaur and RL-10 give us with Delta and Atlas we should just shut down our office and save the taxpayer some money. It does not work that way.
It doesn’t, but it should. There is NO reason the USAF should be chasing Isp as whatever they want to lift can be lifted with current generation propulsion.
If the government wants to study high Isp propulsion, it should be nuclear propulsion out of NASA for deep space exploration and probably deeper than even Mars.
Let’s run for office and as members of Congress we could mandate those offices do so by channeling appropriations. Or if we could make it to the White House we could change space policy. Otherwise we’ll be stuck with the US model of government which is low resolution and fractal when it comes to chains of authority. US launch vehicle research is an assault on the rocket equation. Interestingly enough the last time we had a military launch policy predicated on management ideas we held onto it through 3 administrations and just as we got the capability to do it, we dropped it. I speak of Responsive Launch. Notice how we stare down the barrel of responsive launch with the Falcon program as it operates right now, yet the Trump admin has totally dropped it as a concept.
Responsive Launch is a perfect example of the idiocy of the “customer” Robert was referencing earlier. They bid out all these EELV2 contracts to build vehicles, among which are some of the most non-responsive designs ever while channeling money for years into these stupid side projects.
I did notice the F9 block 5 is the closest anyone has ever gotten to responsive orbital launch and it was a complete accident the government ended up with it. A fully and rapidly reusable Methane vehicle *would be* responsive launch by definition and a hell of a lot more responsive and capable than that Boeing train wreck with SSME strapped to the back (XS-1).
I’d say kero-lox is the way to go with responsive launch. And Falcon just one contract away from having Space X store a few Falcon’s at Vandenberg AFB and KSC. Heck that buffer could be drawn from for commercial launches and replaced with new/refurb units. It would be a great way for Space X to get paid for quality control. Think of the real world strategic reserve a batch of 12 Falcon 9’s in buffer would constitute.
Another reason I think a Falcon 9 and not a BF(X) is the best responsive/combat space launcher is it’s sized right. It has great payload capability, can reach GEO and beyond and you could conceivably truck a full vehicle worth of propellant around. Not so with BF(x).
Anyone know what did USAF ever get for the last 100 million they doled out at SpaceX ?
I’d wager not much
For the 100M they got eventually F9/FH. The USAF literally got FH as a freebie bonus on the original 100M investment in F1/F9. This is the greatest deal in USAF launch history. Basically a steal for what they are getting.
Edit: This is reference for the engine funding
Risk reduction on F9/FH block improvement for performance not working or long cold soak not panning out, both of which have been proven well after the decision to fund this project.
Future possibilities with BFR/BFS beyond current requirements.
from what I am told by blue suits I am chums with…they got an engine that they dont have a use for because it is not on any stage they are interested in
the entire idea with that 100 million was that Musk was going to get the Raptor to where it is now…then bid a Raptor second stage and the USAF was going to buy into that
Right. Said plan was never put into a contract and they ended up making the performance targets on existing block 5 upper-stage with long duration kit. That wasn’t a sure thing so prudent to plan accordingly. A 100M investment in domestic engine capability is small compared to the propulsion barrel they’ve been over for years (politically). There was a time when USAF wasn’t interested in F9/FH at all, they will come around on BFR cargo once it’s flying.
). There was a time when USAF wasn’t interested in F9/FH at all, they will come around on BFR cargo once it’s flying.
whenever that is…and it works. none of which is for sure
Stay tuned Bob.
tuned in…not holding my breath though..
I seem to recall the total amount contributed by USAF as being 1/3 of that $100 million with the rest to be on SpaceX’s dime.
SpaceX got no LSA money because it didn’t apply for any.
No need to be upset, just politicians being politicians.
I still think that spacex did not submit any “BFR” proposal to the airforce request.
it just isn’t the right rocket for the job.
What do you think they put in?
Probably nothing as he has learned about the strait jacket that comes with government funding. It’s no accident he started to go full speed ahead on the Starship after he was forced by NASA micromanagement to abandon propulsive landing on the Dragon2 killing any commercial applications for it. That is when he turned it over to the second string engineers and started plowing ahead on Starship. I suspect he has lost all interest in the Dragon2 working, he already learned what he needed from the work done so far. Note that he skipped the testing firing of the Dragon2 rocket but spent Super Bowl weekend, and the next three days, at McGregor Ranger with the Raptor. That should tell you where his priorities are.
How does a splashdown rule out commercial launch? If passengers are willing to accept the risk of the launch, the orbital portion of the flight, and then re-entry, surely they can accept the chance of having to go swimming at the end of the flight. Besides why not have Space X pay for the propulsive landing on their own dime? Why is is catastrophic if NASA won’t pay for it? It’s not another example of Musk losing interest when NASA decides not to micromanage him is it? – I think it is.
arship after he was forced by NASA micromanagement to abandon propulsive
landing on the Dragon2 killing any commercial applications for it…
he wasnt forced to abandon it…he could have paid for the test…something that would be required before any paying passengers rode on it
Surely BFR is the right rocket for every job. A rocket that is cheaper than everything else and more capable than everything else is surely always the right rocket for the job.
With that said, perhaps the seemingly “riskiest” paper rocket amongst perceivably less risky paper rockets may not be the right rocket – especially if the design was influx at the time in question.
You know that, we know that.
The military treats space too much like other domains.
Fighter vs. Bomber.
Tank vs. Apc.
Cruiser vs. Destroyer.
you get the idea.
I imagine that something like BFR/Starship is utterly alien to their current strategic thinking, and then add what you said about the design of BFR being in flux and the Air Force’s reaction probably would have been something like “Go home Elon, you’re drunk!”
That said, I’m still not convinced that SpaceX actually submitted a proposal to the Air Force’s request. Isn’t someone at SpaceX (Mueller?) on record saying that they didn’t want military influence on the design of BFR?
And the Air Force not wanting to say if SpaceX submitted anything?
Asked why SpaceX did not make the cut, Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisitions, said the company is an “important member of our launch team” and can choose to bid again in phase 2.
“Not getting LSA funds does not prevent them from competing,” Roper told reporters at a Pentagon news conference.
He did not confirm whether SpaceX in fact submitted a bid for this OTA. “We only talk about the awardees,” he said.
Its kinda like Boeing showing up to the competition with the huge four-engine Model 299 while all the other competitors were small twin engine bombers…
Faster than the brand new P-26 fighter, able to fly twice the range with twice the bomb load of existing craft. What do you do with such an aircraft?
the 299 actually was flying and of course the 247 (which it comes from) was as you would put it “in the elastic part of the price curve” 🙂
The Starship will soon be flying too. Think of 2019 and Starship as being like 1934 and the Model 299.
sure any day now 🙂 Mars in 2024 or 26 or 30 or whenever
I tol’ Wilbur ‘n I tol’ Orvile ‘n now I’m a tellin’ you – that thing’ll never fly!
huh. Let me guess.
You think that any money spent on SpaceX should instead go to Russia/Italy, or to ULA or to Boeing’s SLS.
you would guess wrong. you should read my space news piece
I would certainly cancel both SLS and Orion its just wasted money…there is no technological benefit, no programming benefit and worst of all it creates no real private infrastructure that can evolve and be used in other ways
I think that the USAF Sec has about the right plan. I would spend federal dollars to encourage private enterprise to develop lift for near term applications which will 1) fund their development and 2) allow them to make incremental improvements on products 3) gaining flight experience andknowledge until 4) they are able to develop new products
this is the real lesson of the DC 1-3 and the Boeing 299
Federal dollars (airmail contract and several procurement buys) kept the lines open so both manufactors could improve incrementally and gain knowledge as they built a product.
I am really surprised that Musk did not take the hint and develop a Raptor upper stage for Falcon which is what the USAF wanted what he is trying to do is build a B29 when they barely have the B17 flying
“That said, I’m still not convinced that SpaceX actually submitted a proposal to the Air Force’s request. Isn’t someone at SpaceX (Mueller?) on record saying that they didn’t want military influence on the design of BFR?”
I’m guessing that Elon’s urgent pursuit of Starship/SH signals a calculation that it is the best route to launch Starlink as quickly and cheaply as possible – USAF contracts pale into insignificance compared to the financial potential of Starlink. Obviously he also wants to build an architecture for going beyond Earth orbit, but he’s not financially unaware either. And of course, “build it and they will come” still applies.
Instead of Old Space vs New Space–how about we all agree to kill F-35 and give its budget to BFR.
We can all get behind that.
If SpaceX had proposed a larger fairing, Raptor upper stage and vertical integration package, they would have gotten funding.
Nevertheless, I agree with the congresspersons that the Air Force procurement procedure here disadvantages SpaceX. Specifically, they are providing funding to 3 competitors to one of their two current providers, and not just to the other current competitor ULA, but additionally to two new entrants.
Bear in mind that it was the launch market not being large enough to support just two launch providers that led the Air Force to back the creation of one combined launch service provider, ULA, in the first place (which led to the US being priced out of the commercial market and becoming dependent on *Russian engines*). Now with the limited GEO satellite launch market actually shrinking, we have this pendulum swing to four providers. With the Air Force actively working to expand the number of launch providers, they are as a consequence also working to dilute SpaceX’s market share (in the case of government launches, to directly dilute).
Further, by working to lower the number of launches SpaceX can conduct (by funding its competitors in a relatively fixed market), the Air Force is consequently working to have each SpaceX launch bear a greater percentage of SpaceX’s fixed costs, thus providing an upwards cost pressure on SpaceX. Since SpaceX has clearly been the driving force in lowering the cost of Space access, the Air Force is intervening in the market in a way that will drive up launch costs for the taxpayer, all why using taxpayer money to subsidize the industry.
Spending taxpayer money to intervene in the market to drive up the cost of services to the taxpayer. Hmm, haven’t we heard this story before…
The Air Force could also be worried about having too many eggs in one basket. SpaceX should be doing ok on it’s own right now and there is only so much money available to put at risk. There is also the point that each company is building and planning vehicles with emphasis on different parameters. Having choices is a good thing and developing and maintaining multiple suppliers is a good buffer against suddenly having none due to a business or hardware explosion.
You know what is funny in all these comments?
It is the fact that even with SX being around for less than 15 years, and having the world’s biggest rocket, and the cheapest, and increasingly, one of the safest, we still see ppl running down SX, and saying that they can not accomplish anything.
It just amazes me how much hatred some of you have as opposed to simple logic and intelligence.