Author Topic: $200,000 to $300,000 per flight in fuel and oxygen versus a $60 million rocket  (Read 28030 times)

Offline Alexsander

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Musk’s money-saving strategy is to produce reusable rockets, which will return to Earth and land on a seagoing barge. SpaceX called off its second attempt at a barge landing, on Feb. 11, because of heavy seas. The company was due to try again in April. “Aircraft do tens of thousands of flights,” Musk told Bloomberg News in January. If SpaceX rockets can be reused, he said, the cost comes down to “$200,000 to $300,000 per flight in fuel and oxygen versus a $60 million rocket.”

Wonderful news!

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-04/spacex-profitable-as-musk-pulls-in-nasa-contracts-google-cash

Offline RonM

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And here's something interesting. . .

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And the Mars colony? Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s chief operating officer, says the first step, manned flights to the planet, could begin in 15 years.

Offline Kabloona

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Musk’s money-saving strategy is to produce reusable rockets, which will return to Earth and land on a seagoing barge. SpaceX called off its second attempt at a barge landing, on Feb. 11, because of heavy seas. The company was due to try again in April. “Aircraft do tens of thousands of flights,” Musk told Bloomberg News in January. If SpaceX rockets can be reused, he said, the cost comes down to “$200,000 to $300,000 per flight in fuel and oxygen versus a $60 million rocket.”

Wonderful news!

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-04/spacex-profitable-as-musk-pulls-in-nasa-contracts-google-cash

The Google and Fidelity investments are old news that has been discussed already here:

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=35364.msg1319128#msg1319128

As for the cost of a launch depending only on the cost of propellant, let's not start a new thread to discuss that fallacy. Even Elon knows the cost of manpower, refurbishment, facilities, overhead, etc, will dominate the cost of reflying recovered stages.

There are several other threads covering that subject. Let's use them.
« Last Edit: 03/05/2015 07:59 PM by Kabloona »

Offline RonM

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Musk’s money-saving strategy is to produce reusable rockets, which will return to Earth and land on a seagoing barge. SpaceX called off its second attempt at a barge landing, on Feb. 11, because of heavy seas. The company was due to try again in April. “Aircraft do tens of thousands of flights,” Musk told Bloomberg News in January. If SpaceX rockets can be reused, he said, the cost comes down to “$200,000 to $300,000 per flight in fuel and oxygen versus a $60 million rocket.”

Wonderful news!

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-04/spacex-profitable-as-musk-pulls-in-nasa-contracts-google-cash

The Google and Fidelity investments are old news that has been discussed already here:

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=35364.msg1319128#msg1319128

As for the cost of a launch depending only on the cost of propellant, let's not start a new thread to discuss that fallacy. Even Elon knows the cost of manpower, refurbishment, facilities, overhead, etc, will dominate the cost of reflying recovered stages.

There are several other threads covering that subject. Let's use them.

It's Bloomberg's fault, that article is from yesterday. Took them long enough to report it.

Offline Alexsander

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The Google and Fidelity investments are old news (...)

I'm not talking about the investments.

Quote from: Kabloona
As for the cost of a launch depending only on the cost of propellant, let's not start a new thread to discuss that fallacy. Even Elon knows the cost of manpower, refurbishment, facilities, overhead, etc, will dominate the cost of reflying recovered stages.

The quote is clear: "in fuel and oxygen" only. The question is: how much MORE would be needed? Even if the cost of a refurbished mission is $ 6,000,000 it's still 10% of the previous cost. That's a HUGE reduction.

Quote from: Kabloona
There are several other threads covering that subject. Let's use them.

I've used The Search, found no reference to these numbers or the text "per flight in fuel and oxygen versus" anywhere.

Offline Nomadd

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The man wants gas and go airliner type efficiency. They're obviously a long way from that, even if the 1st stage becomes everything they want. And it doesn't seem likely the 2nd stage will be reusable any time soon. Maybe never.
 The type of service where fuel is the main might not be the F9, but it is the ultimate goal.

Offline Alexsander

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The man wants gas and go airliner type efficiency. They're obviously a long way from that, even if the 1st stage becomes everything they want. And it doesn't seem likely the 2nd stage will be reusable any time soon. Maybe never.
 The type of service where fuel is the main might not be the F9, but it is the ultimate goal.

F9 has 10 engines, 9 of them (90%) are in the 1st stage. The only total loss is the 2nd stage, the Dragon capsule comes back (and soon will land on pad too). People say wonders of PICA-X, so the refurbish could be small.

I see SpaceX testing this:
- land the F9 core just after a launch, inspect, replace anything (if needed) and clean it;
- a few days later, land the Dragon, inspect, replace some PICA-X, etc and clean it;
- pick a brand new 2nd stage (how much in % does the 2nd stage cost?)
- put some dummy cargo in the Dragon
- assemble them all, fuel it and launch the whole thing in the same week.
- land the F9 core, the Dragon, etc...


Offline Kabloona

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The Google and Fidelity investments are old news (...)

I'm not talking about the investments.

Quote from: Kabloona
As for the cost of a launch depending only on the cost of propellant, let's not start a new thread to discuss that fallacy. Even Elon knows the cost of manpower, refurbishment, facilities, overhead, etc, will dominate the cost of reflying recovered stages.

The quote is clear: "in fuel and oxygen" only. The question is: how much MORE would be needed? Even if the cost of a refurbished mission is $ 6,000,000 it's still 10% of the previous cost. That's a HUGE reduction.

Quote from: Kabloona
There are several other threads covering that subject. Let's use them.

I've used The Search, found no reference to these numbers or the text "per flight in fuel and oxygen versus" anywhere.

There is a 14-page thread dedicated to the economics of stage reuse here:

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=35829.0
« Last Edit: 03/05/2015 09:50 PM by Kabloona »

Offline john smith 19

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http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-04/spacex-profitable-as-musk-pulls-in-nasa-contracts-google-cash
You're a long way behind the curve.  :(

That figure was for the fully reusable F9

Now only a BFR is believed to deliver fully reusability. Depending on the size of the Raptor you're looking at about 11x bigger in propellant costs.

BTW airliner costs run about 3x propellant  costs.
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

Offline Robotbeat

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Airliners also use less propellant than a rocket does.

Look, quotes like this need to be taken in context: airline-like operations is the goal, not just a simple extrapolation of current launch vehicle operations. SpaceX is decades away from that. Even MCT/BFR will initially not be capable of airline operations (same goes for just about any other tech, by the way, including Skylon), which implies tens of thousands of reuse cycles.

But even if you get just dozens or hundreds of reuses, you can STILL hugely reduce per-flight and per-kg costs. By two orders of magnitude. That, combined with other operational improvements, is enough to enable space colonization.

But fundamentally, if you assume tens of thousands of reuses combined with operations streamlining and automation, there's no reason in principle you couldn't get launch costs down to basically the propellant costs or a low multiple thereof. But you need to think up a reason for tens of thousands of launches on a large fleet (100s) of vehicles. That's actually well beyond even Musk's Mars colonization plans.
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Online meekGee

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Look, quotes like this need to be taken in context: airline-like operations is the goal, not just a simple extrapolation of current launch vehicle operations. SpaceX is decades away from that.

Just keep in mind that it was barely "decades" between Wright brother's first flight and airline-like operations....
(Think of bomber squadrons in WWII)

I betcha by the time the mega-constellation if being launched, (some 50 flights per year just for that), reuse will be routine, you'd be able to call the operation "airline like", even if the U/S is still expendable.
ABCD - Always Be Counting Down

Offline john smith 19

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Airliners also use less propellant than a rocket does.
Actually fuel wise they don't.

The fuel load for per unit mass is roughly that needed to fly from the round trip from London to Sydney (Mentioned in "Frontiers of Space" published around 1969).  :(
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Look, quotes like this need to be taken in context: airline-like operations is the goal, not just a simple extrapolation of current launch vehicle operations. SpaceX is decades away from that. Even MCT/BFR will initially not be capable of airline operations (same goes for just about any other tech, by the way, including Skylon), which implies tens of thousands of reuse cycles.

But even if you get just dozens or hundreds of reuses, you can STILL hugely reduce per-flight and per-kg costs. By two orders of magnitude. That, combined with other operational improvements, is enough to enable space colonization.
Not really. The way to lower $/lb (historically) to LEO is to go bigger. SLS is basically that line of thinking. But it only works if we use all the payload. There may also be the context that for FH that's for 4 launches a year. The bill to the customer goes up
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But fundamentally, if you assume tens of thousands of reuses combined with operations streamlining and automation, there's no reason in principle you couldn't get launch costs down to basically the propellant costs or a low multiple thereof. But you need to think up a reason for tens of thousands of launches on a large fleet (100s) of vehicles. That's actually well beyond even Musk's Mars colonization plans.
But no one will fund that development.

The challenge is to get the cost falls without postulating a major rise in the market.

Note the estimate is that the launcher market is 3x the launches market provided the launcher is fully reusable

You're definition of "airline" or "aircraft" like operations seems very flexible. TBF Philip Bono (working for  the Douglas aircraft company) believe a VTVL rocket could do aircraft like operations as well, but it was always in the context of a single stage to orbit.

AFAIK the last 2 stage aircraft system (not a 2nd "parasite" plane dropped from a mother ship developed much later than the carrier) was in the late 1930's.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Short_Mayo_Composite

Staging is never a part of normal commercial airline operations, although it can (loosely) be described as part of military aircraft ConOps with drop tanks and RATO packs.

Intact abort, where the vehicle comes down if there is an engine failure at virtually anytime after take off without needing major changes in configuration to do so, is always an aircraft ConOps factor, to the point it's not explicitly articulated.  Note that I believe this is possible with a TSTO design but it's not simple and I don't think anyone's seriously thought about it. This was probably Bono's biggest reason for going SSTO.

Removing major systems (like engines) is also not a part of normal flight operations, although on airliners replenishment (not just fuel) is part of the process, so things like replaceable TPS panels are quite reasonable (and looked at as backup for the Shuttle. Turned out if you abandoned trying to fill a honeycomb and went with a more "strip" design the costs fell a lot ). NASA cracked the problem of bolting materials with differential expansion coefficients of 3:1 (like TPS and Al alloys) in the mid 80's but it came too late for Shuttle. We also now have ceramic nuts, bolts and washers that just didn't exist back then.

The quote is clear: "in fuel and oxygen" only. The question is: how much MORE would be needed? Even if the cost of a refurbished mission is $ 6,000,000 it's still 10% of the previous cost. That's a HUGE reduction.
It's been discussed before but when you expend an upper stage costing more than that it will never happen. SpaceX have stated the first stage is 70% of the hardware cost and we know their launch price.

$6m is now a fantasy based on a fully reusable F9. Somewhere between 201 an 2014 SpaceX discovered that it cannot be made to work.  :(  :(

Just keep in mind that it was barely "decades" between Wright brother's first flight and airline-like operations....
(Think of bomber squadrons in WWII)
1956 The USSR launches the first liquid fueled 3STO to orbit.
2015 It's now possible to send a payload to orbit with a 2 stage to orbit design.  :(

It's not exactly breakneck development is it?
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I betcha by the time the mega-constellation if being launched, (some 50 flights per year just for that), reuse will be routine, you'd be able to call the operation "airline like", even if the U/S is still expendable.
No, you won't.  :(

Airlines run on something like 3x fuel costs and have posted miniscule profit margins of 1%.
But they don't throw away 30 of their asset (the aircraft) on every flight.

Assuming a more reasonable 20% profit margin (more like a hardware mfg and that absorbs all the assorted labor costs ) and the upper stage is 30% of hardware cost you get (roughly) a
56x propellant costs for an F9.

But let's see what happens if SpaceX run with a 1% gross profit margin.

Then their upper stage is 61x their propellant cost.
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

Offline Mader Levap

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$6m is now a fantasy based on a fully reusable F9. Somewhere between 201 an 2014 SpaceX discovered that it cannot be made to work.  :(  :(
To be polite... incorrect.

They said making F9 second stage reusable is not worth the hassle, not that it cannot be done. You, of course, in response went full "sky is falling" mode. Sigh.
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Offline IRobot

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Just keep in mind that it was barely "decades" between Wright brother's first flight and airline-like operations....
We have had decades between Gagarin and today and I see no substantial improvement towards an airline-like operation.

Online macpacheco

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The man wants gas and go airliner type efficiency. They're obviously a long way from that, even if the 1st stage becomes everything they want. And it doesn't seem likely the 2nd stage will be reusable any time soon. Maybe never.
 The type of service where fuel is the main might not be the F9, but it is the ultimate goal.
Elon wants to eventually get there. Let's not confuse his self promotion with his realistic goals. He's very good at putting dreams in our heads (I think that's actually good), the problem is when we start obsessing about those dreams (not so good).


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Airliner uses about x times more/less fuel than F9.
That makes no sense. Airliners don't put payloads on orbit. Airliners provide ground to ground transportation. Airliner costs probably include crews. Rockets have ground crews. Its so different, let's not even go there.

What matters is reducing launch costs. Reusing the first stage is a huge step forward.
Looking for companies doing great things for much more than money

Offline Alexsander

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It's been discussed before but when you expend an upper stage costing more than that it will never happen. SpaceX have stated the first stage is 70% of the hardware cost and we know their launch price.

$6m is now a fantasy based on a fully reusable F9. Somewhere between 201 an 2014 SpaceX discovered that it cannot be made to work.  :(  :(

We know the 1st stage is 70% of the hardware cost, but it does NOT mean they throw away the other 30%: the Dragon capsule will also land on pad intact. Considering the complexity of the capsule versus the second stage, probably the 30% is split in something like 20% capsule + 10% second stage (interstage + 1 engine + tanks + trunk). That's 90% of reusabilty; considering a current cost of $60M (wild guess) the US$ 7M cost stated by SpaceX (read it in the other thread) may include $300K fuel + ~$6M 2nd stage + $700K labor. And I think the 2nd stage costs significantly less than that.

Offline AdrianW

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We know the 1st stage is 70% of the hardware cost, but it does NOT mean they throw away the other 30%: the Dragon capsule will also land on pad intact. Considering the complexity of the capsule versus the second stage, probably the 30% is split in something like 20% capsule + 10% second stage (interstage + 1 engine + tanks + trunk). That's 90% of reusabilty; considering a current cost of $60M (wild guess) the US$ 7M cost stated by SpaceX (read it in the other thread) may include $300K fuel + ~$6M 2nd stage + $700K labor. And I think the 2nd stage costs significantly less than that.
No. The capsule is not a part of the rocket, it's the payload. The 70%/30% split refers to the rocket.

Offline Proponent

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Just keep in mind that it was barely "decades" between Wright brother's first flight and airline-like operations....
We have had decades between Gagarin and today and I see no substantial improvement towards an airline-like operation.

And I would suggest that there is at least one major difference between the two situations:  when the Wrights first flew, there was already a large amount of traffic between most of the destinations that would later be served by air transport.  Air transport merely had to become a better way of reaching existing destinations.  In space, on the other hand, the destinations and demand for travel to them for the most part have yet to be created.

Offline Nomadd

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As usual, people are getting cost and price confused. They're two different things. That's why they made two different words for them. Nobody outside the company (more or less) knows what 2nd stages cost SpaceX to manufacture. The wild ass guess for Merlins has been around $2 million, but the way they're churning them out, it could be less. And, as long as Merlin Vacs are manufactured a little differently anyhow, there could be other cost savings if they don't need to be reusable. Probably not, since reliability of the Vacs is more vital than the 1st stage engines.

Offline Alexsander

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No. The capsule is not a part of the rocket, it's the payload. The 70%/30% split refers to the rocket.

So the 2nd stage with ONE engine and way less metal in tanks and an empty shell (the fairing) costs almost HALF of the cost of the 1st stage with NINE engines and a big cylinder of the same metal? Is the Merlin engine so cheap compared to the fuel tanks?

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