Author Topic: The Reaction Engines Skylon/SABRE Master Thread (6)  (Read 176083 times)

Offline IRobot

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Re: The Reaction Engines Skylon/SABRE Master Thread (6)
« Reply #600 on: 06/14/2017 03:44 PM »
Quote
Cost to LEO  a moving target .... original aim to be an order of magnitude cheaper ($10k/kg) ... but now re-use might bring that down to $5k/kg ... they're aiming for $1k/kg. He thinks that first stage re-use might reduce cost by half .... I think that's a fair estimate.

Falcon 9 today is advertised as $62 million for 5.5 tons to GTO.  They claim a fully-expendable GTO capability of 8.3 tons.  So two thirds of the payload if not expendable.  Applying that to the expendable 22.8 tons to LEO gives 15 tons to LEO for $62 million, or $4.1k/kg.  Falcon Heavy is quoted as about 3 times the payload for 1.5x the cost, so it's roughly $2k/kg.

So if they're aiming for $1k/kg to LEO, they're only aiming for 2x better than Falcon Heavy pricing today.  That doesn't leave them much room for error or for SpaceX getting better.  And that doesn't even consider ITS or Blue Origin's New Glenn, both of which are meant to be fully reusable and far cheaper than Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy per kg.
Worst, Skylon is LEO-only, meaning you need to add the cost of an upper stage for GTO.

IMO, Skylon won't be able to compete with SpaceX/BE. Cost per Kg will be similar, but with smaller volume, smaller payload weight, limited to LEO and a huge upfront investment.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: The Reaction Engines Skylon/SABRE Master Thread (6)
« Reply #601 on: 06/14/2017 05:24 PM »
So the program is delayed again by another year, I thought the full engine was meant to be going under testing in 2019?
It's interesting to note that when REL has been fully funded they have delivered what they said they could deliver when they said they could deliver it.

This may come as a bit of a shock to commercial investors, who are more used to being promised the Earth, Moon and stars. REL don't. Perhaps they should since it seems to be what is expected.

REL's concept remains the only design that has the potential to put "on demand" reusable launch into the hands of anyone capable of operating their system. That's probably the only way to achieve the massive cost reductions that will make space access truly affordable, and thereby get those concepts for materials mfg in space out of peoples bottom desk drawers (or their cloud archives) and actually into orbit.  :(

The only concept?  If you want to root for Skylon, fine, but don't disparage the alternatives by claiming Skylon is the only one.

SpaceX's ITS and Blue Origin's New Glenn both plan to be all these things.  Both fully-reusable.  Both at least as cheap and easy to operate as Skylon.  Both can launch on demand with fast turn-around time.  Both plan to change the world with a radical reduction in launch costs.

Skylon is not the only game in town.

Weren't the words "on demand" pretty important there? Isn't the idea that you can launch and turn around quickly part of the idea?

Yes, and it's also just as important to SpaceX and Blue Origin.  Musk goes on and on about quick turn-around time.  Even on the current Falcon 9 vehicle, Musk pushed to have 12-hour turn-around time from one launch to the next.  His team pushed back and said they could do 24-hour but 12-hour would take major changes.  So Musk settled for 24-hour turn-around.

That's for the Block 5 Falcon 9 first stages they'll be flying later this year.  There's little doubt they'll be pushing to reduce that further in the future.

Is there any fundamental reason the Blue Origin and SpaceX approaches would take any longer to turn around than Skylon would?  I don't believe so.  Bezos and Musk don't seem to believe so either.

Skylon has tighter margins because it's SSTO, so there are fundamental reasons it is more likely to have more problems and more often require servicing between missions.  SpaceX and Blue Origin can more easily add mass to make something more rugged to get faster turn-around times.

It would be interesting to ask if anyone on the SpaceX and New Glen discussions is busy reminding people there that "they're not the only games in town".

If anyone claimed either SpaceX or Blue Origin's launch designs were the only game in town, I'm sure lots of people would jump on that.  You can feel free to do that yourself if it ever happens.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: The Reaction Engines Skylon/SABRE Master Thread (6)
« Reply #602 on: 06/14/2017 05:42 PM »
So the program is delayed again by another year, I thought the full engine was meant to be going under testing in 2019?
It's interesting to note that when REL has been fully funded they have delivered what they said they could deliver when they said they could deliver it.

This may come as a bit of a shock to commercial investors, who are more used to being promised the Earth, Moon and stars. REL don't. Perhaps they should since it seems to be what is expected.

REL's concept remains the only design that has the potential to put "on demand" reusable launch into the hands of anyone capable of operating their system. That's probably the only way to achieve the massive cost reductions that will make space access truly affordable, and thereby get those concepts for materials mfg in space out of peoples bottom desk drawers (or their cloud archives) and actually into orbit.  :(

The only concept?  If you want to root for Skylon, fine, but don't disparage the alternatives by claiming Skylon is the only one.

SpaceX's ITS and Blue Origin's New Glenn both plan to be all these things.  Both fully-reusable.  Both at least as cheap and easy to operate as Skylon.  Both can launch on demand with fast turn-around time.  Both plan to change the world with a radical reduction in launch costs.

Skylon is not the only game in town.

Weren't the words "on demand" pretty important there? Isn't the idea that you can launch and turn around quickly part of the idea? It would be interesting to ask if anyone on the SpaceX and New Glen discussions is busy reminding people there that "they're not the only games in town".

"...into the hands of anyone capable of operating their system" is also a key difference with their operating model: an owner/operator launching their own payloads pays the cost, not the price.

The idea that there's some kind of fundamental cost savings to doing something internally rather than paying someone else to do it is wrong.  If it were true, nobody would ever outsource anything, and we'd just have one company doing everything in the world rather than a huge number of companies doing business with one another.

I think this myth comes from the fundamental misunderstanding of profit.  Profit is not just some kind of leach drawing money away from something.  Profit is just a way to pay for capital investment and/or other services, such as management.

Lets say I'm an enormous company with tons of satellites to launch.  Is it better for me to have a launch organization in-house or pay some other company to do the launch?  A naive answer would seem to be it's better for me to do it in house -- this is your "cost" versus "price" argument.  I don't have to pay the profit the other company would have, so it's a win for me to do it in house, right?

Not so fast.  For me to do it in house requires me to put up a lot of capital and take a lot of risk.  What if I hire the wrong people and they mess it up?  There is a cost to that capital and a cost to that risk.  There's also a cost to the management distraction of making sure it's run well.  If there's a competitive market for launch services, it's probably actually cheaper for me to pay a company that specializes in launch to do it.  And that doesn't even take into consideration economies of scale -- unless I have a really, really vast number of satellites to launch, it's more efficient to have an organization doing the launch that can have higher volume to make better use of infrastructure like pads and clean rooms.

So, the idea that Skylon has some kind of advantage because they want to sell their vehicles rather than operate them themselves doesn't hold water.

Offline Dao Angkan

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Re: The Reaction Engines Skylon/SABRE Master Thread (6)
« Reply #603 on: 06/14/2017 06:25 PM »
Skylon isn't really on their agenda at the moment, current plans are for TSTO ... SSTO is still a long term objective, but it doesn't seem to be something that they are currently putting much effort towards.

I think that they are more targeting small satellites rather than Falcon Heavy type loads, so maybe they need to compete more with Electron and Virgin on $/kg than with SpaceX and Blue Origin.

Offline Star One

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The Reaction Engines Skylon/SABRE Master Thread (6)
« Reply #604 on: 06/14/2017 06:49 PM »
Skylon isn't really on their agenda at the moment, current plans are for TSTO ... SSTO is still a long term objective, but it doesn't seem to be something that they are currently putting much effort towards.

I think that they are more targeting small satellites rather than Falcon Heavy type loads, so maybe they need to compete more with Electron and Virgin on $/kg than with SpaceX and Blue Origin.

Skylon hasn't seemed to be on the agenda for a while now, and especially since BAE took a share in the company. They've looked far more interested in the monetisation of the elements of the technology than a grand project like Skylon. Also they only seem interested in TSTO in as far as they can sell the concept to someone like the USAF to pick up and give them funding to develop it further.

BAE may only have a twenty percent share of the company but decisions now at least looking in from the outside appear to have their fingerprints all over them.
« Last Edit: 06/14/2017 06:55 PM by Star One »

Offline Dao Angkan

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Re: The Reaction Engines Skylon/SABRE Master Thread (6)
« Reply #605 on: 06/14/2017 07:00 PM »
Skylon isn't really on their agenda at the moment, current plans are for TSTO ... SSTO is still a long term objective, but it doesn't seem to be something that they are currently putting much effort towards.

I think that they are more targeting small satellites rather than Falcon Heavy type loads, so maybe they need to compete more with Electron and Virgin on $/kg than with SpaceX and Blue Origin.

Skylon hasn't seemed to be on the agenda for a while now, and especially since BAE took a share in the company. They've looked far more interested in the monetisation of the elements of the technology than a grand project like Skylon. Also they only seem interested in TSTO in as far as they can sell the concept to someone like the USAF to pick up and give them funding to develop it further.

Right, I think that they're more interested in just developing their engine, and letting others develop the vehicles. Skylon, Scimitar, and their TSTO concepts are basically visions of what their engine is capable of, in order to attract funding. I could actually see them ending up more like ARM, where they license out their designs, rather than actually manufacture themselves. Of course, that might not happen if BAE or another major aerospace manufacturer buys them out.

Offline Star One

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The Reaction Engines Skylon/SABRE Master Thread (6)
« Reply #606 on: 06/14/2017 07:02 PM »
Skylon isn't really on their agenda at the moment, current plans are for TSTO ... SSTO is still a long term objective, but it doesn't seem to be something that they are currently putting much effort towards.

I think that they are more targeting small satellites rather than Falcon Heavy type loads, so maybe they need to compete more with Electron and Virgin on $/kg than with SpaceX and Blue Origin.

Skylon hasn't seemed to be on the agenda for a while now, and especially since BAE took a share in the company. They've looked far more interested in the monetisation of the elements of the technology than a grand project like Skylon. Also they only seem interested in TSTO in as far as they can sell the concept to someone like the USAF to pick up and give them funding to develop it further.

Right, I think that they're more interested in just developing their engine, and letting others develop the vehicles. Skylon, Scimitar, and their TSTO concepts are basically visions of what their engine is capable of, in order to attract funding. I could actually see them ending up more like ARM, where they license out their designs, rather than actually manufacture themselves. Of course, that might not happen if BAE or another major aerospace manufacturer buys them out.

That's a very good comparison. Though I do believe the probability of one of the other established players in the UK aerospace industry buying then out is pretty high. So as you point it may become a less direct comparison.

BAE seem to be in the mode of let's see where this technology goes first.
« Last Edit: 06/14/2017 07:05 PM by Star One »

Offline t43562

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Re: The Reaction Engines Skylon/SABRE Master Thread (6)
« Reply #607 on: 06/14/2017 09:59 PM »
I think that it will be interesting if they do find other ways to "monetize" their technology sooner because then the entire development cost of these things will not have to be laid at Skylon's door and that might help with the capital cost of a Skylon.

Offline t43562

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Re: The Reaction Engines Skylon/SABRE Master Thread (6)
« Reply #608 on: 06/14/2017 10:03 PM »
So, the idea that Skylon has some kind of advantage because they want to sell their vehicles rather than operate them themselves doesn't hold water.

It may end up being important to a government or two.

Offline Star One

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Re: The Reaction Engines Skylon/SABRE Master Thread (6)
« Reply #609 on: 06/14/2017 10:27 PM »
I think that it will be interesting if they do find other ways to "monetize" their technology sooner because then the entire development cost of these things will not have to be laid at Skylon's door and that might help with the capital cost of a Skylon.

Skylon feels like as a project that it has been kicked well and truly into the long grass now and that any money they start to generate will be put into developing other near term projects.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: The Reaction Engines Skylon/SABRE Master Thread (6)
« Reply #610 on: 06/14/2017 11:35 PM »
So, the idea that Skylon has some kind of advantage because they want to sell their vehicles rather than operate them themselves doesn't hold water.

It may end up being important to a government or two.

Yeah, governments could potentially want to own their own means of getting to orbit.  I was just addressing the commercial part of the argument.

I think it's questionable whether governments would rather spend money buying a launch vehicle built in another country rather than plowing money into domestic capability, but there is at least the potential some governments might.

Offline t43562

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Re: The Reaction Engines Skylon/SABRE Master Thread (6)
« Reply #611 on: 06/15/2017 06:05 AM »
So, the idea that Skylon has some kind of advantage because they want to sell their vehicles rather than operate them themselves doesn't hold water.

It may end up being important to a government or two.

Yeah, governments could potentially want to own their own means of getting to orbit.  I was just addressing the commercial part of the argument.

I think it's questionable whether governments would rather spend money buying a launch vehicle built in another country rather than plowing money into domestic capability, but there is at least the potential some governments might.

You could offer them part of the development work as is sometimes done with fighter aircraft  - or offsets.

Offline t43562

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Re: The Reaction Engines Skylon/SABRE Master Thread (6)
« Reply #612 on: 06/15/2017 06:25 AM »
I think that it will be interesting if they do find other ways to "monetize" their technology sooner because then the entire development cost of these things will not have to be laid at Skylon's door and that might help with the capital cost of a Skylon.

Skylon feels like as a project that it has been kicked well and truly into the long grass now and that any money they start to generate will be put into developing other near term projects.

That may be but what I'm saying is that when they say, "ok is it time to do a Skylon-like thing now?" they won't be looking for $10bn in finance to develop it because some of the technology will already have been pushed to quite high readiness levels, they will already have some infrastructure. That should make the vehicles cost less.

Offline Star One

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Re: The Reaction Engines Skylon/SABRE Master Thread (6)
« Reply #613 on: 06/15/2017 06:58 AM »
I think that it will be interesting if they do find other ways to "monetize" their technology sooner because then the entire development cost of these things will not have to be laid at Skylon's door and that might help with the capital cost of a Skylon.

Skylon feels like as a project that it has been kicked well and truly into the long grass now and that any money they start to generate will be put into developing other near term projects.

That may be but what I'm saying is that when they say, "ok is it time to do a Skylon-like thing now?" they won't be looking for $10bn in finance to develop it because some of the technology will already have been pushed to quite high readiness levels, they will already have some infrastructure. That should make the vehicles cost less.
That's assuming of course that some technology hasn't got tied up in some military use that closes it out from public utilisation. This of course is a possibility with BAE in the mix so to speak.

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: The Reaction Engines Skylon/SABRE Master Thread (6)
« Reply #614 on: 06/15/2017 07:23 AM »
Yeah, governments could potentially want to own their own means of getting to orbit.  I was just addressing the commercial part of the argument.

I think it's questionable whether governments would rather spend money buying a launch vehicle built in another country rather than plowing money into domestic capability, but there is at least the potential some governments might.


Boeing has made money selling aircraft to foreign airlines.

Offline Alpha_Centauri

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Re: The Reaction Engines Skylon/SABRE Master Thread (6)
« Reply #615 on: 06/15/2017 07:30 AM »
I think that it will be interesting if they do find other ways to "monetize" their technology sooner because then the entire development cost of these things will not have to be laid at Skylon's door and that might help with the capital cost of a Skylon.

Skylon feels like as a project that it has been kicked well and truly into the long grass now and that any money they start to generate will be put into developing other near term projects.

That may be but what I'm saying is that when they say, "ok is it time to do a Skylon-like thing now?" they won't be looking for $10bn in finance to develop it because some of the technology will already have been pushed to quite high readiness levels, they will already have some infrastructure. That should make the vehicles cost less.
That's assuming of course that some technology hasn't got tied up in some military use that closes it out from public utilisation. This of course is a possibility with BAE in the mix so to speak.

The researchers now at REL got burned by that with HOTOL.  I'm pretty sure they are well aware of what they can and cannot do to retain rights over their inventions.


The new direction is finally creating opportunities to grow, and this moaning about BAE or TSTO is getting boring.

Unless some multi-billionaire or foreign government was willing to swoop in and pay the costs upfront Skylon was never going to happen.  We aren't losing anything because Skylon always was little more than a well-researched powerpoint. I'm mystified by the people who seem to think massive projects like Skylon just "happen" out of nowhere.  The jumbo jet wasn't Boeing's first plane...

Lets start with an industry building SABRE-derived engines, and other partners building hypersonic small-satellite TSTOs.  Then the gap to Skylon reduces immensely.
« Last Edit: 06/15/2017 07:31 AM by Alpha_Centauri »

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: The Reaction Engines Skylon/SABRE Master Thread (6)
« Reply #616 on: 06/15/2017 07:40 AM »
Yeah, governments could potentially want to own their own means of getting to orbit.  I was just addressing the commercial part of the argument.

I think it's questionable whether governments would rather spend money buying a launch vehicle built in another country rather than plowing money into domestic capability, but there is at least the potential some governments might.

Boeing has made money selling aircraft to foreign airlines.

Foreign airlines are businesses.  The whole point of this conversation you're replying to is that governments might put money into space programs for non-business reasons.  The point is that Skylon might be bought by governments for non-business reasons.  So Boeing selling to airlines is not very relevant.

Offline Star One

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Re: The Reaction Engines Skylon/SABRE Master Thread (6)
« Reply #617 on: 06/15/2017 07:52 AM »
I think that it will be interesting if they do find other ways to "monetize" their technology sooner because then the entire development cost of these things will not have to be laid at Skylon's door and that might help with the capital cost of a Skylon.

Skylon feels like as a project that it has been kicked well and truly into the long grass now and that any money they start to generate will be put into developing other near term projects.

That may be but what I'm saying is that when they say, "ok is it time to do a Skylon-like thing now?" they won't be looking for $10bn in finance to develop it because some of the technology will already have been pushed to quite high readiness levels, they will already have some infrastructure. That should make the vehicles cost less.
That's assuming of course that some technology hasn't got tied up in some military use that closes it out from public utilisation. This of course is a possibility with BAE in the mix so to speak.

The researchers now at REL got burned by that with HOTOL.  I'm pretty sure they are well aware of what they can and cannot do to retain rights over their inventions.


The new direction is finally creating opportunities to grow, and this moaning about BAE or TSTO is getting boring.

Unless some multi-billionaire or foreign government was willing to swoop in and pay the costs upfront Skylon was never going to happen.  We aren't losing anything because Skylon always was little more than a well-researched powerpoint. I'm mystified by the people who seem to think massive projects like Skylon just "happen" out of nowhere.  The jumbo jet wasn't Boeing's first plane...

Lets start with an industry building SABRE-derived engines, and other partners building hypersonic small-satellite TSTOs.  Then the gap to Skylon reduces immensely.

Skylon of late has just looked like something you stick in the company literature as a talking point when it comes to discussing closer to reality products.

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: The Reaction Engines Skylon/SABRE Master Thread (6)
« Reply #618 on: 06/15/2017 08:18 AM »
Yeah, governments could potentially want to own their own means of getting to orbit.  I was just addressing the commercial part of the argument.

I think it's questionable whether governments would rather spend money buying a launch vehicle built in another country rather than plowing money into domestic capability, but there is at least the potential some governments might.

Boeing has made money selling aircraft to foreign airlines.

Foreign airlines are businesses.  The whole point of this conversation you're replying to is that governments might put money into space programs for non-business reasons.  The point is that Skylon might be bought by governments for non-business reasons.  So Boeing selling to airlines is not very relevant.


Foreign airlines are frequently owned by their government making them little more than government departments. They exist to be flying adverts for the government - a non-business reason. So selling is very relevant.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: The Reaction Engines Skylon/SABRE Master Thread (6)
« Reply #619 on: 06/15/2017 08:34 AM »
Yeah, governments could potentially want to own their own means of getting to orbit.  I was just addressing the commercial part of the argument.

I think it's questionable whether governments would rather spend money buying a launch vehicle built in another country rather than plowing money into domestic capability, but there is at least the potential some governments might.

Boeing has made money selling aircraft to foreign airlines.

Foreign airlines are businesses.  The whole point of this conversation you're replying to is that governments might put money into space programs for non-business reasons.  The point is that Skylon might be bought by governments for non-business reasons.  So Boeing selling to airlines is not very relevant.


Foreign airlines are frequently owned by their government making them little more than government departments. They exist to be flying adverts for the government - a non-business reason. So selling is very relevant.

Being owned by a government doesn't make them stop being businesses.

Anyway, this discussion of airlines and governments isn't going anywhere, and it's boring, so I'm out.

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