Author Topic: US Air Force Reporting SpaceX Helps Cut US Air Force Single Launch Costs By 50%  (Read 7260 times)

Offline mr. mark

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US Air Force Reporting working with SpaceX has cut their Single launch costs by 50%. Main launch footprint cut by 60%.http://spacenews.com/spacex-forces-air-force-to-revise-launch-mindset/
« Last Edit: 09/21/2017 04:14 AM by mr. mark »

Offline woods170

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Key part:

Quote from: Mike Fabey
“SpaceX does not launch on schedule,” Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith (commander, 45th Space Wing) said Sept. 20 during a space warfighting panel at the annual Air Force Association Air Space Cyber Conference. “They launch on readiness.”

This launch-when-we’re-ready-to-go attitude has had an impact on SpaceX operational needs and costs, said Monteith, who also is director of the Air Force Eastern Range, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.

“They have forced us — and I mean forced us — to get better, infinitely better, at what we do,” he said. “We are adopting commercial business practices and becom[ing] more efficient and more affordable.

“Working with them, we have been able to reduce our main launch footprint by 60 percent and reduce the cost of a single launch by over 50 percent,” he said. “Based on the autonomous flight safety system they developed with us they will help us get to 48 launches a year.”

High praise from USAF. And a 180 degrees reversal from USAF attitude towards SpaceX during certification.
This also goes to fly in the face of some folks on this forum who claimed that the LSP has to conform to USAF wishes, no matter what. Turns out it is not quite that one-sided.
What can be parsed as well from Monteith's remarks is that "launching on schedule" is no longer the holy grail with regards to NSS launches.
« Last Edit: 09/21/2017 06:46 AM by woods170 »

Online FutureSpaceTourist

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What isn’t clear to me is how much of the savings are due to the AFSS? I remember seeing large savings claimed when the AFSS went operational. So I’m wondering how much USAF ops have changed beyond not needing as many people with AFSS.
But irrespective of that, I find it interesting that he made these remarks at all - I’m curious as to who the intended audience is: USAF commanders, potential Eastern range users, Congress? He clearly thinks it’s important to be seen as more commercial/lean.

Online jpo234

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My reading of this article is, that it doesn't talk about the money the Air Force pays for a launch. It's about the operational cost to the Air Force  for performing a launch for any SpaceX customer.
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Offline AncientU

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Key part:

Quote from: Mike Fabey
“SpaceX does not launch on schedule,” Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith (commander, 45th Space Wing) said Sept. 20 during a space warfighting panel at the annual Air Force Association Air Space Cyber Conference. “They launch on readiness.”

This launch-when-we’re-ready-to-go attitude has had an impact on SpaceX operational needs and costs, said Monteith, who also is director of the Air Force Eastern Range, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.

“They have forced us — and I mean forced us — to get better, infinitely better, at what we do,” he said. “We are adopting commercial business practices and becom[ing] more efficient and more affordable.

“Working with them, we have been able to reduce our main launch footprint by 60 percent and reduce the cost of a single launch by over 50 percent,” he said. “Based on the autonomous flight safety system they developed with us they will help us get to 48 launches a year.”

High praise from USAF. And a 180 degrees reversal from USAF attitude towards SpaceX during certification.
This also goes to fly in the face of some folks on this forum who claimed that the LSP has to conform to USAF wishes, no matter what. Turns out it is not quite that one-sided.
What can be parsed as well from Monteith's remarks is that "launching on schedule" is no longer the holy grail with regards to NSS launches.

I don't think the article says anything about NSS launches -- which, I suspect, still want to launch on schedule.  This talks about the range responding to SpaceX who have a manifest backlog and must get as many launches off as they are ready to fly.  As we saw in OTV-5 and the CRS-flights, the launch sequence/schedule revolves around the customer that has a fixed timetable. 
« Last Edit: 09/21/2017 11:47 AM by AncientU »
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Offline zack

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Probably also has something to do with this:

https://twitter.com/45thSpaceWing/status/905864638935519232

Looks like the Air Force "team" needed for a Falcon 9 launch is rather small.

Offline woods170

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Key part:

Quote from: Mike Fabey
“SpaceX does not launch on schedule,” Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith (commander, 45th Space Wing) said Sept. 20 during a space warfighting panel at the annual Air Force Association Air Space Cyber Conference. “They launch on readiness.”

This launch-when-we’re-ready-to-go attitude has had an impact on SpaceX operational needs and costs, said Monteith, who also is director of the Air Force Eastern Range, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.

“They have forced us — and I mean forced us — to get better, infinitely better, at what we do,” he said. “We are adopting commercial business practices and becom[ing] more efficient and more affordable.

“Working with them, we have been able to reduce our main launch footprint by 60 percent and reduce the cost of a single launch by over 50 percent,” he said. “Based on the autonomous flight safety system they developed with us they will help us get to 48 launches a year.”

High praise from USAF. And a 180 degrees reversal from USAF attitude towards SpaceX during certification.
This also goes to fly in the face of some folks on this forum who claimed that the LSP has to conform to USAF wishes, no matter what. Turns out it is not quite that one-sided.
What can be parsed as well from Monteith's remarks is that "launching on schedule" is no longer the holy grail with regards to NSS launches.

I don't think the article says anything about NSS launches -- which, I suspect, still want to launch on schedule.  This talks about the range responding to SpaceX who have a manifest backlog and must get as many launches off as they are ready to fly.  As we saw in OTV-5 and the CRS-flights, the launch sequence/schedule revolves around the customer that has a fixed timetable. 

NSS = National Security Space
Quote

The Department of Defense uses space systems in support of air, land, and sea forces to deter and defend against hostile actions directed at the interests of the United States. The Intelligence community uses space systems to collect
intelligence. These programs, as a group, are referred to as National Security Space (NSS).
Source: https://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/pdf/584720main_Wings-ch2c-pgs42-52.pdf

So:
OTV (USAF) launches are NSS launches.
GPS (USAF) launches are NSS launches.
NROL (Intelligence community) launches are NSS launches.

SpaceX has launched an OTV, not on schedule, but on readiness.
SpaceX is to launch at least two (2) GPS sats, and that will happen on readiness, not on schedule.
SpaceX launched NROL-76 on readiness, not on schedule.

So yeah, there is merit in "launching on schedule" no longer being the holy grail for NSS launches. Otherwise USAF never would have allowed SpaceX to "launch on readiness" in stead of "launch on schedule".
You see, the keyword here is ELC. Or better, the lack of ELC. SpaceX is not receiving ELC, so USAF cannot leverage the "launch on schedule" expectations that they have been leveraging on ULA.

Offline Jim

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Wrong take aways.

The launch on readiness vs schedule means the actual day of launch.  Other contractors will keep to a launch date, Spacex will move up a few days, but it is still within a "launch period" much like a planetary.

 Launch on schedule has nothing to do with NSS specifically.  NSS will mostly be launch on schedule because satellite production is programmed, especially for new constellations or new blocks of spacecraft.    Even a satellite in storage takes a finite amount of time to prepare for launch. 

MUOS, SBIRS, AEHF, WGS, etc launches were scheduled based on production. 

NROL-76 was launched on schedule (within a certain period)
« Last Edit: 09/21/2017 01:34 PM by Jim »

Offline AncientU

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The point is that you can have some 'fixed' schedule payloads on the manifest and flow other payloads around them.  Is there any evidence that the GPS sats, for instance, are not fixed schedule launches?  Or CRS launches (yes, I know they are not NSS launches) not 'fixed' schedule launches -- at about one per quarter -- for SpaceX?

Customers taking re-flown boosters seem to be fit into the schedule where ever there is an opening and the new core launches are sequenced as soon as their boosters are ready -- not waiting for re-flown boosters that jumped the queue.  To the range, the overall launch sequence can be described as 'launch on readiness' while actual sequence scheduling within SpaceX has some 'fixed' schedule launches and the rest best effort.
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Offline Jim

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The point is that you can have some 'fixed' schedule payloads on the manifest and flow other payloads around them.

No, that is not the point.  The point is moving the actual launch date to when they are ready vs keeping it on a fixed date (i.e. moving up a few days).

BTW, CRS is fixed schedule

« Last Edit: 09/21/2017 01:42 PM by Jim »

Offline AncientU

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The point is that you can have some 'fixed' schedule payloads on the manifest and flow other payloads around them.

No, that is not the point.  The point is moving the actual launch date to when they are ready vs keeping it on a fixed date (i.e. moving up a few days).

BTW, CRS is fixed schedule

I know CRS is fixed schedule -- the above question was rhetorical (if you read it before saying 'wrong').
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Offline Jim

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The point is that you can have some 'fixed' schedule payloads on the manifest and flow other payloads around them.

No, that is not the point.  The point is moving the actual launch date to when they are ready vs keeping it on a fixed date (i.e. moving up a few days).

BTW, CRS is fixed schedule

I know CRS is fixed schedule -- the above question was rhetorical (if you read it before saying 'wrong').

No, your whole point is wrong. Reuse and having reflown boosters has nothing to do with this.  Spacex is still beholden to their second stage and fairing production.   Spacex has more flown boosters than it knows what to do with them and has been breaking them apart and scrapping them.  This has to do with Spacex processes in preparing vehicles for launch.

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May I just say, thank goodness for the well-reasoned commentary (even in disagreements) available here. The SN comments sections have been a cesspool lately.
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Online Mader Levap

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Spacex has more flown boosters than it knows what to do with them and has been breaking them apart and scrapping them.
I am sure SpaceX loves to have this kind of problem... ;)

And solution is on horizon already - Block 5 that is supposed to be actually reusable more than once.
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Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Spacex has more flown boosters than it knows what to do with them and has been breaking them apart and scrapping them.
I am sure SpaceX loves to have this kind of problem... ;)

And solution is on horizon already - Block 5 that is supposed to be actually reusable more than once.
If the rate of reuse for this year of Blk3/4 is only 6 used to 14 new. Being able to fly a single booster multiple times still will require SpaceX to get more acceptance of flying used vs new. Such as flying 16 used to 8 new.

SpaceX still has not reached the 1 for 1 point. Blk5 enables a 2 for 1 or even 3 for 1 used/new. So it is not the capability but the marketing and customer acceptance that is still required to keep from having dozens :-* of boosters in storage. Once Blk5s are available for reuse the Blkk3/4s will be given away to museums or broken down for parts. SpaceX is acquiring a vast knowledge on wear of parts from the inspection after recovery. This knowledge base for the F9 is similar to the knowledge base for the STS. But unlike the STS which was not upgraded with redesigned parts in most cases but just modified the procedures on the ground refurbishment which over time got more and more complex and costly, the F9 upgrades are to lower/shorten the ground refurbishment process and to increase the flight reliability. If STS had been able to have the funds to do more of these types of upgrades (complete new vehicle production and retiring or complete overhaul of the existing frames) the STS could over time have reduced its operational cost and increased its flight rate. But the program was only able to accomplish critical reliability changes as retrofits in the field complicating the refurbishment processes even more. Only engines (RS-25) was able to improve the refurbishment process by small engine changes to the point of practically no refurbishment just inspections between flights by the end of the program.

Online Coastal Ron

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May I just say, thank goodness for the well-reasoned commentary (even in disagreements) available here.

Literally, everything in moderation...  ;)

Quote
The SN comments sections have been a cesspool lately.

A certain SN poster has returned who tends to distract conversations away from the core topics - maybe that's what you're seeing.
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Offline woods170

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Wrong take aways.

The launch on readiness vs schedule means the actual day of launch.  Other contractors will keep to a launch date, Spacex will move up a few days, but it is still within a "launch period" much like a planetary.

 Launch on schedule has nothing to do with NSS specifically.  NSS will mostly be launch on schedule because satellite production is programmed, especially for new constellations or new blocks of spacecraft.    Even a satellite in storage takes a finite amount of time to prepare for launch. 

MUOS, SBIRS, AEHF, WGS, etc launches were scheduled based on production. 

NROL-76 was launched on schedule (within a certain period)

Incorrect. NROL-76 was launched when SpaceX was ready to launch. Which was nearly a month-and-a-half AFTER the scheduled launch date. Granted, it was still within the allowed-for launch period, but the original target launch date was missed. Hence the remark by Monteith. Same for OTV-5. Within a pre-determined launch period a target launch date was set. But SpaceX didn't launch OTV-5 until they were ready. And that was nearly a month AFTER the targeted launch date.
Given the flexibility applied by SpaceX to it's launch schedule it is a safe bet that the same will happen for the upcoming GPS launches.

Offline gongora

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Given the flexibility applied by SpaceX to it's launch schedule it is a safe bet that the same will happen for the upcoming GPS launches.

GPS launches are probably going to slip quite a bit anyway.  Right now it's almost impossible for SpaceX to launch to a schedule because they're so far behind and constantly moving through new hardware and pad designs.  Once everything settles down in 2019 or so (they'll be doing good to clear the backlog by the end of 2018) then it will be interesting to see how their launch scheduling evolves.

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Literally, everything in moderation...  ;)

Including moderation?

Offline woods170

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Given the flexibility applied by SpaceX to it's launch schedule it is a safe bet that the same will happen for the upcoming GPS launches.

GPS launches are probably going to slip quite a bit anyway.  Right now it's almost impossible for SpaceX to launch to a schedule because they're so far behind and constantly moving through new hardware and pad designs.  Once everything settles down in 2019 or so (they'll be doing good to clear the backlog by the end of 2018) then it will be interesting to see how their launch scheduling evolves.
Wrong take away (blatantly stealing Jim's line  ;)  ).
Things will never settle down at SpaceX. At least, not until Elon retires on Mars,  which will be well beyond 2019 btw. SpaceX is all about agile and not about "maintaining the status quo" nor about "sticking to a schedule".
The one constant thing about the SpaceX launch schedule is that there basically is no schedule. Order of launches is constantly being shuffled, as well as launch dates. It is as Monteith named it: SpaceX does not launch on schedule. They launch when they are ready.
« Last Edit: 09/22/2017 07:46 AM by woods170 »

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