Author Topic: SpaceX customers' views on reuse  (Read 73948 times)

Offline john smith 19

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #40 on: 04/14/2017 04:12 PM »
Yes, the service customers are buying is delivery of payload(s) to orbit. SpaceX don't just provide the LV, they operate it too.
What SX provide (like every other launch services provider) is a ticket to ride. If it works great. If it goes bang call your insurer or check your bank balance and see if you've got enough left to have another go.

No launch service provider actually sells you a rocket, and while space launch continues to be done by the ICBM paradigm I doubt anyone every will. It'll be one mfg/one service provider, regardless of wheather or not your purchase has paid the whole up front cost of the first stage.

Quote from: FutureSpaceTourist
I put 'potential customers' in the OP because I'm interested in what the whole launch market (not just existing SpaceX customers) think of re-use. For some time there's been a view that just because re-use may be technically achievable it doesn't mean that it's economically viable. One key aspect of that is whether there's any demand for (or at least tolerance of) re-use, hence this thread.
There's always going to be customer interest in lower prices. If that also gives them a vehicle that has also already been partly field tested that seems quite attractive.

Of course that would be for every other transportation mode.

As LV mfg never cease to tell people space launch is "special." So the question is does the landing and reuse destroy any likely hood that the first flight proves the first stage will work again.

"Economic viability" is the vendors problem. So far the vendors have said it's not viable and only offer fully expendable vehicles. Only SX has disagreed with this stance. I suspect in a very narrow economic sense they [EDIT I mean the other launch service suppliers, who all seem to be publicly quoted] are right. And as long as the launch market remains as it is they will continue to be right, unless something quite radical happens to  the launch market.

Time will tell if SX is that something.
« Last Edit: 04/15/2017 09:17 AM by john smith 19 »
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Offline MP99

Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #41 on: 04/14/2017 05:17 PM »
I was hesitant to introduce any speculation on this thread, but the original post did say "potential" customers. So I see this as a good place to ask about a couple of potential scenarios that I have not seen discussed elsewhere.

1. If I were a customer who paid a premium for a brand new booster, I would consider that (to use the airplane analogy) I paid for not just the flight, but for the airplane itself. Therefore, the hardware "belongs" to me and SpaceX should buy it back or let me continue to use it.

2. Along the same lines, what if I were a customer who demanded a brand new booster, paid a premium, then expected to reuse that same hardware on subsequent flights for a cost less than a new customer who would fly on the same hardware? For example, if customer B pays 60% of the advertised rate to use flight-proven hardware, me (customer A) would expect to pay less (i.e. 40%) for reusing hardware that I originally paid full price for.

or

3. A customer who wants to pay a discounted rate, regardless of hardware, as part of a bundle of multiple missions. For example, a contract for 3 missions at 66% the advertised rate (3 for 2) that allows SpaceX to decide which hardware to use or re-use. The contract could have bonus clauses to, for example, deliver all missions within a negotiated time frame, which would drive and essentially pay for rapid reusability improvements.

I think scenario 3 is where I would expect things to go.

Mods, please feel free to delete this if it is too speculative for this thread.

I'd say that there is an extensive history of various providers launching rockets on their first use. The payload owner is making a "conservative" decision to use F9 in this mode.

Also, F9 or FH have a level of performance in expendable mode. The customer has already managed to buy a launch on that vehicle at a lower cost than they'd otherwise expect because SpaceX have reserved performance to recover S1.

ULA would scale their vehicle to the payload using solids. In order to reserve that much extra performance they'd need to swallow the cost of extra solids. Ariane might offer rideshare with a secondary payload because of such a gap between vehicle performance and payload size.

Of course, there will be a transitional period where customers have paid an "expendable" price, but SpaceX fly S1 with reduced performance such that they can recover it. This could have an impact to risk where S2 underperforms. ISTM appropriate for SpaceX to reimburse the insurer for increased risk in this case.

Cheers, Martin

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #42 on: 04/28/2017 11:12 AM »
SES appear  to be reporting financial results (based on a series of @pbdes tweets).

This tweet caught my eye:

Quote
Peter B. de Selding‏ @pbdes 14m14 minutes ago

@SES_Satellites CEO: W @SpaceX launch of SES-10 w/ previously flown stage, 'we expect considerable improvements in cadence & economics.'

https://twitter.com/pbdes/status/857911479705755648

I imagine other comms providers are paying close attention?

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #43 on: 04/29/2017 12:56 AM »
Yes the other side of the coin of reuse is booster availability and schedule reliability. If you do not have to manufacture a new booster and only spend six weeks to get a booster ready to fly again that improves the cadence and the scheduling reliability related to a availability of boosters. So as the reuse rate goes up (reuse flights to total flights) then so will cadence and scheduling reliability. It takes about 18 months from start of the long lead items to manufacture a booster but it could take easily as little as six weeks for a used one.

Online AncientU

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #44 on: 04/29/2017 06:35 PM »
24 hours, not six weeks, is the goal I've heard from reliable sources...   ;)
Probably is close to six weeks now.
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Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #45 on: 04/29/2017 06:47 PM »
It takes about 18 months from start of the long lead items to manufacture a booster...

I would imagine only if you're counting long lead parts at the suppliers.  But once the logistics pipeline is filled up and your BOM is only experiencing minor changes this is not even really a consideration.

Quote
...but it could take easily as little as six weeks for a used one.

SpaceX is not remanufacturing each flown booster.  Today they do some refurbishing, although that is because they have not flown their Block 5 versions yet which shouldn't require any refurbishment.  But refurbishment is far less complex than remanufacturing which typically implies taking apart everything and then rebuilding.
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 oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #46 on: 04/29/2017 07:28 PM »
It takes about 18 months from start of the long lead items to manufacture a booster...

I would imagine only if you're counting long lead parts at the suppliers.  But once the logistics pipeline is filled up and your BOM is only experiencing minor changes this is not even really a consideration.

Quote
...but it could take easily as little as six weeks for a used one.

SpaceX is not remanufacturing each flown booster.  Today they do some refurbishing, although that is because they have not flown their Block 5 versions yet which shouldn't require any refurbishment.  But refurbishment is far less complex than remanufacturing which typically implies taking apart everything and then rebuilding.
The 6 weeks is an implied estimate from the SpaceX indicated cost of refurbishment for these next boosters of ~$1M. That translates into about 25 people working on the booster for 6 weeks. If you have 150 people available then 6 boosters simultaneously being processed would push out a refurbed booster each week.

Meaning that the biggest problem is additional space for the refurbishment of boosters at the Cape.

The other problem at launch rates of 50+ a year is the manufacture of US's.

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #47 on: 04/29/2017 10:21 PM »
The other problem at launch rates of 50+ a year is the manufacture of US's.

The Hawthorne factory was set up to manufacture 40 cores per year, and that would have included a mix of upper stages.  So with reuse, building 50 upper stages should be doable with their current manufacturing capabilities.
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 oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #48 on: 04/30/2017 07:37 PM »
The other problem at launch rates of 50+ a year is the manufacture of US's.

The Hawthorne factory was set up to manufacture 40 cores per year, and that would have included a mix of upper stages.  So with reuse, building 50 upper stages should be doable with their current manufacturing capabilities.
With SpaceX current level of manpower they should be able to produce 45 US and 5 1st stage in 1 year. But this represents a reuse rate of 90%. That level of reuse is not likely to occur until late 2019 or 2020. But between now and then they will most likely increase their level of manpower making it possible that once they get to a reuse rate of 90% the number of US's that they could produce could be as high as 75. The problem is in the short term where the reuse rates are low. Their current production rate of 18 core sets per year is a limiting item on flight rate. But with only a few reuse flights especially the FH the flight rate could be in the 20's without much difficulty. At a flight rate of 25 to 30 in one year they will run through their backlog of payloads and be looking for new and bigger constellations work. Normally without any significant downtime the payloads out there could sustain a flight rate of almost 25. But for a flight  rate of 50+ would mean that there is most likely their own comm sat constellation deployment occurring using 25 to 30 additional launches in 1 year. SpaceX costs for these launch should be around $30M each for a F9 flight.

Now back to customer's views on reusability. The key point from the SES statement is the affect that reusability will have on cadence and the more important point of the availability of boosters for schedule reliability.

Edit Added:
There is another aspect of reused boosters and that is there is a possibility of increase in reliability  in using a booster that has already been "tested" in a real flight. The jury is still out on this aspect but it could have a major impact on SpaceX's failure rates if the flight reliability does indeed go up for used boosters from that of a new one. with used booster accounting for 70 to 90% of all flights the reliability rate average will go up.  If that does work out then being the first to fly on a new booster may get a discount because of its lower (small amount hopefully though) reliability.
« Last Edit: 04/30/2017 08:57 PM by oldAtlas_Eguy »

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #49 on: 04/30/2017 10:29 PM »
The effects on market value/pricing have little to do with costing and/or schedule, which are abstractions as far as the commercial customer sees (govt launch has visibility inside at costing as well as how the provider serves things up). There are three realities that affect the market - lowest launch price in category, shortest time to on-orbit, and LOM.

From these, the "customers" start the dance with providers/insurers, and eventually conclude/shift with/to a provider. Lets be clear that provider pricing is a highly non transparent undertaking.

There is another aspect of reused boosters and that is there is a possibility of increase in reliability  in using a booster that has already been "tested" in a real flight. The jury is still out on this aspect but it could have a major impact on SpaceX's failure rates if the flight reliability does indeed go up for used boosters from that of a new one. with used booster accounting for 70 to 90% of all flights the reliability rate average will go up.  If that does work out then being the first to fly on a new booster may get a discount because of its lower (small amount hopefully though) reliability.

This is specifically the advocacy that SX is pushing right now. The idea is to drive up the concern that no LV really has had adequate testing, and that even Atlas/Ariane levels of reliability are based much on flukes.

One way you could do this is take flight history observations out of the recycled boosters and use them to illustrate "surprises" found on inspection. They don't have to say anything more, because the absence of it from other vendors does the talking.

So flight history is given a voice at the negotiating table, as the negative potentially turns positive.

It is very clear that Shotwell thinks that it may be possible to have a higher value proposition for a reused booster, one that might grow to 2x the value of the launch. Dr. Sowers did not factor this in to his spreadsheet.

(One of the weakest parts of aerospace business has been the relative "stupidity" of the "business" side, because they didn't have to be so bright. Now, pair that with the San Francisco start-up scene's ruthless, cutthroat weasels that those like SX have imported in to aerospace, and ... it isn't even a fair fight ...)

(This goes for sats as well BTW.)

Back to the engineering. The arguments about reuse "paying off" center around the difficulty in proving the structures/engines tolerating the operating environment for even one cycle, let alone a hundred (or more).

Yet we have models that work for aircraft aerostructures in the millions of cycles. Some of which have been extending into the single digit Mach space. With a means of validating them.

Such models give you a "hill" graph - the usefulness of a particular vehicle "peaks" before a threshold. My bet is that they will assemble same, and then take a few of the "over the hill" LV's and speculatively fly them as a marketing maneuver to demonstrate how much "margin" there is in actuality.

A Bezos could buy a fully reusable launch vehicle eventually, and even run it. But he couldn't buy the veracity obtained by the above process, so his aggregate business (sum of all value X missions) would likely be but a fraction of SX's.

Changing the launch provider market here has many advantages.

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #50 on: 05/01/2017 12:54 PM »
Quote
USAF Lt Gen Steven Kwast comparing low-cost launch with other transportation innovations that “changes the human condition.”
https://twitter.com/jeff_foust/status/859026553518403584

Quote
Kwast says that people can feel the power of the implications of reusable launch vehicles #ulcats
https://twitter.com/nasawatch/status/859026239197257728

Edit to add:

Quote
Kwast says recent Air Univ. study on ultra low-cost access to space (ULCATS) not intended to pick “winners and losers” but set conditions.
https://twitter.com/jeff_foust/status/859027225613565952
« Last Edit: 05/01/2017 12:58 PM by FutureSpaceTourist »

Online AncientU

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #51 on: 05/01/2017 01:32 PM »
NRO: :)
#NROL76 launched today at 7:15 a.m. EDT. Congratulations to the team! @SpaceX, @45thSpaceWing, @NASAKennedy
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
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Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #52 on: 05/01/2017 02:29 PM »
ULA response at same forum as Lt agency Kwast:

Quote
Les Kovacs, ULA: want to throw a wet blanket on concept of reusability. Additional systems needed to land stages comes at cost of payload.

https://twitter.com/jeff_foust/status/859033383598477312

Oh dear. Guess what ULA, customers don't care if rocket is still powerful to lift their payloads (and on the evidence so far F9 is doing just fine on that score).

Online AncientU

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #53 on: 05/01/2017 04:40 PM »
ULA response at same forum as Lt agency Kwast:

Quote
Les Kovacs, ULA: want to throw a wet blanket on concept of reusability. Additional systems needed to land stages comes at cost of payload.

https://twitter.com/jeff_foust/status/859033383598477312

Oh dear. Guess what ULA, customers don't care if rocket is still powerful to lift their payloads (and on the evidence so far F9 is doing just fine on that score).

Will be interesting to see from whom Boeing buys their dozens of constellation launches. 
That could be the real wet blanket.
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Offline Star One

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #54 on: 05/01/2017 04:45 PM »
ULA response at same forum as Lt agency Kwast:

Quote
Les Kovacs, ULA: want to throw a wet blanket on concept of reusability. Additional systems needed to land stages comes at cost of payload.

https://twitter.com/jeff_foust/status/859033383598477312

Oh dear. Guess what ULA, customers don't care if rocket is still powerful to lift their payloads (and on the evidence so far F9 is doing just fine on that score).

That's not a very constructive response by them.

Offline getitdoneinspace

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #55 on: 05/01/2017 09:26 PM »
ULA response at same forum as Lt agency Kwast:

Quote
Les Kovacs, ULA: want to throw a wet blanket on concept of reusability. Additional systems needed to land stages comes at cost of payload.

https://twitter.com/jeff_foust/status/859033383598477312

Oh dear. Guess what ULA, customers don't care if rocket is still powerful to lift their payloads (and on the evidence so far F9 is doing just fine on that score).

That's not a very constructive response by them.

Tory Bruno has one heck of a challenge to change this culture given the persistence of this attitude even with the ever growing pile of evidence that reuseability is the only viable path forward to have a sustainable future.

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #56 on: 05/02/2017 01:39 PM »
Quote
Jeff Foust‏ @jeff_foust 4m4 minutes ago

Marion Blakey, former FAA administrator: reusability of launch vehicles is an absolute game-changer; changes a lot of business calculations.

https://twitter.com/jeff_foust/status/859400441951645696

Online AncientU

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #57 on: 05/02/2017 04:12 PM »
Air Force:

Quote
SpaceX, Blue Origin have opened a “window of opportunity” for US Air Force

Quote
On Monday morning, SpaceX successfully launched a national security payload for the first time, cracking the market for US military missions. The first stage of the rocket then landed within a couple of miles from where it had taken off less than 10 minutes earlier, marking the tenth time SpaceX has safely returned a first stage to Earth.

The US military has taken note of these achievements, as well as those of Blue Origin and its reusable New Shepard suborbital vehicle—and that company’s ambitions to also build a large, reusable orbital rocket. “This has opened up a window of opportunity and gotten the attention of serious people,” Charles Miller, an aerospace consultant and president of NexGen Space, told Ars.

To that end Miller partnered with a number of Air Force officers at Air University and former Air Force officials to study the potential effects of lower-cost access to space on the US military. The “Fast Space” report, which has been briefed to senior officials in the US military and government in recent months, concludes that the US Air Force can benefit from these commercial developments.

“The USAF can form private sector partnerships to create a virtuous cycle of launch cost reductions of between 3 and 10 times lower than today’s costs,” the report finds. “Doing so could enable completely new approaches for the Air Force to defend American values, protect American interests, and enhance opportunities to exploit the unique global advantages of the ultimate high ground.”

The key concept in the report is “ultra low-cost access to space” enabled by reusable launch vehicle technology.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/05/air-force-study-says-us-government-should-get-serious-about-reusable-rockets/

And the Fast Space report:
http://www.airuniversity.af.mil/Portals/10/Research/documents/Space/Fast%20Space_Public_2017.pdf?ver=2017-03-10-113507-743
« Last Edit: 05/02/2017 04:17 PM by AncientU »
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Offline Star One

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #58 on: 05/02/2017 04:39 PM »
Air Force:

Quote
SpaceX, Blue Origin have opened a “window of opportunity” for US Air Force

Quote
On Monday morning, SpaceX successfully launched a national security payload for the first time, cracking the market for US military missions. The first stage of the rocket then landed within a couple of miles from where it had taken off less than 10 minutes earlier, marking the tenth time SpaceX has safely returned a first stage to Earth.

The US military has taken note of these achievements, as well as those of Blue Origin and its reusable New Shepard suborbital vehicle—and that company’s ambitions to also build a large, reusable orbital rocket. “This has opened up a window of opportunity and gotten the attention of serious people,” Charles Miller, an aerospace consultant and president of NexGen Space, told Ars.

To that end Miller partnered with a number of Air Force officers at Air University and former Air Force officials to study the potential effects of lower-cost access to space on the US military. The “Fast Space” report, which has been briefed to senior officials in the US military and government in recent months, concludes that the US Air Force can benefit from these commercial developments.

“The USAF can form private sector partnerships to create a virtuous cycle of launch cost reductions of between 3 and 10 times lower than today’s costs,” the report finds. “Doing so could enable completely new approaches for the Air Force to defend American values, protect American interests, and enhance opportunities to exploit the unique global advantages of the ultimate high ground.”

The key concept in the report is “ultra low-cost access to space” enabled by reusable launch vehicle technology.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/05/air-force-study-says-us-government-should-get-serious-about-reusable-rockets/

And the Fast Space report:
http://www.airuniversity.af.mil/Portals/10/Research/documents/Space/Fast%20Space_Public_2017.pdf?ver=2017-03-10-113507-743

Thanks for those links. I'd think the USAF were very much noting yesterday's launch and I am sure even something as trivial as the eye catching video of the first stage return would have helped.

Online AncientU

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #59 on: 05/02/2017 05:24 PM »
Couldn't hurt...
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

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