Upstart startup rocket company SpaceX, helmed and bankrolled by renowned internet nerdwealth tycoon Elon Musk, is already taking NASA business away from the established American rocketry industry. Musk now appears to be targeting the potentially much bigger market for launching secret US spy satellites. In a statement issued …
Internet geekdom love spy satellites; they love anything that erodes privacy.
Im not sure ...
"The internet gurus and digital mavens who revere Musk as a modern-age exemplar for us all may find this latest move a trifle upsetting. "
I don't know. I admire him more for his tenacity and willingness to upset the apple cart - fearlessly moving into what may be perceived to be 'closed' markets. I haven't really given his person ideologies much consideration.
But then i'm just a code monkey and not an "internet gurus" or "digital maven", what ever those might be.
I think it would need more than launching a few relatively harmless spy satelites (i.e. they don't directly kill anyone) to blunt Musk's reputation in New Space.
In fact many would regard it as a sensible mechanism for ensuring his companies survival to continue providing cheap access to space.
Yup, more business might bring down overall costs, benefiting all of us. Might even save a taxpayer dollar or two. Nobody pretends that paypal is philanthropic.
A note on satellite economics
IIRC the rule of thumb is a satellite cost up to 2x the launch cost can be justified while lifetime operations cost is something above that.
So *roughly* speaking programme cost is 5x *launch* cost.
So what happens when launch cost goes down?
One study I am aware indicated that launch *volume* does not rise until launch costs go down by a factor of 10 (c1k$/lb). Hence the lack of concern to lower them.
Will the mere *existence* of a lower price (assuming they do so and don't go with a jack-up-the-margin-its-only-the-government pricing model) help the NRO put pressure on its satellite suppliers? "Spacex can do it at this price profitably, why can't you?"
Spacex does not build *satellites*. It does launchers and capsule. The guts of the satellites are *very* specialized.
A certain amount of this will depend on how tightly the satellites are tailored to the launcher and vice versa, both in terms of what services the launcher provides and the terms of the contract.
Some interesting times ahead.
"That will certainly upset the aerospace titans"
Ouch, cry me a river. If Musk is there with a more performing solution that is also more economical, the laws of capitalism state that he should be getting the market.
If the so-called aerospace "titans" want to keep their position, they only need to create a feasible and economical solution to get into space that beats anything else out there.
Funny that one guy with money can beat a whole industry supposedly full of bright minds. Seems that the one guy hired better minds than the rest.
Or maybe the industry is holding their bright minds back, or bogging them down in administrative nonsense that takes time away from actual work.
Either way, the underdog is besting the establishment, and where progress is concerned, that can only be a good thing.
Wait 'til SpaceX sees their first CDR
They will immediately understand why everything you do for the government costs three times as much and takes five times as long as it ought to do.