Vertical Integration and the Space Stack

Despite advances in recent years, the space industry still has it’s major challenges. Namely, launch, remains the biggest challenge. There’s the cost of launch including the payload, the risk that your payload blows up, and the timing of launch; many have to wait long durations to get their payload into a launch queue. Another challenge has to do w/ the human biological hazards of space. David thinks this may be one of the hardest problems to solve. And finally, there’s the ideological challenge of the “Space Stack,” so to speak. The leader in the sector, SpaceX, has found success by adopting a vertically integrated model. Similar to what he’s done w/ Tesla, Elon aims to build the components, sub-systems, systems, integration, and assembly all in-house. And it’s this approach that has driven much of their success, allowing them to re-think and re-design rockets from the ground up. But it also can be limiting. David discussed the technology ecosystem required to achieve objectives like inter-planetary travel and asteroid and moon mining. These are not easy challenges and, as with any industry, it’s unrealistic to think that one company can solve them all. I’d imagine many tech companies grapple with the choices of vertical integration, and ask the question, “Do we bring things in-house or do we leverage services and/or components that allow us to focus on our strengths?” It’s common for leadership to consider this when building a solution that addresses a specific problem. What’s more unique is a company asking their-selves this question about an entire sector. And Elon’s mission Mars is much bigger than solving the problem of launch. To illustrate the scope of this mission, we did an entire interview about w/ Tim Urban. So, in a way, David believes that Elon’s approach is limiting the advancement of Space 2.0 While Elon attempts everything in-house, David roots for technologists anywhere with both his voice and his wallet. It is reasonable to believe that, regardless of what Elon does, creators will continue creating. Building solutions to both narrow and broad problems. And regardless of how this plays out, I couldn’t be more excited to see how the Space Stack evolves and what the frontier holds.

 

 
   

   

Listener Feedback

Pete Maglio

The takeaways to end this episode are fantastic! Thanks @TheFullRatchet & @BenEinstein! pca.st/Fey4 #smartHardware #startups