When you have one vendor they have no reason to give you any special attention. They are min-maxing you against all of their other customers and if you aren’t about to either Give them more money or take it away you fade into the background.
If you have two vendors, they have to pay attention. They have to and get to stay engaged.
If SpaceX is ahead or Boeing is ahead doesn’t matter. What matters if SpaceX is still at the table. If they drop to third or fourth place then they have a real problem.
NASA doesn’t want to give all their contracts to one vendor, and neither should we. That makes things easy this year but fattens then for the slaughter.
As long as Boeing is getting some noteworthy fraction of the contracts they stick around as a goad for SpaceX to try harder. And SpaceX does the same for Boeing.
Not only that but SpaceX is delivering commercial payload after commercial payload to orbit while still TESTING new stuff on their rockets while they do all the planning for ITS/BFR... how many launches has Boeing been doing while designing SLS?
When a mission takes a decade to plan a build, you go with the launch vehicle most likely to get you to destination successfully. Fail rates matter immensely. You don't want a launch vehicle iterating on your launch.
Money has diminishing returns when it comes to mission success rates. A common ballpark example I've heard from JPL PMs: you can spend $500 million on one launch with a 95% chance of putting one satellite in orbit - or - you could spend $250 million per launch on two launches, each with a 80% chance of putting up one satellite. The probability of getting at least one satellite in orbit with the latter scenario is ~96%, higher than than the $500mil/launch option, with an 80% chance of saving 25-75% of the budget for the second launch (depending on scheduling and staff retention costs for that mission).
The problem with the latter option is that the public is swayed more by the absolute number of failures rather than the percentage, especially since NASA's missions usually draw a lot of global publicity. This kind of public pressure effects legislators and eventually starts changing the "cost-benefit" analysis agencies like NASA do until they're chosing the one launch option every time.
The SLS is inseparable as a project from NASA as far as the public is concerned. Even though SpaceX is also heavily funded by NASA historically, Musk's cult of personality has largely saved them from feeling the kind of public pressure NASA has had to deal with in their usual missions. That ability to experiment without PR consequences is invaluable but we'll have to see whether their failure rate is big enough to scare away NASA for manned missions.
But yeah, I think you're really hitting at the heart of the problem that's going to become even more troublesome once we start putting people on Mars. There are a practically unlimited number of ways for something to go wrong. And even if we do everything we possibly can, we're still playing an odds game with extremely high stakes. A sensationalizing media and an ill informed public creates a nasty mix for issues like this.
If you budget for two 80% launches, however, $150-200 million gets you two satellites, you spend $125-200 million on launches (you cant wait until your first failure to put money down for the second launch so it's at least a 1.25x multiplier), and $25-100 million on extra staffing costs (you can't risk losing your top PIs/scientists between the first and second launch so you have to pay them the entire time).
Ideally, both options would be evaluated independent of popular sentiment. For manned exploration or cutting edge missions like the Mars rovers, we should strive for that 95% single mission success rate. Otherwise we should err towards getting more science done faster and cheaper.
Why kill two birds with one stone when you can get them to pay for you to throw two stones?
I think maybe you're confusing with the Orion capsule?
It doesn't matter much; you don't have to be a genius CEO to see what is in both companies interest, conspiracy or not.
The more companies are added to the mix, the less stable the truce becomes, and somewhere around 4-5 I think ruthless competition is empirically the norm.
Those Net Profits of 1.5% look like a target, not a byproduct of a cut throat business.
Smart and Final, a warehouse and restaurant supply store  has a GP of 14%.
"Based on NASA's "schedule risk analysis" from April, the agency estimates that Boeing will reach this milestone sometime between May 1, 2019, and August 30, 2020. For SpaceX, the estimated range is August 1, 2019, and November 30, 2020. The analysis' average certification date was December, 2019, for Boeing and January, 2020, for SpaceX."
From page 10:
> Boeing and SpaceX continue to make progress developing their crew transportation systems, but both contractors have further delayed the certification milestone to early 2019. These changes have occurred as the contractors continue to work to aggressive schedules, and they have had to delay key events regularly. Further delays are likely as the Commercial Crew Program’s schedule risk analysis shows that the certification milestone is likely to further slip.
> In addition, as of mid-June 2018, NASA officials told us that these dates may change soon but that both contractors have not yet provided official updates to their schedules to NASA...While NASA has begun to discuss potential options, it currently does not have a contingency plan for how to ensure an uninterrupted presence on the ISS beyond 2019*
A better headline would be:
NASA can't tell how late Boeing and SpaceX will be with commercial crew
Considering the timeline difference is only 10% (6 months spacex is behind based on 5 year delivery), I would expect Boeing to be much further ahead of spacex than they currently are.
Sounds like spacex will be the real winner in the end IMO due to future contracts as a 50% savings ($1.6 Billion in this case ) to wait 10% more time is totally worth it in almost every case.
: from the article: https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/07/nasa-commercial-crew...
Really, it's apples to oranges.
Last time I looked at this, the firms set their own milestones. So for one, Boeing's milestone deliverable was a PowerPoint presentation; SpaceX's was a crew abort demonstration.
After watching the documentary on the joint strike fighter competition I just think of Boeing as a lobbying organization that happens to make planes.
Boeing in the UK has an interesting reputation right now: they were involved in the MoD's bungling of an upgrade to Chinook firmware , and stepped in to pick up a contract worth hundreds of millions to basically make some small changes, run the compiler, and put the result on the machines.
The MoD were so embarrassed they basically let Boeing bully them into becoming a full stack outsource service provider on these things. Boeing now run full-page adverts in various news magazines (The Week, The Economist, etc.), explaining why they are so important to the UK and how much they love to "invest" in the UK around the Chinooks.
Eight machines that have opened the door to Boeing being a very central part of the MoD, British Army and RAF for the foreseeable future...
Basically they didn't start from beginning, but just continues from the point where knowledge has been accumulated over those years.
As a taxpayer I think the rocket that moves fast and breaks things is just fine for nonhuman cargo.
It could be a lot of consideration, but if some important area is overlooked, then it's no guarantee safety will improve over some threshold.
Similarly in Russian Soyuz-2 rocket the 2.1b variant adds about 10% of payload - but uses a much more stressed engine on the upper stage. That's the reason Russians don't want to use that variant for manned flights - even though there were lots of flights and rockets with engines like that certified for manned flights.
In the end, a certification doesn't actually mean the rocket won't explode, just that it hasn't so far. For manned missions, certification is necessary but arguably not sufficient.
As an aside, the author (Eric Berger) is in no way biased against SpaceX - he's one of the most overtly pro-SpaceX journalists around.
I think it's pretty safe to assume that NASA will not be going anywhere outside LEO in 2030.
If we are really lucky, it would stop with the manned space expedition charade entirely, and do something useful with those billions of dollars, for a change. Probes, robotics, ecosystem study.
This is certainly not safe to say and in fact is quite unlikely. Multiple separate programs promise to get us beyond LEO by 2030. Whether we'll be on any planetary bodies is questionable, but at the least humans will have made it to lunar DRHO by then.
(N.B. I'm a scientist who would love more dedicated robotic missions. Human spaceflight is important, too.)
We'd probably have more then zero people on the moon today. And better robots. Or, at least, more than six people in space.
Apollo couldn't tell us there was water in the permanently shadowed craters of the lunar poles because they didn't go to the poles, but the Lunar Prospector, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and LCROSS gave us good reason to think so. The orbiters we sent couldn't tell use the age of the Moon or its likely formation process because you actually need a hand-picked diverse set of rock samples for that, and lots of them. It's not an either/or debate, and shouldn't be one. We need to send both humans AND machines.
And, at the end of the day, basic science is not why we're going to space. It's about spreading the human race beyond the confines of this rock and establishing a permanent and ever lasting space-faring culture. You CAN'T do that with robots alone.
Unfortunately the opposite could also be true - loss of interest to space research, because, hey, they don't make anything perceivable...
In the awesome game "Bazz Aldrin's Race Into Space" if both (human) players try to perfect the technology, to avoid costly failures with human flights and stop flying for a while, at some point budgets get slashed and the game stops. I suspect it could be a possibility in the real world. Fortunately, by now we both depend on space enough and have enough technology to keep flying.
So apparently did manned spaceflight. Tito, Shuttleworth, Olsen, Ansari, Simonyi, Garriot, Laliberte flights demonstrate it's much more within reach now than before. Same could be said regarding private makers of rockets, spacecrafts and even space stations. Not only we see the push to increase the new industry, with new services to humanity and new taxes to governments - we're actually learning to do things in the environment (the learning itself happens there) which is quite different from where we evolved in.
And when we talk about actually living in space - including doing really complex things, like unexpected actions across the specter of what might be needed when you're actually trying to be successful for long periods of time - many robotics specialists, last time I've checked, admit that human flights are actually less costly than robotic ones. In other words, if you want to have a big enough exploration program for space, you ought to include people into that.
Fortunately flying to space becomes easier as we learn more.
I think it is the nature of most politicians to "spin" to the point of "spectacular falsehoods".
In recent times it appears to be more a case of "produce spectacular falsehoods, then attempt to spin it"
Although Bush stated at the time "Our mission continues" and "We have difficult work to do in Iraq," he also stated that it was the end to major combat operations in Iraq. Bush never uttered the phrase "Mission Accomplished"; a banner stating "Mission Accomplished" was used as a backdrop to the speech.
He stood in front of a banner put up by the White House saying "Mission Accomplished" and claimed victory. He did not clarify that the huge banner behind him was about the crew's mission and not Iraq. It is legitimate to say that Bush proclaimed it, and pedantic to argue he did not speak the words.
Do you mean that the margins are thinner than one might expect by reading it?