Blue Origin engine testing update


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The competition heats up: Jeff Bezos has released an update on Blue Origin’s test program of its BE-4 rocket engine, being built as a possible replacement for the Russian engines in the Atlas 5.

Bezos’s final comment kind of explains why Boeing has favored them over Aerojet Rocketdyne for this engine:

One of the many benefits of a privately funded engine development is that we can make and implement decisions quickly. Building these two new test cells is a $10 million commitment, and we as a team made the decision to move forward in 10 minutes. Less than three weeks later we were pouring the needed three-foot thick foundations. Private funding and rapid decision making are two of the reasons why the BE-4 is the fastest path to eliminate U.S. dependence on the Russian-made RD-180.

I imagine however a lot of Congressmen are upset by this. If they do it too cheaply or too quickly there will be far less opportunity to spend pork in their districts!

7 comments

  • “We have to stop this ludicrous haste, and bring Blue to Standard Industry Practice for the past 50 years!” – aka get government money, and make decisions as slowly as possible.

    On a more serious note, meanwhile the US government is funding the development of Aerojet-Rocketdyne’s substitute for the RD-180 when the BE-4 will be ready two years earlier. So the pork continues to flow…

  • mike shupp

    Uhhhh…. It’s great fun for us space enthusiasts to grumble about how Congress critters ruin progress in space by ignoring the future and exploiting pork in the present. It’s so visible! Other hand, let’s suppose Congress is destroying prospects for fusion energy for the sake of pork, Congress is prohibiting the advance of lighter-than-air airships for ferrying cargo about for the sake of pork, Congress is limiting really high speed Internet traffic for the sake of pork, Congress is prohibiting advances in building construction for the sake of pork, Congress is restricting manufacturers use of robot technology for the sake of pork ….

    Should we suppose spaceflight is the unique victim of Congressional trangressions? Or should we assume that spaceflight is only one of many human activities to be victimized by government? And is it only the present day American government which inflicts such evils upon us, or all governments all the time?

  • Tom Billings

    “Or should we assume that spaceflight is only one of many human activities to be victimized by government? And is it only the present day American government which inflicts such evils upon us, or all governments all the time?”

    All and all? No. Only when the agency costs of government have time to become the dominant costs of getting something done. Hierarchies, in theory, are *not*supposed* to have agency costs, but being made up of homo sapiens sapiens, they accumulate them anyway.

    A hierarchy is supposed to have a united and singular purpose around which it controls the use of resources. In fact, as resources are expended, the human agents see things they would rather those resources, from their own time to their own budgets, that they think are good ideas. Down low in a hierarchy’s pyramid, agents have the constraints of small resources under their control and many eyes of equals around them. However, the higher you go in a hierarchy, the fewer equals there are, and the more resources are under your control.

    Thus, we find that as you go up a hierarchy agency costs escalate, until they become exponential. As time goes on, many good things come to the attention of hierarchs for resources to be expended on that are *not* the singular united purpose of the hierarchy. The fewer people to say no to those “good things”, the more upper hierarchs are tempted to send resources to them. And they do that, as time goes on.

    Hierarchies are good decision-makers on short timescales. When the hierarchs have time to find all the *other* good things to spend resources on, the agency costs start to climb. Congressional committee members are infamously long-tenured, and sit at the top of all government hierarchies.

    Agency costs exist in civil society’s networks as well, of course. The difference is that they are acknowledged as a normal part of the working environment, and named. They are called “profit”. Those profits are regulated by whether or not the costs they impose are accepted by equals in the market networks over time. This is why quickly communicating networks are good for production, in the long-term while hierarchies are good for control, in the short-term.

    This is why we want governments doing a very few things over short time frames, like wars, and why we want market networks doing things over longer time frames.

  • Edward

    Mike wrote: “It’s great fun for us space enthusiasts to grumble about how Congress critters ruin progress in space by ignoring the future and exploiting pork in the present. … Should we suppose spaceflight is the unique victim of Congressional trangressions?”

    No. But if those other industries are having problems, they need to complain about them; they understand them better. I, for one, do not have experience with Congressional interference with internet traffic, building construction, or robot technology. What has Congress done to these industries, and what needs to be done to correct the problems?

    Unless you think that a coalition of industries needs to be formed to move Congress out of the way of innovation, efficiency, and progress.

    I believe that we should speak out where we can: for ourselves, for no one else will — they don’t know our problems or the solutions, just as we don’t know theirs and can’t speak for them.

  • Wayne

    Tom Billing’s wrote in part:

    [This is why we want governments doing a very few things over short time frames, like wars, and why we want market networks doing things over longer time frames.]
    and
    [This is why quickly communicating networks are good for production, in the long-term while hierarchies are good for control, in the short-term.]
    —————————————————–
    Very good, well stated, concise post!
    You have an excellent grasp on what is often an extremely difficult idea to get across to people.

    -Highly recommend anything by Professor Richard Epstein, as it relates to our modern Governmental structures & their interaction with private-business via Regulation & the Administrative State.
    He’s done excellent (and very enlightening) work on “networked industries,” starting with Railroads, all the way to the Internet. (Classical Liberal law Professor, works with the University of Chicago & the Hoover Institution.)

  • mike shupp

    Interesting answers, which will inspire some thinking on my part.
    Thank you, gentlemen!

  • Wayne

    mike shupp:
    (anyone!)

    Highly recommend, as an introduction;

    Richard Epstein: “Is the Administrative State Consistent with the Rule of Law?”
    https://youtu.be/PPSglKMzx5o

    (among scores of video presentations he’s done, as well as his numerous books & law articles.)

    This man packs more great idea’s/history/commentary (‘truth’) into each minute of speaking, than anyone I have ever heard in my entire life.
    [aka “the smartest man alive,” on these topics, respectfully by his peers.]

    His work on “networked-industries,” in particular, that is, business’s that require mutual cooperation in & among themselves to actually work, might be of high interest to the audience of BtB.
    >Railroads, Interstate Trucking, Pipeline’s, Telephone Systems, Electrical Distribution Systems, Airlines, Natural “Monopolies”, Space, the Internet…. everything/anything along those lines.

    He covers Agency-problems/costs, Cooperation, Regulation, “the taking’s clause” (Imminent Domain), Rate-regulation, Work-regulation, the EPA, etc., etc.

    A true Classical Liberal in the best tradition of the Rule of Law, as developed throughout history & in particular, our American History.

    (He’s also a recognized expert on Roman Law & British Common Law, from whence we get the underpinning’s of our Law.)

    Catch him, as well, on the John Batchelor Show–regularly appearance’s.

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