Author Topic: Starship Manufacturing cost?  (Read 4824 times)

Offline DanClemmensen

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Starship Manufacturing cost?
« on: 11/07/2021 04:04 pm »
As an uneducated outsider, Starship appears to be designed for low manufacturing cost relative to other space vehicles. Is this correct? SpaceX chose to use lots of medium-sized engines, which results in mass-produced engines with a lower total cost. They standardized on the 9 m stainless steel ring. Yes, stainless steel is (relatively) expensive, but no need for paint. Single-wall construction (the skin is also the tank).   Construction techniques (apparently) do not require clean rooms. Welding does not (apparenlty) use exotic techniques. (Nearly) single-site manufacturing co-located with launch site. Eventual economies of scale due to rapid production pace possibly reaching multiple SS/SH per month using the same workforce and facilities. use of CH4 instead of H2.

Due to reusability and the mix-and-match nature of SH/SS combination, I'm not even sure how to compare unit costs with other launchers. it's clear that SH/SS will be dramatically cheaper on a cost per payload mass basis, but I'm interested here in absolute unit costs per launcher. Since this is unit cost, we can look at reusability separately. I suppose we can also look at delivery to the launch site separately. So here goes:

SH versus Atlas V, Delta, Vulcan, New Glenn first stages.
SH versus Falcon, Falcon Heavy first stages.
SS versus various second stages
SS versus various Crewed spacecraft (Crew Dragon, Starliner, Orion unit cost)

Any recommendations on to how to ask more a more meaningful question about relative unit cost would be appreciated.

Offline wannamoonbase

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Re: Starship Manufacturing cost?
« Reply #1 on: 06/22/2022 02:40 pm »
I was searching for something else but found your thread on SS/SH costs.

I've been curious myself on the cost per SH and per SS.  Taking out the development and costs in vested, just the unit costs per vehicle, once in steady state construction.

A small group could probably break each vehicle in to pieces and add up the costs.

Raptors, material, labor, general overhead etc etc.

I wouldn't be surprised if a small group could estimate the cost of each vehicle to within 10-20%.
Wildly optimistic prediction, Superheavy recovery on IFT-4 or IFT-5 (Welp a little early on IFT-4, but still have a shot at 5)

Offline dglow

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Re: Starship Manufacturing cost?
« Reply #2 on: 06/22/2022 02:54 pm »
This response is not intended to sound glib, but a fully-reusable vehicle renders the comparisons you outline effectively meaningless.

Musk repeats it over and over: cost per unit of mass to destination. That’s the point of comparison that matters.

Offline DanClemmensen

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Re: Starship Manufacturing cost?
« Reply #3 on: 06/22/2022 03:15 pm »
This response is not intended to sound glib, but a fully-reusable vehicle renders the comparisons you outline effectively meaningless.

Musk repeats it over and over: cost per unit of mass to destination. That’s the point of comparison that matters.
Very true, but not all the rockets on my comparison lists are expendable. I was trying to figure out unit cost of manufacture, which is then amortized across multiple launches to factor in to the cost of a launch.

The numbers are meaningful if this is the simplest way to make the absolute manufacturing cost estimates.

If a Vulcan booster ends up being only 1/5 the cost of an SH, then an expended SH is cheaper per ton to orbit than the Vulcan booster and a reusable SH is less per launch (absolute, not per ton) if it flies six times. If SH flies 50 times, with a unit cost of $100 million, the amortized cost is $2 million/mission. A mission has lots of other costs, of course.

Offline dglow

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Re: Starship Manufacturing cost?
« Reply #4 on: 06/22/2022 03:33 pm »
Price per unit mass to destination. If you want a dedicated ride then minimum mission price becomes a consideration.

Offline su27k

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Re: Starship Manufacturing cost?
« Reply #5 on: 06/23/2022 04:11 am »
Old threads:

What if starship is unreasonably cheap?

Will SS/SH be unreasonably cheap?

Elon's cost target:

https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1094793664809689089

Quote
This will sound implausible, but I think there’s a path to build Starship / Super Heavy for less than Falcon 9


Zubrin shares new info about Starship.

Quote
Starship cost target: $5M

Offline DanClemmensen

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Re: Starship Manufacturing cost?
« Reply #6 on: 06/23/2022 04:27 am »
Price per unit mass to destination. If you want a dedicated ride then minimum mission price becomes a consideration.
I fully understand this. The two costs are used to evaluate two separate things. Price per kg tells you which medium and larger launchers will become non-competitive. Price per launch tells you which small launchers will become non-competitive.

Max payload per launch tells you that SLS is non-competitive. :)

Offline MGoDuPage

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Re: Starship Manufacturing cost?
« Reply #7 on: 06/26/2022 10:42 pm »
Price per unit mass to destination. If you want a dedicated ride then minimum mission price becomes a consideration.
I fully understand this. The two costs are used to evaluate two separate things. Price per kg tells you which medium and larger launchers will become non-competitive. Price per launch tells you which small launchers will become non-competitive.

Max payload per launch tells you that SLS is non-competitive. :)


And as a practical matter, calculating
“price per unit mass to destination” (as well as “price per launch”) is a higher order calculation that is subject to several variables. One key variable of course will be how much overhead costs can be amortized over the course of multiple flights.

Obviously flight reuse can’t be determined right now. I presume a big motivation of ballpark estimating the manufacturing cost of each new unit isn’t because that in & of itself matters. Rather, because it goes into those overall “cost per unit mass to destination” & “cost per launch to destination” equations.

In other words, responding to the question, “How much does a loaf of bread/gallon of milk cost?” by saying, “Well that’s irrelevant, what REALLY matters is what the average grocery bill is”, is a bit puzzling.

Yeah, the more relevant question is the cost of the overall grocery bill. But there’s literally no way to start estimating that until some reasonable cost estimates can be made for some of the major cost components that will influence the final number.
« Last Edit: 06/26/2022 11:44 pm by MGoDuPage »

Offline Vahe231991

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Re: Starship Manufacturing cost?
« Reply #8 on: 02/15/2023 10:34 pm »
From NextBigFuture:
Quote
If there were 100 Starship built each year and 20 Super Heavy Boosters, then each Starship would have about $4 million in labor and each Super Heavy booster would have about $10 million in labor. If the production rate was halved and the staff levels were the same then the labor for Starship would be $8 million and the Super Heavy booster would be $20 million. SpaceX is four times slower of the goal at the two per month construction rate. The labor for each Starship would be $16 million and the Super Heavy booster would be $40 million.

Offline Blackjax

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Re: Starship Manufacturing cost?
« Reply #9 on: 02/16/2023 02:13 am »
This response is not intended to sound glib, but a fully-reusable vehicle renders the comparisons you outline effectively meaningless.

Musk repeats it over and over: cost per unit of mass to destination. That’s the point of comparison that matters.

Personally I am interested in the manufacturing cost of Starship because it will give some indications of minimum price to customers if Starship has to operate as an expendable vehicle for the first 2-3 years while SpaceX works to sort out the kinks in the heatshield and other reusable elements.

 

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