Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Elon Musk Counters Naysayers On Launch Costs

SpaceX Founder Elon Musk released a treatise today that took to task all the naysayers that are skeptical of the company's bargain-basement prices for launching payloads into space.

"Whenever someone proposes to do something that has never been done before, there will always be skeptics," Musk said in a weblog posted at the company's Internet site.

And ever since the company launched its Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft last December, Musk said there has been a stream of misinformation about the prices SpaceX is quoting to potential customers and whether or not they are realistic.

"I recognize that our prices shatter the historical cost models of government-led developments, but these prices are not arbitrary, premised on capturing a dominant share of the market, or 'teaser' rates meant to lure in an eager market only to be increased later," Musk wrote. "These prices are based on known costs and a demonstrated track record, and they exemplify the potential of America's commercial space industry."

Check out the full SpaceX update HERE

Do you think Musk can make good on his bold word?


Bennett said...

I have no doubt that Elon Musk means what he says.

Stephen said...

I found a quote from Chuck Yeager in February 1991 where he endorsed commercial crew. Asked the question, "What other problems do you see with NASA as it stands," here's what Yeager said:

"Basically, the bureaucracy. It's a civil service organization. It's difficult to get dead wood out of it, it has a tendency not to let loose of operational programs and keep on doing research and development. The shuttle is a good example. We could probably run the shuttle program for about one-tenth of what it is costing today with a good civilian organization that's in it to make a profit."

That last sentence is quite damning. And that was in 1991.

Elon Musk is only doing what Yeager said was possible 20 years ago.

Gaetano Marano said...

and in my comments here you can read my concerns and my opinions about the "commercial space"...

Dr. Dan Woodard said...

Musk has made several astute choices. SpaceX keeps almost everything inhouse which cuts the enormous cost of organizational interfaces. SpaceX is privately held; stockholders often strangle innovation by insisting on short-term profits. SpaceX avoids NASA requirements. NASA means well but often adds redundancy and failure tolerance requirements which do not improve reliability in a situation where most failures are deterministic.

In my opinion, the best employment of NASA resources would be in an area difficult for entrepreneurs, supporting long-lead-time R&D for fully reusable launch systems, since the vast majority of the cost of space launch is in constructing and servicing a new launch vehicle for each mission. This was the logic supporting the Shuttle concept.

Kelly Starks said...

I’ve gone from a strong Musk supporter, to being utterly convinced he and SpaceX are a disaster in waiting. Most of the time I get contracted by companies who’ve fouled up the engineering or a customer’s sees they are about to, and they are in a big program to get their act together. SpaceX is full of red flags I look for of a company heading for a cliff. Certainly could commercially manage and organize a group that could do quality space craft commercial for far less then NASA – but Musk’s talking about doing it for less than 1/100th the cost of NASA. Bragging how he’s developing 7 passenger space capsules for a fifth the cost of a 7 passenger bizjet. He doesn’t just talk about opening up space, he’s talking about going to Mars in 10-20 years and doing effectively real-estate development deals there.

All this optimism and so far almost half of all his launches have failed to get themselves where they were supposed to – mainly winding up in the ocean, generally due to simple oversights.

He talks about being profitable since ’07, but the money came from NASA grants or pre orders, not due to fees for successfully completed services.

This is not the sign of company invest your money – or hopes – into.

Dr. Dan Woodard said...

A launch failure would not be a disaster for Musk, since he plans at least a dozen unmanned launches before any human flight. This will give the opportunity to evaluate and correct any problems in the basic design rather than adding redundancy.

His plans for land recovery appear simpler and less expensive than recovering offshore, and the controllable liquid-propellant thruster system can be used for both landing and launch abort, avoiding the need for the very large solid-fuel LAS and the launch shroud that adds anothe layer of complexity in gound access.

His Mars pictures simply show that the landing decelerator could be used on Mars, he doesn't suggest that this would be for a manned landing; obviously an ascent system would be needed in that case.

Musk may well encounter additional launch failures; he has said as much and initially he had a lot to learn. But his corporate structure and engineering designs achieve simplicity and focus, and I would not be quick to sell him short.

Bennett said...

Gaetano Marano and Kelly Starks...

Thankfully they are just the fringe. NASA doesn't seem to share their delusions about SpaceX. Elon has surrounded himself with the best of the best in aerospace engineers and craftspeople, his results are from those keen professionals and a business structure unfettered by layer upon layer of management.

I look forward to watching SpaceX do great things over the next 10-20 years.

Kelly Starks said...

>Dr. Dan Woodard said...
> A launch failure would not be a disaster for Musk, ==

Actually it could be. If Musk sustains a 50% loss rate of launches in the short term, he could see more customers bail.