Author Topic: Development of a Commercial LEO Station  (Read 36205 times)

Offline baldusi

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Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« on: 01/15/2014 05:38 PM »
I've been pondering how to transition the ISS to a commercial market. From the current situation, we have (or will have in brief) commercial services for cargo, crew, payload processing, qualification, etc. Also there are NASA and CASIS that give grants.
The two things that seem to be lacking are demand confidence and volume and a station commercial supplier.
I'm wondering of an approach like COTS/CRS wouldn't be a good one. The COTS-like phase would help develop a concept of the services agreements and technical proposals. Upto a maturity level where NASA can just buy utilization (its a complex definition, but doable).
Then do a CRS or NLS like contract where NASA or CASIS delivers experiments at the Cape and gets it returned and can send scientist and astronauts to work (but maintenance would probably be made by the commercial employees).
The secret would be a long term and fat enough contract to justify a fully commercial station by itself. Probably quite a bit smaller than the ISS.

Offline Lurker Steve

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #1 on: 01/15/2014 05:48 PM »
I don't see how a true "commercial" space station would be profitable without long term state-sponsored funding.

Forget about the costs to develop, build and launch the station, which will be already be a huge number. How do you keep up with the necessary logistics ? Even a small station that is staffed at half the level of ISS will require multi-billions per year in logistics, crew rotations, and maintenance. Where is that money coming from if the complex isn't owned and funded by a multiple nation states ?

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #2 on: 01/15/2014 05:49 PM »
I'd be happier than anyone to see a viable commercial station.  But, unfortunately, the demand just isn't there at price points anywhere close to what is feasible today.  Bigelow has essentially been ready to deliver such a station for years and trying to sign up customers, but they haven't been able to find enough of those customers.  For shorter-term, unmanned experiments, SpaceX has apparently not found enough customers to justify actually launching a DragonLab mission.

This is just going to have to wait until launch costs come way down.  So, if you want to see a commercial LEO station, hope for your favorite disruptive launch provider to succeed.  For me, the best shot at this is SpaceX making its launchers rapidly reusable -- both lower and upper stages.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #3 on: 01/15/2014 05:55 PM »
I don't see how a true "commercial" space station would be profitable without long term state-sponsored funding.

Forget about the costs to develop, build and launch the station, which will be already be a huge number. How do you keep up with the necessary logistics ? Even a small station that is staffed at half the level of ISS will require multi-billions per year in logistics, crew rotations, and maintenance. Where is that money coming from if the complex isn't owned and funded by a multiple nation states ?

I agree with you that the costs are too high to be justified by the commercial market.  But "multi-billions per year" is over-stating it.  Dragon is already in commercial service supplying logistics to the ISS for $133 million a flight, including all costs from launch vehicle to capsule to pad operations.  Crew Dragon is nearing operational status and shows no signs of costing much more than the current cargo Dragon.  So the costs for maintaining a small station with six-month crew rotations is likely to be between half a billion dollars and a billion dollars a year with currently-available and soon-to-be-available (2-3 years at most) systems.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #4 on: 01/15/2014 05:56 PM »
How much would logistics cost if serviced by, say, SpaceX and Blue Origin flights? They both want to get manned capsule flights down to, say, $10-20 million per flight. 10-20 flights a year of logistics (some would be cargo) gives $100-$400 million in logistics costs. Not actually that bad.

Obviously, there are a bunch of other costs, but these are the main ones which present the most obvious difficulties. But $100 million per year is fairly reasonable.

I think Lurker Steve may be correct that this would need state funding, because for people studying things in microgravity and the space environment, their basically sole source of funding is grants from the likes of NASA, NSF (the other one ;)), etc.
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Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #5 on: 01/15/2014 06:08 PM »
Yes, I think the costs can get to $100 million or below per year if SpaceX or Blue Origin achieve their targets.  I think it's more than 50% likely SpaceX will do it within 10 years.  Blue Origin seems more of a long shot to me, though it's hard to tell with how secretive they are.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #6 on: 01/15/2014 06:26 PM »
Yes, I think the costs can get to $100 million or below per year if SpaceX or Blue Origin achieve their targets.  I think it's more than 50% likely SpaceX will do it within 10 years.  Blue Origin seems more of a long shot to me, though it's hard to tell with how secretive they are.
...but $100 million is pretty low, might only be possible if there are other revenue streams for the logistics providers, like an increase in satellites, refueling, exploration, space tourism, and the like.
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Offline Elmar Moelzer

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #7 on: 01/15/2014 06:33 PM »
I thought Bigelow does have interested customers, just no way of getting them into orbit (waiting for CST-100 and Dragon). I might be remembering this wrong though. Also customers could be from other nations as well. Does not have to be limited to the US and NASA.

Offline Lurker Steve

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #8 on: 01/15/2014 06:45 PM »
I don't see how a true "commercial" space station would be profitable without long term state-sponsored funding.

Forget about the costs to develop, build and launch the station, which will be already be a huge number. How do you keep up with the necessary logistics ? Even a small station that is staffed at half the level of ISS will require multi-billions per year in logistics, crew rotations, and maintenance. Where is that money coming from if the complex isn't owned and funded by a multiple nation states ?

I agree with you that the costs are too high to be justified by the commercial market.  But "multi-billions per year" is over-stating it.  Dragon is already in commercial service supplying logistics to the ISS for $133 million a flight, including all costs from launch vehicle to capsule to pad operations.  Crew Dragon is nearing operational status and shows no signs of costing much more than the current cargo Dragon.  So the costs for maintaining a small station with six-month crew rotations is likely to be between half a billion dollars and a billion dollars a year with currently-available and soon-to-be-available (2-3 years at most) systems.

Remember that Dragon currently provides just a fraction of the current ISS logistics, and that's still 3-4 flights per year. So, we call logistics (no crew) a minimum of 500 million. You probably need the same number of crew flights, so that's another 500 million. Where does this Monopoly money come from ?

Online guckyfan

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #9 on: 01/15/2014 08:06 PM »
To be attractive to commercial customers I assume that there will be cargo and crew flights needed every month. The customers will want a quick turnover.

Add a cargo pod to Dragon instead of a simple trunk. The cargo pod would be disposable, passive and low cost, with the additional berthing port as the most expensive item. That way one flight per month can deliver both crew and cargo. Assuming at least first stage and Dragon reuse the price can be well below 100 Million $, so 1 Billion $ per year. Maybe that's low enough to attract a sufficient number of customers, both scientific and tourist.


Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #10 on: 01/15/2014 08:13 PM »
I think cargo and crew flights every month makes it a lot more expensive than it needs to be.  In my opinion, you could do that if it is a success and you can scale up to more business to make it worth the cost, but the most likely path to initial feasibility is with something like three cargo and two crew flights a year, to minimize total costs.

Offline Lurker Steve

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #11 on: 01/15/2014 08:16 PM »
I think cargo and crew flights every month makes it a lot more expensive than it needs to be.  In my opinion, you could do that if it is a success and you can scale up to more business to make it worth the cost, but the most likely path to initial feasibility is with something like three cargo and two crew flights a year, to minimize total costs.

And you are still talking about more money than just about every country other than the US and Russia spends on space.

Offline Elmar Moelzer

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #12 on: 01/16/2014 01:31 AM »
I think cargo and crew flights every month makes it a lot more expensive than it needs to be.  In my opinion, you could do that if it is a success and you can scale up to more business to make it worth the cost, but the most likely path to initial feasibility is with something like three cargo and two crew flights a year, to minimize total costs.

And you are still talking about more money than just about every country other than the US and Russia spends on space.
Not all of these flights would have to be financed by a single country.

Online hop

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #13 on: 01/16/2014 04:15 AM »
I thought Bigelow does have interested customers, just no way of getting them into orbit (waiting for CST-100 and Dragon).
That's certainly a story Bigelow have told, but it's not clear that it's really the whole story. If the current "interest" doesn't add up to the kind of money that would actually be needed to design, build, launch and operate the station, it would be convenient to blame it all on transport while trying to attract more investors and customers.

If Bigelow had really motivated customers with billions of dollars in hand who desperately wanted a station, those same customers could easily invest enough to ensure that one (or more) of the commercial crew competitors completed their vehicles in a timely fashion. At this point, finishing crew Dragon, CST-100 or Dreamchaser is probably lower risk than the rest of the Bigelow station project.

IMO, this tells us something about the level of interest in a commercial station.

Offline baldusi

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #14 on: 01/16/2014 12:42 PM »
May be I didn't made myself clear. I'm sorry. The long term contract should be a ten year contract, with enough utilization to pay for the station.
The idea would be that transport, control and maintenance would be supplied by the station owner. NASA could give the experiments on the launch site, and the operator would integrate them in the VV (more like packing, actually), and the station personel would unpack it, run it and send the results back. Or, for an extra fee, the contractor could fly a NASA scientist to their station, supply him with food and accomodations, and let him run the experiments.
The contract would be for X amount of rack space, electric power, microgravity conditions, crew experiment operation time etc. If NASA and CASIS can't fill it, they have to pay anyways, if they need more, the price is alredy scheduled.
If NASA wants to train astronauts and do physiologic experiments, they could add a sort of hotel contract, where the contractor  has to supply some basic exercise machines, but NASA has the option of sending their own.
Additionally, if NASA wants to use the station to assemble and check out BEO modules, stack, there should be provitions.
If they can get a ten years 1B/yr basic contract, I guess that they could get multiple bidders.
Now, not only defining this would be quite an ordeal, but actually validating and certifying the station would be quite an issue. Each offeror would probably have different ops projects and such.
So an initial phase might be done COTS style. Or may be the optimum wpuld be done more like CCDev1/2/CCiCAP/etc. Where first some "small" amounts would be awarded to interesting techno log is and ops concepts, then they could select some candidates to develop the concepts and proposals for an integrated solution. And put some development money to retire risk and mature the proposals.
Then, take the most serious three or four proposals to actually build demonstrations and prepare for certification. And then chose one to do the certification and build the station. After that, they go to the service contract thet I've explained before.

Offline su27k

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #15 on: 01/16/2014 03:33 PM »
Yes, I had the same idea, basically NASA would be paying the bills (at a level way below ISS), but will not dictate the station/transportation design, it will just buy space on the station. The same method can be applied to a moonbase later on.

However I think it's a bit early to think about this, given ISS may get extended to 2028, and SpaceX may make launch cost a lot cheaper in the next few years.

Offline baldusi

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #16 on: 01/16/2014 04:57 PM »
And I believe there's no time left to start the process, even if it's extended to 2028. ISS was designed to use the Shuttle, Canadarm and lots of EVAs. A commercial station would need cheaper and simpler ops. If you don't do it the Russian or the ISS way, there's little to no experience and validation.
Of course that cheaper launches would be great, and the extension will help to develop the commercial enablers of science, like Nanoracks.
But the phase of developing cheaper ways of doing what ISS already does, is now. NASA is focused on doing longer term ECLSS, year long stays and leveraging the station for BEO. And that's what it should do. Let the commercial contractors think how to do 80% for 20% of the cost.
« Last Edit: 01/16/2014 04:59 PM by baldusi »

Offline Danderman

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #17 on: 01/16/2014 05:07 PM »

But the phase of developing cheaper ways of doing what ISS already does, is now.


Is anyone actually working on this?


Offline Lurker Steve

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #18 on: 01/16/2014 05:13 PM »
Yes, I had the same idea, basically NASA would be paying the bills (at a level way below ISS), but will not dictate the station/transportation design, it will just buy space on the station. The same method can be applied to a moonbase later on.

However I think it's a bit early to think about this, given ISS may get extended to 2028, and SpaceX may make launch cost a lot cheaper in the next few years.

If NASA isn't operating the station, then they really don't need to be involved at all.

Any research being performed by NASA scientists would have it's funding shifted to the NSF, I assume, except that the NSF doesn't really have that much funding on a regular basis, right ? And I certainly don't see any part of the US government committing to a 10 year long contract.



Offline Lar

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #19 on: 01/16/2014 08:19 PM »

But the phase of developing cheaper ways of doing what ISS already does, is now.


Is anyone actually working on this?
To what level of detail? I'm sure folks (say, at Bigelow) have done some paper studies and produced some powerpoints... but actually testing out things would require at least labs, not just studies.

Edit: no, not necessarily. But detailed engineering of systems like ECLSS, power, heat rejection and so forth would need to be done, at least to some level of detail, if one was trying to reduce the amount of d EVA required to maintain things.
« Last Edit: 01/16/2014 08:35 PM by Lar »
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Offline Elmar Moelzer

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #20 on: 01/16/2014 08:25 PM »
To what level of detail? I'm sure folks (say, at Bigelow) have done some paper studies and produced some powerpoints... but actually testing out things would require at least labs, not just studies.
From my limited understanding, Bigelow did have two smaller unmanned prototypes in space that validated many of their designs.

Offline baldusi

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #21 on: 01/16/2014 10:28 PM »

But the phase of developing cheaper ways of doing what ISS already does, is now.


Is anyone actually working on this?
You are doing it with Nanoracks. And the StickyBoom is another project. I believe there are lots of ideas and low TRL technologies around that could be empowered and given a lot of impulse with verry little federal investment. But I'm sure Boeing is happy with their support contract and won't be looking for any disruptive technology.
NASA should handle at least the first phase, and they would need the ISS services for astronaut training, material and technology validation, BEO stack assembly and more. But obviously a lot of the contract should be more with something like CASIS. But NASA already handles the NOAA satellites. So they could handle this for a while.

Offline su27k

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #22 on: 01/18/2014 03:00 AM »
If NASA isn't operating the station, then they really don't need to be involved at all.

Any research being performed by NASA scientists would have it's funding shifted to the NSF, I assume, except that the NSF doesn't really have that much funding on a regular basis, right ? And I certainly don't see any part of the US government committing to a 10 year long contract.

The untold assumption here is that the American people still want to see Americans fly to space at current level of cost or less, and NASA still have a human spaceflight budget which is comparable to current levels. Also assumed is that given the current launch cost, a space station cannot be supported by pure commercial interests.

Given these assumptions, it is my belief that a COTS/CRS style contract for a future space station would give NASA a much bigger bang for the buck, and drive the innovation needed in the private sector to make space affordable. This is hopefully just a stepping stone to a full commercial space station, once the launch cost is significantly reduced.

The contract is the key, I don't have enough knowledge to go into details here, but in general you would want NASA to commit the funding, but will require the private companies to reduce the funding needed as time goes by.

Offline Blackjax

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #23 on: 01/18/2014 03:49 AM »
I thought Bigelow does have interested customers, just no way of getting them into orbit (waiting for CST-100 and Dragon).
If Bigelow had really motivated customers with billions of dollars in hand who desperately wanted a station, those same customers could easily invest enough to ensure that one (or more) of the commercial crew competitors completed their vehicles in a timely fashion. At this point, finishing crew Dragon, CST-100 or Dreamchaser is probably lower risk than the rest of the Bigelow station project.

Can you clarify why you think they would bother spending their own cash when they can simply wait for them to be available with someone else (NASA and the companies themselves) putting up the cash?  Yes it means a little delay, but I am not sure I see why the delay would be more important to them than the money.  What do you feel is driving the overwhelming urgency that they'd be compelled to fund the vehicles?

Also, I'd note this...
http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2014/01/dream-chasers-european-deal-opens-ambitions/

Is it related?  I have no idea, but can we be sure it isn't?

Online hop

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #24 on: 01/18/2014 05:48 AM »
What do you feel is driving the overwhelming urgency that they'd be compelled to fund the vehicles?
The point I was trying to make is that there aren't companies with deep pockets who have an overwhelming urgency to have a space station.

If some big company thought a space station would add billions to their bottom line, they could pay Bigelow to finish their station rather than stopping work and laying a bunch of people off. If transport is the roadblock (as Bigelow has suggested), they could invest to make it more of a sure thing. The fact this hasn't happened doesn't mean there is no interest, but it does suggest some upper bounds.
Quote
Also, I'd note this...
http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2014/01/dream-chasers-european-deal-opens-ambitions/

Is it related?  I have no idea, but can we be sure it isn't?
No doubt SNC would like to sell to anyone they can, but beyond that I don't see much connection. SNC puts a brave face on finishing Dream Chaser even if NASA doesn't select them, but it's not obvious that the money is really there.

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #25 on: 01/18/2014 06:06 AM »
A commercial station doesn't have to be permanently manned. Experiments/ manufacturing  can be done via telerobots, tourist visits can be used to resupply experiments. There is also possibility of using  secondary payload on another launch for supply runs.

Offline Lar

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #26 on: 01/18/2014 07:12 AM »
To what level of detail? I'm sure folks (say, at Bigelow) have done some paper studies and produced some powerpoints... but actually testing out things would require at least labs, not just studies.
From my limited understanding, Bigelow did have two smaller unmanned prototypes in space that validated many of their designs.
I was referring to ECLSS, power, and radiators and maintenance of it all telerobotically.. for less than ISS. I didn't think the Bigelow inflatables were more than just inflated structures.
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Offline Jim

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #27 on: 01/18/2014 12:50 PM »

If NASA isn't operating the station, then they really don't need to be involved at all.

Any research being performed by NASA scientists would have it's funding shifted to the NSF,


No, NSF doesn't really fund this type of research

Offline docmordrid

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #28 on: 01/18/2014 01:30 PM »
To what level of detail? I'm sure folks (say, at Bigelow) have done some paper studies and produced some powerpoints... but actually testing out things would require at least labs, not just studies.
From my limited understanding, Bigelow did have two smaller unmanned prototypes in space that validated many of their designs.
I was referring to ECLSS, power, and radiators and maintenance of it all telerobotically.. for less than ISS. I didn't think the Bigelow inflatables were more than just inflated structures.

http://lasvegas.craigslist.org/hea/4260682849.html
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Offline baldusi

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #29 on: 01/18/2014 02:29 PM »
No, NSF doesn't really fund this type of research
Jim, I'm very interested in you personal opinion on the general approach I proposed.

Offline Jim

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #30 on: 01/18/2014 02:37 PM »
No, NSF doesn't really fund this type of research
Jim, I'm very interested in you personal opinion on the general approach I proposed.

That is exactly like it showed work.  Just like cargo to the ISS.

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #31 on: 01/18/2014 07:46 PM »
To what level of detail? I'm sure folks (say, at Bigelow) have done some paper studies and produced some powerpoints... but actually testing out things would require at least labs, not just studies.
From my limited understanding, Bigelow did have two smaller unmanned prototypes in space that validated many of their designs.
I was referring to ECLSS, power, and radiators and maintenance of it all telerobotically.. for less than ISS. I didn't think the Bigelow inflatables were more than just inflated structures.

http://lasvegas.craigslist.org/hea/4260682849.html

Off topic.  If there are long periods when the test subject just sits around authors of fiction may be interested.

Offline AncientU

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #32 on: 01/18/2014 10:40 PM »
Maybe off topic a bit, but a real opportunity for commercial space station jump start is for NASA to propose a commercial opportunity (in line with OP) for the Exploration Outpost at EML-2.  Though similar in technology to a LEO station, it's mission would be very different.  It would be much more on NASA's exploration path and not redundant with existing ISS.  [A similar program for fuel depots would also help create needed exploration infrastructure, but has the downside of being even further OT.]

Might be complementary to this program:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=33840.0
« Last Edit: 01/18/2014 10:46 PM by AncientU »
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Offline Blackjax

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #33 on: 01/19/2014 01:03 AM »
What do you feel is driving the overwhelming urgency that they'd be compelled to fund the vehicles?
The point I was trying to make is that there aren't companies with deep pockets who have an overwhelming urgency to have a space station.

If some big company thought a space station would add billions to their bottom line, they could pay Bigelow to finish their station rather than stopping work and laying a bunch of people off. If transport is the roadblock (as Bigelow has suggested), they could invest to make it more of a sure thing. The fact this hasn't happened doesn't mean there is no interest, but it does suggest some upper bounds.

You still seem to be making the assumption that customers would pay to either hurry things along or ensure that the capability is there, and I just don't see why that would be likely.  Companies or sovereign clients are more likely, in my opinion, to wait on the fence until capability exists and has been demonstrated, then initiate their own programs which would make use of what is available.  Until the capability is there I doubt they spend much time, attention, or funds on the whole thing.

Consequently, I think it is premature to try to draw any conclusions from the apparent lack of customers at this point.  1-2 years after it is in orbit and people can fly things to it, then if there is no groundswell of customers, we'll all have our answers about whether there is a market at the price point Bigelow is selling at.

One thing I do want to highlight about the viability of the commercial station business model is the issue of availability of redundant transport to the station if they have people flying to it or time sensitive perishable payloads.  If I were a decision maker considering investing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in a project which makes use of a commercial station, I'd spend some time assessing the risks.  A big point of concern for me would be if there were only a single *affordable* transportation provider to that station.  It'll be great if SpaceX can bring costs way down, but if nobody follows suit, it is going to inhibit market growth among the more conservative side of the potential market if there is no real alternative option if they get grounded for some reason.

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

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #34 on: 01/19/2014 01:33 AM »
What do you feel is driving the overwhelming urgency that they'd be compelled to fund the vehicles?
The point I was trying to make is that there aren't companies with deep pockets who have an overwhelming urgency to have a space station.

If some big company thought a space station would add billions to their bottom line, they could pay Bigelow to finish their station rather than stopping work and laying a bunch of people off. If transport is the roadblock (as Bigelow has suggested), they could invest to make it more of a sure thing. The fact this hasn't happened doesn't mean there is no interest, but it does suggest some upper bounds.

You still seem to be making the assumption that customers would pay to either hurry things along or ensure that the capability is there, and I just don't see why that would be likely.

No, he isn't making that assumption.  He's just saying there isn't a customer that is so eager to have it they're will to pay to hurry things along.  That doesn't mean there aren't customers who would use it if it existed but are OK with it being delayed.

As a previous post pointed out, if a company thought it could make X dollars profit per year if it could buy a product, it would be in that company's interest to pay half of X to get that product to available a year earlier.  So the lack of any companies stepping up to pay to hurry commercial crew along does put a bound on how much any one company thinks it will make in profits from having commercial crew services available.

Companies or sovereign clients are more likely, in my opinion, to wait on the fence until capability exists and has been demonstrated, then initiate their own programs which would make use of what is available.  Until the capability is there I doubt they spend much time, attention, or funds on the whole thing.

Consequently, I think it is premature to try to draw any conclusions from the apparent lack of customers at this point.

You're right that you can't conclude there won't be customers.  But you are wrong that you can't draw any conclusions at all.  You can draw the conclusion that no single customer thinks it will make enough money to justify investing to speed up commercial crew.

1-2 years after it is in orbit and people can fly things to it, then if there is no groundswell of customers, we'll all have our answers about whether there is a market at the price point Bigelow is selling at.

One thing I do want to highlight about the viability of the commercial station business model is the issue of availability of redundant transport to the station if they have people flying to it or time sensitive perishable payloads.  If I were a decision maker considering investing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in a project which makes use of a commercial station, I'd spend some time assessing the risks.  A big point of concern for me would be if there were only a single *affordable* transportation provider to that station.  It'll be great if SpaceX can bring costs way down, but if nobody follows suit, it is going to inhibit market growth among the more conservative side of the potential market if there is no real alternative option if they get grounded for some reason.

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

Businesses take these kinds of risks all the time.  If you're Southwest Airlines and 100% of the aircraft you fly are 737s, then you're taking the risk that if the 737 is grounded by an accident, you're out of business during the period of the grounding.

Any business that involves humans in orbit is going to have many very high risks.  The unavailability of a transport vehicle due to grounding after a mishap is only one of them, and it's very likely not anywhere close to the highest risk.

Offline joek

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #35 on: 01/19/2014 01:49 AM »
Short answer: A commercial lab will not be cost effective until a market (with significant additional demand) is demonstrated, or which can demonstrate a signicantly lower cost to customers than the ISS at subsidized rates.  Per the NASA IG (emphasis added):
Quote
Moreover, the commercial entities paid only for the cost of the investigators while NASA covered the cost of payload integration, transportation, and ISS resources. According to NASA, it is unlikely that any of these commercial experiments would have taken place in the absence of the Agency’s in-kind contributions and assistance.
(Those commercial experiments account for ~9% of ISS research activity.)

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #36 on: 01/19/2014 02:00 AM »
Hey, guess what. The market will never exist if people wait to build (insert item) until the market is demonstrated. Leaders see an opportunity and capitalize on it before it's been demonstrated to everyone.
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Offline joek

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #37 on: 01/19/2014 02:10 AM »
Hey, guess what. The market will never exist if people wait to build (insert item) until the market is demonstrated. Leaders see an opportunity and capitalize on it before it's been demonstrated to everyone.

Hey, guess what.  At the moment we have an on-orbit research facility willing to subsidize customers and grant them free transportation, integration and on-orbit operations, and there still isn't sufficient demand.  Where exactly are those "leaders" you refer to?  What are they waiting on?
« Last Edit: 01/19/2014 02:11 AM by joek »

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #38 on: 01/19/2014 02:51 AM »
Planetlabs just launched a fleet of imaging satellites (28 of them, in fact) from the ISS. They paid for it. Also, Nanoracks has several customers for racks on board ISS. Urthecast is a commercial telescope on the ISS.

A commercially operated station has a market. NASA and ESA and others wish to do research in space. Their funding is limited, but still real. What about a follow-on to AMS-02? What about DARPA funding for new space technologies?

A commercial station could be much less expensive compared to ISS. A fully reusable Falcon 9 and Dragon could be dramatically cheaper especially once development is finished and the vehicles are operational for long duration. Besides, SpaceX will have a dozen or so capsules that it could reuse for the purpose by the end of CRS. Blue Origin also hopes to get in the game with a reusable launch vehicle and capsule and a lower but still stable source of funding. XCOR is the same. In a decade or two, it's quite conceivable that logistics costs could be closer to $15million/flight.
« Last Edit: 01/19/2014 03:05 AM by Robotbeat »
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #39 on: 01/19/2014 02:59 AM »
The demand for space tourists at $30-40 million for a week or two appears to be one per year. What if it was longer? What if the price were $5 million or $2 million? Mightn't it be conceivable that you'd get dozens of interested folks per year? At $15 million per flight ($7 million for the launch same as what SpaceX intends to charge for its reusable flights eventually, $7 million for the spacecraft and operations), you could charge $3 million per seat and turn a healthy profit.

And some space tourists in the past claimed they paid part of their way with stuff they did on ISS. How much would it be worth it if you had someone fix a broken satellite? $3 million (or even a whole $15 million) may be well worth sending up a technician to fix an undeployed solar array or something, especially if you had the capabilities of a space station at hand (arm, airlock, etc).
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 baldusi

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

Offline baldusi

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

Offline Jim

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

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


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

Offline clongton

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Offline baldusi

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

Online hop

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

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

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

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

Offline joek

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

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

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

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

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

Offline baldusi

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

Offline joek

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

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

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

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

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

Offline baldusi

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

Offline jongoff

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

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

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

and a few other details.

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

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

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

~Jon

Offline A_M_Swallow

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

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

~Jon

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

Offline sdsds

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

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

Offline baldusi

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

Offline ChrisWilson68

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

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

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

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offline baldusi

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

Offline jongoff

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

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

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

~Jon

Offline Blackjax

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

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

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

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

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #60 on: 01/21/2014 04:03 AM »
$20 million a year is enough to hire 100 people working full time at an average pay of $200,000 per year. Is that not enough to train a few dozen individuals per annum? Each person could have a small team of PhDs training them personally for 6 months ahead of time (though I'd bet this time would be greatly shortened for commercial operations let alone space tourism). That is far more than should really be required. Also, ground support costs would be tremendously simplified compared to ISS. Remember, ISS has been the centerpiece for a couple of NASA centers for a decade and a half. A commercial station would have a tiny, tiny fraction of the overhead.
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Offline DarkenedOne

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #61 on: 01/22/2014 02:25 PM »
You guys are missing the fact that the ISS cannot last forever.  From what I have seen there is still going to be demand for a space station from NASA.  Not $100 billion dollars of demand, but still some demand. 

I think a commercial partnership between NASA and some commercial entity to build a commercial space station can definitely work.  A space station with the same habitable volume as the ISS can be build with just a few of Bigelows BA-330 modules.  NASA would serve as the primary customer, and would take up most of the space with their operations.  The rest of the space station would then be rented out to various clients including other space agencies, space tourism companies like Space Adventures, and organizations looking to do research.

Offline clongton

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #62 on: 01/22/2014 02:34 PM »
The price of the flight from the ground to the commercial station is totally off topic for this thread. I think we should try to stay on this excellent topic. I like what Jon had to say about free flyers. Done properly, there shouldn't be much need for a crew member to don a spacesuit and go outside. Think of the UAV fliers. They sit in a comfortable flight station and fly their aircraft from half way around the world. There's no reason we can't do that same kind of thing with a properly designed free flyer for telerobotic operations all around and on the station exterior. Commercial station designers ought to include 1 or 2 such stations in their designs. ISS would have greatly benefited from such operations. It's still "eyes and hands on the mission", just from inside the station instead of inside a spacesuit outside the station. If surgeons can perform delicate telerobotic operations on a person from thousands of miles away using properly designed "hands" and tools, there's no reason we couldn't do the same kind of delicate missions telerobotically, but from inside the station, instead of outside.
« Last Edit: 01/22/2014 02:41 PM by clongton »
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Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #63 on: 01/22/2014 03:17 PM »
You guys are missing the fact that the ISS cannot last forever.  From what I have seen there is still going to be demand for a space station from NASA.  Not $100 billion dollars of demand, but still some demand. 

I think a commercial partnership between NASA and some commercial entity to build a commercial space station can definitely work.  A space station with the same habitable volume as the ISS can be build with just a few of Bigelows BA-330 modules.  NASA would serve as the primary customer, and would take up most of the space with their operations.  The rest of the space station would then be rented out to various clients including other space agencies, space tourism companies like Space Adventures, and organizations looking to do research.

If ISS is replaced by a Bigelow SSA (660m3) then the rent of 550m3 which is equal to the space they currently have on ISS at a price of $1-1.5B per year to both US and Russian clients. For which US pays 2/3 of the costs or $.7B to $1B a 1/6 to 1/3 that of the current ISS US budget of $3M.

The high cost value is based on $307M per year for rental of 110m3 of space, 1 astronaut  (2 transports for 6 months stay) and csrgo support.

If US kept their budget of $3M for station operations and they rented space from a commecial station they could purchase 3 to 6 times the space for 3 to 6 times the number of astronauts currently on ISS. This would be 1100m3 to 2200m3 for US portion and 12 to 24 continuous astronauts for US and affiliate nations (Non-Russian astronauts). Basiclly 6 to 12 BA330 modules in one station. Also a total of 6 to 12 crew transport flights and 9 to 18 cargo flights.

NOTE: The low value is based on $200M per year where rental is the same but astronaut transport and cargo transport due to reuse of Dragons and LV costs of astronaut transport drops $100M because the costs to Bigelow for astronauts per seat drops from $25M to $10M and cargo per flight costs to Bigelow drops from $140M to $50M.

Offline simpl simon

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #64 on: 01/22/2014 03:28 PM »
You guys are missing the fact that the ISS cannot last forever.  From what I have seen there is still going to be demand for a space station from NASA.  Not $100 billion dollars of demand, but still some demand. 

I think a commercial partnership between NASA and some commercial entity to build a commercial space station can definitely work.  A space station with the same habitable volume as the ISS can be build with just a few of Bigelows BA-330 modules.  NASA would serve as the primary customer, and would take up most of the space with their operations.  The rest of the space station would then be rented out to various clients including other space agencies, space tourism companies like Space Adventures, and organizations looking to do research.

Can you elaborate on just what NASA's demand for a space station would be post-ISS?
Isn't NASA already moving in the direction that utilisation activities in LEO should be commercially driven? Isn't the CASIS model now adopted for ISS a sign of future LEO activities?
 

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #65 on: 01/22/2014 03:46 PM »
If NASA paid the same amount for commercial space station time (including probably sending NASA astronauts up) as they do now for just commercial crew and cargo, there'd be no problem with the business plan of a commercial space station. Even if they spent half as much (say, just $500 million), it'd still be a good deal for all parties involved. And with any other commercial space companies renting time (or orbital tourism), it'd be a no-brainer.

Heck, it might even make sense to use such facilities to help build and man a Mars transfer vehicle or some such (such as outfitting and in-orbit checking and maintenance and refurbishment when it returns).

And before someone suggests NASA wouldn't do it because it wouldn't be "NASA": About half of NASA is contractors already. NASA has no problem working with companies to accomplish research goals.
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #66 on: 01/22/2014 03:54 PM »
You guys are missing the fact that the ISS cannot last forever.  From what I have seen there is still going to be demand for a space station from NASA.  Not $100 billion dollars of demand, but still some demand. 

I think a commercial partnership between NASA and some commercial entity to build a commercial space station can definitely work.  A space station with the same habitable volume as the ISS can be build with just a few of Bigelows BA-330 modules.  NASA would serve as the primary customer, and would take up most of the space with their operations.  The rest of the space station would then be rented out to various clients including other space agencies, space tourism companies like Space Adventures, and organizations looking to do research.

Can you elaborate on just what NASA's demand for a space station would be post-ISS?
Isn't NASA already moving in the direction that utilisation activities in LEO should be commercially driven? Isn't the CASIS model now adopted for ISS a sign of future LEO activities?
NASA would still want to continue the microgravity research they do now. NASA spends tens of millions each year on stuff like drop towers and zero-gravity parabolic flights and the like. Probably over $100 million annually if you include vacuum chamber facilities and the like. No doubt they'd want to procure services in orbit if they were available. Heck, a commercial space station would be a great place to train astronauts for Mars or Moon (or beyond) missions, too, if the price were low enough.
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To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #67 on: 01/22/2014 04:12 PM »
You guys are missing the fact that the ISS cannot last forever.  From what I have seen there is still going to be demand for a space station from NASA.  Not $100 billion dollars of demand, but still some demand. 

I think a commercial partnership between NASA and some commercial entity to build a commercial space station can definitely work.  A space station with the same habitable volume as the ISS can be build with just a few of Bigelows BA-330 modules.  NASA would serve as the primary customer, and would take up most of the space with their operations.  The rest of the space station would then be rented out to various clients including other space agencies, space tourism companies like Space Adventures, and organizations looking to do research.

Can you elaborate on just what NASA's demand for a space station would be post-ISS?
Isn't NASA already moving in the direction that utilisation activities in LEO should be commercially driven? Isn't the CASIS model now adopted for ISS a sign of future LEO activities?

It's not so much of a technical demand but what Congress will budget for LEO operations.

When spending for something is at a certain level and it has been going steady at a flat budget for it for a decade or more (by 2024 ISS $3M budget will have continued for >2 decades), Congress is unlikely to just kill the budget for that line item. Even in the case of ISS not existing anymore. Congress would demand NASA keep spending the same amount for LEO operations whether NASA wanted to or not. Evidence of this case is the Constellation spending and SLS follow on spending to Constellation. Congress didn't want NASA to stop spending. Unlike Apollo which was a balloon budget, ISS is a "small" continuous budget portion of NASA that congressmen expect to be spent. If the changeover from direct spending to Commercial rental is done slowlly then it will not ruffle feathers. A hard abrupt changeover is more likely to result in a 0 budget.

So a flat budget of $3M per year for LEO operations, at least through 2028, and coupled with operations savings on crew transport and cargo transport could allow for the rental of space on a next door free-flyer station that could eventually be the ISS replacement.

A next door free flyer to ISS is an interesting option. The same crew transport could service both stations. Delivering 3 crew to the free-flyer and 4 to ISS. NASA could transport 7 astronauts for the price of 4, the current crew complement for crew missions to ISS. If NASA can save $.5B on crew and cargo transport costs by 2020 they could afford to rent 330m3 of yearly space on a next door free-flyer.

Offline simpl simon

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #68 on: 01/22/2014 04:31 PM »
Thanks for that post, oldAtlas_Eguy. Rather than extend the thread unnecessarily by quoting your post, I would just like to be sure that you are referring to an annual budget for LEO operations of $3B not £3M.

What about the major decision facing NASA and Congress, that the future U.S. human spaceflight program, in an era of flat budgets, can include either space exploration or LEO operations, but not both?

And that $3B per year is for ISS operations. How much does NASA actually budget for the science, I wonder?


Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #69 on: 01/22/2014 05:00 PM »
oldAtlas_guy, you mean $3B, not $3M, right?
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Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #70 on: 01/22/2014 05:09 PM »
In regards ferrying crew between ISS and commercil station, I had same idea. We had a discussion about this on another thread
while back. Conclusion was that the two stations would be stationed to far apart for this to work.

Offline Go4TLI

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #71 on: 01/22/2014 05:10 PM »

A next door free flyer to ISS is an interesting option. The same crew transport could service both stations. Delivering 3 crew to the free-flyer and 4 to ISS. NASA could transport 7 astronauts for the price of 4, the current crew complement for crew missions to ISS. If NASA can save $.5B on crew and cargo transport costs by 2020 they could afford to rent 330m3 of yearly space on a next door free-flyer.

That doesn't work.  One vehicle, two stations leaves one station with the crew stranded on it and without an emergency escape vehicle in the event it becomes necessary. 

Offline Elmar Moelzer

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #72 on: 01/22/2014 05:37 PM »
How about a commercial expansion to the ISS? Bigelow is going to do something like that as a small scale test with BEAM. I could imagine doing this on a much greater scale with BA modules when the time is right.

Offline Go4TLI

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #73 on: 01/22/2014 05:45 PM »
How about a commercial expansion to the ISS? Bigelow is going to do something like that as a small scale test with BEAM. I could imagine doing this on a much greater scale with BA modules when the time is right.

Ripe with complications.  The module would essentially be parasitic to ISS.  Because ISS is the vehicle and the module is just that, all standard rules, regulations and procedures would apply to that module as every other module that make up the ISS vehicle. 

Depending on what one wants to do with this "commercial station" that could make it prohibitive. 

Offline Elmar Moelzer

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #74 on: 01/22/2014 06:06 PM »

Ripe with complications.  The module would essentially be parasitic to ISS.  Because ISS is the vehicle and the module is just that, all standard rules, regulations and procedures would apply to that module as every other module that make up the ISS vehicle. 
Depending on what one wants to do with this "commercial station" that could make it prohibitive.
I am not 100% sure, but I believe that the BA modules will come with their own power supply, life support and station keeping thrusters, might also be that Bigelow wanted to do an extra module for that. Either way, they should be able to function without being parasitic to the ISS, at least as far as possible while being attached to it.

Offline Go4TLI

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #75 on: 01/22/2014 06:17 PM »

Ripe with complications.  The module would essentially be parasitic to ISS.  Because ISS is the vehicle and the module is just that, all standard rules, regulations and procedures would apply to that module as every other module that make up the ISS vehicle. 
Depending on what one wants to do with this "commercial station" that could make it prohibitive.
I am not 100% sure, but I believe that the BA modules will come with their own power supply, life support and station keeping thrusters, might also be that Bigelow wanted to do an extra module for that. Either way, they should be able to function without being parasitic to the ISS, at least as far as possible while being attached to it.

BEAM is not a "BA Module".  It's a test essentially.  And it won't have any of that.

Offline Jim

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #76 on: 01/22/2014 06:23 PM »
I am not 100% sure, but I believe that the BA modules will come with their own power supply, life support and station keeping thrusters, might also be that Bigelow wanted to do an extra module for that. Either way, they should be able to function without being parasitic to the ISS, at least as far as possible while being attached to it.

No, not either way. 
1. It won't be function while attached to the ISS
2. It would be parastic.

And this is why they would be incapable with the ISS. 
1.  Where is the power "supply" going to come from?  Solar arrays?  Not feasible.  There would be shadowing on the ISS and from the ISS.  Same goes for radiators.
2.  Life support?   Can't have an independent system from the ISS, it must be integrated to ensure proper conditions
3.  Thrusters?  Why would they be needed when part of the ISS?

And the reason why another module added to the USOS is not feasible:  No resources (power, cooling, etc) available to the another module.  See what is being done with BEAM.
« Last Edit: 01/22/2014 06:26 PM by Jim »

Offline Elmar Moelzer

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #77 on: 01/22/2014 06:51 PM »
I am not 100% sure, but I believe that the BA modules will come with their own power supply, life support and station keeping thrusters, might also be that Bigelow wanted to do an extra module for that. Either way, they should be able to function without being parasitic to the ISS, at least as far as possible while being attached to it.

No, not either way. 
1. It won't be function while attached to the ISS
2. It would be parastic.

And this is why they would be incapable with the ISS. 
1.  Where is the power "supply" going to come from?  Solar arrays?  Not feasible.  There would be shadowing on the ISS and from the ISS.  Same goes for radiators.
2.  Life support?   Can't have an independent system from the ISS, it must be integrated to ensure proper conditions
3.  Thrusters?  Why would they be needed when part of the ISS?

And the reason why another module added to the USOS is not feasible:  No resources (power, cooling, etc) available to the another module.  See what is being done with BEAM.
1. Well, the BAs do have their own solar arrays and radiators. I admit that I believe shadowing from the ISS could be a problem and I actually thought about that possibility myself. I do wonder however, whether the BA modules and solar panels could be arranged in a way that the shadowing would be at a minimum. You are right though that it probably is a problem. Is it insurmountable though?
2. Ok, that is a good point! On the other hand there are currently several different systems on different ISS modules that contribute to the ECLS. So while I agree that these systems have to be synced, this might not be an insurmountable problem.
3. I guess it makes more sense to use the thrusters of the station but maybe the BA modules can contribute in some way.

Either way, I understand the reservation and you are probably right. I am still not 100% convinced that it is so impossible though. The idea of expanding the ISS with Bigelow modules is certainly not new. I have seen it before.
« Last Edit: 01/22/2014 07:03 PM by Elmar Moelzer »

Offline Jim

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #78 on: 01/22/2014 06:56 PM »

2. Ok, that is a good point! On the other hand there are currently several different systems on different ISS modules that contribute to the ECLS. So while I agree that these systems have to be synced, this might not be an insurmountable problem.


They aren't "different", they are all part of the same integrated system.  It is just distributed.

Offline Elmar Moelzer

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #79 on: 01/22/2014 07:02 PM »

2. Ok, that is a good point! On the other hand there are currently several different systems on different ISS modules that contribute to the ECLS. So while I agree that these systems have to be synced, this might not be an insurmountable problem.


They aren't "different", they are all part of the same integrated system.  It is just distributed.
Not trying to argue with you, but I was under the assumption that there were at least 3 different, independently activated oxygen generation systems on the ISS (on different modules), some meant as backups. Is that incorrect?

Offline Jim

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #80 on: 01/22/2014 07:29 PM »

Not trying to argue with you, but I was under the assumption that there were at least 3 different, independently activated oxygen generation systems on the ISS (on different modules), some meant as backups. Is that incorrect?

RS systems are separate from the USOS systems.  I was only talking about the USOS hosting a module.  The USOS ECLSS system is integrated and uses the OGS for O2.

Offline dror

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #81 on: 01/22/2014 07:30 PM »

Either way, I understand the reservation and you are probably right. I am still not 100% that it is so impossible though. The idea of expanding the ISS with Bigelow modules is certainly not new. I have seen it before.

Bigelow modules are not the only option.
The point of this thread is that comercial suppliers will have to offer alternatives and to compete as they do in ccidev.
Bigelow has the advantages of being there, being partially tested and being expandable thus allowing more volume.
Other alternatives could have other advantages:
-It has been stated that a cygnus pressurised module can be fitted to stay connected to a station as a parasitic module with minor tubing aditions. A station that will utilize such a method could grow bigger with every cargo ship coming.
-Shenzu ships has an orbital module like suyoz ships, only that it has two airlocks, allowing it to stay active and remain as a part of the station after the crew dispatches.
-A hard shell station module is more robust than an inflatable one. Maybe that the good old fasion modules are just better.
-The second stage of the falcon does most of the way up only to be turned back again. Can it be used as a module or as propultion for a station? Wet launch? That may seem like too much, but then again it was the idea for skylab. SpaceIslandGroup took that idea to extreme and might have had a station working by now if the shutle program didn't tragicly stoped.
http://www.spaceislandgroup.com/vehicles-systems.html
I'm sure that there could be many good ideas if it was offered to the private sector instead of the ultra conservative agancies and thats why it has to be an open comercial contract as sugested here. And it has to start asap because the ISS is a dead end project.
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Offline Jim

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #82 on: 01/22/2014 07:44 PM »
1.  -It has been stated that a cygnus pressurised module can be fitted to stay connected to a station as a parasitic module with minor tubing aditions. A station that will utilize such a method could grow bigger with every cargo ship coming.

2.  -The second stage of the falcon does most of the way up only to be turned back again. Can it be used as a module or as propultion for a station? Wet launch? That may seem like too much, but then again it was the idea for skylab. SpaceIslandGroup took that idea to extreme and might have had a station working by now if the shutle program didn't tragicly stoped.


1.  That is only feasible if the core has resources to spare

2.  The wet workshop is a fallacy.  Not viable until there is a substantial presence (much more than the ISS) in LEO to support the conversion.

Offline Elmar Moelzer

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #83 on: 01/22/2014 07:47 PM »
-It has been stated that a cygnus pressurised module can be fitted to stay connected to a station as a parasitic module with minor tubing aditions. A station that will utilize such a method could grow bigger with every cargo ship coming.
Where would these additional Cygnus modules attach to?

-A hard shell station module is more robust than an inflatable one. Maybe that the good old fasion modules are just better.
I would like to see a  reference to that. From all I have seen, the inflatable modules are more robust than the ISS modules (greater micro meteorite protection)



RS systems are separate from the USOS systems.  I was only talking about the USOS hosting a module.  The USOS ECLSS system is integrated and uses the OGS for O2.
Ok, so now I am even more confused... So the ROS ECLS systems are separate, but a docked Bigelow module cant have separate ECLS? I was not set on an USOS hosting a Bigelow module. I was more thinking about adding a new, additional PMA ( or something similar to that) and then berthing the Bigelow (or some other commercial ) module(s) to that.
« Last Edit: 01/22/2014 07:51 PM by Elmar Moelzer »

Offline manboy

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #84 on: 01/22/2014 07:58 PM »
You guys are missing the fact that the ISS cannot last forever.  From what I have seen there is still going to be demand for a space station from NASA.  Not $100 billion dollars of demand, but still some demand. 

I think a commercial partnership between NASA and some commercial entity to build a commercial space station can definitely work.  A space station with the same habitable volume as the ISS can be build with just a few of Bigelows BA-330 modules.  NASA would serve as the primary customer, and would take up most of the space with their operations.  The rest of the space station would then be rented out to various clients including other space agencies, space tourism companies like Space Adventures, and organizations looking to do research.

Can you elaborate on just what NASA's demand for a space station would be post-ISS?
Microgravity research.
"Cheese has been sent into space before. But the same cheese has never been sent into space twice." - StephenB

Offline Elmar Moelzer

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #85 on: 01/22/2014 08:02 PM »
Microgravity research.
The Russians also have plans to extend the life of some of the ISS modules beyond the rest of the ISS and build their own space station (OPSEK) on that. IIRC, they want to use it as a sort of LEO base and for testing technologies and assembly of spacecraft for BEO missions.
« Last Edit: 01/22/2014 08:03 PM by Elmar Moelzer »

Offline dror

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #86 on: 01/22/2014 08:18 PM »

Where would these additional Cygnus modules attach to?
Thats for the competitor to offer. I would sugest that they may attach to each other on a few paralel chains.

I have no reference, sorry, I was only sugesting. I know that Bigelow argue that the wall thickness and meteorite shielding is better, but can it suport equipment? Can you hang a picture on the wall? It might turn out that it is easier to design and operate a hard shell station than an inflatable one. Sadly, there is no real experince with expandables yet.
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Offline Jim

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #87 on: 01/22/2014 08:22 PM »
I know that Bigelow argue that the wall thickness and meteorite shielding is better, but can it suport equipment? Can you hang a picture on the wall?

The core structure is where the equipment is attached.  And yes, you can hang a picture on the wall.  You use velcro

Offline Elmar Moelzer

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« Last Edit: 01/22/2014 08:43 PM by Elmar Moelzer »

Offline AncientU

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #89 on: 01/23/2014 12:15 AM »
Can you hang a picture on the wall?
not without gravity (or settle for attaching it with velcro as Jim suggests)
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Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #90 on: 01/23/2014 01:50 AM »

A next door free flyer to ISS is an interesting option. The same crew transport could service both stations. Delivering 3 crew to the free-flyer and 4 to ISS. NASA could transport 7 astronauts for the price of 4, the current crew complement for crew missions to ISS. If NASA can save $.5B on crew and cargo transport costs by 2020 they could afford to rent 330m3 of yearly space on a next door free-flyer.

That doesn't work.  One vehicle, two stations leaves one station with the crew stranded on it and without an emergency escape vehicle in the event it becomes necessary.

It doesn't if there's a spare vehicle attached to one of the stations.  The spare could be in the rotation so when a new vehicle comes up it becomes the spare.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #91 on: 01/23/2014 01:53 AM »
The price of the flight from the ground to the commercial station is totally off topic for this thread.

It's not off-topic because everything about the possible station depends on the price of the flight from the ground.

I like what Jon had to say about free flyers. Done properly, there shouldn't be much need for a crew member to don a spacesuit and go outside. Think of the UAV fliers. They sit in a comfortable flight station and fly their aircraft from half way around the world. There's no reason we can't do that same kind of thing with a properly designed free flyer for telerobotic operations all around and on the station exterior. Commercial station designers ought to include 1 or 2 such stations in their designs. ISS would have greatly benefited from such operations. It's still "eyes and hands on the mission", just from inside the station instead of inside a spacesuit outside the station. If surgeons can perform delicate telerobotic operations on a person from thousands of miles away using properly designed "hands" and tools, there's no reason we couldn't do the same kind of delicate missions telerobotically, but from inside the station, instead of outside.

There's no need for the operators to be inside the station, they can be on the surface of the Earth.

Offline baldusi

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #92 on: 01/23/2014 12:40 PM »
I don't know if the most productive discussion is looking to build from existing parts, as defining what you need. I do have a couple of ideas, that might or might not lower costs. And I'll discuss them later on. But I would like to state what I think would be the correct approach to actually define what to cover with the station services.
I might not have made it clear, and it has been discussed here, but I'm assuming that it will privatize all NASA's LEO needs. This means, also, that NASA would be the main (and probably more sophisticated) client.
As I've said before, I see three or four main services lines:

1) Microgravity Experiment. This would mean all the services and technologies for those entities willing to do microgravity and space environment experimentation and testing. The focus should be on the level of services and technology enablers. Say, common communication, real-time monitoring option. Will offer centrifuge? Will offer flame safe zone? Will offer biological ECLSS solution? Will allow external payloads? How much operator's time can you offer?
2) Space Tourist/Physiological Experiments/Astronaut Training. Taking tourists is an obvious choice, and probably dedicated scientist. But NASA will want no only science operators, but actual astronauts. Probably to train them for zero-g, and that might require EVA capability (which could be supplied through the optional modules). Also, they will probably want a lot of support for experimentation and planning. So, the exercise machines will be a standard service or supplied by NASA? Will you offer customized bunks? How do you handle physical security and protect the experiment's secrets? Can you have non-US tourist where some company might be doing ITARed experiments?
3) On Orbit Assembly/Material exposure experiments. This is probably one of the most critical lines of services to think about. It might require to commit to certain technologies, like EVA or extremely capable robotic arm, and thus the decision about offering and what services to actually offer might have an extremely deep impact on the whole operation.
4) National labs/Customized Modules attachement. I've been thinking that there might be a market for customized module for certain nation states. Not only that, but it will offer some bartering options for NASA to keep doing the international cooperation. Optionally, the cooperation might be done commercially. Say that NASA has the station contractor offer a standard price for berthing port, power consumption, ECLSS services, etc. But, the national module is allowed to offer some services back, like an airlock, a robotic arm, a centrifuge, etc, at agreed upon prices. They might handle this through a credit/debit system and an agreement between national agencies to consume services in such a way as to not need to actually exchange funds.

This is the sort of framework that I think would be conductive for this discussion. First to discuss services and requirements. After this analysis, if a bigelow module is the be the best or cheapest solution, great. But I don't want us to restrict us to nails because we only have a hammer.

Of course that innovative con ops are also a fair topic. I love Jon's free flier idea. I had an idea about a similar technology. I thought about doing a standardized SEP tug. And have a lot of them, like ten or even a dozen. When attached to the station, they would supply power and attitude control. If you design an extension to the CBM, you could do some very dumb cargo modules. Imagine something like the Cygnus but without the bus. And have the upper stage supply some enhanced battery power and let the SEP tugs actually rendevouz with the US, capture the cargo, supply it with power, and take it and berth it with the station. This way, you would be constantly reusing the bus and the cargo compartment could be a lot cheaper.
One trick would be that the standardized interface for the tug should have fuel transfer (probably Xenon). So each time a tug captures a cargo vessel, it would be refilled. The same system could be used to transfer modules. And since the tug has all the necessary prox ops and instruments, it might have enough precision to actually berth the modules and cargo vessels.
The critical items would be LV upper stage batteries and attitude control (I'm guessing 24hs?), plume impingement on the station from the tug, fluid transfer and GNC.
But you'd have a lot of reliability, centralize the prox ops on one system (plus crewed crafts), scalability of power and attitude control, and could solve the big module handle problem.
As I stated before, it's this sort of ideas worth discussing. About lowering cost through innovation.


Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #93 on: 01/23/2014 03:32 PM »
Yes. This is what is being funded right now excluding the tourism support.

I don't see post ISS NASA funding to be any higher than $3B 2014 dollars. It will probably be lower think 2/3 budget due to yearly shaving of funds.

Current crew transport to ISS US yearly budget is $360M and cargo (3 Dragon 2 Cygnis) is $860M for a total of $1.22B. By 2020 there should be possible a a 60% cost savings to NASA for this service assuming some form of reusability for crew and cargo or $720M. But Congress may also shink the budget to pay for other items.

Yes I did mean $3B not $3M. Sorry about the typo.

Offline dror

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #94 on: 01/23/2014 05:26 PM »

 I had an idea about a similar technology. I thought about doing a standardized SEP tug. And have a lot of them, like ten or even a dozen. When attached to the station, they would supply power and attitude control. If you design an extension to the CBM, you could do some very dumb cargo modules. Imagine something like the Cygnus but without the bus. And have the upper stage supply some enhanced battery power and let the SEP tugs actually rendevouz with the US, capture the cargo, supply it with power, and take it and berth it with the station. This way, you would be constantly reusing the bus and the cargo compartment could be a
It doesnt need to be SEP. SEP is more suited for long range propultion. It will be simpler with chemical thrusters.
It compliment the possibilty to integrate the PCM (pressurised cargo module) with the station. That way both parts of the cygnus becomes reusable.
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Offline Lurker Steve

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #95 on: 01/23/2014 05:52 PM »
How many experiments are there on the ISS that don't need human interaction of some sort ?

I was thinking about how you could eliminate the unpacking of the cargo modules by just leaving those experiments in a PCM module that docked with the station. But then, what is the purpose of docking with the station anyway, if everything can be handled remotely from the ground anyway. Why dock the Cygnus PCM module, if it can be a standalone lab module all by itself ? You could outfit the PCM or that other vendor's module with racks and let it go as a complete free flier to perform science missions in LEO. No permanent station required. Just fill up the available rack space on the spacecraft, and let it fly for a year. If you want your experiment back, get it from the vehicle with a heat shield.

These independent free-fliers might actually make sense. Fees would be based on how much power and rack space each experiment would need. Of course, you would probably need a company like Nanoracks (not necessarily Nanoracks) to handle selling the available space to make sure it gets launched at a decent percentage of capacity.


Offline Jim

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #96 on: 01/23/2014 05:55 PM »
How many experiments are there on the ISS that don't need human interaction of some sort ?


They need more data, power, cooling, video, etc than a PCM can provide.  And there is hand's on trouble shooting.

Offline Elmar Moelzer

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #97 on: 01/23/2014 05:58 PM »
How many experiments are there on the ISS that don't need human interaction of some sort ?

I was thinking about how you could eliminate the unpacking of the cargo modules by just leaving those experiments in a PCM module that docked with the station. But then, what is the purpose of docking with the station anyway, if everything can be handled remotely from the ground anyway. Why dock the Cygnus PCM module, if it can be a standalone lab module all by itself ? You could outfit the PCM or that other vendor's module with racks and let it go as a complete free flier to perform science missions in LEO. No permanent station required. Just fill up the available rack space on the spacecraft, and let it fly for a year. If you want your experiment back, get it from the vehicle with a heat shield.

These independent free-fliers might actually make sense. Fees would be based on how much power and rack space each experiment would need. Of course, you would probably need a company like Nanoracks (not necessarily Nanoracks) to handle selling the available space to make sure it gets launched at a decent percentage of capacity.
I think that is essentially what SpaceX envisioned with Dragon Lab (though I think it cant stay in orbit for that long on its own right now).

Offline dror

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #98 on: 01/23/2014 06:11 PM »
Michel Lamontagne has done some awsome work for the BTE forum designing a huge space station made of Bigelow modules and falcon9 second stages starting off from ISS:


http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/details?mid=f17a4be2d51537b78c4844f2be7a06b4&hl=iw
http://www.buildtheenterprise.org/forum/shipyard-facilities-construction-technique-methods-processes/orbital-construction-facility/page-6

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Offline baldusi

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #99 on: 06/05/2014 07:15 PM »
I can't find the other thread about how to go with a commercial station. But here you have the key technology areas that NASA needs to send crew to Mars according to the NRC Report "Pathways to Exploration: Rationales and Approaches for a U.S. Program of Human Space Exploration":

* Mars entry, descent, and landing technology, which enables crews and supplies to reach the surface. The most mass NASA has safely set down on Mars is the car-sized Curiosity rover that landed in 2012. A crewed mission would require landing considerably more mass.
* Radiation shielding during the cruise and surface-sorties phases of a Mars landing mission
* Next-generation in-space propulsion and power systems.
* Heavy-lift launch vehicles.
* Planetary ascent propulsion to get crews off the surface of Mars after their mission is over.
* A new environmental control and life-support system.
* Habitats for crews journeying to and living on Mars.
* Extravehicular activity suits, otherwise known as space suits.
* Crew health. There are medical unknowns associated with long-duration spaceflight, and Mars surface activities, some of which NASA is investigating aboard the international space station in low-Earth orbit.
* In-situ resource utilization, which would entail, for example, using the Mars atmosphere as a source of raw materials for life support systems or propellant.

I've put in bold the one that could be developed on LEO today. As you see 50% require the ISS. I'll continue later on how this could be done with a commercial solution leveraged to lower costs.

Offline baldusi

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #100 on: 06/09/2014 02:40 PM »
As stated in other posts, NASA will have a need for a LEO post. LEO is cheap to actually train astronauts compared to BEO. The radiation environment is milder, thus they can make a few tours of duty without tripping over their life radiation exposure limits. And emergencies can be handled more easily (like in hours time, rather than days or months). But above all, a lot of technologies that need to mature can be done in LEO safely until they are reliable enough for BEO.
Thus, how could a Commercial service help for all this research? Well, there should be a double approach. First, is the actual human experiments and technologies (like suitports, ECLSS, radiation mitigation drugs, etc.) and the second are straight experiments.

I'm not sure that a single station could cover it all. There might be some ways to leverage a single point. But it would have to have certain limitations. I still believe that microgravity and radiation experiments might be better served by a free flier. Nothing prevent such free flier to actually launch and return to the station. But the microgravity quality, the simplification of being able to actually conduct dangerous experiments, and the possibility to gain altitude to increase radiation exposure without endangering the crew, but having the possibility of actually having the crew setup experiments and process samples for return, are all clear strong points of such proposal.
The services that a LEO station could supply to a module would be many, and greatly simplify the BEO effort to just those technologies that need maturation. Let's go over the main HED need that need LEO for development:

* Radiation shielding during the cruise and surface-sorties phases of a Mars landing mission
* A new environmental control and life-support system.
* Habitats for crews journeying to and living on Mars.
* Extravehicular activity suits, otherwise known as space suits.
* Crew health. There are medical unknowns associated with long-duration spaceflight, (and Mars surface activities).


First we have to assume that a commercial station can do certain things cheaper than NASA. I'll take that as an assumption and won't go into discussing it. That's material for another thread.
Let's remember that communications, thermal environment, MMOD, molecular oxygen and power supply are different problems for LEO and BEO. Also mass is a lot cheaper and can be done with off the shelf LV. Thus, replicating any of those things wouldn't be a useful investment. Radiation is milder and might have difference on high energy particles in LEO. But as a milder first approach is the right middle step to take.
Second, if they can get some extra users (i.e. non-NASA), they can lower costs. Thus, my proposal is that the commercial station would supply all this services:

-Crew transport (including emergency evacuation vehicle).
-Cargo transport (pressurized, unpressurized, return and dispose).
-Power generation, storage and distribution.
-Continuous communication with ground stations (both telemetry, voice, video and wideband)
-A docking/berthing port.
-A proven ECLSS.
-A traditional EVA port.
-Might supply some fluids, too.
-Confidential space.

Thus, NASA could make a custom module, dock it with the commercial station. Inside that module, they could have their suitport, the new ECLSS, test long duration screws, try delayed communication protocols, train and improve on suitport EVA procedures, etc.
Yet, they would be just a closed port away from a safe heaven. And if they had any contingency on the suit ports, they could have the traditional EVA port (plus some suited astronauts ready for rescue). They wouldn't have to worry about power, communications, supplier or even waste disposal (unless they want to simulate that).
The rest of the commercial station could have "green" NASA astronauts, some on support, the commercial contractors for general experiments, and tourists. The latter part would have some issues on control access. But if the station is big enough and NASA accepts international space agencies nationals on the "LEO side" of the station, with the required institutional agreements, it shouldn't be much of a problem.
In fact, the concept of a permanently closed door that can only be opened on emergencies might work well enough. They could share general quarters and galley. And they could use a double door activated by the ground control for accessing the NASA or Commercial clearance-only parts of the station.
One interesting part is that NASA might send radiation exposure experiments on the the commercial side, with no astronaut ever touching it. And they might gain access to the free flier platform for higher radiation exposure and dangerous things (like validating fire suppression systems). Not to mention that they could contract for the commercial operators and agree with the foreign nationals (and even tourists) to run certain physiological tests, thus increasing significantly the sample size.
This would allow to concentrate budget and efforts on the BEO specific issues. And who knows, the closed-loop ECLSS might even be interesting for the commercial operator, whom might license it back. Might even develop a commercial version for itself that might be usable in the future for BEO.
I find this model of services very intriguing. If reusability can actually be used economically for LEO. There's potential for a significant reduction on costs. And if not, having the commercial suppliers apply creative thinking and ingenuity to supply a given service for less costs, should help significantly.
The truth is that this would require a very serious effort on actually specifying the services requested. And developing a certification process for it. I firmly believe that if the ISS can be extended to 2028 and commercialization is extensively used, by that timeframe a commercial replacement will require little new development. By 2018 crew and cargo services will be characterized well enough. Nanoracks and CASIS will have standardized experiments significantly. And I understand that imaging and communications will have a pretty good degree of development.
I understand that some detail might have to be traded. As in free flier or not. Or external arm self relocating arm or simpler versions. Or docking vs berthing. And a long list of etc. But clearly that's where the commercial suppliers can actually lower the cost. This would not be about the engineering exercise but actually closing a business case.
« Last Edit: 06/09/2014 08:35 PM by baldusi »

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #101 on: 07/20/2015 05:00 PM »
The new smallsat LVs in development have potential to create a whole new area of possibilities for a commercial station. These LVs allow for miniature COTS vehicles (eg 120-150kg Cygnus or DC) to be developed that can launch on demand for <$5m.

These vehicles would be small enough to be robotically captured and placed in an ISS airlock. Where cargo/experiments are removed and reloaded for down mass(DC) or rubbish disposal(Cygnus).

Besides supplying ISS the same vehicles could be free flier labs or service a small fully automated station. Full size Cygnus would make an ideal automated station.

These small COTs vehicles with regular supply runs may also make a small partially manned station possible eg few Cygnus or Exoliner modules connected together with crew of 2-3. A small crew frees up a lot of room in crew capsule (Dragon or CST100) for cargo or accommodation.

With 3 major suppliers in small sat LV market (RocketLab, Firefly, LauncherOne),  prices should only go down and hopefully lead to even lower cost RLVs.

NB. The miniature DC is required as it has to be able to land at an airport. A capsule would be OK if it can land on land as water recovery adds significant costs.
« Last Edit: 07/20/2015 05:05 PM by TrevorMonty »

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #102 on: 07/20/2015 05:31 PM »
The new smallsat LVs in development have potential to create a whole new area of possibilities for a commercial station. These LVs allow for miniature COTS vehicles (eg 120-150kg Cygnus or DC) to be developed that can launch on demand for <$5m.

These vehicles would be small enough to be robotically captured and placed in an ISS airlock. Where cargo/experiments are removed and reloaded for down mass(DC) or rubbish disposal(Cygnus).

Besides supplying ISS the same vehicles could be free flier labs or service a small fully automated station. Full size Cygnus would make an ideal automated station.

{snip}

Could they be made to berth to a Suit Port?
Suit ports have a hole permitting people (and robots) the extraction of cargo from the small vehicle whilst leaving the possible poisonous propellant outside the spacestation.

p.s. The hole in a Suitport is 24.4" by 16.4" with very rounded corners.
ref: 20130008729.pdf
« Last Edit: 07/20/2015 05:49 PM by A_M_Swallow »

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #103 on: 07/20/2015 09:44 PM »
Given small size of vehicles it would be simpler to just fly them into an airlock then deal with them. With ISS safety this may be an issue but for automated station it shouldn't be a problem.

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #104 on: 07/20/2015 11:32 PM »
Given small size of vehicles it would be simpler to just fly them into an airlock then deal with them. With ISS safety this may be an issue but for automated station it shouldn't be a problem.


If the space station has an air lock then visits from people are expected so air quality has to be controlled.

An in vacuum handling area is possible.

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #105 on: 07/21/2015 01:38 AM »
Given small size of vehicles it would be simpler to just fly them into an airlock then deal with them. With ISS safety this may be an issue but for automated station it shouldn't be a problem.


If the space station has an air lock then visits from people are expected so air quality has to be controlled.

An in vacuum handling area is possible.
For an unmmanned automated station air quality shouldn't be an issue as there is nobody producing CO2 and moisture. Temperature control should be all that is needed.
For maintance it maybe easier for station to dock with ISS temporarily, than have a dedicated (expensive) visit by a crew vehicle. In these situations air quality would be handled by ISS or visiting vehicle's ECLSS.

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #106 on: 07/21/2015 03:54 AM »
Had a few more ideas regarding this unmanned Cygnus station.
For docking of robotic supply vehicle, it would fly into airlock and dock with a receptacle on robotic arm. Something along lines of in flight aircraft refueling systems.

Once docked airlock would pressurize and open to lab. Another robotic arm in lab (attached to far end of lab) would extract nanorack experiments and place them in lab racks.

For experiments that don't need to be returned a mini Cgynus could be used as it should be able to carry more nanoracks than mini DC. As per ISS Cygnus it would dispose of old experiments on re entry.

Being unmanned there is no reason the lab couldn't be opened to space to run experiments that require a vacuum. This feature could offered on scheduled basis if there is demand, of course all experiments onboard would need to be vacuum experiments.

Costs. Cygnus lab and deployment $150-200m?
Mini Cygnus $2m?.
Electron LV $4.9m before volume customer discount which could be significant.
Nanorack ISS 1U experiment is $60k for commercial US customer more for non US customers when you can fly.

Unlike ISS launches should be  monthly if not more with short lead times.

Offline jongoff

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #107 on: 07/21/2015 04:35 AM »
The new smallsat LVs in development have potential to create a whole new area of possibilities for a commercial station. These LVs allow for miniature COTS vehicles (eg 120-150kg Cygnus or DC) to be developed that can launch on demand for <$5m.

These vehicles would be small enough to be robotically captured and placed in an ISS airlock. Where cargo/experiments are removed and reloaded for down mass(DC) or rubbish disposal(Cygnus).

Besides supplying ISS the same vehicles could be free flier labs or service a small fully automated station. Full size Cygnus would make an ideal automated station.

These small COTs vehicles with regular supply runs may also make a small partially manned station possible eg few Cygnus or Exoliner modules connected together with crew of 2-3. A small crew frees up a lot of room in crew capsule (Dragon or CST100) for cargo or accommodation.

With 3 major suppliers in small sat LV market (RocketLab, Firefly, LauncherOne),  prices should only go down and hopefully lead to even lower cost RLVs.

NB. The miniature DC is required as it has to be able to land at an airport. A capsule would be OK if it can land on land as water recovery adds significant costs.

One of the concepts Altius has been working on for several years is the idea of using smallsat launch vehicles *without* mini rendezvous spacecraft for deliveries to space facilities. Upper stages already have a decent amount of sophistication, if you have a capture arm that doesn't require the delivery vehicle to station keep (*cough*Sticky Boom*cough*), you can put the prox ops sensors on the destination side, and talk the upper stage through the rendezvous maneuvers. If you do it that way, you get a much better $/kg rate than if you have to take up half your cargo mass with a very expensive wrapper.

~Jon

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #108 on: 07/21/2015 06:14 AM »
A combination of both our ideas may work. Have 2nd stage with payload capsule dock in airlock. Separate 2nd stage and place it outside with external arm.  Close airlock, swap new payload capsule for old one payload capsule with experiments to be disposed of.

Open airlock to outside, attach payload capsule to 2nd stage for disposal ie deorbit burn. Having an external robotic arm would enable support of external hosted payloads.

The pressurized payload capsule would need to provide temperature control while in transit, batteries maybe enough if transit time is short.

The airlock could contain some Nanoracks for any vacuum experiments, allowing station to handle both types of experiments at once.

Having all the docking smarts and sensors on the station makes sense. Dumber and cheaper the 2nd the better.
« Last Edit: 07/21/2015 06:16 AM by TrevorMonty »

Offline baldusi

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Re: Development of a Commercial LEO Station
« Reply #109 on: 07/22/2015 07:40 PM »
The new smallsat LVs in development have potential to create a whole new area of possibilities for a commercial station. These LVs allow for miniature COTS vehicles (eg 120-150kg Cygnus or DC) to be developed that can launch on demand for <$5m.

These vehicles would be small enough to be robotically captured and placed in an ISS airlock. Where cargo/experiments are removed and reloaded for down mass(DC) or rubbish disposal(Cygnus).

Besides supplying ISS the same vehicles could be free flier labs or service a small fully automated station. Full size Cygnus would make an ideal automated station.

These small COTs vehicles with regular supply runs may also make a small partially manned station possible eg few Cygnus or Exoliner modules connected together with crew of 2-3. A small crew frees up a lot of room in crew capsule (Dragon or CST100) for cargo or accommodation.

With 3 major suppliers in small sat LV market (RocketLab, Firefly, LauncherOne),  prices should only go down and hopefully lead to even lower cost RLVs.

NB. The miniature DC is required as it has to be able to land at an airport. A capsule would be OK if it can land on land as water recovery adds significant costs.

One of the concepts Altius has been working on for several years is the idea of using smallsat launch vehicles *without* mini rendezvous spacecraft for deliveries to space facilities. Upper stages already have a decent amount of sophistication, if you have a capture arm that doesn't require the delivery vehicle to station keep (*cough*Sticky Boom*cough*), you can put the prox ops sensors on the destination side, and talk the upper stage through the rendezvous maneuvers. If you do it that way, you get a much better $/kg rate than if you have to take up half your cargo mass with a very expensive wrapper.

~Jon
Or you could have a Mini-Jupiter/Exoliner rather than a Mini Cygnus.

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