Rockets of Today

— my forecasts —

Maybe I can forecast some winners and losers... first, the large rockets.

  • Falcon 9: winner today, winner tomorrow, since nobody will catch their low costs.
  • New Glenn: maybe a secondary winner, but won’t beat Falcon.
  • Vulcan: I originally said survivor only, but I’m starting to think winner.
  • OmegA: loser (yup, cancelled).
  • Antares: loser.
  • SLS: loser.
  • Starship: should eventually win big, but maybe not in the short term.
  • Ariane: survivor.
  • Skylon: some variant might eventually end up a real winner, but it’s a long way off.
  • Irtysh: a temporary semi-winner, maybe, then a limited governmental role.
  • Angara: might eventually do better than Irtysh, but looking like a loser so far.
  • Proton updates: loser (came true shortly after adding this section... it and Soyuz will retire with honor, like Atlas and Delta).
  • Long March 2-4: survivor, eventually retiring with honor.
  • Long March 6 and 7: semi-winner for a limited time, then settling into a governmental role.
  • Long March 5 and 9: probably governmental only, I’m guessing survivor.
  • Long March 8: winner if they get reusability to work.
  • Amur: winner if they get reusability to work.
  • H: survivor, governmental role.
  • GSLV: survivor, until replaced with RLV (which could be a winner).

Now, small rockets.

  • Pegasus and Minotaur: loser (yeah, Northrop/Orbital is fucked).
  • LauncherOne: I previously said they’d “look like a winner for a while“ but “may fail to make profit.” Now they’ve lost everything a company can lose.
  • Vector: I previously said winner... they had me fooled.
  • Alpha: at least partial winner? Has a fair chance. I previously said LauncherOne will probably have the edge over it.
  • Vega: short term winner, long term loser.
  • Electron: winner, at least for a while... long term might be iffy as they could be underpriced.
  • Astra: I previously said “winner if they can get reliable and keep costs low enough, which looks like it’ll be tough”... now let’s just say loser.
  • Terran: I’m guessing loser, but don’t write them off yet.
  • Rokot and START: losers.
  • Kuaizhou, Long March 11, Ceres, and the like: short term winners, long term losers.
  • PSLV: eventually will retire with honor when something better replaces it.
  • SSLV: short term winner, will need to be replaced eventually.
  • Bloostar and Miura: at least one of the two could be a winner, but both are looking very shaky.
  • Haas: loser, because these guys are bozos.
  • Neptune: loser.
  • Phantom Express: could be a big winner? Nope, they gave up on it. Too bad — I thought the idea had potential.
  • Shavit, Safir, Simorgh, Unha: governmental role, eventual loser.
  • Nuri: loser due to privatization (I previously said survivor).
  • VLS and MLS: loser.
  • Tronador: loser.
  • New Line: looking winner-like at this point, but it’s early yet.
  • Prime: I previously said possible winner, but... no. Loser.
  • Nova: winner if their heat shield works — the best bet among the latecomer startups.
  • all the me-too small launch companies that take another four years to reach orbit: losers.

Finally, some broad overall trends.

  • Reusability: big winner.
  • Solid fuel in general: loser for main stages, survivor in secondary roles.
  • Hypergolic fuel in general: survivor in secondary roles.
  • Small payload capacity: winner, but only for at most three companies.
  • Gigantic payload capacity: eventual winner? But not any time soon.
  • USA: winner.
  • China: winner for some time but maybe not long term.
  • Russia; loser, even before they alienated themselves from the world economy.
  • EU: survivor.
  • India: wildcard, can’t say.
  • Whoever manages to someday lift payloads without a rocket: winner.

Conclusion: Blue Origin should make a two-stage Shepard for smallsats, and Rocket Labs should add a chute to the Electron booster, and try to save it before it hits. Otherwise the smallsat business could fall into the hands of the Spaniards, aieee! (After I wrote that, I found that Bezos is indeed considering the two stage Shepard idea, and Rocket Labs announced a chute for the Electron.)

(In another how-did-I-do update, Northrop bounced back from cancelling the Omega by being awarded a big contract to build new replacement ICBMs. Who thought we needed new ICBMs??)