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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Space regulations

United Launch Alliance is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing that can put payloads into orbit on expendable rockets. They launched 7 payloads for commercial customers in the last decade, none since 2016. Their only customer is the US government.

In 2018, Spacex launched 14 payloads for commercial customers on their re-usable rocket. They are doing it for a fraction of the cost. Even the US government is using Spacex. ULA must be worried. What are they going to do?

ULA, and its parent companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin, have stood virtually alone in their support of the FAA’s rules revision.

What is this?

“I don’t blame ULA,” Eric Stallmer, the president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, told SpaceNews. The revised rules the FAA proposed favor large companies that have bureaucracies in place to comply with onerous requirements, he said. “But for new entrants, small launch companies, reusable launch companies, the rules are backbreaking. It’s a tremendous barrier to entry. It’s almost as if the Russians and the Chinese wrote these rules.”

And now we know how ULA hopes to beat the competition.

7 comments to Space regulations

  • CaptDMO

    I wonder how many cars were on the “roads” when the first collision was reported?
    I wonder when the first tow truck was introduced?
    “Canned” foodstuffs. GREAT!
    When did the first can opener appear on the market?
    “Plastic islands” in the seas? When will the first “space sweeper/ tow truck” FLEET appear?

  • neonsnake

    ULA, and its parent companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin, have stood virtually alone in their support of the FAA’s rules revision.

    Well, yes, because ULA have nothing but public safety in mind. They even say so, so it must be true.

    Wait – are you suggesting that a company with near monopoly status (possibly technical monopoly status) would support regulations that act as barrier to entry to their competition?

    Outrageous assertion! I am shocked, I tell you! Shocked!

  • Wait – are you suggesting that a company with near monopoly status (possibly technical monopoly status) would support regulations that act as barrier to entry to their competition? (neonsnake, August 6, 2019 at 4:21 pm)

    Adam Smith suggested this some centuries ago. I owe to my own reading of Adam Smith the knowledge that Sowell is right, but I actually owe to Thomas Sowell the observation that you can stand at Hyde Park corner quoting only judicious selections from Adam Smith and be mistaken by the crowd for a socialist orator. Smith is perfectly willing to illustrate his own thesis, that “It is not to the benevolence of the butcher or the grocer” that we owe their willingness to serve us, by noting that said benevolence can indeed reveal its limited extent whenever the government provides the butcher, the baker and the spaceship maker with a way of escape from the fitness regime that is free enterprise capitalism.

  • The one reasonable aspect of all of this is that as long as SpaceX continues to deliver payloads to orbit with ever increasing regularity, maintains quality control and keeps improving its parts recycling they will win hands down on price.

    I’m sure NASA would love to lock out uppity SpaceX, by the dead hand of regulatory control handing matters over to the rent seekers of Lockheed Martin / Boeing and their United Launch Alliance, but one of the key metrics of space launch systems is how much it costs to get 1 KG from the ground into low earth orbit.

    The ULA’s Atlas 5 is currently pushing around $20,000 per KG, whereas the SpaceX Falcon-9 has a cost of around $2,500 per KG.

    SpaceX has essentially applied pretty nifty aspects of productionisation and commodification to what was previously a very customised service. Whereas, ULA is still operating in traditional “Government Contractor” mode.

    So unless SpaceX screws up majorly, to the extent that it puts itself out of business (possible, but unlikely) or allows itself to be bought out and strangled by ULA, NASA will be forced to use them simply because of the far lower costs of getting every kg into low earth orbit.

    They might be able to take a different approach where human spaceflight is concerned, because nobody wants to see dead American astronauts, but if SpaceX moves into regular tourist flights by the mid-2020’s, then that would be pretty hard for NASA to ignore.

    ULA ain’t going to go away overnight, but they are operating a late 20th Century approach to space launches that will no longer cut it in the 2020’s

  • neonsnake

    said benevolence can indeed reveal its limited extent whenever the government provides the butcher, the baker and the spaceship maker* with a way of escape from the fitness regime that is free enterprise capitalism.

    Indeed – and, as noted by many people on the other thread, this what “most people” mean (even if they don’t know it) when they say “capitalism is evil!”

    No-one (okay, some people, I’m sure) is thinking about the locally owned butchers or bakers, or even a small-sized chain, when they’re talking of the evils of capitalism; they’re thinking of the out-of-town Tesco destroying the local high-street, and then the follow-up of the Tesco Express moving into the premises that the local butcher or greengrocer could no longer afford.

    *Very good 😉

  • John Mahler

    One major point that most people miss…ULA’s rockets have a deep space/high orbit capability that SpaceX cannot yet match at this time. It does not matter how cheap per kilogram the rocket is if it cannot put your payload into the correct orbit.

  • Paul Marks

    This is how regulations often work – they favour existing players and exclude competition.

    This is why establishment business interests support the European Union – not in spite of its regulations, BECAUSE of its regulations.

    And that is why Facebook supports government internet censorship – in order to destroy the competition, whose main selling point is that they censor far less than Facebook (and Twitter and the other establishment players) does.

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