Author Topic: Why is space so expensive  (Read 18943 times)

Offline Pipcard

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Re: Why is space so expensive
« Reply #180 on: 09/18/2017 11:20 PM »
Consider the market for bulk on-orbit deliveries. Right now if you make a rocket that blows up every 10th flight you're not likely to stay in business for long because the payloads are worth a lot more than the rocket. If you're delivering water or propellant or whatever, that's no longer the case. Does that translate into cheaper launch? Maybe, maybe not.
That was the design philosophy behind Aquarius, or what I like to call a "small dumb booster." ($1000-2000/kg to LEO was expected) Basically the complete opposite of the big, smart, reusable booster that some people (notably Tom Mueller) today believe will make all other launchers obsolete.
« Last Edit: 09/18/2017 11:33 PM by Pipcard »

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: Why is space so expensive
« Reply #181 on: 09/19/2017 03:13 AM »
Consider the market for bulk on-orbit deliveries. Right now if you make a rocket that blows up every 10th flight you're not likely to stay in business for long because the payloads are worth a lot more than the rocket. If you're delivering water or propellant or whatever, that's no longer the case. Does that translate into cheaper launch? Maybe, maybe not.

I think that's a good way to look at it.

If your payloads are unique and take a long time to produce, you have less tolerance for failure. But if your payloads are commodities that can be easily and inexpensively replaced, then you will want to go with the least expensive option overall.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline john smith 19

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Re: Why is space so expensive
« Reply #182 on: 09/19/2017 07:24 AM »
Consider the market for bulk on-orbit deliveries. Right now if you make a rocket that blows up every 10th flight you're not likely to stay in business for long because the payloads are worth a lot more than the rocket. If you're delivering water or propellant or whatever, that's no longer the case. Does that translate into cheaper launch? Maybe, maybe not.
True.
Once again space launch is unlike any other transport system on the planet.  Need bulk delivery and it's not time critical? Railroad, ships and trucks are the way to go. Need a critical part delivered? Courier service.

But in space launch the cost to put 1Kg of toilet paper (on the same vehicle) to the ISS is exactly the same as the $10m scientific instrument that's taken a decade to design and build.

That sounds like an opportunity but so far it only really works for ISS delivery and NASA would have to happy with a lower failure rate. Only Bigelow (or maybe the Chinese) seems remotely interested in launching another destination that could use this.
"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 wilbobaggins

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Re: Why is space so expensive
« Reply #183 on: 09/20/2017 01:32 PM »
Quote
<snip>
That was the design philosophy behind Aquarius, or what I like to call a "small dumb booster." ($1000-2000/kg to LEO was expected) Basically the complete opposite of the big, smart, reusable booster that some people (notably Tom Mueller) today believe will make all other launchers obsolete.

I'm interested in how far this is applicable now. Back then "Smart" was wings for landing, air-breathing, aerospike, advanced structures ect In order to make a reusable (usually spaceplane) vehicle.

Modern reusability has been shown in VTOL rockets where they key is good software {please dont kill me]. That means now you could have the big dumb booster but resuable like "smart" designs of old.

[I say it is mainly sofware because legs, engine throttling, propellant margin for landing are not exactly advanced technologies. With the exception of perhaps reusable engines.]

So we get the cheapness of "dumb" booster construction and cheapness "smart" booster reuse
Win win right?

Online Ictogan

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Re: Why is space so expensive
« Reply #184 on: 09/20/2017 05:03 PM »
Quote
<snip>
That was the design philosophy behind Aquarius, or what I like to call a "small dumb booster." ($1000-2000/kg to LEO was expected) Basically the complete opposite of the big, smart, reusable booster that some people (notably Tom Mueller) today believe will make all other launchers obsolete.

I'm interested in how far this is applicable now. Back then "Smart" was wings for landing, air-breathing, aerospike, advanced structures ect In order to make a reusable (usually spaceplane) vehicle.

Modern reusability has been shown in VTOL rockets where they key is good software {please dont kill me]. That means now you could have the big dumb booster but resuable like "smart" designs of old.

[I say it is mainly sofware because legs, engine throttling, propellant margin for landing are not exactly advanced technologies. With the exception of perhaps reusable engines.]

So we get the cheapness of "dumb" booster construction and cheapness "smart" booster reuse
Win win right?
If you think that it's mainly software, you may want to look at the failure causes for all the failed F9 landings. You'll see sticky valves, failed landing legs and various other failure types, but I don't think software is one of them. While software is an important part of the landings and shouldn't be overlooked, there are plenty of other challenges.

Offline hkultala

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Re: Why is space so expensive
« Reply #185 on: 09/20/2017 06:12 PM »
Quote
<snip>
That was the design philosophy behind Aquarius, or what I like to call a "small dumb booster." ($1000-2000/kg to LEO was expected) Basically the complete opposite of the big, smart, reusable booster that some people (notably Tom Mueller) today believe will make all other launchers obsolete.

I'm interested in how far this is applicable now. Back then "Smart" was wings for landing, air-breathing, aerospike, advanced structures ect In order to make a reusable (usually spaceplane) vehicle.

Modern reusability has been shown in VTOL rockets where they key is good software {please dont kill me]. That means now you could have the big dumb booster but resuable like "smart" designs of old.

[I say it is mainly sofware because legs, engine throttling, propellant margin for landing are not exactly advanced technologies. With the exception of perhaps reusable engines.]

So we get the cheapness of "dumb" booster construction and cheapness "smart" booster reuse
Win win right?
If you think that it's mainly software, you may want to look at the failure causes for all the failed F9 landings. You'll see sticky valves, failed landing legs and various other failure types, but I don't think software is one of them. While software is an important part of the landings and shouldn't be overlooked, there are plenty of other challenges.

The main control algoritms in the software is ..
1) what they considered the hard part and
2) what could be tested with grasshopper and the water landings

so they could test ot before they had the final hardware

And the grid fins were quite a late addition and the running out of hydraulic oil was related to them.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Why is space so expensive
« Reply #186 on: 09/21/2017 12:30 PM »
Quote
<snip>
That was the design philosophy behind Aquarius, or what I like to call a "small dumb booster." ($1000-2000/kg to LEO was expected) Basically the complete opposite of the big, smart, reusable booster that some people (notably Tom Mueller) today believe will make all other launchers obsolete.

I'm interested in how far this is applicable now. Back then "Smart" was wings for landing, air-breathing, aerospike, advanced structures ect In order to make a reusable (usually spaceplane) vehicle.

Modern reusability has been shown in VTOL rockets where they key is good software {please dont kill me]. That means now you could have the big dumb booster but resuable like "smart" designs of old.

[I say it is mainly sofware because legs, engine throttling, propellant margin for landing are not exactly advanced technologies. With the exception of perhaps reusable engines.]

So we get the cheapness of "dumb" booster construction and cheapness "smart" booster reuse
Win win right?
I wouldn't say Falcon 9 fits the dumb booster concept. It's pump-fed, pressure-stabilized with fancy aluminum-lithium alloy. I would say it's a very good implementation of the typical expendable booster concept with a configuration designed for vertical landing (since v1.1, which was essentially a reboot of the design).

On another note: it's interesting to realize how $1000-2000/kg is no longer that impressive. It's basically what Falcon 9 expendable already does.
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Online AncientU

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Re: Why is space so expensive
« Reply #187 on: 09/21/2017 01:12 PM »
Quote
<snip>
That was the design philosophy behind Aquarius, or what I like to call a "small dumb booster." ($1000-2000/kg to LEO was expected) Basically the complete opposite of the big, smart, reusable booster that some people (notably Tom Mueller) today believe will make all other launchers obsolete.

I'm interested in how far this is applicable now. Back then "Smart" was wings for landing, air-breathing, aerospike, advanced structures ect In order to make a reusable (usually spaceplane) vehicle.

Modern reusability has been shown in VTOL rockets where they key is good software {please dont kill me]. That means now you could have the big dumb booster but resuable like "smart" designs of old.

[I say it is mainly sofware because legs, engine throttling, propellant margin for landing are not exactly advanced technologies. With the exception of perhaps reusable engines.]

So we get the cheapness of "dumb" booster construction and cheapness "smart" booster reuse
Win win right?
I wouldn't say Falcon 9 fits the dumb booster concept. It's pump-fed, pressure-stabilized with fancy aluminum-lithium alloy. I would say it's a very good implementation of the typical expendable booster concept with a configuration designed for vertical landing (since v1.1, which was essentially a reboot of the design).

On another note: it's interesting to realize how $1000-2000/kg is no longer that impressive. It's basically what Falcon 9 expendable already does.

Interesting that we spent pages debating whether SpaceX has reduced prices by an order of magnitude... American expendables are in the $10,000-20,000/kg range; Shuttle was significantly higher than that at around $25,000/kg, depending on how you do the math.  Ariane 5 ($8,476/kg) and Proton ($2,826) are better, but still expendable with replacements needing to be funded -- which adds to the real price.

And now we get to add Falcon first stage reuse (and soon rapid reuse), fairing reuse, second stage reuse eventually, and... ITSy.

Maybe we'll eventually change the title of this thread to Why was space so expensive?
« Last Edit: 09/21/2017 01:14 PM by AncientU »
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Offline tdperk

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Re: Why is space so expensive
« Reply #188 on: 09/23/2017 12:51 PM »
Maybe we'll eventually change the title of this thread to Why was space so expensive?

Why was it as expensive as it was for as long as it was

Reverse pendulum balancing by analog computers has been done for quite a while.  Gyroscopes have existed for quite a while.  A large number of "very large vehicle, small payload, fully reusable" designs have been out there.

I think the full significance of the fact fuel is cheap compared to hardware had no economic incentive to be recognized as long as government was the primary launch service customer and was willing to pay through the nose--because it meant more dollars got spread around to more congressional districts. 

While there may well be economic uncertainty to commit to doing things differently, the case for "fully reusable" to be done closed quite a while ago.

Government disinclination to support it and even oppose it is why it didn't happen.

Online AncientU

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Re: Why is space so expensive
« Reply #189 on: 09/23/2017 01:14 PM »
Maybe we'll eventually change the title of this thread to Why was space so expensive?

Why was it as expensive as it was for as long as it was

Reverse pendulum balancing by analog computers has been done for quite a while.  Gyroscopes have existed for quite a while.  A large number of "very large vehicle, small payload, fully reusable" designs have been out there.

I think the full significance of the fact fuel is cheap compared to hardware had no economic incentive to be recognized as long as government was the primary launch service customer and was willing to pay through the nose--because it meant more dollars got spread around to more congressional districts. 

While there may well be economic uncertainty to commit to doing things differently, the case for "fully reusable" to be done closed quite a while ago.

Government disinclination to support it and even oppose it is why it didn't happen.

The expensive/space-is-hard/only-we-can-do-it model has been fully colonized by bureaucrats, politicians, military-industrial complex.  Keeping it expensive is the only way to continue to carry this baggage; the decisions to continue the status quo are being made by those being carried, not by the taxpayers who are the stupid beasts of burden.
« Last Edit: 09/23/2017 01:15 PM by AncientU »
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Offline QuantumG

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Re: Why is space so expensive
« Reply #190 on: 09/24/2017 02:44 AM »
Another perspective is that we're talking about weapons systems here. If you want to make missiles you're going to need a pretty good justification for doing so and that's a great reason to keep knowledge of how to do it in a select group. The Merlin engine was only possible because Elon found himself a bored engineer with prior access. That said, missiles are insanely cheap compared to space systems, so we're not just talking about rockets here.
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 alang

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Re: Why is space so expensive
« Reply #191 on: 09/24/2017 08:28 AM »
Another perspective is that we're talking about weapons systems here. If you want to make missiles you're going to need a pretty good justification for doing so and that's a great reason to keep knowledge of how to do it in a select group.

I'm old enough to remember the very negative  reaction to Orbital Transport und Raketen AG (OTRAG) in the British media.
It's too late now to put the lid back on that kind of knowledge. Maybe the expensive focus is moving to Anti Ballistic Missile (ABM) systems and managing space debris.
« Last Edit: 09/24/2017 08:33 AM by alang »

Offline john smith 19

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Re: Why is space so expensive
« Reply #192 on: 09/24/2017 10:07 AM »
I wouldn't say Falcon 9 fits the dumb booster concept. It's pump-fed, pressure-stabilized with fancy aluminum-lithium alloy. I would say it's a very good implementation of the typical expendable booster concept with a configuration designed for vertical landing (since v1.1, which was essentially a reboot of the design).

On another note: it's interesting to realize how $1000-2000/kg is no longer that impressive. It's basically what Falcon 9 expendable already does.
In some ways F9 is the closest heir to the design-to-cost philosophy that drove Sea Dragon (FH would probably be the next closest), at least in it's design philosophy that it could not rely on the (effectively) unlimited cash available in a cost+ govt programme.

Semi pressure stabilization should radically limit tank machining to mostly FSW sheets. FSW itself radically reduces rework and the need for "doublers" at the edges to ensure weld strength is as good as parent metal (a subtle but pervasive cause of weight growth).

Likewise a gas generator cycle is the cheapest high performance cycle you can have in terms of huge available knowledge base (compared to every other known cycle in the archives), materials and mfg methods, especially if reuse and recovery is your endgame.

F9 could be viewed as a design-to-cost design informed by 5 decades of improvements not in rocket engineering (not really that much), but in manufacturing engineering, which has been huge.
"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 tdperk

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Re: Why is space so expensive
« Reply #193 on: 09/24/2017 03:34 PM »
Another perspective is that we're talking about weapons systems here. If you want to make missiles you're going to need a pretty good justification for doing so and that's a great reason to keep knowledge of how to do it in a select group. The Merlin engine was only possible because Elon found himself a bored engineer with prior access. That said, missiles are insanely cheap compared to space systems, so we're not just talking about rockets here.

Two contrary concepts seem to me to be true, confounding your statement.

1) No, we are not talking about particularly useful weapons systems here.  Cryo liquid fueled rockets launching from surface pads in the current context are virtually useless as weapons--opponents with solids can destroy you if you go to use them before you can launch.  Depending on who is whose opponent, their carrier forces can wipe you out with no ballistic missiles used at all.

2) To the extent we are talking about weapons, so what?  Hammers are useful tools and weapons, individuals have an inherent individual human right to be as able to protect themselves as individuals and in combination as they can afford with their own resources, and to make tools as they see fit to their personal and mutual advantage.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Why is space so expensive
« Reply #194 on: 09/24/2017 03:55 PM »
Liquid rocket engines don't have to use cryogens. The same basic tech works with hypergols, which ARE useful for ICBMs.

Anyway, the R7 and Atlas, the world's first ICBMs, used cryogens.
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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

Offline john smith 19

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Re: Why is space so expensive
« Reply #195 on: 09/24/2017 03:57 PM »
1) No, we are not talking about particularly useful weapons systems here.  Cryo liquid fueled rockets launching from surface pads in the current context are virtually useless as weapons--opponents with solids can destroy you if you go to use them before you can launch.  Depending on who is whose opponent, their carrier forces can wipe you out with no ballistic missiles used at all.
Logically you are correct.  For building an actual deterrent force nations want zero maintenance long term storable ballistic missiles. In this regard solid rocket technology is the bigger proliferation risk, despite its lower Isp being little above most hybrids.

But that leaves a whole bunch of "sub national groups" who the PTB are terrified will acquire such capability and simply don't accept (or don't understand) that this horse has already left the stable.  :(

All the data necessary to construct workable (if not very accurate) long range missiles has been accessible to anyone sufficiently interested for decades, provided you have access to an adequate pool of competent technicians and Engineering grads. Given the massive improvements in mfg technology since Sputnik the size of the team you need to do this has also dropped substantially.

However WMDs--> Proliferation --> "Something must be done" --> ITAR --> yadda yadda

Quote from: tdperk
2) To the extent we are talking about weapons, so what?  Hammers are useful tools and weapons, individuals have an inherent individual human right to be as able to protect themselves as individuals and in combination as they can afford with their own resources, and to make tools as they see fit to their personal and mutual advantage.
What??

I'm really looking forward to someone in the US arguing the 2nd Amendment when they are (inevitably) found in possession of a tactical nuclear weapon.

The court case should be hilarious.
"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 john smith 19

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Re: Why is space so expensive
« Reply #196 on: 09/24/2017 04:03 PM »
Of course if you didn't design something that either looked like an ICBM, or could be quickly adapted into one, maybe it would be easier to get funding.

Unfortunately nearly everything that's got to orbit looks exactly like an ICBM, or is expendable, or both and a market analysis would tell most investors that the world does not need another ELV since it has plenty already.  :(

"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 tdperk

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Re: Why is space so expensive
« Reply #197 on: 09/25/2017 01:27 AM »
1) No, we are not talking about particularly useful weapons systems here.  Cryo liquid fueled rockets launching from surface pads in the current context are virtually useless as weapons--opponents with solids can destroy you if you go to use them before you can launch.  Depending on who is whose opponent, their carrier forces can wipe you out with no ballistic missiles used at all.
Logically you are correct.  For building an actual deterrent force nations want zero maintenance long term storable ballistic missiles. In this regard solid rocket technology is the bigger proliferation risk, despite its lower Isp being little above most hybrids.

But that leaves a whole bunch of "sub national groups" who the PTB are terrified will acquire such capability and simply don't accept (or don't understand) that this horse has already left the stable.  :(

All the data necessary to construct workable (if not very accurate) long range missiles has been accessible to anyone sufficiently interested for decades, provided you have access to an adequate pool of competent technicians and Engineering grads. Given the massive improvements in mfg technology since Sputnik the size of the team you need to do this has also dropped substantially.

However WMDs--> Proliferation --> "Something must be done" --> ITAR --> yadda yadda

Quote from: tdperk
2) To the extent we are talking about weapons, so what?  Hammers are useful tools and weapons, individuals have an inherent individual human right to be as able to protect themselves as individuals and in combination as they can afford with their own resources, and to make tools as they see fit to their personal and mutual advantage.
What??

I'm really looking forward to someone in the US arguing the 2nd Amendment when they are (inevitably) found in possession of a tactical nuclear weapon.

The court case should be hilarious.

A)  Got news for you toots.  The spread of humanity throughout the solar system presupposes either the private possession of weapons of mass destruction on a scale unprecedented even by the worst Cold War Apocalypse movie:

or

B)  The development of a totalitarian complete surveillance state, a Leviathan from the worst of Jack L. Chalker's nightmare dystopias, to prevent that from being an effectual consequence.

I'll be happy with "A".

And even though the development of Mach Effect propulsion would permit the Sun to be exploded by any sufficiently motivated person, I still hope that development happens.
« Last Edit: 09/25/2017 03:34 AM by tdperk »

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Why is space so expensive
« Reply #198 on: 09/25/2017 01:49 AM »
Why is space so expensive?

Compared to what? Airplanes?

Launch vehicles cost about $1000/kg dry mass.

Jets are about $1000/kg dry mass, too. Same as launch vehicles. General aviation planes are about $500/kg.

Spacecraft about $10,000/kg dry mass up to $100,000/kg. But that's modern western spacecraft with vacuum optimized electronics, triple-junction gallium arsenide solar cells, the works. That's a good way to achieve high reliability and long life and low launch mass, but it's not the only way to build spacecraft. The Soviets built using more standard electronics and just put them in nitrogen pressurized pods. SpaceX uses near-commodity solar cells which are 2 or 3 orders of magnitude cheaper and uses more COTS electronics. Following the SpaceX or Soviet approach could give you spacecraft more in line with launch vehicle costs or maybe lower with sufficient mass production.

And the other thing is to reuse stuff. Don't throw away your rocket each time.
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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

Offline Jim

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Re: Why is space so expensive
« Reply #199 on: 09/25/2017 04:02 PM »
.

Unfortunately nearly everything that's got to orbit looks exactly like an ICBM,

Because with chemical propellants and flying through dense atmosphere, that is only way to orbit.  Just like every that flies though air looks like an airplane

(this space left open for inane responses about other flying vehicles)

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