STUCK THE LANDING :) :) :)
Apologies to my neighbors who I surely woke up.
Hah :) Incredible! Now, will they fly this one again?
Elon looks like he hasn't been getting enough sleep or showers, and like he's about to back flip and start happy crying.
Check this page, the Merlin uses an open cycle, where fuel/oxidizer used to fuel the pumps is just dumped overboard.
This picture clearly shows both exhausts:
Of Course They Still Love You ;).
Probably not. For starters, Elon has said they only intend to get a few flights out of the Block 3 rockets. Additionally, the CTO of SES said Gwynne promised them some bits of the rocket for posterity.
The Block 5 rockets (to fly later this year) are the ones Elon expects to fly more or less indefinitely, with regular servicing and part replacement.
10 launches without maintenance
100 launches with moderate maintenance
They are aiming for 1000 launches for their upcoming ITS.
1 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jC3LQFpuzqs
Btw, does anyone know how reusable these things are expected to be in the near term? As in, would a perfected Stage 1 be expected to be able to fly 10 missions? 100? 1000?
Huge game changer this, also in the frequency of launches.
You can probably add another zero there. 737 airframes don't even need a special inspection and maintenance program until they hit 60,000 takeoff/landing cycles. 
We don't have the technology yet to have internet in the middle of the ocean without satellites.
There are so many fields and so many complex processes. I can assure you that any one of: the world of power transmission, or offshore oil drilling rigs, or commercial shipping, or chemical process design and optimization, or tons of other stuff, is enough to warrant an entire "HN".
So don't expect people to appreciate it all. But what we can appreciate is the fact that you and I don't need to understand archeology to contribute to society ;)
But don't come dragging with how "people don't understand" when the majority of people here spend much of their time much closer to pushing Emojis than engineering rockets. Next week there's will be about as much amazement here for the world changing potential Amazon changing their packaging to a different colour.
"People" will realize that it's amazing when they see the results, but they will also ask the obvious questions like "How many times can you reuse a rocket?", "How much cheaper will it be to put things in space?", "Is that a good thing, a bad thing or both?" i.e. the interesting parts that remain unanswered. At least if there's still decent documentaries around and not only "top 10 extreme mega things".
Time to grab Odin again I guess.
Because some people don't actually know much / care about rocket science?
In short, this is more an iteration than a breakthrough. Not to take away from the effort of course.
For everyone else's benefit the F-117 was that stealth airplane, it was like trying to fly bricks in the shape of an airplane and needed constant computer adjustments because it wasn't very aerodynamically stable: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_F-117_Nighthawk
The moon landings were pretty awesome in their own way, but at the end of the day, with the way they were done, it was basically a stunt. None of it put any infrastructure for the long-term access of space into place, or anything to make future moon landings easier.
This paves the way for the costs of space flight to be cut in half, or even a little further. This has the potential to set off an exponential chain of growth of space travel. The further they cut prices, the more customers and launches there are. The more customers there are, the more profit they make, to be plowed back into better, more reliable, and more reusable rockets. And the more incentive their competitors have to come up with their own reusable rockets. The more reusable they are, the further they can bring prices down. Every step reinforces the next, and in 30-50 years, the price of a launch may well be a tenth of what it is today. Maybe closer to a hundredth.
What will we build when access to space costs 1% of what it does today? Maybe a huge space station, or a moon colony, or asteroid mining, or all of the above. The more traffic we have to space, the more infrastructure we build, and the cheaper and more reliable it all gets. Off-world colonies might become about as practical as a trip to and colony in Antarctica is today - still tough and hazardous, but well within the budget and vision of any developed nation. This is freakin' awesome for the future!
This is not entirely fair. The actual landings (which did teach us a lot about the moon) were just the tip of an iceberg. Consider project Gemini  for example. A dozen missions and several astronaut-weeks of space time to get hang of such consepts as rendezvous and docking of two spacecraft and extra vehicular activity, all of utmost importance in modern space exploration. Much of the hardware developed for the Apollo program was also very versatile, as demonstrated by, for example, the Skylab program . A lot more mileage could have been extracted from the investment by means of the Apollo Aplications Program  had it not been killed to make way for the STS (I'm simplifying the history somewhat on this point).
That's also the problem with Government funding of things like this. You can accomplish some pretty awesome things with a blank check from the Government, but those only get created for political reasons, and are subject to disappearing for political reasons as well. Businesses have their own problems, but once they put together a system they can turn a profit with, they have the incentive to keep doing it and improving on it indefinitely.
It was a pissing contest between the superpowers.
That doesn't mean there's less merit in that. In fact, what they did in the '60s was a heck of a lot harder, achieving so much with less tech, and hewing a new path through a virgin jungle.
It simply means - and explains why - those achievements didn't last. We put in a humongous effort to reach so far, but once the initial impetus died out, we had to scale it down.
Well, now we're back.
BlueOrigin is Bezos' pet project akin to taking a heli tour around the city while SpaceX is doing a transcontinental flight half way around the world.
It's also true that BO are not standing still and their plans look good overall. I think it's inevitable that the industry will explode with competition at some point not too far from now.
spaceX has done it by raising less than $1.5 billion total
NASA has itself given SpaceX more than that. Wikipedia says SpaceX has taken $5 billion from NASA, with over $1 billion more from US defense contracts.
I am super happy for this achievement.
Just one example why I consider the Apollo program to be one of our greater achievements.
But SpaceX has done a lot on their own too. I'm just glad to be alive to see this.
Kid: Daddy, ou mean when you were growing up, they threw away rockets each time?
Kid: Doesn't that make them expensive?
And then not long after will be the other talk:
Kid: Daddy, you mean people used to be in charge of driving themselves in cars?
Kid: Did people ever die?
Good job Elon and SpaceX, get some rest, and then focus on the Model 3!
Elon: We have proven what can be done, that many said was impossible. drops mic after SpaceX lands flawlessly
My four year old daughter, watching the launch with rapt attention.
When we watched the Echostar 23 launch two weeks ago, she asked why it didn't land... Crazy that rockets landing is already totally normal for her.
I mean, a regular ship doesn't discard part of itself to set sail... as a child, I didn't understand the need for multi-stage rockets.
btw, I suggest disabling sharing geo location of photos (https://photos.google.com/settings - Remove geo location in items shared by link).
Fair point about the geo location (I actually assumed Google would have stripped all metadata by default, like any real image sharing service...), I'm not super concerned about it though. I use my real name on HN, my employer and other details are pretty trivial to find. If someone wanted to find me, they wouldn't have to work too terribly hard as it is. If they do... well, I'm an American who likes to spend time in the woods. Draw whatever conclusions from that you will...
It made me smile.
I was 4 when the Apollo launches happened and I still remember them today, they're probably my oldest memories (others I can't date so accurately so that may be off by a bit).
Very beautiful picture, thank you for posting.
So many 'parents' dump their kids in front of Cartoon Network, and ignore them for 18 years.
Also, Stavros is right, the twins were playing in the other room with Caspar Babypants YouTube videos playing. ;)
I'm still in the very early stage of my career (web developer currently), but I'm lucky enough to work remotely most of the time and live in a beautiful forested area of NC. What general field do you work in? If software, where within that?
For those downvoting, Stavros is a friend, and based on the number of kids songs videos I send him on IM, he is pretty well informed about what my kids watch ;)
Relatedly... Elmo and Ricky Gervais make a great comic pair:
A few generations will pass till this question will be asked. There might be self-driving cars sooner than that, but it will be a looooong time till manual driving is a very rare thing.
Also, why wait for fully self-driving cars to prevent fatalities? Why not to implement collision-avoidance subsystem into the cars which are controlled by humans.
In any case, most deaths on the road are because of stupid and deliberate actions by drivers (or pedestrians): insane speeding, overtaking where is limited visibility, crossing on red, etc.
Thinking the shift towards autonomous vehicles happens linearly is a mistake.
It's already seeping into production cars. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collision_avoidance_system
"Yes, they were. You could drive a car as fast as it could go."
"Did people ever die from going too fast?"
"And you could start your car without breathing into a breathalyzer?"
"Yes, you could."
"Did people ever die from driving drunk?"
We don't need to wait for the distant future to save millions of lives. Breathalyzers and speed regulators already exist. For some reason, though, they aren't mandated on our roadways...
But maybe we are both over thinking it, does the old voice network reach even further?
Laying out enough digital network fabric to have skype and its kind everywhere is an admirable goal though.
People drove busses?! What? And flew aeroplanes?! With other people in them? What if a pilot went mad and flew one out over the sea? Would it disappear forever?
(speech begins at 32:30, in case link doesn't work)
Also, the kid being held aloft at 34:20 was a very cute touch. https://youtu.be/8FQhtMrUQlE?t=34m20s
Camera quality has absolutely exploded in the last decade, when compared with how much they've shrunk, and Apple certainly had a role to play in that transformation. I'm not at all surprised that video from a decade ago looks so dated compared with video today.
I still cannot get over the reverse landing on the drone that first time it was almost unreal and took them a while to get there . That image is seared in my brain like the moon landing probably is for people who lived through that.
It was about a year ago and SpaceX is already, in less than a year, performed the reverse landing on the drone and successful relaunched. Amazing moment in human history and SpaceX continues to lead the way.
Looks like SpaceX had (yet another) very good landing!!
Edit: Okay everyone can breathe now!
But frankly, is the cost of going to mars really that important for its colonisation? I mean, I wouldn't move to mars even if going there was free. For one, there's no breathable air, for Pete's sake. They are talking about building a city on a place where there isn't even breathable air. That's insane.
This whole thing is very conflicting to me. On one hand I can appreciate the technological achievement and I acknowledge that re-usability will be extremely useful for space exploration, but on the other hand I can't help thinking that those people who get excited about building a city on mars are completely delusional.
Dreams are good, they allow people to expend energy chasing that dream and the spin-offs from that may be worth as much or more to humanity than the original dream, even if we may not be able to figure out what path that might take today.
I'm certainly not complaining, hope they dream a lot more and will produce many more useful milestones, and if they don't end up achieving their dream I'll feel sorry for them but thank them for their incredible service anyway.
Think of that dream as a very powerful motivator for a lot of extremely smart and talented people. It's the fox to a whole pack of hounds that would very much like to gain ground and as such it seems to be doing a very good job.
I feel such pressure to use our new skills to solve these problems, but I know 10 years ago they were a combination of invisible/impossible to me. If I hadn't been aggressively pushed by smart feminists to examine my life more closely I might still feel the same way. If I hadnt been intellectually curious enough to stick with them, despite their worldview seeming so alien and wrong, I would probably be working in VR now instead of housing.
Maybe it's just that such challenges are too dark for some people... Mars is all optimism, no need to struggle with the realities of evil. Maybe some people just cant handle the pain of working on poverty and violence. I totally understand the desire to avoid fields where evil plays a daily role in your job. I grew up in an alcoholic household so pain seems sort of normal, although I have an intense desire to dismantle its causes. I accept that a more emotionally healthy person might just nope out of such challenges.
I guess it's also a little like the video games vs life choice: Mars is a clear goal, with all the players in a clear sandbox. Poverty is a messy mindfuck of a problem. That makes it more intellectually challenging, but also scarier. Failure hurts worse: a rocket that doesn't launch is one thing. Watching your friends die is another.
Still, it puzzles me that so many smart people need something like Mars to feel like they have a hard problem that's worth solving. I see so many around me. Easing violence seems like such a bigger win than getting off planet.
There are insights into ourselves that we are simply unable to even conceptualize that would be possible. Humans living (not just surviving) on another planet, will change us
In terms of global development, things have improved greatly over the last 50 years, say.
So it depends what kind of person you are. Do you like sitting in committees? Do you like, or can you tolerate a great deal of convincing other people to do things? How many cycles of that have you been through? How many otherwise good projects have you seen fail due to (human) factors entirely outside of the participants' control.
Although it may seem that way sometimes, hard engineering problems aren't really an adversarial game. Hard human problems typically are.
And that dangerous event could be external to humanity. So Mars is a part of a solution for all that : buy all the rest of humanity time to solve that problem and making sure enough humans can be born and live so that at least one find a solution. It is the only thing engineers can do. Give us the chance.
(There are some looming issues on the horizon like climate change etc. which might change this course in the future.)
There are quite possibly more slaves today than there have ever been. The fact that there are more non-slaves too doesn't cancel that out for me.
We are the first generation with the information processing tools to cut these problems down by orders of magnitude in a couple decades. The faster we do the more lives will be saved. If we make the same incremental improvements our parents generation did, we will have failed.
Nobody is expecting it to. But do you know why poverty, disease, hunger and slavery are at far lower levels compared to historic norms? It's because at the global scale we are enormously richer than we have ever been before. We can afford multi-billion dollar programs to fight diseases such as Ebola, HIV, Malaria and the many others we have actually eradicated. We have huge reconstruction and investment programs for developing countries. Space technology, including satellite communications systems, GPS and weather monitoring are revolutionizing third world agriculture and market economies as well as saving lives.
A richer and more prosperous world is also a world better able to tackle the problems you quite legitimately raise.
Cities on Mars - it's not productive debating this at such an early stage, though it makes for an interesting discussion.
Yet. As far as I know, the plan is to create some generators and a basic colony that can terraform the land to try and create an atmosphere on the planet. It's not unlike what they were planning in "Total Recall" but, at least in this case, there's more science to it than fantasy.
That's what they once said about walking on the moon.
More seriously though, just because many projects were wrongly considered foolish in the past, does not mean one can not point at a new one and call it foolish. History tends to remember those who turned out to be brilliant, and forget all those who genuinely were foolish.
The example I like is Franz Reichelt . People around him were watching as he prepared to meet his death. Nobody said "don't do that, you'll kill yourself". Why? I guess because they were not sure, and they did not want to be the person who dissed someone who might be remembered as say the Wright brothers were.
I guess I'm not comfortable being the guy who says nothing as he watches people being foolish or delusional.
OK, that one guy was foolish he should have started small and worked his way up. Perhaps a death defying leap onto a mattress, would have been better. But there are plenty of others who were close to a variety of successes and them not succeeding doesn't mean they were foolish.
There must have been hundreds or thousands of potential aviators, but we remember the brothers at Kittyhawk because of their success. This doesn't make the others fools, likely they were successful in some of their other plans or iterated on designs more like the flyer afterwards. From all of their perspectives as long as they minimized danger, unlike Franz, they would live to see another day and keep attempting High risk High reward situations.
This is much the same with startups today. Plenty made their fortunes in tech startups and while history might call all but a few failures, many are relaxing with their millions or even just comfortable enjoying their backup plan of a high tech job and settling down with a family.
EDIT - Grammar, wording and spelling.
Waitbutwhy has an amazing explanation of the how's and why's.
First, "adventure" is a reason to go there, not to settle.
Second, I'm not buying the "drastically improve humanity's chance at survival" argument. There have been several mass extinction events in the past, so in order to survive one that might be coming, we should move to a place where there is likely no life at all? That does not make any sense to me.
If we can survive on mars, we can survive on Earth no matter what can plausibly happen to it.
Mankind will likely survive the next mass extinction, and we don't have to go to mars for that.
Exactly. So going to Mars and staying there long-term will require us to develop many solutions that can be applied here on Earth. Both under current conditions and conditions that would currently be civilisation-threatening.
It seems prudent to avoid keeping all the eggs in one basket by staying only on this one spacerock.
However as a civilization, which spans many generations and may go on forever, the situation is a bit different.
It's hard to say when and how, of course. It might not happen in any serious fashion until asteroid mining and space tourism became real industries, which should result in improved tech and much lower costs for building Mars colonies.
Interplanetary trade will be a huge business. Think of the old east India trading companies only bigger.
There is no spice on mars. Even if there was, it would not make sense to transport it to Earth. It's not clear what would be the business model. The only thing I see is tourism : hotels, casinos, etc. So basically like Las Vegas, but on mars. Just as in Futurama .
Could be cool, but probably not exactly the romantic image Musk's supporters might have in mind.
1. "Well, I think any natural resource extraction on Mars would be - the output would be for Mars. It definitely wouldn't make sense to transport Mars stuff 200 million miles back to Earth. Honestly, if you had like crack-cocaine on Mars, in like prepackaged pallets, it still wouldn't make sense to transport it back here. It's be good times for the Martians, but not back here. Resources would be for a colony to use." http://shitelonsays.com/transcript/elon-musk-at-mits-aeroast...
Sounds like zero supply of something a colony might want to pay for. Trade goes both ways. I never took a guess at time frames this could happen in.
I'm not sure why it is conflicting for you. Even if they are delusional, you profit from cheaper access to Space no matter why they are going there.
It's stupid. If we can live on mars, we can live on Earth no matter what happens to it. I don't see anything that could turn Earth into worse a place to live than mars.
How about a major asteroid strike?
Will future SpaceX clients now want to put their payloads in orbit on a "flight proven" booster, instead of one that hasn't flown before?
I think once Block 5 gets off the ground, and we see maybe 20 flights on re-used rockets, and a couple of rockets used 5+ times, you'll start to see increased demand for "flight proven" hardware.
Beyond the cost of a new satellite (covered by insurance) and a new launch (SpaceX is giving them one for free) Spacecom still has to provide coverage for their customers. The solution is to lease someone else's satellite for 4 years, which cost them $88 million . On top of that, they were in the middle of selling the company for $285 million. The deal was contingent on the Amos-6 satellite being fully operational. Supposedly, the buyer only wants to pay $190 million now. They may also end up backing out.
Someone else's launch going badly can also be bad for your company. The explosion that took out Amos-6 also damaged the pad and threw off SpaceX's schedule (which was already oversubscribed). Inmarsat was required by the EU to start using their spectrum by a given deadline, which they ended up missing. Theoretically, the EU could take away their spectrum allocation (although they probably won't). Inmarsat did end up having to buy a launch with another provider though, which probably cost them a ton of money.
edit: and they did it! I was pessimistic for a minute there!
The video I saw  didn't have great audio and I was in transit while watching, but I believe he also said something about how it would be the largest single titanium cast in production.
At the moment, SpaceX is only reusing a portion of the rocket (the first stage, not the second stage or the fairings). And that re-used portion requires some refurbishment. SpaceX estimates it's 30% cheaper per launch right now.
Over the next few years SpaceX will probably bring that cost down (though they won't necessarily pass that cost on to the consumer — they could very well just enjoy the extra margins). I'm guessing they can realistically get to 50-70% cost savings per launch over the next few years.
though they are working on recovering the fairing, and attempting something related to that today.
The Chinese, Russians, Indians, blue origin, vector space systems, and United Launch Alliance finally getting their shit together, trying to do a redesign to better compete.
However, they are already one of the lowest cost launch providers available at the moment. Others have work to do just to catch up with SpaceX today. And _nobody_ is just around the corner on reusability. I don't know of any other provider that will have a reusable launch in the next 3 years.
Even then, those other providers will just be dipping their toes in reusability.
I suspect, if reusability starts going well for them SpaceX will have 4-6 years to enjoy the benefits of being the only major provider on the market with a reusable first stage booster. It won't last forever, but there are some good times coming up for them in the near-term if they can keep things running smoothly.
I estimate those costs would be $20-25MM; still, a big savings on a brand-new rocket each time!
As I mentioned, I think _today_ SpaceX is saving about 30% per launch by doing reusability (which, in my mind translates to ~20M). So I actually think we're probably in good agreement.
Good point; it depends on how much they could expect demand to grow if the prices were lower.
Both LOX and kerosene are about the price of milk. If we assume that a gallon of either weighs about 7 lbs, then it takes, at 1% mass fraction, 99 lbs, or about 14 gallons, of fuel and oxidizer to put a pound of payload into orbit. At a 2% mass fraction, it's only 7 gallons. Call it $3.50 per gallon, so the fuel cost for a pound of payload is only about $25-$50. It's truly negligible compared to the cost of the rocket, whose costs are tied mainly literally to paperwork, due to the very tight margins on the factors of safety.
The rest of the equilibrium cost is going to be amortizing that rocket over as many launches as is responsible.
Ultimately, SpaceX wants to get the cost to orbit for propellant down to about $9/kg. From the current $10,000 to $2000 per kg. For propellant launches on ITS, which will be larger and will have the booster land on the launch cradle and have the upperstage be fully reusable:
http://www.spacex.com/sites/spacex/files/mars_presentation.p... (based on figures given on page 36 and 41)
$9/kg is ridiculously cheap ($4/pound). 3 orders of magnitude cheaper than current costs. More general payloads will cost more (due to processing requirements), but that gives you an idea. The idea is you reduce the cost of the launch to about twice the cost of the propellant. The only way that's feasible is rapid reuse and by launching a lot.
Also, ITS will use the cheapest source of energy today: methane. Can also be synthesized from air, water, and sunlight as SpaceX is planning on Mars.
The energy costs of achieving orbit is about the same energy costs as flying around the world, for the same payload. So it's not, in principle, absurdly expensive (relative to current per-person energy usage) just from an energy point of view to fly stuff to orbit.
> What is your current thinking on the savings for customers using a reused Falcon 9 first stage? Is a 30 percent discount realistic?
> We are not decreasing the price by 30 percent right now for recovered and reused vehicles. We’re offering about a 10 percent price reduction. I’d rather fly on an airplane that’s flown before as I’d feel more comfortable with its reliability.
> At this point that is a reasonable reduction and then, as we recover some of the costs associated with the investment that we put into the Falcon 9 to achieve that, then we might get a little bit more. But in general, it’s about 10 percent right now.
ULA competes mostly on the Air Force launches. They still have capabilities that SpaceX does not have (large fairings) and some that SpaceX will not have for a long time (vertical integration). For these cases, ULA will still have a market, plus the Air Force always needs to have two providers.
SpaceX will however take quite a chunk out of ULA as we have already seen with the bidding for the GPS flights.
Orbital ATK will have hard time in the commercial market but they might be happy with just flying the COTS contracts.
The main issue SpaceX has to solve is flight rate, that is most of the reason others can still be on the commercial market at all. SpaceX is now so far away from everybody else on price, everybody else is still in the "developing a new vehicle and we have some ideas about reversibility, maybe" stage.
SpaceX can now launch a reusable core for around 50 million, and still make a nice profit. The target price for both ULA Vulcan and Arian 6 are 100 million. For Arian that does not even include the massive amount of development cost. Arianspace will survive because of the political imperative.
Source? Wasn't ULA the only provider for years as Boeing and Lockheed argued it would be cheaper to merge.
I could 3 out of 33 as failures, one of those is a partial failure.
The only area where SpaceX really can't compete yet is manned flight, everything else looks quite rosy.
Of course the beginnings of what is now ULA were much more innovative than what SpaceX is doing because we simply had not launched any rockets of that size at all and so there were many more failures.
It probably won't be the last SpaceX failure either because they plan on making fairly big changes soon and those will come with new failure modes, the best way to get to very high degrees of reliability is to stop making changes other than to fix problems but that does not square with SpaceX's way of doing business.
If I was arguing that "SpaceX sucks and they deserve to fail because they're so unreliable" then you'd have a point, but I'm not.
"Of course the beginnings of what is now ULA were much more innovative than what SpaceX is doing because we simply had not launched any rockets of that size at all and so there were many more failures."
So of course the situation is not 1:1 comparable. But given that it is a new platform some failures were to be expected, it doesn't take a lot in rocketry to have a failure. How many launch failures would you consider to be acceptable over the course of the first 30 launches for a new platform?
I have no opinion about what is "acceptable" or not, but my opinion doesn't matter. What matters is the opinion of the customer. There are enough customers out there which find SpaceX's ~10% failure rate to be too high to keep ULA around for now even at a hefty premium.
So then the race is on in a way: will SpaceX be able to get their next platform stabilized before the competition catches up to being able to re-use their first stage? If they can there might be some actual competition which should drive down prices even further.
My understanding is that they are now producing and flying Block 5 Falcon 9's which means no more changes to the hardware.
Falcon heavy is obviously a different kettle of fish but the chat around SpaceX on Reddit has been that things are settling/reaching maturity with Falcon 9
SpaceX really caused some sleepless nights today with the executives of other rocket companies they are several years away from being able to begin to play catch-up. This was one very long bet SpaceX made and it paid off today and will continue to pay off for years to come.
But what I mean is say I have a payload I want to launch. I go to spaceX and they say they can put my payload on their manifest for 2019 for $60 million. I go to another provider and they say they can get me up into orbit in 2018 for $120 million. If I'm a government and don't care so much about the cost, but do care about getting my payload into space, I'll go with the 2018 date.
So, there will still be other non-reusable providers out there. For example, European governments want to keep Ariane around regardless of the cost to keep the launch capability around (for national security issues).
I don't think SpaceX is in danger of being accused of that.
They really don't have any competition on price anymore, but they are yet unable to actually do as many flights as they need to. To solve that they are building even more launch sites and thanks to the re-usability they will be able to do more flights without further increasing their engine output.
That's on paper, not anything they've flown has come close to what SpaceX is demonstrating as a matter of some routine now.
(1) never been to orbit
(2) never been to orbit and then back down to a landing
(3) 6 flights vs 33
(4) payload < 2 Tonnes vs 5.5 for Falcon 9 re-usable (and 8 expendable).
At this point in time Blue Origin to me looks like a slightly more serious version of Armadillo Aerospace and SpaceX looks like the company that will put the majority of tonnage into orbit in the next decade.
SpaceX is increasing its launch cadence and reducing its prices substantially (through reusability) so they are becoming more competitive by leaps and bounds every moment. If they can follow through on their cadence increases (right now they are around an average of 3 weeks between launches and a minimum of 2 weeks) and cost reductions (see recent flight) no one else will be able to keep up with them. Their internal cost reductions on reuse are unknown but their current price reductions are around 30%, which is off of their already incredibly aggressive low launch prices. If SpaceX can provide launches at around $45 mil and can launch often enough to satisfy demand reasonably then they'll end up with the majority of the commercial launch business eventually. If you can put your satellite in orbit reliably and save on the order of $50 million then you'd be insane not to do so. There's a bit of an insurance premium with launching on SpaceX currently but that should even out after a while and the huge cost reductions swamp that difference regardless (even if, for example, SpaceX were to blow up another rocket tomorrow).
The only realistic competitor for SpaceX in the near term is Blue Origin, once they develop their orbital launcher which will also have VTVL first stage reusability. The timeline on that is sometime before 2020, but that's likely to be the soonest any real competition for SpaceX's business model shows up. Once it becomes commonplace for launches to involve first stage reuse (which will probably happen over the next 5 years or so) I'd expect a lot of the other rocket companies (like Boeing and LockMart) to come out with similar designs (or go out of business or be relegated to national payloads only). It's a lot easier to put forward some hypothetical "better" design for your next generation rocket when everything is on paper, it's a lot harder to pretend your rocket is still better when you're getting your face pushed in by the competition on price by huge margins on a regular basis.
Once SpaceX has the Falcon Heavy running (which will be even more reusable since the upper stage is a smaller proportion of the rocket) they'll be able to launch nearly anything anyone else can, and at dramatically lower costs. Once they're able to launch GPS satellites (which they've already got orders for) as well as the big national security birds (on the FH) for tens or hundreds of millions of dollars less than ULA then almost all of that business is going to flow to them and LockMart/Boeing are going to have some tough times.
Arian will still have non competitive flight that SpaceX can not take away. They will probably survive.
Secondly, it's my understanding that with the performance upgrades from the Block 5 iteration that will become the dominant configuration later this year there will no longer be a need to fly the booster in expendable mode. And with the ability to launch much heavier payloads on the Falcon Heavy for extremely low prices, there won't be much of any performance window anywhere that competitors could wiggle through.
They do, such as Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, United Launch Alliance, and others I can't think of off the top of my head.
However, Musk appears to have a major advantage: At least two major investment banks  and many other observers and investors  believe a major advantage Musk has over competitors is his relationship with President Trump. They claim it has greatly increased investment in Tesla (and investment indeed has greatly increased since Musk embraced Trump after the election, but of course the cause is impossible to prove and U.S. stocks in general have rallied). If you doubt this is an issue, not only see the cites but search a news index for "musk trump" - it is widespread outside HN.
I don't know about the effect on SpaceX (are they public?), but the space business is highly dependent on government contracts, project funding, and regulation; you can imagine what the appearances are. Compare that with competitor Jeff Bezos, for example, who owns a major newspaper that regularly criticizes Trump; will the competition for government contracts and other benefits be free and fair?
It would be bad for the space industry, the economy, the U.S. as a nation, and the fight for the free market and against corruption if that relationship decided or even appeared to decide the winner in this competition. Appearances are reality on the public stage; if people merely perceive corruption helped him, the (many) unscrupulous people will try to use that tactics themselves and many others will doubt Musk's legitimacy.
I think he has what it takes to win on his own; the other stuff could undermine him unnecessarily, and be bad for everyone else.
[Mods: Last time I mentioned Musk's relationship with Trump, you objected but the problem wasn't clear to me; I responded and asked, but probably too late to for you to see it. ( https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13880838 ) If this post is somehow objectionable, please tell me the problem so that I can avoid it in the future. This seems like many other posts on HN, except its content criticizes a very popular figure and includes a controversial one; hopefully popularity doesn't preclude criticism and the POTUS can be discussed. I am speaking plainly and documenting it very well.]
Blue Origin can go to space. They are nowhere close to going to orbit.
We've sent things to space and back a long time ago. We call them airplanes. 
They're new engine (BE-4) that will power New Glenn is going through test firings now. Additionally, they're angling to get BE-4 sold into other launch stacks than just their internal hardware.
If they are able to get BE-4 out into other launch stacks in the next year or two, it's very possible that New Glenn will launch it's first mission before 2020.
New Glenn will be comparable to the Falcon Heavy in terms of lift. The Falcon Heavy won't have it's demo flight until later this year.
I'd agree that Blue Origin is behind SpaceX. Still, though, I think they are on a pretty good track to take second place in the reusable launch stack to orbit.
Please correct me if i misremembered.
They are actively working on their next gen launch stack (New Glenn), which is set to have its first launch before 2020. New Glenn will be a reusable launch stack capable of inserting payloads into orbit. It will be roughly similar to the Falcon Heavy in terms of mission capabilities.