Author Topic: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?  (Read 38379 times)

Offline QuantumG

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #40 on: 09/02/2014 02:36 AM »
Very valid point. But for crew, there's already a demonstrated market for tourism, so at very least a few seats could be sold.

Do you really ever see SpaceX flying tourists?

I think they turn their nose up at it.

Foreign astronauts, sure, but Bigelow has to give 'em a destination first.
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Offline yg1968

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

Do you really ever see SpaceX flying tourists?

I think they turn their nose up at it.

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

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

Offline Robotbeat

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

Do you really ever see SpaceX flying tourists?...
Absolutely. They're not in such a big hurry to do it, but they would certainly take the money.
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Offline QuantumG

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Re: Is reusability worth it for commercial crew?
« Reply #43 on: 09/04/2014 04:46 AM »
If their ultimate goal is to bring colonists to Mars, they have to start to start somewhere. But I agree that SpaceX prefers to be the transportation company but they have shown no intention of directly competing with Space Adventures.

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

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

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

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

Offline Oli

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

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

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

Offline QuantumG

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

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

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

Remember MIR?

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

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

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

.. no-one seems to be in much of a hurry to actually fly, do they?
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Offline JohnFornaro

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

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

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

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

Offline muomega0

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

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

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

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

Add a LEO ZBO depot to the architecture.

Send the crew to ISS on the first launch.

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

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

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

Repeat this process until the reliability of reuse is established.

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

Which to choose?

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

Offline Rocket Science

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Offline nadreck

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

Offline SWGlassPit

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

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

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

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

...back to the original topic...

Offline Coastal Ron

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My $0.02
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline sghill

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

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

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

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

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

Offline daveklingler

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

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

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

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

Offline Razvan

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

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

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

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

...back to the original topic...

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

Offline sghill

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

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

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

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

...back to the original topic...

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

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

Offline Oli

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

Remember MIR?

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

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

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

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

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

Offline JasonAW3

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

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

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

     Even if we assume that Nass insists on a new stack for each manned flight, later cargo flights, which are not as high a risk factor as a manned flight, could be launched on reused stacks, lowering the cost of cargo to orbit.
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Offline Coastal Ron

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

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

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

Quote
One does a market survey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry for the long post.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

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