Author Topic: Development of a Commercial LEO Station  (Read 37036 times)

Offline baldusi

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #40 on: 01/19/2014 12:45 PM »
What we can conclude from current situation is that nobody has assured enough demand to actually commit to the full investment. One thing that happens here, is that there's not much commercial experience on using space for research.
The only entity in the world that can jump start this is NASA. Only they can make a contract big enough and clear enough to actually close a business case. The experience, support and "hand holding" that they have is unmatched anywere in this world.
If they act as main client, then the rest of the world can take the desicion to commit. And after that, if the demand actually exists, they can continue on their own.

Offline baldusi

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #41 on: 01/19/2014 12:52 PM »
But there's a lot of reasearch and standard settings to do. See how it took NASA 45 years of crewed flight to actially codify their hunab rating requirements. Think of the huge amount of standard settings to do. The ISS might be a good start, but they have to make it more flexible and less stringent. As I said before, they have to look for 80% the capabilitiea for 20% the cost.
I don't know if the ISS standard rack is a good commercial standard, for example. Or the Canadarm 2's connections, which are ultra capable, but may be they don't actually need so much. And I'm pretty sure the electronic interfaces need a lot of work. If I'm not mistaken, until a couple of years ago, each VV had a custom message packet, just to make an example.

Offline Jim

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #42 on: 01/19/2014 01:21 PM »

People can pretend that the Atlas V is an alternative, but it really isn't unless some radical and unlikely things happen with their prices.


Quite the opposite.  People can pretend that Spacex is going to be game changing, but it really isn't since their prices will be aligning with the rest of the industry

Offline clongton

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #43 on: 01/19/2014 01:38 PM »

People can pretend that the Atlas V is an alternative, but it really isn't unless some radical and unlikely things happen with their prices.

Quite the opposite.  People can pretend that Spacex is going to be game changing, but it really isn't since their prices will be aligning with the rest of the industry.

Jim, I'd agree if SpaceX's considerations were purely financial. But they're not. Elon has stated many times that one of his driving goals is to reduce the cost of launching spacecraft from the ground by an order of magnitude. That's a really tall order and none of us can really guess with any certainty if he'll pull that off, but he is sure trying hard, and his current launch prices reflect that.


He is definitely looking for profitability because he needs it to finance his personal space program, but if he's going to remain true to his goals, and there's no reason to doubt that, he certainly won't be letting his launch prices align with the rest of the industry. To the contrary, if he keeps the financial pressure on, I expect to see the opposite. The industry will begin making efforts, for their own survival, to align with SpaceX pricing.
« Last Edit: 01/19/2014 01:38 PM by clongton »
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Offline Blackjax

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #44 on: 01/19/2014 07:38 PM »

People can pretend that the Atlas V is an alternative, but it really isn't unless some radical and unlikely things happen with their prices.


Quite the opposite.  People can pretend that Spacex is going to be game changing, but it really isn't since their prices will be aligning with the rest of the industry

Is this a reiteration of your contention that they will be unable to maintain both low costs and high quality as they scale their production and operations, and that the effort to do so will drive up the costs to parity with ULA, or were you basing your assertion on some other argument?

Regardless you may well be right, only time will tell, but since we are discussing a scenario of commercial stations on this thread, we do need to presume that there is at least one provider who can service such a station to at least explore the hypothetical situation.  There is no station to discuss at current ULA prices, it would never exist, so we might as well work off of the price range between current SpaceX prices and the lower bound they have publicly stated they are aiming for as something to frame the exploration of the subject.

Offline baldusi

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #45 on: 01/19/2014 07:58 PM »
Please don't dwelve this thread into an ULA vs SpaceX match. LV cost is important but is such a small part in the overall picture.
Definig international standards, finding more efficient con-ops, leveraging the international market, nurturing the services entrepreneur, etc. And all you can think of os ULA vs SpaceX.

Offline hop

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #46 on: 01/19/2014 08:43 PM »
You still seem to be making the assumption that customers would pay to either hurry things along or ensure that the capability is there, and I just don't see why that would be likely.
No, I'm just saying it puts and upper bound on the level of interest. NASA finishing commercial crew isn't a sure thing. OTOH, if someone stepped up and committed to buy say, 4 flights a year on crew Dragon for several years, it would become much more sure. If the expected return were high enough, it would be a sound investment.

Are there less interested parties in wait and see mode? Probably, but whether they have enough money to make it work is not clear. The next point to watch is commercial crew down select, since that would remove the risk of backing a provider that didn't also have government support.
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Companies or sovereign clients are more likely, in my opinion, to wait on the fence until capability exists and has been demonstrated, then initiate their own programs which would make use of what is available.
Honestly, I think the whole sovereign client thing is mostly wishful thinking. Blackstar explained it well in http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=33781.msg1147787#msg1147787

If someone builds a commercial station, government customers might well fly some payloads, but it seems very, very unlikely they will spend enough to support a station. Doing it on their own or bartering into a project like ISS makes more sense, even if it costs much more on paper.

For companies, it depends on how big a return they expect to get, and how confident they are it will work.
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Consequently, I think it is premature to try to draw any conclusions from the apparent lack of customers at this point.  1-2 years after it is in orbit and people can fly things to it, then if there is no groundswell of customers, we'll all have our answers about whether there is a market at the price point Bigelow is selling at.
The problem is Bigelow (or anyone developing a commercial station) almost certainly needs customers making hard commitments in advance to actually finish the station and get it in orbit. If they can't get hundreds of millions (if not more) up front, it's not going to fly. Having transport solved might give some customers enough confidence to make that commitment, but that is far from certain.

Offline joek

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #47 on: 01/19/2014 09:02 PM »
Reflecting on this a bit ...

ISS needs to continue to be a pathfinder as it's the only one we have at the moment and constructing an alternative would be a significant and risky investment.  The ISS should help demonstrate not only more efficient conops, but provide a leading indicator of demand.  For example, if NASA/CASIS receives credible evidence from potential customers that "we'll bite, but only if you can reduce cost to X", then that gives a commercial LEO station something to shoot for.  At present, that information has been thin.

However, in order to achieve that the ISS also needs a commitment for a sufficient duration to attract long term customers and associated demand.  That commitment has been lacking.  That, in turn, discourages long term use (and investment).  For example, one of the complaints stated by researchers was that they did not have confidence in the longevity of the ISS or reliable frequent transport.

To paraphrase some comments from a GAO report "getting access takes forever; it's hit-and-miss; I'm never going to convince my grad students or associates to invest X years of research in an effort that may be terminated due to factors beyond their control in X-1 years; follow-up research has an even slimmer chance, so you can kiss my grad students goodbye; why should I invest my time or encourage this to my students".

edit: While that last paragraph is academic-research centric, I expect the same applies to commercial-research; they both want reasonable predictability and sufficient time to follow up on their research; if they don't have that they will look elsewhere in order to reduce risk.  The exception would be commercial ventures which have a very directed short-term need that can be satisfied by an LEO facility, but IMHO those are likely to be the exception, not the rule.
« Last Edit: 01/19/2014 09:29 PM by joek »

Offline baldusi

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #48 on: 01/19/2014 09:29 PM »
In fact, a couple of thing that I thought:
How do you keep custom services at reasonable prices? Some mitigation would be a fixed hourly charge. But some other is defining very well the interfaces, and setting very clear pricing schedule for clients to send their own personnel. If the supplier asks too much, the clients could always send their own personnel. And may be offer their services, as a limit upper bound.
Other issue is international participation. One possible solution, besides is to handle everything throu NASA and let them barter. But what if you define enough standards that you might even have a price to berth your own module. With prices for power, ECLSS loop, fluids, comms, etc. Of course an agency could just lease a rack.
And it could be taken a bit further. You could have set prices for surplus energy, galley use, rack usage, etc, on a credit basis. So if a big nation, let's say India, puts a module, and they have free space, or extra energy, they can earn extra credit and not spend a dime.

Offline joek

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #49 on: 01/19/2014 10:29 PM »
Don't want to turn this into a Bigelow thread, but cosider for example what Bigelow is suggesting with their present numbers...

Based on their proposed Alpha Station (2x BA330), they would like to lease you 110m3 (1/3 BA330) units for $25M for 60 days; add a person and it's plus $26.25M (F9/Dragon transportation) for a total of $51.25M for 60 days or $307.5M annually for 110m3 and one person continuous occupancy.  That includes transportation and maintenance, which would presumably be performed by Bigelow crew ...
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Also, potential clients should note that as opposed to the ISS, where astronauts dedicate the lion's share of their time to supporting station operations and maintenance, astronauts aboard the Alpha Station will be able to focus exclusively on their own experiments and activities, ensuring that both nations and companies can gain full value from their investment in a human spaceflight program.

No idea what Bigelow's projected break-even is, but assuming 5 of the 6 available 110m3 units are leased (the sixth being shared space/overhead), and one person per unit continuous occupation, that would be a maximum of $1.537B/yr in revenue.  Assuming a break-even occupancy of 3 units with continuous customer presence (~60%), that would be $922M/yr.

Given a break-even of ~$1B/yr and a minimum commitment of maintaining the station for 5 years (or pick a number), does that seem feasible?  Seems optimistic, and would be a significant chunk out of NASA's budget unless there was significant additional international support.

I don't see that happening.  If I were doing the due diligence (assuming I believed Bigelow's numbers, which I think are optimistic), I'd still be very wary.  I suggest that additional investment in ISS for a few years would be more fruitful.  Let's first identify what we need to do to drive costs down, and prove it on the ISS.  Then consider jumping off the cliff.

Offline baldusi

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #50 on: 01/20/2014 05:46 PM »
I will try to estimate some numbers. But I believe that first I should state that, from the public disclosures I've seen, Bigelow's business model is, unsurprisingly, rather a "hotel in LEO for national prestige missions" model, rather than a "Space Station for research, experiments and exploration" model.
What I mean, and what I've been trying to convey in my limited English, is that what NASA needs are services. Ideally you should mostly have a per experiment cost. Probably a cost schedule based on physical volume, power and thermal conditioning requirements, crew time dedication and bandwidth requirements. That's the main issue. In addition to that, they would allow for scientists and tourists. And may be allow for nations to berth their own modules, if so desired.
But the approach is the services model. That will give you the actual payload requirement. And let's remember that this would be a project of actual launch NET 2022. With full commissioning NET 2024.
So, let's assume two crewed launches at 150M, plus three cargo at 150M, plus 50M for ground ops. And say that you'll need an additional 100M in actual supplies. That would be running cost of around 900M/yr (2015 dollar). Please note that this would be if they had to pay about the same as NASA.
If so, I guess that if it was a 5 year contract, they would need at least a 1.2B per year to recoup their investment (wild guessed at 1.2B or so).
I don't believe that even NASA fully understands how to structure this service company. In fact, the best team right now to understand this would be NanoRacks, Boeing, Energia and NASA together. I would throw people like Altius just to get develop the crazy ideas that might lower costs significantly.
For example, I love the Candarm and CBM, but they are probably too expensive (unless NASA/CSA decided to barter them). As I stated above, more than top-down numbers, this needs a bottom-up service definition.
The aim should be to offer 80% of the ISS capabilities for 30% of the cost. Nobody in their right mind would state that Commercial Crew would restore the STS capabilities. But it's more of getting the 20% of capabilities at 15% the cost (hopefully).

Offline jongoff

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #51 on: 01/20/2014 07:03 PM »
The demand for space tourists at $30-40 million for a week or two appears to be one per year. What if it was longer? What if the price were $5 million or $2 million? Mightn't it be conceivable that you'd get dozens of interested folks per year? At $15 million per flight ($7 million for the launch same as what SpaceX intends to charge for its reusable flights eventually, $7 million for the spacecraft and operations), you could charge $3 million per seat and turn a healthy profit.

Back in 2005 t/Space (HMXHMX's old company) did a study based on Futron's old space tourism survey. They used the survey responses and demographics information to look at what would happen if:

a) the price was lower
b) you didn't have to spend 6 months training
c) the provider were domestic (so you wouldn't have to go to Russia)

and a few other details.

Short version is it looked like the point where demand elasticity kicks in is probably in the $1-5M/seat price range. Basically, if you assume that your average wealthy space cadet is willing to spend some fraction of their disposable income, then as the seat price drops, at some point the total revenue (seat price * # of seats sold) starts increasing with further decreases in seat price.

Depending on assumptions it looked like that was in the $1-5M/seat range.

That said, if prices got down to that point, my guess is there's a whole number of other markets that would also suddenly make sense as well. The key is just having the financial staying power to keep prices low long enough for the market to respond.

~Jon

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #52 on: 01/20/2014 08:36 PM »
{snip}
Depending on assumptions it looked like that was in the $1-5M/seat range.

That said, if prices got down to that point, my guess is there's a whole number of other markets that would also suddenly make sense as well. The key is just having the financial staying power to keep prices low long enough for the market to respond.

~Jon

Are there any other destinations that it costs over $1 million to go to?
Arctic bases?
Bottom of the sea?
Yacht racing?

Offline sdsds

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #53 on: 01/20/2014 08:47 PM »
from the public disclosures I've seen, Bigelow's business model is, unsurprisingly, rather a "hotel in LEO for national prestige missions" model, rather than a "Space Station for research, experiments and exploration" model.

This is a key observation that really can't be repeated often enough. There won't be a "winner" in the LEO station marketplace that doesn't address this customer need effectively. That would start by understanding that the phrase "national prestige" is probably only barely sufficient to cover the wide spectrum of benefits which would accrue to a nation that had its own active astronaut corps!
-- sdsds --

Offline baldusi

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #54 on: 01/20/2014 08:55 PM »
I don't think you'd be able to reach those sorts of prices until you're launching crafts with, at least >50pax.
Let's do that number the other way around. 5M/pax, to get the same revenue as the current Cargo Dragon contract (~400M/yr), would mean about 80pax per year. If you wanted to do at 1M, that's 400pax/year.
According to the Fulton's report, at 5M/yr, they were expecting 60 flight/yr. I think that's extremely optimistic. Unless they used nominal dollars, for which case it would mean 3.5M/pax, which would seem more reasonable. If I look at the wealth curve, it would seem that if you reduce your price by 80%, you could get a 2000% increase in quantity. So, for 700k/pax, you could be talking about 1,200pax/yr. If that extrapolation can be done. Then 1M/yr (today's money) means about 1,000pax/yr.
It's extremely difficult to get to a cost of just 1M/Pax. If you had to launch 1,000pax/year, and do it for cheap, would seem that 15 to 30 missions/year is a good number. If you had to launch in 5pax config, that would mean 200 missions/yr. That would require quite a fleet. I guess that with just two stacks you could minimize cost. That would give you around 20pax per launch at 50 missions/year, or 25missions/yr/craft, or two week turnaround.
Said craft would be something like a DreamChases scaled 50% in each directions (HL42 was about 16 pax). So I assume that a 25tonne craft would do (HL42 was 20tonnes). So you need a fully reusable LV that can put 25tonnes on LEO. Something close to a reusable Falcon Heavy.
And each cost would get a revenue of just 20M. So the LV cost should be about 12M/launch, plus another 6M for the craft's refurbishment and 2M in range and overhead.
It would seem to me that we are quite far from those numbers and thus is not an immediate concern. The microgravity science and NASA's astronaut needs are real, are known, and there's a lot of experience.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #55 on: 01/20/2014 09:39 PM »
I don't think you'd be able to reach those sorts of prices until you're launching crafts with, at least >50pax.
Let's do that number the other way around. 5M/pax, to get the same revenue as the current Cargo Dragon contract (~400M/yr), would mean about 80pax per year. If you wanted to do at 1M, that's 400pax/year.
According to the Fulton's report, at 5M/yr, they were expecting 60 flight/yr. I think that's extremely optimistic. Unless they used nominal dollars, for which case it would mean 3.5M/pax, which would seem more reasonable. If I look at the wealth curve, it would seem that if you reduce your price by 80%, you could get a 2000% increase in quantity. So, for 700k/pax, you could be talking about 1,200pax/yr. If that extrapolation can be done. Then 1M/yr (today's money) means about 1,000pax/yr.
It's extremely difficult to get to a cost of just 1M/Pax. If you had to launch 1,000pax/year, and do it for cheap, would seem that 15 to 30 missions/year is a good number. If you had to launch in 5pax config, that would mean 200 missions/yr. That would require quite a fleet. I guess that with just two stacks you could minimize cost. That would give you around 20pax per launch at 50 missions/year, or 25missions/yr/craft, or two week turnaround.
Said craft would be something like a DreamChases scaled 50% in each directions (HL42 was about 16 pax). So I assume that a 25tonne craft would do (HL42 was 20tonnes). So you need a fully reusable LV that can put 25tonnes on LEO. Something close to a reusable Falcon Heavy.
And each cost would get a revenue of just 20M. So the LV cost should be about 12M/launch, plus another 6M for the craft's refurbishment and 2M in range and overhead.
It would seem to me that we are quite far from those numbers and thus is not an immediate concern. The microgravity science and NASA's astronaut needs are real, are known, and there's a lot of experience.

The range in question is "$1-5M/seat".  For Dragon with 7 passengers that's $7-35M per flight.  SpaceX has said they're targetting $5-7M per launch for comsats, so even the low end of the range is possible for F9R and Dragon if SpaceX meets their targets.  Even if they can't meet those targets, $35M per flight with the first stage and Dragon capsule reusable is certainly not implausible.

So, no, 50 passengers per flight is definitely not a requirement to reach this price range.

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #56 on: 01/20/2014 11:30 PM »
I don't think you'd be able to reach those sorts of prices until you're launching crafts with, at least >50pax.
Let's do that number the other way around. 5M/pax, to get the same revenue as the current Cargo Dragon contract (~400M/yr), would mean about 80pax per year. If you wanted to do at 1M, that's 400pax/year.
According to the Fulton's report, at 5M/yr, they were expecting 60 flight/yr. I think that's extremely optimistic. Unless they used nominal dollars, for which case it would mean 3.5M/pax, which would seem more reasonable. If I look at the wealth curve, it would seem that if you reduce your price by 80%, you could get a 2000% increase in quantity. So, for 700k/pax, you could be talking about 1,200pax/yr. If that extrapolation can be done. Then 1M/yr (today's money) means about 1,000pax/yr.
It's extremely difficult to get to a cost of just 1M/Pax. If you had to launch 1,000pax/year, and do it for cheap, would seem that 15 to 30 missions/year is a good number. If you had to launch in 5pax config, that would mean 200 missions/yr. That would require quite a fleet. I guess that with just two stacks you could minimize cost. That would give you around 20pax per launch at 50 missions/year, or 25missions/yr/craft, or two week turnaround.
Said craft would be something like a DreamChases scaled 50% in each directions (HL42 was about 16 pax). So I assume that a 25tonne craft would do (HL42 was 20tonnes). So you need a fully reusable LV that can put 25tonnes on LEO. Something close to a reusable Falcon Heavy.
And each cost would get a revenue of just 20M. So the LV cost should be about 12M/launch, plus another 6M for the craft's refurbishment and 2M in range and overhead.
It would seem to me that we are quite far from those numbers and thus is not an immediate concern. The microgravity science and NASA's astronaut needs are real, are known, and there's a lot of experience.

The range in question is "$1-5M/seat".  For Dragon with 7 passengers that's $7-35M per flight.  SpaceX has said they're targetting $5-7M per launch for comsats, so even the low end of the range is possible for F9R and Dragon if SpaceX meets their targets.  Even if they can't meet those targets, $35M per flight with the first stage and Dragon capsule reusable is certainly not implausible.

So, no, 50 passengers per flight is definitely not a requirement to reach this price range.

The $140M per Manned Dragon flight is for a new Dragon each time (same as what NASA wanted for its first tryout of Cargo Dragon).

A reusable Dragon added to a reusable 1st Stage could drop the manned Dragon per flight price to as low as $40M or ~$6M per seat. This is highly likely to occur in less than 5 years, possibly as few as 3 (2017) at the start of Space Station Alpha operations. Floors (minimum price possible ignoring the unknowns) are easy to define. What the real prices will be is not so easy to predict or estimate.

Note: The F9R (1st stage reuse only) per flight price of ~$30M is a fairly reasonable value somewhat in line with SpaceX comments. The reuse capabilities of Manned Dragon and it's cost of refurbishment cause the Dragon costs for a reusable Dragon to be as low as $10M per flight to $40M per flight or a combined price of $40M to $70M.

So predicting what the actual transport prices will be in 2018 is difficult to fully define, so the $25M per seat conservative value is used until something better is available (explicitly stated by SpaceX).

Offline baldusi

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #57 on: 01/21/2014 12:59 AM »
It has been fully shown that many here are extremely optimist regarding SpaceX pricing. As an economist, I would expect them to simply undercut their next best competitor if they actually can save that much money. But I digress, I simply don't want this to be a discussion on the cost of launching tourists.
Just to reinforce the message, this should be about how to create a service based commercial LEO station. On issue I have been pondering, is about the CBM. I've been given to understand maximum diameter of payload is a critical issue. I understand that IDSS has 800mm of clearance, but if you can take the petals out, you could have 1100mm. CBM is a square of 1500mm, so its a lot bigger. But I don't know how would you berth without the Canadarm.

Offline jongoff

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #58 on: 01/21/2014 01:24 AM »
Just to reinforce the message, this should be about how to create a service based commercial LEO station. On issue I have been pondering, is about the CBM. I've been given to understand maximum diameter of payload is a critical issue. I understand that IDSS has 800mm of clearance, but if you can take the petals out, you could have 1100mm. CBM is a square of 1500mm, so its a lot bigger. But I don't know how would you berth without the Canadarm.

Altius has looked at this problem space a bit over the past two years (it's one of the potential long-term directions we'd like to try heading in). The approach we'd like to take once all the pieces are in place would be to repurpose an ISS cargo vehicle (such as Cygnus or HTV) for man-tended telerobotic operations. You need to add a few pieces, but the visiting vehicles already come with a decent amount of power, some comms, GN&C, a pressurized section, and prox-ops sensors. You still need to add capture arms, potentially an equipment airlock, and intra-vehicle robotics systems (all three of which we're working on at Altius on some level). But if you can repurpose a used cargo vehicle, you may be able to knock the initial cost of a "free-flyer" down to a price range that you don't need wildly optimistic assumptions about customer demand.

I'm definitely glossing over a lot of details (including some that I don't have great answers for yet), but that's the direction I'm trying to slowly work toward.

~Jon

Offline Blackjax

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #59 on: 01/21/2014 02:21 AM »
I don't think you'd be able to reach those sorts of prices until you're launching crafts with, at least >50pax.
Let's do that number the other way around. 5M/pax, to get the same revenue as the current Cargo Dragon contract (~400M/yr), would mean about 80pax per year. If you wanted to do at 1M, that's 400pax/year.
According to the Fulton's report, at 5M/yr, they were expecting 60 flight/yr. I think that's extremely optimistic. Unless they used nominal dollars, for which case it would mean 3.5M/pax, which would seem more reasonable. If I look at the wealth curve, it would seem that if you reduce your price by 80%, you could get a 2000% increase in quantity. So, for 700k/pax, you could be talking about 1,200pax/yr. If that extrapolation can be done. Then 1M/yr (today's money) means about 1,000pax/yr.
It's extremely difficult to get to a cost of just 1M/Pax. If you had to launch 1,000pax/year, and do it for cheap, would seem that 15 to 30 missions/year is a good number. If you had to launch in 5pax config, that would mean 200 missions/yr. That would require quite a fleet. I guess that with just two stacks you could minimize cost. That would give you around 20pax per launch at 50 missions/year, or 25missions/yr/craft, or two week turnaround.
Said craft would be something like a DreamChases scaled 50% in each directions (HL42 was about 16 pax). So I assume that a 25tonne craft would do (HL42 was 20tonnes). So you need a fully reusable LV that can put 25tonnes on LEO. Something close to a reusable Falcon Heavy.
And each cost would get a revenue of just 20M. So the LV cost should be about 12M/launch, plus another 6M for the craft's refurbishment and 2M in range and overhead.
It would seem to me that we are quite far from those numbers and thus is not an immediate concern. The microgravity science and NASA's astronaut needs are real, are known, and there's a lot of experience.

The range in question is "$1-5M/seat".  For Dragon with 7 passengers that's $7-35M per flight.  SpaceX has said they're targetting $5-7M per launch for comsats, so even the low end of the range is possible for F9R and Dragon if SpaceX meets their targets.  Even if they can't meet those targets, $35M per flight with the first stage and Dragon capsule reusable is certainly not implausible.

So, no, 50 passengers per flight is definitely not a requirement to reach this price range.

That covers the cost of the transport, how much do you think the cost of the training, other services, and stay on orbit would add to that?  Those things factor into the total cost, and it is the total that drives the size of the market.

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