Author Topic: Reuse business case  (Read 257297 times)

Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #860 on: 07/29/2022 11:07 am »
Why did no one else do it? ULA’s freedom of action is constrained due to their corporate parents, Boeing in particular.

It is difficult for a publicly traded company like Boeing to justify large long term investments if the payback is several years away, especially if it is a new concept that hasn’t been demonstrated yet.

It took years, hundreds of millions (at least),and a bunch of spectacular explosions for SpaceX to bring reuse to workhorse status. It’s not TERRIBLY a surprising that no one else had already done so, although as you say, it’s not magic and could’ve been done 50 years ago.

Traditional publicly traded defense contractors are very constrained. It takes some vision and ability to put up a lot of money without second guessing by everyone’s cousin on the public market.

It was the large aerospace companies like MD and Boeing who did exactly this with air travel. They saw the need to expand the ability of air travel and they built airplanes like the DC 3, DC 10, 707 and 747 to transform the market. These guys especially should have been able to see that what they did for air travel, they could do for space travel. They are the ones who proved the case with one medium, it should have been crystal clear what was required for the other medium. The amount of studies produced shows that they knew what was required, they just decided not to.

EDIT: If ULA and it's compatriots stared at what needed to be done for a large percentage of a century and took no action, it is no surprise that a new upstart got fed up and stole their business from under them.
The large aerospace companies that developed all those airliners were run by engineer types during that time. After the MBAs took over corporate control of those companies. Product innovations and excellence is replaced by quarterly company results. Which deter capital investments in new products without substantial handouts from various levels of governments.

In general beancounters MBAs prefer to enhanced shareholder value to investing in new products/services.


Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #861 on: 07/29/2022 01:42 pm »
The whole thing with 1000 reuses was a thought experiment. The exact number is simply an example to illustrate the point that reusability facilitates &/or implies high reliability.

To explore further, the reason why 1000 flights seems absurd is because the huge amount of money that would (normally) take. If the incremental cost per launch is $100 million, then 1000 flights is an absurdly big number. If the incremental cost is $1 million (full reuse), say, then 1000 flights is perfectly reasonable for typical launch and development costs.

Actual numbers won’t get that high for a while. The point isn’t the exact number, it’s to illustrate a point. Unlike expendable rockets, there is no trade off between incremental launch costs and reliability. In fact, they’re highly correlated: you cannot get low incremental launch costs from high reusability without also getting very high reliability.

Instead of a trade off, you have mutual reinforcement from low cost (high flight rate reusability) and reliability. The low cost enables the high flight rate needed to demonstrate high reliability, and high reliability is necessary to get high flight rates.

Well also, the spreadsheet was made a few years ago now, when SpaceX’s dominance wasn’t so complete and Falcon 9 hadn’t reached (and arguably exceeded) the reliability of Atlas V and had failures in recent memory. So there was reason to think the USG would pick the (at the time) more reliable ULA Atlas V.


But this is kind of an argument in reuse’s favor. Reliability is ultimately about flight history, and if you manage to get a good flight rate (which reusability can help with), you’ll usually get good reliability. And with rapid reuse and a high flightrate, you’ll quickly far exceed the flight history of expendable rockets.

If you think of really high reliability numbers, like 99.9%, that implies getting a flightrate on the order of 1000 every 10 years or less, which is really not very feasible with expendable rockets, at least with US labor rates. And 99.99% and 99.999% can only happen with the extremely low cost launch of fully and highly reusable rockets. And being fully reusable also makes inspection after flight possible as well as shakedown flights on new rockets to catch manufacturing defects.


And it goes the other way. What’s the use of a highly reusable rocket that can fly 1000 times if the reliability is only 95%, so it fails after just 20 launches? So reuse both enables and requires high reliability. Which is problematic for expendable rockets as they can claim neither reliability nor low cost. The only option left is basically as munitions: if you need to launch dozens of flights in an hour or so to replenish a constellation in a war or something.
« Last Edit: 07/29/2022 01:51 pm by Robotbeat »
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Offline su27k

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #862 on: 07/29/2022 02:24 pm »
Here’s a new post from Tory with a chart I don’t recall seeing before (but I may have missed it):

twitter.com/petey_nebby/status/1543342951601938437

Quote
Happy to hear that its taken this long to get 2 flight BE4’s and would love to see pictures! Bottom line is we need more options to get yo space but also please stop dropping rockets in the ocean as its not theory anymore

https://twitter.com/torybruno/status/1543345280761962497

Quote
It hasn’t been theoretical for a couple of decades. It’s about what mission set the rocket is optimized for.Low energy commercial orbits are tolerant of large propellant reserves for return flights. High energy orbits drive a different architecture, which is why we’ll use SMART

https://twitter.com/torybruno/status/1552686124811882497

Quote
My "How hard is going to space" Infographic stimulated lots of questions, so I've written this @Medium post to give a bit more.  For your orbital mechanics reading pleasure...

How Hard Is Going To Space?

Offline DanClemmensen

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #863 on: 07/29/2022 02:40 pm »
Here’s a new post from Tory with a chart I don’t recall seeing before (but I may have missed it):

Quote
Happy to hear that its taken this long to get 2 flight BE4’s and would love to see pictures! Bottom line is we need more options to get yo space but also please stop dropping rockets in the ocean as its not theory anymore

Quote
It hasn’t been theoretical for a couple of decades. It’s about what mission set the rocket is optimized for.Low energy commercial orbits are tolerant of large propellant reserves for return flights. High energy orbits drive a different architecture, which is why we’ll use SMART
Quote
My "How hard is going to space" Infographic stimulated lots of questions, so I've written this @Medium post to give a bit more.  For your orbital mechanics reading pleasure...

How Hard Is Going To Space?
Classic example of how to deceive with a graphic.  Remove the arrow and you see that only the last three categories (GTO-enhanced, MEO direct inject, GSO direct inject)  are more than 2x LEO.

The tweet does not mention the market sizes (launches per year) for each category. ULA appears to be claiming that vulcan will be a strong competitor in these higher-energy categories, but how many launches is that?

Offline Redclaws

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #864 on: 07/29/2022 02:51 pm »
Why did no one else do it? ULA’s freedom of action is constrained due to their corporate parents, Boeing in particular.

It is difficult for a publicly traded company like Boeing to justify large long term investments if the payback is several years away, especially if it is a new concept that hasn’t been demonstrated yet.

It took years, hundreds of millions (at least),and a bunch of spectacular explosions for SpaceX to bring reuse to workhorse status. It’s not TERRIBLY a surprising that no one else had already done so, although as you say, it’s not magic and could’ve been done 50 years ago.

Traditional publicly traded defense contractors are very constrained. It takes some vision and ability to put up a lot of money without second guessing by everyone’s cousin on the public market.

It was the large aerospace companies like MD and Boeing who did exactly this with air travel. They saw the need to expand the ability of air travel and they built airplanes like the DC 3, DC 10, 707 and 747 to transform the market. These guys especially should have been able to see that what they did for air travel, they could do for space travel. They are the ones who proved the case with one medium, it should have been crystal clear what was required for the other medium. The amount of studies produced shows that they knew what was required, they just decided not to.

EDIT: If ULA and it's compatriots stared at what needed to be done for a large percentage of a century and took no action, it is no surprise that a new upstart got fed up and stole their business from under them.

I mean, there are a ton of reasons they decided not to, and a *lot* of those studies would’ve had enormous troubles getting going.  There are a number of new ideas in starship, etc.  It seems trite to say they just decided not to.  They’d seen space projects swallow cash and they didn’t have clear use cases for lots of launches at the time.

Air travel expansion was much more clearly doable and also much more clearly self justifying.

Offline Lee Jay

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #865 on: 07/29/2022 02:52 pm »
The tweet does not mention the market sizes (launches per year) for each category.

Did you read the article linked in the tweet?  Because, yeah, it does.

Offline DanClemmensen

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #866 on: 07/29/2022 03:52 pm »
The tweet does not mention the market sizes (launches per year) for each category.

Did you read the article linked in the tweet?  Because, yeah, it does.
Thanks. What I said was that the TWEET did not mention it. I have now read the article:
   https://medium.com/@ToryBrunoULA/how-hard-is-going-to-space-20637c846ea3
Yes, the article mentions it at the very end, with a graphic. it says that less than two launches per year fall into these three categories combined.  The tweet is therefore even more deceptive by implication: implying that ULA's business is viable because it can do these missions. The article is under Bruno's byline. It says
Quote
There are a limited number of launch providers who are capable of successfully reaching all eight orbits to support the full breadth of the United States’ requirements to access space. United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) ability to reach all eight orbits, with a 100% mission success rate, is one of the main factors that sets us apart from other launch providers.
But the only other provider that can do this is SpaceX, so ULA will compete with SpaceX for these two launches/yr.  ULA may be a great company, Tory Bruno may be a great executive, and Vulcan may soon be a great rocket with a great market, but I do not think that this tweet and this article are strong support for this.

I urge everyone to look at the last two graphics in the article again. (I won't put them in this post because I worry about copyright).
The  "current launch rate" graphic averages the statistics over the period 2017-2021. This is difficult to see because it is in tiny grey print. I only looked for it when I noticed that the total (not just ULA) launches to LEO is shown as "20.6/yr". Calling this "current" is also deceptive, given the results from 2021 and especially 2022.

Offline freddo411

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #867 on: 07/29/2022 04:12 pm »
The tweet does not mention the market sizes (launches per year) for each category.

Did you read the article linked in the tweet?  Because, yeah, it does.
Thanks. What I said was that the TWEET did not mention it. I have now read the article:
   https://medium.com/@ToryBrunoULA/how-hard-is-going-to-space-20637c846ea3
Yes, the article mentions it at the very end, with a graphic. it says that less than two launches per year fall into these three categories combined.  The tweet is therefore even more deceptive by implication: implying that ULA's business is viable because it can do these missions. The article is under Bruno's byline. It says
Quote
There are a limited number of launch providers who are capable of successfully reaching all eight orbits to support the full breadth of the United States’ requirements to access space. United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) ability to reach all eight orbits, with a 100% mission success rate, is one of the main factors that sets us apart from other launch providers.
But the only other provider that can do this is SpaceX, so ULA will compete with SpaceX for these two launches/yr.  ULA may be a great company, Tory Bruno may be a great executive, and Vulcan may soon be a great rocket with a great market, but I do not think that this tweet and this article are strong support for this.

I urge everyone to look at the last two graphics in the article again. (I won't put them in this post because I worry about copyright).
The  "current launch rate" graphic averages the statistics over the period 2017-2021. This is difficult to see because it is in tiny grey print. I only looked for it when I noticed that the total (not just ULA) launches to LEO is shown as "20.6/yr". Calling this "current" is also deceptive, given the results from 2021 and especially 2022.

So ULA sees itself as a provider of boutique, “difficult”, high energy direct injection launches.  The article documents the tiny , govt only demand for these launch profiles.   None of that is incorrect.

Looks to me like ULA is comfortable with the business of launching a handful of expensive expendables each year.  The customer may be happy with that as well

As an alternative approach I can imagine a hypothetical third stage riding on commercially optimal, high volume, reusable rockets that would accomplish these missions. 


Offline DanClemmensen

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #868 on: 07/29/2022 04:43 pm »
So ULA sees itself as a provider of boutique, “difficult”, high energy direct injection launches.  The article documents the tiny , govt only demand for these launch profiles.   None of that is incorrect.

Looks to me like ULA is comfortable with the business of launching a handful of expensive expendables each year.  The customer may be happy with that as well

I'm not sure you are correct: I don't know how ULA sees itself. ULA presents itself as a full-service provider whose only rocket going forward, Vulcan Centaur, can perform all eight mission classes.

If I understand it correctly, they justify SMART instead of booster reuse because the architecture ULA to enable Vulcan to do all these missions means the first stage flies high and fast, which makes booster recovery too expensive.

Offline Lee Jay

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #869 on: 07/29/2022 06:09 pm »
If I understand it correctly, they justify SMART instead of booster reuse because the architecture ULA to enable Vulcan to do all these missions means the first stage flies high and fast, which makes booster recovery too expensive.

They also claim that the entire rocket is less than half the cost of a mission and that that the booster's cost is dominated by the cost of the engines.  If so, that means that saving the booster versus saving just the engines might only save a couple of percent of the total cost of a mission, and that isn't worth the expense of development and the sacrifice to performance.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #870 on: 07/29/2022 06:23 pm »
If I understand it correctly, they justify SMART instead of booster reuse because the architecture ULA to enable Vulcan to do all these missions means the first stage flies high and fast, which makes booster recovery too expensive.

They also claim that the entire rocket is less than half the cost of a mission and that that the booster's cost is dominated by the cost of the engines.  If so, that means that saving the booster versus saving just the engines might only save a couple of percent of the total cost of a mission, and that isn't worth the expense of development and the sacrifice to performance.
The whole idea that rocket tanks are just cheap hardware is a strangely persistent one even among aerospace folks.

Can anyone remind me how expensive the Shuttle external tank was? Same idea…

Inflation adjusted, the Shuttle External tanks cost about $100 million apiece. Even though Vulcan is smaller, those tanks are still going to cost a pretty penny, probably tens of millions of dollars especially when you include integration with the engine pod (which would be more involved than the Shuttle ET connection), let alone engine pod recovery and refurb costs.

Rockets are not Legos. They cost more than the sum of their parts. Integration costs are significant, and saving those costs is a big reason why whole booster recovery is going to end up saving a lot more costs overall, particularly with downrange landing.

The only way to make it seem reasonable is to assume ULA pays a HUGE premium for the engines compared to other players.

« Last Edit: 07/29/2022 06:26 pm by Robotbeat »
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Offline Lee Jay

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #871 on: 07/29/2022 06:44 pm »
If I understand it correctly, they justify SMART instead of booster reuse because the architecture ULA to enable Vulcan to do all these missions means the first stage flies high and fast, which makes booster recovery too expensive.

They also claim that the entire rocket is less than half the cost of a mission and that that the booster's cost is dominated by the cost of the engines.  If so, that means that saving the booster versus saving just the engines might only save a couple of percent of the total cost of a mission, and that isn't worth the expense of development and the sacrifice to performance.
The whole idea that rocket tanks are just cheap hardware is a strangely persistent one even among aerospace folks.

Can anyone remind me how expensive the Shuttle external tank was? Same idea…

If I recall correctly, well under 10% of the cost of a mission.

Quote
Inflation adjusted, the Shuttle External tanks cost about $100 million apiece. Even though Vulcan is smaller, those tanks are still going to cost a pretty penny, probably tens of millions of dollars especially when you include integration with the engine pod (which would be more involved than the Shuttle ET connection), let alone engine pod recovery and refurb costs.

But you don't know that "probably tens of millions of dollars" number.  It could be 1 million or 5 million as far as you know.

Quote
Rockets are not Legos. They cost more than the sum of their parts. Integration costs are significant, and saving those costs is a big reason why whole booster recovery is going to end up saving a lot more costs overall, particularly with downrange landing.

Drone ships and at-sea operation costs are also significant, plus there's a cost for the on-land operations of retrieving the boosters from the ship, turning it horizontal, moving it across land back to the facility where it's going to be refurbished and integrating it with a new upper stage, and then there's the costs of the refurbishment, testing and integration.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #872 on: 07/29/2022 07:22 pm »
It’s not that cheap. Not a bloody chance. Using Shuttle ET as a guide (and it cost $100 million), it costs at least $10-20 million for the Vulcan tanks.

(And they’re already paying to recover the pod at sea in this comparison.)
« Last Edit: 07/29/2022 07:28 pm by Robotbeat »
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #873 on: 07/29/2022 07:31 pm »
If I understand it correctly, they justify SMART instead of booster reuse because the architecture ULA to enable Vulcan to do all these missions means the first stage flies high and fast, which makes booster recovery too expensive.

They also claim that the entire rocket is less than half the cost of a mission and that that the booster's cost is dominated by the cost of the engines.  If so, that means that saving the booster versus saving just the engines might only save a couple of percent of the total cost of a mission, and that isn't worth the expense of development and the sacrifice to performance.
The whole idea that rocket tanks are just cheap hardware is a strangely persistent one even among aerospace folks.

Can anyone remind me how expensive the Shuttle external tank was? Same idea…

If I recall correctly, well under 10% of the cost of a mission.
About $52 million out of a $361 million 1993 mission cost (not counting civil servant travel time and space network usage) at 8 flights per year, in 1993 dollars. $107 million in today’s money.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Online JayWee

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #874 on: 07/29/2022 08:34 pm »
...
The whole idea that rocket tanks are just cheap hardware is a strangely persistent one even among aerospace folks.
...
Inflation adjusted, the Shuttle External tanks cost about $100 million apiece. Even though Vulcan is smaller, those tanks are still going to cost a pretty penny, probably tens of millions of dollars especially when you include integration with the engine pod (which would be more involved than the Shuttle ET connection), let alone engine pod recovery and refurb costs.
I guess it might come from the "confusion" of material cost vs total manufacturing cost.
I think some kind of a metric part cost/material cost could be useful.

Yes, ET cost $100M, but the material for it was just about $500k (26,500 kg * $30/kg for Al-Li). So one can think of it as both "cheap" and "insanely expensive".


Offline meekGee

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #875 on: 07/29/2022 09:23 pm »
If I understand it correctly, they justify SMART instead of booster reuse because the architecture ULA to enable Vulcan to do all these missions means the first stage flies high and fast, which makes booster recovery too expensive.

They also claim that the entire rocket is less than half the cost of a mission and that that the booster's cost is dominated by the cost of the engines.  If so, that means that saving the booster versus saving just the engines might only save a couple of percent of the total cost of a mission, and that isn't worth the expense of development and the sacrifice to performance.
The whole idea that rocket tanks are just cheap hardware is a strangely persistent one even among aerospace folks.

Can anyone remind me how expensive the Shuttle external tank was? Same idea…

If I recall correctly, well under 10% of the cost of a mission.
About $52 million out of a $361 million 1993 mission cost (not counting civil servant travel time and space network usage) at 8 flights per year, in 1993 dollars. $107 million in today’s money.
The funny part is that the same folks, when looking at F9 reuse, claimed that it's not going to save that much anyway since missions costs >> rocket costs.

It doesn't matter anymore.  ULA is committed to their path, and there isn't a way to make Vulcan reusable.  The time when this argument was important was many years ago.

ULA will continue on their path, and continue to invent stories to support it.  There's a straight line from Sower's spreadsheet, to Bruno's recent nonsensical "how hard is space" graph, to this claim about engine cost dominating.  Not a straight line actually, more like a circle drawn around the conclusion.

ULA is thinking about survival right now, not about market growth or competition with SpaceX.  They need to make sure their current market share holds.

It's called "Bunker defense".   Thing is, Bunker defense is useful when you're leading by a little and the clock is running out, not when you're trailing and it's not even the second half.  The graphs and stories won't change reality, but they'll keep the fanbase happy and delusional for another few years.  Shrug.

The company that's currently making decisions that will affect its future is BO, for example the decision on whether to go for a reusable US right away.
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #876 on: 07/29/2022 10:05 pm »
...
The whole idea that rocket tanks are just cheap hardware is a strangely persistent one even among aerospace folks.
...
Inflation adjusted, the Shuttle External tanks cost about $100 million apiece. Even though Vulcan is smaller, those tanks are still going to cost a pretty penny, probably tens of millions of dollars especially when you include integration with the engine pod (which would be more involved than the Shuttle ET connection), let alone engine pod recovery and refurb costs.
I guess it might come from the "confusion" of material cost vs total manufacturing cost.
I think some kind of a metric part cost/material cost could be useful.

Yes, ET cost $100M, but the material for it was just about $500k (26,500 kg * $30/kg for Al-Li). So one can think of it as both "cheap" and "insanely expensive".
I think a good figure of merit is just dry mass. Qualified aerospace hardware costs around $2000-4000/kg, MAYBE $1000/kg if you’re very efficient. This stuff has to be machined and qualified.

If you were stamping them out with a huge line of billion ton cold forging presses as if it were a soda can, maybe that kind of raw material price could be met (if you’re making a million per year). But generally it’s not.
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Offline Lee Jay

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #877 on: 07/29/2022 10:11 pm »
If I understand it correctly, they justify SMART instead of booster reuse because the architecture ULA to enable Vulcan to do all these missions means the first stage flies high and fast, which makes booster recovery too expensive.

They also claim that the entire rocket is less than half the cost of a mission and that that the booster's cost is dominated by the cost of the engines.  If so, that means that saving the booster versus saving just the engines might only save a couple of percent of the total cost of a mission, and that isn't worth the expense of development and the sacrifice to performance.
The whole idea that rocket tanks are just cheap hardware is a strangely persistent one even among aerospace folks.

Can anyone remind me how expensive the Shuttle external tank was? Same idea…

If I recall correctly, well under 10% of the cost of a mission.
About $52 million out of a $361 million 1993 mission cost (not counting civil servant travel time and space network usage) at 8 flights per year, in 1993 dollars. $107 million in today’s money.
The funny part is that the same folks, when looking at F9 reuse, claimed that it's not going to save that much anyway since missions costs >> rocket costs.

And there's pretty good evidence that that's true.  F9 missions are far more costly than they were claimed to be in the beginning (in some cases more than 4x higher) and they've been steadily going up, even as reuse increases.  Is that because reuse doesn't save much money or because SpaceX is trying to extract as much money as they can from their customers?  No one outside of the company knows the answer to that, but the truth is probably a combination.

Offline hkultala

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #878 on: 07/29/2022 10:24 pm »
If I understand it correctly, they justify SMART instead of booster reuse because the architecture ULA to enable Vulcan to do all these missions means the first stage flies high and fast, which makes booster recovery too expensive.

They also claim that the entire rocket is less than half the cost of a mission and that that the booster's cost is dominated by the cost of the engines.  If so, that means that saving the booster versus saving just the engines might only save a couple of percent of the total cost of a mission, and that isn't worth the expense of development and the sacrifice to performance.
The whole idea that rocket tanks are just cheap hardware is a strangely persistent one even among aerospace folks.

Can anyone remind me how expensive the Shuttle external tank was? Same idea…

If I recall correctly, well under 10% of the cost of a mission.
About $52 million out of a $361 million 1993 mission cost (not counting civil servant travel time and space network usage) at 8 flights per year, in 1993 dollars. $107 million in today’s money.
The funny part is that the same folks, when looking at F9 reuse, claimed that it's not going to save that much anyway since missions costs >> rocket costs.

And there's pretty good evidence that that's true.  F9 missions are far more costly than they were claimed to be in the beginning (in some cases more than 4x higher)

Any source for this claim?

Quote
and they've been steadily going up, even as reuse increases.  Is that because reuse doesn't save much money or because SpaceX is trying to extract as much money as they can from their customers?  No one outside of the company knows the answer to that, but the truth is probably a combination.

SpaceX is a company that is supposed to make profit, not a charity organization offering cheap rides to orbit.

SpaceX only needs to undercut it's competitors price slightly to get a launch deal. It makes no sense to undercut the competition by tens of millions when they can ask for more.

Also Putins attack on Ukraine and Russians refusal to launch the OneWeb satellites practically means that Russia is totally out business for launching western commercial satellites, so SpaceX now only needs to undercut ArianeSpace and ULA, not russians anymore.

Also SpaceX's now excellent reliability record means that in order to get a deal, they need to undercut their competition less now than in before, when their reliability record was not so excellent.

But most of SpaceX launches are internal Starlink launches - and for these the reuse is very important. They would be losing MUCH more money building MUCH more Falcon 9 first stages if they would not be reusing them. The reuse on Starlink missions have already saved billions of dollars for SpaceX.

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #879 on: 07/29/2022 10:49 pm »
If ULA were to build RLV the diameter would be limited by existing infrastructure. Still likely to be 5.4m core as factory tooling, RocketShip and pads are all designed for this. For high performance missions could go expendable and use SRBs. A single BE3U on US should be enough and allows them to stay with Centuar just lengthen tanks.

The other alternative is core tank with two engine pods on sides, they have slides with pictures of this design. Pods can fly back to shore or be recovered at sea, alternatively land complete booster stage on low performance missions.
There is also option to drop pod part way through booster burn, once most of fuel is burnt, early Atlas use to do this.
Apart from landing complete booster, rest is not big departure from Vulcan and uses lot of existing infrastructure. Engine pods would be SMART engine pods repackaged, tank is just stretched version of Vulcan's. Pad would be biggest change.
Using 4xBE4 that are recovered every time means they don't need expendable SRBs.

I don't think reuseable US is practical, but still option to recover RL10s with SMART.
« Last Edit: 08/02/2022 02:01 am by zubenelgenubi »

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