- NASA Watch
- May 21, 2023
Does SpaceX Makes Arianespace Nervous?
Citing SpaceX Threat, Lawmakers In France Urge Early Ariane 6 Start, SpaceNews (behind paywall)
“French Sen. Bruno Sido said to compare the SpaceX facility with the equivalent manufacturing operation of the Ariane 5 rocket, some of which is done in Les Mureaux, France, is to become fearful for the future of Europe’s launch vehicle autonomy. “Visiting Les Mureaux is like entering an impressive laboratory,” Sido said in a press briefing here. “Visiting SpaceX, which occupies an old factory that once belonged to Boeing, is like entering IKEA. This company has already won many contracts, is well-supported by NASA and is building low-cost launcher that constitutes a real and serious threat.”
Oh good; the US must be doing something right if the Europeans fear Space-X will surpass them! Maybe old Musk can give the Europeans a run for their money, as Boeing continues to do in the aircraft industry, despite the Europeans best efforts and government subsidies.
old Musk? Elon and what he is doing is anything but old. Go SpaceX Go! Also I know NASA has given SpaceX funding and expertise – but SpaceX is not the US or NASA and in the sense of direction.
“…but SpaceX is not the US or NASA and in the sense of direction. “
Precisely. Thank you for that admission.
Just the lead runner Ralphy!!!!
Here’s essentially the same story not behind a paywall.
SpaceX makes everyone nervous… The Chinese, the Europeans, The Russians, The Republicans on the House Science Committee (oops I said that?).
SpaceX’s biggest competition is themselves can they produce on schedule and within budget while still being profitable.
Perhaps United Launch Alliance could be pencilled into the first paragraph as the F9 Heavy launch draws closer.
Frankly, I think ULA could compete better than anyone on the planet with SpaceX. Lucky for SpaceX, mom and dad say no.
They’re in the first paragraph alright… It’s just that the acronym was expanded into its full form: “The Republicans on the House Science Committee”
When Iread the title, words that ran through my head lolol
SpaceX makes everyone nervous…
SpaceX was foundered by a South African, so I suspact that its attachment to Democrat/Republican party is weak. It may simply be to say ‘Sir’ to which one is in power.
I see the split thinking at ESA as a momentary hiccup during which they’re not thinking straight. The suggestion to jump prematurely to Ariane 6, I think, is a knee-jerk reaction by a political type, rather than either a technical or marketing decision.
What ESA, or anyone else, should be building now should be based on projected market requirements. If we were discussing developmental programs, like our X programs, then it would be a different matter, and Ariane 6 would be part of the discussion. But the current concerns expressed by the ESA countries are clearly to do with the current and near future regular launch market, not experimental vehicles.
The second, and bigger, mistake that I think they’re making is their assumption that head to head competition with SpaceX is what they’re facing, and I don’t see that as necessary at all. I think we’re now looking at a sufficiently large launch market, and sufficiently diverse launch requirements, that there’s room for each of the players to “specialize” into certain market segments, based loosely on how well popular payload sizes and masses match up with each supplier’s respective LVs. Until SpaceX actually has their various proposed heavy lifters, with a track record, the Ariane 5 family has almost a captive market, so now they should be working on bringing their prices down before the SpaceX heavies come on line. Competition is still going to be key for a long time to come, not who has the biggest BFR.
The other major factor is SpaceX’s claim that they’re committed to developing truly reusable LVs. I think that any launch provider who is not just as seriously committed to developing reusable product by now has only got a few more years at best in the business. If there is any expendable market at all once the reusables come along, I think it will only be at the very low end (low performance and low profit margins).
I don’t think the European countries are any different than us in terms of paying a little more for a launch by one of their own rather than save a few million by going with a foreign launch provider. Likewise, their governments/space agencies seem to be as willing to “subsidize” launch costs as NASA is, if it helps keep their aerospace companies in the black.
Relative to the other space nations, I’d say that right now ESA is actually in better shape than they’ve ever been. They just need to refrain from overreacting unnecessarily.
When SpaceX flies a reusable launch vehicle, the other manufacturers will adapt or die. Once that cat’s out of the bag, there’s no going back.
Once reusable launch vehicles are proven, there’s no reason not to spend more money manufacturing the stages. If they are reusable, more expensive but lighter and stronger materials can be used to improve performance and reliability. Remember, SpaceX wants rapid reusablility, so it’ll have to be robust.
Realistically, at any point in time I think it’ll come down to the actual price difference between reusable and expendable within a LV size range.
If reusable turns out to be a lot more expensive (even if only initially), as was the case with refurbishing, at least for a while expendables will be around for those people who can afford a Toyota but not a Lexus, which may be the major market for a long while. There’s also the risk factor; until reusables have a proven track record, users are going to want other customers to go first, taking any risk.
In the long run, unless reusable can be done very reliably for a very competitive price, it may take regulatory legislation to completely phase out expendables. When dollars become the major deciding factor, the result can still go either way until we know the actual facts, instead of working with assumptions.
I just don’t understand it. They’ve got a perfectly good rocket in the Ariane 5. They’ve got a beautiful spaceport in South America. And after all these years have NO manned space capsule? What is up with that? Just a few billion dollars more if they work it right and they could be thumbing their noses at the flightless les Americains.
You’d think they were almost there too. Replace the pressurized section of the ATV cargo craft with a capsule, add a tractor type launch abort system (like Apollo). They already have a docking system that’s flight tested too.
Several of the European countries tried designing/building manned spacecraft over the years but they all ended up canceled because of overruns and technical problems, so I think there’s sort of a bad karma about the whole idea. Of particular note was the Hermes program, a French design that ESA tried to pick up on again later, but it just didn’t come to be. It’s worth Google!ing “Hermes spaceplane” just to see how similar the concept is to others we’ve seen.
Yeah, I was hoping Hermes would pan out back when.