Author Topic: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?  (Read 37285 times)

Online Pipcard

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Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« on: 05/13/2014 07:05 PM »
I keep seeing this argument for reusable vehicles: "you'll save money by not throwing the vehicle away and having to make a new one"

But I also keep seeing this argument against them: "flight rates aren't high enough to justify the development and maintenance costs of reusable spacecraft"

So my questions are:
- How frequently are these commercial vehicles (e.g. Dream Chaser, reusable Dragon/DragonRider) going to fly?
- What would they do to justify that frequency?

Because right now, Soyuz is flying about four times per year to the ISS, carrying 3 astronauts per flight (a total of 12/year). Is that enough? Space tourism (to a Bigelow hotel) might be an idea, but is there a sufficient market of millionaires/billionaires for orbital space tourism? (the number of space tourists/private space travelers that have gone into orbit is a single digit)
« Last Edit: 05/14/2014 12:45 AM by Pipcard »

Offline IRobot

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #1 on: 05/13/2014 07:19 PM »
Those are the kind of questions that you don't get a straight answer.

You need a serious business plan, to compare flight rates with cost per seat with price per seat, with expected demand for that given price. And then risk assessment, time to break even, time to recover investment, etc, etc...

That is not something anyone can easily present on an internet forum post.

Offline mvpel

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #2 on: 05/14/2014 11:16 PM »
I'm reminded of back when I was so excited to get my first US Robotics 56k modem, and wondered what I would do to justify all that bandwidth.
"Ugly programs are like ugly suspension bridges: they're much more liable to collapse than pretty ones, because the way humans (especially engineer-humans) perceive beauty is intimately related to our ability to process and understand complexity. A language that makes it hard to write elegant code makes it hard to write good code." - Eric S. Raymond

Offline Lars_J

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #3 on: 05/14/2014 11:47 PM »
Why would re-usability only apply to Commercial Crew? Why are you limiting it to this, when you should know that crew launches will be a small minority of launches? Crew launches for SpaceX would be at best 2-3 per year (at first), whereas they plan on launching F9s more than monthly by 2017.

Online Pipcard

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #4 on: 05/15/2014 01:16 AM »
Why would re-usability only apply to Commercial Crew? Why are you limiting it to this, when you should know that crew launches will be a small minority of launches? Crew launches for SpaceX would be at best 2-3 per year (at first), whereas they plan on launching F9s more than monthly by 2017.
This is the "Commercial Crew Vehicles" section, and I'm asking about whether making Dream Chaser, Dragon/DragonRider, etc. reusable is worth it.
« Last Edit: 05/15/2014 01:16 AM by Pipcard »

Offline Lars_J

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #5 on: 05/15/2014 01:33 AM »
Ah, that makes more sense.

Offline Avron

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #6 on: 05/15/2014 01:47 AM »
Redundancy and safety way out-way re-usability,  if there is no negative impact or  increasing LOC then its a no issue..

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #7 on: 05/15/2014 02:13 AM »
I keep seeing this argument for reusable vehicles: "you'll save money by not throwing the vehicle away and having to make a new one"

But I also keep seeing this argument against them: "flight rates aren't high enough to justify the development and maintenance costs of reusable spacecraft"

Depends on the cost to build a new vehicle, and the cost to refurbish a vehicle that has just returned from a flight.

For Dream Chaser it's pretty straightforward, since they said they have built it for reusability with regard to consumables.  And if the heat shield works as planned and they don't have to do any maintenance between flights, then reusability makes sense.

For the two capsules, if they land in water it's a tougher calculation, but both Dragon and CST-100 are supposed to be able to land on terra firma.  Both Boeing and SpaceX have said they plan to reuse their vehicles up to 10 times, so for now we'll have to take them at their word that they understand the issues involved.

Quote
So my questions are:
- How frequently are these commercial vehicles (e.g. Dream Chaser, reusable Dragon/DragonRider) going to fly?
- What would they do to justify that frequency?

Because right now, Soyuz is flying about four times per year to the ISS, carrying 3 astronauts per flight (a total of 12/year). Is that enough? Space tourism (to a Bigelow hotel) might be an idea, but is there a sufficient market of millionaires/billionaires for orbital space tourism? (the number of space tourists/private space travelers that have gone into orbit is a single digit)

Depending on the launch vehicle situation for both CST-100 and Dream Chaser (i.e. Atlas V availability), it may be that demand initially will be low.  But considering that they use an existing launch vehicle, their overhead to maintain the services won't be extremely high depending on how they staff.

For SpaceX, being the low cost leader has advantages, and I think they will see demand beyond just the normal ISS support.  But they too can likely weather low demand at first, especially since they can spread their labor base over both the Dragon Crew and the Dragon Cargo versions.
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 RyanC

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #8 on: 05/15/2014 11:20 PM »
IMHO, some *limited* reusability (single digit) makes sense at this point in spaceflight development. It lets you split production costs over more than one flight; while the number of flights is still small enough that the spacecraft or launcher is still 'expendable'; and thus can be iteratively improved in successive blocks.

(Look at STS; designed for 100 flights; engines on paper for like 50~; and no real substantive changes were made over the 30 years of STS. Yes; I know of the whole SSME upgrade cycle, as well as the internal orbiter upgrades;  but in the end, the same basic design flew in 2011 that flew in 1981.)

Offline yg1968

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #9 on: 05/16/2014 03:02 AM »
Both Boeing and SpaceX have said they plan to reuse their vehicles up to 10 times, so for now we'll have to take them at their word that they understand the issues involved.

Boeing said something like that. But I don't remember SpaceX saying how many flights Dragon could be reused.

Offline Elmar Moelzer

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #10 on: 05/16/2014 01:54 PM »
Both Boeing and SpaceX have said they plan to reuse their vehicles up to 10 times, so for now we'll have to take them at their word that they understand the issues involved.

Boeing said something like that. But I don't remember SpaceX saying how many flights Dragon could be reused.
I thought the same thing. I think that someone mentioned 10 reuses for the Falcon9, but I also heard 20 from SpaceX. So that is all not completely clear. I think that right now, they don't know how often the F9 can be effectively reused without a major rebuild like overhaul. The Dragon's heatshield can potentially be reused "dozens of times". Maybe he was referring to that.

Offline guckyfan

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #11 on: 05/16/2014 02:37 PM »
The latest number given for Falcon 9R was 40 reuses for the engines. No number was given for the airframe (I use airframe like with planes for everything not engines). They need to evaluate the structure after flights before they can give a number.

My guess is that like with airplanes the number of uses will be different for the airframe and engines. Number of airframe reuses will be crucial for total cost saving. It costs more than the engines.

Edit: My guess is that there will be a number of payloads requiring expendable mode that will consume both airframe and engines well before they reach their maximum life cycles.

BFR will probably change that.
« Last Edit: 05/16/2014 02:40 PM by guckyfan »

Offline Elmar Moelzer

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #12 on: 05/16/2014 07:24 PM »
The latest number given for Falcon 9R was 40 reuses for the engines. No number was given for the airframe (I use airframe like with planes for everything not engines). They need to evaluate the structure after flights before they can give a number.

My guess is that like with airplanes the number of uses will be different for the airframe and engines. Number of airframe reuses will be crucial for total cost saving. It costs more than the engines.

Edit: My guess is that there will be a number of payloads requiring expendable mode that will consume both airframe and engines well before they reach their maximum life cycles.

BFR will probably change that.
Makes sense.

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #13 on: 05/16/2014 07:42 PM »
Both Boeing and SpaceX have said they plan to reuse their vehicles up to 10 times, so for now we'll have to take them at their word that they understand the issues involved.

Boeing said something like that. But I don't remember SpaceX saying how many flights Dragon could be reused.
I thought the same thing. I think that someone mentioned 10 reuses for the Falcon9, but I also heard 20 from SpaceX. So that is all not completely clear. I think that right now, they don't know how often the F9 can be effectively reused without a major rebuild like overhaul. The Dragon's heatshield can potentially be reused "dozens of times". Maybe he was referring to that.

Can't find the source, but as I recall SpaceX initially said up to 10 flights per spacecraft.
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 RocketmanUS

Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #14 on: 05/16/2014 08:05 PM »
At some point we need to develop reusable launchers and spacecraft ( capsule, mini shuttle ).

Once they are built and show they can operate at a lower cost then the higher flight rate could be seen.

Falcon 9 is being priced in the expendable mode while being cheaper than it's competitors ( for at least some type of payloads ). Even if they don't get it reusable they will still end up with a low cost launcher.

For Dragon it is to be reusable but priced for single use at a low cost. With land-landing it should be able to be reused at a much lower cost to justify it being reused even in a low flight rate. For crew capsule there would not many made over a decade of use if just for ISS. They are are custom made one or two at a time anyway and after a decade their parts most likely will be obsolete.

Making the capsule for one flight or ten flights would not change the production cost by that much. And being land-landed should make it easier to reuse without a lot of work.

If flight rates did go up for crew reuse would be justified and it will be necessary to lower they cost.

It would be better to just make two capsules a year for ten flight than ten capsules. The skilled workers that would be needed for the extra eight capsules could be working on station modules, lunar lander, Mars lander, ect.

For just the ISS commercial crew taxi it would be worth them being reusable as the are custom made   ( not mass produced ). The per unit price would not go down enough to justify make more than three to four and reusing then for up to a total of twenty flight over a decade verses making twenty units to do the same job.
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Offline Darren_Hensley

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #15 on: 06/18/2014 02:19 AM »
Uh, Recycling at any level always works out the bugs. A chain reaction from there leads to lower costs, better prices, and eventually higher production rates. It's ecnomics 101 all over again.

The real problem is prying open that purse, and letting the initial investments out of the bag. That's not my problem, I'm not a player in this market.

There is no demand problem people. We've had space going vehicles for well over 60 years now. And we still put things in all kinds of orbits, some stuff is huge, lots of stuff is smaller. But it's all going up!

Attitude, dictates how much money is spent, there is no other control, no other issue, no other consideration!

All kinds of corperations and private billionares have the money to make this happen, they just have no interest, no motovation, no return on investment pangs. The people who have the money, are imballanced with the people who have not!

Yes reusability is well worth it. Nuff said!

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Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #16 on: 06/18/2014 02:48 AM »
Nobody knows what flight rate will be for these vehicles as tourist/ commercial market has never really been tested. Soyuz doesn't really count as it is expendable 3 seater.


Offline watermod

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #17 on: 06/18/2014 11:03 PM »
Is this topic just to put SpaceX goals into question or is the Dreamchaser included in this topic.

Also, is the target in question the payload capsule and or the launcher too?

I'm just trying to gauge the level of conceptual inertia in old space.
 

Offline RocketmanUS

Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #18 on: 06/19/2014 01:00 AM »
Nobody knows what flight rate will be for these vehicles as tourist/ commercial market has never really been tested. Soyuz doesn't really count as it is expendable 3 seater.


For tourist-
One or two flights a year given the seat price, even if it did go down to $9M a seat.

If there was a station to visit then it might go up to four a year. Six maybe if there was a lottery for seats.

For commercial use it would depend on the amount of investors willing to invest and companies that have the investment funds that believe they can make a profit with crew in LEO.

Is this topic just to put SpaceX goals into question or is the Dreamchaser included in this topic.

Also, is the target in question the payload capsule and or the launcher too?

I'm just trying to gauge the level of conceptual inertia in old space.
All reusable crew taxi's are included.
The opening question is it worth it?

Old space also had the reusable concept. It just was not developed to full reusable. Shuttle was part reusable but not economical without a much larger flight rate.

We might as well develop the reusable crew taxi now. If we what till later then it might never be developed and then we will be stuck with the high cost for crew to LEO or no crew at all.
« Last Edit: 06/19/2014 01:14 AM by RocketmanUS »
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Offline guckyfan

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #19 on: 06/19/2014 06:41 AM »
What can be wrong with reusability if the developing cost is low and the cost increase for the vehicle is almost non existent except for increased cost per unit because of lower production rate?

Offline watermod

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #20 on: 06/19/2014 07:39 PM »
As to the launcher (SpaceX or otherwise) one would think if you want a new one for each manned mission, after using them, they are just fine for freight and sat missions.  So reusable would still pay if your are in both businesses.

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #21 on: 06/19/2014 09:29 PM »
Halving flight costs may not dramatically increase satellite launch market but it will dramatically increase demand for tourist flights.

Offline RocketmanUS

Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #22 on: 06/20/2014 01:02 AM »
What can be wrong with reusability if the developing cost is low and the cost increase for the vehicle is almost non existent except for increased cost per unit because of lower production rate?
Production would not be that high to start anyway. So per unit cost would not go down, at least not enough.

Halving flight costs may not dramatically increase satellite launch market but it will dramatically increase demand for tourist flights.
Would need to go down to $1-2M per seat.
Even then there is not enough people that want to go to LEO that can afford the flight.

A lottery might get one flight per week if there are enough healthy people that would play a lottery for a space flight as the grand price.
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Offline sheltonjr

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #23 on: 06/20/2014 03:29 PM »
As to the launcher (SpaceX or otherwise) one would think if you want a new one for each manned mission, after using them, they are just fine for freight and sat missions.  So reusable would still pay if your are in both businesses.

The above assumption is not necessarily true. A used vehicle can be more reliable than a new one. Infant life failure, Bathtub curve.

If the engineering and test analysis is sound for a quantity of flights, A used vehicle has been tested through all the phases of flight. Not just the test stand.

This is what SpaceX is striving for and I believe they will achieve it. (eventually). It is a paradigm shift in thinking for the space industry.

Offline Mader Levap

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #24 on: 06/21/2014 10:05 AM »
The above assumption is not necessarily true. A used vehicle can be more reliable than a new one. Infant life failure, Bathtub curve.
For long time this will not apply. When they will actually start reusing stages, for some time they will reuse it only once (two times in total). And yes, it WILL be treated as "second launch of same stage was successful by some miracle", in other words it will be treated as less reliable.

We are decades away from any level of reusability allowing for things like bathtub curve. You can't do bathtub with two or three reuses.
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Offline KelvinZero

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #25 on: 06/21/2014 12:08 PM »
This is the "Commercial Crew Vehicles" section, and I'm asking about whether making Dream Chaser, Dragon/DragonRider, etc. reusable is worth it.
Arn't crew vehicles usually reused just because you already invested the effort of returning them safely to earth? I would guess it is generally a question of how much refurbishment is required. (not an expert opinion, I might be misunderstanding the question)

Offline Darren_Hensley

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #26 on: 06/22/2014 02:38 AM »
This is the "Commercial Crew Vehicles" section, and I'm asking about whether making Dream Chaser, Dragon/DragonRider, etc. reusable is worth it.
Arn't crew vehicles usually reused just because you already invested the effort of returning them safely to earth? I would guess it is generally a question of how much refurbishment is required. (not an expert opinion, I might be misunderstanding the question)

The Apollo program, from Mercury through Apollo spacecraft, never reused a capsule, refurb costs not withstanding, so on principle, No!

However, new capsules are being designed with reusability in mind, regardless of cost. Think about it, the cost to refurb a capsule is tiny when compared to building the capsule in the first place. A few dozen craft when reused more than the number of craft made, makes for huge cost savings. Since we've never done this, who knows where the break even point is?

I think a better design for the russians, might have saved money on the Soyuz and Progress systems since the've made so many of them. But we did not know this when the systems were concieved. Hind sight...

The only thing that might change this would be mass production, on a massive scale. 100's of craft not dozens as is currently suggested.

The USAF learned the hard way, making lots of aircraft saved tons of money at the end of the line. Congressional cuts, boost the price per item. The B-2 is a prime example. 2.2 billion per copy for 21 airframes + spares. Look it up. The STSwas reusable to a point, but it cost alot due to it's small sustainment budget, complexity, launch pace, safety, and design cuts.

Reusability is a novel concept, employment is an unknown quantity.
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Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #27 on: 06/22/2014 08:41 AM »
Although SpaceX have not flown a refurbished Dragon V1 I'd be surprised if they haven't refurbished one to find out what is involved. Of all 3 companies they are in best position to know the economics of reusing their vehicle.

Offline KelvinZero

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #28 on: 06/22/2014 09:26 AM »
This is the "Commercial Crew Vehicles" section, and I'm asking about whether making Dream Chaser, Dragon/DragonRider, etc. reusable is worth it.
Arn't crew vehicles usually reused just because you already invested the effort of returning them safely to earth? I would guess it is generally a question of how much refurbishment is required. (not an expert opinion, I might be misunderstanding the question)

The Apollo program, from Mercury through Apollo spacecraft, never reused a capsule, refurb costs not withstanding, so on principle, No!
Hmm.. I thought the Soyuz capsule was reused but it turns out it isn't. Still, the fact you have to bring it home will make the trade very different for crewed vehicles compared to say satellite launches.

Im surprised the Soyuz isnt reused. This does make what the commercial contenders are doing a new step.

Do they recover/reuse components from the Soyuz? The fluffy dice and beaded seat covers at least.

Offline Darren_Hensley

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #29 on: 06/22/2014 10:28 AM »
This is the "Commercial Crew Vehicles" section, and I'm asking about whether making Dream Chaser, Dragon/DragonRider, etc. reusable is worth it.
Arn't crew vehicles usually reused just because you already invested the effort of returning them safely to earth? I would guess it is generally a question of how much refurbishment is required. (not an expert opinion, I might be misunderstanding the question)

The Apollo program, from Mercury through Apollo spacecraft, never reused a capsule, refurb costs not withstanding, so on principle, No!
Hmm.. I thought the Soyuz capsule was reused but it turns out it isn't. Still, the fact you have to bring it home will make the trade very different for crewed vehicles compared to say satellite launches.

Im surprised the Soyuz isnt reused. This does make what the commercial contenders are doing a new step.

Do they recover/reuse components from the Soyuz? The fluffy dice and beaded seat covers at least.

Before Jim jumps in...

It really wouldn't be practical for some of the stuff, say 25%. Sure you could technically reuse some switches, push buttons and framework, even the fuzzy dice and beaded upholstry. Most of these ships, including ours, Chinas, Indias were built with expendability in mind(shuttle exempted). Remember lowest bidder and all.

No our current attitude is much better, build and reuse, get the most these machines can offer. Trouble is, with reusability comes great responsibility. We owe our flight crews the best we can give them for their $1.95 ride. So there is a fine line between reuse or new build. We don't know where to draw that line, so Elon's approach is slow and cautious. I like the idea, and the pace will quicken with confidence and time proven tech.

The Shuttle pushed our spending purse to the bursting point. Even the Russians had the foresight to give up early, noting our difficulties, and seeing the writing on the wall. We will have difficulty spending enough, because we can't define what, or how much is enough. The Russians, always rush in boldly, but then slow down once they see the difficulty that's involved. Cooler heads prevail.

Only through cold calculations like with the Soyuz, and Progress projects, can we learn how to stretch 1950's design and technology forward into the 21st century. The Soyuz is testimate that a system can fly for many years. but at the cost of substantial advancement and evolution. The technology is simply good enough right now to let this sort of thing happen again.

To truly get reusability, we need a quicker pace of demand, and advancement from lessons learned. A great streak of success, is also a great ego boost.
« Last Edit: 06/22/2014 10:32 AM by Darren_Hensley »
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Offline vulture4

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #30 on: 07/26/2014 04:49 PM »
Human spaceflight is a luxury good. Demand is extremely sensitive to cost. Without major reductions in cost, we will never see more than a handful of people in space. So if we want viable human spaceflight, radical cost reduction is essential.  About 80% of launch cost is in vehicle fabrication, even at high flight rates, so only reusability can significantly reduce cost.

Offline mvpel

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #31 on: 07/27/2014 01:44 PM »
Quote
Hmm.. I thought the Soyuz capsule was reused but it turns out it isn't.

The Soyuz looks like it barely survives reentry, let alone surviving well enough for reuse.
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Offline cheesybagel

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #32 on: 07/29/2014 12:32 AM »
Quote
Hmm.. I thought the Soyuz capsule was reused but it turns out it isn't.

The Soyuz looks like it barely survives reentry, let alone surviving well enough for reuse.


AFAIK they reuse the interior like the electronics and things like that.

Offline mijoh

Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #33 on: 08/20/2014 12:30 AM »
I think that this is a chicken and egg deal here. Re-usability would go hand in hand with doing a project like major construction in space, on the moon, or on the asteroid were supposed to be dragging back here. You'd need a lot of guys and gals going back and forth from earth. However, with the expense of launching rockets, it is not realistic to even think about that. Re-usability makes these kinds of space based projects a feasible reality. Once we do have re-usable rocket hardware (boosters, spacecraft, etc), this stuff won't popup overnight, but the time when man will be a truly space-faring species will have come closer by leaps and bounds. It will be a turning point for us, more so even for our kids.

Offline john smith 19

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #34 on: 09/01/2014 06:38 AM »
The "math" for reusability has always been quite simple.  :(


Launched mass  = Vehicle + payload

For constant launcher mass to orbit Vehicle (reusable) >> Vehicle (expendable).

and cost estimating relationships in aerospace are mostly built around mass not the complexity of the vehicle.

So when accountants look over the budget Expendable looks much better than reusable.

After all lighter --> cheaper and no refurb costs. Reusuable is also less predictable (less historic cost data to measure the size of the weight and budget growths against  :)  ) 

Cost and weight growth pretty much killed X20 in the 60's and the Hermes in the 80's.

However these sorts of simple (IRL simplistic ideas, because they fail to measure so much  :()  calculations notions go out the window with a government programme where it's what the customer wants that's important.

In a more general sense You want an expendable mass fraction (in your spacecraft) with reusability.

And none of the CC entrants can (or do AFAIK) claim that.

AFAIK only 1 vehicle can do that.
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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #35 on: 09/02/2014 12:23 AM »
If NASA wants to pay for a new crew vehicle each time, they will be funding the creation of a fleet that can be flown cheaply for commercial applications. Commercial applications need to be cheap above all, so that fits quite well.

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #36 on: 09/02/2014 12:27 AM »
If NASA wants to pay for a new crew vehicle each time, they will be funding the creation of a fleet that can be flown cheaply for commercial applications. Commercial applications need to be cheap above all, so that fits quite well.

That's the same story that was sold for Dragon v1 and now they're all sitting in a warehouse somewhere.

Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? The slowest possible.

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #37 on: 09/02/2014 01:01 AM »
If NASA wants to pay for a new crew vehicle each time, they will be funding the creation of a fleet that can be flown cheaply for commercial applications. Commercial applications need to be cheap above all, so that fits quite well.

That's the same story that was sold for Dragon v1 and now they're all sitting in a warehouse somewhere.


In 4 years time Bigelow may have a spacestation in space.  If he makes one of the connectors a CBM then there is work for one of the Dragon V1.  NASA may even try sending one to the ISS for a third time.

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #38 on: 09/02/2014 01:06 AM »
In 4 years time Bigelow may have a spacestation in space.  If he makes one of the connectors a CBM then there is work for one of the Dragon V1.  NASA may even try sending one to the ISS for a third time.

.. but most likely not. If we're lucky, CRS2 will have a reuse requirement (or a price requirement that demands reuse) but so far it looks like it won't.


Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? The slowest possible.

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #39 on: 09/02/2014 02:25 AM »
If NASA wants to pay for a new crew vehicle each time, they will be funding the creation of a fleet that can be flown cheaply for commercial applications. Commercial applications need to be cheap above all, so that fits quite well.

That's the same story that was sold for Dragon v1 and now they're all sitting in a warehouse somewhere.
Very valid point. But for crew, there's already a demonstrated market for tourism, so at very least a few seats could be sold.
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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #40 on: 09/02/2014 02:36 AM »
Very valid point. But for crew, there's already a demonstrated market for tourism, so at very least a few seats could be sold.

Do you really ever see SpaceX flying tourists?

I think they turn their nose up at it.

Foreign astronauts, sure, but Bigelow has to give 'em a destination first.
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? The slowest possible.

Offline yg1968

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #41 on: 09/04/2014 04:26 AM »
Very valid point. But for crew, there's already a demonstrated market for tourism, so at very least a few seats could be sold.

Do you really ever see SpaceX flying tourists?

I think they turn their nose up at it.

Foreign astronauts, sure, but Bigelow has to give 'em a destination first.

If their ultimate goal is to bring colonists to Mars, they have to start to start somewhere. But I agree that SpaceX prefers to be the transportation company but they have shown no intention of directly competing with Space Adventures.

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #42 on: 09/04/2014 04:45 AM »
Very valid point. But for crew, there's already a demonstrated market for tourism, so at very least a few seats could be sold.

Do you really ever see SpaceX flying tourists?...
Absolutely. They're not in such a big hurry to do it, but they would certainly take the money.
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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #43 on: 09/04/2014 04:46 AM »
If their ultimate goal is to bring colonists to Mars, they have to start to start somewhere. But I agree that SpaceX prefers to be the transportation company but they have shown no intention of directly competing with Space Adventures.

The closest I've heard to the company talking about space tourism was:

Quote from: Gwynne Shotwell
We do wanna turn the Dragon capsule into a crew rated capsule. Right now only two countries can take astronauts into space - and I think that's a shame, I think we need to see more - Russia and China. The US lost that ability when we retired the Shuttle in 2011. So hopefully we will see more organizations coming forward and taking astronauts to space - I think its a critically important function for us as humans actually.

So we've got an ascent test and abort test in early 14 and hopefully we will be flying demonstration flights in early 15 with crew. That'll be an exciting time, then everybody that wants to go to space, that can afford to go to space, should be able to go to space. - source

.. and even that was couched in terms of being important to humanity. If SpaceX was to ever fly tourists it'd have to be explained as somehow supporting their more lofty goals, and they haven't made any moves to do that.
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? The slowest possible.

Offline Oli

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #44 on: 09/04/2014 07:15 AM »
The closest I've heard to the company talking about space tourism was:

Which is curious since orbital tourism is basically the only business I see that could lead to high flight rates (50+) for  commercial launch service providers in the next decade.

I'm sceptical though. Soyuz is cheap, so Space Adventures could have built a small station for tourists a long time ago if it were profitable to do so. Bigelow isn't expecting tourists either. Even suborbital tourism hasn't happened yet.
« Last Edit: 09/04/2014 07:25 AM by Oli »

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #45 on: 09/04/2014 09:03 AM »
Which is curious since orbital tourism is basically the only business I see that could lead to high flight rates (50+) for  commercial launch service providers in the next decade.

If ya ever hear someone from SpaceX talking about the future payloads for cheap launch, let me know, 'cause I haven't.

Quote from: Oli
I'm sceptical though. Soyuz is cheap, so Space Adventures could have built a small station for tourists a long time ago if it were profitable to do so.

Remember MIR?

Quote from: Oli
Bigelow isn't expecting tourists either.

http://spaceadventures.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=news.viewnews&newsid=809

Quote from: Oli
Even suborbital tourism hasn't happened yet.

.. no-one seems to be in much of a hurry to actually fly, do they?
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? The slowest possible.

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #46 on: 09/04/2014 01:09 PM »
The principle of re-usability being worth it is axiomatically true.

As a few people have pointed out above, the necessary hardware and market instantiations have yet to be realized.

If it should come to pass that crew vehicles were to be as cheap as paper cups, then re-usability would no longer hold true.

I did not know that these things were equipped with "fuzzy dice and beaded upholstery".
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline muomega0

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #47 on: 09/04/2014 01:20 PM »
The principle of re-usability being worth it is axiomatically true.

As a few people have pointed out above, the necessary hardware and market instantiations have yet to be realized.

If it should come to pass that crew vehicles were to be as cheap as paper cups, then re-usability would no longer hold true.

I did not know that these things were equipped with "fuzzy dice and beaded upholstery".

Add a LEO ZBO depot to the architecture.

Send the crew to ISS on the first launch.

For the reuse launches, send dirt cheap Class D payload, propellant and fill the depot.
(recall that the ZBO depot is just an upper stage with stretched tanks, 10kWe of power, attitude control, and refrigerators.)

Launch the BEO exploration upper stage empty or partially filled.   Fill it up at the depot.

Launch the crew on a new vehicle, send it BEO with the "HLV Class upper stage but filled on orbit".

Repeat this process until the reliability of reuse is established.

A)  SLS:  Zero BEO mission, no depot, no re-use  3B/year with SLS.
B)  0.5 to 2 lunar missions per year, depot , reuse trials 1.5B/year with Falcon 13mT and 1.5B for tech devel.

Which to choose?

Perhaps An Exploration Roadmap that is launch vehicle independent is NASA's new charter.
« Last Edit: 09/19/2014 04:23 PM by muomega0 »

Offline Rocket Science

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #48 on: 09/04/2014 01:22 PM »
The principle of re-usability being worth it is axiomatically true.

As a few people have pointed out above, the necessary hardware and market instantiations have yet to be realized.

If it should come to pass that crew vehicles were to be as cheap as paper cups, then re-usability would no longer hold true.

I did not know that these things were equipped with "fuzzy dice and beaded upholstery".
Maybe Dream Chaser... ;D
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Offline RanulfC

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #49 on: 09/04/2014 09:24 PM »
"Space Tourism" makes for a great image and the studies tend to paint a rather nice picture but the reality? Nobody's doing it much at the currrent price and it has to get REALLY cheap before it would be a major player. Worse I suppose is not many people have actually paid attention to what the people surveyed WANT from "Space Tourism" and it isn't cheap! They mostly wanted a cheap orbital "destination" (hotel) where they could be pampered and treated like an Earth hotel which entails a HUGE supply and infrastructure layout prior to coming into being. Very few would have been willing to pay large sums to "just" go up and orbit the Earth a few times, there had to be an "experiance" attached and sadly that won't happen without a lot of prior work being done on putting up the needed infrastructure.

The reality for Commercial Crew is that the "customer" doesn't want or need it (as a requirement) and won't pay extra for it. SNC thinks they can work it in, SpaceX is doing it no matter what and Boeing "says" its going to be possible but they are not going to go out of their way to do it. Its going to remain a challenge to justify reusability for CC because neither the flight rate nor the pricing will be driving factors for it.

Note: I don't see SpaceX getting into Space Tourism as business, it just doesn't seem to "fit" the way they work. I'm pretty sure they'd "sell" flight to someone like Space Adventures if SA made the offer but I have seen nothing that makes me think they'd sell or lease a used Dragon capsule to anyone or allow them to be launched on another LV.

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Offline nadreck

Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #50 on: 09/04/2014 10:36 PM »
Yes re-usability is worth it (IMNSHO) however, you have to do it without adding cost to the first launch of the production model when you are doing it in the numbers we are looking at here. However, the numbers will increase, especially as the price drops.  We need to see the cost of the payload drop not just the cost to launch it. At current payload (manned or automaton) costs for most payloads over 100kg you could drop the launch price to zero and at most drop the total price tag 50% but more likely 30 or 40%.  So, rather than having capsules or lifting bodies that cost $100M a pop, we need ones that from scratch cost $10M. I don't believe that is as crazy an idea as all that and I get that the first ones (thank you NASA for having one or more of the early contenders built) will cost a lot more. However, you are not designing it from scratch each time you make one and in the right hands the manufacturing should be a lot more efficient. 
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!

Offline SWGlassPit

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #51 on: 09/05/2014 02:56 PM »
"Space Tourism" makes for a great image and the studies tend to paint a rather nice picture but the reality? Nobody's doing it much at the currrent price and it has to get REALLY cheap before it would be a major player. Worse I suppose is not many people have actually paid attention to what the people surveyed WANT from "Space Tourism" and it isn't cheap! They mostly wanted a cheap orbital "destination" (hotel) where they could be pampered and treated like an Earth hotel which entails a HUGE supply and infrastructure layout prior to coming into being. Very few would have been willing to pay large sums to "just" go up and orbit the Earth a few times, there had to be an "experiance" attached and sadly that won't happen without a lot of prior work being done on putting up the needed infrastructure.

It seems to me that space tourism just isn't a viable commercial venture.  The cost is so high that your customer base is tiny, and repeat customers will be rare.  With present or shortly-available technology, it just isn't a sustainable business model.  I think the only way that commercial human spaceflight will ever be viable is through resource collection and manufacturing. 

In the forseeable future, I only see two scenarios that could create a commercial space economy: 1) if there is an asteroid that could be mined for materials that are badly needed and rare enough on earth that asteroid mining is the cheapest way to get them, and 2) if a microgravity manufacturing or materials process is discovered for a product needed on earth that is so vastly superior to any earthbound equivalent that it justifies the expense.

At present, there is no money to be made in going to space for the sake of going to space.  We need an orbital gold rush to spur the infrastructure development that would make it a viable option.

...back to the original topic...

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #52 on: 09/05/2014 03:18 PM »
It seems to me that space tourism just isn't a viable commercial venture.
...snip...
I think the only way that commercial human spaceflight will ever be viable is through resource collection and manufacturing.

It is my belief that tourism is usually an outgrowth of commerce, and not the other way around.  Commerce creates the need for infrastructure, and tourism relies on that infrastructure.  Tourism may eventually provide a significant amount of revenue for a location (think Hawaii and Orlando), but it doesn't start out that way.

Quote
The cost is so high that your customer base is tiny, and repeat customers will be rare.  With present or shortly-available technology, it just isn't a sustainable business model.

Yes, the initial costs are high, but if we look at what Virgin Galactic is doing the way they are addressing cost is to create a reusable system.  Now the jury is still out as to whether they will be able to lower the costs enough to attract enough customers, but it's pretty clear that reusability is the only known way to do that.

And so it will have to be with Commercial Crew.  If we can't lower the costs enough to make going to space affordable to more companies, then we won't be able to enable the resource collection and manufacturing that could be the foundation of our permanent expansion into space.
 
Quote
At present, there is no money to be made in going to space for the sake of going to space.  We need an orbital gold rush to spur the infrastructure development that would make it a viable option.

Well said, and part of that is lowering the costs enough to allow entrepreneurs to test out whether there is money to be made in space.  And reusability is the key to making that happen.

So little by little I would hope that the companies that continue on with Commercial Crew would implement reusability, and when they start selling their services on reusable vehicles for less than the non-reusable ones, that is when entrepreneurial experimentation will start happening in space.

My $0.02
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 sghill

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #53 on: 09/05/2014 03:50 PM »
To continue the point I made on the "SpaceX Roadmap" thread, reusability being worth it or not will increasingly depend on the operational costs of reusing a booster more than the cost of the payloads themselves.  Not at first, but later on certainly. Otherwise, you get the phenomenon of passenger airplanes sitting in the desert going on with rockets.  The operational costs can't be driven down far enough for those surplus planes to be profitable, even if the airline opened new routes to look for new demand.  So they just park them.  A reduction in payload costs helps prevent this, but eventually operational costs become the "floor" below which access to space costs can drop no further.  At that point, the question becomes, who out there can afford access to space at the new floor?

Let's say you have an empty payload, so your payload costs are zero.  Let's also say that your booster is free because the government used it once when it was brand new, and didn't want to use it again, so you've got a nice shiny driven-only-once-on-Sunday booster for free.  It's still going to cost several hundred thousand to fuel it and several hundred thousand to check the thing over (though I imagine this cost will trend downwards over time).  At that point the remaining access to space cost is in the operations to set the thing up and coordinate your launch.  I'd imagine that's also in the hundreds of thousands (though it could also trend downwards).

Your "free" booster is still going to run you half a million or more (perhaps lots more) to launch.

QED, if reusable hardware becomes commonplace, there still needs to be an order of magnitude of improvement in launch operations and management before the average Joe gets to go up. 

Economies of scale will matter, but we're not there yet.  I think the smart money will be on a state or country that wants a viable commercial spaceport, AND can deliver that order of magnitude improvement, so that higher launch tempos may be realized.
Bring the thunder Elon!

Offline daveklingler

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #54 on: 09/05/2014 04:14 PM »
It is my belief that tourism is usually an outgrowth of commerce, and not the other way around.  Commerce creates the need for infrastructure, and tourism relies on that infrastructure.  Tourism may eventually provide a significant amount of revenue for a location (think Hawaii and Orlando), but it doesn't start out that way.

Tourism is commerce, and it's just like any other business.  One does a market survey.  If enough customers are present to make a product viable, a business can be formed.  If the customers are there before any other kind of business takes place, then tourism drives infrastructure development and any other viable businesses follow.

JAXA paid for a number of market surveys back in the early 90's for orbital and suborbital space tourism.  Even back then, they found a sufficient customer base to support a space tourism business.  The defense industrial players weren't interested because that wasn't their business.  It's taken a while for non-defense players to develop who are willing to address the market, but my point is that the market surveys have said that the market was there for a while now.

Reusability reduces capital equipment expenditures, but it also has the potential to increase costs by destroying mass production.  I've wondered how SpaceX will deal with that fact; they stumbled into a low-cost means of rocket manufacture by building lots of smallish engines, but if they build reusable rockets their mass production will go away.  Obviously they've calculated that the tradeoff favors reuse.

Offline Razvan

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #55 on: 09/05/2014 05:07 PM »
"Space Tourism" makes for a great image and the studies tend to paint a rather nice picture but the reality? Nobody's doing it much at the currrent price and it has to get REALLY cheap before it would be a major player. Worse I suppose is not many people have actually paid attention to what the people surveyed WANT from "Space Tourism" and it isn't cheap! They mostly wanted a cheap orbital "destination" (hotel) where they could be pampered and treated like an Earth hotel which entails a HUGE supply and infrastructure layout prior to coming into being. Very few would have been willing to pay large sums to "just" go up and orbit the Earth a few times, there had to be an "experiance" attached and sadly that won't happen without a lot of prior work being done on putting up the needed infrastructure.

It seems to me that space tourism just isn't a viable commercial venture.  The cost is so high that your customer base is tiny, and repeat customers will be rare.  With present or shortly-available technology, it just isn't a sustainable business model.  I think the only way that commercial human spaceflight will ever be viable is through resource collection and manufacturing. 

In the forseeable future, I only see two scenarios that could create a commercial space economy: 1) if there is an asteroid that could be mined for materials that are badly needed and rare enough on earth that asteroid mining is the cheapest way to get them, and 2) if a microgravity manufacturing or materials process is discovered for a product needed on earth that is so vastly superior to any earthbound equivalent that it justifies the expense.

At present, there is no money to be made in going to space for the sake of going to space.  We need an orbital gold rush to spur the infrastructure development that would make it a viable option.

...back to the original topic...

...unless you lift quite a bunch of people at a time, like 100 or more...  :D

Offline sghill

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #56 on: 09/05/2014 05:26 PM »
"Space Tourism" makes for a great image and the studies tend to paint a rather nice picture but the reality? Nobody's doing it much at the currrent price and it has to get REALLY cheap before it would be a major player. Worse I suppose is not many people have actually paid attention to what the people surveyed WANT from "Space Tourism" and it isn't cheap! They mostly wanted a cheap orbital "destination" (hotel) where they could be pampered and treated like an Earth hotel which entails a HUGE supply and infrastructure layout prior to coming into being. Very few would have been willing to pay large sums to "just" go up and orbit the Earth a few times, there had to be an "experiance" attached and sadly that won't happen without a lot of prior work being done on putting up the needed infrastructure.

It seems to me that space tourism just isn't a viable commercial venture.  The cost is so high that your customer base is tiny, and repeat customers will be rare.  With present or shortly-available technology, it just isn't a sustainable business model.  I think the only way that commercial human spaceflight will ever be viable is through resource collection and manufacturing. 

In the forseeable future, I only see two scenarios that could create a commercial space economy: 1) if there is an asteroid that could be mined for materials that are badly needed and rare enough on earth that asteroid mining is the cheapest way to get them, and 2) if a microgravity manufacturing or materials process is discovered for a product needed on earth that is so vastly superior to any earthbound equivalent that it justifies the expense.

At present, there is no money to be made in going to space for the sake of going to space.  We need an orbital gold rush to spur the infrastructure development that would make it a viable option.

...back to the original topic...

...unless you lift quite a bunch of people at a time, like 100 or more...  :D

True, a private jet and commercial airliner can have similar sizes and operational costs, and guess which one is cheaper per passenger mile!
Bring the thunder Elon!

Offline Oli

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #57 on: 09/05/2014 07:29 PM »
Quote from: Oli
I'm sceptical though. Soyuz is cheap, so Space Adventures could have built a small station for tourists a long time ago if it were profitable to do so.

Remember MIR?

Quote from: Oli
Bigelow isn't expecting tourists either.

http://spaceadventures.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=news.viewnews&newsid=809

One tourist per year piggybacking on government demand is not what I meant. Also MirCorp went bankrupt.

The defense industrial players weren't interested because that wasn't their business.

I'd say the Russians were certainly interested in making it a business.

Offline JasonAW3

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #58 on: 09/05/2014 08:01 PM »
The way the current contracts with NASA are written, SpaceX is going to build up a large backlog of capsules that have only been used once each.

     This is not entirely a bad thing, as it allows Space X to asses the actual wear and tear that the capsules take upon reentry, so that design adjustments can be made to ensure futher reusability.  They also provide data that will be needed when they start working on returning the second stage to Earth.

     Reusability WILL eventually lower launch costs to LEO for NASA to the point where the majority of the costs that Nasa will be paying is for the experiments that are taken up, themselves.

     Even if we assume that Nass insists on a new stack for each manned flight, later cargo flights, which are not as high a risk factor as a manned flight, could be launched on reused stacks, lowering the cost of cargo to orbit.
My God!  It's full of universes!

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #59 on: 09/05/2014 10:56 PM »
It is my belief that tourism is usually an outgrowth of commerce, and not the other way around.  Commerce creates the need for infrastructure, and tourism relies on that infrastructure.  Tourism may eventually provide a significant amount of revenue for a location (think Hawaii and Orlando), but it doesn't start out that way.

Tourism is commerce, and it's just like any other business.

Well sure.  But what I'm talking about is one of those "chicken or the egg" issues - which comes first?  I advocate that tourism is an outgrowth of existing commerce and infrastructure.  It's hard to have a lot of tourism for places that don't have any infrastructure.

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One does a market survey.

Market surveys can be helpful, but they are not proof of a real, sustainable business model.

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If enough customers are present to make a product viable, a business can be formed.

A business can be formed regardless if the business model has been proven, and since tourism is 10% of the global GDP just about anyone can "justify" a market for just about any kind of tourism.

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If the customers are there before any other kind of business takes place, then tourism drives infrastructure development and any other viable businesses follow.

Provide an example of that.  And don't use Disney World in Florida, since they had already proved out their business model with Disneyland in California.

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JAXA paid for a number of market surveys back in the early 90's for orbital and suborbital space tourism.  Even back then, they found a sufficient customer base to support a space tourism business.

Surveys don't prove business models, paying customers do.  So until you have paying customers you really don't have a clue if the surveys found real customers, or people that like to check boxes.

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The defense industrial players weren't interested because that wasn't their business.

You may think that, and they may have even said it, but if they really believed that there was a big profit to be had they would have pursued it.  I don't think they believed the surveys, and I think at the time they were right.

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It's taken a while for non-defense players to develop who are willing to address the market, but my point is that the market surveys have said that the market was there for a while now.

Virgin Galactic is really the only company that has succeeded in getting substantial amounts of money from potential customers, and it's partly because of Sir Richard Branson's ability to sell things.  And based on the number of deposits they have they have not yet proven they have a sustainable business.

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Reusability reduces capital equipment expenditures, but it also has the potential to increase costs by destroying mass production.

Reusability hasn't destroyed Boeing's airline business at all, so I fail to see what you mean.

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I've wondered how SpaceX will deal with that fact; they stumbled into a low-cost means of rocket manufacture by building lots of smallish engines, but if they build reusable rockets their mass production will go away.  Obviously they've calculated that the tradeoff favors reuse.

You really need to look at the business model of the reusable aircraft industry for insight into what SpaceX may transition into...

Sorry for the long post.
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 Nibb31

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #60 on: 09/06/2014 09:34 AM »
Aircraft are mass-produced in the hundreds.

Spacecraft such as DreamChaser or Dragon will be in the single digits. The demand is simply not there to sustain a single fleet. With such low numbers, you don't get economies of scale. All your fixed production, tooling, process, logistics costs are spread over a small number of units making them more expensive than a mass produced product.

It is cheaper to produce 1000 paper cups than to make a single glass cup. If you're typically going to use your cup less than a 1000 times, it makes sense to go with disposable.

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #61 on: 09/06/2014 11:18 AM »
Aircraft are mass-produced in the hundreds.

Spacecraft such as DreamChaser or Dragon will be in the single digits. The demand is simply not there to sustain a single fleet. With such low numbers, you don't get economies of scale. All your fixed production, tooling, process, logistics costs are spread over a small number of units making them more expensive than a mass produced product.

It is cheaper to produce 1000 paper cups than to make a single glass cup. If you're typically going to use your cup less than a 1000 times, it makes sense to go with disposable.
Good post. I think the savings from mass-production of the Falcon stack will be worthwhile but minimal.
I think Dragon will get into double digits however...

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #62 on: 09/06/2014 03:22 PM »
JAXA paid for a number of market surveys back in the early 90's for orbital and suborbital space tourism.  Even back then, they found a sufficient customer base to support a space tourism business.  The defense industrial players weren't interested because that wasn't their business.  It's taken a while for non-defense players to develop who are willing to address the market, but my point is that the market surveys have said that the market was there for a while now.
I was very fascinated by this topic a few months ago, with the Kankoh-maru and Shimizu space hotel. I even recreated the latter as an Orbiter add-on.

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a global market of as many as 1 million passengers a year seems feasible if the price of a flight can be brought down to about $20,000

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Their conclusions were that this would involve tens of flights per day. That is less than 0.1% of commercial aviation, now at around 3 million passengers per day, but space travel will nevertheless become a relatively large-scale activity, and an "ordinary" means of travel for members of the public.
« Last Edit: 09/06/2014 03:28 PM by Pipcard »

Offline arachnitect

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #63 on: 09/06/2014 04:38 PM »
JAXA paid for a number of market surveys back in the early 90's for orbital and suborbital space tourism.  Even back then, they found a sufficient customer base to support a space tourism business.  The defense industrial players weren't interested because that wasn't their business.  It's taken a while for non-defense players to develop who are willing to address the market, but my point is that the market surveys have said that the market was there for a while now.
I was very fascinated by this topic a few months ago, with the Kankoh-maru and Shimizu space hotel. I even recreated the latter as an Orbiter add-on.

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a global market of as many as 1 million passengers a year seems feasible if the price of a flight can be brought down to about $20,000

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Their conclusions were that this would involve tens of flights per day. That is less than 0.1% of commercial aviation, now at around 3 million passengers per day, but space travel will nevertheless become a relatively large-scale activity, and an "ordinary" means of travel for members of the public.

Yeah, the hard part is the factor of 1000 cost reduction.

BMW wouldn't need much of a marketing department if they could sell an M3 for less than $100.

You might as well ask what the demand is for $5 DSLRs, $1000 Manhattan apartments, or 50 cent ipads.

Offline mvpel

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Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #64 on: 09/07/2014 02:25 PM »
Ten years ago you couldn't get an iPad for $500,000. We live in exciting times.
« Last Edit: 09/07/2014 02:25 PM by mvpel »
"Ugly programs are like ugly suspension bridges: they're much more liable to collapse than pretty ones, because the way humans (especially engineer-humans) perceive beauty is intimately related to our ability to process and understand complexity. A language that makes it hard to write elegant code makes it hard to write good code." - Eric S. Raymond

Offline arachnitect

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #65 on: 09/07/2014 03:35 PM »
Ten years ago you couldn't get an iPad for $500,000. We live in exciting times.

Consumer electronics are unique and follow their own rules; I only include it to show how unreasonably optimistic the Japanese study was. We could have cost reductions -possibly even dramatic ones- in the near future, but a 1000 fold reduction should be considered impossible with current or foreseeable rocket technology.

The interesting question is what the orbital tourism market would be at prices in the low millions.

When it was introduced, a Model T Ford cost around $20,000 (today's dollars). Despite all the exciting improvements in car technology you can't buy a brand new car for anywhere close to $20.

A transatlantic flight on a Pan Am Clipper cost around $12,000 (again, adj. for inflation). Today you can get across the pond in cattle class for $500. The more comparable first class ticket could easily cost $5000.

$20,000 orbital flights are not going to happen.

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #66 on: 09/07/2014 04:06 PM »
Ten years ago you couldn't get an iPad for $500,000. We live in exciting times.
But them. The only breakthroughs have been software and low-powered CPUs. Apart from that you could get all the components in an iPad for $1500 10 years ago and actually there have been tablets before the iPad, they were just more clunky.a friend of mine had one even 12 years ago, it was a full PC with a touch screen. Actually pretty much a Surface Pro...

So all you eventually saw was a price re custom to around 25% by scaling up the production from a few hundred units a year to tens of millions of units a year.
« Last Edit: 09/07/2014 04:07 PM by pippin »

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #67 on: 09/07/2014 04:52 PM »
If NASA wants to pay for a new crew vehicle each time, they will be funding the creation of a fleet that can be flown cheaply for commercial applications. Commercial applications need to be cheap above all, so that fits quite well.

That's the same story that was sold for Dragon v1 and now they're all sitting in a warehouse somewhere.
Very valid point. But for crew, there's already a demonstrated market for tourism, so at very least a few seats could be sold.

The demand is there - currently the supply is not there.  Please remember with soyez that you have to do training in Russia for 6 months.  Most millionaires do not have 6 months to learn Russian.  Now if the price was $20 million per seat and the time need was cut down to 30 days - you do not think that the demand would be there?  Please remember every spare seat that Space Adventure has gotten there hands on has been sold.   Currently the Russians have an monopoly on supply and that is why the price has gone up.  There is no other game in town.

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #68 on: 09/07/2014 06:28 PM »
Aircraft are mass-produced in the hundreds.

Spacecraft such as DreamChaser or Dragon will be in the single digits. The demand is simply not there to sustain a single fleet. With such low numbers, you don't get economies of scale. All your fixed production, tooling, process, logistics costs are spread over a small number of units making them more expensive than a mass produced product.

It is cheaper to produce 1000 paper cups than to make a single glass cup. If you're typically going to use your cup less than a 1000 times, it makes sense to go with disposable.
Bad analogy. The real story is that both the reusable and disposable cups are made of glass.

Also, rockets have a cost per kg of dry mass the same as an airliner. Look it up, a 737 costs, pound for dry pound, about the same as a Delta IV. That points to me that there's not as much to be gained from mass production as you might think, though it wouldn't hurt. Reusability will make a FAR greater difference.
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

Offline Oli

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #69 on: 09/08/2014 07:12 AM »

Please remember with soyez that you have to do training in Russia for 6 months.

You could argue Soyuz is too small for transporting clueless tourists into space. With Dragon for example you have 5 seats in addition to pilot/copilot.

Please remember every spare seat that Space Adventure has gotten there hands on has been sold.

Space Adventures could have built a station only for tourists if demand would have been sufficient.

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #70 on: 09/08/2014 07:32 AM »
Space Adventures has tried to buy their own Soyuz launches. NASA intervenes each time. It's an ongoing battle and one of the reasons why it's very unlikely we'll see spare seats on commercial crew vehicles going to "tourists".
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? The slowest possible.

Offline sghill

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #71 on: 09/08/2014 03:14 PM »
Aircraft are mass-produced in the hundreds.

Spacecraft such as DreamChaser or Dragon will be in the single digits. The demand is simply not there to sustain a single fleet. With such low numbers, you don't get economies of scale. All your fixed production, tooling, process, logistics costs are spread over a small number of units making them more expensive than a mass produced product.

It is cheaper to produce 1000 paper cups than to make a single glass cup. If you're typically going to use your cup less than a 1000 times, it makes sense to go with disposable.
Bad analogy. The real story is that both the reusable and disposable cups are made of glass.

Also, rockets have a cost per kg of dry mass the same as an airliner. Look it up, a 737 costs, pound for dry pound, about the same as a Delta IV. That points to me that there's not as much to be gained from mass production as you might think, though it wouldn't hurt. Reusability will make a FAR greater difference.

How much does it cost for an Airbus to fly across the Atlantic versus the same trip using a two stage liquid rocket?  I only ask because the fuel costs are the only unavoidable costs for both transportation systems, so if we reduce the problem down to it's bare minimum, we can start to get a rough idea of where the absolute floor is going to be for rocket-based transportation versus airliner based transportation.

I do realize the two systems go go different destinations, and serve different types of customers, but at their most basic sense, they are both transportation systems that use fuel.  Airlines can charge me around $500 and up to get me across the Atlantic.  I want to know how cheap a rocket (we'll say it carries ten passengers for simplicity) could get me there- all other factors ignored.
Bring the thunder Elon!

Offline Oli

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #72 on: 09/08/2014 03:19 PM »
Space Adventures has tried to buy their own Soyuz launches. NASA intervenes each time.

Again, I don't mean to the ISS, but to their own station/module.

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #73 on: 09/08/2014 10:01 PM »
Space Adventures has tried to buy their own Soyuz launches. NASA intervenes each time.

Again, I don't mean to the ISS, but to their own station/module.

They did that too.. it was called Mir. The Russians learnt their lesson.
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Offline yg1968

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #74 on: 09/08/2014 10:06 PM »
Space Adventures has tried to buy their own Soyuz launches. NASA intervenes each time. It's an ongoing battle and one of the reasons why it's very unlikely we'll see spare seats on commercial crew vehicles going to "tourists".

NASA intervened? I am not sure why NASA would have a say in this. There was talk of adding an extra Soyuz (a fifth Soyuz) but Roscosmos never went ahead with it.  It was Canada and ESA that were considering it. 

http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n1007/01soyuz/
« Last Edit: 09/08/2014 10:15 PM by yg1968 »

Offline Oli

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #75 on: 09/09/2014 02:14 PM »
Space Adventures has tried to buy their own Soyuz launches. NASA intervenes each time.

Again, I don't mean to the ISS, but to their own station/module.

They did that too.. it was called Mir. The Russians learnt their lesson.

Oh dear, another conspiracy theory  ::). MirCorp ran out of money, simple as that.

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #76 on: 09/09/2014 09:23 PM »
Oh dear, another conspiracy theory  ::). MirCorp ran out of money, simple as that.

No conspiracy or theory required. It's a fact that NASA intervened in the MirCorp deal with Russia and said Mir had to go before they would talk on ISS. MirCorp tried to do other stuff after the Mir deal, and then ran out of money. For example, all the prep work for Dennis Tito and Greg Olsen's Soyuz flights was done by MirCorp, after the Mir deal.

Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? The slowest possible.

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #77 on: 09/10/2014 12:34 AM »
Regardless, it's a different world now that we're post-shuttle and the commercial crew providers are being evaluated partially on whether they have a good business plan (ie non-NASA customers). NASA may want the extra seats filled with cargo, but SpaceX can certainly launch tourists on other flights.
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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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #78 on: 09/10/2014 12:42 AM »
They "can", yes. I'm saying they won't, because SpaceX doesn't care for space tourism.
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? The slowest possible.

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #79 on: 09/10/2014 01:38 AM »
They "can", yes. I'm saying they won't, because SpaceX doesn't care for space tourism.
SpaceX doesn't care. But SpaceX will take the money. I'm sure Space Adventures has talked to SpaceX.
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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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #80 on: 09/10/2014 02:34 AM »
They "can", yes. I'm saying they won't, because SpaceX doesn't care for space tourism.
SpaceX doesn't care. But SpaceX will take the money. I'm sure Space Adventures has talked to SpaceX.

I know they have..
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? The slowest possible.

Offline woods170

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #81 on: 09/10/2014 08:02 AM »
They "can", yes. I'm saying they won't, because SpaceX doesn't care for space tourism.
SpaceX doesn't care. But SpaceX will take the money. I'm sure Space Adventures has talked to SpaceX.

I know they have..

Yes, and (as expected) they got stone-walled.

Offline Oli

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #82 on: 09/10/2014 01:26 PM »
Oh dear, another conspiracy theory  ::). MirCorp ran out of money, simple as that.

It's a fact that NASA intervened in the MirCorp deal with Russia and said Mir had to go before they would talk on ISS.

Source please.

Offline topsphere

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #83 on: 09/10/2014 01:49 PM »
They "can", yes. I'm saying they won't, because SpaceX doesn't care for space tourism.
SpaceX doesn't care. But SpaceX will take the money. I'm sure Space Adventures has talked to SpaceX.

I know they have..

Yes, and (as expected) they got stone-walled.

Source please.

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #84 on: 09/10/2014 08:52 PM »
Oh dear, another conspiracy theory  ::). MirCorp ran out of money, simple as that.

It's a fact that NASA intervened in the MirCorp deal with Russia and said Mir had to go before they would talk on ISS.

Source please.

Ed Hudgins wrote about it 2001. I'm sure you can find the reference. If not, there's dozens of others, numerous in print. Here's Seth Borenstein writing about it in 1998! Any other historic facts you'd like to argue over? Perhaps you'd like to dispute that Nixon proposed cancelling Apollos 16 and 17?

Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? The slowest possible.

Offline Oli

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #85 on: 09/11/2014 02:55 AM »
Oh dear, another conspiracy theory  ::). MirCorp ran out of money, simple as that.

It's a fact that NASA intervened in the MirCorp deal with Russia and said Mir had to go before they would talk on ISS.

Source please.

Ed Hudgins wrote about it 2001. I'm sure you can find the reference. If not, there's dozens of others, numerous in print. Here's Seth Borenstein writing about it in 1998! Any other historic facts you'd like to argue over? Perhaps you'd like to dispute that Nixon proposed cancelling Apollos 16 and 17?

As I expected. NASA wanted Russia to fulfill its obligations with regard to the ISS. Russia could not afford to operate MIR and ISS and MirCorp ultimately could not afford to take over operation from Russia. There's no need to spin that into a NASA-hating conspiracy theory.

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #86 on: 09/12/2014 12:44 PM »
As I expected. NASA wanted Russia to fulfill its obligations with regard to the ISS. Russia could not afford to operate MIR and ISS and MirCorp ultimately could not afford to take over operation from Russia. There's no need to spin that into a NASA-hating conspiracy theory.

No-one did, except you.

Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? The slowest possible.

Offline Oli

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #87 on: 09/12/2014 01:17 PM »
As I expected. NASA wanted Russia to fulfill its obligations with regard to the ISS. Russia could not afford to operate MIR and ISS and MirCorp ultimately could not afford to take over operation from Russia. There's no need to spin that into a NASA-hating conspiracy theory.

No-one did, except you.

I had the impression you wanted to say that NASA deliberately torpedoed private plans to operate/service a space station with Russian hardware. If not I apologize.

 

Offline Alexsander

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #88 on: 03/09/2015 07:02 PM »
I keep seeing this argument for reusable vehicles: "you'll save money by not throwing the vehicle away and having to make a new one"

But I also keep seeing this argument against them: "flight rates aren't high enough to justify the development and maintenance costs of reusable spacecraft"

Depends on the cost to build a new vehicle, and the cost to refurbish a vehicle that has just returned from a flight.

For Dream Chaser it's pretty straightforward, since they said they have built it for reusability with regard to consumables.  And if the heat shield works as planned and they don't have to do any maintenance between flights, then reusability makes sense.

For the two capsules, if they land in water it's a tougher calculation, but both Dragon and CST-100 are supposed to be able to land on terra firma.  Both Boeing and SpaceX have said they plan to reuse their vehicles up to 10 times, so for now we'll have to take them at their word that they understand the issues involved.

Quote
So my questions are:
- How frequently are these commercial vehicles (e.g. Dream Chaser, reusable Dragon/DragonRider) going to fly?
- What would they do to justify that frequency?

Because right now, Soyuz is flying about four times per year to the ISS, carrying 3 astronauts per flight (a total of 12/year). Is that enough? Space tourism (to a Bigelow hotel) might be an idea, but is there a sufficient market of millionaires/billionaires for orbital space tourism? (the number of space tourists/private space travelers that have gone into orbit is a single digit)

Depending on the launch vehicle situation for both CST-100 and Dream Chaser (i.e. Atlas V availability), it may be that demand initially will be low.  But considering that they use an existing launch vehicle, their overhead to maintain the services won't be extremely high depending on how they staff.

For SpaceX, being the low cost leader has advantages, and I think they will see demand beyond just the normal ISS support.  But they too can likely weather low demand at first, especially since they can spread their labor base over both the Dragon Crew and the Dragon Cargo versions.

Currently SpaceX charges US$ 60 M per flight and they say the 1st Stage is 70% of that; the remaining 30% would be US$ 18 M. SpaceX has said in the past they could charge close to US$ 7 M with reusability, so we have a US$ 7-18 M price range. The Dragon can carry up to 7 passengers, or US$ 1-2.5 M per seat. Probably less if the flights are weekly. Elon has mentioned the 500,000 ticket (for Mars, I know).

The most expensive hotel suite on Earth is priced US$ 80,000 per night. A space hotel could charge, say, US$ 100,000+ per night. Options: one week = US$ 1 M or two weeks = US$ 1.5 M. Of course, the hotel would have a spare Dragon all the time as a lifeboat.

Now imagine a flight per week, 1 hotel crew (for rotation) + 6 guests.



Offline Mariusuiram

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #89 on: 03/10/2015 05:56 AM »
If you want to dream about space tourism its better to avoid the wild far future stuff (full re-usability, etc) and stick with more near term dreaming.

If F9 + Dragon 2 costs about US$150 million. Say 6 people + "Crew" so US$25 million per person.

People would need training and logistics along with profit for the broker (SpaceX wont be organized this stuff). Say $500k per person for training. Say another $1.5 million for profit / operations for Space Adventures or whoever.

Now in this price range people would probably want to do more than go up in a cramped Dragon and orbit a few times. They need a station (and the ISS isnt offering), so probably need to assume a Bigelow module.

Whats that cost to put up? And what would be the charge for say a 2 week stay? Its more like an operating asset, so hopefully cheaper than the launch costs, but still maybe around US$10-12 million per person.

So for 35-40 million you could spend 2 weeks in space. The market size is probably still in the 1,000s, but I bet there would be a business there.

Offline Alexsander

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #90 on: 03/10/2015 02:17 PM »
If you want to dream about space tourism its better to avoid the wild far future stuff (full re-usability, etc) and stick with more near term dreaming.

I don't think 1st Stage reusability is "wild far future". SpaceX is testing it right now and soon they will land the 1st Stage on pad. Today the Dragon Capsule is recovered on water but after the Pad Abort Test they could being the tests of a powered landing on pad. Not full reusability but a huge cost saving.

Bigelow is flying the BEAM habitat this year. SpaceX will human-rate the Dragon this year, too.

Offline didacticus

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #91 on: 03/10/2015 08:21 PM »
People would need training and logistics along with profit for the broker (SpaceX wont be organized this stuff). Say $500k per person for training.

Why would training cost this much? How much training is really needed? You're not talking about people going to the ISS, and it's not like they're going to need to go to Russia to to study with cosmonauts for it. For a tourist going to a Bigelow module for a week, or just spending a couple days in orbit, shouldn't need more than a couple of week, if that - emergency procedures, what to expect, how to use the facilities.

I think the perception of the amount of "training" needed, and what screening should be done, will change drastically as the number of people spending time in space and the frequency of their trips increases. Recall that the first astronauts and cosmonauts were subject to what are now considered extreme and unnecessary requirements and levels/types of training, because it was a completely unknown field.

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #92 on: 03/11/2015 12:50 AM »
People would need training and logistics along with profit for the broker (SpaceX wont be organized this stuff). Say $500k per person for training.

Why would training cost this much? How much training is really needed? You're not talking about people going to the ISS, and it's not like they're going to need to go to Russia to to study with cosmonauts for it. For a tourist going to a Bigelow module for a week, or just spending a couple days in orbit, shouldn't need more than a couple of week, if that - emergency procedures, what to expect, how to use the facilities.

I think the perception of the amount of "training" needed, and what screening should be done, will change drastically as the number of people spending time in space and the frequency of their trips increases. Recall that the first astronauts and cosmonauts were subject to what are now considered extreme and unnecessary requirements and levels/types of training, because it was a completely unknown field.

You get trained to go on civilian airliners - the flight attendant shows you how to put on a life jacket and where the doors are. The training of passengers on space craft will get considerably simpler.

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #93 on: 03/11/2015 01:25 AM »
If you want to dream about space tourism its better to avoid the wild far future stuff (full re-usability, etc) and stick with more near term dreaming.

If F9 + Dragon 2 costs about US$150 million. Say 6 people + "Crew" so US$25 million per person.

People would need training and logistics along with profit for the broker (SpaceX wont be organized this stuff). Say $500k per person for training. Say another $1.5 million for profit / operations for Space Adventures or whoever.

Now in this price range people would probably want to do more than go up in a cramped Dragon and orbit a few times. They need a station (and the ISS isnt offering), so probably need to assume a Bigelow module.

Whats that cost to put up? And what would be the charge for say a 2 week stay? Its more like an operating asset, so hopefully cheaper than the launch costs, but still maybe around US$10-12 million per person.

So for 35-40 million you could spend 2 weeks in space. The market size is probably still in the 1,000s, but I bet there would be a business there.

According to a press release "Sarah Brightman will pay $52 million" for her trip to the ISS. So $35-$40 million for trips to the ISS is a valid estimate but still very high. There will be a few people at that price but it needs to come down a lot more. I hope the costs follow the learning curve the way aircraft ticket prices did.

Offline Alexsander

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #94 on: 03/11/2015 01:02 PM »
Quote
It will be two or three years before Boeing or SpaceX launches NASA astronauts from Florida to the International Space Station, but they’re already looking to what comes after the station.
(...)
“Post-space station, we do need additional destinations to go to,” added Barry Matsumori, SpaceX’s senior vice president for sales and business development. “There’s a lot of development work to do, but it’s certainly a demand that exists.”
(...)
NASA hopes to begin flights to the ISS by late 2017. SpaceX has targeted a test flight with a crew early in 2017, and Boeing by middle of that year.
(...)
Bigelow Aerospace figures to play a major role in both companies’ opportunities for commercial crew flights to destinations other than the ISS, and for customers other than NASA.

[1] http://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/local/2015/03/10/boeing-spacex-look-beyond-nasa-space-customers/24724977/


Offline erioladastra

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #95 on: 03/12/2015 12:11 AM »


Bigelow is flying the BEAM habitat this year.

> Hopefully.

SpaceX will human-rate the Dragon this year, too.

> Doubtful.

Offline yg1968

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #96 on: 03/16/2015 10:15 PM »


Bigelow is flying the BEAM habitat this year.

> Hopefully.

SpaceX will human-rate the Dragon this year, too.

> Doubtful.

I am not sure what you mean by human rating Dragon but SpaceX's first crewed flight is scheduled for early 2017 (not this year).

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