Author Topic: Reuse business case  (Read 257397 times)

Offline Veedrac

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #640 on: 05/17/2021 02:22 am »
I put soyuzu on ignore. You don't have to like my analysis but I have done nothing to deserve personal attacks.

Online meekGee

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #641 on: 05/17/2021 03:58 am »
I put soyuzu on ignore. You don't have to like my analysis but I have done nothing to deserve personal attacks.

You made a preposterous claim. I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt that it was "natural bias" - it happens to everyone.

But people have been patiently trying to show you why this leads to erroneous conclusions.

I wish ULA had listened at the time to similar voices.  They're now trusting their future to an EELV, starting in 2022 - to a large part because a spreadsheet by George Sawyers convinced them that they have something better and simpler in their back pocket if they wanted to...  So they didn't do anything, and now it's way too late.

If you just put dissenting voices on the ignore list, why are you bothering to post?
« Last Edit: 05/17/2021 04:01 am by meekGee »
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Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #642 on: 05/17/2021 11:13 am »
Vulcan design was started well before SpaceX were attempting F9 landings. Vulcan is sound design and is considerable cheaper than the ULA LVs it is replacing which was main objective. So far design choices have paid off given government and commercial contracts ULA has won.

SMART is good option for helping to reduce launch cost without radical redesign.
Whatever replaces Vulcan is likely to RLV but that isn't going happen anytime soon.

I don't see SS dominating launch industry and putting all SpaceX competitors out of business. In fact it is likely to benefit other LV providers by helping to create whole new space industries.

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Offline electricdawn

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #643 on: 05/17/2021 11:51 am »
Mostly concur, but if SS will work out as SpaceX intend it to be (and that is still a big if, granted) it will dominate the launch industry. There's no way around it. I do agree though that it will be the push that the other launch providers need to convince them to push forward instead of relying on "true and tried" old technology.

Offline hplan

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #644 on: 05/17/2021 11:52 am »
Vulcan design was started well before SpaceX were attempting F9 landings. Vulcan is sound design and is considerable cheaper than the ULA LVs it is replacing which was main objective. So far design choices have paid off given government and commercial contracts ULA has won.

SMART is good option for helping to reduce launch cost without radical redesign.
Whatever replaces Vulcan is likely to RLV but that isn't going happen anytime soon.

I don't see SS dominating launch industry and putting all SpaceX competitors out of business. In fact it is likely to benefit other LV providers by helping to create whole new space industries.

Interesting response. ULA certainly doesn't seem to be suffering too much, although there has been some significant downsizing. And the market for launches seems to be growing, with ULA getting a bunch of Amazon commercial business recently. Maybe things are looking brighter.

On the other hand, the long-term effects of disruption are hard to see at the beginning, and we could still be fairly early in the process. When Apple came out with iPhone, nobody believed that Blackberry and Nokia and Motorola would be completely gone in a couple of years and that no phone would ever again be made with a keyboard. Or that other companies would thrive and dominate Apple in sales. Or that Microsoft would lose the 'OS with the most clients' distinction by a huge margin, becoming an also-ran in number of users.

Will practical reusability prove to have been a market disruption? I think it's pretty hard to deny, though the full potential remains to be seen.

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[SS] is likely to benefit other LV providers by helping to create whole new space industries.

Agreed. But not all companies will benefit, only those that somehow ride out the disruption. The disruption is in dramatically lower prices for orbital launch. By the end of the process, if it continues to progress, we're sure to see more companies out of the business and other new companies thriving. ULA's actually not in a bad position because if transformation is necessary the US government may well fund them through the process.

But sometimes companies are too set in their ways to be able to change as needed. In those cases, it can be better for the company to fold and a new one to take its place.
« Last Edit: 05/17/2021 12:33 pm by hplan »

Offline Veedrac

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #645 on: 05/17/2021 01:51 pm »
Excluding v1.0, which didn't use propulsive landings, doesn't meaningfully change the picture, because there were only 5 of those.
...

Better way to look at this type of historical data is ratio of reflights to total flights over trailing N months-quarters-years-whatever. A ratio of 1.0 means 100% reuse; a ratio of 0.0 means no reuse. That provides better visibility into trend-trajectory and avoids the "you cherry-picked period X or v.Y", the "lie of the average" and a lot of other noise. The data is available in Wikipedia, but I'm too lazy to dig it out and to the visualization. (Would not be surprised if some has not already done that.)

Obviously does not apply to forward-looking models such as yours.
I just whipped up a graph with the data (cloneable link) with lines starting v1.0, v1.1, and from first success, as well as data points for the individual booster reuses. This is not trailing-N, but the individual data points should serve the same illustrative purpose. Falcon Heavy is included in the chart, and I had to make a judgement call about whether FH3 was a reuse, due to the core being new (I went with majority voting, aka. yes).

I put soyuzu on ignore. You don't have to like my analysis but I have done nothing to deserve personal attacks.
If you just put dissenting voices on the ignore list, why are you bothering to post?
I put soyuzu on ignore because I didn't come here to be insulted, and I am under no obligation to deal with him if he doesn't wish to act civilized.

Critiquing my model or my arguments is fine. I did not block him because he disagrees with me.
« Last Edit: 05/17/2021 03:07 pm by Veedrac »

Online LouScheffer

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #646 on: 05/17/2021 02:03 pm »
User "Veedrac" lost me the instant he claimed that the fleet average usage for Falcon 9 was less than two flights per rocket.  While that is true if you count every launch since 2010, recovery didn't start until late 2015, and reuse only hit its stride with the Block 5 variant of the rocket, which took advantage of the lessons learned from recovery.  The Block 5 boosters B1046 through B1063 are 18 first stages.  Between them they have launched 68 times.  Now that is an average of less than four flights apiece, but this is skewed low by the fact that three boosters were expended, two were stored or scrapped and six were lost at sea for various reasons.  The seven surviving boosters average more than five launches apiece.
Excluding v1.0, which didn't use propulsive landings, doesn't meaningfully change the picture, because there were only 5 of those.

You cannot reasonably amortize only over Block 5 if you want to look at the economics of developing reuse, because previous generation boosters were necessary steps in learning how to build Block 5. They weren't built for fun, and they weren't free.
There are two objections to this.  One is that a new entrant should be able to do better - if the goal is a re-usable rocket, they should be able to do better than launching the first 20 expendable, for example.  And with a known working system as a model, they should have many fewer failures and dead ends.

More importantly, businesses don't put just one value in a spreadsheet - they expect a range of outcomes.  So the worst case is N=2 (we have just as much trouble as SpaceX, don't even try re-use until launch 20, don't learn from their mistakes, etc.)  A mid-range estimate might be N=4, about what SpaceX is achieving with Block 5.  N=10 might be a high-side guess, but certainly possible (SpaceX has done this with one booster so far).   Then a company has to weight the expected returns by their probability.  They might say "Even if N=2, we'll only lose a little  money.  At N=4, we'll more than break even.   And if we can achieve N=10, we'll do much better than expendable".
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Similarly, you can't just ignore scrapped or expended boosters and you definitely cannot ignore boosters lost at sea.
Sure you can.  One of the important aspects of not being the first is learning from competitors.  A rational company will say "Remember those SpaceX boosters that fell off the barge? A hold-down mechanism is needed.  We'll build ours from the start."  You certainly don't want to bake your competition's mistakes into your business model.
« Last Edit: 05/17/2021 02:04 pm by LouScheffer »

Offline Veedrac

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #647 on: 05/17/2021 02:18 pm »
There are two objections to this.  One is that a new entrant should be able to do better - if the goal is a re-usable rocket, they should be able to do better than launching the first 20 expendable, for example.  And with a known working system as a model, they should have many fewer failures and dead ends.

More importantly, businesses don't put just one value in a spreadsheet - they expect a range of outcomes.  So the worst case is N=2 (we have just as much trouble as SpaceX, don't even try re-use until launch 20, don't learn from their mistakes, etc.)  A mid-range estimate might be N=4, about what SpaceX is achieving with Block 5.  N=10 might be a high-side guess, but certainly possible (SpaceX has done this with one booster so far).   Then a company has to weight the expected returns by their probability.  They might say "Even if N=2, we'll only lose a little  money.  At N=4, we'll more than break even.   And if we can achieve N=10, we'll do much better than expendable".
I agree with all this, I think you're just misunderstanding my comments. The sheet comes with a range of outcomes and their payoffs, between a fleet average of 1, all the way up to a fleet average of 9, with the idea of using that information as you propose. I initially mentioned SpaceX's fleet average just to make sure it was clear what was meant by the term ďfleet averageĒ. SpaceX's numbers are important if you want to figure out how profitable reuse has been for SpaceX to date, or to help ground expectations for ULA, but I never meant to imply ULA would have precisely the same learning curve.
« Last Edit: 05/17/2021 02:19 pm by Veedrac »

Offline spacenut

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #648 on: 05/17/2021 02:20 pm »
The Reuse business case seems to have already been answered.  If a company is only launching commercial satellites maybe even government satellites, it seems there will only be a limited number they can bid on, like about 20 a year.  However, SpaceX is launching their own Starlink internet satellites.  This is huge, and requires many, many launches over several years.  That makes reuse necessary to keep launch costs down.  SpaceX is now doing that.

They made money using an expendable version of F9 to get started.  They improved the F9 through "5 blocks" of upgrades.  No one else had tried to save an orbital booster.  SpaceX finally did it and improved on it.  They also improved securing the boosters on the droneships.  They are now proving the reuse business case. 

ULA hasn't even started trying to save engines on their Vulcan vehicle.  Sure, they got the price down from Atlas V costs.  But, trying to save the engines is not even considered for Vulcan for the first few launches.  The engines are two large to land Vulcan so saving them seems to be the only way to try it. 

I think they should have tried to modify the RS-27 for restarting and reuse, and have more 3D printed parts to cut costs.  This would have made for a great reusable engine as a Merlin competitor.  Or, design a smaller metholox engine in the same thrust range to make a metholox reusable booster to compete with F9.  It can be done, but Boeing and Lockheed would have to spend some development money. 

Offline joek

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #649 on: 05/17/2021 03:18 pm »
I just whipped up a graph with the data (cloneable link)
...

Thanks for the data in a more consumable form. Attached chart gets to what I was suggesting: year-over-year ratio (%) reflights (nominator) vs. flights (denominator). Does not take into account any number of nuances such as FH, intentionally expended, etc. Does not care about specific booster reflight counts, the average for a given core, whether customer required new booster, intentionally expended, lost, etc.

What it shows is a clear trend and trajectory for SpaceX, the efficacy of reusability, and likely lessons for other launch service providers.

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #650 on: 05/17/2021 05:27 pm »
The Reuse business case seems to have already been answered.  If a company is only launching commercial satellites maybe even government satellites, it seems there will only be a limited number they can bid on, like about 20 a year.  However, SpaceX is launching their own Starlink internet satellites.  This is huge, and requires many, many launches over several years.  That makes reuse necessary to keep launch costs down.  SpaceX is now doing that.

They made money using an expendable version of F9 to get started.  They improved the F9 through "5 blocks" of upgrades.  No one else had tried to save an orbital booster.  SpaceX finally did it and improved on it.  They also improved securing the boosters on the droneships.  They are now proving the reuse business case. 

ULA hasn't even started trying to save engines on their Vulcan vehicle.  Sure, they got the price down from Atlas V costs.  But, trying to save the engines is not even considered for Vulcan for the first few launches.  The engines are two large to land Vulcan so saving them seems to be the only way to try it. 

I think they should have tried to modify the RS-27 for restarting and reuse, and have more 3D printed parts to cut costs.  This would have made for a great reusable engine as a Merlin competitor.  Or, design a smaller metholox engine in the same thrust range to make a metholox reusable booster to compete with F9.  It can be done, but Boeing and Lockheed would have to spend some development money.
Driving force behind Vulcan was need replace Atlas because of RD180 ban.
Vulcan design was locked in aroumd 2015, well before F9R was being reliably recovered and reused. Scrapping it and starting a fresh would've set them back years.

Priority is working and reliable ELV, SMART can waiting a few years.

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Offline joek

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #651 on: 05/17/2021 06:49 pm »
Driving force behind Vulcan was need replace Atlas because of RD180 ban.
Vulcan design was locked in aroumd 2015, well before F9R was being reliably recovered and reused. Scrapping it and starting a fresh would've set them back years.

Yes, that was a driving force, but maybe ULA could have looked a bit further into the future? Just because your competition has not proved itself does not mean you should rest on your laurels. Will shed no tears for them.

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #652 on: 05/17/2021 07:23 pm »
Driving force behind Vulcan was need replace Atlas because of RD180 ban.
Vulcan design was locked in aroumd 2015, well before F9R was being reliably recovered and reused. Scrapping it and starting a fresh would've set them back years.

Yes, that was a driving force, but maybe ULA could have looked a bit further into the future? Just because your competition has not proved itself does not mean you should rest on your laurels. Will shed no tears for them.
Be surprised if ULA don't have some design concepts for future RLV. Small detail of getting approval from the owners who may have their own plans for RLVs.

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Online meekGee

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #653 on: 05/17/2021 08:57 pm »
Driving force behind Vulcan was need replace Atlas because of RD180 ban.
Vulcan design was locked in aroumd 2015, well before F9R was being reliably recovered and reused. Scrapping it and starting a fresh would've set them back years.

Yes, that was a driving force, but maybe ULA could have looked a bit further into the future? Just because your competition has not proved itself does not mean you should rest on your laurels. Will shed no tears for them.
Yes, that's my point.  F9R was still not perfected, but with a bit of vision the future  was clear.

The "It hasn't been proven yet" meme was their undoing. If you wait till your competitor finishes proving his transformative product, you end up being way way late to the competition.

But that was known. What caused ULA to decide to do exactly that anyway was a worksheet that showed them that even if SpaceX was successful, they (ULA) have a comparable tool in their arsenal for a small fraction of the work...  And who wouldn't like that.

So it became "It hasn't been proven yet, and besides, SMART" (aka IHBPY-abS)

What then happened was:
- It was quickly proven
- It worked well enough to allow market transformation
- SMART didn't make sense anymore
- Now what do we do

There's a lesson in there somewhere, but I can't quite put my finger on it.
« Last Edit: 05/18/2021 05:11 am by meekGee »
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Offline joek

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #654 on: 05/18/2021 04:51 am »
...
There's a lesson in there somewhere, but I can't quite put my finger on it.

Ha! You have any number of fingers on it. As a former mentor of mine once put it: "Sometimes you need people who break through walls because they don't see them." ULA did not have those people (or did not pay attention to them).

To the broader conversation... ULA was and is focused on their particular market. While they may be able to defend that market and be profitable, it is a shrinking part of a growing pie. It will eventually shrink to irrelevance. We have seen this movie before in any number of industries.

Online meekGee

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #655 on: 05/19/2021 12:54 pm »
...
There's a lesson in there somewhere, but I can't quite put my finger on it.

Ha! You have any number of fingers on it. As a former mentor of mine once put it: "Sometimes you need people who break through walls because they don't see them." ULA did not have those people (or did not pay attention to them).

To the broader conversation... ULA was and is focused on their particular market. While they may be able to defend that market and be profitable, it is a shrinking part of a growing pie. It will eventually shrink to irrelevance. We have seen this movie before in any number of industries.

"Sometimes you need people who break through walls because they don't see them."

Tell your mentor thanks. :)  Very usable.

IMO it was the former: ULA no longer had those people.  20 years of not making a rocket will do that - anyone with the desire to do so either left or retired.

What was left was an operations-centric org, with a pretty constrained development team focused on small changes. (EDITED to use softer language, may have been too harsh)

(In the grand scheme of things, relatively speaking, a project like ACES, including the ICE machine, is "small".  It gets points for imaginative, but it's not nearly enough to change the picture.  Apologies if the description above seems too antagonistic)

So when the development org was asked to make something new, they came back with a bunch of rationale why building the same thing only a bit larger is the solution, and this includes SMART, which was in the "presentations" directory for enough years that maybe the original slides were actually slides.

At least that's how I see it.

In a similar vane, I am not sure how well they were equipped to gauge the competency of an engine vendor.  They've only ever worked with vendors that were "known good", and have never built their own.  It may have been quite the leap of faith.



A 2008 status paper on what would become SMART


EDIT ok maybe the ATLAS engine retrieval plans were actually made using PowerPoint :)

Nice read, includes description of the evolution of Mid-Air Recovery.

« Last Edit: 05/19/2021 01:36 pm by meekGee »
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Online FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #656 on: 08/18/2021 08:19 pm »
twitter.com/coleadamdavis/status/1427659299594117129

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Iím sure you have answered this before and I just havenít seen it. Is ULA thinking about reusable rockets to remain competitive? Genuine question.

https://twitter.com/torybruno/status/1427756747712827400

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Yes

twitter.com/scubajotaro/status/1427977249903595533

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SMART or full stage recovery?

https://twitter.com/torybruno/status/1428085474325897222

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SMART makes more sense for us because we specialize in complex,  high energy orbits

Is Tory saying that recovering the whole booster is tricky because ULA typically need to stage at a point (high and/or fast) that makes full stage recovery difficult?

But arenít SpaceX, through a combination of F9 and FH, soon going to be achieving those same orbits with booster reuse? The rocket may be Ďover-sizedí for a mission, to enable recovery, but with multiple reuses still works out economic / cheaper?

Offline rpapo

Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #657 on: 08/18/2021 08:53 pm »
But arenít SpaceX, through a combination of F9 and FH, soon going to be achieving those same orbits with booster reuse? The rocket may be Ďover-sizedí for a mission, to enable recovery, but with multiple reuses still works out economic / cheaper?
Right-sizing and optimizing a rocket to the nth degree matters when you are going to launch it one time and discard it in the process.  When a rocket can be reused, the right size is considerably larger because now you want to use that rocket for as many different missions as possible.  It's okay to make it larger than necessary, when the marginal cost of launching is less than the cost of making a small single-use rocket for a small payload.

Interestingly, when you reuse a rocket, you can afford to optimize it even further than usual.  If Falcon 9 were not being reused regularly, it would not have titanium grid fins, for example.

Old Space has considerable difficulty wrapping their heads around these ideas.
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Offline cscott

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #658 on: 08/18/2021 10:05 pm »
Tory seems to be doubling down on their previous analysis instead of taking in new data.

Offline c4fusion

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #659 on: 08/19/2021 06:35 am »
Tory seems to be doubling down on their previous analysis instead of taking in new data.

I donít blame him for propulsive landing to work they would need far more engines.  I doubt designing and building another rocket at this point really makes sense.

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