Author Topic: $200,000 to $300,000 per flight in fuel and oxygen versus a $60 million rocket  (Read 27921 times)

Offline tp1024

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That doesn't mean the second stage is 30%.

In fact the cost of the second stage CANNOT be that high a percentage of the total manufacturing cost. If it were, the cost of the engines would end up in the negative numbers, depending on the cost ratio for the non-engined first and second stages.

As far as I remember, the statement was never, that the second stage makes up 30% of the cost. The statement was, that the 1st stage represents 70% of the total launch cost. That is not the same. Those 70% are pure hardware. The other 30% are a mix of 2nd stage hardware plus all launch prepration, operation, associated personel cost etc.

Btw. this is still not telling us how much the 1st stage actually costs, as we have to assume that the $61mio launch cost includes a profit margin.

Offline OxCartMark

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Not sure after reading through this thread why we're all  here after starting with facts that have already been thrown around for a few years.  For me, I'd like to see this thread chew not on the cost of the rocket but rather the cost of the fuel since that's what's stated in that quote, to see if its realistic. Or just off the cuff incorrect.  Its an easier task that uses more readily available numbers.  So let me start with a very quick and dirty calculation.  Jet A fuel 12' diameter x 140' long.  Assumes LOX, Jet A, and RP-1 have identical cost.  Assumes a total tank length that's probably shorter than actual.

Volume: 118,444 gallons

Jet A historical price when this quote was put out there:  ~$3/gal 
Jet A today: $1.73   http://www.indexmundi.com/commodities/?commodity=jet-fuel&months=60

Current propellant cost: $355,330
Historical propellant cost: $204,907

So there's my rough numbers more to get the ball started rather than to answer this.  Anyone have better volume numbers, RP-1 prices, LOX prices?  This is something we can get to the bottom of nearly conclusively rather than spending pages flailing and counter flailing.

_______________________

Here are a few of Elon's many quotes on this (thanks to shitelonsays.com)

Nov. 14, 2012: The cost of reloading propellant on Falcon 9 is about $200,000

Nov. 16, 2012: but the propellant is only $200,000

Jan. 14, 2015:  Because of our purity requirements the cost per gallon is about twice that of jet fuel, but that's all. So, instead of us paying, say, $2 or 3 per gallon, we pay $5 or 6 a gallon for the fuel. Basically it's a few hundred thousand - two to three hundred thousand dollars per flight in fuel and oxygen, per mission

------------------------
So it seems that if you look at the price of $5-6/gallon and a reasonable volume you get a number beyond the $200k-$300k range.  Or is my volume estimate too great?  Or is LOX very inexpensive compared to fuel on a volume basis?

Offline Vultur

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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.

Also, the barrier to entry. Early airplanes were pretty simple and made out of cheap materials.


Offline Patchouli

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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.

Also, the barrier to entry. Early airplanes were pretty simple and made out of cheap materials.



Cheap no you just don't need as much material to build a small plane as you do an EELV class launch vehicle.
The materials used in early planes may seem primitive today but they were cutting edge back then.

If anything Spacex has stuck with fairly conservative materials choices in the construction of their vehicles.

A 757 costs about the same as a Falcon 9 if you wanted to get into making airliners the startup cost would be the same as Musk spent starting up Spacex.
« Last Edit: 03/07/2015 06:32 AM by Patchouli »

Online john smith 19

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So there's my rough numbers more to get the ball started rather than to answer this.  Anyone have better volume numbers, RP-1 prices, LOX prices?  This is something we can get to the bottom of nearly conclusively rather than spending pages flailing and counter flailing.
The DoD Logistics Agency does a price list of various stuff.

LOX is very cheap. I have 4 cents/lb for LOX.
"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.

Online john smith 19

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Cheap no you just don't need as much material to build a small plane as you do an EELV class launch vehicle.
The materials used in early planes may seem primitive today but they were cutting edge back then.

If anything Spacex has stuck with fairly conservative materials choices in the construction of their vehicles.

A 757 costs about the same as a Falcon 9 if you wanted to get into making airliners the startup cost would be the same as Musk spent starting up Spacex.
That's very unlikely. What references do you have for such a statement?
"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 cambrianera

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A new jet airliner has a price tag ranging from 100 to 400 M$; airlines get them for about half.
Investment for the development of a new airliner can be anything from 5 to >20 B$.
Startup cost shoud be more than that.
Oh to be young again. . .

Online AncientU

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Also, the barrier to entry. Early airplanes were pretty simple and made out of cheap materials.

Actually -- not trolling here -- aren't rockets pretty simple and made out of cheap materials, too?

Combining decades of experience with today's modeling, fab technology, and materials science, anyone with a spare Billion or so could make them.
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Offline Robotbeat

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Also, the barrier to entry. Early airplanes were pretty simple and made out of cheap materials.

Actually -- not trolling here -- aren't rockets pretty simple and made out of cheap materials, too?

Combining decades of experience with today's modeling, fab technology, and materials science, anyone with a spare Billion or so could make them.
Not really. "Anyone with a spare billion or so" would probably end up building a rocket like Atlas V, Antares, Delta IV, Ariane 5, or Ariane 6. To get startup costs down to SpaceX's level (when they first started) would require much more cleverness (or lower prevailing wages, like India). And to compete with Falcon 9 v1.1 would require either a long period of building up or would require several billion (just look at Ariane 6's estimated development costs).

Rockets are built out of the same sort of stuff that modern jetliners are. The barrier to entry is much higher than it was for early airplanes.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Offline Geron

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I visited SpaceX and was told that the master plan is to keep dropping prices as much as possible to try to increase customer base. The SpaceX vision is one of massively increased flight rate; at the expense of perhaps more profit.

Online AncientU

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I visited SpaceX and was told that the master plan is to keep dropping prices as much as possible to try to increase customer base. The SpaceX vision is one of massively increased flight rate; at the expense of perhaps more profit.

Massively increased flight rate depends heavily on reuse, as does continuing to drop prices... a virtuous cycle indeed.
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Online meekGee

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I visited SpaceX and was told that the master plan is to keep dropping prices as much as possible to try to increase customer base. The SpaceX vision is one of massively increased flight rate; at the expense of perhaps more profit.
Heresy! 

The funny bit is that when the established players are so dead set in their ways, you don't even have to be secretive about your plans.  Just lay it out there and watch it being ridiculed and ignored...
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Offline CJ

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I visited SpaceX and was told that the master plan is to keep dropping prices as much as possible to try to increase customer base. The SpaceX vision is one of massively increased flight rate; at the expense of perhaps more profit.

Dropping prices will increase the customer base, because demand for most things is elastic; lower prices increase demand. If a company is selling widgets (or flights), they're better off making $1 net profit per widget (or launch) with ten customers than making $5 per widget with one.  However, in other industries, there's another aspect to lowering your prices; it makes the potential margin low, thus keeping the "entry bar" for competitors high, thus keeping for yourself a larger market share. A high flight rate with low margins could actually garner them more, not less, profit.

It would not surprise me at all to see the "spaceX master plan" you mention being implemented in other industries (where it's fairly common when roughly similar market factors apply), but I'm astounded (and pleased) to see it in the launch biz.   

Offline CuddlyRocket

I visited SpaceX and was told that the master plan is to keep dropping prices as much as possible to try to increase customer base. The SpaceX vision is one of massively increased flight rate; at the expense of perhaps more profit.

Dropping prices will increase the customer base, because demand for most things is elastic; lower prices increase demand.

What's disputed is how elastic launch demand is to lower prices. Some argue it's not very elastic at all - because payloads are much more costly than launchers amongst other reasons.

Offline QuantumG

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Not really. "Anyone with a spare billion or so" would probably end up building a rocket like Atlas V, Antares, Delta IV, Ariane 5, or Ariane 6.

.. or whatever Kistler made.

Quote from: Robotbeat
To get startup costs down to SpaceX's level (when they first started) would require much more cleverness (or lower prevailing wages, like India).

I know it's rare for me and Robotbeat to agree on something, but it's important to remember that the success of SpaceX is an anomaly in an otherwise barren landscape.
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Offline dorkmo

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what happens if spacex puts everyone else out of business?

it seems to me it's headed that way considering no one has announced a reusability program yet. i think youd want to be in a hurry to start. i image it would be difficult to ride out the years between the commencement of spacex's reusable pricing and the start of your own.

does it seem like everyone is choosing not to compete? throwing in the towel? when will we know for sure who has given up?

Offline nadreck

what happens if spacex puts everyone else out of business?

it seems to me it's headed that way considering no one has announced a reusability program yet. i think youd want to be in a hurry to start. i image it would be difficult to ride out the years between the commencement of spacex's reusable pricing and the start of your own.

does it seem like everyone is choosing not to compete? throwing in the towel? when will we know for sure who has given up?

SpaceX won't put government sponsored programs out of business.
It is all well and good to quote those things that made it past your confirmation bias that other people wrote, but this is a discussion board damnit! Let us know what you think! And why!

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what happens if spacex puts everyone else out of business?
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Offline Mader Levap

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what happens if spacex puts everyone else out of business?
Nothing will happen, because SpaceX will not "put everyone else out of business".
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Offline Robotbeat

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what happens if spacex puts everyone else out of business?

it seems to me it's headed that way considering no one has announced a reusability program yet. i think youd want to be in a hurry to start. i image it would be difficult to ride out the years between the commencement of spacex's reusable pricing and the start of your own.

does it seem like everyone is choosing not to compete? throwing in the towel? when will we know for sure who has given up?
Then everyone will make more money launching spacecraft for cheap.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

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