Author Topic: Development of a Commercial LEO Station  (Read 39495 times)

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.

Online 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

Online 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.

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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.

Online 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

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