Author Topic: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?  (Read 33500 times)

Offline Pipcard

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

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

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

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

Offline IRobot

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

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

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

Offline mvpel

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

Offline Lars_J

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

Offline Pipcard

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

Offline Lars_J

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

Offline Avron

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

Offline Coastal Ron

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For SpaceX, being the low cost leader has advantages, and I think they will see demand beyond just the normal ISS support.  But they too can likely weather low demand at first, especially since they can spread their labor base over both the Dragon Crew and the Dragon Cargo versions.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline RyanC

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

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

Offline yg1968

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

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

Offline Elmar Moelzer

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

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

Offline guckyfan

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

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

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

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

Offline Elmar Moelzer

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

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

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

BFR will probably change that.
Makes sense.

Offline Coastal Ron

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

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

Can't find the source, but as I recall SpaceX initially said up to 10 flights per spacecraft.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline RocketmanUS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes reusability is well worth it. Nuff said!

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Online TrevorMonty

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


Offline watermod

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

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

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

Offline RocketmanUS

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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