[FPSPACE] reflections on the great Boeing vs. SpaceX debate

Chris Jones clj at panix.com
Tue Sep 23 15:59:58 EDT 2014

On 9/23/2014 11:56 AM, Keith Gottschalk wrote:

> First, I imagine that most of us are agnostic on whether SpaceX will
> succeed or fail: time will tell, launch by launch. SpaceX has been
> boasting of a manifest of significant numbers of customers signed-up
> for launching. Now we wait to see how those launches will fare.

I agree with you on this. I am hopeful, and the fact that they've
ramped up their launch rate with continued successful missions is
encouraging, but a failure will undoubtedly hurt them, and more than one
might be a crippling wound.

> Second, as a general principle it seems sound for the USG & its
> agencies to want to broaden the number of domestic contractors who
> acquire the capability to launch satellites. Two, such as ULA &
> SpaceX, is surely the absolute minimum. Soyuz is a third.  The US
> has not approached the Chinese to launch either cargo or passengers
> to ISS, but that is a theoretical possibility, provided China does
> not seize a new Crimea-sized chunk of Ladakh or Arunachal Pradesh.

Is SeaLaunch still taking customers (or do they have any flights
manifested)?  If so, they're a potential supplier, though with a lot of
risks.  ESA would probably take our money if we were willing to pay it.
Ditto for the Indians.  And Orbital can launch satellites, though their
Antares currently depends on Russian-supplied engines.

In addition to the concerns I mentioned earlier about Boeing's planning
(even if only contingently) to move CST-100 to another launcher, which
depends on Russia supplying RD-180s until the new launcher is ready,
there's also the mischief Russia could do by withdrawing from ISS
support early (and I'm not sure how much they, or the Europeans and
Japanese, have committed to, though I'm pretty sure NASA's plans are for
longer than the firm commitments) which could leave the new spacecraft
looking for a mission or at least paying customers.

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