Author Topic: Relativity Space - Terran R  (Read 125019 times)

Offline Darkseraph

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #40 on: 06/08/2021 09:56 pm »
The 'inspired by nature' part makes sense actually. 3D printing does allow some geometries that are very hard or impossible to construct by other means with way fewer parts and welds. And many of those geometries distribute mass exactly where it is needed for strength, just like many natural forms do. This leads to significantly lighter parts. You'd wonder if this could even make practical SSTO launchers possible!


If Relativity can do even 1/2 of what it's claiming it can do, it will probably be the most disruptive company in the history of aerospace. Techniques that can build a rocket that rapidly with a 100x less parts could be as easily adapted to building commercial airplanes, hypersonic vehicles, satellites and in-orbit infrastructure, moon bases, human space vehicles etc
Aviation is probably where it could be most disruptive in the long run. Getting millions of people from A to B on Earth as fast and cheaply as possible will far surpass sending them to space for generations to come.
"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled." R.P.Feynman

Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #41 on: 06/08/2021 09:58 pm »
So... It's a nice 3D model of a mini Starship. That's it? That's all they've got? There wasn't even a single new number in there. They even did the age old marketing "inspired by nature" thing!

Listen guys, I love the idea of a smaller scale Starship, and 3D printing certainly lends itself to Starship-esque rapid prototyping, but let's not get too excided just yet. This is just the modern equivalent of that 60/70s aerospace concept art we all love. Made by artists, not engineers.

Compared to what we knew previously (which was just "fully reusable, 20+ metric tons payload"), there's quite a lot of new numbers: 216 feet tall, 16 feet wide, 7 Aeon R engines on the first stage, each Aeon R has 302,000 pounds of thrust. Now, these may or may not be meaningful (especially with Relativity, which can pivot at any time without worrying about fixed infrastructure), but these are specific claims we didn't have before.

You are right. Pretty much all of those new numbers show up all at once in the video, so I managed to miss them all in one fell swoop.
Wait, ∆V? This site will accept the ∆ symbol? How many times have I written out the word "delta" for no reason?

Offline Lars-J

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #42 on: 06/08/2021 10:34 pm »
So... It's a nice 3D model of a mini Starship. That's it? That's all they've got? There wasn't even a single new number in there. They even did the age old marketing "inspired by nature" thing!

Listen guys, I love the idea of a smaller scale Starship, and 3D printing certainly lends itself to Starship-esque rapid prototyping, but let's not get too excided just yet. This is just the modern equivalent of that 60/70s aerospace concept art we all love. Made by artists, not engineers.

It is quite... interesting... to see the different reaction to this compared to the Neutron reveal. Hmm.

You may be complaining about lacking information, but I actually consider this to have more details than the Neutron reveal had. I suppose a cute video eating a hat makes all the difference.  ;)
« Last Edit: 06/08/2021 10:35 pm by Lars-J »

Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #43 on: 06/08/2021 11:24 pm »
So... It's a nice 3D model of a mini Starship. That's it? That's all they've got? There wasn't even a single new number in there. They even did the age old marketing "inspired by nature" thing!

Listen guys, I love the idea of a smaller scale Starship, and 3D printing certainly lends itself to Starship-esque rapid prototyping, but let's not get too excided just yet. This is just the modern equivalent of that 60/70s aerospace concept art we all love. Made by artists, not engineers.

It is quite... interesting... to see the different reaction to this compared to the Neutron reveal. Hmm.

You may be complaining about lacking information, but I actually consider this to have more details than the Neutron reveal had. I suppose a cute video eating a hat makes all the difference.  ;)

Well, having actual existing hardware does make a difference for me; there was a fairing in the hat video, remember? And the fact that the CEO of Rocket Lab has been very open about his plans for Neutron, and about what stage of design they're at, also buys a lot of goodwill with me. That video begins by saying, "This is Terran R", as though it's the finished product. Rocket Lab, meanwhile, always refers to Neutron as something that they're only just starting to work on.

The reality is that Relativity has not launched anything yet, has no existing hardware for Terran R, and has (to my knowledge) demonstrated no interest in a SpaceX approach to testing. Meanwhile, Rocket Lab was regularly flying to orbit, already proved they could build fairings for Neutron, and with their Electron reuse efforts, was proving that they could test as they flew (past tense used to account for the post-failure Electron stand down I assume we are now in).

Relativity has done nothing to make me have faith in them. In fact they've only done the opposite; everyone remember when they changed the cycle of the Aeon 1 engines last year, while claiming that they'd be launching this year? And then they announce Terran R back in March, with the first launch of Terran 1 not even in sight, and no flight first stage hardware to be seen. Honestly, I have more reason to believe that Firefly Beta will be on the pad in 2024 than Terran R.

I was very much wrong about the amount of information in that Terran R video though, and I'll fully own up to that. I genuinely missed it, perhaps because of how much that video's style aggravated me.
« Last Edit: 06/09/2021 12:00 am by JEF_300 »
Wait, ∆V? This site will accept the ∆ symbol? How many times have I written out the word "delta" for no reason?

Offline Vultur

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #44 on: 06/09/2021 12:14 am »
It is quite... interesting... to see the different reaction to this compared to the Neutron reveal.

I think the difference is that Rocket Lab had already had a good number of orbital launches when they announced Neutron. IMO that puts them in a different category from Relativity, etc. (or even Blue Origin!)

Offline M.E.T.

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #45 on: 06/09/2021 12:19 am »
So, it seems broadly accepted that 3D printing is a more expensive manufacturing process than metal casting, stamping or machining. As a counter, Relativity supporters argue that reuse makes unit manufacturing cost less important over the lifetime of the rocket.

However, since Starship ALSO does full reuse, while using a cheaper manufacturing process, you might end up with a situation where Starship is cheaper to build than the 3D printed Terran R, while carrying 5 times as much payload.

In that case, it will still be cheaper for a customer to fly on Starship, even if they only have for example a 10 ton payload which could fit on Terran R.

So in a sense, Starship combines the cheap manufacturing approach of Astra with the reusability of Relativity (and throws in the power of SLS for good measure).

All of the above is based on the generous assumption that Relativityís powerpoint rocket actually achieves full reuse within the next 10 years.
« Last Edit: 06/09/2021 12:58 am by M.E.T. »

Offline Vultur

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #46 on: 06/09/2021 02:10 am »
And...  I have to say...  Starlink feels very much like the start of that kind of revolution.

I think that is exactly what it is. Probably since the end of Apollo, there's been a kind of catch-22/chicken and egg problem where launch is too expensive to do lots of things in space, but you need that market to make better launch solutions affordable.

IMO SpaceX is trying to address that two ways, first by "evolving" F9 to reusability from an expendable vehicle that was already competitive in the existing market, and second by expanding the market with Starlink.

So, it seems broadly accepted that 3D printing is a more expensive manufacturing process than metal casting, stamping or machining. As a counter, Relativity supporters argue that reuse makes unit manufacturing cost less important over the lifetime of the rocket.

However, since Starship ALSO does full reuse, while using a cheaper manufacturing process, you might end up with a situation where Starship is cheaper to build than the 3D printed Terran R, while carrying 5 times as much payload.

You might. OTOH is "inherent" cost of the manufacturing process the main cost driver, or is labor/overhead the main driver? A smaller company might have advantages.

SpaceX is highly efficient, though, and genuinely very hard to compete with.

But nobody wants a launch monopoly - so arguably the real competition is to be the next best. So maybe they're really only competing against Rocketlab, Blue, etc. (although if either Neutron or Terran R work out I don't see Blue having a chance).

Offline M.E.T.

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #47 on: 06/09/2021 02:55 am »
And...  I have to say...  Starlink feels very much like the start of that kind of revolution.

I think that is exactly what it is. Probably since the end of Apollo, there's been a kind of catch-22/chicken and egg problem where launch is too expensive to do lots of things in space, but you need that market to make better launch solutions affordable.

IMO SpaceX is trying to address that two ways, first by "evolving" F9 to reusability from an expendable vehicle that was already competitive in the existing market, and second by expanding the market with Starlink.

So, it seems broadly accepted that 3D printing is a more expensive manufacturing process than metal casting, stamping or machining. As a counter, Relativity supporters argue that reuse makes unit manufacturing cost less important over the lifetime of the rocket.

However, since Starship ALSO does full reuse, while using a cheaper manufacturing process, you might end up with a situation where Starship is cheaper to build than the 3D printed Terran R, while carrying 5 times as much payload.

You might. OTOH is "inherent" cost of the manufacturing process the main cost driver, or is labor/overhead the main driver? A smaller company might have advantages.

SpaceX is highly efficient, though, and genuinely very hard to compete with.

But nobody wants a launch monopoly - so arguably the real competition is to be the next best. So maybe they're really only competing against Rocketlab, Blue, etc. (although if either Neutron or Terran R work out I don't see Blue having a chance).

I guess Iím not really clear on what ďexpensiveĒ means in terms of the 3D manufacturing process. Are we talking $100m to build a full Terran R? $200m? And how many reuses are planned? 10? 20? 100?

That would give us a basis for comparison. A cost per flight.

But as with Neutron, timeline is important to note here. They are aiming at 2024 for initial launch. Letís call that 2025 given inevitable schedule slippage. Then maybe 2026 for first booster recovery. Then say 2027 for first booster reflight. 2028 for first fairing reuse (note they seem to differentiate fairing from the upper stage, so presumably itís not a Starship type integrated upper stage but rather a traditional fairing setup).

So finally, for actual 2nd stage recovery and reuse I would be very surprised if that occurs before 2030.

Which is important as a basis for comparison with the expected maturity of Starship by 2030.

Bottomline, we certainly arenít talking 2024 for the fully reusable Terran R.
« Last Edit: 06/09/2021 02:58 am by M.E.T. »

Offline jongoff

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #48 on: 06/09/2021 03:10 am »
So, it seems broadly accepted that 3D printing is a more expensive manufacturing process than metal casting, stamping or machining. As a counter, Relativity supporters argue that reuse makes unit manufacturing cost less important over the lifetime of the rocket.

However, since Starship ALSO does full reuse, while using a cheaper manufacturing process, you might end up with a situation where Starship is cheaper to build than the 3D printed Terran R, while carrying 5 times as much payload.

In that case, it will still be cheaper for a customer to fly on Starship, even if they only have for example a 10 ton payload which could fit on Terran R.

So in a sense, Starship combines the cheap manufacturing approach of Astra with the reusability of Relativity (and throws in the power of SLS for good measure).

All of the above is based on the generous assumption that Relativityís powerpoint rocket actually achieves full reuse within the next 10 years.

Speaking of generous assumptions/applied overoptimism... if Relativity can't make an 8 engine Falcon-9 class vehicle for less than it costs SpaceX to make a 35 engine Saturn V class vehicle, they're doing something wrong. Engines typically are a much larger fraction of vehicle cost than structures, and while 3d printing is more expensive for the structures, I would be surprised if Relativity's engines were wildly more expensive than SpaceX's Raptors (which aren't exactly Big Dumb Booster tech by any stretch of the imagination).

I'd be very surprised if the per flight cost of a Terran-R was even half of what Starship will be. Starship should still win on $/kg when flying mostly full, but I think you're doing the very same underestimation of the competition that people used to do for SpaceX. Which is kind of amusing.

~Jon
« Last Edit: 06/09/2021 03:10 am by jongoff »

Offline enzo

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #49 on: 06/09/2021 03:14 am »
So, it seems broadly accepted that 3D printing is a more expensive manufacturing process than metal casting, stamping or machining. As a counter, Relativity supporters argue that reuse makes unit manufacturing cost less important over the lifetime of the rocket.

However, since Starship ALSO does full reuse, while using a cheaper manufacturing process, you might end up with a situation where Starship is cheaper to build than the 3D printed Terran R, while carrying 5 times as much payload.

In that case, it will still be cheaper for a customer to fly on Starship, even if they only have for example a 10 ton payload which could fit on Terran R.

So in a sense, Starship combines the cheap manufacturing approach of Astra with the reusability of Relativity (and throws in the power of SLS for good measure).

All of the above is based on the generous assumption that Relativityís powerpoint rocket actually achieves full reuse within the next 10 years.

Speaking of generous assumptions/applied overoptimism... if Relativity can't make an 8 engine Falcon-9 class vehicle for less than it costs SpaceX to make a 35 engine Saturn V class vehicle, they're doing something wrong. Engines typically are a much larger fraction of vehicle cost than structures, and while 3d printing is more expensive for the structures, I would be surprised if Relativity's engines were wildly more expensive than SpaceX's Raptors (which aren't exactly Big Dumb Booster tech by any stretch of the imagination).

I'd be very surprised if the per flight cost of a Terran-R was even half of what Starship will be. Starship should still win on $/kg when flying mostly full, but I think you're doing the very same underestimation of the competition that people used to do for SpaceX. Which is kind of amusing.

~Jon
I like this conversation, very much. We need to look at some facts and put them together. I think the conclusion is absolutely fascinating.

Yes, 3D printing will not necessarily lower the manufacturing cost or make the product, in isolation, competitive with Starship. Relativity's website includes various carefully worded statements. It does not harp on the manufacturing cost, suggesting that they understand this. It does point out other benefits -  to iterate more quickly, simplify the supply chain, reduce number of parts, and improve reliability.

What is the company's stated mission? Not to compete with SpaceX, which was the inspiration for the company's founding, but to support the mission of SpaceX. Ellis: "So what was clear [is] that there needed to be some other company building humanity's industrial base on Mars." To this end they hired Zach Dunn and Tim Buzza and unabashedly lifted Elon Musk's slogan "make life multiplanetary". But Eric Berger's headline is that they are "taking on SpaceX"! This is not accurate though, and Tim Ellis is very careful (like his website) to dispel this notion.

Then why are they building a F9 class rocket? The key is right in front of us. Zach Dunn and Tim Buzza know better than anyone that the Falcon 1 was a short-lived rocket. In retrospect, its only utility was to establish credibility with NASA, and we would not be here if they hadn't taken that leap of faith. If you can iterate even faster than SpaceX, then you can repeat this process at a highly magnified pace. Thus, it is likely that they consider both Terran 1 and Terran R to be the spiritual descendants of Falcon 1, in the sense that they are establishing new standards of practice and opening a new paradigm. They may not even plan on them existing for more than a brief period of time before giving rise to something else.

Ultimately all signs point to a desire to be "in on the action" for Mars, and current products being stepping stones to a 3D printed colonial ecosystem. It is not even clear that they want to remain an Earth launch company. I believe concerns about cost and competitiveness, while reasonable, are not comparable with the likes of Rocket Lab, etc, and must be reformulated according to the paradigm that the company is bringing, and their clearly stated mission.

edit: I just noticed trimeta and edzieba wrote similar ideas on the previous page, hopefully this helps put it all together
« Last Edit: 06/09/2021 03:36 am by enzo »

Offline M.E.T.

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #50 on: 06/09/2021 03:18 am »
So, it seems broadly accepted that 3D printing is a more expensive manufacturing process than metal casting, stamping or machining. As a counter, Relativity supporters argue that reuse makes unit manufacturing cost less important over the lifetime of the rocket.

However, since Starship ALSO does full reuse, while using a cheaper manufacturing process, you might end up with a situation where Starship is cheaper to build than the 3D printed Terran R, while carrying 5 times as much payload.

In that case, it will still be cheaper for a customer to fly on Starship, even if they only have for example a 10 ton payload which could fit on Terran R.

So in a sense, Starship combines the cheap manufacturing approach of Astra with the reusability of Relativity (and throws in the power of SLS for good measure).

All of the above is based on the generous assumption that Relativityís powerpoint rocket actually achieves full reuse within the next 10 years.

Speaking of generous assumptions/applied overoptimism... if Relativity can't make an 8 engine Falcon-9 class vehicle for less than it costs SpaceX to make a 35 engine Saturn V class vehicle, they're doing something wrong. Engines typically are a much larger fraction of vehicle cost than structures, and while 3d printing is more expensive for the structures, I would be surprised if Relativity's engines were wildly more expensive than SpaceX's Raptors (which aren't exactly Big Dumb Booster tech by any stretch of the imagination).

I'd be very surprised if the per flight cost of a Terran-R was even half of what Starship will be. Starship should still win on $/kg when flying mostly full, but I think you're doing the very same underestimation of the competition that people used to do for SpaceX. Which is kind of amusing.

~Jon

Well, betting on SpaceX to beat the competition (whether established or aspiring) thus far has produced a 100% successful track record.

As for Raptor cost - wasnít Elonís target $200k per engine?

Offline jongoff

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #51 on: 06/09/2021 04:11 am »
So, it seems broadly accepted that 3D printing is a more expensive manufacturing process than metal casting, stamping or machining. As a counter, Relativity supporters argue that reuse makes unit manufacturing cost less important over the lifetime of the rocket.

However, since Starship ALSO does full reuse, while using a cheaper manufacturing process, you might end up with a situation where Starship is cheaper to build than the 3D printed Terran R, while carrying 5 times as much payload.

In that case, it will still be cheaper for a customer to fly on Starship, even if they only have for example a 10 ton payload which could fit on Terran R.

So in a sense, Starship combines the cheap manufacturing approach of Astra with the reusability of Relativity (and throws in the power of SLS for good measure).

All of the above is based on the generous assumption that Relativityís powerpoint rocket actually achieves full reuse within the next 10 years.

Speaking of generous assumptions/applied overoptimism... if Relativity can't make an 8 engine Falcon-9 class vehicle for less than it costs SpaceX to make a 35 engine Saturn V class vehicle, they're doing something wrong. Engines typically are a much larger fraction of vehicle cost than structures, and while 3d printing is more expensive for the structures, I would be surprised if Relativity's engines were wildly more expensive than SpaceX's Raptors (which aren't exactly Big Dumb Booster tech by any stretch of the imagination).

I'd be very surprised if the per flight cost of a Terran-R was even half of what Starship will be. Starship should still win on $/kg when flying mostly full, but I think you're doing the very same underestimation of the competition that people used to do for SpaceX. Which is kind of amusing.

~Jon

Well, betting on SpaceX to beat the competition (whether established or aspiring) thus far has produced a 100% successful track record.

I hope SpaceX is cocky enough to write off Terran R as competition. It'll make things more entertaining if Tim's team pulls it off successfully and eats most of Starship's market out from underneath them.

~Jon

Offline M.E.T.

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #52 on: 06/09/2021 04:25 am »
So, it seems broadly accepted that 3D printing is a more expensive manufacturing process than metal casting, stamping or machining. As a counter, Relativity supporters argue that reuse makes unit manufacturing cost less important over the lifetime of the rocket.

However, since Starship ALSO does full reuse, while using a cheaper manufacturing process, you might end up with a situation where Starship is cheaper to build than the 3D printed Terran R, while carrying 5 times as much payload.

In that case, it will still be cheaper for a customer to fly on Starship, even if they only have for example a 10 ton payload which could fit on Terran R.

So in a sense, Starship combines the cheap manufacturing approach of Astra with the reusability of Relativity (and throws in the power of SLS for good measure).

All of the above is based on the generous assumption that Relativityís powerpoint rocket actually achieves full reuse within the next 10 years.

Speaking of generous assumptions/applied overoptimism... if Relativity can't make an 8 engine Falcon-9 class vehicle for less than it costs SpaceX to make a 35 engine Saturn V class vehicle, they're doing something wrong. Engines typically are a much larger fraction of vehicle cost than structures, and while 3d printing is more expensive for the structures, I would be surprised if Relativity's engines were wildly more expensive than SpaceX's Raptors (which aren't exactly Big Dumb Booster tech by any stretch of the imagination).

I'd be very surprised if the per flight cost of a Terran-R was even half of what Starship will be. Starship should still win on $/kg when flying mostly full, but I think you're doing the very same underestimation of the competition that people used to do for SpaceX. Which is kind of amusing.

~Jon

Well, betting on SpaceX to beat the competition (whether established or aspiring) thus far has produced a 100% successful track record.

I hope SpaceX is cocky enough to write off Terran R as competition. It'll make things more entertaining if Tim's team pulls it off successfully and eats most of Starship's market out from underneath them.

~Jon

Well thatís kinda my original point. Launch is not SpaceXís intended market. At $2b a year its revenue potential is perhaps 5-10% of SpaceXís targeted Starlink revenue.

Launch should be seen as an input cost, to be reduced as low as possible, not a revenue source to be pushed as high as possible.

It is merely a revenue source required in the bridging period between now and when Starlink hits its stride. Which will be long before Relativity flies a fully reusable rocket.

And by then Starship version 2 will already be in the works.

So Relativity isnít about to steal SpaceXís lunch, no matter what they do. But they are about to risk $650m on a very dicey proposition, in a market where SpaceX can and will go all out to steal THEIR lunch. Just ask Rocketlab.

« Last Edit: 06/09/2021 04:28 am by M.E.T. »

Offline yg1968

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #53 on: 06/09/2021 04:32 am »
Could the Terran R be used as a lunar lander?

The Ars Technica article speaks of delivering payloads to the Moon but not humans.

Quote from: Eric Berger
However, Ellis said it would be a mistake to compare the Terran R rocket to the Falcon 9. The vehicle should be thought of more like a miniature version of SpaceX's Starship rocket, he said, with an upper stage that could transfer payloads through space, to the Moon and perhaps even Mars. In terms of appearances, too, it resembles Starship more than the Falcon 9.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/06/relativity-has-a-bold-plan-to-take-on-spacex-and-investors-are-buying-it/
« Last Edit: 06/09/2021 04:40 am by yg1968 »

Offline su27k

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #54 on: 06/09/2021 04:34 am »
I always felt that Starship was a bet on nobody else seriously trying to do a more reasonable sized full-RLV. Hopefully Relativity let's us test my hypothesis.

At the risk of going off topic: It's strange that this hypothesis is still being held after Starship won a $2.9B contract with NASA, which validated SpaceX's choice of developing Starship instead of a "reasonable sized" full RLV.

And if SpaceX had gone with a "reasonable sized" full RLV, they would now have to compete head to head with Neutron and Terran R, without any advantages, I fail to see how this would be better for them. Starship allows SpaceX to open new market instead of facing increasing competition in the medium lift market. I wrote about this 3 months ago, before the HLS award:

It's not about Neutron vs F9 or Starship, it's about New Glenn vs Vulcan vs Neutron vs Terran R vs Firefly Beta vs some more medium lift that will be announced soon from other smallsat launcher companies.

Basically medium lift market will become the red ocean, and Starship is SpaceX's ticket out of here and go to blue ocean: 10kt to 100kt constellation, NASA BLEO HSF, DoD constellations, plus all the speculative stuff like space tourism, E2E, space mining, cislunar industrialization, etc, which nobody else can touch.

The theoretical disadvantage of Starship vs. Neutron and Terran R is if the latter can get lower per-launch costs, and also there's insufficient demand for bulk cargo and/or payloads which require super-heavy lift to keep Starship busy. Of course, that requires Neutron and Terran R undercut Starship per-launch (which certain people in this forum think is theoretically impossible), and of course SpaceX is going to do everything they can to grow the market for huge payloads which only Starship can launch (or at least, where one Starship launch can replace multiple other launches).

Yes, I know how this "lack of demand" argument goes (ironically it's the same argument against Tesla in early days). It's a nice theory 3 months ago, but today the HLS award has totally obliterated this argument, which is the point of my previous comment: Your hypothesis needs to change based on new evidence from reality. Reality is NASA likes Starship very much, so much so that they're willing to single source it, against the wishes of old space contractors and their pet senators. The way I see it, as long as SpaceX doesn't mess it up themselves, Starship is well on its way to become the dominate architecture for NASA BLEO exploration, that alone should be able to carry the program financially, just like how CRS carried Falcon 9 in early days.

And this reminds me another pet peeve of mine: This argument acts as if SpaceX is only a launch provider, that hasn't been true since the early days when they got COTS and CRS, it's certainly not true today, and it's especially not true for Starship since it's a combined launch vehicle/spacecraft/lander (and maybe more). People trying to look at Starship from a LV lens is missing the big picture, this should be obvious given the biggest contract Starship has right now is not for launch but for landing, but I guess sometimes people has trouble seeing the forest from the trees so to speak (and don't even get me started with the whole self inconsistencies of claiming "NASA shouldn't give all the money to Starship" then at the same time claiming "Starship can't compete because it's too big"...)

Offline M.E.T.

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #55 on: 06/09/2021 04:52 am »
Could the Terran R be used as a lunar lander?

The Ars Technica article speaks of delivering payloads to the Moon but not humans.

Quote from: Eric Berger
However, Ellis said it would be a mistake to compare the Terran R rocket to the Falcon 9. The vehicle should be thought of more like a miniature version of SpaceX's Starship rocket, he said, with an upper stage that could transfer payloads through space, to the Moon and perhaps even Mars. In terms of appearances, too, it resembles Starship more than the Falcon 9.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/06/relativity-has-a-bold-plan-to-take-on-spacex-and-investors-are-buying-it/

Well, what timeframe are you thinking about?

Ellis himself says initial launch - aimed at 2024, so in reality probably NET 2025 - will not be a fully reusable version. That will come later. Likely much later. And you need the reusable (landing capable) version if you want to use it as a Moon lander.

So by 2025? No. By 2030? Maybe. But what will the competition have available by then?

Offline su27k

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #56 on: 06/09/2021 04:58 am »
Speaking of generous assumptions/applied overoptimism... if Relativity can't make an 8 engine Falcon-9 class vehicle for less than it costs SpaceX to make a 35 engine Saturn V class vehicle, they're doing something wrong. Engines typically are a much larger fraction of vehicle cost than structures, and while 3d printing is more expensive for the structures, I would be surprised if Relativity's engines were wildly more expensive than SpaceX's Raptors (which aren't exactly Big Dumb Booster tech by any stretch of the imagination).

Or they just lack the scale to optimize for mass production. SpaceX is gearing up for producing 500 Raptors per year, how many Aeon R's does Relativity intends to produce every year? 10, 20?


Quote from: jongoff
I'd be very surprised if the per flight cost of a Terran-R was even half of what Starship will be. Starship should still win on $/kg when flying mostly full, but I think you're doing the very same underestimation of the competition that people used to do for SpaceX. Which is kind of amusing.

Ok, let's just say each Terran-R launch costs half of a Starship launch. Starship marginal launch cost target is $2M, so Terran-R is $1M per launch. What kind of mid-lift launch market do you see when a single million dollar cost difference will make or break a launch contract? How many $1M Terran-R launches will Relativity need to sell to cover their fixed cost?


I hope SpaceX is cocky enough to write off Terran R as competition. It'll make things more entertaining if Tim's team pulls it off successfully and eats most of Starship's market out from underneath them.

Well thatís kinda my original point. Launch is not SpaceXís intended market. At $2b a year its revenue potential is perhaps 5-10% of SpaceXís targeted Starlink revenue.

Launch should be seen as an input cost, to be reduced as low as possible, not a revenue source to be pushed as high as possible.

It is merely a revenue source required in the bridging period between now and when Starlink hits its stride. Which will be long before Relativity flies a fully reusable rocket.

And by then Starship version 2 will already be in the works.

So Relativity isnít about to steal SpaceXís lunch, no matter what they do. But they are about to risk $650m on a very dicey proposition, in a market where SpaceX can and will go all out to steal THEIR lunch. Just ask Rocketlab.

Exactly, that's true even today, without Starlink. As I pointed out a few months ago in RocketLab's thread:

If you look at SpaceX's revenue from government contracts, in the last 2 years less than 40% of their revenue comes from acting as launch provider, the rest they're providing spacecraft in one way or another. This is why trying to analyze Starship as if it's only a launch vehicle and SpaceX will only pay its bills via launch service is badly misjudging the situation.
« Last Edit: 06/09/2021 05:50 am by su27k »

Offline soyuzu

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #57 on: 06/09/2021 05:00 am »

if Relativity can't make an 8 engine Falcon-9 class vehicle for less than it costs SpaceX to make a 35 engine Saturn V class vehicle, they're doing something wrong. Engines typically are a much larger fraction of vehicle cost than structures, and while 3d printing is more expensive for the structures, I would be surprised if Relativity's engines were wildly more expensive than SpaceX's Raptors (which aren't exactly Big Dumb Booster tech by any stretch of the imagination)..


Not necessarily, the 10 Merlins costs ~$10 million, while a brand new F9 costs around $45million to manufacture. Terran R is basically taking Falcon 9ís ďmoderate engine, extraordinary structureĒapproach to extreme, plus a reusable section stage made of ďexotic materialĒ and a quarter larger, highly unlikely it will cost less than $60-70 million to manufacture.

On the other hand, I think some NSF users estimates SS/SH will cost about $120-130 even if Raptorís cost remains at $2 milliom and doesnít reduce further. If SpaceX can reach even halfway of their goal, then the production cost should be at close proximity to Terran-R.

I'd be very surprised if the per flight cost of a Terran-R was even half of what Starship will be..

Actually, I will be very surprised if it managed to get lower than half of what Starship will be. Ellis has stated they plan to operate Terran R similar with Falcon 9

Quote
Muskís company ships its Falcon 9 boosters via highways from its headquarters in California, and Ellis said Relativity will similarly send its Terran R boosters over land to the coast of Texas, before putting them on a barge to its engine testing facility in Mississippi and then on another barge to Florida.

Hauling your rocket all over the nation and launch at Air Force range is surely something you wonít want if even propellant cost matters. According to Musk, the marginal cost of Falcon 9 is $15million, 2/3 of which is expendable second stage. If we generously assume refurbishing a Mini starship will cost the same as fairing, this still leaves $5 million operating cost for a Falcon 9 class RLV.

Starship is aspired to cost $1.5 million per launch, even if we assume they fail the zero refurbishment goal miserably, it still leaves $3.5 million of margin.

I wish Relativity best luck, and I think itís not unlikely that they can do a paradigm shift like SpaceX had done from BFR to stainless Starship. But as I lean towards Astraís approach, I must affirm my position that producing cheap rockets doesnít exclude possibility of reusability, but making expensive one will surely cost more money.
« Last Edit: 06/09/2021 05:06 am by soyuzu »

Offline trimeta

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #58 on: 06/09/2021 05:12 am »
Yes, I know how this "lack of demand" argument goes (ironically it's the same argument against Tesla in early days). It's a nice theory 3 months ago, but today the HLS award has totally obliterated this argument, which is the point of my previous comment: Your hypothesis needs to change based on new evidence from reality. Reality is NASA likes Starship very much, so much so that they're willing to single source it, against the wishes of old space contractors and their pet senators. The way I see it, as long as SpaceX doesn't mess it up themselves, Starship is well on its way to become the dominate architecture for NASA BLEO exploration, that alone should be able to carry the program financially, just like how CRS carried Falcon 9 in early days.

And this reminds me another pet peeve of mine: This argument acts as if SpaceX is only a launch provider, that hasn't been true since the early days when they got COTS and CRS, it's certainly not true today, and it's especially not true for Starship since it's a combined launch vehicle/spacecraft/lander (and maybe more). People trying to look at Starship from a LV lens is missing the big picture, this should be obvious given the biggest contract Starship has right now is not for launch but for landing, but I guess sometimes people has trouble seeing the forest from the trees so to speak (and don't even get me started with the whole self inconsistencies of claiming "NASA shouldn't give all the money to Starship" then at the same time claiming "Starship can't compete because it's too big"...)

Starship isn't going away, and if all it does is let SpaceX fly and maintain Starlink, that alone would be worth the development cost: I seem to remember someone saying just three comments back that launch is just "a revenue source required in the bridging period between now and when Starlink hits its stride." Starship could lose all but the occasional BLEO commercial/government mission to lower-cost rockets, and SpaceX wouldn't care or be harmed.

However, "Starship could become the Artemis vehicle of choice" isn't the same as "Starship will be the only launch vehicle launched from US soil, period." Between Artemis, Starlink, and Mars, I can maybe see 30-40 launches a year which actually need Starship's capabilities. Which is great, that would be considered a successful rocket. But it could do that while still having the "disadvantage" against Neutron and Terran R when it comes to smaller payloads. This is by no means fatal to Starship, but it shows one way in which Starship would be more competitive with Neutron and Terran R if it were smaller.

You can argue that getting the entirety of the super-heavy lift market is better than getting a fraction of the merely medium or heavy lift market. Personally, I doubt the super-heavy lift market is big enough for that to actually be true. But that's besides the point: the goal of Starship wasn't "how do we design a vehicle to make as much money as possible from the launch market?" Starship's purpose is "help SpaceX achieve its goals and make a decent amount of money (not necessarily the maximal amount of money) along the way." And I have every confidence that it will achieve this, with "being a super-heavy lift vehicle" having contributed to the first part of the purpose (even if it left some money on the table from the launch market).

Offline M.E.T.

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #59 on: 06/09/2021 05:43 am »
Yes, I know how this "lack of demand" argument goes (ironically it's the same argument against Tesla in early days). It's a nice theory 3 months ago, but today the HLS award has totally obliterated this argument, which is the point of my previous comment: Your hypothesis needs to change based on new evidence from reality. Reality is NASA likes Starship very much, so much so that they're willing to single source it, against the wishes of old space contractors and their pet senators. The way I see it, as long as SpaceX doesn't mess it up themselves, Starship is well on its way to become the dominate architecture for NASA BLEO exploration, that alone should be able to carry the program financially, just like how CRS carried Falcon 9 in early days.

And this reminds me another pet peeve of mine: This argument acts as if SpaceX is only a launch provider, that hasn't been true since the early days when they got COTS and CRS, it's certainly not true today, and it's especially not true for Starship since it's a combined launch vehicle/spacecraft/lander (and maybe more). People trying to look at Starship from a LV lens is missing the big picture, this should be obvious given the biggest contract Starship has right now is not for launch but for landing, but I guess sometimes people has trouble seeing the forest from the trees so to speak (and don't even get me started with the whole self inconsistencies of claiming "NASA shouldn't give all the money to Starship" then at the same time claiming "Starship can't compete because it's too big"...)

Starship isn't going away, and if all it does is let SpaceX fly and maintain Starlink, that alone would be worth the development cost: I seem to remember someone saying just three comments back that launch is just "a revenue source required in the bridging period between now and when Starlink hits its stride." Starship could lose all but the occasional BLEO commercial/government mission to lower-cost rockets, and SpaceX wouldn't care or be harmed.

However, "Starship could become the Artemis vehicle of choice" isn't the same as "Starship will be the only launch vehicle launched from US soil, period." Between Artemis, Starlink, and Mars, I can maybe see 30-40 launches a year which actually need Starship's capabilities. Which is great, that would be considered a successful rocket. But it could do that while still having the "disadvantage" against Neutron and Terran R when it comes to smaller payloads. This is by no means fatal to Starship, but it shows one way in which Starship would be more competitive with Neutron and Terran R if it were smaller.

You can argue that getting the entirety of the super-heavy lift market is better than getting a fraction of the merely medium or heavy lift market. Personally, I doubt the super-heavy lift market is big enough for that to actually be true. But that's besides the point: the goal of Starship wasn't "how do we design a vehicle to make as much money as possible from the launch market?" Starship's purpose is "help SpaceX achieve its goals and make a decent amount of money (not necessarily the maximal amount of money) along the way." And I have every confidence that it will achieve this, with "being a super-heavy lift vehicle" having contributed to the first part of the purpose (even if it left some money on the table from the launch market).

If Starship gets anywhere near a $10m launch cost (never-mind Elonís ambitious $3m target), then the market has been so disrupted that there is no incentive or real value in designing a smaller reusable rocket that costs say $5m per launch. Even if you launch it 100 times a year, thatís a mere $500m in launch revenue. Not worth the investment cost, quite frankly.

People need to forget about the excessive noise, spectacle and sheer magnitude of a Starship launch, and look at it purely in terms of costs on a spreadsheet.

Itís a $10m/launch vehicle. Basically the equivalent to an Electron launch, from a cost perspective. Thatís the only metric that matters.

Is it worth designing a $5m launch vehicle to try and soak up launches below that value? If so, what would be the likely return on that investment. Thatís the question that really matters.

 

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