Poll

How many orbital flights will the Falcon 9 & Heavy family do before retirement?

<=50
1 (0.9%)
51-100
4 (3.6%)
101-150
5 (4.5%)
151-200
15 (13.5%)
201-250
21 (18.9%)
251-300
20 (18%)
300-400
14 (12.6%)
401-500
12 (10.8%)
501-600
4 (3.6%)
601-700
5 (4.5%)
701-800
2 (1.8%)
801-900
0 (0%)
901-1000
0 (0%)
>1000
8 (7.2%)

Total Members Voted: 111

Voting closed: 11/22/2017 05:29 pm


Author Topic: How many orbital flights will the Falcon 9 & Heavy family do before retirement?  (Read 19189 times)

Offline the_other_Doug

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Easy to say the Falcon family will be retired, but difficult to throw away paid-for boosters, which will remain the least expensive ride to space or nearly so for a decade, with tens of flights left in them.

IF BFR and BFS work as advertised then they will be cheaper than F9 & FH. I donít think Elon/SpaceX will have any difficulty throwing the boosters away at that point.

I dunno -- when United Airlines got rid of all of their 727's, they didn't scrap most of them.  They sold them off to smaller airlines, especially in smaller countries.  As long as they were still in decent shape, most of them continued to fly for other operators.

I mean, who knows?  Maybe by the time it comes for SpaceX to retire them, someone else may want to fly them for a while, for their own programs... though I bet ITAR would keep SpaceX from selling to non-American buyers.
-Doug  (With my shield, not yet upon it)

Offline zappatosin

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If one expects that "flight proven" 2nd stages will NOT be launched on the falcon boosters, the real question seems to be how many expendable upper stages SpaceX intends to produce.

For Elon's personal mission to Mars or Luna to succeed, I estimate that SpaceX should expend less than 500 upper stages. As a fan, I picked an optimistic 200-250 flights based on a market that buys EELV class launches until the BFR renders the Falcons obsolete.
« Last Edit: 11/13/2017 02:39 pm by zappatosin »

Offline Paul451

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Easy to say the Falcon family will be retired, but difficult to throw away paid-for boosters, which will remain the least expensive ride to space or nearly so for a decade, with tens of flights left in them.
IF BFR and BFS work as advertised then they will be cheaper than F9 & FH. I don’t think Elon/SpaceX will have any difficulty throwing the boosters away at that point.
I dunno -- when United Airlines got rid of all of their 727's, they didn't scrap most of them.  They sold them off to smaller airlines,

United Airlines wasn't an aircraft manufacturer. The airline model doesn't make much sense for orbital launches.

An early aircraft manufacturer in, say, upstate New York, building and self-operating 50mi-range aircraft out of a local airfield, cannot service the rest of the state, let alone other states. And unless they had a fixed contract from someone else, they would have difficulty assessing whether it was even commercially viable to go into another market; not just sending another aircraft, but hiring and training a local pilot, maybe even building another airfield. Much better to just sell planes to wannabe local pilots, whether they were flying for fun or commercially. Eventually as ranges extended, routes stabilised, expansion and mergers between operators created true "airlines". By then, the industry's model had been established.

Obvious, none of that applies to the launch market. SpaceX can launch any F9/FH-compatible payload in the world from their own US launch sites, with the exception of foreign government payloads that have national security concerns or are intended to prop up local aerospace companies. (In the latter case, they aren't going to use US-built hardware.)
« Last Edit: 12/02/2017 01:09 pm by Paul451 »

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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My emphasis:

Elon: On track to double launch rate this year from last year.

If all goes to plan this year, SpaceX will launch more missions than any other country this year.

Elon recapping success of SpaceX today.

Once we started landing booster, success rate has been high.

Goals with Block 5
- Really it's the 6th iteration of Falcon 9
- This will be last major version.
- There will be small improvements/minor changes from here for manufacturing and reusability.
- Up to 300 more flights of Falcon 9 Block 5 before retirement.

"Block is s strange word we took from the Russians."

Offline Steve G

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SLS will keep flying until New Glenn and BFR have been flight proven. There is no guarantee that either will work. So NASA won't abandon a LV so close to making its debut flight. If BFR works as advertised, it will make every LV in the world obsolete.

Offline envy887

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Musk said 300 or maybe more.

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Musk said 300 or maybe more.

Yes, with thanks to @theinternetftw:

Transcript of the call:

https://gist.github.com/theinternetftw/5ba82bd5f4099934fa0556b9d09c123e

The actual quote was:

Quote from: Elon Musk
We think of probably winding up with something on the order of 300 flights, maybe more, of Falcon 9 Block 5 before retirement.
« Last Edit: 05/11/2018 08:51 am by FutureSpaceTourist »

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Time for an update on this poll.

The Falcon family has recently passed 230 orbital flights. Starship is clearly going to take a while longer (12, 18, 24 months?) to start eating into Falcon flight numbers. So looks like this poll has quite a way to run yet.

Offline Zed_Noir

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Time for an update on this poll.

The Falcon family has recently passed 230 orbital flights. Starship is clearly going to take a while longer (12, 18, 24 months?) to start eating into Falcon flight numbers. So looks like this poll has quite a way to run yet.

After the Starship is in service, it might not affected the Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy flight rate for at least a couple of years. Basically adding another 80 to 100 launches per year before the Falcon rocket family will only fly Dragons to the ISS and high energy missions.

So the question is will the Falcon family reach 500 launches before retirement?

Offline TrevorMonty

Time for an update on this poll.

The Falcon family has recently passed 230 orbital flights. Starship is clearly going to take a while longer (12, 18, 24 months?) to start eating into Falcon flight numbers. So looks like this poll has quite a way to run yet.
I'm going say 500 as its another 170 before SS takes over Starlink launches. Can't see rest of F9 customers rushing to use SS as for most of payloads F9 is better match. Going be long time before crew ever stop using Dragon and risk their lives on LV without LAS.

Offline Paul451

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After the Starship is in service, it might not affected the Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy flight rate for at least a couple of years.

SpaceX will want to move Starlink launches to SS almost immediately. Current work on the "Pez dispenser" and the larger next-gen Starlink satellites strongly hints at that. That alone cuts a bit over half of F9 launches.

It also gives them a flight-rate that proves the new vehicle for the clients who've shown a willingness to risk being early-adopters before; ditto the constellation builders, like OneWeb, where cost-is-king. After that, it depends on non-refuelled capacity to GEO and the failure-rate of early launches.



Aside: At currently 60+ launches per year. Half Starlink. Move those to SS and you've got ~30 remaining F9/FH launcher per year. If not a single other payload moves to (the presumably cheaper) Starship, that still means about 8 years to get to 500 F9/FH launches. Which does not seem reasonable to me.

[edit: That's not to say that F9 won't be operating in 8 years, especially for Dragon/ISS. Just that I can't see them launching 30+ F9 launches per year, so the flight-rate will be in exponential/log recline towards a final value well below 500.]
« Last Edit: 05/31/2023 02:56 am by Paul451 »

Offline TrevorMonty

After the Starship is in service, it might not affected the Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy flight rate for at least a couple of years.

SpaceX will want to move Starlink launches to SS almost immediately. Current work on the "Pez dispenser" and the larger next-gen Starlink satellites strongly hints at that. That alone cuts a bit over half of F9 launches.

It also gives them a flight-rate that proves the new vehicle for the clients who've shown a willingness to risk being early-adopters before; ditto the constellation builders, like OneWeb, where cost-is-king. After that, it depends on non-refuelled capacity to GEO and the failure-rate of early launches.



Aside: At currently 60+ launches per year. Half Starlink. Move those to SS and you've got ~30 remaining F9/FH launcher per year. If not a single other payload moves to (the presumably cheaper) Starship, that still means about 8 years to get to 500 F9/FH launches. Which does not seem reasonable to me.

[edit: That's not to say that F9 won't be operating in 8 years, especially for Dragon/ISS. Just that I can't see them launching 30+ F9 launches per year, so the flight-rate will be in exponential/log recline towards a final value well below 500.]
Already 33 F9 launches in first 5 months so 80-100 is realistic for 2023.

Offline Zed_Noir

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After the Starship is in service, it might not affected the Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy flight rate for at least a couple of years.

SpaceX will want to move Starlink launches to SS almost immediately. Current work on the "Pez dispenser" and the larger next-gen Starlink satellites strongly hints at that. That alone cuts a bit over half of F9 launches.

It also gives them a flight-rate that proves the new vehicle for the clients who've shown a willingness to risk being early-adopters before; ditto the constellation builders, like OneWeb, where cost-is-king. After that, it depends on non-refuelled capacity to GEO and the failure-rate of early launches.



Aside: At currently 60+ launches per year. Half Starlink. Move those to SS and you've got ~30 remaining F9/FH launcher per year. If not a single other payload moves to (the presumably cheaper) Starship, that still means about 8 years to get to 500 F9/FH launches. Which does not seem reasonable to me.

[edit: That's not to say that F9 won't be operating in 8 years, especially for Dragon/ISS. Just that I can't see them launching 30+ F9 launches per year, so the flight-rate will be in exponential/log recline towards a final value well below 500.]
Already 33 F9 launches in first 5 months so 80-100 is realistic for 2023.
Presuming Starship deploying Starlink V2 starting around mid 2024. Since they will need developmental Starship flights for the Artemis variants as well.

Doubtful there will be more than half a dozen Starlink V2 flights in 2024 and maybe a dozen flights in 2025 with Starship. Think SpaceX will surge launch the ver 2 mini and the older ver 1.5 during 2024 and early 2025 with Falcon 9 to fill up and replenished the constellation. It depends on if the Falcon 9 cores don't need actual refurbishment once they gone over 25 flights and the launch availability of Starships for Starlink flights during 2024 & 2025.

There is a possibility that Falcon family might have about 415 launches before ending launches of Starlinks on them. So might get near or over the 500 launches before retiring.

Offline Paul451

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Already 33 F9 launches in first 5 months

Around half of which are Starlink. Hence the first payloads moved to Starship.

Offline TrevorMonty

Already 33 F9 launches in first 5 months

Around half of which are Starlink. Hence the first payloads moved to Starship.
SS is still a while away from being operational.

Offline rpapo

Already 33 F9 launches in first 5 months

Around half of which are Starlink. Hence the first payloads moved to Starship.
SS is still a while away from being operational.
"Minimum Viable Product".  They will start using Starship for Starlink as soon as they possibly can.  In part because it is a good way to work out the kinks in Starship.

Though, from where I sit, I don't think they will make serious inroads into Falcon until at least 2024H2.
Following the space program since before Apollo 8.

Offline Robotbeat

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Trying to launch the full 42000 2-ton Starlink satellites with Falcon 9 would cost SpaceX $100 Billion more than if they can use Starship to launch it, even with conservative assumptions of Starship launch costs ($150/kg) and optimistic assumptions for Falcon 9 launch costs ($1500/kg).


It would be over 5000 Falcon 9 launches LOL

(Itís actually fairly likely SpaceX will launch Falcon over 300 more times at this point.)
« Last Edit: 05/31/2023 04:35 pm by Robotbeat »
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Offline Vahe231991

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Already 33 F9 launches in first 5 months

Around half of which are Starlink. Hence the first payloads moved to Starship.
SS is still a while away from being operational.
That's right. The Falcon Heavy has had an extremely low annual launch cadence compared to the Falcon 9, and Starship is unique among SpaceX SLVs in having the capability to take mankind to the Moon or Mars.

Offline AmigaClone

Already 33 F9 launches in first 5 months

Around half of which are Starlink. Hence the first payloads moved to Starship.
SS is still a while away from being operational.
"Minimum Viable Product".  They will start using Starship for Starlink as soon as they possibly can.  In part because it is a good way to work out the kinks in Starship.

Though, from where I sit, I don't think they will make serious inroads into Falcon until at least 2024H2.

Personally I suspect that between half and two thirds of Starship missions prior to the launch of Artemis III will be either general testing of the Starship stack and/or related to SpaceX's commitments relating to NASA's HLS program. While some of the testing might include Starlink deployment,  I agree that those will not greatly impact SpaceX's Falcon 9 family launch cadence for several years.

Offline Paul451

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[edit: Just to clarify, this is only partially a reply to Vahe231991. It's more about clarifying my take on the general subject. Hopefully they don't feel attacked by a 1000 line response to their two line comment...]

Already 33 F9 launches in first 5 months
Around half of which are Starlink. Hence the first payloads moved to Starship.
SS is still a while away from being operational.
That's right. The Falcon Heavy has had an extremely low annual launch cadence compared to the Falcon 9, and Starship is unique among SpaceX SLVs in having the capability to take mankind to the Moon or Mars.

There's no comparison between FH and SS.

FH is always going to be more expensive to launch than F9 (given that it's a slightly customised F9 plus two extra boosters.) So if you don't need the capacity of FH, you are obviously not going to use it.

However, SS is intended to be cheaper than F9. Not just in $/kg, but $/flight. That means that even if you don't need the ridiculous payload capacity of Starship, it is still the cheaper option. The only reason to stick with F9 is the unproven nature of SS.

SpaceX can make the decision to move Starlink launches to SS and wear the higher risk. And it's in their nature to do that during the test campaign. [I suspect as soon as they get a single successful launch (not necessarily a successful recovery), they will be chomping at the bit to switch over.]

And that was my point.

There's currently ~30 non-Starlink F9 launches per year. 2018 it was around 20/yr. 50% over 4 years. That's not a fast enough increase to change the maths. ~45-50 payloads/yr by 2027?

And much of the increase seems to be payloads that can most easily switch over to SS. Such as the "Transporter" ride-share missions, multi-satellite constellation launches, etc. Not to mention SpaceX's Starlink-derived military contract, which, like Starlink itself, can be easily switched over to SS.

The entire operational history of F9 has ~230 launches. ~270 more launches to reach 500. Currently there's ~30 non-Starlink launches per year. Even assuming solid non-Starlink growth, it's still at least 5yrs to reach 270 launches.

But...

You can't assume that the growth in non-Starlink launches will be on F9/FH.

Like Starlink, any customer who is cost sensitive is going to switch to Starship as soon as it reaches their internal threshold of risk-vs-cost. Over time, the number of customers that will use F9 over Starship will decline. And that'll especially be the case with new customers, new payloads.

In other words, you don't just need SpaceX launch rate to increase, you need it to increase amongst the specific set of customers that are committed to F9.

It's not enough to say "Starship won't be operational before 2024/2025" or "F9 flightrate is increasing", you need to show where the customers are coming from who can't or won't switch to Starship over the next decade.

Unless Starship is delayed by more than 5 years, I can't see how F9/FH can reach 500 launches. There just physically aren't enough payloads left.
« Last Edit: 06/02/2023 01:58 pm by Paul451 »

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