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China Space Official Confounded By SpaceX Price

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the discount-space-travel dept.

Space 276

hackingbear writes "Declining to speak for attribution, the Chinese officials from Great Wall Industry, a marketing arm of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CAST), say they find the published prices on the SpaceX website very low for the services offered, and concede they could not match them with the Long March series of launch vehicles even if it were possible for them to launch satellites with U.S. components in them. According to the SpaceX website, launch on a Falcon 9 — which has an advertised lift capacity of 10,450 kg. (23,000 lb.) — from Cape Canaveral costs $54 million — $59.5 million. If the SpaceX price is real and its quality is proven, both are big IFs, it is remarkable to see that US can beat China in term of price. Between August 1996 and August 2009, the Chinese rockets have achieved 75 consecutive successful launches were conducted, ending with a partial failure in the launch of Palapa-D on August 31, 2009. If we all learn from SpaceX, maybe soon China will outsource from the US."

cancel ×

276 comments

Chinese lying? (-1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850468)

Chinese lying? No way. If they say the baby milk doesn't contain melamine then it would be racist not to believe it.

Re:Chinese lying? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35850506)

Chinese lying? No way. If they say the baby milk doesn't contain melamine then it would be racist not to believe it.

Kinda like how american bankers told everyone that their mortgage backed investments were a sure fire thing that should be in every retirement portfolio? Kinda like how iceland promised to pay back its loans but then decided to flip their creditors the bird instead?

Re:Chinese lying? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35851058)

Kinda like how icelandic government promised to pay back its loans but then the voters, who the government serves, decided to flip their creditors the bird instead?

FTFY

Re:Chinese lying? (1)

shinehead (603005) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851436)

Please Mod Up!

Re:Chinese lying? (0)

Marcus Green (34723) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850518)

Bophal

Re:Chinese lying? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35850588)

Bhopal [wikipedia.org] is in India, dumbass.

Re:Chinese lying? (1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851006)

Space X lying about their capabilities and prices? No way. No company would lie to people!

Reverse outsourcing? No. (5, Insightful)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850510)

... maybe soon China will outsource from the US.

No, they won't. They'll do the same thing they've been doing for generations now: they'll study what we're doing (e.g. SpaceX), both legally and not-legally, copy it at first like a baby learning a new language, then learn how to integrate what they learn into their own way of doing things, and finally wind up doing it better or at least more cheaply than we can.

Re:Reverse outsourcing? No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35850542)

Resistance is futile.

Re:Reverse outsourcing? No. (4, Insightful)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850564)

China: if Microsoft was a country.

Re:Reverse outsourcing? No. (1)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850746)

"standards = laws"?

Re:Reverse outsourcing? No. (-1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850826)

legal != lawful.

Re:Reverse outsourcing? No. (0)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851052)

You're missing the point.
Just as Microsoft doesn't give a shit about standards (even their own, as proven by MS Office) the Chinese government doesn't really give a shit about laws.

Re:Reverse outsourcing? No. (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851220)

" both legally and not-legally"

Your legalities maybe.

Do you give a shit about Chinese laws/government and if so what shit would that be?

Is your protocol defective?

Re:Reverse outsourcing? No. (4, Funny)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851044)

Except that Microsoft spends more on R&D than most other companies combined and often enters markets long before anyone else. (See Smart Phone, MP3 Players, Tablets etc...)

Re:Reverse outsourcing? No. (4, Insightful)

paiute (550198) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851152)

Except that Microsoft spends more on R&D than most other companies combined and often enters markets long before anyone else. (See Smart Phone, MP3 Players, Tablets etc...)

Black powder, printing, noodles.

Re:Reverse outsourcing? No. (1)

MagikSlinger (259969) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851378)

Except that Microsoft spends more on R&D than most other companies combined and often enters markets long before anyone else. (See Smart Phone, MP3 Players, Tablets etc...)

MP3 players? [wikipedia.org]
smart phones? [wikipedia.org] I assume you were being sarcastic when you say Microsoft enters markets long before anyone else.

Re:Reverse outsourcing? No. (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851456)

First? Smartphones? You mean after palm? MP3 players? Really? Before apple maybe but not first.

Re:Reverse outsourcing? No. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35851060)

China: If Walmart was a country.

Re:Reverse outsourcing? No. (0)

thoughtsatthemoment (1687848) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850686)

You just repeat the definition of innovation.

Re:Reverse outsourcing? No. (1)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850704)

As Japan did before and rose to great heights. We never learn and instead have simply handed over almost all of our technology and manufacturing to them, and not surprisingly they are in the #2 spot now and poised to eclipse the US along with the rest of BRIC in as short as 3 years.Hopefully that will finally be enough to start to get our act together again, but IMO it will be too late.

Re:Reverse outsourcing? No. (2)

meza (414214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850790)

And how much has that hurt you? Are you without a job? In that case, would you have a job if Japan didn't exist? Did development in the US stop because of Japan, or is there other research still going on? Would the Prius have been built in the US if Japan didn't exist? Just curious on the reasoning.

I fail to see how loosing positions in ranking has any thing to do with that if life actually gets better for everyone. I'm not saying that is the case, just that it is an equally valid explanation.

Re:Reverse outsourcing? No. (3, Interesting)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850930)

You will see soon enough how much damage it truly has done. As a long-time investor, researcher, and currently in charge of a large global voice and data network for a global corp, I see it first-hand. A lot of research and many great books have been written on this topic, you should check some out and then see if your opinion holds. Japan as Number One, China Inc., and anything on the topic of BRIC are decent starting points in normal prose.

My personal opinion is that we are heading for a large fall and one that we will not quickly or easily climb out of. My best guess is that in 3-5 years China and BRIC (as well as allies they bring in as they get closer to #1) will start to flex their muscle, you can see the framework in place now. I am also guessing the quickest we could begin to recover will be 10-15 years, with 20 seeming not out of the question. Positions/rankings may not be important to you but they mean quite a lot in terms of resources and where they go, and many of the countries with the resources will go where the growth and numbers are... which is not the US, a number of those ties are already strained or deteriorating. Again, this is my opinion, but it is based on a lot of information. No one has a crystal ball, but I would be very shocked if I'm completely wrong.

Re:Reverse outsourcing? No. (5, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850810)

Pfffft. As if America hadn't done the same. America, prior to signing onto international treaties on copyright and patents, was notorious for reverse-engineering European products and then using mass-production (as opposed to specialist workshops) to undercut the Europeans and sell back to them. Indeed, most major nations throughout history have been... loose on morals and ethics in their formative years. The Romans stole all their technologies - and usually stole the countries that invented them too. The only "we" in this equation is humanity, since every nation on Earth that made it big did so on the back of other nations, robbing them at first, then exploiting them later. The usual end result is an addiction to those other nations, resulting in the inevitable death from that addiction.

(This is why I would like to see a nation actually acheve something honestly for a change. If there isn't that addictive quality, if using others isn't the drug of choice, then you might actually get stable, sustainable achievement. Might. Without any actual case studies to examine, this is a difficult theory to test.)

Re:Reverse outsourcing? No. (5, Insightful)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851020)

I'm in solid agreement with you mostly, but there is a difference. Greed. Not just greed but artificial constructs such as the current stock market. Many European companies have endured and lasted perfectly fine on stability and flat/zero growth or very low percentages. And there is nothing wrong with that, but many US companies force massive, unsustainable, double digit growth in the name of stock prices and lining executive pockets and once they are run into the ground or fail spectacularly those execs simply move on to another company to rape. This has left many American businesses extremely weak and badly broken which is something that is a much deeper and serious. I think the US can and could innovate again, but first the infrastructure would need to be rebuilt and the desire to do so which we currently lack.

I actually don't care about patents and "secrets" as they are of marginal value anyhow in the grand scheme of things, it ultimately comes down to sustainability and the product. Every culture has gotten too big for it's britches at some point and most go supernova as a result, innovation be damned.

Re:Reverse outsourcing? No. (2)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851120)

Whoever modded this post "flamebait" should look up the history of Samuel Slater [cottontimes.co.uk] , Francis Cabot Lowell [cottontimes.co.uk] , and others. America lagged far behind Britain at the end of the 18th century, but soon reached parity through a combination of technology purchase [wikipedia.org] and straight up industrial espionage.

Re:Reverse outsourcing? No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35851158)

> eclipse the US along with the rest of BRIC in as short as 3 years

Brazil, Russia, and India?

So in other words: you have no idea what you're talking about. Ok.

Re:Reverse outsourcing? No. (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851222)

As Japan did before and rose to great heights.

I see this notion being repeated again and again, but is there any actual basis for this? It seems to me that this was just a popular myth spread aging industrial economies. It's quite telling that Japanese cars and electronics targeted the premium market. It wasn't that they were making simpler, lower quality goods than the Europeans and Americans. It was because they were making newer, more advanced and higher quality products that they were able to make headway on the international market.

Re:Reverse outsourcing? No. (2)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851298)

Have a look at the long-selling book "Japan as Number One" well over 30 years since it was published it is still a top seller and extremely highly rated. Also realize that Japan has the most, oldest, businesses still in operation.

Re:Reverse outsourcing? No. (2)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851214)

The problem with that is, no modern technologies the Chinese have copied are "better" than the original. Their APC, tank and aviation products which are copies of Soviet, Russian and western designs are never better than the originals.

Their attempts at doing it themselves with their attack submarines, boomers, ICBMs and carriers have been costly and often out of service.

Time to put a few bullets in the head (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35850524)

No doubt Chinese leaders are now looking to blame someone and put a bullet in their head for failing.

Comparitive Advantage (4, Insightful)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850538)

China's big advantage is cheap unskilled labor.

Space rockets aren't produced in big enough batches to mass produce and generally require a lot of skilled labor. Exactly the sort of product where the US tends to have an advantage.

Re:Comparitive Advantage (1)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850578)

Exactly. We (not just the US, but Europe too) need to focus on skilled tasks (rocketry, programming, precision machinery, etc.), or ones where our geography is naturally superior (mining/drilling whatever is underneath our rocks).

Re:Comparitive Advantage (5, Insightful)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850666)

That is, by and large, what the US does do. Contrary to general impression, US manufacturing continues to increase (in deed, according to the UN Industrial Development Org, the US accounts for 21% of the planet's manufacturing). In 2006, our country produced more than it ever had before. Since then it's fallen off a bit, but due to the recession, not outsourcing.

Now yes, manufacturing JOBS continue to decrease. But the reality is that it's not because jobs are going overseas; it's because they're disappering entirely. Much like agriculture at one time took a large part of society's labor and then shifted to something that only required a few percent, we are going through a similar shift where a few percent of the population is capable of manufacturing everything.

Re:Comparitive Advantage (3, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850934)

It's not enough to focus on skilled tasks. They need to be skilled tasks that the mindset is well-adapted for. Britain's penchant for risk-taking is why it is a key R&D center for not only Formula 1 but Indycar as well. America is risk-averse, which is why it has outsourced a lot of the low-profit, high-investment research (nuclear fusion, supercolliders, etc) to other nations. A lot of the R&D in America is high-profit (such as medical work, advanced microelectronics, etc) and requires relatively little investment once the research facility has been put together. Silicon Valley would never have survived otherwise, given the enormous cost of constructing some of those facilities.

Monocultures are a Bad Idea (Michigan can help explain that one rather better than it would like) but there's nothing wrong with optimizing to your strengths. Indeed, it seems very likely that if America stopped trying to compete where it is weak and started competing where it is strong, it would not run into so many problems. The same goes for the EU and everyone else. Diverting money to lost causes only achieves inferior progress everywhere else.

Of course, you have to be a bit careful with federating technologies. Although a federation is nominally superior to over-generalized societies, it is open to abuse. America doesn't produce its own Rare Earths, but depends utterly on China for them. Not because of any scaricity in America, more for convenience. That turned out to be an incorrect path. Politics now utterly controls the availability of critical elements, which is utterly wrong. You've got to have some balance in there.

Unfortunately, balanced thinking is something corporations (and people in general) are rather bad at.

Re:Comparitive Advantage (4, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850600)

Space rockets aren't produced in big enough batches to mass produce and generally require a lot of skilled labor. Exactly the sort of product where the US tends to have an advantage.

Yet the reason why SpaceX believe they can get the costs down to a tenth of the competition is precisely because they plan to mass-produce their rocket components (e.g. three first stages with the same basic design and nine of the same engines on each stage).

Re:Comparitive Advantage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35850926)

Yet SpaceX does not have a production line type facility, they have a small quantity type facility. I don't see how at this point how they are going to be able to survive long term with their current facilities. In addition, building the type of facilities that they need will need a much larger infusion of capital.

Now by saying that, I am not denigrating their accomplishments to this point, far from it, it is amazing what they have done for close to a billion dollars (which is what I believe is close to what has been invested so far), but the job isn't done by any means.

As for the prices, I don't see how SpaceX can survive at those prices. Because these vehicles are one shot use, as opposed to an airplane, there is a definite limit as to how much product can be offered. That is something about economics that is not really taught in the basic classes that people seem to quote from. What SpaceX needs to do is charge the maximum price that can fill the economic production line. If that is say 24 Falcon 9's per year; one flight approximately every two weeks; then they need to figure out what is the maximum price they can charge for those 24 rockets. Charging less will actually starve the company of revenue that will prevent the company from a) paying investors back the return on their investment and b) more importantly, investing more money back into the company to develop newer systems that can break the current economic cycle of disposable rockets.

Re:Comparitive Advantage (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851122)

Because these vehicles are one shot use, as opposed to an airplane, there is a definite limit as to how much product can be offered.

But if they were reusable like an aircraft they'd probably only have to build one.

I agree that, the market isn't there right now because the primary market for space launches is comsats who don't care that much about launch costs (saving $100,000,000 would be nice, but it's not going to double the number of billion-dollar satellites). SpaceX appear to be hoping that by dramatically cutting launch costs they can increase the market to compensate.

Re:Comparitive Advantage (2)

ugen (93902) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850946)

I think "mass production" in terms of rockets means "a dozen". It's the kind of "mass production" where China has little to offer.

Re:Comparitive Advantage (3, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851100)

I think "mass production" in terms of rockets means "a dozen". It's the kind of "mass production" where China has little to offer.

SpaceX are talking about manufacturing 400 engines per year; there aren't many rocket booster engines that have been produced in three digit numbers, let alone that many per year.

I believe a single Falcon Heavy launch would have more engines on it than all the SSMEs ever built, for example.

Re:Comparitive Advantage (2)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851160)

Exactly. The way you mass-produce rockets is with high-precision CNC machining and minimizing human hand-work. More robots, less people. This is what US manufacturing is good at -- and if you've seen SpaceX's video tours of the inside of their shop, you've seen how CNC-focused they are.

Re:Comparitive Advantage (1)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851272)

I'm not sure "mass produce" in this context means the Nike version: hordes of semi-literate unskilled laborers slaving for nearly nothing in wages.

I'd suspect that in this context, it means simply engineering a multipurpose design that's as modular as possible (ie the same systems for multiple stages), and not trying to re-invent a uniquely specialized and perfect wheel each time they need one.

Re:Comparitive Advantage (3, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850612)

>China's big advantage is cheap unskilled labor.

That's changing, though, in case you haven't noticed. They've targeted aerospace. Sure, they're not competitive *now* but do you seriously think that's going stay that way?

The US automakers thought the same thing in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

--
BMO

Re:Comparitive Advantage (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850640)

gah.

add "about the Japanese" to the end of the last sentence.

Shoulda used preview.

--
BMO

Re:Comparitive Advantage (0)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850654)

"Space rockets aren't produced in big enough batches BY CHINA"
FTFY.

Really the limiting factor here is the payload. No one wants to make 5 expensive payloads, take a chance of getting one up there, and deal with the additional logistics just so they can have cheap launch fees. Better to get it right the first time. Even if the payloads are insured.

Re:Comparitive Advantage (1)

strack (1051390) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851018)

the reason payloads are expensive is that when weight costs 10k a pound, you will spend lots to shave weight off. if launch costs go down, the payloads will become less expensive.

Re:Comparitive Advantage (1)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851094)

It's also a reliability issue. If you're making thousands of something, you can have a few not work and no big deal. If you're only making a handful, having one not work is disastrous.

Also, once you launch the thing, there's no way to go fix something if it stops working. So you have to build a device that's capable of running for years with absolutely no maintainence.

Re:Comparitive Advantage (1)

kf6auf (719514) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850676)

Yes, but China also has a lot of relatively inexpensive (but not quite cheap) skilled labor.

On the other hand, I don't see the US government using Chinese rockets unless there is no domestic supplier.

Re:Comparitive Advantage (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850864)

I dont get why people think the wages imbalance is tilted in China's favor.

We are right now trading 1 hour of our labor for 10 hours of theirs. After that its just pieces of paper that have no intrinsic value themselves. When push comes to shove, they have worthless pieces of paper and we have things traded at a 10:1 ratio.

Re:Comparitive Advantage (2)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850984)

well, we do have a civilization, both there and there. We have things like business agreements and government obligations. So short of something drastic, like an all-out war between US and China or the US gov't declaring bankruptcy, those pieces of paper obligations must be met. And they *will* be met. Which means we owe China a shitload of money, while they send us all the crap we buy in Wal*Mart.

Re:Comparitive Advantage (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850822)

Nailed it. Allow human rights to start creeping in and it'd be interesting to see just how cheap that labor remained.

Don't worry (2, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850544)

If SpaceX truly is better they'll just use the Chinese 3 step program:

The first ones, you build them and we launch them (teach us to use it)
The next ones, we build under your supervision (teach us to build it)
The final ones, we build ourselves on license (assuring completeness)

After that a remarkably similar Chinese rocket will replace the US one, naturally not paying any foreign royalties. Most everybody involved will care about their own quarterly bonus and will jump ship by then. Did I miss anything? There's no ??? step in this, but tben again it's not a slashdot plan...

Re:Don't worry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35850568)

Did I miss anything?

The part where the whole process is accelerated by environmental lawsuits against SpaceX in the US.

Re:Don't worry (1)

Renraku (518261) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850732)

Like they're doing with nuclear reactors?

GE really fucked up when they decided this was a good idea with the AP1000. China is about to have a ton of cheap and effective and safe nuclear reactors. All in all, they'll have put a small amount of money into it compared to GE and the US. GE will make some money, but will lose in the long run because everyone will want a Chinese reactor that's more efficient and cheaper than what it was copied from!

Until something goes wrong that makes Fukushima and Chernobyl look like a rainy day.

Re:Don't worry (1)

H0p313ss (811249) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850742)

If SpaceX truly is better they'll just use the Chinese 3 step program:

The first ones, you build them and we launch them (teach us to use it)
The next ones, we build under your supervision (teach us to build it)
The final ones, we build ourselves on license (assuring completeness)

Step four is where they allow the lowest bidder to build them out of tinfoil and 2x4s and sell them to the rest of the world at a markup.

Re:Don't worry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35850898)

As long as ITAR is in place this won't happen.

Well cover me in feather and call me Nancy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35850552)

You know you are winning when even the Chinese say they can't match your price.

But seriously though, one reason why SpaceX can do it so cheaply is because they already have all the infrastructure and technical knowledge available. SpaceX can use the existing equipments and people from the Air Force, NASA, Boeing, Northrope Gruman etc. without having to build/research on their own. This cuts down the price dramatically.

Re:Well cover me in feather and call me Nancy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35851054)

Why would you think that SpaceX can just go an use a competitor's knowledge & experience base without paying for it?

Now from what I can tell, SpaceX isn't doing that. Most of Boeing & Lockheed's rocket designs are derived from missiles and as such, have different design constraints. A huge example of this is in the tank design. The Delta tanks are of a honeycomb structure that is extremely expensive and time consuming to manufacture. The SpaceX design apparently is just using a basic steel pressure vessel design.

Now, the SpaceX cost structure may be fine now, it remains to be seen if they can continue this approach as their designs are scaled up in size. The Space Shuttle tank for example has a large number of baffles on the interior of the tank to prevent sloshing of the liquid hydrogen. Again, very expensive.

As for the Chinese rockets, one of their cost issues is that most of their rockets use hypergolic fuels, very expensive to manufacture and very tricky to handle. This is a military technology transfer from their missile program. The SpaceX rockets use Liquid Oxygen/RP-1 (basically low sulphur kerosene) which are much less expensive to handle overall. From a military standpoint, the storable fuels of hypergolic fuels makes for a better missile, but less effective for a rocket. (Look at the costs of the Titan rockets as an example)

Re:Well cover me in feather and call me Nancy (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851080)

Now, the SpaceX cost structure may be fine now, it remains to be seen if they can continue this approach as their designs are scaled up in size. The Space Shuttle tank for example has a large number of baffles on the interior of the tank to prevent sloshing of the liquid hydrogen. Again, very expensive.

The Falcon Heavy is essentially just three Falcon-9s side by side with some plumbing between them, so it probably won't need many changes to the tank design. And they don't use liquid hydrogen, which is one of the reasons why it's cheaper than the competition.

Re:Well cover me in feather and call me Nancy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35851396)

I never said they don't use liquid hydrogen. My comment was more about scaling up rather than specific fuels. Liquid Hydrogen has some tradeoffs, you get increased efficiency (specific impulse) but you get increased costs because your hardware needs to be able to work with it.

Now, you can't just slap three rockets together and expect them to work either. There are engineering challenges to doing that which make it more expensive. I wouldn't ever man rate such a rocket either. (you need to make sure that all three boosters stay in sync and never go out of sync from a vibration frequency perspective. If you only have a couple of engines per rocket, that is a challenge, but not unsurmountable, but for a rocket that has 9 engines per booster, that may not be something that is solvable. I don't know the engineering details of their rockets however, so I can't say for sure how difficult it would be for them however)

For a limited market, the costs associated with this may be justifiable, but if you are going to build a large number of rockets in this class, it may end up being more cost effective to just design a new rocket.

Please proof read. Typos happen so easily. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35850554)

"the Chinese rockets have achieved 75 consecutive successful launches were conducted"

Go through it word by word. That should be reasonable for a short summary published for everyone to read.

Re:Please proof read. Typos happen so easily. (2)

digitig (1056110) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850622)

Word-by-word it's fine. It's only when you put the words together in order that there's a problem.

Hardly. (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850556)

>maybe soon China will outsource from the US

You're kidding, right? This just means it's another industry to target, that's all.

See, other governments think various things are worth going after. The US government has no such lofty goals. It's all about offshoring as many jobs as possible, even the engineering ones. What, you don't think it's about just the factory floor ones, do you?

The Chinese think that STEM is a good thing. The US, not so much.

--
BMO

Accounting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35850560)

Wouldn't that be because China being a relative latecomer in aerospace would be including a bigger proportion of their launch costs in building up their infrastructure?

In contrast, the US and Russia had decades of of amortization behind them so their per-launch costs should be more competitive.

temporary at best (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35850570)

If true it is temporary at best, because:

(1) Whatever SpaceX did to get the price down, so can China, but with cheaper labor and fewer environmental etc regulations. If necessary, they can just "duplicate" the IP, or require tech transfers to Chinese companies similar to how they are doing in commercial aviation.

(2) China is a lot of things, but they are not dumb. If it's in their long range strategic interest to win this market, they will do so even if it requires massive subsidies for a while to drive western companies out of business.

You can't blame China for any of this, I don't think. They are smart and they think about what's best for them in the long term. If it benefits them to play hardball, they are willing to play hardball, which is something the US doesn't have the nads to do any more. Back in the 50's/60's, the US played hardball too. Of course the internet wasn't around then to garner public outrage, but don't confuse popular outrage with how much hardball was being played. It's played now by China, and well.

Re:temporary at best (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850586)

If necessary, they can just "duplicate" the IP, or require tech transfers to Chinese companies similar to how they are doing in commercial aviation.

And, uh, why would SpaceX give their technology to China? Particularly when it would probably be illegal to do so under ITAR.

Re:temporary at best (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35850708)

Who said anything about it being voluntary?

I said China will duplicate the IP. I didn't say this would be with SpaceX's permission.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/22/germany-china-industrial-espionage
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/01/french-reports-accuse-china-industrial-espionage
http://arstechnica.com/security/news/2007/11/report-chinese-conduct-aggressive-and-large-scale-espionage-against-us.ars
http://www.vancouverite.com/2009/10/15/chinese-man-charged-with-stealing-secret-ford-documents/

Those are four of *hundreds*. Open your eyes.

Re:temporary at best (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850736)

Who said anything about it being voluntary?

You mean other than the part about "require tech transfers to Chinese companies"?

Re:temporary at best (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35851336)

China can steal the IP. They have a long and effective track record of doing just that. What the law says about this *makes no bloody difference* in the face of extremely effective industrial espionage.

Your belief that SpaceX's technology for low cost launches will not be transfered to China is nonsensical and at odds with the observed reality happening in many other industries from aviation to automobiles to microchips, across many different countries, even when those technologies are strategically important. You have failed to make any kind of counterargument. Do you have one, or are you just being willfully obtuse?

They'll Build Bigger (1)

sanman2 (928866) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850584)

China hasn't figured out how to make the big-big-rockets yet, but as soon as they can scale up they'll be able to competed on $/lb to orbit.

I think their current leader Long March 5 is slated to be able to deliver 25 tons to LEO, which is half of what Falcon Heavy promises to do.

But if the Chinese can scale up to something bigger, they should be able to win the price war, given all their other cost advantages.

"...maybe soon China will outsource from the US." (1)

arunce (1934350) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850606)

Yeah, soon, because now US outsource from the Russia.

Obvious Possibility... (2)

brit74 (831798) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850618)

Maybe SpaceX is low-balling their cost estimates.

It's also worth pointing out that their pricing has changed over time:

Current webpage: (http://www.spacex.com/falcon9.php)

"Price* $54M - $59.5M *Standard launch prices for 2013"

Their webpage on Jan 2, 2010: (http://replay.waybackmachine.org/20100102224858/http://spacex.com/falcon9.php)

Pricing:
SpaceX offers open and fixed pricing that is the same for all customers, including a best price guarantee. Modest discounts are available for contractually committed, multi-launch purchases. A half bay flight of Falcon 9 is available to accommodate customers with payloads in between Falcon 1 and 9.
Mission Type Price*
LEO (s/c < 80% capacity) $44M
LEO (s/c > 80% capacity) $49.5M
GTO (s/c < 3,000 kg)** $44M
GTO $49.5M

*Standard Launch Services Pricing through 12/31/09.

Re:Obvious Possibility... (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850818)

Yeah, it's called "inflation" dumbass.

Re:Obvious Possibility... (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851078)

I don't think inflation has been 10% over the last year.

Re:Obvious Possibility... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35851224)

Most things aren't continually scaled to keep exact pace with inflation on short timescales, and instead lag for a while, then jump ahead, then lag, and so on.

Not that that wold cover a full 10%, but I could see that if they'd held prices lower for a few years (due to the recession), and had fewer launches in those years (also due to the recession), and then raised them afterwards. Especially since those 2010 figures are stated as being valid through 2013; in that case they're likely priced for anticipated inflation over those upcoming years.

Re:Obvious Possibility... (2)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851302)

Inflation has been significantly more than 10% for the main component of the price, fuel.

Re:Obvious Possibility... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35851474)

Think again cunt.

Re: Pricing (1)

alder (31602) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851524)

$49.5M at the end of 2009, taking 3% inflation into account, becomes $54M at the end of 2012...

Prices will rise as fast as the rockets. (2)

Usually Unlucky (1598523) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850632)



The Space Shuttle
The Delta series
The Atlas Series
The Araine series

They were all touted early on as being very inexpensive, prices ended up increasing much faster than inflation.

Of course those were all designed in the 70s, we shall see what the present brings

Re:Prices will rise as fast as the rockets. (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850740)

They were all touted early on as being very inexpensive, prices ended up increasing much faster than inflation.

The difference is that SpaceX have actually proven they can do things cheaper than the competition. SpaceX developed a new engine and two new launchers and a new reentry vehicle and launched several of them into space for about the same amount of money as NASA spent putting a fake upper stage on top of a shuttle SRB and launching it in a big firework display.

Re:Prices will rise as fast as the rockets. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35851000)

Official inflation or actual inflation?

I know they say inflation is 2% but what is it that you've seen that prices haven't gone up more like 10% in the last year?

Other than housing :)

Re:Prices will rise as fast as the rockets. (1)

Palpatine_li (1547707) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850784)

But if SpaceX can't deliver the promised price tag, NASA can just throw it under the bus. Those projects done by NASA itself or some really big company, not so much.

Re:Prices will rise as fast as the rockets. (1)

Gary W. Longsine (124661) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851192)

Fortunately, NASA isn't the only potential customer.

Orbital Inclination + no equator access = money (2, Interesting)

gavron (1300111) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850788)

This is a common difference between countries that have equatorial regions and none. The US can launch its spacecraft from Florida (or in the alternative Edwards AFB). This allows them to reach the right inclination with LESS energy (delta-V, fuel, money, take your pic). Good explanation at http://www.orbiterwiki.org/wiki/Launch_Azimuth [orbiterwiki.org] .

This is why the Space Shuttle could not simultaneously reach both the International Space Station AND the Hubble Space Telescope. To put it simply, the two were in such different inclinations (think "how do I tilt an orbit wheel over the earth, right, left, flat...") that the shuttle could only reach one or the other.

SpaceX launching from the US or central America will ALWAYS have to expend significantly less fuel than launches from China.

Inclination. It's a big word, but it means $$$.

Ehud
Tucson AZ

Re:Orbital Inclination + no equator access = money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35851102)

China is as close or closer to the equator than the US.

Re:Orbital Inclination + no equator access = money (1)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851162)

China has lots of territory at the same latitude as Kennedy and Edwards, so they can go anywhere the space shuttle can go now. (source) [google.com] They don't have anything comparable to the Marshall Islands, which is actually at the equator, so that gives SpaceX a definite advantage.

Re:Orbital Inclination + no equator access = money (3, Informative)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851170)

You've never looked at a map of China have you? Hint: it's not further north than the US.

The in progress Wenchang Satellite Launch Center is in fact further south than Cape Canaveral by a decent amount. Xichang Satellite Launch Center is at roughly the same latitude as Cape Canaveral . That said, historically China has built it's launch facilities deep inside the country which puts them further north but also away from prying eyes. Which is likely a politically motivated limitation rather than any geographic or technical limitation.

Re:Orbital Inclination + no equator access = money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35851200)

it is also largely meaningless unless your objective is to launch into geosynchronous orbit. Not completely meaningless but largely. The ONLY vehicle where launching into a higher inclination orbit is a big issue is the Space Shuttle but that is only because you have to include the mass of the shuttle itself. You can't reduce that so the 'loss of payload capacity' seems to be a lot higher than it really is.

The market for Geo orbit is well known and quite limited because of the limited number of available slots. In addition, the costs of launching from an equatorial position may end up increasing costs significantly due to licensing, territorial rights with regards to International Space Treaties, and just plain shipping and other logistical costs. You can't just look at the one point and say this is the way to go. You need to look at the complete system.

Re:Orbital Inclination + no equator access = money (1)

macshit (157376) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851202)

This is a common difference between countries that have equatorial regions and none. The US can launch its spacecraft from Florida (or in the alternative Edwards AFB). This allows them to reach the right inclination with LESS energy (delta-V, fuel, money, take your pic).
...
SpaceX launching from the US or central America will ALWAYS have to expend significantly less fuel than launches from China.

Inclination. It's a big word, but it means $$$.

Wait, what?

According to Google maps, China's southern-most point (around 18deg N, in Hainan) is well south of the U.S.'s southern-most point (around 25deg N in Florida, or 21deg N in Hawaii)....

SpaceX has also launched from Omelek Island [wikipedia.org] in the Marshall Islands, which is apparently leased by the U.S. military; presumably China could lease some islands too if that's useful...

Re:Orbital Inclination + no equator access = money (4, Informative)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851290)

Cape Canaveral is at roughly 28.5 degrees. The Chinese have satellite launch facilities at Jiuquan (39 deg), Taiyuan (38 deg), Xichang (28 deg), and Wenchang on their southern island at only 19.5 degrees. The equator is 40Mm around, so initial speed at the equator would be around 0.46km/s. At 19.5, you have 0.43km/s; 28 is 0.41km/s; 38 is .36km/s.

Now what does all this mean? Low Earth orbit is around 8km/s, plus another 2.5km/s in altitude. That means there's all of a whopping 1% difference in delta-V between an equatorial launch, and one from China's northern launch facilities. Now true, fuel budgets run on exponential functions, and a 1% increase in velocity results in a more than 1% increase in fuel and cost, but it's not going to be the determining factor whether a launch system succeeded or fails.

Orbital plane changes are a completely different matter. The shuttle only has storage room to carry with it enough fuel for a couple degrees difference in plane, but that's because you're traveling 8km/s. It's not like you're in a car or a plane, and can push off something while maintaining your momentum. It all has to be done with thrust, and you have to reduce velocity in one direction, and increase it in another. When you're going a mere 0.4km/s starting from the ground, you only have to add velocity to get where you want to go. That means it is actually more efficient to land and take off again if you want to transition between equatorial and polar orbits.

Re:Orbital Inclination + no equator access = money (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851482)

"This is a common difference between countries that have equatorial regions and none. The US can launch its spacecraft from Florida (or in the alternative Edwards AFB). "
What? Edwards? We don't launch any large boosters from Edwards and never have and probably never will . They would have to launch over land which the US just doesn't do for safety reasons. So what are you talking about?
We do launch from Vandenberg in California but those are polar shots We also launch off of Hawaii using SeaLaunch and from Wallops Island in Virginia but not Edwards. So huhh????

Re:Orbital Inclination + no equator access = money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35851500)

This is a common difference between countries that have equatorial regions and none. The US can launch its spacecraft from Florida (or in the alternative Edwards AFB).

SpaceX launching from the US or central America will ALWAYS have to expend significantly less fuel than launches from China.

Central America is one thing, but Hainan Island extends a good 6 degrees further south than Florida.

Old soviet jokes (2)

Palal (836081) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850820)

Old Soviet Jokes about the Chinese Space Program: 1. There is a knock on the door in the MIR space station. The cosmonauts open the door and see a Chinese guy. They ask him: "How did you get here". He responds: "Simple you see. We built a human pyramid" 2. TV Bulletin: "Yesterday, the Chinese launched their first satellite into space. During the launch, 2.45 million Chinese suffered a hernia."

That is called competition... (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850886)

...it is a good thing even when US is not winning.

Re:That is called competition... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35851406)

only if you don't live in the US :)

Small Edit Re: TFS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35850888)

"If the SpaceX price is real and its quality is proven, both are big IF's..."

"...Then the US government will quickly step in to make certain that pressure/taxes/fees/legislation/licensing/permitting/etc/etc are applied to SpaceX to assure their launch services are exorbitantly-priced so as not to appear "unfair" & "over-Capitalistic". After all, "We're all Socialists now", right?"

If they were to allow just anyone to have the ability to benefit from "cheap" access to LEO, it may upset the applecart of established political donors with predictable agendas compatible with the emergence of the NWO.

Soros, Rockefeller, Bilderburg, Obama, Stern, and Trumka wouldn't like that. It makes it hard to collapse economies, currencies, & governments when new profitable markets are opening up and entrepreneurs and small/medium-sized corporations are boosting the economy, employing people, and raising living standards & creating wealth. It's hard to get people to riot in the streets when they have a job, their standard of living is rising, and they are feeding themselves and their families.

Re:Small Edit Re: TFS (1)

andydread (758754) | more than 3 years ago | (#35851368)

You're not serious right? Space-X already has all the necessary permits and certifications so that their rockets don't go crashing into your house. The Obama administration is already working to privatize nasa launches [yahoo.com] to .... wait for it.... SpaceX [spaceflightnow.com]

Time to raise taxes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35850924)

Clearly, Space X is too competitive... It is time to raise the taxes on those greedy Space X guys. Time to feed the looters!!

Why not Africa? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35850958)

Can anybody tell me why AFRICA isn't launching space rockets?

Anybody?

IQ?

It's rocket science. (1)

skrimp (790524) | more than 3 years ago | (#35850986)

China can't use their billion slaves to launch anything into space.
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