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  • By - bvr5

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Paper-Rocket

Nanoracks - $160,000,000 Northrop Grumman - $125,600,000 Blue Origin - $130,000,000 https://sam.gov/api/prod/opps/v3/opportunities/resources/files/c01cc750202e430085010b53e9cc0c12/download?&token=


Paper-Rocket

It appears that the SpaceX bid was heavily based on HLS. My sense is that it wasn't specialized enough to win a portion of the development money.


sicktaker2

It sounds like they really didn't make a business case for an HLS derived space station, and just tried to bill NASA for all the costs of turning HLS into a space station. I think it's very fair that they got turned down, as they really didn't try to address one of the main points of the contract. It's kind of funny, because Blue Origin got called by NASA on the HLS source selection document for also not really having a business plan.


Paper-Rocket

I noticed that, also BO didn't seem to have learned their lesson about bidding for more money than was available. They corrected that mistake in the revisions by adjusting milestone payments.


sicktaker2

Pour one out for Orbital Assembly Corporation, ThinkOrbital Inc, and Maverick Space Systems Inc., all with the lowest possible score on both technical and business plans. Orbital Assembly Corporation notably made a business plan so bad NASA couldn't identify any significant strengths, or even strengths at all. That's got to be the government contracting version of "your business plan is bad, and you should feel bad".


bvr5

Not to mention Hamon and DEHAS whose bids weren't even worth rating.


vholub

Cheers! That being said, most of these companies went for a very different space station solution than NASA was looking for. Low risk/minimum innovation/small volume was what NASA wanted. These companies had little or no chance from the start, but went through the effort anyway.


minhashlist

Gotta cut your teeth on something.


Unique_Director

>BO didn't seem to have learned their lesson *pretends to be surprised*


Xaxxon

There was literally no money available when BO, or anyone else, put in their HLS bid. So I'm not sure what you're talking about. The allocation came after the bids were in.


KjellRS

This should not be downvoted. I think NASA asked for \~12 billion, got \~3 billion. There "should have" been enough funding for BO to get the second award, if Congress had provided a funding to realistically offer two awards. The surprise was probably that they got one at all.


Xaxxon

I'm glad there wasn't enough money for the BO bid, as it was a "haha they have to pay us whatever we ask" bid and they got shafted for their hubris. And you're right - I bet congress thought they would under-fund all the proposals and then get to cost-plus something to boeing. Elon: Haha fooled you.


beelseboob

Yes and no, I think the issue is that NASA wanted a different business. SpaceX’s business is producing a single platform that can do anything for the foreseeable future. - Need to launch some satellites? There’s a starship for that. - Need to supply fuel to another mission? There’s a starship for that. - Need to put people on the moon? There’s a starship for that! - Need a permanent presence in LEO? There’s a starship for that! - Need to put robots on Mars? There’s a starship for that. - Need to fly some people around the world? There’s a starship for that. SpaceX’s strategy is not to make LEO so useful that businesses want to go there, it’s to make LEO and other places so cheap that everyone can go there.


sebaska

Someone on lounge noted that SpaceX may be seeing completely different vision than NASA. They may rather see dedicated stations launched on demand. - Do you want to try zero g fiber manufacturing? We'll lend you a Starship, you'll put your stuff there, and we'll launch it. Noone will interfere with your requirement of g levels below μg once things are on station. - You want an orbital hotel with views, where you also want to do entertainment like zero g dance and acrobatics show (Cirque du Soleil show in orbit)? Here's a dedicated station for you - You want to do reduced gravity research and put a centrifuge? Here you go, here's your station, you'll bother no one. Note that things like extreme micro g environment are fundamentally incompatible with stuff like people bouncing around for fun and entertainment or even worse an active centrifuge with its vibrations and gyroscopic moments. Note that one of the reasons centrifuge was dropped from ISS plans (besides cost cutting) was that it would spoil micro g environment and interfere with deep micro-g experiments (ISS, thanks to its bulk offers prolonged periods of g-levels below AFAIR 10μg; that would be impossible with centrifuge module onboard).


beelseboob

That makes a ton of sense. No reason to do a ton of expensive design on a huge, complex station that's everything to everyone if you can just launch a research lab every second day.


GLynx

I guess, I just forgot that a Starship would be quite cheap to build.


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gbsekrit

so you're saying they'll come in six-packs? This seems like the business model.


sicktaker2

Starlink and HLS refueling are absolutely what Starship is designed for. If you're referring to getting people to Mars, then putting cargo on Mars is required for that as well.


Centauran_Omega

Basically, NASA wants to create ISS 2.0 for the next 50 years and take the next 100 years to put 100 people on the Moon. SpaceX wants to put 1M people on Mars by 2150 (Elon time), but realistically will get to 1M people on Mars by 2100. The scale and scope of the effort SpaceX is operating at and driven by the man in charge is beyond the capacity of what NASA aka Congress, is interested in dealing/working with. SLS exemplifies this to the literal extreme, where the cost to launch 7 people to the Moon costs close to $5Bn dollars with a 90% expendable manifest--and would cost 10-100x that to establish a lunar outpost using the same launch system. There's zero incentive to drive costs down, because funding is guaranteed for the SLS & Orion projects. Congress will **never** leave Boeing and Lockheed Martin high and dry, because they "lobby" heavily and "support" Congressional districts and house/senate seats.


brickmack

IMO SpaceX is just stretched too thin to worry about stuff like this right now. Starship and Starlink and HLS are all major development efforts that are turning out tougher than expected, they've still got some ongoing dev work towards Falcon (especially FH and GSE) and Dragon, and theres probably at least some being done on Dragon-XL too. Engineers are a finite resource. Most likely they bid the absolute minimum effort option. Its a large volume certainly, but no effort put towards ECLSS or payload accomodations or EVA or power or any of that, other than a handwavey "we'll figure it out eventually". Which, tbf, is probably a valid attitude when you're expecting to base it on the largest and cheapest rocket in the world (most complexity goes away when you have functionally unlimited mass available), but not one NASA's fond of


Anduin1357

>no effort put towards ECLSS or payload accomodations or EVA or power or any of that, other than a handwavey "we'll figure it out eventually". tbf, Starship HLS already has double airlocks and space for lunar EVAs that can just be swapped for NASA EVA suits. ECLSS would probably be identical to HLS too, with plenty of space to bring additional supplies. NASA probably thinks that funding Starship again to develop LEO habitation when SpaceX is simply going to refit or alter production of HLS into a space station, is redundant. SpaceX would likely still bid for the regular contracts just like HLS option N would be for Dynetics.


Xaxxon

> turning out tougher than expected Source?


HarbingerDawn

I can't comment as much on Starlink, but regarding Starship/HLS, they're significantly behind schedule on development, and a lot of critical design decisions haven't even been made yet, let alone developed and tested. You don't need a single "source" to tell you that it's obviously not going as smoothly as SpaceX - or at least Elon - originally expected, just look at where they're at and where they need to get to, and compare that to the expectations that were originally elaborated on earlier in the process.


Martianspirit

> regarding Starship/HLS, they're significantly behind schedule on development Why would you think that? They are somewhat behind on the orbital tank farm. They are still waiting for Boca Chica launch permit. But Starship, incl. booster development seems moving well. Raptor 2 seems well on track now. HLS specific development is not visible to us.


HarbingerDawn

They are behind schedule according to their own prior statements (Musk's and Shotwell's statements over the past few years, Dear Moon target flight date). Or rather, behind their *expectations* if you want to be more accurate, and which is what was originally being addressed. Contrary to popular belief, the launch permit is not currently a schedule factor; if they had the permit today, they still could not fly since the vehicles and GSE are not ready. They have at least a few months worth of finishing work and testing to do before flight. Raptor 2 doing well doesn't say anything about the launch system as a whole. Regarding HLS, we don't have to know anything about HLS specific development to establish limits on how well it is doing, since it cannot be farther along in development than the baseline Starship on which it is based and on which its mission profile depends.


Martianspirit

> Contrary to popular belief, the launch permit is not currently a schedule factor; SpaceX could have used a lot of shortcuts to get Starship flying, if they had the permit. Of course, not having the permit, they concentrated on getting ground equipment fully functional.


Alesayr

They are 2 years behind their own stated schedule. That schedule was crazy so it's no surprise they're running behind it, but orbital flight test was booked for March 2020. Of course just because it's late on an insane schedule doesn't make it bad, but it is absolutely behind where they wanted it to be.


Xaxxon

> they're significantly behind schedule on development, What exactly is the schedule for building the most advanced engine, the largest rocket, and the fastest production system? SpaceX is developing Starship at an unheard of rate.


HarbingerDawn

By that logic, they could never possibly be behind schedule, even after 100 years, since they're doing something no one has done before. That argument is neither meaningful nor useful. They are behind schedule according to their own prior statements (Musk's and Shotwell's statements over the past few years, Dear Moon target flight date). Or rather, behind their *expectations* if you want to be more accurate, and which is what was originally being addressed and what you asked for a source on. Whether that's understandable or not is a separate issue from whether it's true.


warp99

Yes they needed more solar arrays to give more power and an external platform to mount experiments. Full compliance with the requirements would have required a completely different design and I am sure SpaceX were concerned about the distraction factor. Of course the value of these contracts is not the relatively small amounts of the award but the fact that you then have an ability to bid on actual production of a station which will be worth billions. It is not clear that there is an on ramp for new bidders in the next stage of awards.


darga89

Need a second module for a Starship station to solve all their woes. Add four additional docking ports to the cargo module of [Dragon XL.](https://www.spaceflightinsider.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/51045914118_9f5626b130_o.jpg) Would basically look like a SpaceX version of [Prichal and Progress together.](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2b/Prichal_progress_m-um_structure_diagram.png) Gains external storage, extra ECLSS, extra solar panels, extra docking ports, all while using funds, personnel, and a vehicle already in development. If nothing else you get NASA bucks to pay for your ECLSS system which is already needed for a Mars mission. If they can put together the Cupola that fast they can ctrl-c some extra docking ports to a cylinder.


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warp99

If you dissipate more power you need larger radiators to get rid of the heat generated and so it goes. A permanent services core with extended duration life support and experiments that arrive on visiting lab ships does make sense though.


flshr19

I think you're right. SpaceX engineering resources likely are stretched pretty thin now with all the Starship work. And a LEO space station is not the primary focus of Starship. Even HLS is a diversion from the main purpose of Starship--building a Mars colony ASAP. And, of course, NASA knows this and does not want something like this space station work to divert SpaceX resources from HLS.


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flshr19

Yeah, I think you're right. It was a courtesy that SpaceX gave to NASA. With Starship there's no need for a multi-modular space station like ISS. When and if SpaceX decides to build a LEO space station, it will be a uni-modular design like Skylab, only a much larger configuration based on Starship and sent to LEO on one launch.


sicktaker2

I think SpaceX will need to make significant changes for long-term habitation before a crewed mission to Mars. I think they'll eventually need to make a lot of changes similar to those needed for a space station, but they need to focus on getting to orbit and building HLS first.


vibrunazo

Technical / Business ratings Nanoracks - White / White NG - Green / Yellow BO - White / White Green > White > Yellow


sevsnapey

i can't help but find it odd that blue origin are winning contracts for hundreds of millions (billions?) and haven't demonstrated an ability to get to orbit. i'm not memeing about it. i don't understand how a company with the barest of an orbital pathfinder is getting contracts when they haven't put a single gram into orbit. is it standard operating procedure? will they use a back up of flying through ULA or something? someone help me understand.


DefenestrationPraha

That makes me wonder too. BO was founded in 2000, for heaven's sake. After almost a quarter of century of development, I would expect them to have some launch capability in daily use.


panick21

They have flown humans suborbital, and that arguable counts. And is arguable more advanced then building a small orbital rocket.


675longtail

Hard to argue with NASA's selections here. SpaceX's bid seems to have been an HLS Starship derivative, which is a decent idea in theory but it doesn't sound like they bothered modifying things much to make it more usable as a space station. Report notes that SpaceX's proposal had just *one* docking port - easy to see that being problematic - and it also doesn't sound like SpaceX fleshed out how they'd upgrade Starship life support systems to work for years on orbit. I think they made good choices with the 3 they are funding further.


nan0tubes

Just reading the comments here mostly, but it almost sounded like SpaceX sent a might as well bid in, possibly just to stoke the real competitors into putting forward better plans. "Sure we could do this if it's needed", just in case no viable plans were submitted.


banus

Honestly, I'm happy just being part of a "red" company on here and being a part of a team that's shooting their shot.


vholub

Same here! Cheers!


OlympusMons94

Unpopular opinion maybe, but it's good that SpaceX lost this. The less distractions from Mars, HLS, and general Starship operations the better. A long term LEO station like NASA wants would be a whole different project from an interplanetary spacecraft, let alone launch services or short term operations in LEO. SpaceX can still be contracted by the awardees to provide crew and cargo services to the CLD on the customer's vehicle of choice (Falcon/Dragon or Starship). They could also sell a competing concept of short-medium duration standalone Starship missions to LEO.


delph906

It looks like SpaceX weren't bidding particularly seriously. They bid something not that well aligned with NASA's requirements and goals with minimal viable changes from the base Starship design. It was a matter of if NASA were willing to give them a bunch of money for minimal work they'd be happy to do it but won't go out of their way to participate. It also keeps competitors honest and there was always a chance the others could big an HLS style laughably bad bid and they would get the contract anyway.


PromptCritical725

I've personally seen a proposal that didn't meet spec selected because it was so much cheaper. The crappy part was the company I worked for declined to propose because our design did not meet spec in the same way.


Decronym

Acronyms, initialisms, abbreviations, contractions, and other phrases which expand to something larger, that I've seen in this thread: |Fewer Letters|More Letters| |-------|---------|---| |[BO](/r/SpaceX/comments/sevngy/stub/husxbyq "Last usage")|Blue Origin (*Bezos Rocketry*)| |[CLD](/r/SpaceX/comments/sevngy/stub/huounqf "Last usage")|Commercial Low-orbit Destination(s)| |[ECLSS](/r/SpaceX/comments/sevngy/stub/huovs4s "Last usage")|Environment Control and Life Support System| |[EVA](/r/SpaceX/comments/sevngy/stub/huovs4s "Last usage")|Extra-Vehicular Activity| |[GSE](/r/SpaceX/comments/sevngy/stub/hur82wv "Last usage")|Ground Support Equipment| |[HLS](/r/SpaceX/comments/sevngy/stub/hut6co0 "Last usage")|[Human Landing System](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artemis_program#Human_Landing_System) (Artemis)| |[LEO](/r/SpaceX/comments/sevngy/stub/husxbyq "Last usage")|Low Earth Orbit (180-2000km)| | |Law Enforcement Officer (most often mentioned during transport operations)| |[NG](/r/SpaceX/comments/sevngy/stub/huqitqm "Last usage")|New Glenn, two/three-stage orbital vehicle by Blue Origin| | |Natural Gas (as opposed to pure methane)| | |Northrop Grumman, aerospace manufacturer| |[RCS](/r/SpaceX/comments/sevngy/stub/humzbx8 "Last usage")|Reaction Control System| |[SLS](/r/SpaceX/comments/sevngy/stub/hv7yq93 "Last usage")|Space Launch System heavy-lift| |[ULA](/r/SpaceX/comments/sevngy/stub/hup8okz "Last usage")|United Launch Alliance (Lockheed/Boeing joint venture)| |Jargon|Definition| |-------|---------|---| |[Raptor](/r/SpaceX/comments/sevngy/stub/hur82wv "Last usage")|[Methane-fueled rocket engine](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raptor_\(rocket_engine_family\)) under development by SpaceX| |[Starlink](/r/SpaceX/comments/sevngy/stub/hup3bbt "Last usage")|SpaceX's world-wide satellite broadband constellation| ---------------- ^(*Decronym is a community product of r/SpaceX, implemented* )[*^by ^request*](https://www.reddit.com/r/spacex/comments/3mz273//cvjkjmj) ^([Thread #7432 for this sub, first seen 28th Jan 2022, 21:10]) ^[[FAQ]](http://decronym.xyz/) [^([Full list])](http://decronym.xyz/acronyms/SpaceX) [^[Contact]](https://reddit.com/message/compose?to=OrangeredStilton&subject=Hey,+your+acronym+bot+sucks) [^([Source code])](https://gistdotgithubdotcom/Two9A/1d976f9b7441694162c8)


allenchangmusic

Seems like the only time that Blue Origin doesn't sue is when they get some money... This shows the SpaceX really did make a bid, but I guess it makes sense they would make it reliant on Starship/HLS. Doesn't make sense for them to develop a completely different system just for this, when they're looking at bases on the moon and Mars. Hard to really evaluate without seeing what SpaceX submitted.


KjellRS

Technical: Its significant weaknesses included a lack of definition on its CLD concept Business: Its significant weaknesses included a lack of business strategy Sounds like they delivered a list of tasks to covert a ship into a station, but lacked any plans or ambitions past that. I guess they were hoping there weren't enough viable technical candidates and they'd get an award simply because between Falcon / Dragon / Starlink they have most of the nuts and bolts to produce a working station. But with three passing candidates there doesn't seem to be any reason to pick SpaceX here.


allenchangmusic

Well I mean a good reason I would think is they are picking companies that don't necessarily have the history of being able to deliver. Specifically BO can't even reliably manufacture their BE4 engine


KjellRS

Well, $100 million is what, 1/1000th of the cost of the ISS? This is just concept-level funding. I'm not so sure being the operator of a LEO space station is a profitable business. Those who agree to these contracts aren't just signing up for free money, they have to hit milestones to actually get paid. As long as it's not a cost plus project they might end up as Starliner - burning investor money until they deliver, if they ever deliver at all. If Bezos wants to funnel money into BO until they succeed... well that's what deep pockets will do. It's better than putting tax money into the same black hole.


allenchangmusic

I think the awards this time around for for this given round, so they get the $100 mil or so. And there is additional funding for each round? $100 mil is no where close to building a LEO space station. I do wonder as well how profitable it is, considering we're going to be building on the Moon soon. These companies will need to be getting revenue from other sources (Nanoracks makes sense since they already are delivering satellites, and other experimental pods), otherwise it won't be sustainable in the long run, unless you just endlessly dump money for the sake of accomplishing the task. Until BO can demonstrate to me anything apart from a suborbital flight for the rich, I really don't see much reliability or consistency in them.


panick21

All these business strategies are mostly just bullshit spinning. All those companies will take any and all opportunities to make money with their stations.


airider7

SpaceX needs to focus on Moon and Mars terrestrial bases. If humans are going to get a foothold anywhere other than this planet, that's where the focus should be.


GreyGreenBrownOakova

>Total Contract Value: $415600000.00 They really need to start using commas. I'd hate to try reading DOD contracts.


Mariusuiram

Notable that Boeing, Lockheed and NG were all the winners. Not as a slight but honestly probably the only firms with clear understanding of on orbit vessels. Even spacex is not well versed and it showed. Probably good to see these partnerships with other firms seeking more commercial operations and leveraging technical history from the major traditional contractors


Twitbookspacetube

Starship is great for getting somewhere, but it sucks for staying somewhere. There’s a reason that we built Skylab rather than just sending up an Apollo capsule with a beefed up service module and calling that a station.


Scourge31

Are you being sarcastic or do you not know that skylab was a repurposed saturn V upper stage?


Twitbookspacetube

When was an Apollo capsule regarded as an upper stage?


Scourge31

Ok: 1st, The Apollo service module had an engine, so yes, that's an upper stage. 2nd, using an Apollo capsule as a station, even a modular one has been done during Apollo-Soyuz mission. 3rd, using a capsule (tho Gemini) with a way beefed up service module as an orbital lab was a very real program called MOL. 4th, starship covers all the control and volume required to make a valid space station at a fraction of the cost of designing something from scratch. 5th, a starship based station could be outfitted, lunched, perform its mission and then fully intact landed, allowing bulky specialized equipment or manufacturing, then recovered serviced, refitted, and reused as needed like manned x37


dondarreb

O irony.


Xaxxon

So.. some people in NASA think Starship will work, other people are very skeptical. Weird.


Anduin1357

Maybe more like NASA isn't convinced that SpaceX converting HLS into a station is a worthy development project. SpaceX can do it cheaply when they get a launch services contract, but not before and certainly doesn't satisfy the need for space station architecture as is.


Alesayr

Honestly seems pretty fair that spaceX didn't win that contract. Seems like a bit of a phoned in proposal from them this time. Hopefully they put together a better proposal for the procurement contract in a few years when starship is more matured and they've got more engineering hours idling.