Why Jeff Bezos Won’t Compete With Elon Musk In The Space Race
Getting into orbit is difficult, but not difficult enough to be a challenge for a well-funded company like Blue Origin. They are taking a different route from SpaceX as they are building a fully functional super-heavy launch vehicle as their first orbital-class rocket, which is technically comparable to a Falcon 9, but much larger and fits. your long-term plans.
Building it from the ground up takes a lot of design work, especially since they’re not iterating on proven old technology like SpaceX, which was funded in part through government contracts with ISS / customers.
Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is a private space company hoping to send paying customers to space in the very near future. Bezos has often stated the company’s goal is to help bring about a future in which millions are living and working in space.
Blue Origin doesn’t care about making money and instead can afford to bide the time and develop complete designs. They also have their own New Shepard suborbital launch system, which is likely in part a testbed for avionics systems, first-stage landings, and all the generic missile technologies that go into launches.
As for the moon, SpaceX obviously needs the Starship / Super Heavy online and the first orbital-class Starship is currently in production, with the reinforcement scheduled for later this year. Someone’s guessing how long it will take for Starship to land on the moon, but SpaceX aims to do so by at least 2024.
Don’t get me wrong, there seems to be a competition going on between the two space companies in plain sight. Both develop space rockets, however, that doesn’t necessarily imply a perfect competition. Have you ever thought that building rockets are a pre-requirement to achieve their ultimate goals? SpaceX and Blue Origin’s rockets are their means to an end and their ends lead to completely different paths.
Blue Origin, on the other hand, needs a lander (which was announced yesterday), and, assuming they don’t plan to buy a launch from someone else, they would need their New Glenn rocket up and running. New Glenn doesn’t have a built-in second stage that acts like a lander like a spaceship — here’s a new video about New Glenn!
Blue Origin is developing a variety of technologies, with a focus on vertical take-off and vertical landing rocket vehicles to access suborbital and orbital space. The company name refers to the blue planet, Earth, as the point of origin.
In May 2019, Jeff Bezos revealed Blue Origin’s space vision and also plans for a lander known as the “Blue Moon”, which will be ready by 2024. On April 30, 2020, Blue Origin, which includes Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper, received $ 579 million to develop an integrated human landing system as part of NASA’s Artemis program to return humans to the moon.
SpaceX and Blue Origin are very different companies in terms of their own grand plans.
They develop and use the same tools and technologies to conduct space missions and to make projects happen, however, they do have a different end goal. SpaceX’s mission has always been in making space travel cheaper by making rockets cheaper products with the ultimate goal of using rockets to bring humans to Mars. Blue Origin, however, wants to build a floating city in the mid to low orbit.
SpaceX’s approach is to make small changes and figure out how to operationally test them as quickly as possible. This is partly due to necessity, the only way they could afford to develop Falcon 9 block 5 and reuse it was as a side project beyond the client’s paid launches, but also because they think it’s the right way to do engineering. ; you can see what’s happening right now with StarHopper.
They are very, very good at incremental engineering; I’m frankly surprised that they brought the original design Merlin engine to the block 5 version more than doubling its thrust without a single failure in flight.
Being good at incremental engineering makes them very adaptable (see how quickly they switched to stainless steel for spaceships), but it does mean they are at greater risk of failure.
Blue Origin is very different; they take the “get your project right, do a lot of revisions, do a lot of testing, put it all together, and once we’re done, we’ll blow it up.” This means that they are at less risk of failure, but they are * much * slower, and if / when they have a failure, it will be much more difficult for them to deal with it because they are not good at incremental engineering.
This also means that they cannot respond to market forces that quickly, which I think could be problematic for them in the future. They’re trying to do an “initial optimization” of the process for New Glenn, which I don’t think works particularly well because they don’t really know what problems will trip them up.
The other problem Blue Origin has is that New Glenn is a much more technically difficult project than the Falcon 9; It works only for them if they can catch up to stage one consistently. I don’t see any reason to expect them to be significantly better than SpaceX in terms of the amount of testing required to be successful, but unless you’re willing to miss out on the early stages, that means testing without commercial payloads and your testing cadence. for New Sheppard, it was quite slow.
Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are smart enough to see that collaboration will not only get you to the end goal faster, but it will also get you further. The space revolution is just getting started and we have yet to see amazing and exciting news and milestones from Blue Origin and SpaceX, but also from space startups that were born thanks to the infrastructure that is being built by both of them. It’s safe to say that together, reality will just be a matter of time!