Author Topic: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?  (Read 15139 times)

Online guckyfan

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The serial full duration tests of the JCSAT-14 booster at McGregor  let me think about this. We are getting near to proof that the landed boosters are all capable of reflight. I move a reply in the SpaceX Manifest Updates and Discussion Thread 4 here because it is not appropriate there. I argue that contracts signed today for new boosters will not delay the transition. They can and will be renegotiated.

There is not going to be any sudden rush to buy reused cores, especially before one has flown.

.................

Let's give SpaceX a chance to actually qualify a booster for reflight and their customers a chance to get comfortable with the idea before we start assuming everything will suddenly start flying on reused cores.

Absolutely true, I agree. But I would bet (just a phrase, I don't bet) that in 2019 most launches will be on reused boosters including contracts already signed for new ones. The contracts will be renegotiated with reusable prices. By that time they will probably have enough cores in store that they don't need to build new ones before the Falcon family is phased out.

Offline meekGee

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Here's a supporting observation.

With the projected flight rate - how come SpaceX hasn't built another in-ground test-stand?  With all the equipment already there, you could get a two-fer price...

As the numbers of pads increase, and flight rate, it seems logical they'll need to - unless they foresee a leveling-off of production rate.
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Online Kansan52

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2019 seems correct. Look how long it was before the first successful landing and the number since then. The Hot Fire Test will prove the core for reuse, so skipping McGregor. Core production will be retasked for BFR.

But that means fewer fresh S1 cores to test. They may even skip McGregor and rely on the Hot Fire as the only test. Blows my idea that the Hot Fire Test will be going away.

McGregor will then build a new test stand for BFR.

Online AncientU

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I suspect that there have been a number of negotiations with SpaceX concerning using reflown cores at lower prices, including with many who are currently are manifested (on new cores).  We already know that SES was interested in being first, and maybe reusing the same core for a second flight (maybe they were just being optimistic/fan-boyish).  Iridium talked about using reflown cores after this contracted batch is lofted on new cores already purchased.  GS has mentioned multiple negotiations...

IMO, many orders will be announced in the days/weeks/months following the first successful reflight in September/October -- assuming of course that this first flight is successful.  Since the reflown cores have same capability as new cores, are designed and tested as reusable, have a reflight guarantee, and are $20M cheaper than the cheapest ride out there, there will be little to keep commercial flights on new cores a year into flights of reflown cores.  So, I'd agree that by 2019, a majority (>50%) of SpaceX commercial flights will be on reflown cores, and possibly a year earlier than that.  There is a distinct possibility that the majority of the World's commercial flights will be on reflown cores soon after that.
« Last Edit: 08/01/2016 08:49 PM by AncientU »
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Offline dorkmo

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i guess another behind the scenes question is "how much does the insurance cost for a reused booster?"

perhaps the full duration tests of the landed stage was done to reassure an insurance company? could that be true?

i wonder if spacex will have to insure their own launches if no one else offers a reasonable rate

Online AncientU

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i guess another behind the scenes question is "how much does the insurance cost for a reused booster?"

perhaps the full duration tests of the landed stage was done to reassure an insurance company? could that be true?

i wonder if spacex will have to insure their own launches if no one else offers a reasonable rate

It should follow the pattern seen with F9... after the first 5-10 flights, the insurance was not much more than that for Ariane -- today it is the same as Ariane, even with a failure last year and a new FT version with only 6(?) flights.  In this case, SpaceX is now a proven launch service, the F9 is a proven launch vehicle, and the second stage is unchanged.  Might be argued that going to the FT version was a bigger design iteration than reflying a core.

Shouldn't take the insurers long to run the numbers... they are not anchored to the way it has traditionally been done as are many of the manufacturers (who still don't believe it will fly successfully at all).
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Online guckyfan

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i guess another behind the scenes question is "how much does the insurance cost for a reused booster?"

Insurance rates for Falcon 9 dropped surprisingly fast to near Ariane levels. I don't think it will take many successful flights for F9R to reach similar values. Big question is the first reflight.

Online AncientU

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<snip>
Absolutely true, I agree. But I would bet (just a phrase, I don't bet) that in 2019 most launches will be on reused boosters including contracts already signed for new ones. The contracts will be renegotiated with reusable prices. By that time they will probably have enough cores in store that they don't need to build new ones before the Falcon family is phased out.

While I agree with the majority of your OP, this final comment is worth a response.  IMO, for the foreseeable future (strange colloquialism since the future is not at all foreseeable), Falcon core production will probably continue at near its current rate of 20 or so per year to supply the stock of first-use-only customers such as the USG, thus also making up for losses from barge landings, etc.  I expect the Falcon family to fly hundreds of times, if not a thousand times, before it is phased out.  (I'm not in the camp of BFR replacing everything -- just as likely as semi-trucks replacing personal vehicles.)
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Online AncientU

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2019 seems correct. Look how long it was before the first successful landing and the number since then. The Hot Fire Test will prove the core for reuse, so skipping McGregor. Core production will be retasked for BFR.

But that means fewer fresh S1 cores to test. They may even skip McGregor and rely on the Hot Fire as the only test. Blows my idea that the Hot Fire Test will be going away.

McGregor will then build a new test stand for BFR.

BFR isn't going to be even remotely road transportable, so McGregor testing of a full core won't happen.
BFR engines (Raptors) are another story entirely...
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Offline JamesH65

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<snip>
Absolutely true, I agree. But I would bet (just a phrase, I don't bet) that in 2019 most launches will be on reused boosters including contracts already signed for new ones. The contracts will be renegotiated with reusable prices. By that time they will probably have enough cores in store that they don't need to build new ones before the Falcon family is phased out.

While I agree with the majority of your OP, this final comment is worth a response.  IMO, for the foreseeable future (strange colloquialism since the future is not at all foreseeable), Falcon core production will probably continue at near its current rate of 20 or so per year to supply the stock of first-use-only customers such as the USG, thus also making up for losses from barge landings, etc.  I expect the Falcon family to fly hundreds of times, if not a thousand times, before it is phased out.  (I'm not in the camp of BFR replacing everything -- just as likely as semi-trucks replacing personal vehicles.)

Are barge landings going to be any more 'lossy' than land landings? I suspect not. They have been testing this heavily, and more tests to go, so reliability should be pretty good. I don't think there is any inherent reasons why it cannot be close to as reliable as RTLS. Bearing in mind most FH slights will require centre core barge landings, its something they will really want to make very reliable indeed.

Online guckyfan

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #10 on: 08/02/2016 10:17 AM »
Are barge landings going to be any more 'lossy' than land landings? I suspect not. They have been testing this heavily, and more tests to go, so reliability should be pretty good. I don't think there is any inherent reasons why it cannot be close to as reliable as RTLS. Bearing in mind most FH slights will require centre core barge landings, its something they will really want to make very reliable indeed.

It depends much on weather conditions. At the moment they need to fly their manifest as good and fast as they can. If in future they have a launch cadence that catches up with demand they can delay launches because of weather conditions at the barge landing site.

There were a few very bad weather situations during the first tries. Were they just bad luck or is this to be expected frequently?

Edit: They will do powered landings with crew and without parachute backup. They better be more than 99% reliable. Falcon 9 is their testbed to achieve that.
« Last Edit: 08/02/2016 10:20 AM by guckyfan »

Offline Alastor

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #11 on: 08/02/2016 10:32 AM »
Barge landing is inherently more difficult than land landings.
You are shooting at a moving (mainly on the vertical axis) and rolling target.

Therefore, you have a risk of tipping, even once you have successfully landed, as well as a risk of coming in slightly too high or too low. You are also in an environment where you can have to endure much higher winds (again, risk of tipping).
In other words, if the weather is too bad, you pretty much have to ditch the stage in the water. And if you have a high enough launch rate, you may HAVE to launch even though you know you cannot land.

Also, barge landings are used for more difficult missions (less margin) than land landing, since if you land on the barge, it is because you cannot hope to RTLS with the fuel you have. So more difficult conditions on the return path.

Pretty much everything seems more difficult with barge landing than land landing, so you can expect a lesser success rate.
Also, the data we have seems to agree with that analysis, with a 100% success rate on land landings so far (and much less so for barge landings).

Dragon landing probably will be more like land landing. You choose the spot, you choose the time, so you go for the bes conditions !

Offline raketa

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #12 on: 08/02/2016 11:24 AM »
First stage reuse will be 100% successful when falcon system will be replace with BFR+MCT. BFR will have enough power to land back on launch site. This system will be available before Mars adventure. Time frame for ale 2022-2026.

Offline JamesH65

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #13 on: 08/02/2016 12:14 PM »
Barge landing is inherently more difficult than land landings.
You are shooting at a moving (mainly on the vertical axis) and rolling target.

Therefore, you have a risk of tipping, even once you have successfully landed, as well as a risk of coming in slightly too high or too low. You are also in an environment where you can have to endure much higher winds (again, risk of tipping).
In other words, if the weather is too bad, you pretty much have to ditch the stage in the water. And if you have a high enough launch rate, you may HAVE to launch even though you know you cannot land.

Also, barge landings are used for more difficult missions (less margin) than land landing, since if you land on the barge, it is because you cannot hope to RTLS with the fuel you have. So more difficult conditions on the return path.

Pretty much everything seems more difficult with barge landing than land landing, so you can expect a lesser success rate.
Also, the data we have seems to agree with that analysis, with a 100% success rate on land landings so far (and much less so for barge landings).

Dragon landing probably will be more like land landing. You choose the spot, you choose the time, so you go for the bes conditions !

Agreed barge landings are more difficult. I just think that they are not that much more difficult. After all, they have landed three already (albeit with varying levels of damage), and they are only at the start of their tests. Are we already at optimal barge landing? I seriously doubt it.

Am I right in thinking that FH centre cores will be landing on the barge with more reserves than F9 cores? That would give extra leeway, as would only launching when weather at LS was sane, which they should be able to do once their backlog is cleared and things are not so urgent.

Offline laszlo

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #14 on: 08/02/2016 12:18 PM »
At the risk of being jumped on and pounded into the ground as a "naysayer", engineering is about tested, measured and proven results. So far, while there are strong indications, everything involved with reusing an F9 is purely experimental. There is absolutely no evidence (yet) that it will both work and be economically viable. That won't happen until enough successful reflights are done to prove that it works and to be able to determine the actual financials. So far there hasn't been a single SpaceX reflight so no one knows what is actually possible vs. simply hoped for. Nor have there been enough landings to build up a true actuarial expectation of the rate of boosters returned in good enough shape to be re-used at economically viable refurbishment effort rates (landing with damage can make it cheaper to build a new booster rather than repair the old one). So this speculation is a bit premature, especially about the BFR which hasn't even cleared the tower, let alone returned to the launchpad.

<20 minutes of dodging brickbats>

SpaceX is doing exactly the right thing with all the tests. They are actually accumulating the evidence needed to make the business case. The full duration tests were done for the engineers, not the insurance companies. Even if all the testing shows no unmanageable problems, it could take til 2019 to know know if it makes economic sense to re-fly at all because of the need to accumulate a statistically significant actuarial data set. So having a majority of boosters re-used by then is optimistic.

Online AncientU

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #15 on: 08/02/2016 12:36 PM »
At the risk of being jumped on and pounded into the ground as a "naysayer", engineering is about tested, measured and proven results. So far, while there are strong indications, everything involved with reusing an F9 is purely experimental. There is absolutely no evidence (yet) that it will both work and be economically viable. That won't happen until enough successful reflights are done to prove that it works and to be able to determine the actual financials. So far there hasn't been a single SpaceX reflight so no one knows what is actually possible vs. simply hoped for. Nor have there been enough landings to build up a true actuarial expectation of the rate of boosters returned in good enough shape to be re-used at economically viable refurbishment effort rates (landing with damage can make it cheaper to build a new booster rather than repair the old one). So this speculation is a bit premature, especially about the BFR which hasn't even cleared the tower, let alone returned to the launchpad.

<20 minutes of dodging brickbats>

SpaceX is doing exactly the right thing with all the tests. They are actually accumulating the evidence needed to make the business case. The full duration tests were done for the engineers, not the insurance companies. Even if all the testing shows no unmanageable problems, it could take til 2019 to know know if it makes economic sense to re-fly at all because of the need to accumulate a statistically significant actuarial data set. So having a majority of boosters re-used by then is optimistic.

The engineering for reusing cores happened a long time ago.  Now they have returned cores which are being tested to validate (prove) that engineering...  They are not at the beginning of the process, they are at the end.  And they are not engineering novices.

Similarly, they already have a business case and are selling re-flown cores at a 30% discount as we speak, with, I assume, appropriate disclaimers in case something completely unanticipated rears its ugly head.  Gwynne Shotwell isn't so naive as to head down this path without knowing it makes economic sense.

Since we are talking about the future, speculation is the coin of the realm, of course.  But speculating on whether good engineering has been done or if a closeable business case may someday emerge is assuming that someone hasn't done their homework.  (Betting against SpaceX is certainly the option taken by many.)  Yes, a statistically significant actuarial data set will take a while to accumulate... if you are the competition, best to not wait until that is in hand.
« Last Edit: 08/02/2016 12:57 PM by AncientU »
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Online ChrisWilson68

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #16 on: 08/02/2016 12:59 PM »
So far, while there are strong indications, everything involved with reusing an F9 is purely experimental. There is absolutely no evidence (yet) that it will both work and be economically viable. That won't happen until enough successful reflights are done to prove that it works and to be able to determine the actual financials.

You're misusing the phrase "absolutely no evidence".  You say "there are strong indications" in one sentence and "absolutely no evidence" in the next.

Evidence is anything that tends to indicate something.  It can be stronger or weaker.  You seem to be claiming there is "absolutely no evidence" until the very strongest possible evidence is completely assembled.

So, your use of the term "evidence" is inconsistent with the standard understanding of the term in the English language.

So much argument could be avoided if people would just use the standard meanings of words.

Offline Alastor

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #17 on: 08/02/2016 01:23 PM »
Barge landing is inherently more difficult than land landings.
Pretty much everything seems more difficult with barge landing than land landing, so you can expect a lesser success rate.
Also, the data we have seems to agree with that analysis, with a 100% success rate on land landings so far (and much less so for barge landings).

Agreed barge landings are more difficult. I just think that they are not that much more difficult. After all, they have landed three already (albeit with varying levels of damage), and they are only at the start of their tests. Are we already at optimal barge landing? I seriously doubt it.

Am I right in thinking that FH centre cores will be landing on the barge with more reserves than F9 cores? That would give extra leeway, as would only launching when weather at LS was sane, which they should be able to do once their backlog is cleared and things are not so urgent.

"Are we already at optimal barge landing?"
Of course not. There is a lot of improvement in front of us. I however argue that if we end up with a 99.99% success rate for RTLS, then we may have something like a 99.90% success rate for barge landings.
In other words : It is more difficult for inherent reasons and therefore will always be more risky and less successful. Even if it still may be very successful.

Now whether or not the weather at landing site may become a launch criterium, I think it may be a case of cost.
Examples (Disclamer : figures are completely bogus and just serve to demonstrate the kind of math that may be going on. Anyone quoting those figures as if they were actual ones is an idiot ! ) :
Let's say it costs 1 000 000 to ditch the stage in the ocean. Now it may cost a lot to the customer to delay the launch even if by one day. So let's say he evaluates his cost for delaying launch to 250 000 per day. Then he may agree to delay the launch by 4 days for bad weather at landing site, but if the bad weather at landing site lasts longer, he will consider that it has cost him as much as if he paid to go expandable, and ask you to launch anyways.
In the end, what matters when you launch a satellite is that you put it into orbit, and if you do so at a very low price, customers may agree to some delay for reasons that don't relate to successful deployment of the payload, because it is still cheaper, but if it becomes a burden, he may not be so happy about it.

Another reason to decide to go expandable would be if the next launch is becoming too close. It may be costly enough for SpaceX if they have to move to the left their whole manifest to justify launching expandable from time to time if delays start to accumulate.

All things considered, I think that even if the landing success rate in good conditions was 100% (which it obviously can never be), there still are good reasons for SpaceX to decide to sometimes go expandable. Especially if they continue to grow their manifest and have even less margin in their schedule than they currently have.

Offline the_other_Doug

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #18 on: 08/02/2016 04:26 PM »
Let us not also forget that a vast majority of ASDS landings in the future will be for stages that have reached much higher speeds prior to MECO than the far more benign entry environments available to RTLS trajectories.

It's not really a matter of the ASDS landings being more difficult in terms of the targeting and landing operations.  They are riskier, if for any reason, because the stages must pass through a far hotter and less benign entry environment than RTLS'ed boosters will see, and it's the hot entry environment, moreso than the fuel margin, that has resulted in ASDS landing failures to date.

If there was a perfectly-placed island to do land landings on for GTO launches and FH cores, you would still, IMHO, see a higher failure rate in stage recovery downrange than you ever will on RTLS.  It ain't whether you land on a boat or on land, it's how much punishment the booster has to take to get there that makes the difference...
-Doug  (With my shield, not yet upon it)

Offline meekGee

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #19 on: 08/02/2016 04:35 PM »
... engineering is about tested, measured and proven results. So far, while there are strong indications, everything involved with reusing an F9 is purely experimental. There is absolutely no evidence (yet) that it will both work and be economically viable. That won't happen until enough successful reflights are done to prove that it works and to be able to determine the actual financials. So far there hasn't been a single SpaceX reflight so no one knows what is actually possible vs. simply hoped for. Nor have there been enough landings to build up a true actuarial expectation of the rate of boosters returned in good enough shape to be re-used at economically viable refurbishment effort rates (landing with damage can make it cheaper to build a new booster rather than repair the old one). So this speculation is a bit premature, especially about the BFR which hasn't even cleared the tower, let alone returned to the launchpad.


When engineering is done, there's never "tested proven results" of what you're engineering - only tested results of other things which you might rely on...

By the time F9R was engineered, they had plenty of tested proven results from test-stands and previous generation hardware, and they had analysis tools - and that's the best you can hope for.

There's a school of thought on this board that keeps emphasizing "it's not done yet".  We all know that.  We can all go hybernate and read the history books 10 years from now.

But this is a forward-looking discussion, about a forward-looking enterprise, and as such, so far, the trajectory of SpaceX (and dare I say, its competitors) has been following what many here predicted.  That's about as much as we're saying.  They performed well so far, and it's looking good moving forward.
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Offline laszlo

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #20 on: 08/02/2016 04:46 PM »
So far, while there are strong indications, everything involved with reusing an F9 is purely experimental. There is absolutely no evidence (yet) that it will both work and be economically viable. That won't happen until enough successful reflights are done to prove that it works and to be able to determine the actual financials.

You're misusing the phrase "absolutely no evidence".  You say "there are strong indications" in one sentence and "absolutely no evidence" in the next.

Evidence is anything that tends to indicate something.  It can be stronger or weaker.  You seem to be claiming there is "absolutely no evidence" until the very strongest possible evidence is completely assembled.

So, your use of the term "evidence" is inconsistent with the standard understanding of the term in the English language.

So much argument could be avoided if people would just use the standard meanings of words.

"Strong indications" refers to the contrast between experimental results and completed engineering from the previous sentence. "Absolutely no evidence" refers to the combination of both working and being economically viable in the current sentence. Since they're referring to two different things (that's why they're two separate sentences), there is no contradiction.

You're right in that there's evidence of reuse working, but the economic viability is still in the process of being tested. Since there has yet to be a single reflight (by SpaceX, at least), there is no evidence, just educated speculation about the actual cost of reuse.

My point is not that it is impossible, just an observation as to why 2019 is too early any answer to the question of when reused stages will be the majority.

Online AncientU

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #21 on: 08/02/2016 05:04 PM »
<snip>
 there is no evidence, just educated speculation about the actual cost of reuse.


Do you really believe that the folks at SpaceX have no evidence?

Granted that you and I are just speculating -- they probably know to the dollar what it is now costing to get a used core back on the pad and are seeking ways to reduce each of those costs.  Perfect knowledge of costs won't arrive until they have reflown cores many times, but they are well beyond no evidence.
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Offline JamesH65

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #22 on: 08/03/2016 10:36 AM »
<snip>
 there is no evidence, just educated speculation about the actual cost of reuse.


Do you really believe that the folks at SpaceX have no evidence?

Granted that you and I are just speculating -- they probably know to the dollar what it is now costing to get a used core back on the pad and are seeking ways to reduce each of those costs.  Perfect knowledge of costs won't arrive until they have reflown cores many times, but they are well beyond no evidence.

Agreed. If there was no evidence that economic reusability was possible, then they would NOT have even started on that road. So there is clearly numerical evidence that it is possible, and this must have been in place before they even started on reusability. And now they have evidence, not yet conclusive, that the engineering is also possible - they have landed stages, and they have re-tested the landed stages.  So they have an awful LOT of evidence that reusability will work. What they don't have is CONCLUSIVE evidence which I guess they can only have when they actually relaunch.

But to say there is no evidence is clearly inaccurate.

Offline Lar

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #23 on: 08/03/2016 12:24 PM »
"Success has to be a possible outcome" -Musk
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Offline wannamoonbase

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #24 on: 08/03/2016 12:57 PM »
I think 2019 is reasonable to see 50% flights on reused cores. 

For us fans that watch daily it feels like slow progress on a day to day basis but SpaceX has shown dramatic improvement over a period of 2-3 years.

It maybe hard to get past 50% if NASA insists on new cores for Dragon crew and cargo as that will be a good percentage of flights.  And I'm basing my assumption on a geuss-timate flight rate of 20-24 flights per year.  (They maybe able to launch more than that, but that maybe the amount of paying customers available).  A massive over the top year would probably be around 30 launches (one every 12 days)
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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #25 on: 08/03/2016 01:27 PM »
And now they have evidence, not yet conclusive, that the engineering is also possible - they have landed stages, and they have re-tested the landed stages.  So they have an awful LOT of evidence that reusability will work. What they don't have is CONCLUSIVE evidence which I guess they can only have when they actually relaunch.

But to say there is no evidence is clearly inaccurate.

They have the stages landed. They have testfired the stage that has endured the most severe conditions during landing. Hans Königsmann has declared they believe they have that stability problem with the hottest reentries solved. They must have a very good idea by now how much it will cost them to get them back to flight worthy conditions.

We don't have the data. But I see them fairly glowing with confidence and conclude they know they have economic reuse solved. Maybe not yet 100 per core, but more than the 2 or 3 they need to have substantial savings.

IMO what's left to do is convince the market and work on the details to get past 20 and in the direction of their aim of 100+.

Offline the_other_Doug

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #26 on: 08/03/2016 03:24 PM »
This is rather like the discussion we saw prior to SpaceX's first stage recoveries.  I believe that once SpaceX re-flies a few F9 stages, the chorus from the Doubting Thomases will fade away right quick... ;)
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Offline Rocket Science

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #27 on: 08/03/2016 03:38 PM »
This is rather like the discussion we saw prior to SpaceX's first stage recoveries.  I believe that once SpaceX re-flies a few F9 stages, the chorus from the Doubting Thomases will fade away right quick... ;)
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Offline Alastor

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #28 on: 08/03/2016 04:45 PM »
By the way, wouldn't it be fun if the first time they refly a stage, they didn't announce it, and a few days later went something like "Oh, by the way, it was the second flight of stage #XXX ! ", like if it was something routine ? ;D

I bet you'd have a few jaws touching the floor (EDIT : Slamming the floor !!!) in the audience !  ;D

The more I think of it, even if it doesn't make any damn PR sense, they HAVE to do it !
« Last Edit: 08/03/2016 04:47 PM by Alastor »

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #29 on: 08/03/2016 08:18 PM »
Given the great technical progress SpaceX has made (with booster recovery and now multiple re-fires) for me the key issue is how quickly customers are comfortable to switch to re-used boosters.

Let's assume SES are the first to re-use a booster in October and all goes well. Will other customers quickly follow suit?

I'm not so sure, particularly after CRS-7 where a latent issue unexpectedly appeared. But over the next couple of years my guess is that there'll be enough takers that 2019 is a reasonable estimate for re-use becoming the majority.

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #30 on: 08/03/2016 09:24 PM »
From a standpoint of floorspace and manpower you can replace the manufacture of a 1st stage with the production of 2 US. So that the flight rate could double with the same manufacture level of effort. This would mean that the average number of flights per a single 1st stage would be 4. At this point max number of flights in one year would be ~30. This assumes the current level of manufacturing effort is not expanded and remains at 18 full vehicles (a set of 1 1st stage and 1 US). Such that a flight rate of 24 would be the 50/50 point. This flight rate could be as early as end of year 2017.

A flight rate of 28/29 would be a 75% used 1st stages flights. When adding in FH flights to flight rates and manufacturing rates the numbers become highly variable for flight rates depending on the ratios of FH to F9 flights.

What I am basically saying is that when flight rates go beyond 24/yr used core use will likely outnumber new.

At the moment 2017 shows >24 flights. But I am sure a few of these will slip into 2018 which would move the "more used than new" to occur in 2018 or even latter. Core reuse will at first be a method for increasing flight rate without increasing manufacture level of effort.
« Last Edit: 08/03/2016 09:26 PM by oldAtlas_Eguy »

Offline Kaputnik

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #31 on: 08/07/2016 03:05 PM »
Floorspace for stages is one thing, but remember also that a F9R needs only 10% of the engine manufacturing capacity of an expendable F9- so where is all that extra capacity going to go?

Also, my guess is that the first few reflown cores may only fly two or three times before lessons learned make them obselete and they are retired favour of more robust vehicles.
Waiting for joy and raptor

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #32 on: 08/07/2016 09:10 PM »
Floorspace for stages is one thing, but remember also that a F9R needs only 10% of the engine manufacturing capacity of an expendable F9- so where is all that extra capacity going to go?

Also, my guess is that the first few reflown cores may only fly two or three times before lessons learned make them obselete and they are retired favour of more robust vehicles.
Well, consider that they've only launched 7 cores per year so far (this year being the greatest year), and they we want to get to like 80 flights per year, some of them Falcon Heavy. Plus the cores don't have infinite life, and some Falcon Heavy center cores will be outright expended. I don't think they'll have a problem finding use for their engine manufacturing capacity.

And once MCT enters the scene and is launched a few times, the equation significantly changes. But that's kind of a separate discussion. They may even stockpile Merlin 1Ds and eventually retire that part of their manufacturing line as they transition to making MCTs. (and even with as much reuse as possible, they'll still need more manufacturing capacity than they currently have to handle building enough MCTs) Or maybe some other vehicle as well, too early to really tell. So instead of speculating further, I'll wait a month and a half.

(EDIT: This post sounds overly optimistic. I'm talking about limits, here, not what will most likely happen. And in the "most likely" case, they'll probably have a mix of expended and reused stages, so manufacturing capacity still won't be idle.)
« Last Edit: 08/07/2016 09:12 PM by Robotbeat »
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #33 on: 08/07/2016 09:16 PM »
I prefer to think about it this way:

SpaceX wants to get 40-80 launches per year out of Falcons, and many of those will be Falcon Heavies. No way in heck that's feasible with their current manufacturing capacity (demonstrated ~7/year, maybe capable of 15-30 cores without expansion) without significant reuse.

It's the other side of the coin. Reuse as a way to dramatically enhance flight rate given a fixed manufacturing capacity.
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Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #34 on: 08/09/2016 05:16 PM »
Not sure where to post this:

Quote
Shotwell: “a lot of interest” from customers on flying on reused Falcon 9. May fly two of them this year. #smallsat

https://twitter.com/jeff_foust/status/763060451680722944

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #35 on: 08/10/2016 12:47 AM »
You found the correct thread.
Several threads are using that quote in discussions -- it may be the second most interesting quote of the talk.
(The first was shipping a Raptor to McGregor.)
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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #36 on: 08/17/2016 07:30 AM »
Given the new developments. The info that the engines of the test core had minor modifications to the present production status. The info that the insurance companies are willing to raise their premiums only moderately. They are now setting up the test core for more firings. They expect two launches of used bosters soon, maybe this year.

They may get into the situation, that next year demand on used cores, from customers who want to change their contracts from new to reused, will exceed their capacity until they have a workshop ready with a rocket washing facility and for recoating of thrust structure and interstage. Next year the HIF at LC-39A will be busy with FH and commercial crew and will no longer be availabe to work on used boosters.

That's assuming of course that they have no failures on their first two reflights.

Online AncientU

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #37 on: 08/17/2016 11:45 PM »
Given the new developments. The info that the engines of the test core had minor modifications to the present production status. The info that the insurance companies are willing to raise their premiums only moderately. They are now setting up the test core for more firings. They expect two launches of used bosters soon, maybe this year.

They may get into the situation, that next year demand on used cores, from customers who want to change their contracts from new to reused, will exceed their capacity until they have a workshop ready with a rocket washing facility and for recoating of thrust structure and interstage. Next year the HIF at LC-39A will be busy with FH and commercial crew and will no longer be availabe to work on used boosters.

That's assuming of course that they have no failures on their first two reflights.

A big switch like this will mean that launch has become a commodity.  Boosters will have become generic and all tailoring (not sure how much this will be) will be on second stage, flight profile, orbit, etc.  A single booster could deliver crew to ISS, commercial to GTO, LEO propellant, whatever... this part of launch would then be considered a commodity.
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Offline dorkmo

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #38 on: 08/30/2016 09:29 AM »
i guess another behind the scenes question is "how much does the insurance cost for a reused booster?"

Insurance rates for Falcon 9 dropped surprisingly fast to near Ariane levels. I don't think it will take many successful flights for F9R to reach similar values. Big question is the first reflight.

Quote
There also was “no material change” in the insurance rate compared to using a new Falcon 9 rocket, indicating insurers’ confidence in the launch vehicle, Halliwell said.
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-spacex-rocket-20160829-snap-story.html

interesting

Offline IRobot

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #39 on: 08/30/2016 11:08 AM »
I prefer to think about it this way:

SpaceX wants to get 40-80 launches per year out of Falcons, and many of those will be Falcon Heavies. No way in heck that's feasible with their current manufacturing capacity (demonstrated ~7/year, maybe capable of 15-30 cores without expansion) without significant reuse.

It's the other side of the coin. Reuse as a way to dramatically enhance flight rate given a fixed manufacturing capacity.
There is another thing to it: reuse means landing, and they need landing to their Mars ambitions.
Even if they made no money with reuse (after R&D expenses are covered), the initial R&D effort was required for a Mars program.

Not to mention the vast experience and sense of safety that they will have by the time they land something on Mars.

It is very different to send a lander to Mars that has a well proven landing history compared to sending one which was never live tested.
« Last Edit: 08/30/2016 11:11 AM by IRobot »

Offline JamesH65

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #40 on: 08/30/2016 01:41 PM »
Given the new developments. The info that the engines of the test core had minor modifications to the present production status. The info that the insurance companies are willing to raise their premiums only moderately. They are now setting up the test core for more firings. They expect two launches of used bosters soon, maybe this year.

They may get into the situation, that next year demand on used cores, from customers who want to change their contracts from new to reused, will exceed their capacity until they have a workshop ready with a rocket washing facility and for recoating of thrust structure and interstage. Next year the HIF at LC-39A will be busy with FH and commercial crew and will no longer be availabe to work on used boosters.

That's assuming of course that they have no failures on their first two reflights.

A big switch like this will mean that launch has become a commodity.  Boosters will have become generic and all tailoring (not sure how much this will be) will be on second stage, flight profile, orbit, etc.  A single booster could deliver crew to ISS, commercial to GTO, LEO propellant, whatever... this part of launch would then be considered a commodity.

Isn't the first stage already generic in that respect*? Only the second stage need to be tailored to the payload even now.

* barring modifications required unrelated to the payload (ie efficiency improvements)

Online AncientU

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #41 on: 08/31/2016 01:28 PM »
We're on the threshold of the commodity launch world... boosters are still made for a specific launch, though they might be close to identical at SpaceX.  When reused boosters become a significant contributor, we'll be there.

An interesting (to me, anyway) feature of reused boosters entering a competitive space launch customer market... 

Operating companies like SES, Imarsat, Iridium, Intelsat, etc. are in a hugely competitive market -- anything that gives them an edge will be exploited (by the most nimble first).  SES is playing that card with SES-10/11 launches on reused vehicles.

The two big advantages if you are using flight-proven boosters and your competition isn't:
1. Earlier launch if you can jump the queue, and
2. Your competition paid the capital expense of your booster. (Thank you very much.)

This situation will become a huge driver (forcing function if you will) of the change-over to reused boosters in any competitive market IMO.  Others insist there will be no rush to reused cores... YMMV. 

Since commercial launches are 60-70% (?) of the launch market, 2019 doesn't seem so far fetched per the OP.
« Last Edit: 08/31/2016 01:28 PM by AncientU »
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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #42 on: 03/31/2017 06:38 AM »
Given the successful reflight of B1021 for SES-10, I'm bumping this thread.

In the post SES-10 presser, SES CTO Martin Halliwell said they will gladly fly future missions on reused boosters. Musk said that other customers have expressed interest, contingent on the success of SES-10.  Musk also said he expects 6 reused boosters to fly this year (though 2 are probably on the FH demo), 12 next year quickly ramping up to 3/4 missions being on reused boosters.

Halliwell also made a prediction related to customers using previously flown boosters.  He said:
Quote
In 24 months SpaceX will offer a service to get to orbit and it will be irrelevant.  It will be irrelevant whether its' new or reflown.

Another motivator that Halliwell has mentioned above and beyond price is availability.

I think guckyfan hit the nail on the head.  2019 could well be the year that most SpaceX missions are on reflown boosters.
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Offline macpacheco

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #43 on: 03/31/2017 06:53 AM »
Most commercial customers will demand 3 success re launches before they let their expensive payloads be launched in a re launch.
So two more successful relaunches. This is likely to happen in 4-6 months.
Once that's achieved, at least 75% of newly booked launches should be for re flights.
There's another important variable. Once FH is reliably re flying, dual manifest GTO launches using FH becomes a very logical choice.

The big assumption is no failures on re launches.

About that... My personal opinion is that SpaceX tends to have very few launch failures from now on, that first Falcon Heavy launch is by far the biggest risk. Sure, there are unknowns and unknown unknowns but booster recovery gives SpaceX excellent opportunities to extensively check/test booster for issues. It bodes really well both from new and re launches.

But I would also say that the odds are 2nd and 3rd flights of a given booster are far less likely to fail than the first one. The odds of an out of spec part RUDing a launch is far greater at the first launch.

Big deal is the next two re flights, that milestone will enable reused first stages being the majority of re launches.
The milestone of majority relaunches should be achieved early 2018.

Customers love a discount, 1/3 off is always significant. They just need to trust they're not increasing their risks.

The other factor is accelerated launch schedule. For now SpaceX has a well supplied pipeline of new boosters. Once the accumulated supply is consumed, a re launch might be quite interesting for a customer in a hurry. I'd also add the possibility of giving the customer willing to go on a 3rd flight of a Block III/IV booster the full performance of the rocket and let that be expended, since Block Vs are the real deal for serial reuse.
Once LC40 is up and running AND LC39A goes through the stand down to upgrade for FH, SX will have a lot of launch capacity. A few months later the bottleneck should shift towards having boosters ready to launch.
« Last Edit: 04/02/2017 11:48 AM by macpacheco »
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Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #44 on: 03/31/2017 06:58 AM »
Another key point from the presser, when asked if there are customers other than SES looking to re-use boosters Elon replied: "I think there are 3 or 4 others signed up on a contingency basis". In other words prepared to use flight proven boosters once it's shown to work.

Offline david1971

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #45 on: 03/31/2017 11:55 PM »
Given the successful reflight of B1021 for SES-10, I'm bumping this thread.

In the post SES-10 presser, SES CTO Martin Halliwell said they will gladly fly future missions on reused boosters. Musk said that other customers have expressed interest, contingent on the success of SES-10.  Musk also said he expects 6 reused boosters to fly this year (though 2 are probably on the FH demo), 12 next year quickly ramping up to 3/4 missions being on reused boosters.

I don't know when we'll see a majority of launches involve reused first stages, but it blows my mind that it is possible that SpaceX reflight launches could outnumber Proton launches this year.

Offline Bob Shaw

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #46 on: 04/01/2017 12:04 AM »
So, First Stage reuse is a fact. Fairings were (officially) tested this time. When are we going to see a reuseable Second Stage, if only for LEO payloads? Surely this is required for MuskNet?

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #47 on: 04/01/2017 06:38 AM »
So, First Stage reuse is a fact. Fairings were (officially) tested this time. When are we going to see a reuseable Second Stage, if only for LEO payloads? Surely this is required for MuskNet?

Elon appears to be seriously considering an attempt for the first (demo) FH flight. There's a separate thread for that: http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=42637.0

Online AncientU

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #48 on: 04/01/2017 02:51 PM »
This is rather like the discussion we saw prior to SpaceX's first stage recoveries.  I believe that once SpaceX re-flies a few F9 stages, the chorus from the Doubting Thomases will fade away right quick... ;)
"Doug for President of the Optimist Club"... ;D

Listen... crickets.

One reflown stage.

6 total planned this year, twelve next, three-quarters of launches (by 2019?) beyond that.

...
But I would bet (just a phrase, I don't bet) that in 2019 most launches will be on reused boosters
...
« Last Edit: 04/01/2017 03:38 PM by AncientU »
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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #49 on: 04/01/2017 11:58 PM »
From post-flight... EM and Martin Halliwell, SES:
Quote
E: It's customers that are willing to take flight-proven booster, or some will still want to see a lot more flights before they are comfortable with what we will call a flight proven booster. They may use a different term - . So, .. But I .. It does seems as though .. We might do half a dozen, or more, flights of re-flown booster this year, and then next year, probably double that. And then I'd expect that, for the Falcon architecture, over time, probably 3/4 of our missions are with a re-flown booster.
M: As an operator, I could add to that, my belief is that within 24 months, people like SpaceX, or SpaceX specifically, will offer a service to orbit, and it will be irrelevant. It will be irrelevant if it's new, or it's pre-flown, it'll be irrelevant, within 24 months. That's what this means today.
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Online AncientU

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #50 on: 05/19/2017 11:36 AM »
But I would bet (just a phrase, I don't bet) that in 2019 most launches will be on reused boosters including contracts already signed for new ones. The contracts will be renegotiated with reusable prices. By that time they will probably have enough cores in store that they don't need to build new ones before the Falcon family is phased out.

Things are progressing faster than even SpaceX anticipated...

Looking like we may see a 50-50 manifest by end of this year -- 2017 -- baring mishaps, of course.
« Last Edit: 05/19/2017 11:38 AM by AncientU »
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Offline AC in NC

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #51 on: 05/19/2017 11:50 PM »
Things are progressing faster than even SpaceX anticipated...

Reminds me of the time (1y 3m 10d) between 1st Landing and 1st Relanding including AMOS-6 RUD and aftermath.

Exciting times.

Offline wannamoonbase

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #52 on: 05/20/2017 12:22 AM »
But I would bet (just a phrase, I don't bet) that in 2019 most launches will be on reused boosters including contracts already signed for new ones. The contracts will be renegotiated with reusable prices. By that time they will probably have enough cores in store that they don't need to build new ones before the Falcon family is phased out.

Things are progressing faster than even SpaceX anticipated...

Looking like we may see a 50-50 manifest by end of this year -- 2017 -- baring mishaps, of course.

I think 2019 still looks good for 50/50.  Very hard to do it this year. 

2018 could be tough as the Block 5 is still waiting, Crew and Cargo flights for NASA will be new boosters.  Finally we are getting close to half way through 2017.  It won't be too long before the boosters and upper stages for 2018 begin their planning and production.
Excited to be finally into the first Falcon Heavy flow, we are getting so close!

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #53 on: 05/20/2017 01:16 AM »
Crew and especially cargo flights may not be new boosters. NASA is comfortable with SpaceX flying a reused Dragon, after all. And FH will probably use mostly reused boosters for the vast majority of flights, starting with the first.
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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #54 on: 05/20/2017 11:08 AM »
Part of my logic is that Hawthorne can fab about 1.5 boosters/month.  If launch rate hits 3 boosters/month by end of year -- which it appears to be heading toward -- half of those boosters will need to be reused. 

FH complicates the situation with its wildly unpredictable launch 'cadence' and core configuration, but it only helps (unless STP-2 is three new cores).
« Last Edit: 05/20/2017 11:10 AM by AncientU »
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Offline rockets4life97

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #55 on: 05/20/2017 11:15 AM »
FH complicates the situation with its wildly unpredictable launch 'cadence' and core configuration, but it only helps (unless STP-2 is three new cores).

I'm pretty sure it was reported the STP-2 will have a new center core and two re-used F9 repurposed as boosters, just like the demo flight.

Offline Norm38

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Re: When will reused first stages be the majority of launches?
« Reply #56 on: 06/06/2017 03:59 PM »
Looking at 2017, the 15 launches already flown or scheduled through end of August, only 3-4 are expendable (Formosat 5 still TBD).
Booster 1021.2 is likely retired, and B1029 is flying twice in 2017.  All together, if there is no other reuse, SpaceX will have 9-10 flown boosters on hand, from just 8 months of this year's flights.  They're stacking up like cordwood, which isn't helpful.

It seems to me that some of the launches later this summer almost have to be reuse.  They need to get to something like a 5 man pitching rotation, with older higher flight count boosters taken out for expendable flights and new block 5 production only has to replace those expendable losses.
With the way their flight rate is ramping, reuse has to ramp with it.
« Last Edit: 06/06/2017 04:15 PM by Norm38 »

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