Author Topic: Low(er) cost commercial lunar program - can it be done?  (Read 3212 times)

Offline MattJL

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I say 'lower' in comparison to Golden Spike's pricing of $750 million a seat.

Is such a thing feasible?  I would hazard 'yes,' as I've been doing a study for the past year or two, and I have a crude estimate of around $250 mil/flight ($83 mil/seat).  That study uses a different architecture than GS, but is still a 'flags and footprints" mission, with room for expansion up to the capabilities of a J-class mission (for a modest price increase up to $425 mil).  What makes GS so expensive, and is it possible to go any lower?

EDIT: Changed the subject to sound a bit more general.
« Last Edit: 05/13/2013 02:23 AM by MattJL »

Offline Lar

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Re: Low(er) cost commercial lunar program.
« Reply #1 on: 05/12/2013 02:03 AM »
250M a flight seems low, with launch costs eating up a significant fraction of that (how can you do it on less than an FH ??? ). What's your budget look like? How much development cost and how many flights to amortize it?
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
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Offline MattJL

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Re: Low(er) cost commercial lunar program.
« Reply #2 on: 05/12/2013 02:39 AM »
250M a flight seems low, with launch costs eating up a significant fraction of that (how can you do it on less than an FH ??? ). What's your budget look like? How much development cost and how many flights to amortize it?

Whoops!  I was going off of old numbers for the cost.  FH would be the launch vehicle, and deliver the CSM and the LM (LM first) into lunar orbit in two separate launches up to six months apart.

Going off of SpaceX's numbers (greater than 6.4 tons to GTO - $128 million), and the two launch architecture gives a total of about $256 million for an entire flight - launch costs alone.  Both the lander and the CSM have a budget of ~44 million, then.  This isn't too outlandish, IMO, as both vehicles share a large portion of technology - the ascent stage cabin for LM is the same as the orbital module for the CSM, and the tank for the descent stage of the LM is off the same mold as the upper stage that would deliver both into lunar orbit, for example.  The engine is the same in all three components as well, and it would be pressure fed, lowering costs even further.

Development cost would be on the order of $100 - $150 mil, and to save money, the first flight to the Moon would be CSM only.  Instrument bay style payloads could still be carried - think lunar CubeSat - and, as such, an Apollo 8 style jaunt would have some financial and scientific purpose.

Amortizing the flights would happen on a flight by flight basis - revenue would be generated through scientific experiments packages, general advertising, and paying passengers.  Assuming a little overcharging, $120 million to walk on the Moon is a downright bargain.  (We've already seen what happened with GS and crowdfunding, though...)

Offline Lar

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Re: Low(er) cost commercial lunar program.
« Reply #3 on: 05/12/2013 02:50 AM »
Did you go from 250 to 300M (300M -256M(launch cost) == 44M) ?

44M with development included means you probably are planning on using a lander that's "mostly developed"... have you some candidates in mind?
« Last Edit: 05/12/2013 02:50 AM by Lar »
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

Offline MattJL

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Re: Low(er) cost commercial lunar program.
« Reply #4 on: 05/12/2013 02:59 AM »
Did you go from 250 to 300M (300M -256M(launch cost) == 44M) ?

44M with development included means you probably are planning on using a lander that's "mostly developed"... have you some candidates in mind?

Yes, my numbers from a few months ago were a bit off.

The "mostly developed" lunar lander is based off of something I encountered a while ago. (Here: http://www.orbiter-forum.com/showthread.php?t=20465)  As far as I can tell, it's well developed from a numbers standpoint.  Unfortunately, it hasn't been updated for about a year, and I haven't yet contacted the developer for more information/permission.

Offline deltaV

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Re: Low(er) cost commercial lunar program.
« Reply #5 on: 05/12/2013 03:09 AM »
$150 million for development sounds ridiculously low considering that commercial crew costs several times that much (per provider).

Offline MattJL

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Re: Low(er) cost commercial lunar program.
« Reply #6 on: 05/12/2013 03:16 AM »
$150 million for development sounds ridiculously low considering that commercial crew costs several times that much (per provider).

Pardon my ignorance, but isn't LV development a large portion of that?  I came up with that number assuming that was true.

Offline VatTas

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Re: Low(er) cost commercial lunar program.
« Reply #7 on: 05/12/2013 06:32 AM »
Pardon my ignorance, but isn't LV development a large portion of that?  I came up with that number assuming that was true.
Dragon is much more complex than its launcher. Therefore ir must have taken more to develop. Size does not matter that much in this case.

Offline Occupymars

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Re: Low(er) cost commercial lunar program.
« Reply #8 on: 05/12/2013 10:13 AM »
I wouldn't use a lander at all but instead just use dragon rider whit a large fuel tank stacked on top of the capsule Attached to it's NDS whit fuel lines running to the Superdraco's tank's.
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Offline QuantumG

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Re: Low(er) cost commercial lunar program.
« Reply #9 on: 05/12/2013 10:22 AM »
Develop a technique for making heatshields from lunar regolith?
I hear those things are awfully loud. It glides as softly as a cloud. What's it called? Monowhale!

Offline Jim

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Re: Low(er) cost commercial lunar program.
« Reply #10 on: 05/12/2013 12:37 PM »
I wouldn't use a lander at all but instead just use dragon rider whit a large fuel tank stacked on top of the capsule Attached to it's NDS whit fuel lines running to the Superdraco's tank's.


What says the NDS and Dragon can handle the mass of the propellant tank?  And what did you use to compute the size of the tanks?
« Last Edit: 05/12/2013 12:38 PM by Jim »

Offline MattJL

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Re: Low(er) cost commercial lunar program.
« Reply #11 on: 05/12/2013 10:27 PM »
Question - how would one, say, land a CubeSat on the surface of the Moon?  Better yet, has anyone come up with plans to do so?

It might not be manned, but seeing as we haven't soft landed anything there since 1976, it could be something worth doing.

EDIT:  After some basic research, I found out that my second question has been proven true multiple times.  :-X  Looking into the numbers for the first one (just for the fun of it).
« Last Edit: 05/13/2013 04:37 AM by MattJL »

Offline MattJL

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Re: Low(er) cost commercial lunar program - can it be done?
« Reply #12 on: 05/13/2013 05:24 AM »
So I took a look at my question of landing a CubeSat on the Moon, and it turns out that it'd take some ridiculously small amount of propellant to land one of those things on the Moon (using F9 as a launch vehicle) - about 1.03 kg.

Then I thought to myself (never a good thing), "How many CubeSats could one land on the Moon?"  Using every last kilo that F9 can launch to TLI, one could theoretically land 2,266 of the things in a 2.8 meter cube for a cost of $23,820 per CubeSat.  Landing would consist of a gentile lithobraking, as these numbers don't take any landing legs into account.

Of course, this is a completely mad idea, but perhaps it might have some validity on a smaller scale - that is, literally dropping CubeSats en masse onto the lunar surface.

Offline QuantumG

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Re: Low(er) cost commercial lunar program - can it be done?
« Reply #13 on: 05/13/2013 05:45 AM »
So I took a look at my question of landing a CubeSat on the Moon, and it turns out that it'd take some ridiculously small amount of propellant to land one of those things on the Moon (using F9 as a launch vehicle) - about 1.03 kg.

Then I thought to myself (never a good thing), "How many CubeSats could one land on the Moon?"  Using every last kilo that F9 can launch to TLI, one could theoretically land 2,266 of the things in a 2.8 meter cube for a cost of $23,820 per CubeSat.  Landing would consist of a gentile lithobraking, as these numbers don't take any landing legs into account.

Of course, this is a completely mad idea, but perhaps it might have some validity on a smaller scale - that is, literally dropping CubeSats en masse onto the lunar surface.

I estimated 2,585 kg to LTO for Falcon 9 v1.0 .. it'd be a little more for v1.1. If you can stretch the upper stage and do a descent burn with it, you could probably put about 900 kg on the lunar surface.
I hear those things are awfully loud. It glides as softly as a cloud. What's it called? Monowhale!

Offline MattJL

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Re: Low(er) cost commercial lunar program - can it be done?
« Reply #14 on: 05/13/2013 05:58 AM »
So I took a look at my question of landing a CubeSat on the Moon, and it turns out that it'd take some ridiculously small amount of propellant to land one of those things on the Moon (using F9 as a launch vehicle) - about 1.03 kg.

Then I thought to myself (never a good thing), "How many CubeSats could one land on the Moon?"  Using every last kilo that F9 can launch to TLI, one could theoretically land 2,266 of the things in a 2.8 meter cube for a cost of $23,820 per CubeSat.  Landing would consist of a gentile lithobraking, as these numbers don't take any landing legs into account.

Of course, this is a completely mad idea, but perhaps it might have some validity on a smaller scale - that is, literally dropping CubeSats en masse onto the lunar surface.

I estimated 2,585 kg to LTO for Falcon 9 v1.0 .. it'd be a little more for v1.1. If you can stretch the upper stage and do a descent burn with it, you could probably put about 900 kg on the lunar surface.

Aye, that's why I can't trust Wikipedia - I assumed that GTO and LTO were similar payload wise to one another as well.

Hmm, so 900 kg... that's 3x the mass of Surveyor, so I'm thinking a simple rover/lander combo, which could be a good starting point/basis for a commercial lunar program.

After all, it'd be a 'cheap' way to scout out sites before sending a manned mission.  Possibly a good probe for studying the poles as well.