Government, Oh For Two:
A half-Russian, half-Korean rocket likely exploded a few minutes after liftoff Thursday, dealing a second blow the South Korea’s $400 million program to develop its own satellite launcher.
They spent almost as much on this as SpaceX has in their entire company history, to develop two rockets and a capsule, not to mention manufacturing and test facilities, and launch infrastructure.
There’s an idiot commenter (well, there are a lot, actually) over at Space Politics who keeps repeating the mantra, “There is no cheap.” Well, maybe not, but there does seem to be inexpensive and affordable, as long as a government isn’t intimately involved.
17 thoughts on “Commercial, One For One”
Don’t forget the South Korean “Yecheon Astro Space Center” (some kind of nonprofit?) has a deal with X-Cor for a Lynx.
Once again, we see the superior safety of government rocket programs. If somebody had been riding on the Korean vehicle, no doubt they would have been pulled to safety by a launch escape system instead of being exposed to the radiation, zero-g and other hazards inherent in the space environment. Ahem. 😉
Re: private space, is anyone exploring possibly resurrecting OTRAG? I’ve read good things about that system.
Isn’t Armadillo basically doing OTRAG fom scratch?
These guys http://www.interorbital.com/ seem to have the OTRAG technology these days.
It’s dubious whether the OTRAG technology choices are still competitive in today’s commercial space world.
IIRC the South Korean launch vehicle is a tuned down Angara first stage with a Korean developed solid as a second stage. In the first test flight the second stage failed. It seems this time the first stage might have failed.
What makes the cost seem even more ludicrous is when you consider this is a small launcher (think Falcon 1) rather than Falcon 9. However when you consider what ESA has dumped on Vega so far, the Korean launcher doesn’t look so expensive after all…
IMO this difference of cost benefiting SpaceX is due to many factors: Management structure, in-house manufacturing, more conservative design, more testing. Many people dissed Falcon as a boring launch vehicle, using old technology (gas generator cycle, small engines, vertical launch, etc). Yet it was precisely because it had a conservative design, plus a well tested implementation, that it worked.
Godzilla, and many people are idiots. SpaceX’s tanks are state of the art.. their manufacturing techniques have never been used for production rockets.. the ablative nozzles are an unperfected technology that have never been used in first stages, etc, etc.
“the ablative nozzles are an unperfected technology that have never been used in first stages”
Actually, that’s exactly what Delta IV RS-68 uses – an ablative nozzle (part of the engine is regen, but still).
“Many people dissed Falcon as a boring launch vehicle”
If that “boring” technology works and lowers cost, I for one am all for it. This apparent obsession with constantly pushing the envelope and optimizing for vehicle performance instead of operational cost is part of what got as where we are today. That is, nowhere.
It’s the boring tech that really drives down costs in the manufacturing world.
Being able to start from scratch, SpaceX is able to incorporate modern manufacturing equipment like friction-stir welding for their tankage. Building in-house has a number of benefits besides lowering costs, such as reducing your overall leadtime by solving problems as they occur on the manufacturing floor.
If anything, Soyuz has demonstrated what a boring, conservative design can do for reliability, which greatly affects your customer backlog.
Hear, hear to boring and reliable!
SpaceX has done a wonderful getting where they are for $500 million.
Two engine developments, two vehicles, factory, ground infrastructure and the Dragon. Can somebody please enlighten me why it should now cost $1 billion to develop the launch escape system for Dragon?
Mike, it won’t. Elon said $100m for the escape system, no more than $1b for all costs to date at that point.
Let’s be fair here. SpaceX had 3 failures before the recent successes, and if you keep touting safety then does Scaled Composites’ deaths during development count? Commercial space can do things well and will succeed, but if you’re taking a moral victory from comparing SpaceX to South Korea, which is years behind what companies in the US can do that’s just sad.
Maybe I got the article I saw a couple of days ago, wrong. I thought it said that the LES was going to cost 350 million and now would cost 3 times that with Elon agreeing. Maybe they meant the original estimate was 100 million and now it would be 350 million which still sounds ridiculous to me given what has been spent and achieved so far.
To be fair to Khrunichev, the failure on the first flight was not theirs and this one may not be either.
(Holy crap, I’m defending a formerly state-run Russian company that deliberately underprices their vehicles in order to increase their launch market share. What is the world coming to?)
Maybe we can give South Korea some Shelby-esque encouragement. Something like: “You can’t base your future in space just because of someone’s definition of ‘failure’.”
Commercial space can do things well and will succeed, but if you’re taking a moral victory from comparing SpaceX to South Korea, which is years behind what companies in the US can do that’s just sad.
South Korea is only three years behind SpaceX which also had collectively two launch failures in March, 2007. What about this comparison isn’t valid on chronological grounds?
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