A lobbyist interviewed by Politico confirms that the imminent arrival of Starship, SpaceX’s future spearhead, is stirring a mixture of admiration and horror among its poor competitors.
Since the design of the famous Starship began, the future spearhead of SpaceX is regularly presented as the next great revolution in space travel. And although Musk has a habit of exaggerating, it must be admitted that this vehicle shows incredible potential.
As is often the case in this area, this long-awaited baptism has already been postponed several times. This is all the more understandable as the technical challenges are enormous. As a reminder, Starship aims to be the most versatile spacecraft, but also the most powerful in the world. Best of all, it’s designed to be fully recyclable.
SpaceX, a titan in the midst of it
This last point in particular is already enough to make it an extraordinary device. Moreover, it is already thanks to this philosophy that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launchers have completely transformed space travel. This approach makes it possible to achieve significant savings in an area where everything is extremely expensive, and it represents a huge competitive advantage ; it is no coincidence that the company has dominated this sector outrageously for several years now.
SpaceX regularly honors contracts with NASA and private companies. The company boasts an impressive track record, with plenty of trips to the ISS and a large number of orbital launches. She also inherited very prestigious missions, especially on behalf of the Pentagon. Musk’s troops also won the bid to design the HLS, the vehicle that will return humans to the Moon during the Artemis III mission (see our article).
However, this gap is likely to become even wider with the commissioning of the starship. And as the maiden flight approaches, a wave of panic begins to sweep through the rest of the industry.
At least that’s what a Politico investigation shows. The American media interviewed an American lobbyist who works for competition and who has long been one of SpaceX’s opponents. But in recent months he has come to terms with the facts; he pulled out all the stops when addressing his clients’ plight.
The competition is grim
” They shit in bed “, he said. Depending on the context (and in a more polite version), this flowery formula can mean “ They are getting over it ” Where ” They go right into the wall “. But in both cases the interpretation is the same: there is one palpable excitement among SpaceX competitorswhether private or institutional.
This particularly concerns NASA and its historic industrial partners, such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. Together they developed the Space Launch System (SLS), a huge launch vehicle that is today the cornerstone of the Artemis program. It was this machine that carried the Orion capsule into space on November 16 (see our article).
But the future for this machine looks anything but bright. In addition to its staggering cost (several tens of billions for development and more than 2 billion per launch), it has the major disadvantage of not being reusable. Important limitations that make him a less than ideal candidate for the next big meetings. Especially for colonization efforts, which will require a great many launches.
In addition, SpaceX’s supply chain will allow it to launch its machines fairly regularly. The SLS, on the other hand, will fly much less frequently. Its second flight, planned for the Artemis II mission, likely won’t arrive until 2024.
It could therefore be more or less forgotten with the arrival of the starship. “ If the SLS can’t fly more than once every few years, it won’t be a significant competitor in the future, especially when the starship is flying. “, insists the lobbyist.
A paradigm shift with far-reaching consequences
Rand Simberg, an engineer and consultant who knows the behind-the-scenes of this industry very well, is even more serious. ” Once the reliability of the new system is demonstrated with a large number of flights, which could happen within a few months, it will immediately render all other launchers obsolete. “, he hammers.
What is now obvious is that no one will be able to offer a more efficient vehicle until the starship enters the scene. Competitors therefore have no choice but to resent what Politico describes as a ” mixture of admiration and horror “.
Last month, Musk suggested that Starship could be eligible for its first orbit during the month of December. Once this step is completed, the experiment must be repeated several times to prove the machine’s reliability, which will take a few months at least.
But at this point, the industry will see the arrival of an unparalleled juggernaut, and we are likely to witness a profound transformation of global aerospace. It’s actually not just about North America; the starship’s performance and its cost will probably be so interesting that other agencies might succumb to its sirens, much to the chagrin of the competition. One thinks in particular of ESA, which made a big mistake when developing its next Ariane 6 launcher (see our article).
Suffice to say, the fall looks set to be particularly tough for the historic giants who have been resting on their laurels for some time now. All that’s left is to prepare the popcorn!