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Commercial and US Government Launch Vehicles => ULA - Delta, Atlas, Vulcan => Topic started by: georgesowers on 04/23/2015 07:52 PM

Title: Reuse business case
Post by: georgesowers on 04/23/2015 07:52 PM
As I promised on the Q&A thread, I have posted a simple spread sheet that looks at reuse scenarios parametrically.  I have also posted a white paper that explains the input parameter and math behind the spreadsheet.  Using the tool, I compare two scenarios.  The first is my assessment of full booster stage reuse.  The second is ULA's approach of booster engine reuse.

The figure of merit I chose to evaluate is pure $/kg of the reusable system compared to $/kg of the same system used in expendable mode.  By keeping everything in terms of ratios, you don't need to know anything about actual costs.  I recognize that there are other factors like the quantization of performance and payloads, etc.  (I'll share some of those scenarios later).  But I think this assessment gives you a good intuitive feel for the basic problem and the parameters involved.

An example of where this pure case applies directly is the launch of a commodity like propellant to fill an orbiting stage or depot.  In that case every launcher would load as much as it could carry and $/kg is all that matters.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: docmordrid on 04/23/2015 08:50 PM
Another factor for the business case: it needs 10 flights/year

SFN.... (http://spaceflightnow.com/2015/04/22/ula-needs-commercial-business-to-close-vulcan-rocket-business-case/)

Quote
ULA needs commercial business to close Vulcan rocket  business case
>
The Vulcan rocket must fly at least 10 times per year to keep factory and launch crews operating at the efficiencies needed to reach ULA’s price goal of $100 million per mission....
>
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 04/23/2015 10:18 PM
Dr. Sowers: I love the explanation of the spreadsheet (thanks for sharing the sheet and your exposition) but I was unclear as to the k values (k is "the fraction of the total cost of the expendable launch service represented by the production cost of the hardware to be reused." which is C(B)/ C(B) + C(~B) )

You stated for the SpaceX scenario 1 case that you are using .4 for k ("based on internet chatter" :) ) and that ULA is <.3 but in the ULA scenario 2 case you state k at .18

Could you clarify that? Are you saying that if ULA did a flyback booster you'd have a .3 or less but with the SMART proposal it's .18 or ???

Also if I understand k, it's the fraction of the total cost of the vehicle that is recovered because that part of the vehicle is reused... internet chatter on NSF seems to use .7 as the fraction of an F9 cost based on Elon saying the first stage is 70% of the cost.

Thanks for shedding light!
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RedLineTrain on 04/23/2015 11:35 PM
Interesting.  Thank you for posting.  Very sensitive to the performance ratio (p) and recovered production cost (k).
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: NovaSilisko on 04/24/2015 12:04 AM
Lovely info. Hugely appreciate seeing some arithmetic behind the decisions here  :)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: georgesowers on 04/24/2015 12:59 AM
Dr. Sowers: I love the explanation of the spreadsheet (thanks for sharing the sheet and your exposition) but I was unclear as to the k values (k is "the fraction of the total cost of the expendable launch service represented by the production cost of the hardware to be reused." which is C(B)/ C(B) + C(~B) )

You stated for the SpaceX scenario 1 case that you are using .4 for k ("based on internet chatter" :) ) and that ULA is <.3 but in the ULA scenario 2 case you state k at .18

Could you clarify that? Are you saying that if ULA did a flyback booster you'd have a .3 or less but with the SMART proposal it's .18 or ???

Also if I understand k, it's the fraction of the total cost of the vehicle that is recovered because that part of the vehicle is reused... internet chatter on NSF seems to use .7 as the fraction of an F9 cost based on Elon saying the first stage is 70% of the cost.

Thanks for shedding light!

The booster is <0.3 of our total cost.  The engines, which we are recovering via SMART reuse are 0.18 of the total cost.  I don't think 0.7 can possibly be relative to the total cost including fixed cost and overhead.  It might be relative to the total production cost.  If you use that with some reasonable assumption about other non-hardware costs, 0.4 is appropriate. 

I have a detailed understanding of our cost structure.  I know how much is pads and factory and engineering and management and all those things other than pure hardware.  Even though I don't have any insight into details of SpX, I know they have more as many pads as we do, a factory like we do, a test site we don't have, more employees, etc.  All that has to be accounted for in the cost.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: a_langwich on 04/24/2015 01:12 AM
Also if I understand k, it's the fraction of the total cost of the vehicle that is recovered because that part of the vehicle is reused... internet chatter on NSF seems to use .7 as the fraction of an F9 cost based on Elon saying the first stage is 70% of the cost.

I think Elon Musk was saying the first stage is 70% of the manufacturing cost for F9.  k is the (manufacturing costs of the reusable portion)'s fraction of the total cost of the entire launch service, which the explanation PDF explicitly said was important to capture.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Burninate on 04/24/2015 01:52 AM
This image was posted previously.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: joek on 04/24/2015 03:13 AM
Thank you very much Dr. Sowers.  This is hard to beat: interesting, informative and fun.  If I am interpreting this correctly, where I < 1 indicates the number of launches required for reuse to become cost effective?  (The figure below is from your scenarios.)  Thanks again

edit: update figure to clarify.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: sublimemarsupial on 04/24/2015 03:25 AM
"First is that when you reuse hardware, you lower the production rate on the hardware you are building, which results in a higher cost per unit produced."

What happens if this assumption is incorrect? In the case of the Scenario 1 company, their factory is readily set up to convert most all production resources from making the now reusable booster to the expendable second stage - everything from tankage, engines, avionics, tube bending, etc due to the commonality between the two stages. If the resuable booster allows them to increase their flight rate, they may actually end up reducing the overall production costs rather than increasing them.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: su27k on 04/24/2015 06:05 AM
Looks to me there're two issues with this calculation:
1. It didn't account for the value of the reusable core at the end of the calculation. After N expandable launches, you got nothing left; after N reusable launches, you still got a few cores, these have value. Another way to look at this is: you can expand the reusable core in its last launch, thus gets back some performance.
2. As I understand it, there're a lot of fixed overhead in the business that doesn't change much with regard to the # of launches. For example, assuming p = 2, I can try to launch the reusable twice to match the expandable performance, but then I got hit by twice the C(~B). I'm under the impression that the total cost wouldn't change much if your launch rate changes from once per year to twice per year.

Attached is my attempts to resolve these two issues. (PS: I'm on pain killers, so please forgive me for any arithmetic errors)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Oli on 04/24/2015 07:15 AM
Some thoughts on scenario 2:

- I expected the recovered production cost to launch cost ratio to be bigger, but I guess that number is well known.
- A recovery and refurb ratio of 0.1 sounds rather optimistic to me...
- If I understand the F term correctly, 10 reuses (for example) will increase unit cost by a factor 1.42. So if only 1 engine is produced per year instead of 10 (for example), that one engine will only be 1.42x more expensive. Kind of hard to believe.

Other thoughts:

- The analysis assumes the same rocket configuration. However for an expendable rocket one could use arguably cheaper "technologies" like kerosene/solids instead of methane.
- Development cost are only quickly mentioned, but of course a decisive factor for profitability.
- It assumes launch reliability does not decrease with reuse.

Overall I must say that the spreadsheet convinced me that the hopes that are put into reusability in this forum are not justified. It seems to be just another potential cost reduction measure. Certainly not a decisive one.


Before I forget: Thank you very much for all this information, very much appreciated!!
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: clongton on 04/24/2015 01:02 PM
Thank you Dr. Sowers for the spreadsheet and the white paper. Your numbers look promising but I wonder if they will actually come to fruition. Tory Bruno stated that the Vulcan will need to fly a minimum of 10 times per year in order to close the $100 million per flight business case for the Vulcan. Given the available launch market I wonder how you're going to get there. Less than 10 flights per year means that the cost will be over that price point. You will need to fight tooth and nail for commercial launches in the early years to get up to that number of annual flights. Does ULA plan to subsidize those early flights to keep that price point low until the volume reaches 10 per year where the price point can become self-sustaining?

One more thing if I may. In scenario 1 (booster stage re-use) the reuse index drops below 1 at 10 flights and in scenario 2 it drops below 1 at 2 flights. I know that scenario 2 is based on recovery of the Vulcan engine pod. Do I correctly assume that scenario 1 is based on ULA's estimate of recovering the entire Vulcan booster stage? What recovery method would Vulcan use in that scenario; RTLS with extendable legs or SRB-style splashdown & sea recovery? I would think that the RR_ratio would be calculated differently than scenario 2.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Prober on 04/24/2015 04:01 PM
This image was posted previously.

you don't have the Delta IV costs/weights do you....the wheels are turning :P
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: gosnold on 04/24/2015 06:56 PM
From the spreadsheet we can conclude that for Vulcan, the launch cost is 3.25x the cost of the first stage.

ref:
https://twitter.com/torybruno/status/588688390880530432
cost of engine=0.9*0.65*1st stage cost
cost of engine=0.18*launch cost
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: a_langwich on 04/24/2015 07:36 PM
Do I correctly assume that scenario 1 is based on ULA's estimate of recovering the entire Vulcan booster stage?

Based on his quotes above, I think it's pretty clear scenario 1 was meant to track SpaceX recovering its entire first stage.  That is, he's using their stage production cost numbers, and then substituting his experience for the numbers that aren't public to get a ballpark estimate.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: joek on 04/24/2015 07:41 PM
A couple other thoughts based on this model; hope I got this about right...

1. Vulcan reuse becomes cost effective at two (2) launches; F9 reuse becomes cost effective at ten (10) launches.  That is for the same set of reused components.  E.g., the same engines are reused twice for Vulcan; the same first stage is used ten times for F9 before reuse becomes cost effective.

2. The above provides an approximation of the maximum production (edit: or acquisition) for reuse components.  E.g., for a flight rate of 20/yr over the long term:
- Vulcan reuse is cost effective if no more than 20 engines/yr are produced.
- F9 reuse is cost effective if no more than 2 first stages/yr are produced.
Exceeding those production quantities would incur cost with no benefit and put you below the reuse cost-benefit threshold.

3. The maximum benefit obtainable under these assumptions given virtually unlimited reuse: Vulcan ~10%; F9 ~4%.

4. The Vulcan scenario 2 parameters are presumably with no solids (?).  Adding solids will reduce performance impact (Pe/Pr closer to 1) but also reduce recoverable production cost.  The reuse index plot will be something between that shown for scenario 2 and 1.0.

5. The reuse index I is dimensionless and comparable if costs and cost structure are comparable.  Which reuse approach is most competitive in the market may change significantly based on actual costs of the competitors.  Not that I'm suggesting trying to incorporate that in this model; simply noting that as a competitive analysis this has limits.

6. $/kg is a good FOM (have to base this on something), but there is a step function which is difficult to quantify.  The degenerate case being that there is no performance penalty for payloads below a certain threshold.  The degenerate cases are shown in the figure below as Scenario 1-X and Scenario 2-X (Pe/Pr = 1.0 with all other parameters the same).  Reality is probably somewhere in the regions bounded by the plots for Scenario 1 and Scenario 1-X; and Scenario 2 and Scenario 2-X.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Billium on 04/24/2015 10:56 PM
Thank you very much for posting this information. I’m just posting for discussion not asking for a reply.

I agree that item P (which I believe for Spacex is a 30% reduction in mass to orbit penalty for reuse) is appropriate to consider if what is being transported something like propellant, in other words if Spacex is being paid $x for each kg to orbit. However this calculation is not currently applicable to Spacex from a business perspective in my opinion because that is not how they are paid.

For Spacex they already designed their launch system to launch payloads with enough propellant for reuse. So whether or not they expend their launch system they still launch the same payload and still generate the same revenue.

So from a spacex business perspective, given the launcher they have in service, the financial hit that spacex takes for reuse is not 30% of the revenue but only the additional propellant, in other words filling the tank full instead of mostly full. In other words I think $/kg is not the correct measure for the business case here.

In conclusion I think from a spacex business perspective the P value should be 1.02 not 1.42. (I think I have the units right, this is meant to represent the performance loss due to reuse?)

I also agree with Lar that K should likely be closer to .7 not .4, I think the cost of the 1st stage is closer to 70% of the launch costs, not 40% of the launch costs.

I also assume that while the .9 rate exponent may be appropriate for typical aerospace manufacturing, this number may not be the appropriate rate exponent for Spacex. Maybe someone could come up with another number for Spacex (considering the commonality of the upper stage, general manufacturing process and the fact Spacex might need the extra stages anyways for its small sat/mars projects) and then run all of these numbers and see how it looks.

I think the cost of recovery (drone ship ect.) and cost of refurbishment are unknown, it would nice to have that information but we don't have it.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: gosnold on 04/25/2015 08:37 AM
Thank you very much for posting this information. I’m just posting for discussion not asking for a reply.

I agree that item P (which I believe for Spacex is a 30% reduction in mass to orbit penalty for reuse) is appropriate to consider if what is being transported something like propellant, in other words if Spacex is being paid $x for each kg to orbit. However this calculation is not currently applicable to Spacex from a business perspective in my opinion because that is not how they are paid.

For Spacex they already designed their launch system to launch payloads with enough propellant for reuse. So whether or not they expend their launch system they still launch the same payload and still generate the same revenue.

So from a spacex business perspective, given the launcher they have in service, the financial hit that spacex takes for reuse is not 30% of the revenue but only the additional propellant, in other words filling the tank full instead of mostly full. In other words I think $/kg is not the correct measure for the business case here.

In conclusion I think from a spacex business perspective the P value should be 1.02 not 1.42. (I think I have the units right, this is meant to represent the performance loss due to reuse?)

 I think the spreadsheet is meant to help choose between reusability or not when designing a rocket from scratch, not to evaluate the competition. So from the ULA point of view, the question is do they want to use the SpaceX strategy and make a 30% bigger launcher, or do they want smart reuse?

Quote
I also agree with Lar that K should likely be closer to .7 not .4, I think the cost of the 1st stage is closer to 70% of the launch costs, not 40% of the launch costs.
1st stage is 70% of the rocket production cost I think (ie 2nd stage is 30%), but the launch costs include range costs, rocket assembly and checkout, etc...
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 04/25/2015 09:16 AM
Dr. Sowers: I love the explanation of the spreadsheet (thanks for sharing the sheet and your exposition) but I was unclear as to the k values (k is "the fraction of the total cost of the expendable launch service represented by the production cost of the hardware to be reused." which is C(B)/ C(B) + C(~B) )

You stated for the SpaceX scenario 1 case that you are using .4 for k ("based on internet chatter" :) ) and that ULA is <.3 but in the ULA scenario 2 case you state k at .18

Could you clarify that? Are you saying that if ULA did a flyback booster you'd have a .3 or less but with the SMART proposal it's .18 or ???

Also if I understand k, it's the fraction of the total cost of the vehicle that is recovered because that part of the vehicle is reused... internet chatter on NSF seems to use .7 as the fraction of an F9 cost based on Elon saying the first stage is 70% of the cost.

Thanks for shedding light!

The booster is <0.3 of our total cost.  The engines, which we are recovering via SMART reuse are 0.18 of the total cost.  I don't think 0.7 can possibly be relative to the total cost including fixed cost and overhead.  It might be relative to the total production cost.  If you use that with some reasonable assumption about other non-hardware costs, 0.4 is appropriate. 

I have a detailed understanding of our cost structure.  I know how much is pads and factory and engineering and management and all those things other than pure hardware.  Even though I don't have any insight into details of SpX, I know they have more as many pads as we do, a factory like we do, a test site we don't have, more employees, etc.  All that has to be accounted for in the cost.

It's not valid to include fixed costs as part of k because the model assumes k is fixed even if the number of launches changes.  Since the model is a $/kg to orbit, putting fixed costs in k implies you are comparing $/kg to orbit on the same number of flights, not the same number of kg to orbit.

The $/kg model assumes something like propellant to a depot, where the number of kg is fixed.  For example, if you lose 50% performance for re-use, you would have twice as many flights, and by having fixed costs in k that assumes your fixed costs double also.

The model only makes sense if k includes only marginal costs, not fixed costs.

The conclusions of the model are badly skewed by this error.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: joek on 04/25/2015 09:34 AM
I agree that item P (which I believe for Spacex is a 30% reduction in mass to orbit penalty for reuse) is appropriate to consider if what is being transported something like propellant, in other words if Spacex is being paid $x for each kg to orbit. However this calculation is not currently applicable to Spacex from a business perspective in my opinion because that is not how they are paid.

It is not how anyone in the launch business is paid.  Nevertheless, when attempting to do  apples-to-apples comparisons, you need to agree on the apples; in this case $/kg, a commonly used metric.  Or more properly in this case an abstraction of $/kg represented by the reuse index I.  That is inherently limited, but likely the best we can hope for at the moment (point #5 in post above) without actual cost data.

To determine which approach is most cost effective, you must also know the actual costs to translate I into $, and thus into $/kg.  You also need to know the reuse performance penalty for a payload of a given mass (i.e., the market requirement).  As you suggest, for some that will be zero (#6 and plots for scenario 1-x and 2-x in post above).

All of that applies to both SpaceX and ULA.  Although you might disagree with some of the assumptions or parameters, there is nothing peculiar or specific in the model to SpaceX or ULA.  Just be aware of the model's limitations and that caution is warranted.

For example, see plot Vulcan-A and Vulcan-B in the figure.  Vulcan-B appears to be preferable.  However, what if the reason is that the engine price increased in absolute terms and as a percentage of recoverable costs--with a consequent increase in launch costs?  That would not be good if your competitors costs have not increased.

Quote
I also agree with Lar that K should likely be closer to .7 not .4, I think the cost of the 1st stage is closer to 70% of the launch costs, not 40% of the launch costs.

From Musk lays out plans for reusability of the Falcon 9 rocket (http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2013/10/musk-plans-reusability-falcon-9-rocket/):
Quote
Musk believes that the most revolutionary aspect of the new Falcon 9 is the potential reuse of the first stage “which is almost three-quarters of the cost of the rocket.”

Cost of rocket is not the same as cost of launch.  While a k] of 0.4 for scenario 1 may be low, it is probably much closer than 0.7.

Quote
I also assume that while the .9 rate exponent may be appropriate for typical aerospace manufacturing, this number may not be the appropriate rate exponent for Spacex. Maybe someone could come up with another number for Spacex (considering the commonality of the upper stage, general manufacturing process and the fact Spacex might need the extra stages anyways for its small sat/mars projects) and then run all of these numbers and see how it looks.

See SpaceX-B plot in figure below; rate exponent rF = 1.0, which is as good as it gets (unless someone can make a case for rf > 1).  The difference is relatively small, although it does shift the minimum reuse point left a few launches..
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: clongton on 04/25/2015 10:59 AM
Do I correctly assume that scenario 1 is based on ULA's estimate of recovering the entire Vulcan booster stage?

Based on his quotes above, I think it's pretty clear scenario 1 was meant to track SpaceX recovering its entire first stage.

I disagree. If it were clear I wouldn't have asked the question. Using the 30% "penalty" could just as easily been applied to the Vulcan. Just because he said Ms Shotwell said the Falcon uses 30% doesn't mean he switched at that point to discussing the Falcon and not the Vulcan.  It is also possible that he simply used that data point for the Vulcan.

Else, why did he not say "Here's a comparison of Vulcan pod recovery v.s. Falcon stage recovery"? Right. He did not say that. ISTM that his spreadsheet, unless qualified otherwise, is discussing 2 different recovery modes for the Vulcan. But it's not clear. Hence my question.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: muomega0 on 04/25/2015 02:28 PM
Life Cycle Cost per Pound of Payload for Multiple Launchers not individual launchers

One of the key figures of merit when discussing reuse or LV pricing in general is Life Cycle Cost per Pound of Payload (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=32409.msg1162734#msg1162734)--scroll down to the plot shown at bottom of the link.  So once this is determined per LV, the integrated, multiple LV solution is then required.   If you take a close look at the plot, when the annual metric tonnes allocated to the individual LV decreases, the price increases per LV size (vertical).  How the annual metric tonnes are distributed is important to each LV, as well as size(s) and number of LV(s) and variants.

The model is only a start as pointed out by many above.  Thanks for posting the model, the explanation of the model and its limitations, and all the comments.  $/kg can only work if you consider the complete, consolidated fleet of LVs (how to determine the cost of 6,000kg of propellant launched a year ago by a different competitor otherwise in the gas n go architecture?)

The additional data required:
o Average annual metric tonnes is a key figure of merit (10 launches of 15 or 30 mT?)
o number of launch vehicles and providers (SLS, Delta, Atlas, Falcon, FH, Vulcan, and variants)
o payload capacity (s) of launch vehicles required (the size of payloads)
o how the payloads are distributed to the LV(s)
o development costs
o distribution of payload costs ($B satellite vs $/gal prop vs crew (no solids?),  IOW:  Class type)
o reliability of reuse helps determine cost of payload (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=36722.msg1343257#msg1343257)
o architecture (LEO depot?) (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=35839.msg1271161#msg1271161)
o the LV design options (if one can fill up on orbit, why have so many LV variants?)

One study examines the costs of reuse for Individual LVs (http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20120000791.pdf), and the integrated study is required for multiple LVs. 

The solution will shift if/when one considers a larger market of separate Class D payload:  propellant,  but the current space policy is to keep everything separate (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=36013.msg1284318#msg1284318).   Shifting HLV $ to payload/missions is a key consideration for reuse unless some other major market develops.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: woods170 on 04/25/2015 07:31 PM
Lot's of interesting posts here but I worry about the total lack of credibility-analysis of the spreadsheet itself.
Half of the parameters used are either estimates, guesstimates or assumptions.
With that much uncertainty I personally would not give any credibility to any of the results of calculations based on this spreadsheet.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: John-H on 04/26/2015 12:11 AM
Lot's of interesting posts here but I worry about the total lack of credibility-analysis of the spreadsheet itself.
Half of the parameters used are either estimates, guesstimates or assumptions.
With that much uncertainty I personally would not give any credibility to any of the results of calculations based on this spreadsheet.

There are a lot of assumptions here, but no more than any business plan that extends out more than a couple of years. Most of the parameters seem reasonable guesses at this stage.

I can say one thing with 100% certainty: None of the predictions by any of the parties will be valid 5 years from now. :)

John
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: falconeer on 04/26/2015 03:21 AM
It's not valid to include fixed costs as part of k because the model assumes k is fixed even if the number of launches changes.  Since the model is a $/kg to orbit, putting fixed costs in k implies you are comparing $/kg to orbit on the same number of flights, not the same number of kg to orbit.

The $/kg model assumes something like propellant to a depot, where the number of kg is fixed.  For example, if you lose 50% performance for re-use, you would have twice as many flights, and by having fixed costs in k that assumes your fixed costs double also.

The model only makes sense if k includes only marginal costs, not fixed costs.

The conclusions of the model are badly skewed by this error.

As far as I understand, your analysis is spot on. 'k' needs to marginal costs only (i.e. manufacturing, direct labor, propellant, transportation, per-flight range costs, etc...) for both Vulcan and F9. It should not include ANY fixed costs, as that would completely invalidate the analysis.

Unlike most of the other parameters, 'k' and 'p' have a huge effect on minimum flight rate.

Keeping 'p' at 1.43 (1/0.7), and the other parameters at their default values provided by Dr.Sowers,

@ k=0.4, break even @ 10 flights
@ k=0.5, break even @ 5 flights
@ k=0.6, break even @ 4 flights
@ k=0.7, break even @ 3 flights

As you can see, just the jump from k=0.4 to k=0.5 halves the required flight rate!

Using k=0.7 for F9 (and default parameters), you get:
- 3 flights to break even
- 33% cost reduction @ 10 flights.

Using k=0.6*0.65=0.39 for Vulcan (0.6 due to upper/lower stage cost ratio), and default parameters, you get:
-2 flights to break even
-26% cost reduction @ 10 flights

The two scenarios intersect at roughly 6 flights. So if one expected >6 reused flights, boostback seems to be the winner here.

I believe these numbers are the closest apples vs. apples comparison of the reuse modes in this model. If we could get clarification from both SpaceX and Dr.Sowers re: k-values (with only marginal costs) that would improve accuracy.

PS. Thanks again to Dr.Sowers for engaging with us!





Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RedLineTrain on 04/26/2015 04:55 PM
Lot's of interesting posts here but I worry about the total lack of credibility-analysis of the spreadsheet itself.
Half of the parameters used are either estimates, guesstimates or assumptions.

The model is very sensitive to p.  Keeping all else as given, taking a 25% payload hit instead of a 30% hit results in payback in 5 launches rather than 10.  A 35% hit results in payback in 91 launches.

While reasonable for Dr. Sowers to use this 30% number (it is from Shotwell), I have always thought of this as a sandbagged figure, even when returning to launch site.  It would be nice to see some analysis.  It might also be a number that could move downward over time.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: The Amazing Catstronaut on 04/26/2015 08:06 PM
Are refurbishment costs being factored here?

Edit: That's unknown (or at best, speculative) information from both parties, right now. Another unknown which messes with the method.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: MikeAtkinson on 04/26/2015 11:09 PM
There are several strategies used to adapt launch vehicles to different payload masses and destination orbits:

1. Use different second stages or a 3rd (kick) stage
2. Dual launch, mix and match satellites (Ariane 5/6)
3. single and tri-core (F9/FH)
4. Add boosters to the 1st stage (e.g. Vulcan)

The reusability business case needs to be investigated for each strategy separately, comparing different strategies is difficult because so many other factors change.

Different second stages / 3rd stage

It is difficult to make the business case for a reusable 1st stage. For any given payload a larger and more capable  (and hence more expensive) second stage is needed. As the exponential part of the rocket equation really kicks in at the needed delta-v for the second stage to GTO and similar orbits, it is unlikely the savings on the first stage would be much more than the added cost of the second stage. Adding a 3rd stage adds cost and risk (another separation event, more engine starts) and is probably not worth it either.

Dual launch, mix and match satellites

Assuming a 30% payload reduction, if the launcher is kept the same size then the smaller satellite would no longer fit. Dual launch would become single launch for the majority of satellites, only two small satellites could ride share, there has not been enough small satellites for efficient ride sharing.

If the launcher were made 30% larger, then the same satellites could ride share as the expendable launcher, but costs (as an expendable) would be 30% more. Reuse would reduce this by some factor, but for a launcher like Ariane 5 where a significant proportion of the costs are in the solid boosters, just reusing the core stage is probably not worth it. Ariane 6 looks like it will have solid first stage and that makes reuse problematic at the best of time.

This explains why reuse has not been on the agenda for Ariane 5 and probably won't be for Ariane 6.


Single and tri-core

For a pure single-core / tri-core launcher system, with no added solid boosters and a common upper stage, reuse makes sense if the cost of reuse is < 1/3 the cost of a new core and the cost of integrating and using the extra boosters on the tri-core version is a small proportion of the total cost. If these conditions are met, any payload which can be launched with an expendable version can be launched cheaper with the reusable version. Some payloads have to be transferred from the single-core to the tri-core but the launch cost is still less.

There are no (or at least very few) payloads that need the full expendable capacity of the heavy version, it is not worth considering reusability for those payloads (which are likely to be very expensive anyway).

Payloads that are too heavy for the single stick version, would still fly on the heavy version, just at lower cost.

Payloads that can fly on the reusable single stick (including probably most, if not all, LEO payloads that tend to be volume limited), continue to do so just at lower cost. This would include Delta-II and Soyuz class payloads.

That leaves payloads that are too heavy for the reusable single stick. Some proportion of those can fly on the heavy at lower cost. If the cost of stage reuse is low, then that proportion could be 100%. If the cost of reuse is higher or if the overhead of using a tri-core is high, then this proportion could be 0%. These are likely to be a relatively small proportion of the entire payloads (though a bigger proportion in value terms). Using down range recovery with a 15% payload loss means that a proportion (30-50%) of these payloads can still be launched on the single-core, but with added reuse costs, whether to use a single-core or heavy launch for these payloads is a decision that can be made when the costs of the various options are known.

For reuse to be fully effective for this strategy, cost of reuse of the core has to be small. Ideally whole core should be recovered whole at the launch site and reused with minimal processing.

This explains why SpaceX are so interested in RTLS of the entire stage and will probably reserve drone ship landings for only a couple of of launches a year.


Add boosters to the 1st stage

For any given payload the cost of reuse has to be compensated by adding solid rocket boosters. SMART needs 0.5 of a booster on average, while downrange recovery of the entire stage (15%) would need 1-2 boosters and RTLS would need 2-3 boosters.

The largest satellites and the most demanding trajectories could not use whole core recovery as the number of solid boosters is already at the limit.

This explains why ULA are looking at SMART for reuse for Valcan, no spreadsheet required :-)


Discussion

The SMART strategy gives bigger reductions (in percent of the total launch cost) for small payloads, for large payloads the cost of the solid boosters is significant and so limits the percentage reduction. Over the entire payload range the reduction in cost in $ terms will be similar.

For Falcon low mass payloads have a large reduction in percentage terms, medium payloads (at the top end of the F9 expendable range) have little or perhaps no reduction and high end payloads a large reduction as 3 cores are now reused. These medium payloads are a large percentage of the current market in both numbers and value. F9R is probably adequate for LEO launches, if launching LEO constellations becomes the dominant reason for launch then the F9 reuse strategy is very effective.

The big unknown is reuse cost. Falcon first stage might need a complete refurbishment and the long term costs of running the drone ship could be high, alternatively the first stage might just need an inspection and a quick clean and RTLS makes the drone ship almost redundant. Similarly the cost of recovery and reuse for SMART is unknown, ULA probably have some idea of the order of magnitude, but this early in the design not much more than that.

Using RTLS most cores will be recovered, just an occasional core will be lost due to failures in the return flight or engine recovery. A few cores will be recovered downrange and perhaps 30% of these will fail due to adverse weather. If SpaceX are launching their LEO satellite constellation we can expect about 2 recovery failure per year (50+ launches) or a recovery rate of 96%

SMART will recover the engines further downrange than the F9 cores where weather conditions are likely to be slightly worse on average. It is hard to estimate recovery percentage, but lets guess at 70%.

The effect of reuse on production rates is hard to quantify. SpaceX are limited to 40 cores/year at Hawthorne, which is 10 F9 and 10 FH. Reuse would allow them to increase the number of Falcon flights without relocating from Hawthorne, as the upper stage also uses Merlin engines increasing to 50+ flights per year for their LEO constellation reuse would not lead to a drop in Merlin production and a replacement of cores with upper stages on the production lines using much the same tooling. ULA will have to size production for their expected launch rate and reuse rate, hard to say what that might be at the moment, I believe ULA are basing their calculations on 15-20 per year, with about 10 launches the break even point.

Any economic case has to consider the price which can be charged. That is a large subject and deserves a post on its own.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: MarekCyzio on 04/27/2015 02:15 PM
I played with the numbers dr. Sowers provided and it seems to me that under slightly different assumptions Falcon 9 reuse becomes viable only after 5 flights. I changed two parameters:
- rF - based on other posts in SpaceX treads, it is not always true that mass production reduces unit costs. This is why SpaceX is planning to recover payload covers - increasing their production rate would increase the cost instead of decreasing it.
- RR_ratio - SpaceX goal is to make rockets as reusable as planes, so I assumed 0.01. I think it makes sense - if the booster costs $20M, refurbishment cost of $200K sounds reasonable

To make things even more interesting, if we assume rF being 1.1 (that would mean expanding production is expensive) makes F9 reuse viable only after 4 launches.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Malderi on 04/27/2015 05:11 PM
I played with the numbers dr. Sowers provided and it seems to me that under slightly different assumptions Falcon 9 reuse becomes viable only after 5 flights. I changed two parameters:
- rF - based on other posts in SpaceX treads, it is not always true that mass production reduces unit costs. This is why SpaceX is planning to recover payload covers - increasing their production rate would increase the cost instead of decreasing it.
- RR_ratio - SpaceX goal is to make rockets as reusable as planes, so I assumed 0.01. I think it makes sense - if the booster costs $20M, refurbishment cost of $200K sounds reasonable

To make things even more interesting, if we assume rF being 1.1 (that would mean expanding production is expensive) makes F9 reuse viable only after 4 launches.

I don't think their refurbishment costs will be anywhere near $200k. Probably several million at least, just in operations labor costs. Unless you're literally landing right back on your launch pad, you've got a lot of people involved in safing and moving it back and everything.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Rocket Surgeon on 04/28/2015 01:26 AM
Dr. Sowers: I love the explanation of the spreadsheet (thanks for sharing the sheet and your exposition) but I was unclear as to the k values (k is "the fraction of the total cost of the expendable launch service represented by the production cost of the hardware to be reused." which is C(B)/ C(B) + C(~B) )

You stated for the SpaceX scenario 1 case that you are using .4 for k ("based on internet chatter" :) ) and that ULA is <.3 but in the ULA scenario 2 case you state k at .18

Could you clarify that? Are you saying that if ULA did a flyback booster you'd have a .3 or less but with the SMART proposal it's .18 or ???

Also if I understand k, it's the fraction of the total cost of the vehicle that is recovered because that part of the vehicle is reused... internet chatter on NSF seems to use .7 as the fraction of an F9 cost based on Elon saying the first stage is 70% of the cost.

Thanks for shedding light!

The booster is <0.3 of our total cost.  The engines, which we are recovering via SMART reuse are 0.18 of the total cost.  I don't think 0.7 can possibly be relative to the total cost including fixed cost and overhead.  It might be relative to the total production cost.  If you use that with some reasonable assumption about other non-hardware costs, 0.4 is appropriate. 

I have a detailed understanding of our cost structure.  I know how much is pads and factory and engineering and management and all those things other than pure hardware.  Even though I don't have any insight into details of SpX, I know they have more as many pads as we do, a factory like we do, a test site we don't have, more employees, etc.  All that has to be accounted for in the cost.

It's not valid to include fixed costs as part of k because the model assumes k is fixed even if the number of launches changes.  Since the model is a $/kg to orbit, putting fixed costs in k implies you are comparing $/kg to orbit on the same number of flights, not the same number of kg to orbit.

The $/kg model assumes something like propellant to a depot, where the number of kg is fixed.  For example, if you lose 50% performance for re-use, you would have twice as many flights, and by having fixed costs in k that assumes your fixed costs double also.

The model only makes sense if k includes only marginal costs, not fixed costs.

The conclusions of the model are badly skewed by this error.

This would only be the case if there was a massive increase in launch rates, at a rate of 10 launches per year, which is with in the current capabilities and launch demands of both of these companies, assuming the fixed costs don't change from their current ratios is fairly reasonable.
However, if launch rates increase dramatically, then we would see a shift in K, becoming larger as the fixed costs are spread out more.

Discussion:
An interesting spread sheet, and I always love taking these things out to their limits to test them...kind of depressing to see that 100 reuses only reduces costs by 80-90%... but I guess by that point this model would no longer be valid.

One interesting implication of this that I worry about for the ULA is the fact that the Falcon 9 is essentially operating at the top of the curve already. i.e. n=1, Reuse Index =1.516. Based on that, the Falcon 9 could already be considered overpriced/under-performing for reusability with the loss of performance going to their testing, at least for LEO launches, and for future GTO launches once upgraded to the v1.2. Therefore, while the ULA method may actually be more effective at reducing costs (all things being equal and the assumptions in this spreadsheet being accurate), they are still going to be massively behind the 8-ball, as with only 3 reuses, the SpaceX price drops to ~$45 million, and averaging that over 10 launches. The Vulcan doing the same only averages at $88 million, almost double. Of course performance does need to be considered there, but I doubt the Vulcan is going to be able to lift twice as much as the Falcon 9 in its base configuration.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 04/28/2015 04:13 AM
You need to be comparing $/kg to GTO not actual launch cost for fair comparison.
 F9R will be  approx $11,000/kg ie <4t at $45m.
F9E will be $11,000/kg ie 6t at $65m
Vulcan ACES version will be approx $11,000/kg ie 8t at $90m  (Dimitry's estimate for core without SRB).

Given both LVs are same $/kg it comes down preferred vendor and payload mass.

For LEO missions F9 maybe cheaper per kg but ACES is more versatile with endurance measured in days and multiple restarts. These features would be ideal for constellation deployment.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 04/28/2015 04:26 AM
Dr. Sowers: I love the explanation of the spreadsheet (thanks for sharing the sheet and your exposition) but I was unclear as to the k values (k is "the fraction of the total cost of the expendable launch service represented by the production cost of the hardware to be reused." which is C(B)/ C(B) + C(~B) )

You stated for the SpaceX scenario 1 case that you are using .4 for k ("based on internet chatter" :) ) and that ULA is <.3 but in the ULA scenario 2 case you state k at .18

Could you clarify that? Are you saying that if ULA did a flyback booster you'd have a .3 or less but with the SMART proposal it's .18 or ???

Also if I understand k, it's the fraction of the total cost of the vehicle that is recovered because that part of the vehicle is reused... internet chatter on NSF seems to use .7 as the fraction of an F9 cost based on Elon saying the first stage is 70% of the cost.

Thanks for shedding light!

The booster is <0.3 of our total cost.  The engines, which we are recovering via SMART reuse are 0.18 of the total cost.  I don't think 0.7 can possibly be relative to the total cost including fixed cost and overhead.  It might be relative to the total production cost.  If you use that with some reasonable assumption about other non-hardware costs, 0.4 is appropriate. 

I have a detailed understanding of our cost structure.  I know how much is pads and factory and engineering and management and all those things other than pure hardware.  Even though I don't have any insight into details of SpX, I know they have more as many pads as we do, a factory like we do, a test site we don't have, more employees, etc.  All that has to be accounted for in the cost.

It's not valid to include fixed costs as part of k because the model assumes k is fixed even if the number of launches changes.  Since the model is a $/kg to orbit, putting fixed costs in k implies you are comparing $/kg to orbit on the same number of flights, not the same number of kg to orbit.

The $/kg model assumes something like propellant to a depot, where the number of kg is fixed.  For example, if you lose 50% performance for re-use, you would have twice as many flights, and by having fixed costs in k that assumes your fixed costs double also.

The model only makes sense if k includes only marginal costs, not fixed costs.

The conclusions of the model are badly skewed by this error.

This would only be the case if there was a massive increase in launch rates, at a rate of 10 launches per year, which is with in the current capabilities and launch demands of both of these companies, assuming the fixed costs don't change from their current ratios is fairly reasonable.
However, if launch rates increase dramatically, then we would see a shift in K, becoming larger as the fixed costs are spread out more.

No, you completely misunderstood my point.

Nearly everything we discuss on these boards is a matter of opinion.  This is not.  This is one of those rare cases where it's a matter of objective fact.

The model presented is incorrect if k includes fixed costs.  There's no dependence on "massive increase in launch rates".

The whole basis of the model is to compare re-use against no-re-use and see which is cheaper for each number of launches.  This is then used to determine how many launches are needed before re-use makes economic sense.

The model is based on the idea of $/kg, so if you lose performance, you need to do more flights to make up for it.  But it's using the same k for the re-use case (with more flights) as for the non-reuse case (with fewer flights.  That cannot be correct if k includes fixed costs.

The model is highly sensitive to changes is k, as mentioned in other posts.  Whether k is 0.4 or 0.7 makes an enormous difference in where the breakeven point is for re-use.

Fixed costs are an enormous portion of the costs for launch service providers.  So k with them and k without them is very different.

Fixed costs should be left out of this model entirely, because they are the same whether there is reuse or not.  It's only marginal costs that matter for the purposes of determining which is cheaper, reuse or no reuse.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 04/28/2015 04:44 AM
Here's an example to illustrate what I mean.  Suppose your annual fixed costs are $1 billion.  Suppose your marginal costs are $50 million per launch for hardware and $50 million per launch for non-hardware.  Suppose you are doing 10 launches a year and your vehicle has no re-use.  Then your fixed costs are amortized over 10 launches and it comes to $100 million in fixed costs per launch.  So total cost per launch is $200 million including fixed costs.  k is .25 ($50 million out of $200 million) if you consider fixed costs as part of your k.

Now suppose re-use costs you a 50% payload hit.  Then in the re-use case you need to do 20 launches.  Now, your $1 billion in fixed costs is $50 million per flight.  Now your k becomes .33 ($50 million out of $150 million) for the re-use case if you consider fixed costs as part of your k.

But the model assumes one k is applicable for both the re-use and non-reuse case.  That's not true here.

The fundamental problem is that fixed costs are divided by a different number of flights in the re-use and non-reuse case.

If you include fixed costs in your k, you're essentially treating them as marginal costs, because the model uses k in calculating the costs for the extra flights you have to fly to make up for the lower payload per flight because of re-use.  In this example, k can only be the same if fixed costs are $2 billion for the re-use case and $1 billion for the non-reuse case.

These problems go away if you remove the fixed costs from k.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: arachnitect on 04/28/2015 06:07 AM
Here's an example to illustrate what I mean.  Suppose your annual fixed costs are $1 billion.  Suppose your marginal costs are $50 million per launch for hardware and $50 million per launch for non-hardware.  Suppose you are doing 10 launches a year and your vehicle has no re-use.  Then your fixed costs are amortized over 10 launches and it comes to $100 million in fixed costs per launch.  So total cost per launch is $200 million including fixed costs.  k is .25 ($50 million out of $200 million) if you consider fixed costs as part of your k.

Now suppose re-use costs you a 50% payload hit.  Then in the re-use case you need to do 20 launches.  Now, your $1 billion in fixed costs is $50 million per flight.  Now your k becomes .33 ($50 million out of $150 million) for the re-use case if you consider fixed costs as part of your k.

But the model assumes one k is applicable for both the re-use and non-reuse case.  That's not true here.

The fundamental problem is that fixed costs are divided by a different number of flights in the re-use and non-reuse case.

If you include fixed costs in your k, you're essentially treating them as marginal costs, because the model uses k in calculating the costs for the extra flights you have to fly to make up for the lower payload per flight because of re-use.  In this example, k can only be the same if fixed costs are $2 billion for the re-use case and $1 billion for the non-reuse case.

These problems go away if you remove the fixed costs from k.


I don't follow exactly. My understanding is that this model is built to address certain kinds of commercial payloads that must be discrete, yet can take advantage of marginal performance. If you are building a GSO commsat you have only one launch but you can use extra performance to buy more fuel, more antenna, more power, etc.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Rocket Surgeon on 04/28/2015 06:15 AM
Wow.. I've never had a post generate so much discussion before, awesome!

You need to be comparing $/kg to GTO not actual launch cost for fair comparison.
 F9R will be  approx $11,000/kg ie <4t at $45m.
F9E will be $11,000/kg ie 6t at $65m
Vulcan ACES version will be approx $11,000/kg ie 8t at $90m  (Dimitry's estimate for core without SRB).

Thanks for pointing out the GTO performances, completely forgot about that. This more than anything make me think that a Falcon Heavy of varying degrees of reuse will be the main competition for the Vulcan, not the Falcon 9.

Still think it's an interesting point, if you assume the same starting 'price', then the cost of the SpaceX method drops faster, and SpaceX is demonstrating that they can launch at an already lower cost, even at the top of the curve when it 'should' be more expensive. Even if a (mostly) reusable Falcon Heavy launches at $100 million and can only be reused 10 times, then they will be able to charge lower average prices. Also bare in mind that the Vulcan won't be trying re-usability for almost a decade. Where was SpaceX a decade ago? Then again, SpaceX may very well not exist in a decade... who knows, eh?


Here's an example to illustrate what I mean.  Suppose your annual fixed costs are $1 billion.  Suppose your marginal costs are $50 million per launch for hardware and $50 million per launch for non-hardware.  Suppose you are doing 10 launches a year and your vehicle has no re-use.  Then your fixed costs are amortized over 10 launches and it comes to $100 million in fixed costs per launch.  So total cost per launch is $200 million including fixed costs.  k is .25 ($50 million out of $200 million) if you consider fixed costs as part of your k.

Now suppose re-use costs you a 50% payload hit.  Then in the re-use case you need to do 20 launches.  Now, your $1 billion in fixed costs is $50 million per flight.  Now your k becomes .33 ($50 million out of $150 million) for the re-use case if you consider fixed costs as part of your k.

But the model assumes one k is applicable for both the re-use and non-reuse case.  That's not true here.

The fundamental problem is that fixed costs are divided by a different number of flights in the re-use and non-reuse case.

If you include fixed costs in your k, you're essentially treating them as marginal costs, because the model uses k in calculating the costs for the extra flights you have to fly to make up for the lower payload per flight because of re-use.  In this example, k can only be the same if fixed costs are $2 billion for the re-use case and $1 billion for the non-reuse case.

These problems go away if you remove the fixed costs from k.

I see what you're saying there and you're right. Is there an easy way to modify the spreadsheet to do that? and would it matter anyway? The spread sheet compares the different reuse methods and assumes roughly the same fixed costs, if you removed it, you change the slope of the graphs, but not the difference between them.
From my research at uni, on average 53% of the launch cost of a rocket is the actual rocket, with 47% being everything else... interestingly, if the first stage of the Falcon 9 is 70% of the rocket cost, then the first stage would make up 37.1% of the total launch cost... or roughly k = .4 ;)
Getting more precise in the specific difference between the Vulcan and the Falcon 9 would be impossible, as the Vulcan doesn't exists yet, and would undermine the comparison of the different methods, as you'd then be comparing a lot more than just that.

Cheers!
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 04/28/2015 06:27 AM
I see what you're saying there and you're right. Is there an easy way to modify the spreadsheet to do that?

The spreadsheet is fine as long as k doesn't include fixed costs.  Leave out all fixed costs and it works fine.

and would it matter anyway?

Yes, it matters.  It's the difference between a 0.4 and a 0.7  for k, and we saw in the discussion above what a drastic difference there is between a 0.4 and 0.7 k for the SpaceX case plugged into the model.

The conclusion that partial reuse as proposed for Vulcan makes more economic sense than full first-stage re-use changes if you exclude the fixed costs from k.

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Rocket Surgeon on 04/28/2015 06:55 AM
I see what you're saying there and you're right. Is there an easy way to modify the spreadsheet to do that?

The spreadsheet is fine as long as k doesn't include fixed costs.  Leave out all fixed costs and it works fine.

and would it matter anyway?

Yes, it matters.  It's the difference between a 0.4 and a 0.7  for k, and we saw in the discussion above what a drastic difference there is between a 0.4 and 0.7 k for the SpaceX case plugged into the model.

The conclusion that partial reuse as proposed for Vulcan makes more economic sense than full first-stage re-use changes if you exclude the fixed costs from k.

Ah, but the issue there is what do you use for the Vulcan number? Like I said, I see what your saying, but this spreadsheet isn't designed to compare Falcon 9 to Vulcan, its supposed to compare Boost-back recovery and Modular Recovery for Vulcan (though it uses SpaceX's numbers for the effects of a boost back recovery). The question this is used to ask is whether or not the Vulcan should boost back or use the modular recovery and the conclusion is that the Vulcan should use modular recovery as it pays back quicker, .... problem is in reality, the Falcon 9 is already a very different beast. Unless they have a much more in depth analysis than this spreadsheet (I sure hope they do) then the mistake is comparing apples-to-apples, we really have apples-to-oranges.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: The Amazing Catstronaut on 04/28/2015 08:33 AM
The question this is used to ask is whether or not the Vulcan should boost back or use the modular recovery and the conclusion is that the Vulcan should use modular recovery as it pays back quicker, .... problem is in reality, the Falcon 9 is already a very different beast. Unless they have a much more in depth analysis than this spreadsheet (I sure hope they do) then the mistake is comparing apples-to-apples, we really have apples-to-oranges.

Agreed, I get the feeling that this is more of a justification as why ULA have gone this route with reusability - and for the Vulcan, it is the best route to take, than any evidence comparing economics tit-for-tat with F9 directly. Heck, since  nobody has access to all the numbers at work, it's going to take a good few years of both LVs working side by side for us to gain a comprehensive understanding of how the two LV's reusability methods pan out dime for dime. Prolepsis isn't all that reliable yet.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: WindnWar on 04/28/2015 02:09 PM
The question this is used to ask is whether or not the Vulcan should boost back or use the modular recovery and the conclusion is that the Vulcan should use modular recovery as it pays back quicker, .... problem is in reality, the Falcon 9 is already a very different beast. Unless they have a much more in depth analysis than this spreadsheet (I sure hope they do) then the mistake is comparing apples-to-apples, we really have apples-to-oranges.

Agreed, I get the feeling that this is more of a justification as why ULA have gone this route with reusability - and for the Vulcan, it is the best route to take, than any evidence comparing economics tit-for-tat with F9 directly. Heck, since  nobody has access to all the numbers at work, it's going to take a good few years of both LVs working side by side for us to gain a comprehensive understanding of how the two LV's reusability methods pan out dime for dime. Prolepsis isn't all that reliable yet.

The reality is without a different engine than either of the two choices ULA currently has, or adding an additional engine just for boost back, you simply can't do boost back with Vulcan anyway. Too much thrust. So even if you could make the numbers work, it wouldn't apply anyway. With the choices they have, separating the engine module is the only option they have for reuse. 
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: The Amazing Catstronaut on 04/28/2015 03:43 PM


The reality is without a different engine than either of the two choices ULA currently has, or adding an additional engine just for boost back, you simply can't do boost back with Vulcan anyway. Too much thrust. So even if you could make the numbers work, it wouldn't apply anyway. With the choices they have, separating the engine module is the only option they have for reuse.

I'm completely of your opinion. However, it will be interesting how much money ULA can retrieve with their chosen system, how the system matures/is refined, etc, and if developments will curb costs.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 04/29/2015 04:39 AM
The question this is used to ask is whether or not the Vulcan should boost back or use the modular recovery and the conclusion is that the Vulcan should use modular recovery as it pays back quicker, .... problem is in reality, the Falcon 9 is already a very different beast. Unless they have a much more in depth analysis than this spreadsheet (I sure hope they do) then the mistake is comparing apples-to-apples, we really have apples-to-oranges.

Agreed, I get the feeling that this is more of a justification as why ULA have gone this route with reusability - and for the Vulcan, it is the best route to take, than any evidence comparing economics tit-for-tat with F9 directly. Heck, since  nobody has access to all the numbers at work, it's going to take a good few years of both LVs working side by side for us to gain a comprehensive understanding of how the two LV's reusability methods pan out dime for dime. Prolepsis isn't all that reliable yet.

The reality is without a different engine than either of the two choices ULA currently has, or adding an additional engine just for boost back, you simply can't do boost back with Vulcan anyway. Too much thrust. So even if you could make the numbers work, it wouldn't apply anyway. With the choices they have, separating the engine module is the only option they have for reuse.

That may well be, and I agree we don't know the numbers for ULA or SpaceX.  I was just addressing a flaw in the way this particular spreadsheet was being used and the conclusions drawn from it.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: falconeer on 04/29/2015 05:47 AM
Ah, but the issue there is what do you use for the Vulcan number?

I asked Dr.Sowers and he said the cost ratio between upper/lower stage on Vulcan will be similar to Atlas. We know that it is roughly 40/60 for Atlas. So use 0.6 for first stage cost, and 0.65 for recovery factor, and you get a k value of 0.6*0.65 (0.39). I did my analysis a few posts upthread, but the conclusion was that boostback wins if >6 launches.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: muomega0 on 04/29/2015 02:31 PM
Ah, but the issue there is what do you use for the Vulcan number?
I asked Dr.Sowers and he said the cost ratio between upper/lower stage on Vulcan will be similar to Atlas. We know that it is roughly 40/60 for Atlas. So use 0.6 for first stage cost, and 0.65 for recovery factor, and you get a k value of 0.6*0.65 (0.39). I did my analysis a few posts upthread, but the conclusion was that boostback wins if >6 launches.
and it requires (10 flights to reach 100M/flight)**, so perhaps the LV design should be reviewed again, since 4 flights of recovered engines is what, 80M saved max?  One concludes that the LV design represents compromises of numerous market demands.

The question this is used to ask is whether or not the Vulcan should boost back or use the modular recovery and the conclusion is that the Vulcan should use modular recovery as it pays back quicker, .... problem is in reality, the Falcon 9 is already a very different beast. Unless they have a much more in depth analysis than this spreadsheet (I sure hope they do) then the mistake is comparing apples-to-apples, we really have apples-to-oranges.
Agreed, I get the feeling that this is more of a justification as why ULA have gone this route with reusability - and for the Vulcan, it is the best route to take, than any evidence comparing economics tit-for-tat with F9 directly. Heck, since  nobody has access to all the numbers at work, it's going to take a good few years of both LVs working side by side for us to gain a comprehensive understanding of how the two LV's reusability methods pan out dime for dime.
Marginal cost per flight of expendable vehicles is the cost of the vehicle ($100.0M+)**
Marginal cost per flight of reuseable vehicles is cost of propellant               ($0.200M).

But vehicles cannot be reused if they are not refueled.   So rather than add solids, why not top off at the ZBO depot? which would help NASA significantly reduce launch costs as well.  IOW:  Life Cycle Cost per Pound of Payload for Multiple Launchers (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=37390.msg1364080#msg1364080),  not individual launchers

o Reuseability is Key to Low Cost Operations
o Refuelability is Key to Reuseability
o In-space Propellant Deliver, Storage, and Transfer Holds the Key to the Future

And if you cannot economically compete for propellant launches.....
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: falconeer on 04/29/2015 04:43 PM
Marginal cost per flight of expendable vehicles is the cost of the vehicle ($100.0M+)**
Marginal cost per flight of reuseable vehicles is cost of propellant               ($0.200M).

But vehicles cannot be reused if they are not refueled.   So rather than add solids, why not top off at the ZBO depot? which would help NASA significantly reduce launch costs as well.  IOW:  Life Cycle Cost per Pound of Payload for Multiple Launchers (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=37390.msg1364080#msg1364080),  not individual launchers

o Reuseability is Key to Low Cost Operations
o Refuelability is Key to Reuseability
o In-space Propellant Deliver, Storage, and Transfer Holds the Key to the Future

And if you cannot economically compete for propellant launches.....

The design of Vulcan is not with reusability as an end goal, rather as a potential cost saver.

The number one reason for Vulcan is to replace the RD-180. BE-4 and AR-1 are both large engines that cannot throttle enough for boostback, it simply out of the question to radically change the engine choice at this point, it would add years of delay.

Also, their is no fully reusable vehicle currently existing, reusing the upperstage is hell of a problem (esp. on earth) as there is huge payload hit which gets worse the further the orbit. Also propellant is not the only marginal cost item even in a fully reusable system there's bound to be direct labor costs, range costs etc.

This is more of a fantasy at this point in time, until someone comes up with a solution. You really can't put any somewhat reliable cost figures on such a system (yet).

This thread is about the current known plans of SpaceX and ULA. Specifically, the question is which reuse mode is better: Boostback of first stage Vs. Reuse of engines only. Dr.Sowers' spread sheet is a good start, but as shown upthread the 'k' figure needs work.

At the end of the day, the reuse decisions have already been made at least a year ago, and each method is ideal for its rocket. Any analysis done here is not going to change anything, but it is still fun to compare the systems.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: joek on 05/02/2015 08:17 AM
I asked Dr.Sowers and he said the cost ratio between upper/lower stage on Vulcan will be similar to Atlas. We know that it is roughly 40/60 for Atlas. So use 0.6 for first stage cost, and 0.65 for recovery factor, and you get a k value of 0.6*0.65 (0.39). I did my analysis a few posts upthread, but the conclusion was that boostback wins if >6 launches.

I don't think this tells us that boostback wins, at least from a real money competitive perspective.  All it really tells us is that cost recovery k has a significant impact on the outcome--regardless of whether you recover the entire first stage or only the engines.

For example, if in the future ULA's engine price doubles, and thus becomes a far greater percentage of the recoverable cost, then in the abstract it appears to be much more attractive and beats SpaceX's boostback.  See figure below where a doubling of the ULA engine price, which results in a Vulcan k of 0.56, appears to beat SpaceX boostback with a k of 0.7.

Obviously that does not tell the whole story and we could play this game forever.  Again (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=37390.msg1364041#msg1364041)--these are comparable only if actual costs and cost structures are comparable--which they are not.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: falconeer on 05/03/2015 02:15 AM
For example, if in the future ULA's engine price doubles, and thus becomes a far greater percentage of the recoverable cost, then in the abstract it appears to be much more attractive and beats SpaceX's boostback.  See figure below where a doubling of the ULA engine price, which results in a Vulcan k of 0.56, appears to beat SpaceX boostback with a k of 0.7.

Obviously that does not tell the whole story and we could play this game forever.

Actually, this thread is not specifically about Vulcan vs. Falcon, it is about Boostback vs. Engine-reuse.

The claim Dr.Sowers was making is that Engine-reuse is superior to boostback on the same vehicle! we are not directly comparing SpaceX and ULA; that is a different issue and not the point of this thread. We are merely using some Falcon numbers as an example of boostback performance costs and savings.

So, in your hypothetical doubling of engine costs, yes, k-values will increase for both reuse modes. But which one is more economic? That is the question.

The reason I brought up the 40/60 upper/lower costs on Vulcan is to attempt to recalculate 'k' to remove fixed costs.

Perhaps to be more precise we really should assume the same upper/lower cost split when comparing both systems. So k=0.7*0.65=0.455. Using this value, boostback is 'better' after 10 launches rather than 6. If you instead use 0.6*0.65 for engine-reuse and 0.6 for boostback, the equivalence point is 34 (!) launches. Clearly, the economics of reuse (both modes) depend highly on the cost fraction of the first stage.

It would seem that given a higher cost upperstage, boostback is inferior to engine reuse. The reverse also appears to hold.

You are right, this does not tell you the whole story, this was never the intent. The purpose is simply to compare reuse modes not specific launch vehicles.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: joek on 05/03/2015 06:29 PM
Actually, this thread is not specifically about Vulcan vs. Falcon, it is about Boostback vs. Engine-reuse.

The claim Dr.Sowers was making is that Engine-reuse is superior to boostback on the same vehicle! we are not directly comparing SpaceX and ULA; that is a different issue and not the point of this thread. ...

The scenarios presented by Dr. Sowers are specifically for Vulcan engine reuse vs. Falcon first stage reuse.  If Dr. Sowers presented the same for both vehicles (or only one), then yes we could make a comparison based on the same vehicle.  However, that is not what was presented.

An apples-to-apples comparison would require knowing either: (a) F9 costs and performance penalty for an engine-only reuse design (as with Vulcan); or (b) the Vulcan costs and performance penalty for first stage reuse design (as with F9).

Unfortunately we don't know either (a) or (b), which leaves us with abstract values for k and Pe/Pr as the primary basis for comparison--which is necessarily independent of vehicle and does not represent whether you are reusing engines, first stages, or whatever.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: falconeer on 05/03/2015 09:37 PM
Actually, this thread is not specifically about Vulcan vs. Falcon, it is about Boostback vs. Engine-reuse.

The claim Dr.Sowers was making is that Engine-reuse is superior to boostback on the same vehicle! we are not directly comparing SpaceX and ULA; that is a different issue and not the point of this thread. ...

The scenarios presented by Dr. Sowers are specifically for Vulcan engine reuse vs. Falcon first stage reuse.  If Dr. Sowers presented the same for both vehicles (or only one), then yes we could make a comparison based on the same vehicle.  However, that is not what was presented.

No, this is exactly what was presented.

Yes, the values (k,p,etc..) were taken from Falcon and Vulcan, but I repeat: the intent is not to compare Falcon and Vulcan, only the reuse modes themselves.

Dr.Sowers uses the Falcon estimates for boostback because they are the only somewhat reliable figures available for the technique (e.g. 30% p loss). The implicit assumption made by Dr.Sowers is that these values would apply to Vulcan in the case of boostback. That is the entire point of the thread: "When designing a new system [Vulcan] should we go with boostback or engine-reuse?" -> it's as simple as that.

So, we do 'know' (b). As in, F9 boostback values are assumed to apply to Vulcan. That's not my assumption, that is Dr.Sowers' assumption. I think this is a reasonable assumption.

Now, we can debate whether or not those values are appropriate and precise, but the main point is that Dr.Sowers is not attempting to compare Falcon and Vulcan as launch systems: that is a fundamental misunderstanding of the intent.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: joek on 05/03/2015 10:34 PM
Yes, the values (k,p,etc..) were taken from Falcon and Vulcan, but I repeat: the intent is not to compare Falcon and Vulcan, only the reuse modes themselves.

You can compare reuse modes only if costs are comparable; demonstrably they are not, nor do we have the information on which to base such a comparison.  The fact that the model and scenarios as presented are not comparable except in the abstract speaks for itself.

Provide comparable numbers for comparable reuse modes for F9 and Vulcan and we might have something to discuss.  Until then, this is at best an academic apples-oranges comparison which tells us nothing about which is optimal.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: HML48 on 05/04/2015 04:59 AM
Dear Dr Sowers:

Thank you for taking the time and effort to engage with us at this level of detail. I deeply appreciate it.

Your introductory piece seems to take the view that the demand for launch services is fixed. For example you discuss the increase in new engine costs given the reduction in demand resulting from reuse.  But in general the demand for a good increases when cost are reduced. Often this increase is well above linear. What is your view concerning the growth of the launch services market given the cost changes that are now being forced upon the industry?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: falconeer on 05/05/2015 04:30 AM
Yes, the values (k,p,etc..) were taken from Falcon and Vulcan, but I repeat: the intent is not to compare Falcon and Vulcan, only the reuse modes themselves.

You can compare reuse modes only if costs are comparable; demonstrably they are not, nor do we have the information on which to base such a comparison.  The fact that the model and scenarios as presented are not comparable except in the abstract speaks for itself.

Provide comparable numbers for comparable reuse modes for F9 and Vulcan and we might have something to discuss.  Until then, this is at best an academic apples-oranges comparison which tells us nothing about which is optimal.

This IS just an academic exercise, but what did you expect exactly??

"You can compare reuse modes only if costs are comparable" -> What? ??????

I repeat myself for a third time: this is not a comparison of Falcon and Vulcan. It is a comparison of Vulcan engine-reuse AND Vulcan boostback reuse.

Look at it this way:

1) Dr.Sowers provided engine-reuse numbers for Vulcan. Those numbers are based on ULA's own estimates and are as good as they're ever going to get. All with the exception of 'k', which Dr.Sowers includes fixed costs: an error which people on this thread have attempted to correct.

2) Dr.Sowers provided boostback numbers for Vulcan. Most of those numbers are based on ULA estimates for Vulcan boostback refurb costs etc. These numbers are not better/worse than the estimates for engine-reuse.

In fact, the only number that has anything to do with Falcon or SpaceX is the 'p' value. I think in a Vulcan boostback scenario 'p' will likely be close to 1/0.7 -> similar to Falcon. I think this is reasonable assumption. Do you disagree?

This is just a model: we can agree/disagree or modify parameters. Dr.Sowers is merely using an estimate of 'p' from the most reliable source available. If you think Vulcan 'p' value would be significantly different I'd love to hear your reasoning. This is the purpose of this thread.

Bottom line: this analysis is not apples-to-oranges, it is apples-to-apples: it's NOT Falcon vs. Vulcan it is Vulcan vs. Vulcan.

PS. 'Vulcan vs. Vulcan' -> this sounds like a star trek episode  :)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 05/05/2015 10:53 AM
ULA recovery system for Vulcan is not just limited to engines it can also include Avionics and other expensive items, the more they can place in engine bay the better the cost recovery. If you look cost break down of Atlas on post #7 the actual structure/tanks only cost 25% of 1st stage same applies to 2nd stage.

Using the same approx to reusing 2nd stage would give similar savings especially if they put most of expensive items in engine bay. Of course the payload penalty for 2nd stage is higher as dry mass goes up. For GTO a few 100kgs for recovery equipment plus DV to return to earth wouldn't be worth while. In case of most  LEO missions a few 100kgs from 20t is not going to make any difference and DV for de-orbiting has a ready been factored in.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: joek on 05/05/2015 11:47 PM
I repeat myself for a third time: this is not a comparison of Falcon and Vulcan. It is a comparison of Vulcan engine-reuse AND Vulcan boostback reuse.
...

Look at it this way:

1) Dr.Sowers provided engine-reuse numbers for Vulcan. Those numbers are based on ULA's own estimates and are as good as they're ever going to get. All with the exception of 'k', which Dr.Sowers includes fixed costs: an error which people on this thread have attempted to correct.

2) Dr.Sowers provided boostback numbers for Vulcan. Most of those numbers are based on ULA estimates for Vulcan boostback refurb costs etc. These numbers are not better/worse than the estimates for engine-reuse.

...

No.  Dr. Sowers did not provide numbers for Vulcan boostback based on ULA estimates.  From reuse_business_case_explanation.pdf, scenario 1 (boostback):
p -- Shotwell statement during Hawthorne tour that barge recovery results in a 30% performance loss. 1/0.7=1.43
k -- This is an estimate based on internet chatter. For ULA it’s <0.3.
...

If those are ULA estimates for Vulcan, why are they based on quotes from Shotwell and "internet chatter" for F9?  Answer: the scenario 1 (boostback) numbers presented are ULA estimates for F9, not Vulcan.

This is clearly an attempt to compare F9 boostback with Vulcan engine reuse.  That is not a valid comparison using this model.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 05/06/2015 01:09 AM
Reuse can help lower launch prices, but to really get launch prices down the launch rate needs to go up significantly.

Assume ULA has four business areas of cost.
Head office
R&D
Manufacturing
Launch facilities.

Assume a flight rate of 10 per year.  Annual fix cost overheads of $300m a year for Head office, R&D and launch facility maintenance (not launch costs). The manufacturing operations costs are covered by LV build cost.

LV cost price is $40m, launch costs ie $10m.
To break even each launch will need to make $80m , then add $20m for profit for launch price of $100m. The $80m is $40m(LV) + $10m (launch cost) + $30m ($300m divide by 10).
 Recovering engine may save $15m reducing launch price from $100m to $85m.
Company is making $200m profit from 10 launches.

If we go to 20 launches per year then prices really start to drop.
LV cost price $35m,  $5m saving because of increase production rate.
Launch costs $7m. Launch staff are now fully occupied with extra staff added but not doubled.
$15m per launch to cover fix cost overheads. This is where higher launch rates make significant savings.
Launch price is now $35m + $7m + $15m + $18m(profit) = $75m.  The company is making $360m profit and launch price has dropped  by $25m.  Subtract discount for engine recovery and price is $60m.

The figures are made up but hopefully they get point across.

There may not be as much savings when going to 30 launches a year due to extra facilities being needed but those same facilities should be able to support 40 launches resulting in significant savings.




Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: joek on 05/06/2015 02:11 AM
Assume ULA has four business areas of cost.
...
Assuming you are speaking exclusive of DoD requirements (ELC or mission assurance), which totals ~1900 FTE's or ~$600M/yr in labor?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: a_langwich on 05/06/2015 02:43 AM

This is clearly an attempt to compare F9 boostback with Vulcan engine reuse.  That is not a valid comparison using this model.

You've completely lost perspective.  This isn't about a fanboy contest of who is better than whom, it's about engineering done with numbers.  If you don't like the numbers, put in other numbers and see whether the result is better or worse.  The point is to explore what the model says about the break-even point of reusability.  And to ask yourself, is this what I expected?  If not, can I identify problems with the model and make it more accurate?  If not, perhaps my expectations were wrong?

He supplied one set of numbers for his planned vehicle and recovery method, and then as a comparison supplied ballpark figures for Falcon 9.  Why would you expect him to provide boostback numbers for Vulcan?  Why can't you supply those numbers yourself, using his accurate figures for the processes that are relatively close to existing ones, and make up your own ballpark figures for processes that don't exist and will never exist?  If you aren't confident about your numbers, pick a high value and a low value and see how sensitive the model is to that parameter. 

If it's not a valid comparison, then you should be able to show the results change dramatically depending on the assumptions you make for Vulcan boostback vs the Falcon boostback.  My gut instinct seems to think the Falcon 9 numbers actually work better for boostback than the Vulcan ones.

But why is it invalid to say, "we think we can reach the reusability break-even point with fewer reuses based on our method and our manufacturing costs than they can with their recovery method and their manufacturing costs?"
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: joek on 05/06/2015 03:08 AM
If it's not a valid comparison, then you should be able to show the results change dramatically depending on the assumptions you make for Vulcan boostback vs the Falcon boostback.

Huh?  I did show that, or thought I showed that in prose and graphically,  Which was the point of several previous posts describing and showing plots with various assumptions.  What part of not showing how "the results change dramatically depending on the assumptions" did I miss; do not the graphs illustrate that clearly?   Seriously, I'm at a loss as to what point is in contention and how to explain it more clearly.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Remes on 05/07/2015 09:34 AM
This is clearly an attempt to compare F9 boostback with Vulcan engine reuse.  That is not a valid comparison using this model.
It compares F9 with F9 reuse and it comparess Vulcan with Vulcan reuse. The comparison tells us, when each concepts becomes profitable.

In the SpaceX Case:
- SpaceX reuses much more (complete first stage)
- The "profit" of reusing the complete stage is minimized by the fact, that the tank is not as expensive as the engine
- SpaceX has a much higher payload penalty (legs, fuel for boostback) and "reuse cost" (refurbishment) but doesn't need to rebuild the first stage tanks

In the ULA case:
- Less parts are reused (only the engine section)
- "Profit" on reuse is still good, as the only the most costly section is returned
- Less payload penalty, but tanks have to be rebuild

Now there is this reuse index which is most interessanting at the point where it becomes smaller then one. But the SpaceX-"one" can't be compared to the ULA-"one", because the SpaceX-"one" refers to a Falcon9 (61Mio$)  and the ULA-"one" refers to Vulcan (<100Mio$?). Given the current prices a reusable Falcon9 which is never reused might be still cheaper then an unmodified Vulcan (but one would need to compare the lift capacity).

I had  earlier (https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=32245.msg1078887#msg1078887) similar, but less informed thoughts on reuse. So thanks a lot George for these insights.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RanulfC on 05/07/2015 10:15 PM
Does it help at all if I point out a KNOWN fire-refurbish (from an ocean dunking no less) and refire total refurbishment cost point was made for the H1 engine which showed a total costs of 5% of the cost of a new engine? That was an almost total tear-down and rebuild of the engine (plus recovery costs considered) which isn't likely in either LVs case but gives at least a starting point to hang some guestimates on?

Randy
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lars-J on 05/07/2015 11:12 PM
RS-27/H1 is more like RD-180/BE-4 complexity/costing than Merlin 1D. And this may be a factor in the "big if" IMHO of effectively non refurbishment reflight of F9R, making the %5 close to zero.

What do you base *that* on?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: WindnWar on 05/08/2015 01:04 PM
For SpaceX refurb costs I would expect transport costs, replacement of the engine bay covers, refurb or replacement of the legs depending on how they handle landing, and some level of refurb/recert of the engines even if its just cleaning them and retesting them. The real question will be what if anything is needed for the tank structure beyond cleaning and possibly painting it. So long as there is no structural damage to the tank and octoweb none of the rest should be very different than what is done as part of testing for new cores.

Of course none of these can be answered until there is a successful landing.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: joek on 05/09/2015 09:05 PM
It compares F9 with F9 reuse and it compares Vulcan with Vulcan reuse.  It compares F9 with F9 reuse and it comparess Vulcan with Vulcan reuse. The comparison tells us, when each concepts becomes profitable.

Exactly; thanks for stating that concisely (which I failed to do over several posts).  Although I would caution that it tells "us" little without knowing actual costs.  If you are a ULA or SpaceX designer, this model might help making internal trades; if you are trying to determine whether those trades result in a competitive LV, not so much.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: georgesowers on 05/09/2015 11:59 PM
Wow! A lot of great discussion.  Let me clarify a few points that came up.

1.  The scenarios were my attempt to compare engine reuse using numbers which pretty well reflect reality for ULA and stage reuse in the mode currently being worked by SpaceX.  The numbers I used for the stage reuse case were a combination of public statements by SpaceX and my own best judgment.  Analysis of a ULA version of stage reuse would be less favorable since our k for the booster is ~0.3, not 0.4 as I assumed for them.

2.  The numbers do not in any way compare SpaceX to ULA costs or performance.  If you look at the derivation of the equation, it compares the reusable version of a rocket to the expendable version of the same rocket.

3.  It would invalidate the equation to include only the marginal (or variable) costs.  As I mentioned in the derivation, the costs must be the total costs, fixed and variable.  It is true that the value of k is dependent on the total launch rate, but the equation assumes the launch rate is the same for the expendable version as the reusable version.  It is completely inappropriate to compare a reusable system launched at a rate of 2x to an expendable system launched at a rate of x.

4. My analysis was trying to tease out the effect of a single variable, reuse versus expendable operations and determine under what conditions reuse could provide cost reductions.  In other words, at some fixed launch rate, is your cost per kg to orbit better or worse (compared to expendable) with reuse. It's well known that the single most important parameter in launch cost is launch rate.  But until we can come up with the killer space app that can generate new demand, worldwide launch demand is stagnant and pretty much inelastic. (You all should get on that.  Homework assignment...)

5.  In case you were wondering, the values of k I used are appropriate for a total launch rate of around 10. The business case for reusability improves as total launch rate increases, but not overwhelmingly.  In fact, as the equation makes very clear, reducing the costs of any the stuff that doesn't get reused (including fixed cost, mission integration, launch operations, etc.) improves the business case for reuse.  Furthermore, if the cost of the booster or engines increases for what ever reason, the business case for reuse improves.  Doesn't mean your competitiveness improved, just means you better figure out how to reuse them, fast!  In fact, we first started to look at engine reuse years ago when we thought we might experience runaway engine cost increases...

6.  As to the notion that mass production might actually result in an increase in unit cost compared to low rate production, it would invalidate the entire industrial revolution  :)

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: georgesowers on 01/02/2016 02:30 PM
I'm bumping this thread in honor of SpaceX's successful landing of the booster at the landing site.  I admire the technological accomplishment.  But the challenge of reuse has never been technological.  It is getting a reasonable business case to close.

I believe the takeaway from the 4 pages of discussions above is that the basic equation is valid and that the analysis of barge landing is reasonable.  Conclusion of that analysis was that 10 uses of the booster breaks even in terms of $/kg, 20 uses saves 5%.  Not exactly revolutionary.

Here I want to address two additional questions:
1) What is the influence of overall launch rate?  This question came up in the prior discussion.
2) How does landing at the launch site change the analysis?  Is it better or worse?

Answer 1)  One simple way to understand the influence of rate on launch cost is to think of fixed costs and variable costs.  Fixed costs are relatively high in the launch industry due to the scale of the operations required.  One data point I can offer is that at a 10 per year rate (roughly what Atlas is doing now) about 40% of the unit cost is a 1/10th share of the annual fixed cost.  If the rate doubles to 20 per year, each launch gets only half as much fixed cost and the overall unit cost would decrease by 20%.  Pretty simple.

For the barge launch,  I assumed 40% for the fraction of total launch service cost represented by booster production cost.  If another 40% is fixed cost, then doubling the launch rate increases the booster fraction to 50%.  This improves the business case, so that the breakeven point is down to 5 uses and twenty uses results in a 15% overall savings.

So launch rate is an important consideration and the reuse business case improves with increasing launch rate.  But it is not revolutionary.  Even in the limit of no fixed cost allocation (infinite launch rate) breakeven is 3 and the 20 use savings is 35%.

Answer 2)  According to SpaceX, (need reference)  90 klbs prop is reserved for barge landing, 200 klbs for return to launch site.  Performance loss is not linear with respect to propellant withheld, so let me be somewhat conservative.  Assume overall performance loss is 50% for return to launch site. (I would love to see some info from SpaceX to verify.)  What is clear is that reserving another 110klbs of propellant will further degrade performance.  The cost savings in doing so is a reduction in recovery cost.  You save the cost of the barge.  On the other hand, you pick up the fixed cost of the recovery site.  I will give the benefit of the doubt by assuming the overall cost of recovery and refurb can be reduced by half.   Even so, this is small compensation for losing another 20% performance.

Plugging these numbers into the formula you find that you never break even.  The best you can do after 20 uses is a 30% $/kg increase.  If you increase launch rate to 20 per year, you can reduce your loss to only 13%.  Not very promising. 

The conclusion is clear.  Returning the booster to the launch site significantly degrades the business case relative to barge landing.  And the business case was tough to begin with. A bit premature to be trumpeting a new age in spaceflight. 

The real revolution will occur when we can source propellant off earth.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Eer on 01/02/2016 03:03 PM

The real revolution will occur when we can source propellant off earth.

Yes, that will revolutionize things, as other supplies including oxygen,  water and structural materials will likely come around the same time.

Lowering fixed cost of LEO and BEO infrastructure manufacture and variable cost (provisioning) will shift us to "living off the land" and change the economics of immigration off planet.

But, we still need to find our way to LEO at large scale.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: LouScheffer on 01/02/2016 03:51 PM
I'm bumping this thread in honor of SpaceX's successful landing of the booster at the landing site.  I admire the technological accomplishment.  But the challenge of reuse has never been technological.  It is getting a reasonable business case to close.

[analysis deleted...]

Plugging these numbers into the formula you find that you never break even.  The best you can do after 20 uses is a 30% $/kg increase.  If you increase launch rate to 20 per year, you can reduce your loss to only 13%.  Not very promising. 

The conclusion is clear.  Returning the booster to the launch site significantly degrades the business case relative to barge landing.  And the business case was tough to begin with. A bit premature to be trumpeting a new age in spaceflight. 

The real revolution will occur when we can source propellant off earth.

Thanks for a thoughful analysis.  However, I think there is a serious flaw - current customers do not measure cost in $/kg, they measure it in $/launch for their particular payload.  This gives a different perspective.

For example, suppose you have a light satellite that allows booster recovery (current guess is about 5300 kg for this -we will know more after the SES mission) .  The current cost is perhaps
40% fixed (your estimate at 10 flights per year)
45% first stage (according to Musk, 75% of rocket cost is the first stage)
15% second stage, fairing, adapter, etc.

If the first stage can be recovered, it seems reasonable to assume its cost can be reduced to $15 million (basically, 1/3 the time to inspect and repair, compared to building a new one).  This of course remains to be proven, and this is precisely where shuttle re-usability failed, but it seems plausible from what we know so far of the SpaceX first stage recovery.  Then the overall cost drops to
40% fixed
15% first stage
15% second stage
------
70% of the original cost, or a 30% savings.  Perhaps not revolutionary, but a big improvement.   This is not majorly affected by barge vs land recovery - the barge trip should be at most a few million, and so result in few percentage points in cost.

Now if you can get a flight rate of 20 flights/year, hard but not outlandish, then the fixed costs are spread over more flights.  Now the total savings could get to 50% compared to curent costs.  And it is possible, though certainly unproven, that they could reduce the cost of refurbishment further, or perhaps re-use fairings (which could be as much as 10% of the launch cost if the other reusability measures work), and make other improvements.

So in the long run, I agree with your analysis that $/kg, and propellant depots, are critical.  But in the short run, reusability looks pretty promising.   And the short run looks to be measured in decades, since changing to a regime where $/kg is king would require satellite designers, and their customers, to change their design philosophy.  Probably the $/kg savings would need to be demonstrated before they would count on it (an analysis probably would not be convincing enough - see how "wait and see" is operating in the SpaceX case), followed by the wait for the long life cycle of satellite design and construction.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rayleighscatter on 01/02/2016 04:09 PM
I'm bumping this thread in honor of SpaceX's successful landing of the booster at the landing site.  I admire the technological accomplishment.  But the challenge of reuse has never been technological.  It is getting a reasonable business case to close.

I believe the takeaway from the 4 pages of discussions above is that the basic equation is valid and that the analysis of barge landing is reasonable.  Conclusion of that analysis was that 10 uses of the booster breaks even in terms of $/kg, 20 uses saves 5%.  Not exactly revolutionary.

Here I want to address two additional questions:
1) What is the influence of overall launch rate?  This question came up in the prior discussion.
2) How does landing at the launch site change the analysis?  Is it better or worse?

Answer 1)  One simple way to understand the influence of rate on launch cost is to think of fixed costs and variable costs.  Fixed costs are relatively high in the launch industry due to the scale of the operations required.  One data point I can offer is that at a 10 per year rate (roughly what Atlas is doing now) about 40% of the unit cost is a 1/10th share of the annual fixed cost.  If the rate doubles to 20 per year, each launch gets only half as much fixed cost and the overall unit cost would decrease by 20%.  Pretty simple.

For the barge launch,  I assumed 40% for the fraction of total launch service cost represented by booster production cost.  If another 40% is fixed cost, then doubling the launch rate increases the booster fraction to 50%.  This improves the business case, so that the breakeven point is down to 5 uses and twenty uses results in a 15% overall savings.

So launch rate is an important consideration and the reuse business case improves with increasing launch rate.  But it is not revolutionary.  Even in the limit of no fixed cost allocation (infinite launch rate) breakeven is 3 and the 20 use savings is 35%.

Answer 2)  According to SpaceX, (need reference)  90 klbs prop is reserved for barge landing, 200 klbs for return to launch site.  Performance loss is not linear with respect to propellant withheld, so let me be somewhat conservative.  Assume overall performance loss is 50% for return to launch site. (I would love to see some info from SpaceX to verify.)  What is clear is that reserving another 110klbs of propellant will further degrade performance.  The cost savings in doing so is a reduction in recovery cost.  You save the cost of the barge.  On the other hand, you pick up the fixed cost of the recovery site.  I will give the benefit of the doubt by assuming the overall cost of recovery and refurb can be reduced by half.   Even so, this is small compensation for losing another 20% performance.

Plugging these numbers into the formula you find that you never break even.  The best you can do after 20 uses is a 30% $/kg increase.  If you increase launch rate to 20 per year, you can reduce your loss to only 13%.  Not very promising. 

The conclusion is clear.  Returning the booster to the launch site significantly degrades the business case relative to barge landing.  And the business case was tough to begin with. A bit premature to be trumpeting a new age in spaceflight. 

The real revolution will occur when we can source propellant off earth.

In your opinion/analysis is there any particular part of reusability that drives the costs that much higher (R&D, additional hardware and resources used for recovery, refurbishment cost, etc) than an expendable of the same rocket? Or does the increased cost come from lesser amounts across many areas?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: GWH on 01/02/2016 05:15 PM
I believe the takeaway from the 4 pages of discussions above is that the basic equation is valid and that the analysis of barge landing is reasonable.  Conclusion of that analysis was that 10 uses of the booster breaks even in terms of $/kg, 20 uses saves 5%.  Not exactly revolutionary.

Hello George thanks for posting this series, it has generated a lot of very useful discussion.

One factor not included in your analyses however is the option of expending a rocket at full capacity after 'n' number of reusable flights.
The addition of this parameter not only greatly increases the cost effectiveness of full booster reuse but also provides a greater spread of payload capacities.  Between RTLS, barge landing, and full expendable a variable payload rocket can be utilized off a single stick without requiring the additional infrastructure and manufacturing facilities associated with strap on boosters.

Attached is the modified "reuse business case" spreadsheet to account for the last flight of a rocket being expendable.

Originally the system performance of the rocket simply being: P=Pe/Pr (Performance Expendable divided by Performance Reusable) For SpaceX 70% payload reusable gives a P of 1.43

To account for the full capability of the last flight being expendable P is now a variable based on total # of flights, or P=Pe/(Pr*(n-1)+Pe)/n

While this doesn't result in a significant long term cost savings, it does shift the break even point to the left, from 10 flights down to 4.  The large spike shown at first flight is for a rocket that is flown only once and recovered but not flown again.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: AncientU on 01/02/2016 05:29 PM
I'm bumping this thread in honor of SpaceX's successful landing of the booster at the landing site.  I admire the technological accomplishment.  But the challenge of reuse has never been technological.  It is getting a reasonable business case to close.

I believe the takeaway from the 4 pages of discussions above is that the basic equation is valid and that the analysis of barge landing is reasonable.  Conclusion of that analysis was that 10 uses of the booster breaks even in terms of $/kg, 20 uses saves 5%.  Not exactly revolutionary.

<snip>

While I disagree with you that the challenge of reuse has never been technical -- it is almost purely technical -- it isn't my opinion that matters.  You and others obviously believe that there is only marginal gain expected from not-SMART reuse, since you collectively are betting the future of your company on it.  There is another bright guy who is betting the future of his company on exactly the opposite conclusion.  Logic dictates that only one of you are correct.

Assuming that you all aren't so self-certain that you are ignoring the progress of SpaceX (the above quote of yours shows that you are watching), what signposts along the route are you expecting to confirm/deny your premise?  There must be a set of accomplishments/failures will inform your understanding...

Do they occur in time for you to change direction if necessary?
Is your full booster recovery plan (phase after SMART reuse) a fall-back position in this eventuality?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: su27k on 01/02/2016 06:04 PM
3.  It would invalidate the equation to include only the marginal (or variable) costs.  As I mentioned in the derivation, the costs must be the total costs, fixed and variable.  It is true that the value of k is dependent on the total launch rate, but the equation assumes the launch rate is the same for the expendable version as the reusable version.  It is completely inappropriate to compare a reusable system launched at a rate of 2x to an expendable system launched at a rate of x.

This is one of the major issues with this analysis. By forcing reusable to have the same launch rate as expendable, the analysis is comparing different total kg to orbit between reusable and expendable systems. This is IMHO more inappropriate, because reusable has performance loss in each launch but share the same fixed cost, so of course it is going to lose in term of $/kg. If you're going to fill up an orbital depot, then the customer doesn't care about the launch rate, he only cares about total kg to orbit, and you only cares about total cost, thus launch rate should not be a constraint in this case.

To use a thought experiment to illustrate this point: Assuming fixed cost is $500M per year for both reusable and expendable, also assume 10 launches for expendable at hardware cost of $50M per launch and each launch can send 10mt to orbit, this gives expendable $/mt of (500+50*10)/(10*10) = $10M/mt. Now let's assume we got a magical reusable vehicle (reverse engineered from UFO :-) that has zero cost per launch but can only send 1mt to orbit per launch (those aliens are small). If you force reusable to have only 10 launches per year, this gives reusable $/mt of (500+0*10)/(1*10) = $50M/mt. So yeah, in this case even UFO couldn't compete with expendable...
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 01/02/2016 06:53 PM
George in regards to SMART and Vulcan what is the expected number if reuses of BE4 and also HIAD. I'm assuming parachutes can be reused dozens of times.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Space Ghost 1962 on 01/02/2016 07:36 PM
I'm bumping this thread in honor of SpaceX's successful landing of the booster at the landing site.  I admire the technological accomplishment.  But the challenge of reuse has never been technological.  It is getting a reasonable business case to close.

Only a sensible person would applaud the accomplishment and the challenge it represents for all launch service providers in a non-selective way.

Beg to differ with you on the challenge of reuse - suggest that its interwoven technologic/economic, as has been the case before with other vehicle history. That you need to iterate along a cycle to get what you need.

Quote
I believe the takeaway from the 4 pages of discussions above is that the basic equation is valid and that the analysis of barge landing is reasonable.

I'm not so sure because of definitions and assumptions. Will agree it matches Atlas experience.

Quote
Conclusion of that analysis was that 10 uses of the booster breaks even in terms of $/kg, 20 uses saves 5%.  Not exactly revolutionary.

My more fine grained analysis from other sources suggest different. As with all such analysis, its how you define the terms. Mine come from modelling high altitude, high Mach aircraft coupled with MAC heavylifters, a peculiar combination, along with earlier kerolox experience. While aircraft and LV are by no means a perfect match, it appears that Musk is trying for an "aircraft like" model that's very different" then, say, Atlas.

My model suggests that the key is flight frequency. And that break even is around 15-20 launches per year, with 30 yielding a 20% annual advantage over F9 ELV operations. Which is not exactly revolutionary I'll agree.

And much of the cost structures are vehicle+CONOPs related. Which gets back to the iterative technologic/economic where evolving this might matter considerably, as it did with the introduction of commercial air freight/travel. A student at your Boulder lecture tried to raise this with you, and you did not appear to hear the student.

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Plugging these numbers into the formula you find that you never break even.  The best you can do after 20 uses is a 30% $/kg increase.  If you increase launch rate to 20 per year, you can reduce your loss to only 13%.  Not very promising.

Perhaps your model presumes ELV performance with a linear fall-off? What if reusable models require a step function coupled with a non-linear term instead, as we find with cargo A/C total costing?

Quote
The conclusion is clear.  Returning the booster to the launch site significantly degrades the business case relative to barge landing.  And the business case was tough to begin with. A bit premature to be trumpeting a new age in spaceflight.

If we factor in a payload manifest where frequency depends on launch, over performance of the LV shows up as "paying" for the RTLS to increase launch frequency. And thus lower frequency comes in the form of barge recovered launch profiles.

Again, while one appreciates the compact, effective, efficient Atlas ELV as being opposite a reuse strategy, even the much more lossy Soyuz and Proton LV's have been lofting similar payloads for decades, relying on lower cost of construction/transport/CONOPs to make them competitive. So you don't have to have the Atlas performance model, degraded, as the only source of comparative economics here.

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The real revolution will occur when we can source propellant off earth.

Irrelevant to LEO. Depending on CONOPs, possibly relevant to GTO/GEO. Certainly relevant to TLI and beyond.

Suggest that the real revolution is changing the ELV/RLV trades gradually, such that a much larger full RLV absorbs 60+ percent of launch services market, while providing a unique human BEO exploration/other capability.

F9/FH simply there to force the industry to shift, an enormous "goad" of a mid-way point.

Think that the european view is correct - 30 launches per. What this would do to the global market if achieved is what concerns.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Oli on 01/02/2016 08:23 PM
I'm bumping this thread in honor of SpaceX's successful landing of the booster at the landing site.  I admire the technological accomplishment.  But the challenge of reuse has never been technological.  It is getting a reasonable business case to close.

[analysis deleted...]

Plugging these numbers into the formula you find that you never break even.  The best you can do after 20 uses is a 30% $/kg increase.  If you increase launch rate to 20 per year, you can reduce your loss to only 13%.  Not very promising. 

The conclusion is clear.  Returning the booster to the launch site significantly degrades the business case relative to barge landing.  And the business case was tough to begin with. A bit premature to be trumpeting a new age in spaceflight. 

The real revolution will occur when we can source propellant off earth.

Thanks for a thoughful analysis.  However, I think there is a serious flaw - current customers do not measure cost in $/kg, they measure it in $/launch for their particular payload.  This gives a different perspective.

But SpaceX could just add a downscaled Falcon 9 to their portfolio. 5 engines, shorter tanks etc. (a la Falcon 5 but more powerful). And it could resurrect Falcon 1 for small payloads. I think using reusability to adjust to different payload sizes is an interesting idea but I'm not sure it will be cheaper than a Falcon H/9/5/1 fleet would be.


The real revolution will occur when we can source propellant off earth.

Propellant off Earth is of little use unless you want to move the industry (e.g. solar panel manufacturing) off Earth as well. That seems to be a far bigger challenge than cheap launch to me.

With high ISP propulsion propellant will also become less important (currently studied architectures suggest NASA will go that way).

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rcoppola on 01/02/2016 08:53 PM
Dr. Sowers...I've read all of your documentation, resulting community feedback and followup posts accordingly.

With all due respect...and I mean that quite sincerely...

In a way this reminds me of Plato's "Allegory Of The Cave", where the current presentation and dissection of reuse equations are the shadows on the wall. All interpreted as real and worth appointing status to.

However esoteric this may sound, and as comforting as these equations may be in legitimizing one's business case over another, they simply reflect what it is we think we know.

Sometimes the value of an effort can not be reduced to a quantifiable sum. What equation captures the inspiration an engineer may have because they are working towards this ambitious goal? imaginations freed, they are nudged towards an exciting, maybe even profound direction or discovery?


Obviously there are shareholder, economic realities to these types of pursuits. And rationalizations must be made to discern your correct path.

But often, it truly is the journey, not the destination. Equations are a guide, but true discovery and revelation are often reserved for those who see beyond them.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Dante80 on 01/02/2016 10:12 PM
But SpaceX could just add a downscaled Falcon 9 to their portfolio. 5 engines, shorter tanks etc. (a la Falcon 5 but more powerful). And it could resurrect Falcon 1 for small payloads. I think using reusability to adjust to different payload sizes is an interesting idea but I'm not sure it will be cheaper than a Falcon H/9/5/1 fleet would be.

I think it would depend on how you adjust and integrate your whole operation around the two paradigms.

For example, the case for re-usable F9/FH is this.

1. FH does the missions that F9 cannot do.
2. Both LVs do missions in a re-usable state.
3. Via the F9/FH combo SX can cover the whole LV market, with margin to spare.
4. Commonality is imperative for the combo to work as well as it can.

I could argue that adding F1 to the mix might not make sense due to 4. (adding one more engine type and tooling/production for the different diameter tanks, fairing etc). Something like F5 FT though could have merit, assuming that re-usability and commonality would remain in the picture for it.

In the end, you may well find that adding it to the mix and keeping it in the fleet would be more expensive overall than just flying F9 with lighter payloads.

Also, this thing about performance is a little confusing to me. From what I understand about what SX is trying to do, the idea is to have re-usability bring down the price of LV access. If the rocket can do a mission with re-usability, it can do it cheaper than using the same rocket in an expendable mode.

Part of Mr Sowers equation has to do with the effect of performance loss on profitability that re-usability brings to the table. In the real world this performance loss has no effect, simply because for most missions the rocket can do the mission while being re-usable. In other words, if a rocket can lift 5tons and RTLS, and another rocket can do 10tons and be expendable, the loss would be perceived in missions where the first rocket has to lift 6tons, or the second can book and lift 2 5ton payloads instead of one.

To give an example about SpaceX, for the missions that F9 won't suffice, FH in re-usable form will do. The real question in that case would be whether FH in that mission would be more costly than an expendable F9.

And - if FH is more costly - whether there are enough missions that the F9 cannot do to really have the performance loss have ANY effect on the business case.

The above assertion can also work for missions where linear $/kg to orbit is important, like for example supplies, or bulk cargo/fuel.
 
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: joek on 01/02/2016 11:49 PM
I'm bumping this thread in honor of SpaceX's successful landing of the booster at the landing site.  I admire the technological accomplishment.  But the challenge of reuse has never been technological.  It is getting a reasonable business case to close.

I believe the takeaway from the 4 pages of discussions above is that the basic equation is valid and that the analysis of barge landing is reasonable.  Conclusion of that analysis was that 10 uses of the booster breaks even in terms of $/kg, 20 uses saves 5%.  Not exactly revolutionary.

Here I want to address two additional questions:
1) What is the influence of overall launch rate?  This question came up in the prior discussion.
2) How does landing at the launch site change the analysis?  Is it better or worse?

...

Thanks for your time Dr. Sowers.

Using the same model and your figures I get the results shown in the attached graph below for barge (blue) and RTLS (green) landings based on your numbers.  I also added a third plot (red) to attempt to answer the question: What is the required performance to achieve break even?  Do those agree with yours?

While these ratios are interesting when using $/kg as the FOM for fungible payloads, they are necessarily relative and do not address the actual cost/price to put a given payload into orbit.  As customers will trade cost/price, actual cost/price ultimately needs to be reflected in these calculations at some point.

Thanks again for your time.  Hope you and ULA have a great 2016 and happy 10th!
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: skidbladnir on 01/03/2016 01:03 AM
I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and quite frankly I found the parametric model confusing. Linking the production facilities and the operations of the rocket together is muddy and confusing to me. Let's separate them. In the business case I created, I just am buying rockets. I do not actually make the rockets, I just operate them, I see no need to be concerned about the factory and their production rates or anything else that happens inside their walls.

My business case supposes I have a start up here in Texas offering rocket launches. We'll call it Bill Bob's Rocket Launches and Bait Shop, since we are right here on the coast we like to go fishing when not launching rockets. As a business owner, I am  trying to decide whether to buy a rocket for my business and reuse it, or I am going to buy a new one every time.  I want to give my customers the best value and make the most money. I am very lucky that I have an anchor tenant that needs 10 launches per year for 10 years.

When I look at the total program costs, my reusable program runs me about $721.4M, vs an expendable program is going to cost $6.210B. In both cases I still have some costs that are the same, namely, my people and my launch facilities. This is for a 10 year, 10 flight per year program and I assume that my rocket doesn't blow up over that time frame and if it does, my insurance will cover it.

Here are my calculations, like I said, I am a bonehead, so go easy on me. Thanks! I have to work with real costs, since if I do things in a parametric fashion, I will not see gross errors in my model.

Is my model valid as well? And if so why does it produce such very different results?

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Coastal Ron on 01/03/2016 01:10 AM
Lots of food for thought, and I didn't have a chance to look at Dr. Sowers original spreadsheet when he first started this topic so this is a good time to revisit this subject.

I must confess that Dr. Sowers spreadsheet, though pretty straightforward, was not intuitive for me.  But I think that's just because I don't usually approach problems in that way.

My background has been in manufacturing operations, so for me I approach this problem from a "how much do I need to build?" standpoint.  But to do that I'm going to have to make some pretty simplistic assumptions that won't necessarily be true today, but will help provide a simplistic model for comparison (we could do this with Vulcan too).

Assumptions:
- I'm only looking at manufacturing costs - no overhead, launch or recovery operations costs.

- The Falcon 9 advertised performance for the advertised price is the same regardless if it's an expendable flight or one that attempts recovery, and customers don't care which type they get.

- Every flight has the same manufacturing cost for the 2nd stage, since it is not recoverable.

- Musk has been saying the Falcon 9 cost (not price) was $60M, and earlier Lar stated that Musk had said the Falcon 9 1st stage was 70% of the total cost, so we'll estimate the Falcon 9 1st stage costs $42M to produce (I think this is high though).

With the above assumptions, if I'm the factory scheduling manager for the Falcon 9 production line what I'm looking at is how to figure out what number of Falcon 9 1st stage units (stage bodies, inter-stages, engines, etc.) I will need to produce to satisfy the planned launch rate?

Let's say that SpaceX looks into their launch schedule and estimates that 70% of the next 10 launches should be able to recover the stages, which is 7ea 1st stages.

Using a simplistic reuse model and assuming a form of batch production, let's say those 7 stages will be used in the next batch of 10 launches, meaning that the factory only has to produce 3ea 1st stages instead of 10ea.  So the manufacturing cost savings for the second batch of Falcon 9's would be 7ea times $42M, or $294M.

To look at look at that another way, 10ea full up Falcon 9 cost $600M using the assumptions above, so the $294M means they are saving ~50% of their total manufacturing cost by recovering 70% of their 1st stages.

Of all the overhead ignored, recovery operations would be the biggest amount that needs to be considered, since no recovery operations is needed when rockets are 100% expendable.  But a good part of the overhead costs for recovery would be the barge, and that would mostly be in the contract costs for the support ships.  So provide your own guesses on how many $Million that would be.

So hopefully this provides a different perspective on how to look at the cost advantages of reuse.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 01/03/2016 01:36 AM
...
The conclusion is clear.  Returning the booster to the launch site significantly degrades the business case relative to barge landing....
This is not a good analysis.

Let me show you why.

SpaceX, like ULA, fields payloads of varying mass and energy requirements. Only a subset requires full expendability. Those that don't need fully expendability of the Falcon 9 can get by with barging. Those that don't need the performance even of barging can do RTLS. You could do a fully expendable rocket each time, but you'll be wasting the rocket and wasting money. It's pointless to compare versus $/kg for each payload, because you don't pay per $/kg, you pay per payload delivered. You don't have the option of packing a rocket full for every flight.

You and ULA should understand this. That's why you're launching Insight (at some point in time??) from the West coast at a huge performance loss. The fact that you have a big performance loss is irrelevant because even with the hit of launching an interplanetary mission from the West coast, Atlas V 401 has plenty of performance for Insight.

Or to put it another way: The $/kg for a West coast launch is way worse than an East coast launch, but that's irrelevant because any extra performance would be wasted anyway and a little money can be saved due to the West coast pad being more available (at least, I think that's why you're launching on the West coast).

SpaceX needs incredibly fast turnaround times for their future missions. Actual single-day turnarounds, in the long-run. That makes a barging more expensive because it'd slow down the turnaround time too much.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 01/03/2016 01:44 AM
I'm bumping this thread in honor of SpaceX's successful landing of the booster at the landing site.  I admire the technological accomplishment.  But the challenge of reuse has never been technological.  It is getting a reasonable business case to close.

I believe the takeaway from the 4 pages of discussions above is that the basic equation is valid and that the analysis of barge landing is reasonable.  Conclusion of that analysis was that 10 uses of the booster breaks even in terms of $/kg, 20 uses saves 5%.  Not exactly revolutionary.

Here I want to address two additional questions:
1) What is the influence of overall launch rate?  This question came up in the prior discussion.
2) How does landing at the launch site change the analysis?  Is it better or worse?

Answer 1)  One simple way to understand the influence of rate on launch cost is to think of fixed costs and variable costs.  Fixed costs are relatively high in the launch industry due to the scale of the operations required.  One data point I can offer is that at a 10 per year rate (roughly what Atlas is doing now) about 40% of the unit cost is a 1/10th share of the annual fixed cost.  If the rate doubles to 20 per year, each launch gets only half as much fixed cost and the overall unit cost would decrease by 20%.  Pretty simple.

For the barge launch,  I assumed 40% for the fraction of total launch service cost represented by booster production cost.  If another 40% is fixed cost, then doubling the launch rate increases the booster fraction to 50%.  This improves the business case, so that the breakeven point is down to 5 uses and twenty uses results in a 15% overall savings.

So launch rate is an important consideration and the reuse business case improves with increasing launch rate.  But it is not revolutionary.  Even in the limit of no fixed cost allocation (infinite launch rate) breakeven is 3 and the 20 use savings is 35%.

Answer 2)  According to SpaceX, (need reference)  90 klbs prop is reserved for barge landing, 200 klbs for return to launch site.  Performance loss is not linear with respect to propellant withheld, so let me be somewhat conservative.  Assume overall performance loss is 50% for return to launch site. (I would love to see some info from SpaceX to verify.)  What is clear is that reserving another 110klbs of propellant will further degrade performance.  The cost savings in doing so is a reduction in recovery cost.  You save the cost of the barge.  On the other hand, you pick up the fixed cost of the recovery site.  I will give the benefit of the doubt by assuming the overall cost of recovery and refurb can be reduced by half.   Even so, this is small compensation for losing another 20% performance.

Plugging these numbers into the formula you find that you never break even.  The best you can do after 20 uses is a 30% $/kg increase.  If you increase launch rate to 20 per year, you can reduce your loss to only 13%.  Not very promising. 

The conclusion is clear.  Returning the booster to the launch site significantly degrades the business case relative to barge landing.  And the business case was tough to begin with. A bit premature to be trumpeting a new age in spaceflight. 

Dr. Sowers, it is always a pleasure to read your posts. But I think you are overestimating refurbishment costs and fixed costs. I'm not sure that the costs ULA faces will apply to  SpaceX.... SpaceX seems intent on reducing these costs at every opportunity.

It may take some capex to get the costs down, to be sure, but I think in the long run 40% is vastly overestimating refurbishment cost. I would be surprised if they were satisfied with 10% for refurbishment....  Remember, their model is gas'n'go.... This is where returning the whole booster may be ahead of an engines only plan, which requires a lot of reassembly, comparatively speaking, driving up cost.

I also think you may be overestimating the long term fixed costs that SpaceX will be facing. They have demonstrated they can develop boosters and facilities for a far lower cost than the competition can, if we can believe the numbers they share publicly. Boca Chica, a greenfield site, will really tell the tale of whether they can pull this off. It will be hard to estimate their true costs (as I am sure that is highly proprietary information) but some astute estimates surely will be forthcoming.

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The real revolution will occur when we can source propellant off earth.

Yes. 1000000% agreement with this.

Please hurry up and get ACES and IVF flying in production. This is something where you are far ahead of your rivals. Please please... Go to your masters at Lazy B and LM and beg them to unleash you in this area. :)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rayleighscatter on 01/03/2016 02:18 AM
SpaceX needs incredibly fast turnaround times for their future missions. Actual single-day turnarounds, in the long-run.
That's quite.... ambitious.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: joek on 01/03/2016 03:33 AM
...
The conclusion is clear.  Returning the booster to the launch site significantly degrades the business case relative to barge landing....
This is not a good analysis.
...
If sourcing propellant from Earth surface to LEO it is a reasonable for performing relative trades using $/kg as the FOM.  For payloads which are not easily fungible and not expressed simply in $/kg terms, the model may (likely will) lead to erroneous conclusions.  This was addressed in the previous round of discussions.

Quote
...
SpaceX needs incredibly fast turnaround times for their future missions. Actual single-day turnarounds, in the long-run. That makes a barging more expensive because it'd slow down the turnaround time too much.
It depends on the "pipeline" depth and how much you can afford to keep the pileline full (inventory) to maintain a given level of throughput.  Having a stage available every 8 hours does not require a turnaround time of 8 hours.

It may take some capex to get the costs down, to be sure, but I think in the long run 40% is vastly overestimating refurbishment cost. I would be surprised if they were satisfied with 10% for refurbishment....  Remember, their model is gas'n'go.... This is where returning the whole booster may be ahead of an engines only plan, which requires a lot of reassembly, comparatively speaking, driving up cost.
40% is the initial S1 contribution to launch cost.  Recovery+refurbishment costs for F9 S1 are ~10% based on the original model for barge landing (p=1.43); RTLS halves that to 5% but performance is also reduced.

In short, the recent numbers from Dr. Sowers (assuming the same model) shows that RTLS trades less favorably than barge landings on a $/kg basis.  That is all it says; no more and no less.

That is not to say the model is not useful.  It is interesting and provides a good basis for incorporating your own refinements or testing assumptions.  Don't think $/kg to LEO is a good metric?  Then run the numbers for your favorite market segment and see how it looks.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: su27k on 01/03/2016 07:25 AM
Here's the revised spreadsheet that removes the invalid assumption that reusable has to fly the same number of times as expendable, instead it tries to constraint the business case in much more reasonable terms: either reusable must match expendable's total performance (total mass to orbit), or reusable must match expendable's total cost.

The result is a huge improvement of reuse index, basically reusable system would always beat expendable system, even when performance ratio is 2. When performance ratio is 1.43, assuming annual production of 3 cores and 3 expendable flights, reusable would give a saving of 15% to 30%, depending on whether you match total performance or total cost.

Looking at the launch rate, you do need about 2x the launch rate of expendable system to realize the biggest savings (N=19 for reusable vs N' = 10 for expendable), but what you may not realize is the reusable system can launch at 2x the launch rate using the same total cost as expendable system. Basically by switching to resusable you can double your launch rate for free, just think about what this could mean if most your customers don't care about $/kg.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Oli on 01/03/2016 08:35 AM
...just think about what this could mean if most your customers don't care about $/kg.

Why should customers not care about $/kg?

If the payload is to big for a FH they can book a F9.
If its too big for a F9 they can book a Soyuz.
If its too big for a Soyuz they can book a Vega.
If its too big for a Vega they can book a LauncherOne.

There's also the option to launch multiple payloads on the same rocket.

You act as if there are no alternatives to launching on a too big rocket.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: tobi453 on 01/03/2016 08:38 AM
Arianespace's Soyuz is more expensive than Falcon 9.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Dante80 on 01/03/2016 10:54 AM
...just think about what this could mean if most your customers don't care about $/kg.

Why should customers not care about $/kg?

If the payload is to big for a FH they can book a F9.
If its too big for a F9 they can book a Soyuz.
If its too big for a Soyuz they can book a Vega.
If its too big for a Vega they can book a LauncherOne.

There's also the option to launch multiple payloads on the same rocket.

You act as if there are no alternatives to launching on a too big rocket.

The idea here (for SpaceX) is whether the F9/FH combo can cover a large pie of the market in a cost effective way. $/kg matters when you are transporting easily dividable cargo, like propellant or supplies. For a customer in the satellite business, what matters is how cheaper you can launch his X,XXXkg payload to orbit.

One may assume that a mission in a re-usable F9 might be more expensive than doing so in an expendable smaller rocket. This assumption is not very easy to substantiate, given the current (not future if re-usability pans out) SX prices. This might easily change though.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: AncientU on 01/03/2016 12:26 PM
Expendable smaller rockets are not on the table in this trade space.
(Dollars per kilogram they deliver is among most expensive in the market, too.)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: su27k on 01/03/2016 12:56 PM
...just think about what this could mean if most your customers don't care about $/kg.

Why should customers not care about $/kg?

If the payload is to big for a FH they can book a F9.
If its too big for a F9 they can book a Soyuz.
If its too big for a Soyuz they can book a Vega.
If its too big for a Vega they can book a LauncherOne.

There's also the option to launch multiple payloads on the same rocket.

You act as if there are no alternatives to launching on a too big rocket.

Of course there're alternatives, but picking an alternative is never as simple as comparing $/kg. The point is how reusability business case will work out is a lot more complicated than a simple $/kg number, just looking at $/kg is missing the bigger picture.

What reusability gives you is this: It couldn't do much to reduce your total cost since a lot of that is fixed, but it could allow you to dramatically increase the # of launches you can conduct at very little (or no) additional cost, with the caveat that each launch loses some performance. Of course we know this since the Shuttle days, what we may be able to see is how a businessman can wield reusability in the marketplace, and it's not going to be about $/kg.

Here's an example, let's pick the last line in spreadsheet, 3 cores, 16 recoverable/reused launches, 3 expendable launches. How would you sell this in the market? Here's one way to do it: you can sell the 1st launch of 3 cores at expendable price, probably to NASA/USAF who still believes 1st use is safer and their payloads don't exceed the reusable performance. Then you can sell the next 14 reusable launches at 50% of the expendable price, this would allow you to cover all the cost. What about the last 2 launches? You can basically give it away for free and still maintain your bottomline. This is the kind of pricing power reusability can give you.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Rocket Surgeon on 01/03/2016 01:16 PM
Dr. Sowers, thanks you very much for this spreadsheet, I find it incredibly interesting.

I have a question that other might want to answer and I've yet to see discussed. The issue I see here isn't with the analysis, and given that Dr. Sowers is the VP of Advanced Programs at one of the world’s leading rocket builders… I think we can assume he knows what he is talking about and I doubt we'll easily be able to find a flaw.

No, the issue I see is in the bigger picture, in the fact that this is a parametric study. This is comparing a boost-back Vulcan to a SMART recover Vulcan or a boost-back Falcon 9 to SMART recovery Falcon 9, both at Unit Cost of an Expendable. There is far more at play here. So let’s take this up to LEO and look at the big picture!

Consider the following. The 1.512 value for a boost-back design (Scenario 1) for the first launch corresponds to SpaceX's current launch price. I.E. This value corresponds to the ~$65 million cost of launching now. Consider the effect, not on the payback, but on the launch costs. I will assume that there is no flaw in the analysis, and merely use the current numbers for the Falcon 9 as a starting point. Yes, it takes longer for SpaceX to make the breakeven point compared to an expendable, but at the end, after 10 flights, the price has dropped to ~$42 million for the current performance (an average cost over this period is $47million)

(I calculated this by using the ratio of the change between the data points and multiplying that by the previous cost (i.e. Launch 2 = Launch 1* (1.247/1.512), Launch 3 = Launch 2*(1.150/1.247) etc. for the Boost-back column). Now I’ve probably buggered up something here, and if I have, please correct me and ignore the below.)

Essentially I am arguing that the current Falcon 9 launch costs is already far above where it would be for a comparable expendable, given that it is designed to be Reusable already. Given how cheap the Falcon 9 is, that is really saying something.

So what about Vulcan? Though it is not flying, let’s use the numbers we have, I.E. $90 million for a starting launch (half a bare-bones Atlas V per Wikipedia). In this case, this corresponds to the 1.069 for the SMART reuse first launch (Scenario 2). After 10 launches the price drop isn’t quite as much, with the price falling to ~$76 million. (an average over this period is $77.3 million) This is a reduction in $14 million as opposed to $18 million.

While for a Unit Price Comparison, the picture looks better for the SMART, but once real world numbers come in, it poses an interesting problem for ULA. How do you compete with a Falcon 9 that is 34% cheaper than its current cost?

Just for fun, if you assume the same curve for the Falcon Heavy as the Falcon 9 (which, fortunately, has the same predicted starting price as the Vulcan, $90 million) than a real saving takes place. The price drops form $90 million to ~$59.3 million, or a drop of over $30 million dollars. Essentially, Falcon Heavy + boost back means you can have Ariane 5 GS performance to GTO, for Falcon 9 Prices! So is this 'revolutionary'... no, but it does allow for a series of evolutionary steps where stagnation was all we had before and my money would be on Booster-back to allow more steps in future.

Now, given that Reuse is such a low priority for ULA, I don’t think that this issue will be a battle between SMART or Boost-back. The issue will be whether or not ULA ever gets a chance to demonstrate it. I mean, in 8 years, SpaceX has enough time to try boost-back into the dirt, give up and start again using SMART if they want to. I feel that if SMART was implemented NOW(!) then this discussion would be valid, but in 8 years, it may have a hard time proving it’s worth when the world is expecting rockets to return to the launch site and land…don’t forget, something Blue this way comes as well.


Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Oli on 01/03/2016 03:11 PM
Here's an example, let's pick the last line in spreadsheet, 3 cores, 16 recoverable/reused launches, 3 expendable launches. How would you sell this in the market? Here's one way to do it: you can sell the 1st launch of 3 cores at expendable price, probably to NASA/USAF who still believes 1st use is safer and their payloads don't exceed the reusable performance. Then you can sell the next 14 reusable launches at 50% of the expendable price, this would allow you to cover all the cost. What about the last 2 launches? You can basically give it away for free and still maintain your bottomline. This is the kind of pricing power reusability can give you.

If you've got so many customers who are fine with reduced performance you can make a downscaled, cheaper rocket for them. Without all the reusability baggage. Might be cheaper, or not.

Fact is, there's no way around $/kg. Its the only viable metric for such a simplistic analysis. Surely SpaceX won't revolutionize the launch market without massively lowering $/kg.



Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: AncientU on 01/03/2016 03:20 PM
Here's an example, let's pick the last line in spreadsheet, 3 cores, 16 recoverable/reused launches, 3 expendable launches. How would you sell this in the market? Here's one way to do it: you can sell the 1st launch of 3 cores at expendable price, probably to NASA/USAF who still believes 1st use is safer and their payloads don't exceed the reusable performance. Then you can sell the next 14 reusable launches at 50% of the expendable price, this would allow you to cover all the cost. What about the last 2 launches? You can basically give it away for free and still maintain your bottomline. This is the kind of pricing power reusability can give you.

If you've got so many customers who are fine with reduced performance you can make a downscaled, cheaper rocket for them. Without all the reusability baggage. Might be cheaper, or not.

Fact is, there's no way around $/kg. Its the only viable metric for such a simplistic analysis. Surely SpaceX won't revolutionize the launch market without massively lowering $/kg.

What aspect of reusability is baggage?
In the same regard, isn't making a new rocket every launch baggage, too?

Hint: 'That's the way it has always been done' is not a full credit answer.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Oli on 01/03/2016 03:47 PM
So launch rate is an important consideration and the reuse business case improves with increasing launch rate.

Can we say that in general?

For I we have(*):

I = [F(n)*C(B) / n + C(RHW) / n + C(RR) + C(~B)] / [C(B) + C(~B)]

I guess a higher launch rate will lower all costs: C(B), C(RHW), C(RR) and C(~B). It doesn't seem obvious to me whether I will increase as a result of a higher launch rate or not.

What we can safely say though is that more n is always good. If n goes to infinity, reusability will always pay off as long as C(RR) > C(B).

(*)
C(RHW) is the cost of the reuse hardware (legs, wings, HIAD, parafoil etc.). Shouldn't that increase with n? If the booster is reused more often the production rate of RHW decreases which should increase the cost per RHW.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: joek on 01/03/2016 05:19 PM
Fact is, there's no way around $/kg. Its the only viable metric for such a simplistic analysis. Surely SpaceX won't revolutionize the launch market without massively lowering $/kg.

You can reduce or eliminate the reuse payload penalty for certain payload masses to see how it might affect certain markets.  That is, if the payload is within the "no reuse mass penalty" envelope, set Pe/Pr = 1.0.  The attached chart below shows two plots:
A. No payload reuse penalty: Pe/Pr = 1.0.
B. Every kg lost to reuse costs: Pe/Pr = 1.43 (original assumption)
With the exception of setting Pe/Pr=1.0 in (A), all values are the same as presented in Dr. Sowers original scenario for F9 barge landings.

If you are buying a launch for which the payload fits in (A), it is much more relevant than (B).  For example, a GTO launch such as SES-9, a CRS mission, or other discrete payloads.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 01/03/2016 05:58 PM
Here's an example, let's pick the last line in spreadsheet, 3 cores, 16 recoverable/reused launches, 3 expendable launches. How would you sell this in the market? Here's one way to do it: you can sell the 1st launch of 3 cores at expendable price, probably to NASA/USAF who still believes 1st use is safer and their payloads don't exceed the reusable performance. Then you can sell the next 14 reusable launches at 50% of the expendable price, this would allow you to cover all the cost. What about the last 2 launches? You can basically give it away for free and still maintain your bottomline. This is the kind of pricing power reusability can give you.

If you've got so many customers who are fine with reduced performance you can make a downscaled, cheaper rocket for them. Without all the reusability baggage. Might be cheaper, or not.
...
Not likely to be cheaper to have a totally different rocket with smaller payload. Smaller rockets have worse $/kg in general. An exceptional example: Pegasus costs like $35-40 million for half a ton to orbit. RTLS F9 would cost about the same (perhaps less) but should get over 10 times that much to orbit.

With this graded reuse strategy, SpaceX can launch basically 40 launches per year with the same platform without having to greatly expand production from where they are right now. Falcon Heavy for the largest payloads, but F9 RTLS for the smallest. That's a very efficient strategy, not too dissimilar to ULA's dial-a-rocket approach but usable for far smaller (read: lowest cost) payloads and with only having to deal with 1 propellant combination instead of 3 for ULA (solids, kerolox, hydrolox).
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 01/03/2016 06:04 PM
Possible strategy to make first stage reuse make even more sense while not being stuck with manufacturing overhead:

Make like 30 reusable boosters. Make 300 upper stages. Operate full-throttle, 4 shifts, etc. When those are all made, shut down production, retool for the next-generation vehicle.

In this case you're not realizing a huge profit right away from pursuing reuse, but it does enable you to make what would otherwise be an impractical capital investment without more cost than it would for expendable rockets. So you're generating the profit in the form of having a next-generation vehicle production line starting up almost a decade earlier than you otherwise would be able to.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Alf Fass on 01/03/2016 06:09 PM
The actual performance loss will be less than that calculated because each launch of an expendable system does not carry its maximum possible payload, though with piggy-backing small payloads maybe actual payload gets close to theoretical payloads these days?

In other words if SpaceX was launching a payload that weighed 30% less than the expendable launch capacity and that payload wasn't going to grow by using the rocket in expendable mode the 30% loss ("Shotwell statement during Hawthorne tour that barge recovery results in a 30% performance loss. 1/0.7=1.43") never happens.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: GWH on 01/03/2016 06:31 PM
Possible strategy to make first stage reuse make even more sense while not being stuck with manufacturing overhead:

Make like 30 reusable boosters. Make 300 upper stages. Operate full-throttle, 4 shifts, etc. When those are all made, shut down production, retool for the next-generation vehicle.

In this case you're not realizing a huge profit right away from pursuing reuse, but it does enable you to make what would otherwise be an impractical capital investment without more cost than it would for expendable rockets. So you're generating the profit in the form of having a next-generation vehicle production line starting up almost a decade earlier than you otherwise would be able to.

Also utilize flyback boosters for a tri core rocket, leverage growth in new market place (larger payloads to high energy orbits). Now with reuse in small  amounts the addition of tri core production for new rocket will result in a flat, rather than decreasing manufacturing rate.  Production costs don't increase on a per core basis. Mid term production rates can be maintained if upper stage is virtually same construction as booster cores.
I think there is also a lot to be said for what flyback reusable boosters can offer in comparison to strap on solids by eliminating a product that is completely separate in construction and handling procedures.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: joek on 01/03/2016 06:42 PM
Possible strategy to make first stage reuse make even more sense while not being stuck with manufacturing overhead:
...
You have just moved the manufacturing value add to inventory, with consequent increase in carrying costs.  Minimizing such inefficiencies is one reason for JIT or "on-demand" production.  A separate thread would be appropriate for that discussion.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: HIP2BSQRE on 01/03/2016 06:43 PM
Possible strategy to make first stage reuse make even more sense while not being stuck with manufacturing overhead:

Make like 30 reusable boosters. Make 300 upper stages. Operate full-throttle, 4 shifts, etc. When those are all made, shut down production, retool for the next-generation vehicle.

In this case you're not realizing a huge profit right away from pursuing reuse, but it does enable you to make what would otherwise be an impractical capital investment without more cost than it would for expendable rockets. So you're generating the profit in the form of having a next-generation vehicle production line starting up almost a decade earlier than you otherwise would be able to.

Yes you save the overhead for x years, but you need a product to retool for?????  it does the benefit that your development team is just about always developing a new product.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: HIP2BSQRE on 01/03/2016 06:51 PM
So in a few years we may see one company (ULA) coming to market with a new LV but not re useable, with another company (SpaceX) having a re-useable product or at least a good portion of the product.  That is not even including BO.  I see tougher times ahead for ULA.  :-( 
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Oli on 01/03/2016 06:56 PM
You can reduce or eliminate the reuse payload penalty for certain payload masses to see how it might affect certain markets.  That is, if the payload is within the "no reuse mass penalty" envelope, set Pe/Pr = 1.0.

I think a useful example might be reusable FH vs expendable F9. I heard the fully reusable RTLS FH has approx. the same performance as F9FT (?).

So we're basically replacing 1 expendable booster with 3 reusable boosters.

Performance ratio=1
Recovered prod cost=0.4
Reuse HW ratio=2.3

Assuming C(B) = 1, C(B) + C(RHW) = 3.3 (one reusable booster costing 1.1x as much as an expendable one).
-> C(RHW)/C(B)=2.3

recovery + refurb ratio = 0.3

3*0.1 since 3 reusable boosters.

rate curve=0.9

Gives 17.6% savings at 20 reuses for the boosters and a minimum of 7 reuses to pay off. However (!) that does not include increased operational cost of the FH vs F9. As an example I increase the recovery + refurb ratio to 0.6 to account for that (wild guess).

In that case its only 5.6% savings at 20 reuses for the boosters and a minimum of 13 reuses to pay off.


(I changed the formula to p*k*(1/B15*(C15+C15*D15)+E15+F15), but it has no big effect).

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Coastal Ron on 01/03/2016 07:44 PM
Possible strategy to make first stage reuse make even more sense while not being stuck with manufacturing overhead:

Make like 30 reusable boosters. Make 300 upper stages. Operate full-throttle, 4 shifts, etc. When those are all made, shut down production, retool for the next-generation vehicle.

Uh, no.  Having an active manufacturing capability is an asset, whereas any inventory above and beyond current customer need is a liability.  SpaceX doing this would turn them into something like GM during the 70's & 80's, and that was not a business model to emulate.

For instance, if (more likely when) they have another flight failure, if they had 200+ upper stages in inventory that they had to inspect and rework they would need to reestablish a production facility for Falcon 9 upper stages - hire new people, find facility space, etc. etc.  If you only built what you needed, then inspection and rework is minimized, your staffing is more predictable (which allows personnel quality to stay high), and your capital is deployed more efficiently.

Falcon 9 reusability does not eliminate engine or stage production (same tooling and engines for 1st & 2nd stages), but the SpaceX factory also produces Dragon Cargo and Dragon Crew, and since BFR and MCT are not likely to be produced in Hawthorne, keeping the Hawthorne factory utilization high with concurrent Falcon 9 and Dragon production makes sense for now.

Quote
So you're generating the profit in the form of having a next-generation vehicle production line starting up almost a decade earlier than you otherwise would be able to.

Production capacity, or the ability to scale production, is not the bottleneck right now for future products.  And the aerospace industry is large enough to draw from for SpaceX to staff up their production capacity when the time comes.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: joek on 01/03/2016 08:02 PM
I think a useful example might be reusable FH vs expendable F9. I heard the fully reusable RTLS FH has approx. the same performance as F9FT (?).

So we're basically replacing 1 expendable booster with 3 reusable boosters.

Performance ratio=1
Recovered prod cost=0.4
Reuse HW ratio=2.3

Assuming C(B) = 1, C(B) + C(RHW) = 3.3 (one reusable booster costing 1.1x as much as an expendable one).
-> C(RHW)/C(B)=2.3

recovery + refurb ratio = 0.3

3*0.1 since 3 reusable boosters.

rate curve=0.9

Gives 17.6% savings at 20 reuses for the boosters and a minimum of 7 reuses to pay off. However (!) that does not include increased operational cost of the FH vs F9. As an example I increase the recovery + refurb ratio to 0.6 to account for that (wild guess).

In that case its only 5.6% savings at 20 reuses for the boosters and a minimum of 13 reuses to pay off.


Not sure I understand the basis for adjusting ratios in that manner.  The ratios are based on the total...
- Recovered prod cost (k) should increase given that 3 boosters are being recovered (a greater portion of the entire cost).
- Reuse HW ratio (rhw_ratio) should be about the same (maybe a bit higher).
- recovery + refurb ratio (RR_ratio) should be about the same (maybe a bit higher).

If anything, the reuse case for FH is significantly better as the recovered product cost (k) dominates.  E.g., the chart below shows F9 and FH respectively for:
perf ratio (Pe/Pr)   1.000   1.000
Recovered prod cost (k)   0.400   0.700
Reuse HW ratio (rwh_ratio)   0.050   0.200
Recovery + refurb ratio (RR_ratio)   0.050   0.200
Rate curve (rF)   0.900   0.900
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rcoppola on 01/03/2016 08:04 PM
Haven't they essentially recaptured most if not all "performance loss" with FT including upgraded second stage? Wasn't that the point? Same priced rocket, with enough performance to throw up an SES-9 sized payload and still make it back?

Besides, if they can accommodate "testing" their re-use strategy while "still" offering one of, if not the most competitive launch service prices, then what are we talking about here?

A business case is mostly relevant to a specific company. Frankly, this is my issue with the entirely of the discussion. We seem to be trying to fit these two competitors into a neat little spreadsheet. I just don't see how you can extrapolate out whether ULA's reuse business case can or even should be applied to SpaceX or vice versa.

We are comparing 2 very different companies & systems, with different degrees of legacy entanglements, vertical integration and overall economic autonomy. ULA is a pure-play launch service provider, while SpaceX also provides spaceship design, production and operations in the form of Dragon which also complicates any one-to-one models.

The only thing that is "clear" is that reuse for ULA points them in a different direction. So that's the way "they" should go. But SpaceX sees something different, based on information we don't have access to and...some we do.

So I have to ask... What are we really talking about? Why is Dr. Sowers tweeting, "I think a rational discussion on the economic merits of reuse is timely and worthwhile."

Who's being irrational? What audience is this intended for? And what exactly would be the "worthwhile" outcome of such a discussion for ULA?

Reuse, as SpaceX envisions it, will either work to substantially reduce costs or it won't. There's really not much left to "discuss", since we are witnessing the efforts in realtime.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 01/03/2016 08:22 PM
The FH current price is $135m 21t GTO for expendable. SpaceX doesn't explain the pricing of $90m 6.4t GTO.

To compete with Vulcan 8t GTO (7t with SMART) the FH will need to recover all 3 cores. The launch costs are considerably higher than F9 as 3 cores have to be processed and assembled. Risk of failure or scrubs would also be higher with 3 cores as there is more to go wrong.

With barge recovery there will be more launch delays as sea states will dictate if recovery is possible. SpaceX have already canned one recovery attempt because of sea states, launch still proceeded with booster expended.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Oli on 01/03/2016 08:24 PM
Not sure I understand the basis for adjusting ratios in that manner.  The ratios are based on the total...
- Recovered prod cost (k) should increase given that 3 boosters are being recovered (a greater portion of the entire cost).
- Reuse HW ratio (rhw_ratio) should be about the same (maybe a bit higher).
- recovery + refurb ratio (RR_ratio) should be about the same (maybe a bit higher).

I know its a rather creative way to use it, but it should be correct.

- The recovered prod cost is k = C(B) / [C(B) + C(~B)]. C(B) is the cost of the booster of the expendable rocket, in this case the expendable F9 booster. C(~B) are the non-booster costs of the expendable F9 (which in this model are the same for FH, more on that later).

- The reuse hardware ratio is C(RHW) / C(B). C(RHW) is the hardware cost of making the expendable booster reusable. In this case, in order to make the expendable F9 booster reusable, we have to replace it with 3 reusable boosters. So the additional cost C(RHW) of making the booster reusable is the cost of 3x reusable boosters minus the cost of one expendable booster (I assume one reusable booster costs 1.1*C(B)).

- The refurb ratio is C(RR) / C(B). Previously it was 0.1. Meaning the cost of refurbishing one booster relative to the cost of one expendable booster was 0.1. Since we must refurbish 3 boosters now, the refurbishing cost relative to the cost of the expendable booster is 3x bigger.

- Additionally I assume the increase in operational cost of FH relative to F9 (transporation, integration etc.) is about as high as refurbishing 3 boosters (pure speculation).

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Coastal Ron on 01/03/2016 11:12 PM
So I have to ask... What are we really talking about? Why is Dr. Sowers tweeting, "I think a rational discussion on the economic merits of reuse is timely and worthwhile."

Who's being irrational? What audience is this intended for? And what exactly would be the "worthwhile" outcome of such a discussion for ULA?

Good questions.  Lots of debate about what the economics of reuse are, and no obvious consensus on this thread.

But regardless the "financial" facts (which are pretty sparse), the "visual" facts are that SpaceX landed a complete 1st stage, and ULA is only planning to recover the engine pod from the Vulcan.

ULA has to fight a perception issue about their plans for Vulcan.

The efforts of Dr. Sowers to explain the "financial" facts as ULA sees it may be to counteract the perception issue, certainly in the eyes of the public, but maybe also within the ULA/BA/LM community.

Quote
Reuse, as SpaceX envisions it, will either work to substantially reduce costs or it won't. There's really not much left to "discuss", since we are witnessing the efforts in realtime.

And if the SpaceX complete 1st stage recovery and reuse doesn't work, it's hard to see how ULA's proposed "rapid disassembly in flight" method would be any better.  But from what I can see I think SpaceX has the right approach for successful economic reusability.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rayleighscatter on 01/03/2016 11:57 PM

But regardless the "financial" facts (which are pretty sparse), the "visual" facts are that SpaceX landed a complete 1st stage, and ULA is only planning to recover the engine pod from the Vulcan.
And to expand on that it's also "visually" apparent that with all the variation across the industry in launch and reuse concepts that there is far from a consensus in what is practical and the varying strategies will play out over the next 10 or so years to really prove out what works and what doesn't. Exciting times.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: WindnWar on 01/04/2016 12:40 AM
I suspect SpaceX will have plenty of data by the end of 2016 to tell whether re-use is worth it or not. They will have multiple attempts to retrieve first stage cores and even if only some of them are successful, every attempt will give them flight data on their stage design that no other company in the business will have for years to come. That alone give a significant competitive advantage.

I've looked over the spreadsheet and the estimates that Mr. Sowers has stated and I find his projections to be very pessimistic. SpaceX needs to either expand production to meet flight rates, at increased capital costs or be successful at re-use allowing existing capital expenses to stay where they are at a greatly increased flight rate. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the costs savings of the second strategy. From a purely $ per kilo to orbit, SpaceX already has ULA beat and doubly so when Falcon Heavy comes online. The trick is using the stages in expendable mode for the few payloads that need every ounce of performance, and opting for re-use for the rest. Having a stable of cores ready for such a purpose will handle the occasional need and allow the core to be expended after what is deemed an acceptable number of uses.

In the interim ULA has the disadvantage of being many years behind even attempting re-use, while SpaceX works at perfecting it. Thats a bad situation to be in from an industry stand point. I wish them luck with their Vulcan endeavor but I can't help be feeling they are busy fighting the last war and totally unprepared for the next one.

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Coastal Ron on 01/04/2016 01:05 AM
And to expand on that it's also "visually" apparent that with all the variation across the industry in launch and reuse concepts that there is far from a consensus in what is practical...

I'm not sure about that.  So far the two successful incremental examples (Blue Origin and SpaceX) have been where the entire 1st stage is recovered intact.  Everyone else, including ULA, is just theorizing different reuse concepts, but none have been tried out.

So to date we have two companies that are using the same approach, and both have been successful in recovering their 1st stages.

Quote
...and the varying strategies will play out over the next 10 or so years to really prove out what works and what doesn't. Exciting times.

I agree with WindnWar that we won't have to wait 10 years, that we'll know much sooner than that.

Keep in mind that both Blue Origin and SpaceX have been pursuing reusable rockets for many years - they have been fully committed to reusability before knowing whether it was truly possible, and SpaceX definitely understands their cost structures.  So for both Blue Origin and SpaceX, which both have mature designs, they only have to validate that their designs are going to perform close to as intended.  Which means both should know sometime during 2016 if reusability is economically feasible with their current designs.

Everyone else may be 10 years or more away, but if they copy (i.e. rip off) the Falcon 9 design for orbital applications that could be significantly less - and I think Musk/SpaceX would be OK with that.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: su27k on 01/04/2016 02:38 AM
Here's an example, let's pick the last line in spreadsheet, 3 cores, 16 recoverable/reused launches, 3 expendable launches. How would you sell this in the market? Here's one way to do it: you can sell the 1st launch of 3 cores at expendable price, probably to NASA/USAF who still believes 1st use is safer and their payloads don't exceed the reusable performance. Then you can sell the next 14 reusable launches at 50% of the expendable price, this would allow you to cover all the cost. What about the last 2 launches? You can basically give it away for free and still maintain your bottomline. This is the kind of pricing power reusability can give you.

If you've got so many customers who are fine with reduced performance you can make a downscaled, cheaper rocket for them. Without all the reusability baggage. Might be cheaper, or not.

Hmmm, they had a downscaled rocket with reusability "baggage" removed, it's called F9v1.1 without legs. It's not cheaper, at least not to their customers...

Quote
Fact is, there's no way around $/kg. Its the only viable metric for such a simplistic analysis. Surely SpaceX won't revolutionize the launch market without massively lowering $/kg.

The possibility of a 50% price reduction seems pretty revolutionary to me. Beyond that, if you don't care about business reality but just want to see what could happen, you could try to tweak various parameters, I think the equation basically simplifies to something like Nr > p*Nc/Imax, where Imax is the maximum reuse index you want to achieve. What it is telling you is pretty simple, if you want one order of magnitude reduction in reuse index, you need to fly one order of magnitude more flights using reusable.

Also note this model and the reuse index is assessing the same vehicle for the same company, i.e. comparing F9 to its reusable self. If you want to compare $/kg to other vehicles in the market, you'll need real performance values and real dollar values, not the unit-less fractions we're using. I'm not sure that discussion belongs here since it would SpaceX specific, but if the quoted 30% performance increase of F9FT is true, they already lowered $/kg by 25% just by switching to FT.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: yg1968 on 01/04/2016 02:00 PM
Elon Musk was asked a while ago how many flights did it take for reuse to make sense for SpaceX. His answer was one flight.

I think that is the right answer. The only additionnal expense that recovery warrants is the extra fuel. SpaceX offers its Falcon 9 with or without recovery of the first stage. In other words, there is currently no discount for recovery of the first stage. If a customer needs the extra margin, an expendable F9 is available to them. If it isn't needed, SpaceX will attempt to recover its first stage.

I suspect that when the FH is flying, SpaceX might force customers with heavier payloads to use the FH, instead of using an expendable F9. But we aren't there yet.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: LouScheffer on 01/04/2016 02:27 PM
So I have to ask... What are we really talking about? Why is Dr. Sowers tweeting, "I think a rational discussion on the economic merits of reuse is timely and worthwhile."
ULA has to fight a perception issue about their plans for Vulcan.

The efforts of Dr. Sowers to explain the "financial" facts as ULA sees it may be to counteract the perception issue, certainly in the eyes of the public, but maybe also within the ULA/BA/LM community.

I think surely within the community, and most likely his own management.  I think there are two signs of this:

Answer 2)  According to SpaceX, (need reference)  90 klbs prop is reserved for barge landing, 200 klbs for return to launch site. 
First, he quotes masses in pounds.  That's surely aimed at his own community, since no-one else uses this.

Second, he makes no attempt at even back-of-the-envelope type accuracy.  It's public knowledge that the re-entry burn takes 20-30 seconds with 3 engines, and the landing burn about 30-40 seconds with reduced thrust.  Wikipedia tells you a Merlin-1D has 825 kN of thrust and an ISP of 311, hence a burn rate of 270 kg/sec.  So 120 seconds of burn gives 32 metric tonnes, or 70000 pounds, and maybe quite a bit less (re-entry burn on Orbcomm was 22 sec, landing 32, total 26 tonnes).  A 28% or greater overestimate of the mass penalty does not bode well for the accuracy of the economic analysis.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Miker66 on 01/04/2016 03:01 PM
When determining the total cost (including overheads) of each F9 launch, one should take out of the equation MCT R&D, and even Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy development. You're then left with variable and fixed costs incurred solely to enable F9 and FH launches.

SpaceX are driving to reduce launch costs by re-using 1st stages. However, they are also driving to reduce other costs. For example, they are trying to automate the launch process. And I’d bet they are striving to reduce costs in other areas too. Clearly, the percentage saving in total launch costs represented by reusing 1st stages goes up as other costs fall.

When it comes to funding R&D, that is determined by the amount of profit made on each launch. Let’s say SpaceX makes $10M per launch today. As long as it stays at $10M per launch it doesn’t matter whether they’re charging the customer $65M or $45M. Though you are likely to make more $10Ms if you’re that much cheaper.

In summary, the fundamental flaw in the ULA analysis is that it ignores the cost reductions that SpaceX will achieve in addition to cost reductions through 1st stage re-use. It assumes everything other than rocket hardware are fixed costs. They aren't.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: cscott on 01/04/2016 03:04 PM
Well, to be fair, the purpose of the analysis is to inform ULA's decision making.  Perhaps Dr Sowers has investigated ULA's fixed costs and concluded that they are indeed effectively fixed (long term contracts, unions, etc).
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: edkyle99 on 01/04/2016 04:13 PM
So I have to ask... What are we really talking about? Why is Dr. Sowers tweeting, "I think a rational discussion on the economic merits of reuse is timely and worthwhile."
ULA has to fight a perception issue about their plans for Vulcan.

The efforts of Dr. Sowers to explain the "financial" facts as ULA sees it may be to counteract the perception issue, certainly in the eyes of the public, but maybe also within the ULA/BA/LM community.

I think surely within the community, and most likely his own management.  I think there are two signs of this:

Answer 2)  According to SpaceX, (need reference)  90 klbs prop is reserved for barge landing, 200 klbs for return to launch site. 
First, he quotes masses in pounds.  That's surely aimed at his own community, since no-one else uses this.

Second, he makes no attempt at even back-of-the-envelope type accuracy.  It's public knowledge that the re-entry burn takes 20-30 seconds with 3 engines, and the landing burn about 30-40 seconds with reduced thrust.  Wikipedia tells you a Merlin-1D has 825 kN of thrust and an ISP of 311, hence a burn rate of 270 kg/sec.  So 120 seconds of burn gives 32 metric tonnes, or 70000 pounds, and maybe quite a bit less (re-entry burn on Orbcomm was 22 sec, landing 32, total 26 tonnes).  A 28% or greater overestimate of the mass penalty does not bode well for the accuracy of the economic analysis.
You forgot the boost-back burn.  That pushes the propellant used up to perhaps 59,000 kg (131,000 lb-ish) or so, assuming full-thrust all the way.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: LouScheffer on 01/04/2016 06:21 PM
ULA has to fight a perception issue about their plans for Vulcan.

The efforts of Dr. Sowers to explain the "financial" facts as ULA sees it may be to counteract the perception issue, certainly in the eyes of the public, but maybe also within the ULA/BA/LM community.
I think surely within the community, and most likely his own management.  I think there are two signs of this:
Answer 2)  According to SpaceX, (need reference)  90 klbs prop is reserved for barge landing, 200 klbs for return to launch site. 
First, he quotes masses in pounds.  That's surely aimed at his own community, since no-one else uses this.

Second, he makes no attempt at even back-of-the-envelope type accuracy.  It's public knowledge that the re-entry burn takes 20-30 seconds with 3 engines, and the landing burn about 30-40 seconds with reduced thrust.  Wikipedia tells you a Merlin-1D has 825 kN of thrust and an ISP of 311, hence a burn rate of 270 kg/sec.  So 120 seconds of burn gives 32 metric tonnes, or 70000 pounds, and maybe quite a bit less (re-entry burn on Orbcomm was 22 sec, landing 32, total 26 tonnes).  A 28% or greater overestimate of the mass penalty does not bode well for the accuracy of the economic analysis.
You forgot the boost-back burn.  That pushes the propellant used up to perhaps 59,000 kg (131,000 lb-ish) or so, assuming full-thrust all the way.

 - Ed Kyle
I didn't forget.  I was calculating barge landing (to compare with his barge landing), which needs no boostback.

For boostback, Orbcomm appears to have used 30 sec of boostback, for a total of (30*3 + 22*3 + 30)*270 = 50,220 kg, or about 111,000 pounds.  However, this was not a challenging mission and could use a lofted trajectory.

The point remains, that for both boostback and barge, Dr. Sowers's estimates appear higher than the relatively simple, publicly available, empirical evidence would indicate.  For a billion-ish dollar investment decision, due dilgence (to me) would imply the most accurate estimate you could muster of your main competitor's capabilities.  This is not it.  I hope they have more realistic estimates internally.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Paul451 on 01/04/2016 08:14 PM
If sourcing propellant from Earth surface to LEO it is a reasonable for performing relative trades using $/kg as the FOM.  For payloads which are not easily fungible and not expressed simply in $/kg terms, the model may (likely will) lead to erroneous conclusions.  This was addressed in the previous round of discussions.

Sower's model seems to be flawed for both fungible and non-fungible payload scenarios.

It assumes fixed number of launches for the market, but that is based on the assumption that we're modelling a fairly inelastic market of traditional non-fungible fixed payloads. But it also uses $/kg cost comparison, which implies that each launch will always be at a max capacity. Past manifests show that's not the case, and particularly SpaceX's own 2015 manifest shows that they'd been able to perform recovery attempts without impacting on customer requirements or price.

If you are modelling traditional payloads, then the $/kg metric in entirely incorrect; change to $/payload and reusability jumps ahead.

If you are modelling completely fungible payloads, then the market is tonnes/year, not flights/year; correct that and again reusability jumps ahead.

The only way to reach Sower's conclusion that reusability may not significantly lower launch costs (or may even raise launch costs) is by using that combination of fixed number of flights, and $/kg comparisons. But I can't imagine what real-world scenario corresponds to that combination.

He's modelling something that can't exist and then trying to draw real-world conclusions.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: gargoyle99 on 01/04/2016 09:22 PM
The conclusion I came to from this analysis is that to achieve the target goal of a reusable rocket based business model, you need to:

Maximize % of rocket that can be reused (by cost)
Maximize flight rate

Minimize refurbishment costs
Minimize fixed costs

Whatever the variables are for a specific scenario, this describes a straight-forward and sensible high level road map for iterating towards a more cost-effective reusable rocket solution.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 01/04/2016 09:32 PM
If sourcing propellant from Earth surface to LEO it is a reasonable for performing relative trades using $/kg as the FOM.  For payloads which are not easily fungible and not expressed simply in $/kg terms, the model may (likely will) lead to erroneous conclusions.  This was addressed in the previous round of discussions.

Sower's model seems to be flawed for both fungible and non-fungible payload scenarios.

It assumes fixed number of launches for the market, but that is based on the assumption that we're modelling a fairly inelastic market of traditional non-fungible fixed payloads. But it also uses $/kg cost comparison, which implies that each launch will always be at a max capacity. Past manifests show that's not the case, and particularly SpaceX's own 2015 manifest shows that they'd been able to perform recovery attempts without impacting on customer requirements or price.

If you are modelling traditional payloads, then the $/kg metric in entirely incorrect; change to $/payload and reusability jumps ahead.

If you are modelling completely fungible payloads, then the market is tonnes/year, not flights/year; correct that and again reusability jumps ahead.

The only way to reach Sower's conclusion that reusability may not significantly lower launch costs (or may even raise launch costs) is by using that combination of fixed number of flights, and $/kg comparisons. But I can't imagine what real-world scenario corresponds to that combination.

He's modelling something that can't exist and then trying to draw real-world conclusions.

Exactly.  The modelling makes no sense at all for exactly these reasons.

This was pointed out long ago upthread, and Sower has posted more replies since then, but he's totally ignored this.

The funny thing is that this is a common reaction to disruptive change.  The people in the companies being disrupted convince themselves that the disruption won't really be successful and that they don't really need to radically change how they do business.

Vulcan is a definite improvement over Atlas V and Delta IV.  Trying to reuse the engines is a further step in the right direction.  If there were no SpaceX, they might be successful with those steps.  But there is a SpaceX, and SpaceX is moving forward far more radically and quickly.

It's not too late for ULA.  They have enough locked-in government business to keep them viable for long enough that if they decided to today, they could copy SpaceX, design a new rocket with a fully-reusable first stage, and be a viable competitor in the future.  But instead they make up models to convince themselves they don't need to.  It's too bad.  It would be better for the industry to have ULA turn into a real competitor for SpaceX.  It looks like that's not going to happen.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 01/04/2016 10:22 PM

It would be better for the industry to have ULA turn into a real competitor for SpaceX.  It looks like that's not going to happen.

SpaceX haven't proven re-usability yet. ULA are taking a bit more conservative approach. If SpaceX succeed (which is still not a foregone conclusion) then ULA may well need to evolve further. But just re-using engines may be enough to keep ULA in the game (eg by being more competitive than Ariane).
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: joek on 01/04/2016 10:24 PM
Sower's model seems to be flawed for both fungible and non-fungible payload scenarios.

Although you may disagree with the inputs/assumptions to the model and the conclusions drawn from the outputs, there is nothing inherently wrong with the model--it is fairly simple and straightforward.

Quote
If you are modelling traditional payloads, then the $/kg metric in entirely incorrect; change to $/payload and reusability jumps ahead.

Set Pe/Pr = 1.0 and see what happens.  I did that a few posts up-thread to illustrate what happens when dealing with discrete payloads for which there is no performance penalty for reusability.  Model works fine.

Quote
If you are modelling completely fungible payloads, then the market is tonnes/year, not flights/year; correct that and again reusability jumps ahead.

Payload tonnes/year can be easily converted to flights/year for a given capability; i.e., the actual fulfillment of tonnes/year.[1]  You just need to run the model out for the number of flights required for each scenario.  What wins depends on your inputs/assumptions.  Model works fine.

Quote
...

In short, the model is fine--given comparative costs and cost structure.  That means don't try to use it to compare, e.g., ULA and SpaceX.  Of course there are refinements that might be incorporated into the model.  What exactly did you have in mind?


[1] If you are not going to use flights/year, or a derivation thereof, as a basis for costing, what are you going to use and why?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Space Ghost 1962 on 01/04/2016 10:33 PM
The funny thing is that this is a common reaction to disruptive change.  The people in the companies being disrupted convince themselves that the disruption won't really be successful and that they don't really need to radically change how they do business.

Yes. It seems to be the dominant response. Except for the peculiar case of Mr. Rogozin. Which seems to have no where to go that can be seen.

Earlier this year at Dr. Sower's talk in Boulder, he ducked a women student's question in this area, well before this landing. Thought it was rude at the time, but perhaps there are limits to what can be discussed in regards to ULA and re-usability.

I also wonder if just the cost of recovering the Merlins at the moment, bounds ULA's budget/operational considerations in such a way that makes it difficult to take partial recovery forward. E.g. that might complicate matters here.

You get the feeling of crickets chirping.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rcoppola on 01/04/2016 10:59 PM
I always took the reference of needing only one flight to make reuse work as an indicator that all current costs (per year) to facilitate reuse is less then or equal to the cost of building one new core.

This would include everything from landing zones, to ASDSs, to support infrastructure & personnel as well as legs, fins, extra fuel margins, payload penalty, etc.

One re-flight just below full price and they break even on their reuse costs, maybe they come out a bit ahead. Second re-use and the cost savings become mostly profit they can keep or pass along extra savings to their customers to the point where they can begin introducing another new industry cost model. (Launch rate dependencies aside)

I know it's a very simplistic approach to a more complex reuse model but I can't help but think this is how they think about it at its' most basic level.

Here are a few things I find most humorous about all of this:

-While we discuss $/kg, they want to display an apparently perfectly good returned stage like a trophy. (Quite the expensive trophy.)

-While we read charts of needing 20 re-flights for some x-small percentage of return, Elon apparently thinks it's one.

-While there have been and will continue to be reasonable concerns about refurb, we get tweets that say she's ready to go. (We'll see what happens on more stressful return profiles)

-And although they may very well have a sizable fleet of pre-flown cores lying around in the next 6 to 12 months, they're not entirely sure where they're going to put them, when they'll re-fly them or what they'll charge to do so.

So it seems to me, however valid these models may be, they are missing some "special-variable-sauce" as it applies to SpaceX's reuse business case. IMO...

Sometimes it's better to take a look at the bigger picture so as not to miss the forest for the trees.

As for ULA in general, they are currently one of our preeminent launch service providers of exceedingly high value payloads. And will continue to be for years to come. One way or another, they'll adapt and decide accordingly what works best for them. But I'd advise caution on extrapolating other people's reuse models.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 01/04/2016 11:55 PM
It would be better for the industry to have ULA turn into a real competitor for SpaceX.  It looks like that's not going to happen.

SpaceX haven't proven re-usability yet. ULA are taking a bit more conservative approach. If SpaceX succeed (which is still not a foregone conclusion) then ULA may well need to evolve further. But just re-using engines may be enough to keep ULA in the game (eg by being more competitive than Ariane).

To be successful, a company needs to figure out what the market is likely going to be like in the future and start moving to address that.  If it waits to see for certain what happens, it will be too late.

A conservative approach isn't a recipe for success when disruptive change comes along.

SpaceX has retired most of the risk of reuse already.  It's well past the point where competitors should have been making plans to match them.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: joek on 01/05/2016 12:00 AM
I always took the reference of needing only one flight to make reuse work as an indicator that all current costs (per year) to facilitate reuse is less then or equal to the cost of building one new core.

This would include everything from landing zones, to ASDSs, to support infrastructure & personnel as well as legs, fins, extra fuel margins, payload penalty, etc.
...

Sure, and if you assume that all costs are built in, and breakeven is one flight, then you get a plot like that below for various assumptions of S1 costs versus total cost/flight.  Multiply the Y axis by your preferred $ for actual launch cost/price.

This is likely how SpaceX views reuse, at least in part.  When they get the S1 cost contribution down, they will attack the next most expensive contribution, and so on.  Although the relative cost contributions are shifting (and what is primarily addressed by this model), the actual cost/price is going down (presumably).

Those relative cost contributions are how SpaceX or ULA might determine internal trades; the actual cost/price is how they will be measured by customers and the market, and the basis on which they must compete.

edit: oops; graph corrected.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: lewisanderson on 01/05/2016 07:17 AM
George,

Thanks for taking the time to post this. The discussion has been fascinating!

I believe I've found a flaw in your model. You assume constant demand before and after reuse, but you must define this in terms of kg/year rather than flights/year. So if reuse reduces payload per flight, you must increase the number of flights per year to compensate. If you account for changed constant demand definition, you find that a 30% reduction in payload (SpaceX RTLS scenario) results in 30% increase in flights per year. Or 15% reduction (SpaceX barge) results in 15% increase in flights per year. In both cases, total kg to LEO per year remains constant. Also, SpaceX has described a 30% payload loss for RTLS, but only 15% payload loss for barge landing.

I couldnt figure out how to modify your model to account for constant demand in kgs, so I built my own model. I defined a fixed cost, a variable non-reused cost, a variable reused cost (these three together represent your k), performance loss due to reusability (1/p), and lifetime of reused components in number of flights. Then I assumed the initial state is 10 flights/year at 10,000 kg/flight. I attempted to pick values for all variables that are consistent with your assumptions (p=1.43 for SpaceX RTLS, k=.4 for SpaceX RTLS, k=.18 for ULA SMART). Finally, I assumed that any capacity beyond 100,000kg/year was wasted (unbought)

My xlsx: https://onedrive.live.com/redir?page=view&resid=4378725363F1AE67!114&authkey=!ACCm3D8UVhNFvIM

Result (cost/kg for 2 flight lifetime, 3 flight, 10 flight):

Expandable: 6000
SpaceX RTLS: 6120, 5400, 4680
SpaceX Barge: 5280, 4800, 4320
ULA SMART: 5810, 5590, 5370

In other words, SpaceX Barge and ULA SMART break even at 2 flights, and SpaceX RTLS breaks even at 3 flights. At 10 flight lifetime, SpaceX Barge achieves cost of $4320/kg, SpaceX RTLS achieves cost of $4680/kg, ULA SMART achieves cost of $5370/kg. This demonstrates the important of phrasing constant demand in kgs, rather than number of flights. It also justifies SpaceX's overall approach.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 01/05/2016 08:03 AM
Here are some estimates of $/kg for GTO missions.
F9E v1.1 4.8t $61M  $12,700/kg
F9E FT 6.3t $61M? $9600/kg
F9R(RTLS) FT 4.8t $45m?? $9,300/kg
F9R(barge) FT 5.4t $45m?? 8500/kg
NB best $/kg but sea conditions may not allow for landing. SpaceX being increasing launch prices with inflation and F9 FT may be more than $61m.

Vulcan 8t $90M? $11,000/kg
Vulcan SMART 7.2t $75m 10,400/kg

There are some savings with reuse but they are not dramatic and recovery is risky.

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Oli on 01/05/2016 11:01 AM
If you are modelling traditional payloads, then the $/kg metric in entirely incorrect; change to $/payload and reusability jumps ahead.

No, you cannot say that. Expendable rockets can adjust to payload too. You can:

- Simply build a smaller rocket (smaller/less engines, tanks)
- Vary the number of boosters.
- Vary the number of stages.

All those methods save cost. So when Elon says reusability pays off with one reuse its almost like ULA saying launching Atlas V without boosters pays off (when the boosters are not needed).

It doesn't address the fundamental issue of reusable vs expendable.

If you are modelling completely fungible payloads, then the market is tonnes/year, not flights/year; correct that and again reusability jumps ahead.

I agree that when the performance ratio is not 1 the flight rate should be part of the model. But we can try to correct that.

From the paper:

I = p * C_r / C_e
I = p * [F(n)*C(B) / n + C(RHW) / n + C(RR) + C(~B)] / [C(B) + C(~B)]

C(B), C(RHW), C(RR), C(~B) in the numerator (the numerator is the cost of reusable launch) should all decrease with a higher launch rate, but by how much? Lets assume the same rate curve for all costs.

A performance ratio of p increases the flight rate by a factor p (assuming same demand for mass to orbit).

So C_r decreases by a factor F_f = 0.9^(log2(p)) (equivalent to 1/F(p)), and thus

I_new = p * [F_f * C_r] / [C_e]
I_new = F_f * I_old

Let's assume p = 1.43 (30% performance loss)

then F_f = 0.95

So the reuse index I_new is 5% smaller than before.

For example, if it previously was 0.85 (15% savings), its now 0.81 (19% savings).

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Miker66 on 01/05/2016 11:15 AM
Mr Sowers, thank you for provoking this interesting discussion. Nice analysis, but short on vision? Perhaps analysing the status quo, not recognising the paradigm shift that SpaceX is engineering?

By the time ULA catch up (sort of) to where SpaceX is now, SpaceX will be on to Falcon 9 V1.3 - lower manufacturing costs, further optimisation for re-usability, slick turnaround. And costs in other areas reduced too (automated launches, etc).

ULA - embrace the end-to-end cost reduction ethos - or justify the status quo and watch SpaceX eat your lunch.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Oli on 01/05/2016 11:22 AM
ULA - embrace the end-to-end cost reduction ethos - or justify the status quo and watch SpaceX eat your lunch.

Do we really need that gospel in EVERY post?? It's just tiring and adds nothing to the debate.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Dante80 on 01/05/2016 12:25 PM
No, you cannot say that. Expendable rockets can adjust to payload too. You can:

- Simply build a smaller rocket (smaller/less engines, tanks)
- Vary the number of boosters.
- Vary the number of stages.

All those methods save cost. So when Elon says reusability pays off with one reuse its almost like ULA saying launching Atlas V without boosters pays off (when the boosters are not needed).

It doesn't address the fundamental issue of reusable vs expendable.

What is the fundamental issue of re-usable vs expendable? In the end, isn't it about how price competitive you can be?

Also, here is something regarding the scaling you talk about. The difference between a re-usable architecture that can adjust to the payload and an expendable architecture that can adjust to the payload is that in the first method...you need one rocket. In the second, you need (to design, build, integrate, certify, test etc etc) more rocket types, or more variants of the same rocket.

You can definitely reduce cost by using common parts, and designing around a flexible architecture, this is true. But most of the things you add or subtract don't really help you with making partial re-usability work well either (a goal for ULA Vulcan).
 
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: saliva_sweet on 01/05/2016 06:19 PM
Thanks for the great analysis and explanations. I've read the whole thread several times and played with the spreadsheet. Overall the case for reuse seems pretty promising to me. I am concerned about the SMART reuse however. It seems to work great in one specific universe where 1) we have orbital fuel depots 2) launchrate is 10 per year. It's kind of hard to imagine this world. In other potential futures where one these criteria isn't met booster recovery appears to win due to better k (it may take 6-7 reuses though). But all of this only applies to the distant future where 1000 people are living in cislunar space, depots get depleted as soon as they can be filled, Vulcan is flying with SMART etc. In the current reality and near future the competitive environment appears to be such that booster reuse is basically money falling from the sky.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: georgesowers on 01/05/2016 07:57 PM
Wow.  A lot of great discussion.  I especially appreciate the free psychoanalysis  ;)

Let me give my take on some of the issues that have come up.

I didn't create the model to cast aspersions on SpaceX.  I created it to try and gain some quantitative understanding of the pros and cons of various reuse schemes.  If you are a business and expect to invest in some product enhancement, it is imperative to build a business case.  You need to be able to quantify the return on investment which in this case is how much more competitive can I be if I implement some sort of reuse scheme.

All models have flaws, especially simple ones.  Reality is always much more complex.  One reason I put this out is to get a lot of independent eyes (some unfriendly  :)) looking at it and questioning the assumptions.  So I thank you for that.  In general, I think the analysis holds up pretty well and provides insight into the important parameters.

It is quite true that the equation I derived is for equivalent flight rate between the reusable system and the expendable system.  It's not hard to derive other equations for other assumptions.  Several people have suggested that it would be more appropriate to compare on the basis of equivalent total mass delivered and at least one of you did an analysis on that basis. 

Relative to the constant rate analysis, the constant mass analysis will show more benefit for the higher rate reusable system, purely because of the rate effect.  I can think of some scenarios where that would be appropriate, like filling a propellant depot.  But to me it kind of contaminates the question.  I'm now getting into a big rocket versus small rocket discussion instead of reuse versus no reuse.  In other words, to fill a depot is it cheaper to have lots of small rockets, or just a few big ones?  An interesting question, but not the one I was trying to answer.

On a more practical basis, basing a business decision on such an analysis would be risky since here are currently no depots to service.  I would default to the more conservative analysis.

Others have pointed out the discrete nature of payload masses and have suggested a figure of merit based on $/payload.  That one's kind of tough because you have to pick some (arbitrary) mass for the payload.  Reality is that payloads come in a wide range of masses and are delivered to a wide variety of orbits.  You could skew the analysis in favor of the reusable system and pick a mass that is just within the capability of the lower performing reusable system.  Then the assumption is that the higher performing system just wastes the excess performance.  Or you allow the expendable to change configuration to a smaller vehicle at a lower cost.  But now you have a whole lot of additional assumptions.

Conversely you could skew the analysis in favor of the expendable by sizing every payload out of range of the reusable.  (There is actually some realism here.  Much of the market is out of range of an F9R.)

There has been continued discussion about the elasticity (or lack thereof) of the market.  That's germane because rate benefits the reusable system more than it does the expendable.  I believe it is a fact of history that the market has never demonstrated a hint of elasticity.  I have a vivid recollection of Musk debating Len Dest of ILS on a panel 10ish years ago.  This was when Falcon 1 was just getting started.  Musk was adamant that customers would flock to the $6M F1.  A few years later F1 was retired after only a handful of flights.  But that is the past. 

It is one of my career goals to find and nurture that next killer app that tips us into the world of at least partial elasticity.  Hence the cislunar initiative.

Thanks again,
G
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Dante80 on 01/05/2016 08:32 PM
Again, many thanks for the insight and the comprehensive answers Dr Sowers! Its a little fanboyish of me to say, but together with Antonio Elias you are one of my favorite "rocket people".. :)

Regarding this:

Quote
Others have pointed out the discrete nature of payload masses and have suggested a figure of merit based on $/payload.  That one's kind of tough because you have to pick some (arbitrary) mass for the payload.  Reality is that payloads come in a wide range of masses and are delivered to a wide variety of orbits.  You could skew the analysis in favor of the reusable system and pick a mass that is just within the capability of the lower performing reusable system.  Then the assumption is that the higher performing system just wastes the excess performance.  Or you allow the expendable to change configuration to a smaller vehicle at a lower cost.  But now you have a whole lot of additional assumptions.

Conversely you could skew the analysis in favor of the expendable by sizing every payload out of range of the reusable.  (There is actually some realism here.  Much of the market is out of range of an F9R.)

I think that a way to account for the factor without skewing the results would be to do a rough analysis of the payload market (converting masses + destined orbits as a packet to a universal number for capability) and assigning then weight attributes according to their importance or occurrence historically.

Could something like this help with results?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Semmel on 01/05/2016 09:22 PM
Or you allow the expendable to change configuration to a smaller vehicle at a lower cost.  But now you have a whole lot of additional assumptions.

Conversely you could skew the analysis in favor of the expendable by sizing every payload out of range of the reusable.  (There is actually some realism here.  Much of the market is out of range of an F9R.)

Would it be too complicated to assume equal payload to orbit capabilities for the re-usable and the expendable systems? To achieve this, the re-usable rocket should have higher cost to develop and manufacture. On that basis, and with a reasonable cost estimate for rockets, would it be possible to compare Vulcan vs. Vulcan SMART, assuming the SMART variant somehow has the same capability but better performance when expendable? Of course that decision has to be made before deciding whether to go for Vulcan and Vulcan SMART because Vulcan SMART has to be sized to launch the same payloads as Vulcan.

Similarly, a Falcon 9.1 FT could get a price tag for development and manufacture that would sit above Vulcan SMART? That last step is of course ignoring the true cost, just the model that assumes cost being some function of performance. As if ULA had to make the decision to build Vulcan, Vulcan SMART or Vulcan F9style. Then there might be a basis for comparing the three launch options.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Paul451 on 01/05/2016 09:29 PM
On a more practical basis, basing a business decision on such an analysis would be risky since here are currently no depots to service.  I would default to the more conservative analysis.

But you didn't use a conservative analysis. Your comparative pricing method carries the unstated assumption that the market consists of completely fungible payloads, and that every launcher flies at 100% capacity.

Both are unrealistic assumptions in the absence of such a fungible market. So the model produces a very misleading result.

Others have pointed out the discrete nature of payload masses and have suggested a figure of merit based on $/payload.  That one's kind of tough because you have to pick some (arbitrary) mass for the payload.  Reality is that payloads come in a wide range of masses and are delivered to a wide variety of orbits.  You could skew the analysis in favor of the reusable system and pick a mass that is just within the capability of the lower performing reusable system.  Then the assumption is that the higher performing system just wastes the excess performance.  Or you allow the expendable to change configuration to a smaller vehicle at a lower cost.  But now you have a whole lot of additional assumptions.

I think what people are trying to get through to you is that by choosing to use $/kg, you have made additional assumptions, and those assumptions have skewed your analysis.

Your model is unrealistically sensitive to variables that, in reality, haven't shown much sensitivity.

For example, while SpaceX hasn't reused any cores, they have attempted to recover several cores; so they haven't had the benefit of reselling cores, but they have had the performance cost on those flight. We can see that it does not require them to reduce their price proportionately (ie, $/kg instead of $/flight). Nor have they asked their customers to reduce the size of their payloads. Nor has it reduced their market share.

That gives us real-world data on the effect of the reduction of performance. And reality doesn't work like your model would suggest. It isn't that the model fails to capture the complexity, it's that its core assumptions are wrong.

This was when Falcon 1 was just getting started.  Musk was adamant that customers would flock to the $6M F1.  A few years later F1 was retired after only a handful of flights.

AIUI, F1 had more customers than SpaceX could launch. However, once F9 flew at the price it did, customers rebooked as either secondary or multiple payloads on F9. F9 ate F1's market. Only then was F1 was retired.

Similarly, I suspect that if FH had a proportionally large payload fairing, it would quickly take over F9's entire manifest. Would that mean that F9 was a failed product?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RotoSequence on 01/05/2016 09:50 PM
Thank you for your insights, Mr. Sowers. The results of the analysis may be controversial, but the observations and experience of industry leaders is invaluable for informing these discussions. It'll probably take some number crunching and iterative design, but I'll bet one of the businesses will eventually figure out how to make low cost, reusable boosters into a cost effective endeavor.   :D
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Space Ghost 1962 on 01/05/2016 11:41 PM
It would appear that reuse may not be reconcilable across launch service providers.

Perhaps this means that few(one) might attempt it, with success or failure deciding all futures consequentially?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rayleighscatter on 01/05/2016 11:54 PM

For example, while SpaceX hasn't reused any cores, they have attempted to recover several cores; so they haven't had the benefit of reselling cores, but they have had the performance cost on those flight. We can see that it does not require them to reduce their price proportionately (ie, $/kg instead of $/flight). Nor have they asked their customers to reduce the size of their payloads. Nor has it reduced their market share.

That gives us real-world data on the effect of the reduction of performance. And reality doesn't work like your model would suggest. It isn't that the model fails to capture the complexity, it's that its core assumptions are wrong.
So far two of the three recovery attempts are on a contract specifically applied as $/kg instead of $/flight.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 01/06/2016 12:03 AM

AIUI, F1 had more customers than SpaceX could launch. However, once F9 flew at the price it did, customers rebooked as either secondary or multiple payloads on F9. F9 ate F1's market. Only then was F1 was retired.



Not true at all.  Only Orbcomm and Cassiope move to F9.  The rest are still waiting for F1 type rides.


Similarly, I suspect that if FH had a proportionally large payload fairing, it would quickly take over F9's entire manifest.

Wrong, it can not and it wouldn't anyways.   Explain how ISS missions and Jason would be done by FH with large fairings and be cost effective.  A large fairing is not going to allow a FH to carry more payloads.

I would suspect you are wrong on your other conclusion.s
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Steam Chaser on 01/06/2016 01:11 AM
Peter B. de Selding tweet (@pbdes):  Arianespace CEO: We wont change course 'one iota' after SpaceX reusability advance. 'Economics of reuse very complicated. We like Ariane 6.'
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: su27k on 01/06/2016 02:45 AM
Peter B. de Selding tweet (@pbdes):  Arianespace CEO: We wont change course 'one iota' after SpaceX reusability advance. 'Economics of reuse very complicated. We like Ariane 6.'

Yeah, it is complicated, now that I think about it the equal launch rate assumption may not be so invalid, as long as you realize this doesn't apply to certain low cost provider. The thing is higher launch rate at lower cost (or so called rate effect) is what reusability gives you, it's a benefit, but whether you can get this benefit depends on the market. If your vehicle is so expensive that even at 70% to 50% price reduction it couldn't compete with low cost provider, than the equal launch rate assumption is valid, it basically means you're sandboxed to a fixed number of (high performance, high reliability requirement) missions every year no matter what you do.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Paul451 on 01/06/2016 03:26 AM
So far two of the three recovery attempts are on a contract specifically applied as $/kg instead of $/flight.

I was going to bring that up because it's one of the rare semi-fungible "markets". The CRS contracts are per-tonne, are to an energy hungry high-inclination orbit, and yet still typically fly light, regardless of whether recovery is attempted. So even there, the model wouldn't reflect the effects of reusability on that market.

[Edit: Actually, the contracts are based on per-tonne pricing, but the contracts themselves seem to be $/launch.]
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: mulp on 01/06/2016 04:31 AM
George Sowers asks the only important question: what's the demand shift from a supply shift?

In basic terms, can customers find reasons to launch more than 1000 thousand times per year from the current roughly 100 times?

And that means either multiple thousands of new orbiting objects per year, or a thousand cargos and returns, or some combination.

With reuse and quick turn around and relaunch, the total cost of 1000 launches would likely be only 2 or 3 times the total cost of 100 launches.

Whatever is launched needs to cost less, but at 25 times the volume for the most common current objects, their cost should be 20% or less current costs.

Thus high volume payloads to orbit should be 20-30% of current costs.

If the demand shift can result in 3 launches per day globally, then demand should shift to 30 launches per day 5 to 10 years later.

What would be the demand? Maybe 12 hour clock delivery between all major global cities?  Post by 5pm in LA, delivered in Berlin by 8am? Regular scheduled launches of a semiautonomous intercontinental cargo pod, so no need for a second stage?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: LouScheffer on 01/06/2016 11:30 AM
Others have pointed out the discrete nature of payload masses and have suggested a figure of merit based on $/payload.  That one's kind of tough because you have to pick some (arbitrary) mass for the payload.  Reality is that payloads come in a wide range of masses and are delivered to a wide variety of orbits. 
It's not that tough, on a rocket science scale, and you answered your own question as to how to do it.  You can treat the demand as a distribution, and the existing demand is well documented.  Then for a proposed reusable launcher, you compute which masses and orbits allow recovery, and estimate the economics.   A downside is that this is not an analytic model, but it's well within the capability of spreadsheets.   And it's not a new problem - airplane manufacturers do this for every model, trying to hit the sweet spot of capacity.  The assumption is that the use pattern will not change much, but it's fixed in the short term by the pipeline of satellites being built and perhaps in a longer term by engineering, financial, and military conservatism.
Quote
you could skew the analysis in favor of the expendable by sizing every payload out of range of the reusable.  (There is actually some realism here.  Much of the market is out of range of an F9R.)
This is a critically important point, and outside observers are looking at this carefully.  (see, for example, http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=39167.msg1469559#msg1469559 ) So far it appears that at least 15 of the next 20 SpaceX launches will allow for recovery (and maybe all 20 - we'll know more after SES launches).  And it could be a business plus if you pick your dividing line better than your competition.
Quote
It is one of my career goals to find and nurture that next killer app that tips us into the world of at least partial elasticity.
All who love space flight wish you good luck in this endeavor.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: saliva_sweet on 01/06/2016 02:49 PM
Relevant calculations in the SpaceX SES9 thread by Dante80
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=34077.msg1470827#msg1470827

The fact that SpaceX is attempting barge recovery of the SES9 (5.3 t) booster means that the payload penalty for barge recovery cannot be 30% (as was stated by Shotwell), but is closer to 15% (as was stated by Musk). Unless you're willing to accept that F9FT expendable has received a 56% performance upgrade and is now capable of 7.6t to GTO. This means that p is not 1.43 for booster recovery on barge. It's closer to 1/0.85=1.18. This is a huge difference.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: MikeAtkinson on 01/06/2016 03:47 PM
Relevant calculations in the SpaceX SES9 thread by Dante80
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=34077.msg1470827#msg1470827

The fact that SpaceX is attempting barge recovery of the SES9 (5.3 t) booster means that the payload penalty for barge recovery cannot be 30% (as was stated by Shotwell), but is closer to 15% (as was stated by Musk). Unless you're willing to accept that F9FT expendable has received a 56% performance upgrade and is now capable of 7.6t to GTO. This means that p is not 1.43 for booster recovery on barge. It's closer to 1/0.85=1.18. This is a huge difference.

Yes, but the payload penalty for SES9 is zero, just like all the other SpaceX launches this year. A launch of a payload has a penalty of zero by definition (unless it is fuel or other such divisible payload, which SpaceX are not launching this year). So p = 1 in practice.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: saliva_sweet on 01/06/2016 04:37 PM
Yes, but the payload penalty for SES9 is zero, just like all the other SpaceX launches this year. A launch of a payload has a penalty of zero by definition (unless it is fuel or other such divisible payload, which SpaceX are not launching this year). So p = 1 in practice.

This is wrong unfortunately. Payload penalty is real for discrete payloads too and it bites quite hard for some scenarios and especially if you start to consider 2nd stage reuse. Recovery uses up performance and there is no way around that. That's the payload penalty p.

Consider this corner case: We have many payloads that require performance x. Should we design an expendable rocket with performance x or a reusable rocket with performance x*p. The relevant metric in this case is the launch cost and p should be defined as

p=cost of reusable with performance x*(Pe/Pr) / cost of expendable with performance x

This is rather difficult to estimate because the two rockets are different, but it could be reasonably assumed that this price ratio is less than Pe/Pr (the performance ratio) because bigger rockets tend to have better $/kg. This would improve the case for reusability over the depot scenario. Nevertheless the payload penalty still exists. I think this type of price ratio p should plug directly into the spreadsheet. The reusability index I just becomes
 reusable launch price / expendable launch price
instead of
 reusable $/kg / expendble $/kg

But I'm not quite sure.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: GWH on 01/06/2016 05:01 PM
Yes, instead of upgrading to achieve reuse capacity spacex could have economized, using the F9 v1.0 as a baseline they could be flying an F5 now at a reduced cost with all the upgrades. Of course that wouldn't offer the flexibility in a larger system that can have its capacity reduced for reuse or expended.

One item I find interesting is the vulcan is going to be 20% more powerful than the atlas v 401. By flight history the Atlas 401 has flown 50% of total flights, and one would assume not always at full capacity. Using the same logic in the spreadsheet one would want to incorporate a higher percentage of reused hardware to level out the cost per kg with that extra capacity. Cue lead in to upper stage engine reuse  ;)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: MikeAtkinson on 01/06/2016 06:34 PM
Yes, but the payload penalty for SES9 is zero, just like all the other SpaceX launches this year. A launch of a payload has a penalty of zero by definition (unless it is fuel or other such divisible payload, which SpaceX are not launching this year). So p = 1 in practice.

This is wrong unfortunately. Payload penalty is real for discrete payloads too and it bites quite hard for some scenarios and especially if you start to consider 2nd stage reuse. Recovery uses up performance and there is no way around that. That's the payload penalty p.

Consider this corner case: We have many payloads that require performance x. Should we design an expendable rocket with performance x or a reusable rocket with performance x*p. The relevant metric in this case is the launch cost and p should be defined as

p=cost of reusable with performance x*(Pe/Pr) / cost of expendable with performance x

This is rather difficult to estimate because the two rockets are different, but it could be reasonably assumed that this price ratio is less than Pe/Pr (the performance ratio) because bigger rockets tend to have better $/kg. This would improve the case for reusability over the depot scenario. Nevertheless the payload penalty still exists. I think this type of price ratio p should plug directly into the spreadsheet. The reusability index I just becomes
 reusable launch price / expendable launch price
instead of
 reusable $/kg / expendble $/kg

But I'm not quite sure.

This argument does not apply for three reasons:

1. SpaceX designed a single stick F9 and a three core FH. As long as the

    Core manufacturing cost > 3 x core reuse cost

the cost of any launch over the entire range of payloads is less in the reuse case. That includes every payload launched in the last 40 years. If SpaceX used your argument above, they would not have done F9 v1.1 FT, as F 9 v1.1 and the heavy version based on that would have been sufficient for [almost?] all payloads, it seems the full thrust version happened mainly because they could. F9 is now close to the limit of a road transportable kerolox rockets, that seems to be the limit they a bumping up against, there are constraints on launchers other than a desirable payload of x.

2. The F9 has engine out capability, which costs performance (how much has been much debated and estimates are about 15%. The 15% barge landing performance hit thus costs nothing if engine out is to be maintained. The choice becomes

Should we design an expendable rocket with engine out performance x*p or a reusable rocket with performance x*p.

3. Launchers should be designed with upgrade capability, the first instance of a launcher has reduced performance, so designing a expendable rocket with initial performance x will in time become a launcher with almost 2x performance. E.g. Ariane 5 G had 6.9 tonnes performance to GTO, Ariane 5 ECA had 10.3 tonnes and Ariane 5 ME 11.5 tonnes to GTO.

So we design an expendable rocket with engine out performance x and some time in the future it can become a reusable rocket with performance much greater than x*p.

As well as these three points it is important to note:

1. Cost reduction due to reuse allows SpaceX to extend the addressable market of F9 downwards, the F9 is cost competitive over a wider range of payload sizes.

2. SpaceX is both a launch provider and a service provider (e.g. CRS, CCDev) reducing the cost of launch makes those services more competitive/profitable.

3. Reuse greatly reduces marginal cost. While no customer will see a marginal cost, SpaceX do internally, so if they are making a decision about whether to invest in a service they can use the F9 marginal cost.

4. Low marginal cost give SpaceX great pricing flexibility, especially for multiple launch deals. This should allow them to win more business.

5. Reuse shifts expenditure from manufacturing to capital and R&D, the cost of money is very low at present so shifting expenditure from the future to the present has little long term additional cost.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: saliva_sweet on 01/06/2016 07:52 PM
This argument does not apply for three reasons:

1. SpaceX designed a single stick F9 and a three core FH. As long as the

    Core manufacturing cost > 3 x core reuse cost

How is this relevant? I don't follow. Are you saying because reuse works the performance penalty doesn't exist? That makes no sense.

2. The F9 has engine out capability, which costs performance (how much has been much debated and estimates are about 15%. The 15% barge landing performance hit thus costs nothing if engine out is to be maintained. The choice becomes

Should we design an expendable rocket with engine out performance x*p or a reusable rocket with performance x*p.

Engine out during parts of flight is a side effect of having many engines. They can't omit one and have the same performance, no 15% better performance! Saturn V had engine out, does that mean it had some sort of penalty?

3. Launchers should be designed with upgrade capability, the first instance of a launcher has reduced performance, so designing a expendable rocket with initial performance x will in time become a launcher with almost 2x performance. E.g. Ariane 5 G had 6.9 tonnes performance to GTO, Ariane 5 ECA had 10.3 tonnes and Ariane 5 ME 11.5 tonnes to GTO.

So we design an expendable rocket with engine out performance x and some time in the future it can become a reusable rocket with performance much greater than x*p.

Sorry, but this is not relevant. The payload penalty does not go away by adding power to the rocket.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Rocket Surgeon on 01/06/2016 09:00 PM
Relevant calculations in the SpaceX SES9 thread by Dante80
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=34077.msg1470827#msg1470827

The fact that SpaceX is attempting barge recovery of the SES9 (5.3 t) booster means that the payload penalty for barge recovery cannot be 30% (as was stated by Shotwell), but is closer to 15% (as was stated by Musk). Unless you're willing to accept that F9FT expendable has received a 56% performance upgrade and is now capable of 7.6t to GTO. This means that p is not 1.43 for booster recovery on barge. It's closer to 1/0.85=1.18. This is a huge difference.

Now THIS is interesting.
If this is the case, then SpaceX's reuse applied to the Flacon 9 'breaks even' after 3 flights, rather than 10.
Is it just me, or is it becoming increasingly obvious that while this spread sheet may be accurate, the assumptions used to make it are incorrect? And even if those assumptions are correct, when applied to real world numbers, boost-back is far better than ULA is giving it credit for.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: SLC17A5 on 01/07/2016 03:38 PM
For me, the most interesting part of Sowers' model is the sensitivity of the reuse case to k (fraction of recovered HW production cost to total launch service cost).  k reflects labor and overhead costs; given the experience of Shuttle, it makes plenty of sense that the economic viability of stage reuse depends upon the costs of paying people to turn the stage around.

SpaceX will develop as a company going towards 2020, and build out operations and overhead costs that push k downwards.  During this time SpaceX management will be stabilizing the Falcon 9 core design and figuring out the level of operations cost associated with acceptable mission risk.  (Remember that this rocket has only just returned to flight.)

In particular, they will be figuring out the labor costs associated with rocket refurbishment, and they will be pressured to decrease these labor costs in order to improve the viability of the reuse case.  However, cuts in the labor cost (increases in k) will have a knock-on effect on n, the average number of successful reuses across the fleet, decreasing them to some n'.  (Someone will mess up and the rocket will either suffer LOM or LOV.)

This will be a bit of a dilemma, because labor costs tend to go up in this dreadful millennial age with all the Obamas and the Tumblrs.  SpaceX will want to speed the process and raise k, but speeding the process means fewer person-hours which means product defects and a lower success rate, lowering n'.  And failures can be dangerous in a nonlinear way, because they damage the company's reputation, anger customers, drive away talent, and decrease that old Stakhanovite fervor, decreasing the k required to get the same n'.

I would be interested to read further thoughts on n'(k, ...) or see models from experience with Shuttle, the aviation industry, etc.  It would also be interesting to see models of n' from the standpoint of likelihood of LOV at different phases of the mission.  (If you get the payload to orbit but lose the recoverable parts of the rocket, I propose the term Lost Engines, OK Nose Of Vehicle or LEONOV for short.)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 01/07/2016 06:46 PM
Yes, instead of upgrading to achieve reuse capacity spacex could have economized, using the F9 v1.0 as a baseline they could be flying an F5 now at a reduced cost with all the upgrades. Of course that wouldn't offer the flexibility in a larger system that can have its capacity reduced for reuse or expended.

One item I find interesting is the vulcan is going to be 20% more powerful than the atlas v 401. By flight history the Atlas 401 has flown 50% of total flights, and one would assume not always at full capacity. Using the same logic in the spreadsheet one would want to incorporate a higher percentage of reused hardware to level out the cost per kg with that extra capacity. Cue lead in to upper stage engine reuse  ;)
The Vulcan with ACES will have almost twice performance of 401. Leaves a lot of spare performance for adding reuse capabilities eg SMART system on ACES could allow whole stage to be recovered.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 01/07/2016 08:47 PM
SLC17A5: reuse might not really make sense because Obama? That's a new one! :D
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Rocket Science on 01/07/2016 08:53 PM
SLC: reuse doesn't really make sense because Obama? That's a new one! :D
???
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Manabu on 01/08/2016 01:49 AM
This is wrong unfortunately. Payload penalty is real for discrete payloads too and it bites quite hard for some scenarios and especially if you start to consider 2nd stage reuse. Recovery uses up performance and there is no way around that. That's the payload penalty p.

Consider this corner case: We have many payloads that require performance x. Should we design an expendable rocket with performance x or a reusable rocket with performance x*p. The relevant metric in this case is the launch cost and p should be defined as

p=cost of reusable with performance x*(Pe/Pr) / cost of expendable with performance x
SpaceX has developed a rocket that they can launch in expendable or reusable mode. They can launch either a new or an used end-of-life core in expendable mode. They will always launch in the way is more economical for them. Thus Elon's statement, that reuse is economical for them starting from 1 reuse.

Quote
Engine out during parts of flight is a side effect of having many engines. They can't omit one and have the same performance, no 15% better performance! Saturn V had engine out, does that mean it had some sort of penalty?
Exactly! It is difficult to calculate the penalty for reusabilty, as you can interpret most of those as reliability upgrades, like the engine out capability, extra structural integrity for human rated rocket, etc. What is your base for setting the p for F9 anything other than 1?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 01/08/2016 03:28 AM
Yes, but the payload penalty for SES9 is zero, just like all the other SpaceX launches this year. A launch of a payload has a penalty of zero by definition (unless it is fuel or other such divisible payload, which SpaceX are not launching this year). So p = 1 in practice.

This is wrong unfortunately. Payload penalty is real for discrete payloads too and it bites quite hard for some scenarios and especially if you start to consider 2nd stage reuse. Recovery uses up performance and there is no way around that. That's the payload penalty p.

Consider this corner case: We have many payloads that require performance x. Should we design an expendable rocket with performance x or a reusable rocket with performance x*p. The relevant metric in this case is the launch cost and p should be defined as

p=cost of reusable with performance x*(Pe/Pr) / cost of expendable with performance x

This is rather difficult to estimate because the two rockets are different, but it could be reasonably assumed that this price ratio is less than Pe/Pr (the performance ratio) because bigger rockets tend to have better $/kg. This would improve the case for reusability over the depot scenario. Nevertheless the payload penalty still exists. I think this type of price ratio p should plug directly into the spreadsheet. The reusability index I just becomes
 reusable launch price / expendable launch price
instead of
 reusable $/kg / expendble $/kg

But I'm not quite sure.

Providing engine-out margin actually shares with the reuse margin, so payloads that need the high reliability of engine-out margin on a Falcon 9 actually have a quite low reuse penalty. If you have an engine-out, you can use the extra reuse propellant (sacrificing the first stage) to counter the extra gravity losses. So the effective reuse penalty for a Falcon 9 may actually be very low.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 01/08/2016 03:48 AM
Another point:

Refurb may not even be necessary. We make upper stage engines last ~3-10 times as long in flight as the first stage (F9 first stage burns for like 2 minutes... Delta IV Heavy upper stage can burn for like 20 minutes), with multiple firings. It's pretty obvious, but bears noting: at no point in flight does the upper stage experience a refurbishment between those firings. No one inspects it, no one touches it. And yet we expect reliable operation for each firing. The RL-10, for instance, is designed for over a dozen firings and about an hour of firing time. And this is for an engine that is expended each mission!

...so I see no reason in principle that we can't make first stages that operate numerous times with only the minimum in inspection. Like cleaning a little soot out of the engine between static firing and launch. And even this isn't required for methane or hydrogen rockets. You certainly shouldn't require a tear-down and intensive refurb each time.

...and to those who say that not refurbing each time would reduce reliability, I strongly disagree, Obama or not! Each time you build something new or each time you take something apart and put it back together, there's a non-insignificant chance that you'll suffer an infant mortality or that you installed something in the wrong spot. The simple act of building something new or taking it apart and putting it back together can introduce failures. Ultimately, the best reliability would be to design something with a really long service life of hundreds or thousands of reuses, and test it in flight (after each time you either build a new one or extensively refurbish one) before entrusting a payload to it.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: SLC17A5 on 01/08/2016 05:50 AM
The comparison to upper stage restarts is interesting and a good one in a vacuum (ha), but the backblast from the pad landing looked downright plutonic.  First stage landings take place in a much more gunky/sooty/chemically promiscuous environment than upper stage burns.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lars-J on 01/08/2016 06:27 AM

The comparison to upper stage restarts is interesting and a good one in a vacuum (ha), but the backblast from the pad landing looked downright plutonic.  First stage landings take place in a much more gunky/sooty/chemically promiscuous environment than upper stage burns.

Plutonic?!? Keep in mind that they landed a stage several times... In TX. It's the supersonic retro propulsion burn that is causing the primary wear, not the landing burn.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 01/08/2016 02:41 PM
The comparison to upper stage restarts is interesting and a good one in a vacuum (ha), but the backblast from the pad landing looked downright plutonic.  First stage landings take place in a much more gunky/sooty/chemically promiscuous environment than upper stage burns.
So use a methane or hydrogen rocket. And still, who really cares about a little soot on the outside of the rocket? All the sensitive bits on Falcon 9's and Atlas V's first stage are well protected from that.

The point is there's no fundamental reason whatsoever that extensive refurbishment will always be required between each launch of a reusable booster and plenty reason to think otherwise.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: SLC17A5 on 01/09/2016 12:43 AM
So use a methane or hydrogen rocket.

We live in exciting times :D
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 01/09/2016 02:54 AM
Yes, instead of upgrading to achieve reuse capacity spacex could have economized, using the F9 v1.0 as a baseline they could be flying an F5 now at a reduced cost with all the upgrades. Of course that wouldn't offer the flexibility in a larger system that can have its capacity reduced for reuse or expended.

One item I find interesting is the vulcan is going to be 20% more powerful than the atlas v 401. By flight history the Atlas 401 has flown 50% of total flights, and one would assume not always at full capacity. Using the same logic in the spreadsheet one would want to incorporate a higher percentage of reused hardware to level out the cost per kg with that extra capacity. Cue lead in to upper stage engine reuse  ;)
The Vulcan with ACES will have almost twice performance of 401. Leaves a lot of spare performance for adding reuse capabilities eg SMART system on ACES could allow whole stage to be recovered.
ULA may end up recovering BE4s and complete US on LEO missions. Not sure if US tanks will be OK but rest of components should be OK.

George Sowers (@george_sowers) tweeted at 5:11 AM on Sat, Jan 09, 2016:
@torybruno @Robotbeat @Simberg_Space @Koln @tehWKD SMART can be used to recover upper stg from LEO. Technically feasible. business case??
(https://twitter.com/george_sowers/status/685493990511120384)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lars-J on 01/09/2016 05:29 AM
ULA may end up recovering BE4s and complete US on LEO missions. Not sure if US tanks will be OK but rest of components should be OK.

George Sowers (@george_sowers) tweeted at 5:11 AM on Sat, Jan 09, 2016:
@torybruno @Robotbeat @Simberg_Space @Koln @tehWKD SMART can be used to recover upper stg from LEO. Technically feasible. business case??
(https://twitter.com/george_sowers/status/685493990511120384)

Isn't SMART by definition engines only, and not including the tanks? (i.e. rest of stage)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 01/09/2016 08:44 AM
ULA may end up recovering BE4s and complete US on LEO missions. Not sure if US tanks will be OK but rest of components should be OK.

George Sowers (@george_sowers) tweeted at 5:11 AM on Sat, Jan 09, 2016:
@torybruno @Robotbeat @Simberg_Space @Koln @tehWKD SMART can be used to recover upper stg from LEO. Technically feasible. business case??
(https://twitter.com/george_sowers/status/685493990511120384)

Isn't SMART by definition engines only, and not including the tanks? (i.e. rest of stage)
Given US lite weight <5t(guess)for ACES and 2t for Centuar MAR should be possible. The 2xBE4 from  booster should be >5t.

There are some advantages to having complete stage as its propulsion system would be available for guidance during reentry.
Title: Reuse business case
Post by: Lars-J on 01/09/2016 04:48 PM
There are some advantages to having complete stage as its propulsion system would be available for guidance during reentry.

Yes, some competitors seem to think so too. ;)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 01/09/2016 05:30 PM
ULA may end up recovering BE4s and complete US on LEO missions. Not sure if US tanks will be OK but rest of components should be OK.

George Sowers (@george_sowers) tweeted at 5:11 AM on Sat, Jan 09, 2016:
@torybruno @Robotbeat @Simberg_Space @Koln @tehWKD SMART can be used to recover upper stg from LEO. Technically feasible. business case??
(https://twitter.com/george_sowers/status/685493990511120384)

Isn't SMART by definition engines only, and not including the tanks? (i.e. rest of stage)
Given US lite weight <5t(guess)for ACES and 2t for Centuar MAR should be possible. The 2xBE4 from  booster should be >5t.

There are some advantages to having complete stage as its propulsion system would be available for guidance during reentry.

I think you're missing the point.  The point is not whether it's better to recover just the engines or the whole stage.  The point is that SMART means just recovering the engines.  If you're recovering the whole stage, that's not the SMART proposal.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Brovane on 01/11/2016 11:15 PM
For the DC-X didn't they rack up a lot of firings and use on those RL-10 engines that had been considered non-reusable engines?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 01/11/2016 11:27 PM
ULA may end up recovering BE4s and complete US on LEO missions. Not sure if US tanks will be OK but rest of components should be OK.

George Sowers (@george_sowers) tweeted at 5:11 AM on Sat, Jan 09, 2016:
@torybruno @Robotbeat @Simberg_Space @Koln @tehWKD SMART can be used to recover upper stg from LEO. Technically feasible. business case??
(https://twitter.com/george_sowers/status/685493990511120384)

Isn't SMART by definition engines only, and not including the tanks? (i.e. rest of stage)
Given US lite weight <5t(guess)for ACES and 2t for Centuar MAR should be possible. The 2xBE4 from  booster should be >5t.

There are some advantages to having complete stage as its propulsion system would be available for guidance during reentry.

I think you're missing the point.  The point is not whether it's better to recover just the engines or the whole stage.  The point is that SMART means just recovering the engines.  If you're recovering the whole stage, that's not the SMART proposal.
Sure. But we're talking about extending the technology to use for a while upper stage. Concept of operations would be the same, just a whole upper stage not just a first stage engine pod.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 01/12/2016 12:14 AM
ULA may end up recovering BE4s and complete US on LEO missions. Not sure if US tanks will be OK but rest of components should be OK.

George Sowers (@george_sowers) tweeted at 5:11 AM on Sat, Jan 09, 2016:
@torybruno @Robotbeat @Simberg_Space @Koln @tehWKD SMART can be used to recover upper stg from LEO. Technically feasible. business case??
(https://twitter.com/george_sowers/status/685493990511120384)

Isn't SMART by definition engines only, and not including the tanks? (i.e. rest of stage)
Given US lite weight <5t(guess)for ACES and 2t for Centuar MAR should be possible. The 2xBE4 from  booster should be >5t.

There are some advantages to having complete stage as its propulsion system would be available for guidance during reentry.

I think you're missing the point.  The point is not whether it's better to recover just the engines or the whole stage.  The point is that SMART means just recovering the engines.  If you're recovering the whole stage, that's not the SMART proposal.
Sure. But we're talking about extending the technology to use for a while upper stage. Concept of operations would be the same, just a whole upper stage not just a first stage engine pod.
George Sowers hasn't stated if they would recover just engines or complete stage, but complete stage is lite enough for MAR.

If they separate engine section it will need some form of propulsion to handle reentry guidance. Given IVF has small storage tanks of pressurized H and O, the engine section maybe able to handle reentry as is.

George if you are reading this, please enlighten us.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 01/12/2016 02:09 AM
Upper stage reuse, engine pod or whole stage, is not worth it unless you're already recovering the entire first stage in a rapid manner with low refurb.

I was the one who brought up the idea in that Twitter conversation (though I'm sure it has occurred to many people long before, not least of which is Jon Goff), and at the time, we were definitely talking about the possibility of reusing the entire upper stage. I'm not sure that it'd be worth going through the difficulty of recovery of any part of the upper stage unless you did the entire stage.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 01/12/2016 10:12 AM
Upper stage reuse, engine pod or whole stage, is not worth it unless you're already recovering the entire first stage in a rapid manner with low refurb.

I was the one who brought up the idea in that Twitter conversation (though I'm sure it has occurred to many people long before, not least of which is Jon Goff), and at the time, we were definitely talking about the possibility of reusing the entire upper stage. I'm not sure that it'd be worth going through the difficulty of recovery of any part of the upper stage unless you did the entire stage.
If they recovering a complete 2nd stage and engines from 1st stage savings would similar to a complete 1st stage.

To quote George
"SMART can be used to recover upper stg from LEO"
I read that as complete stage.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: jongoff on 01/12/2016 04:44 PM
If they recovering a complete 2nd stage and engines from 1st stage savings would similar to a complete 1st stage.

To quote George
"SMART can be used to recover upper stg from LEO"
I read that as complete stage.

I think the upper stage is a larger share of the vehicle cost for ULA than it is for SpaceX. Though I could be misremembering. Need to go dig up that infographic again.

~Jon
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: GWH on 01/12/2016 08:18 PM
If they recovering a complete 2nd stage and engines from 1st stage savings would similar to a complete 1st stage.

To quote George
"SMART can be used to recover upper stg from LEO"
I read that as complete stage.

I think the upper stage is a larger share of the vehicle cost for ULA than it is for SpaceX. Though I could be misremembering. Need to go dig up that infographic again.

~Jon

These ones?

From George's spreadsheet reused hardware SMART reuse of 1st stange engine and avionics 0.18 ratio of total launch cost, from attached infographics this is 65% of 1st stage cost.  This puts the 1st stage at a total of 0.28 of the total launch cost.
What factor would one then assume for costs on the complete upperstage? 0.1?  0.2?

Then what performance hit would one expect? 
33/45 of the total flight history of Atlas V/Delta IV was the either the Atlas V 401 or Delta IV M.  The Vulcan is said to be 20% more powerful than the Atlas 401 + Delta IV M.   With 5% payload reduction could reuse of upperstage be kept to 15% to allow for price reduction on payload classes up to that range?
This doesn't account for payloads in the Delta II class which flew 47 times between 2002-2009 and another 8 expected from 2010 to 2017.

Would think upper stage reuse would make the Vulcan a lot more competitive for smaller payload classes, and looking ahead to the future enable a lot more hardware reuse should LEO based tugs and CIS-lunar derived propellant become available.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 01/12/2016 08:43 PM
I don't know if US recovery would lower $/kg to LEO but for HSF it should lower mission cost. The Vulcan is estimated at 20t LEO, while DC and Starliner are <13t allowing a 7t payload penalty for recovery.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: dkovacic on 01/12/2016 10:20 PM
I don't know if US recovery would lower $/kg to LEO but for HSF it should lower mission cost. The Vulcan is estimated at 20t LEO, while DC and Starliner are <13t allowing a 7t payload penalty for recovery.
This is a nice idea as there should be a spare capacity.  Question is whether this mass should be invested into passive aerobreaking or using retropropulsion.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 01/12/2016 10:56 PM


I don't know if US recovery would lower $/kg to LEO but for HSF it should lower mission cost. The Vulcan is estimated at 20t LEO, while DC and Starliner are <13t allowing a 7t payload penalty for recovery.
This is a nice idea as there should be a spare capacity.  Question is whether this mass should be invested into passive aerobreaking or using retropropulsion.

For ULA inflatable heat shields is the preferred method, NASA has already proofed it and ULA are looking at doing joint tests with NASA from LEO. The plan is to fly demo (6meter) HIAD as secondary payload on the Centuar.

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: GWH on 01/12/2016 11:29 PM
I don't know if US recovery would lower $/kg to LEO but for HSF it should lower mission cost. The Vulcan is estimated at 20t LEO, while DC and Starliner are <13t allowing a 7t payload penalty for recovery.

I assume this estimate is for Vulcan w/ ACES and no SRBSs?  I've tried searching and couldn't find that.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: jongoff on 01/13/2016 12:50 AM


I don't know if US recovery would lower $/kg to LEO but for HSF it should lower mission cost. The Vulcan is estimated at 20t LEO, while DC and Starliner are <13t allowing a 7t payload penalty for recovery.
This is a nice idea as there should be a spare capacity.  Question is whether this mass should be invested into passive aerobreaking or using retropropulsion.

For ULA inflatable heat shields is the preferred method, NASA has already proofed it and ULA are looking at doing joint tests with NASA from LEO. The plan is to fly demo (6meter) HIAD as secondary payload on the Centuar.

They prefer HIADs for their booster engine recovery, but IIRC George has said that they haven't really looked too closely at upper stage recovery. Personally I don't think HIADs are the best approach for that application--they're not particularly light.

~Jon
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 01/13/2016 02:30 AM
No, but they are lighter than propellant. And they could be made to survive reentry while also slowing down the stage enough to allow (guided) parachute deployment.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: jongoff on 01/13/2016 04:13 AM
No, but they are lighter than propellant. And they could be made to survive reentry while also slowing down the stage enough to allow (guided) parachute deployment.

Just about anything is better than propulsive reentry.

~Jon
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 01/13/2016 04:30 AM
No, but they are lighter than propellant. And they could be made to survive reentry while also slowing down the stage enough to allow (guided) parachute deployment.

Just about anything is better than propulsive reentry.

~Jon
Define better in this context?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lars-J on 01/13/2016 05:52 AM
No, but they are lighter than propellant. And they could be made to survive reentry while also slowing down the stage enough to allow (guided) parachute deployment.

Just about anything is better than propulsive reentry.

Sometimes a brute force approach is so simple and elegant that it is the best approach.  :)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rocx on 01/13/2016 08:46 AM
Just about anything is better than propulsive reentry.

I think it depends on the delta-v that you need to cancel out. Apparently SpaceX chose to cancel the ~1 km/s of their first stage by a reentry burn instead of putting thermal protection material on the stage, but a reentry from orbit would be ~8 km/s.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: jongoff on 01/13/2016 02:21 PM
No, but they are lighter than propellant. And they could be made to survive reentry while also slowing down the stage enough to allow (guided) parachute deployment.

Just about anything is better than propulsive reentry.

Sometimes a brute force approach is so simple and elegant that it is the best approach.  :)

But not in this case. 8km/s of braking propulsively is SSTO territory. It makes zero sense. There are tons of ideas better than this. Even propulsive braking for return from say lunar orbit makes very little sense. Propulsive upper stage reentry is even dumber.

~Jon
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: SLC17A5 on 01/16/2016 06:37 AM
The comparison to upper stage restarts is interesting and a good one in a vacuum (ha), but the backblast from the pad landing looked downright plutonic.  First stage landings take place in a much more gunky/sooty/chemically promiscuous environment than upper stage burns.

https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/688175650570547202  :P
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: deltaV on 01/16/2016 02:59 PM
ISTM that SpaceX and ULA disagree on the business case for reusability primarily because they have different goals. AFAICT the Boeing and LM execs on ULA’s board make decisions primarily based on shareholder profit maximization and hence wouldn't consider a program successful unless it makes them enough money to repay the development costs several-fold. SpaceX wants money too but they also have a goal of lowering the cost of access to space enough to make a Mars colony practical. There are lots of plausible scenarios where reusability cuts launch costs but isn’t profitable to launch vehicle companies, so this difference in goals changes whether reusability is worth trying.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: watermod on 01/16/2016 04:23 PM
ISTM that SpaceX and ULA disagree on the business case for reusability primarily because they have different goals. AFAICT the Boeing and LM execs on ULA’s board make decisions primarily based on shareholder profit maximization and hence wouldn't consider a program successful unless it makes them enough money to repay the development costs several-fold. SpaceX wants money too but they also have a goal of lowering the cost of access to space enough to make a Mars colony practical. There are lots of plausible scenarios where reusability cuts launch costs but isn’t profitable to launch vehicle companies, so this difference in goals changes whether reusability is worth trying.

This leaves out the future business case where your competitors are massively undercutting your sales due to cost savings passed on to customers with reuse.   It needs addressing if one doesn't want to become extinct.

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: deltaV on 01/16/2016 06:40 PM
This leaves out the future business case where your competitors are massively undercutting your sales due to cost savings passed on to customers with reuse.   It needs addressing if one doesn't want to become extinct.

Boeing and LM won't go extinct no matter what happens to ULA. AFAICT Boeing and LM will choose to let ULA go extinct if that's more profitable than investing in re-usability to compete with SpaceX.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: jongoff on 01/16/2016 06:45 PM
ISTM that SpaceX and ULA disagree on the business case for reusability primarily because they have different goals. AFAICT the Boeing and LM execs on ULA’s board make decisions primarily based on shareholder profit maximization and hence wouldn't consider a program successful unless it makes them enough money to repay the development costs several-fold. SpaceX wants money too but they also have a goal of lowering the cost of access to space enough to make a Mars colony practical. There are lots of plausible scenarios where reusability cuts launch costs but isn’t profitable to launch vehicle companies, so this difference in goals changes whether reusability is worth trying.

This leaves out the future business case where your competitors are massively undercutting your sales due to cost savings passed on to customers with reuse.   It needs addressing if one doesn't want to become extinct.

Yeah, I do worry that ULA's stance on reuse business case isn't properly accounting for competition. SpaceX already has a cost advantage, so ULA has to keep up or they'll likely keep losing market share. If they can stay more competitive than Arianespace and Ruskosmos they might still stay alive and maybe even healthy (unlike the fanboys on NSF.com, no satellite operator wants to see a world where SpaceX has a launch monopoly), but I worry they're looking at reuse primarily from a standpoint that ignores what the competition does.

That said, they have their hands full with Vulcan and ACES near-term, so they may have times to evolve their reuse strategy based on how SpaceX does with theirs. The key IMO is making sure that they at least maintain second place--sometimes you don't have to outrun the bear so long as you can outrun some of the other hikers...

~Jon
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: jongoff on 01/16/2016 06:47 PM
This leaves out the future business case where your competitors are massively undercutting your sales due to cost savings passed on to customers with reuse.   It needs addressing if one doesn't want to become extinct.

Boeing and LM won't go extinct no matter what happens to ULA. AFAICT Boeing and LM will choose to let ULA go extinct if that's more profitable than investing in re-usability to compete with SpaceX.

That's my biggest worry. They might just decide to stop investing in the future, milk ULA for as much money as they can from guaranteed contracts, then fold it when they run out of those.

Unless the DoD blackmails them into staying competitive the same way they blackmailed LM into bidding Atlas V in the first place... "That's a nice fighter contract you have there. It would be a pity if your not bidding an EELV were to somehow cause you to lose some of that..."

~Jon
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Steam Chaser on 01/16/2016 08:27 PM
This leaves out the future business case where your competitors are massively undercutting your sales due to cost savings passed on to customers with reuse.   It needs addressing if one doesn't want to become extinct.

Boeing and LM won't go extinct no matter what happens to ULA. AFAICT Boeing and LM will choose to let ULA go extinct if that's more profitable than investing in re-usability to compete with SpaceX.

That's my biggest worry. They might just decide to stop investing in the future, milk ULA for as much money as they can from guaranteed contracts, then fold it when they run out of those.

Unless the DoD blackmails them into staying competitive the same way they blackmailed LM into bidding Atlas V in the first place... "That's a nice fighter contract you have there. It would be a pity if your not bidding an EELV were to somehow cause you to lose some of that..."

~Jon

I think the investment to prevent an extinct ULA, or a stagnant and fading ULA, are worth it for Boeing and Lockheed Martin from a strategic point of view.  Some reasons:

- If the business case for reuse works out and the market expands, they would miss out on participating in that growing market.

- Regardless of how reuse turns out, without ULA they would miss out on other potential new markets derived from ULA's technology (e.g.: propellant depots, landers, and habitat space).

- Losing the launch market would be a pretty clear sign of weakness that would raise a lot of eyebrows, and make a lot of other potential competitors, partners, and customers consider what other weaknesses they might have in other product areas.

- Losing ULA would put them at a disadvantage with current, upcoming, or potential product lines that use ULA.  Some examples include CST-100, Jupiter-Exoliner, and Dream Chaser (LM is a subcontractor for that).  Even if rides were available to them from other launch companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, or Orbital ATK, those companies might make launch easier for there own products in the same business area.

- Imagine if reuse works out for SpaceX and ULA fades away.  Furthermore imagine that the SpaceX satellite constellation succeeds, at least to some extent, possibly in part because of the lower launch cost that reuse allows and the increased access to funding available to the constellation that results from SpaceX getting more launch business unopposed by ULA.  That could give SpaceX a path to move into all sorts of other business areas related to satellites (for example, other types of communication satellites, various types of imaging satellites, satellite components).  That could present Boeing and Lockheed Martin with a competitor in those areas with a couple big advantages (reusable launcher and mass-produced satellites) that they wouldn't have.  The same could happen with other launch businesses like Blue Origin that, in the absence of competition by ULA, have an easier time getting a foothold and branching out into other business lines.

I suspect that in the end Boeing and Lockheed Martin will see some of the same possibilities and make the investment they need to to keep ULA a respectable competitor in the launch business.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 01/17/2016 01:01 AM
Oil is below $30. Since 2011, the Ruble has dropped to less than a third of its value (versus the dollar) since 2008. They now can import as many RD-180s as they want. If SMART reuse once might have saved them $20 million per launch, now it's like barely braking even. Atlas's launch rate is up from 6 launches in 2012, 8 in '13, 9 each in '14 and '15, plus 11 scheduled this year, nearly doubling. This is while ULA is "rightsizing" and streamlining all their facilities.

Atlas V is much more affordable than it has pretty much ever been, except perhaps on some early version of Powerpoint in the late 1990s.

Complacency is looking pretty good to the parent companies right now.

If SpaceX has a successful ramp up this year to ~12 Falcon 9 launches and even a successful introduction of the Falcon Heavy and a reuse, and if oil recovers to like $50 or so (I doubt it, but I have finally admitted I have no idea what the oil price will be) and SpaceX continues to acquire launch contracts from all over the world AND (crucially) from the US govt, then a year from now, ULA could be in a world of hurt. Heck, if they put off Vulcan, even OrbitalATK's rocket could end up being the Ariane 6 to their Ariane 5. (Honestly, I don't think OrbitalATK's launch vehicle is a serious threat to ULA... ULA has a fantastic track record and OrbitalATK doesn't have enough juice to dethrone them from even second place.)

There's a huge temptation just to reel in the cash right now, but if the parents don't follow through and invest in Vulcan and at least SMART reuse and ACES, then ULA may be on life support sooner than you might think.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: AncientU on 01/17/2016 01:14 AM
Anyone know how those quarterly Board approvals for Vulcan development money are coming?
The ones after getting RD-180 ban lifted should be telling...
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Zed_Noir on 01/17/2016 06:05 AM
@Robotbeat

The oil glut will get bigger. US and Iranian oil are entering the market again. So economies with large oil revenue stream will tanked.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rocx on 01/17/2016 02:49 PM
In reality (as opposed to these calculations), everyone launches discrete chunks of payload that can't be divided. Like, you know, telecommunication satellites.

Actually it's not that hard to fill up the mass of a communication sattelite up to payload capacity (or up the next SRB increment): just add more (or less) station-keeping propellant. Since more station-keeping propellant in general means a longer lifetime or a higher chance of mission success, this means that every kg of payload is worth something for the customer.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rayleighscatter on 01/17/2016 03:20 PM


Applying results of these calculations to current market is misleading and dishonest.

No different than using an imaginary increase in demand to justify the business case.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: WindnWar on 01/17/2016 04:24 PM
In reality (as opposed to these calculations), everyone launches discrete chunks of payload that can't be divided. Like, you know, telecommunication satellites.

Actually it's not that hard to fill up the mass of a communication sattelite up to payload capacity (or up the next SRB increment): just add more (or less) station-keeping propellant. Since more station-keeping propellant in general means a longer lifetime or a higher chance of mission success, this means that every kg of payload is worth something for the customer.

It's not that easy though, adding more propellant requires more storage, more weight changes how attitude control happens, etc. Unless a number of sat buses are launching with partially filled tanks, it will be difficult to simply add propellant until you have used up the mass of the sat launcher. 
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 01/17/2016 05:30 PM
@Robotbeat

The oil glut will get bigger. US and Iranian oil are entering the market again. So economies with large oil revenue stream will tanked.
If you know that, then the market knows that. I assume that's already priced in to the current low price. Again, I have no idea what the oil price will be in the future, just that higher oil price (and stronger Ruble) is a possibility.

...but your idea that oil will be even cheaper is also a possibility, which makes SMART reuse even less helpful for reducing launch costs.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Zed_Noir on 01/17/2016 08:30 PM
@Robotbeat

The oil glut will get bigger. US and Iranian oil are entering the market again. So economies with large oil revenue stream will tanked.
If you know that, then the market knows that. I assume that's already priced in to the current low price. Again, I have no idea what the oil price will be in the future, just that higher oil price (and stronger Ruble) is a possibility.

...but your idea that oil will be even cheaper is also a possibility, which makes SMART reuse even less helpful for reducing launch costs.

There was some market uncertainty with the economic sanction on Iran,

The Oil price will be back over $50 when the current oil supply surplus is reduced. But I don't see the oil price going up much in the next few years, if at all. Only after some reduction in global oil production.

The Canadian dollar shrink with the low oil price. So am buying less eBay stuff than previous. Most eBay items are listed in US dollars.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: AncientU on 01/17/2016 09:17 PM
ISTM that SpaceX and ULA disagree on the business case for reusability primarily because they have different goals. AFAICT the Boeing and LM execs on ULA’s board make decisions primarily based on shareholder profit maximization and hence wouldn't consider a program successful unless it makes them enough money to repay the development costs several-fold. SpaceX wants money too but they also have a goal of lowering the cost of access to space enough to make a Mars colony practical. There are lots of plausible scenarios where reusability cuts launch costs but isn’t profitable to launch vehicle companies, so this difference in goals changes whether reusability is worth trying.

The SpaceX business case (without reuse) is already taking lots of launches off the table for Arianespace, the (former) premier commercial launcher, and will soon be doing the same for USG launches, ULA's only business.  USG launch business is also shrinking considerably in next 5-10 years.  Not much good to make a business case if there aren't enough chips left on the table to stay in business.

And it will be getting tougher to compete for those available launches every day that not-SMART reusability moves toward full impletation and even lower launch costs -- happening NOW, not in 5-10 years.  With a landed stage (and retesting without much refurbishment), someone may need to revisit their assumptions.  Soon.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: The Amazing Catstronaut on 01/17/2016 11:58 PM


And it will be getting tougher to compete for those available launches every day that not-SMART reusability moves toward full implementation and even lower launch costs -- happening NOW, not in 5-10 years.  With a landed stage (and retesting without much refurbishment), someone may need to revisit their assumptions.  Soon.

2016 through 2017 will see the start of stages being reused, undoubtedly. But when will SpaceX start to cut costs for it? With the first reused core? Once they have a balanced fleet of reused and non-reused cores? Just low enough to constantly stay ahead of the competition to steadily give the market time to adapt, or a sudden drop to claim most of the market and go full shock-and-awe on unprepared competitors? When F9Full's reliability rate is high cross-board? When?

ULA has some time - I believe that ULA is playing for second place, with is entirely reasonable. SMART reuse can get them to second place. There's always the chance SpaceX could screw up somehow too.

Remember, ULA never has to beat SpaceX on cost or on reliability (at the moment, they beat them on reliability and capability, although the capability advantage is soon to be lost and reliability may follow with SpaceX's expected launch cadence) to stay in business. They've just gotta' be a better auxillary than everyone else - plus, the Airforce wants two independent architectures so they have some ground.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: AncientU on 01/18/2016 12:32 AM
Musk says break even is first reuse... take that for what it's worth to you.  Early discounts to get reused vehicles flying will obscure the actual cost reduction, but it only has to not raise prices for them to remain the low cost leader.  Does 'when' matter if the trend is downward from already market-leading prices? 

I personally believe the discount will be substantial, 30-40% would be my best guess for the near future, so $40-50M for a reusable FT F9.  We'll see in a couple weeks what payload this can carry when SES (5330kg) is sent to GTO and the not-SMART recovery is attempted. 

Rumor is that SES might sign up for a reuse flight(maybe this launch vehicle if landing is successful), so this might provide a bit of insight, too.

Note: ULA shouldn't settle for second place.  They have the talent and financial backing to remain "America's ride to space" if they choose to compete.  All I want if full and open competition so that we break out of the stagnation of the last few decades and do something interesting in space.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: The Amazing Catstronaut on 01/18/2016 07:50 AM
Musk says break even is first reuse... take that for what it's worth to you.  Early discounts to get reused vehicles flying will obscure the actual cost reduction, but it only has to not raise prices for them to remain the low cost leader.  Does 'when' matter if the trend is downward from already market-leading prices? 



When does matter, since "when" has direct implications for payload manufacturers, customers and SpaceX's competitors in the launch industry.

Perhaps "when" is not the critical word here, but "how rapidly"?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: AncientU on 01/20/2016 03:13 PM
Musk says break even is first reuse... take that for what it's worth to you.  Early discounts to get reused vehicles flying will obscure the actual cost reduction, but it only has to not raise prices for them to remain the low cost leader.  Does 'when' matter if the trend is downward from already market-leading prices? 



When does matter, since "when" has direct implications for payload manufacturers, customers and SpaceX's competitors in the launch industry.

Perhaps "when" is not the critical word here, but "how rapidly"?

Here's someone else's opinion:
Quote
Equity analysts at investment bank Jefferies have looked carefully at the cost structure of building and launching a SpaceX rocket, and come to the conclusion that costs to satellite operators of using a SpaceX rocket could easily come down by about 40 per cent, while leaving Elon Musk’s profit margins in a very healthy state.

http://advanced-television.com/2016/01/20/launch-discounts-likely-from-spacex/

Doesn't answer the 'how rapidly' question, but does give a substantial margin that will provide satellite operators incentive to choose reuse stages.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RocketGoBoom on 01/27/2016 08:17 PM

ULA has some time - I believe that ULA is playing for second place, with is entirely reasonable. SMART reuse can get them to second place. There's always the chance SpaceX could screw up somehow too.

Remember, ULA never has to beat SpaceX on cost or on reliability (at the moment, they beat them on reliability and capability, although the capability advantage is soon to be lost and reliability may follow with SpaceX's expected launch cadence) to stay in business. They've just gotta' be a better auxillary than everyone else - plus, the Airforce wants two independent architectures so they have some ground.

I don't think ULA has the luxury of hoping the Air Force will bail them out just to keep a second provider in the certified EELV game.

The CEO of ULA was quoted back in April or May of 2015 saying approximately the following:

1) He expect the number of EELV launches to decline in future years to about 5 or 6 per year.
2) With competition he expects that ULA will win about 50% of that reduced number of launches.
3) ULA cannot survive on 3 launches per year.
4) ULA must become competitive in the commercial launch market in order to survive. With approximately 50% EELV market share, there won't be enough EELV launches to support ULA.

So with that body of information acknowledged by Bruno, then ULA cannot afford to play for second place and hope the Air Force continues to toss them a few bones to keep a second launch provider financially viable. ULA/Boeing/Lockheed need to get serious. They are not competing against just SX. They are going to have to compete against SX, Ariane and probably BO in the future.

Ariane is not at risk. They will continue to get subsidies from the EU no matter what.
SX and BO have their billionaire and VC financing, so they have plenty of runway.

ULA has their block buy and a few more years of their annual $1 billion subsidy to cover overhead. That is their runway to Vulcan. They either go full bore and figure out how to get pricing down to commercially competitive levels or they will be done after the block buy.

They don't have until 2023 to figure this out. I think they have till about 2018. Manifests for 2020 will be filling up around 2018. The end of the block buy will be within sight.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Pipcard on 01/28/2016 11:07 PM
I keep posting quotes from this guy sometimes, but are there any counterarguments to this? (http://forum.kerbalspaceprogram.com/index.php?/topic/128725-im-pretty-sure-spacex-put-ula-out-of-business-to-some-degree/#comment-2339039) Is labor really the biggest part of the launch cost? Is production rate more important? What about payloads (e.g. comsats) costing more than the launch? I know launching food and propellant is cheaper, but what about the spacecraft that would use that propellant?

(bolded for emphasis)
Quote from: Nibb31
We still don't know if recovering a stage actually allows economically viable reusability.

Reusing and refurbishing the first stage might allow some cost savings compared to building a new one, but there are many more factors involved in the cost of orbital launch. The manufacturing cost of the first stage is actually only a small part of the total cost of launching a rocket, maybe only 30% (optimistically). The rest of the cost is mainly the workforce, planning, infrastructure, logistics, R&D, transport, administrative overhead, etc... And there's transport, integration, launch services, and a lot of stuff that isn't recoverable (upper stage, fairing...).

The payroll of the workforce is the biggest part of the launch cost, and reusability doesn't magically reduce the workforce. SpaceX is just about as lean as a launch provider can be and has already slashed prices as much as they could.  Even with reusability, they will still need a factory and lots of engineers. Even if you need a few less people on the production lines to build less boosters, you need people to refurbish, prepare, and transport the recovered stage, which wasn't needed before.

And this assumes that the first stage is actually free, which it isn't. It's designed to fly maybe 20 times, but not indefinitely. You could assume that by spreading the manufacturing cost over 20 flights reduces the cost per flight by 95% of the above-mentioned 30% figure, but it isn't even that simple.

Disposable rockets (especially the Falcon 9) are actually designed to be (relatively) cheap, partly because they are produced in numbers. Manufacturing costs diminish with volume, meaning that as launch volume increases, the unit cost of each booster decreases. If you have 50 launches per year, with a disposable model, you need to mass produce 500 Merlin engines and 50 first stages. With 100% first stage reusability, the same factory has to build only 2.5 first stages and 72.5 engines. The result is that due to lower procurement volumes and higher fixed costs, those reusable stages are going to cost a lot more than the disposable ones. Enough to seriously cut into the reduction induced by reusing the stages in the first place. Instead of saving 95% on the manufacturing cost of the first stage, for the same amount of flights, the real cost reduction might only be 50%.

So in the end, what sounded like a 95% (of 30%) reduction of launch cost might only turn out to be a 15% reduction, which has the potential to bring the cost of a Falcon 9 launch from $60 million down to $45 million. It's a nice perk to pass on to your customers, but it's not a game changer.

Now, from the customer's point of view, the actual launch is only a small part of the total cost of a typical project. Maybe, again, 20%. The rest is the satellite itself (the biggest part of the budget), the ground stations, the insurance, and the actual operations. This means that in the grand scheme of things, the total saving that a customer can expect when they put a satellite in service is 15% of 20%, which is only 3%. On a $200 million comsat project, that's a whopping $6 million saving on their total expenses. Again, it's a nice saving, but it's not a revolution.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RocketGoBoom on 01/29/2016 01:45 AM
Pipcard,

All of that in your quote makes a great deal of sense. I write this as a SpaceX fan who has also thought that Elon is overselling the gains made possible by reusability.

With 4,000 employees and an estimated average total cost (taxes, benefits, etc) of $100,000 per employee, that is an annual payroll of $400 million. Some of those employees are not specifically on launch work. Some are on Dragon 2 or other projects. But for the sake of this example, we will just roll them all into launch overhead.

$400 million / 12 launches per year = $33.3 million per launch for labor.

or if they can scale up launch cadence without significantly more headcount...

$400 million / 24 launches per year = $16.6 million per launch for labor.

$400 million / 36 launches per year = $11.1 million per launch for labor.

So just the labor savings of a faster launch rate could be just as valuable as saving $15 million million per launch by reusing the first stage.

Just with the concept of faster launch rate and reusing the first stage, it is plausible that SpaceX offers basic Falcon 9 launches at $30 million. While cutting costs by 50% is very impressive, it is not the 100 fold that is often tossed around by Elon when he quotes only the fuel cost. SpaceX will likely be increasing headcount above 4,000 in future years.

So even with a faster launch rate, I think their labor overhead per launch will remain in the $15 million to $30 million range.

If SpaceX gets to something impressive like 100 launches per year with their headcount still at 4,000 then the numbers start looking like a game changer.

$400 million / 100 launches per year = $4 million per launch for labor plus whatever the cost of the materials, launch pads, transportation, barges, fuel, etc.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: muomega0 on 01/29/2016 03:29 PM
I keep posting quotes from this guy sometimes, but are there any counterarguments to this? (http://forum.kerbalspaceprogram.com/index.php?/topic/128725-im-pretty-sure-spacex-put-ula-out-of-business-to-some-degree/#comment-2339039) Is labor really the biggest part of the launch cost? Is production rate more important? What about payloads (e.g. comsats) costing more than the launch? I know launching food and propellant is cheaper, but what about the spacecraft that would use that propellant?

(bolded for emphasis)
Quote from: Nibb31
We still don't know if recovering a stage actually allows economically viable reusability.

Reusing and refurbishing the first stage might allow some cost savings compared to building a new one, but there are many more factors involved in the cost of orbital launch. The manufacturing cost of the first stage is actually only a small part of the total cost of launching a rocket, maybe only 30% (optimistically). The rest of the cost is mainly the workforce, planning, infrastructure, logistics, R&D, transport, administrative overhead, etc... And there's transport, integration, launch services, and a lot of stuff that isn't recoverable (upper stage, fairing...).

The payroll of the workforce is the biggest part of the launch cost, and reusability doesn't magically reduce the workforce. SpaceX is just about as lean as a launch provider can be and has already slashed prices as much as they could.  Even with reusability, they will still need a factory and lots of engineers. Even if you need a few less people on the production lines to build less boosters, you need people to refurbish, prepare, and transport the recovered stage, which wasn't needed before.

And this assumes that the first stage is actually free, which it isn't. It's designed to fly maybe 20 times, but not indefinitely. You could assume that by spreading the manufacturing cost over 20 flights reduces the cost per flight by 95% of the above-mentioned 30% figure, but it isn't even that simple.

Disposable rockets (especially the Falcon 9) are actually designed to be (relatively) cheap, partly because they are produced in numbers. Manufacturing costs diminish with volume, meaning that as launch volume increases, the unit cost of each booster decreases. If you have 50 launches per year, with a disposable model, you need to mass produce 500 Merlin engines and 50 first stages. With 100% first stage reusability, the same factory has to build only 2.5 first stages and 72.5 engines. The result is that due to lower procurement volumes and higher fixed costs, those reusable stages are going to cost a lot more than the disposable ones. Enough to seriously cut into the reduction induced by reusing the stages in the first place. Instead of saving 95% on the manufacturing cost of the first stage, for the same amount of flights, the real cost reduction might only be 50%.

So in the end, what sounded like a 95% (of 30%) reduction of launch cost might only turn out to be a 15% reduction, which has the potential to bring the cost of a Falcon 9 launch from $60 million down to $45 million. It's a nice perk to pass on to your customers, but it's not a game changer.

Now, from the customer's point of view, the actual launch is only a small part of the total cost of a typical project. Maybe, again, 20%. The rest is the satellite itself (the biggest part of the budget), the ground stations, the insurance, and the actual operations. This means that in the grand scheme of things, the total saving that a customer can expect when they put a satellite in service is 15% of 20%, which is only 3%. On a $200 million comsat project, that's a whopping $6 million saving on their total expenses. Again, it's a nice saving, but it's not a revolution.
Th analysis in the post fails.   It fails by not considering the complete and potential customer base, but most importantly the average annual metric tonnes per year over a long haul and the cost of these payloads, IOW:  the Life Cycle Cost per Pound of Payload for Multiple Launchers (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=37390.msg1364080#msg1364080)

So lets see how this fails to consider the customer perspective.
First, the DOD requires non sole source.  Assume that the fixed costs are somehow magically covered or reduced so low that one can offer an air fare rate, expendable or reusable.  Yes, the fixed costs and development can be done too, as mentioned by RocketgoBoom (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=37390.msg1484694#msg1484694) above, but it fails to address an expanded 'market' or customer base in addition to the DOD, non sole source needs.

In the attached plot, assume the first launch is a fixed cost, say 60M, and subsequent launch is a fraction of this cost (reuse), or the entire cost (expendable).  Finally adjust the capability in mT to the expendable vs reuse capability.
    Example:  17mT 60M-1 60m-2->  means 17mT expendable at 60M a flight
                   13mT 60M-1 20m-2-> means 13mT flight 1 at 60M and 20M for flight 2 thru N.
                   53mT 140M - 50M    Decrease the mT to account for success rate or increase the cost

So if you were NASA and required 100mT of payload to LEO, 70% is propellant, which option would you choose
    1:  The 100mt expendable SLS:    Cost is >=1B for launch one, 1-500M additional
    2:  The 17mT expendable option:  Cost is 360M
    3:  The 13mT reuse option:          Cost is 200M
    4.  The 53mT expendable option:  Cost is 180M
    5.  The 53mT reuse option:          Cost is 130M

When one considers that there is a requirement for say 5 heavies over say 9 years, someone has to pay for that, the DOD!     So why not make use of the LV for other purposes?

So consider the commercial satellite customer.   Is a cost of 360M or 130M for 100mT a game changer? vs >100M a launch for say 13mT?

This analysis is incomplete because it must include payload value, but one can also give a ROM.   (Did you fail to deliver $200K of propellant or a multi $B satellite?).   The trend is clear:   as the annual metric tonnes per year over a sustained period, say a decade, is increased, larger reuseable LVs are more economical, especially if the cost of the payload is decreased.   IOW:  build 2 or more copies of the billion dollar satellite, or 100s of small sats to address any reliability issues.

Having commonality of engines between multiple LV stages appears to be one clear way to reduce costs, as well as scaling up the capacity as the annual metric tonnes per year increases.  Further, reducing fixed costs is significant game changer, especially if the payload costs can be reduced (e.g propellant, n copies of sats,...).

More payloads and customers required :)  "if a problem cannot be solved, enlarge it"  Dwight D. Eisenhower
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 01/29/2016 05:03 PM
When costing reuse versus expendable you need factor the considerably higher development cost.  The F9 has had around 6 attempts at a landing and quite a few non attempts that tested systems. Every one of those attempts at landing sacrifices payload performance. The barges and crews have considerable operating costs and until a recovered stage flys the recovery systems are losing money.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lars-J on 01/29/2016 05:25 PM
When costing reuse versus expendable you need factor the considerably higher development cost.  The F9 has had around 6 attempts at a landing and quite a few non attempts that tested systems. Every one of those attempts at landing sacrifices payload performance.

How does it sacrifice payload performance? The F9 isn't dial-a-rocket. It has a certain performance, and none of the payloads so far have taxed it to its absolute limits, allowing these tests to happen for 'free'.

Very few missions tax any launchers to the *absolute* limit.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rayleighscatter on 01/29/2016 09:42 PM
The trend is clear:   as the annual metric tonnes per year over a sustained period, say a decade, is increased, larger reuseable LVs are more economical, especially if the cost of the payload is decreased.   IOW:  build 2 or more copies of the billion dollar satellite, or 100s of small sats to address any reliability issues.

Build a pair of billion dollar satellites to save 50 million in launch costs?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: nadreck on 01/29/2016 09:49 PM
The trend is clear:   as the annual metric tonnes per year over a sustained period, say a decade, is increased, larger reuseable LVs are more economical, especially if the cost of the payload is decreased.   IOW:  build 2 or more copies of the billion dollar satellite, or 100s of small sats to address any reliability issues.

Build a pair of billion dollar satellites to save 50 million in launch costs?

In a realistic world the 2nd one should be made anyway and also should only cost a tiny fraction of the first.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 01/30/2016 02:14 AM
When costing reuse versus expendable you need factor the considerably higher development cost.  The F9 has had around 6 attempts at a landing and quite a few non attempts that tested systems. Every one of those attempts at landing sacrifices payload performance.

How does it sacrifice payload performance? The F9 isn't dial-a-rocket. It has a certain performance, and none of the payloads so far have taxed it to its absolute limits, allowing these tests to happen for 'free'.

Very few missions tax any launchers to the *absolute* limit.
If ULA was trying same with Atlas they would need to add extra SRBs for reuse attempts adding considerable cost per flight.




 
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rayleighscatter on 01/30/2016 02:33 AM

In a realistic world the 2nd one should be made anyway and also should only cost a tiny fraction of the first.

Orbiting Carbon Observatory. The original cost 280 million, the replacement cost 170 million. The bigger loss though was that it took an additional 5+ years to join the constellation. 66 months of incomplete data.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: nadreck on 01/30/2016 02:52 AM

In a realistic world the 2nd one should be made anyway and also should only cost a tiny fraction of the first.

Orbiting Carbon Observatory. The original cost 280 million, the replacement cost 170 million. The bigger loss though was that it took an additional 5+ years to join the constellation. 66 months of incomplete data.

I am sorry if I wasn't succinct enough, I meant that when you build an expensive (to my mind >$500M today, perhaps >$1B 5 years ago)  spacecraft you build a 2nd one at the same time as the first for insurance.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 01/30/2016 03:23 AM
When costing reuse versus expendable you need factor the considerably higher development cost.  The F9 has had around 6 attempts at a landing and quite a few non attempts that tested systems. Every one of those attempts at landing sacrifices payload performance.

How does it sacrifice payload performance? The F9 isn't dial-a-rocket. It has a certain performance, and none of the payloads so far have taxed it to its absolute limits, allowing these tests to happen for 'free'.

Very few missions tax any launchers to the *absolute* limit.
Exactly. When they need the full performance, they don't attempt recovery. When they don't need it, they can do tests with the rocket after separation. Falcon 9 already is low for expendable use. I'd say their reuse attempts have cost them very little. In all, they're still better off than almost all other expendable programs, even though they just recovered their first rocket.

You know how they did it? By recruiting the creme of the crop, incredibly talented AND driven people. And how do you do that? By pushing barriers beyond what anyone else was attempting at the time (first stage reuse for an orbital rocket), by attempting what many would say is impossible. It sounds cliche, but good luck pushing people as hard as SpaceX does without having as big of a goal and as aggressive of a test/R&D schedule.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 01/30/2016 03:37 AM
I keep posting quotes from this guy sometimes, but are there any counterarguments to this? (http://forum.kerbalspaceprogram.com/index.php?/topic/128725-im-pretty-sure-spacex-put-ula-out-of-business-to-some-degree/#comment-2339039) Is labor really the biggest part of the launch cost? Is production rate more important? What about payloads (e.g. comsats) costing more than the launch? I know launching food and propellant is cheaper, but what about the spacecraft that would use that propellant?

(bolded for emphasis)
Quote from: Nibb31
We still don't know if recovering a stage actually allows economically viable reusability.

Reusing and refurbishing the first stage might allow some cost savings compared to building a new one, but there are many more factors involved in the cost of orbital launch. The manufacturing cost of the first stage is actually only a small part of the total cost of launching a rocket, maybe only 30% (optimistically). The rest of the cost is mainly the workforce, planning, infrastructure, logistics, R&D, transport, administrative overhead, etc... And there's transport, integration, launch services, and a lot of stuff that isn't recoverable (upper stage, fairing...).

The payroll of the workforce is the biggest part of the launch cost, and reusability doesn't magically reduce the workforce. SpaceX is just about as lean as a launch provider can be and has already slashed prices as much as they could.  Even with reusability, they will still need a factory and lots of engineers. Even if you need a few less people on the production lines to build less boosters, you need people to refurbish, prepare, and transport the recovered stage, which wasn't needed before.

And this assumes that the first stage is actually free, which it isn't. It's designed to fly maybe 20 times, but not indefinitely. You could assume that by spreading the manufacturing cost over 20 flights reduces the cost per flight by 95% of the above-mentioned 30% figure, but it isn't even that simple.

Disposable rockets (especially the Falcon 9) are actually designed to be (relatively) cheap, partly because they are produced in numbers. Manufacturing costs diminish with volume, meaning that as launch volume increases, the unit cost of each booster decreases. If you have 50 launches per year, with a disposable model, you need to mass produce 500 Merlin engines and 50 first stages. With 100% first stage reusability, the same factory has to build only 2.5 first stages and 72.5 engines. The result is that due to lower procurement volumes and higher fixed costs, those reusable stages are going to cost a lot more than the disposable ones. Enough to seriously cut into the reduction induced by reusing the stages in the first place. Instead of saving 95% on the manufacturing cost of the first stage, for the same amount of flights, the real cost reduction might only be 50%.

So in the end, what sounded like a 95% (of 30%) reduction of launch cost might only turn out to be a 15% reduction, which has the potential to bring the cost of a Falcon 9 launch from $60 million down to $45 million. It's a nice perk to pass on to your customers, but it's not a game changer.

Now, from the customer's point of view, the actual launch is only a small part of the total cost of a typical project. Maybe, again, 20%. The rest is the satellite itself (the biggest part of the budget), the ground stations, the insurance, and the actual operations. This means that in the grand scheme of things, the total saving that a customer can expect when they put a satellite in service is 15% of 20%, which is only 3%. On a $200 million comsat project, that's a whopping $6 million saving on their total expenses. Again, it's a nice saving, but it's not a revolution.
First stage launch costs are more than just 30% of the costs. You're making the same assumptions as many others: that you're just saving the costs of bending metal.

With fast-turnaround reuse, you also save transport costs, integration costs, and you save having to expand your factory. SpaceX is eyeing a 40 launches-per-year launch rate, something their current factory simply is unable to cope with without reuse. They're already producing a huge number of Merlins, so they've likely reached a plateau in cost saving just from repeating the same engine over in over.

Say the factory is sized for 70 Merlins per year. At that rate, they can do 7 Falcon 9s (OR 2 Falcon Heavies and a Falcon 9), like they did last year. Or instead, they can do 30 reusable Falcon 9s, 10 reusable Falcon Heavy launches, and make three new cores/boosters plus have a few replacement engines. Also, since upper stages are smaller, they probably can make 2-3 upper stage tanks in the time it takes to make 1 first stage tank.

Reuse allows SpaceX to DOMINATE the commercial /and/ domestic launch markets (20-40 launches per year, some with the monster Falcon Heavy) with a factory footprint no bigger than they current have with their modest 7 launches last year.

It's not just "Oh, how can we do these half dozen launches a little cheaper," it's "how can we compete for every launch out there."
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Ludus on 01/30/2016 03:55 PM
I picture the same spreadsheet used in that universe where 747s are used for transatlantic flights in expendable mode with the plane scrapped after each one way flight. We hold the number of flights constant. [There aren't very many] Reusing the 747 means many fewer are produced for the same fixed cost. $/kg is the metric. Quite obviously the business case for reusing 747s just doesn't close. Nothing revolutionary here. Move along.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Coastal Ron on 01/30/2016 04:51 PM
I keep posting quotes from this guy sometimes, but are there any counterarguments to this? (http://forum.kerbalspaceprogram.com/index.php?/topic/128725-im-pretty-sure-spacex-put-ula-out-of-business-to-some-degree/#comment-2339039) Is labor really the biggest part of the launch cost? Is production rate more important? What about payloads (e.g. comsats) costing more than the launch? I know launching food and propellant is cheaper, but what about the spacecraft that would use that propellant?

My background is in manufacturing operations, including factory scheduling and project costing, and Nibb31 makes too many wrong assumptions, or relies on assumptions that are clearly unknown.  For instance:

(bolded for emphasis)
Quote from: Nibb31
The manufacturing cost of the first stage is actually only a small part of the total cost of launching a rocket, maybe only 30% (optimistically).

We don't have enough insight into this number.  All we know is the total.  So their "optimistic" number could be far too low or far too high.

Quote
The payroll of the workforce is the biggest part of the launch cost, and reusability doesn't magically reduce the workforce.[/b] SpaceX is just about as lean as a launch provider can be and has already slashed prices as much as they could.

Just from a factory touch labor standpoint, the trend has been that labor has declined to just a small percentage of the overall cost of a product.  In some of the industries I've been in, less than 1% of the total due to a number of factors (i.e. automation, continuous manufacturing setups, etc.).

Regarding their "slashed prices" description, sales people "slash" prices, manufacturing removes inefficiencies in their processes with the help of engineering, procurement, etc.

Quote
Disposable rockets (especially the Falcon 9) are actually designed to be (relatively) cheap, partly because they are produced in numbers.

This is just a bizarre statement, since it literally applies to everything in the world where there is more than one of an item made.

The Falcon 9 was designed to made for the lowest practical cost that performs a specific job, which now we know that job is not just to launch once, but launch and land multiple.  But compared to Atlas V you are going to find a lot of commonality, since the main function is to launch heavy payloads to space, but the Falcon 9 has more weight and complexity added in order to allow for 1st stage recovery.

Quote
Manufacturing costs diminish with volume, meaning that as launch volume increases, the unit cost of each booster decreases.

Yes and no.  Too much generalization.

For instance, material costs may not change at all depending on manufacturing volume.  And depending on your factory, the type of labor you need, and how constant the production rate can be (is there seasonality?), you may not see a big reduction.  And to a certain degree, such as the current Falcon 9 factory, you might be limited in your ability to increase past a certain rate.

Quote
If you have 50 launches per year, with a disposable model...

Their assumptions don't take into account a change in demand, which is what Musk is trying to change with reusability.

Quote
So in the end, what sounded like a 95% (of 30%) reduction of launch cost might only turn out to be a 15% reduction, which has the potential to bring the cost of a Falcon 9 launch from $60 million down to $45 million. It's a nice perk to pass on to your customers, but it's not a game changer.

We already have estimates from both Shotwell and Musk that state far lower price goals - so who do you trust?

Nibb31 threw a lot of numbers out and tried to make assumptions that sounded logical, but I don't see that they know what they are talking about.  And I'm not saying I have insight into what SpaceX is doing anymore than anyone else, just that from my professional experience Nibb31 is just making wild-ass guesses, not informed ones.

My $0.02
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Pipcard on 01/30/2016 06:04 PM
Their assumptions don't take into account a change in demand, which is what Musk is trying to change with reusability.
But I'm guessing that all depends on how elastic the spaceflight market is.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Coastal Ron on 01/30/2016 08:04 PM
Their assumptions don't take into account a change in demand, which is what Musk is trying to change with reusability.
But I'm guessing that all depends on how elastic the spaceflight market is.

Right, and no one knows that today.  So Musk is taking a big risk, but it's one that has many successful historical precedents.

However, and I think this is the biggest point, if we don't figure out a way to lower the cost to access space we are never going to be able to expand humanity out into space.  And certainly Falcon 9 reusability won't be how we expand humanity out into space, but it may end up being the key to understanding how reusability can ultimately be made practical.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: oldAtlas_Eguy on 01/31/2016 06:01 AM
I believe there are three pieces to the successful business case for a new booster:
1) Price per flight to be no more than the existing booster
2) The same or more capability than the existing booster
3) an effective lower $/kg which is the Price/capability

The implementation of reusability on the F9 has been in conjunction with an increase in capability while not increasing Price. Once operational will also end up lowering price (the actual re-flight of a booster). In order to implement reusability without increasing the price or in lowereing the capability is a significant item. Reusability on the F9v1.1 would not have been achievable on all flights. But with the F9 (FT) it will be, if they can ever land on a barge. Capability was increased by 33% without increasing price at all. Since reusability steals 30% of the vehicles expendable performance the F9 (FT) reusable vehicle actually outperforms the F9v1.1 expendable. Now once reusability becomes operational it has the potential of lowering the price some $15-20M. This is then a significant $/kg drop over the not really yet reusable F9v1.1 without decreasing from the v1.1 expendable performance levels at all.

This is also why that SpaceX has said that the Merlin based US will not be made reusable. Because it would decrease the capability significantly while not making as significant a reduction in price. But the real general item is the customer base wants the same capability but at a lower price, so a less capable vehicle is not a good direction since it will lose customers. So to keep the customers and attract more, the same capability must be maintained while decreasing price. This requires that the general expendable capability of the vehicle is increased by the same amount of the loss occurring in doing reusability while also not increasing the price of the new vehicle if it was flown as an expendable from that of the old one. Such that price goes down and capability does not change.

The dynamics for the business concerns are not captured by the pure $/kg values for different vehicles. Most customers are looking primarily at the the price per flight not the $/kg.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RocketGoBoom on 01/31/2016 08:26 PM

The dynamics for the business concerns are not captured by the pure $/kg values for different vehicles. Most customers are looking primarily at the the price per flight not the $/kg.

Very true. Most payloads don't use the full capability of the launch vehicle. So the overhead per launch is one of the key variables to closing the business case for reuse. They have 4,000 employees.

I cannot help but assign an overhead of labor per launch that is in the $20 million to $30 million range for 12 launches per year. We did the paper napkin math earlier in this topic.

I think the bottom line is that reuse of the entire 1st and 2nd stage might be a 25% to 50% reduction in flight costs for SpaceX over the medium term. But it is not going to lead to 10x to 100x reduction in costs as is often tossed around in the media.

4,000 people cost a lot of money. Even spread over 50 launches per year that is something like $8 million per launch for labor... and that doesn't even count materials. And that makes a huge assumption that they scale up velocity of launches without adding a large number of new employees, which is unlikely.

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: ncb1397 on 01/31/2016 08:58 PM

The dynamics for the business concerns are not captured by the pure $/kg values for different vehicles. Most customers are looking primarily at the the price per flight not the $/kg.

Very true. Most payloads don't use the full capability of the launch vehicle. So the overhead per launch is one of the key variables to closing the business case for reuse. They have 4,000 employees.

I cannot help but assign an overhead of labor per launch that is in the $20 million to $30 million range for 12 launches per year. We did the paper napkin math earlier in this topic.

I think the bottom line is that reuse of the entire 1st and 2nd stage might be a 25% to 50% reduction in flight costs for SpaceX over the medium term. But it is not going to lead to 10x to 100x reduction in costs as is often tossed around in the media.

4,000 people cost a lot of money. Even spread over 50 launches per year that is something like $8 million per launch for labor... and that doesn't even count materials. And that makes a huge assumption that they scale up velocity of launches without adding a large number of new employees, which is unlikely.
.

Back when SpaceX was building one core per year and one dragon per year, they only had 1500 employees which means that ~2500 employees are production staff required for their current core production rate capability. If reusability allows them to replace making 12 cores and 4 dragons per year with 1/2 cores per year, they can cut their workforce for F9/dragon to almost a third and even more as development wraps down on the F9. Research on other systems could factor into pricing on F9 or not(they could consider it capital investment or get development money from the government).
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 02/04/2016 02:38 AM
SpaceX's current overhead is sufficient for much more than their current launch rate, at least on the manufacturing side and now with 39A and (in a couple years) Brownsville, on the launch side as well. They have a 40+ core per year capacity not counting reuse.

With reuse, they'll have the capacity of well over 40 launches per year with about the same level of overhead as they have now.

...but SpaceX does a lot more than just launch rockets, now, and it doesn't make sense to apply all of SpaceX's workforce against each launch. Dragon has been responsible for like half of their revenue. In the future, that will probably be smaller, but still very significant. This takes a lot of people. SpaceX also is doing R&D for Mars-related projects like Raptor and things we aren't privy to. SpaceX is also building an in-house capacity to build solar-electric-propulsion ultra-high-throughput commsats at a ridiculous rate (still in the very early stages, hope to launch a couple of small demo sats this year), like 1000 per year.

SpaceX doesn't have nearly 5000 people just to build and launch a dozen rockets per year.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Coastal Ron on 02/04/2016 02:52 AM
Back when SpaceX was building one core per year and one dragon per year, they only had 1500 employees which means that ~2500 employees are production staff required for their current core production rate capability.

What?  Only if you ignore everything else that they are working on, like Dragon Cargo and Dragon Crew (and their associated NASA contracts), reusability efforts such as barge and land landing, building and activating not only Vandenberg but Pad 39A launch sites, increase launch operations, etc., etc.

Quote
If reusability allows them to replace making 12 cores and 4 dragons per year with 1/2 cores per year...

The real way reusability pays off is when SpaceX expands the market for business models that were previously too expensive to test out.  So trying to figure out how usability makes sense with their current level of demand will just lead to wrong answers...
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 02/04/2016 02:54 AM
SpaceX is planning for a launch per week or even more, long term according to Shotwell's talk today.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: nadreck on 02/04/2016 03:59 AM
SpaceX is planning for a launch per week or even more, long term according to Shotwell's talk today.

And obviously they are not going to be at that rate tomorrow, but by 2020/2021 they probably will be + having a lot of other new things in place and in the pipe that will expand their revenue base even as the bring the price per kg down. The reason Arianespace and ULA reuse will not be money makers for them is precisely because they are both about making those companies do what they do in better competition with SpaceX.  With SpaceX they started with good and are looking at better for their own benefit not because it is a necessity to compete. Imagine a world where SpaceX was happy with an expendable F9 and FH and simply optimized that ...

With 2500 employees and winning 35% of the LV market. Even Vulcan couldn't touch them. However they have loftier goals that just striving for make them even more attractive in the traditional LV market space, but in fact create new business even if the reduction in cost on its own did not create new business.  Today Gwynne said SpaceX was not going to build space stations, but that does not mean that they won't be hired by the people who will.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rayleighscatter on 02/04/2016 08:28 PM
SpaceX is planning for a launch per week or even more, long term according to Shotwell's talk today.
How many launches per week are the customers planning?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 02/05/2016 03:21 AM
SpaceX or ULA could perhaps compete for up to ~40-50 flights per year. It's possible that with sufficient price advantage (i.e. Half cost, SpaceX's specialty) as well as high reliability and on-time launch cadence (last two are ULA's specialty), you could get almost all of those. IF you were sufficiently cheap. But there's still be a few other launch providers because people want a backup option.

So once a week, take a break for Christmas.

But there's also long-term growth since the mid-2000s, so long-term it could be 60 or 80.

And SpaceX is planning their constellation, which could be up to 30-60 additional annual launches, depending on how you split those up.

Add in a trip to Mars or regular and a bunch of propellant flights (fairly cheap), another 20-40 maybe if NASA is funding it & it's cheap enough. (More if you want a colony.) 60 for both Moon and Mars.

So it could be 200 flights per year, which makes full reuse attractive. If you get orbital tourism or SBSP or zero gee or high vacuum manufacturing (for Earth use) or asteroid mining or a Mars colony or whathaveyou... Could be a lot more, thousands. But most of those other, more speculative but higher launch demand applications don't even have a chance without the MUCH lower launch costs that full reuse enables.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Steven Pietrobon on 02/05/2016 06:17 AM
SpaceX is planning for a launch per week or even more, long term according to Shotwell's talk today.

I've heard of that one before. In the 1970s with the Space Shuttle. The problem is that number of payloads is usually wishful thinking.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 02/05/2016 01:46 PM
SpaceX is planning for a launch per week or even more, long term according to Shotwell's talk today.

I've heard of that one before. In the 1970s with the Space Shuttle. The problem is that number of payloads is usually wishful thinking.
I wouldn't characterize their plan as mere wishful thinking. They will be launching a huge constellation which alone could account for almost all of that.

Optimistic, yes, but not mere wishful thinking.

Remember also that SpaceX seems to be doing fine without the huge cost reduction from reuse. Unlike Shuttle, SpaceX doesn't need to justify tens of billions of dollars of development funding. Their Falcon 9 already gets nearly the per-flight cost of the early estimates for Shuttle per-flight costs (about $50m in today's dollars---which was never achieved, though it should be noted Shuttle had more capability, though could only fly to LEO and required a separate stage to send payloads further)., not counting the Shuttle's development costs.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: GWH on 02/09/2016 03:11 PM
With the upcoming SES-9 launch and the recovery attempt, it will be extremely interesting to see how far SpaceX can push the envelope in regards to payload and recovery. 
Further evidence of how reuse can allow for a "dial-a-rocket" scenario, trading payload capacity against probability of a successful & usable recovered stage.

EDIT: Sorry for what seems off-topic, comment intended to be specific to reuse business case when x% of lost payload capacity is traded against y% probability of recovery.  This isn't modeled in the reuse case, but is very much a part of a true analysis as it can allow a single stick rocket the ability to "scale-up" within it's reuse margin without requiring a larger support infrastructure (strap on solids for example).
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 02/10/2016 03:59 PM
Guys, this is about reuse business cases. There are other threads to discuss SES-9 and how far the envelope gets pushed.... Tie it back if you can please.

(the post above mine, with the edit, does just that! Thanks!)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: abaddon on 02/10/2016 04:56 PM
Guys, this is about reuse business cases. There are other threads to discuss SES-9 and how far the envelope gets pushed.... Tie it back if you can please
The reuse business case as presented by Dr. Sowers is directly affected by the estimated penalty for a downrange barge recovery (30%).  So it is very relevant to this discussion.  That said, I would suggest we wait until we have more information regarding the relative success of the attempt before commenting further.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: oldAtlas_Eguy on 02/10/2016 09:04 PM
There are two views to the reuse business case of the engineering view where everything is compared by the $/kg and the business view which is its the per flight price for the customers which are a set size and irregardless of the LV's capabilities above the sats size they still pay the whole price. So a vehicle that is much more capable as an expendable and whose operation as a reusable is at a slightly higher $/kg but represents a much lower per flight price to the customers is more valuable than just a lower $/kg at a higher performance (payload size).

This shows the relative positions between Dr Sowers and that taken by Mr Musk when it comes to the economics of the Reuse Business Case.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 04/17/2016 07:35 PM
Bump. We are in the process of seeing SpaceX get some empirical data on their refurb costs. It will be interesting to see what else can be discerned to refine and test this model.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RedLineTrain on 04/17/2016 10:37 PM
Just the other day, Bruno again quoted the requirement for the booster to be used 10+ times for it to make sense to for ULA to reuse in the same manner as SpaceX -- see Scenario 1.

However, SpaceX appears to be showing a barge landing with a p of 1.15 or 1.20 instead of the 1.43 quoted in Scenario 1.  This means that the booster only needs to be used 3+ times for it to make sense for ULA to reuse in the same manner as SpaceX.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: QuantumG on 04/17/2016 10:47 PM
100 flights per airframe would be a fantastic achievement. That said, I think it's worth keeping in mind that "aircraft-like operations" means something like you're flying 40% of every hour of the year, for 30 years. We're a long way from that - both in terms of technology and markets. It'll be great to see what the intermediate steps look like.

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: AncientU on 04/17/2016 11:41 PM
Bump. We are in the process of seeing SpaceX get some empirical data on their refurb costs. It will be interesting to see what else can be discerned to refine and test this model.

We already have a couple data points on booster reuse...
Booster price with full reuse gear included: $61.2M
Reused booster price: $43M (30% reduction)
Sounds cost effective -- for customer at least -- on first reuse.

Is this what the spreadsheet predicts? Since the spreadsheet deals with cost, not price, is 30% still a reasonable cost prediction?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: QuantumG on 04/17/2016 11:47 PM
As has been mentioned a lot already, we have no idea about SpaceX's costs... it's not abundantly clear that they're making money on launch.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 04/18/2016 12:09 AM
As has been mentioned a lot already, we have no idea about SpaceX's costs... it's not abundantly clear that they're making money on launch.
It's not likely that launch alone could sustain their entire organization at this point (if it could, it would be a dramatic feat). But that's hardly a fair comparison, as SpaceX is growing, adding lots of capacity, and have Dragon and (later) a constellation to provide other business. Poor ULA is excluded from those other markets, so they have little room to grow, thus a reduction in launch costs means they have to cut staff.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rcoppola on 04/18/2016 12:54 AM
Even some of the smartest people just don't/can't/won't see beyond their own view of their world. History is littered with examples. I recall a very specific example that reminds me of this and how it pertains to reuse and all it potentially implies.

Intel had an opportunity to provide the custom silicon for the iPhone while it was in development. But Intel's CEO Paul Otellini didn't believe his company would be able to earn enough money building mobile chips for Apple's new iPhone to cover their development costs. This was due in large part because he couldn't imagine Apple selling iPhones in large quantities. Later on, he said he wished he'd have put down all the spread sheets and just listened to his gut. This is but one of many examples where incredibly bright people are so entrenched in a particular way of seeing the world that they fail to make the leap of faith or see how the paradigm is about to shift or to shift it themselves.

I hear similar things from people such as Stephen and Tory of Arianespace and ULA respectively. It's illustrative of a back and forth between Tory and Gwynne  during the 32nd Space Symposium where Tory could not, would not wrap his around around the idea that launch could or will become a commodity. He thought that was mistaken thinking, that it could not happen.  Gwynne, replied that the mistake was to think it couldn't happen, because if you think something can't happen then you wouldn't even bother trying to do it. And that lack of imagination and trying, is the real mistake. And I agree.

Whether one agrees that the commoditization of launch through reuse can or will happen is almost besides the point. The ability to imagine that it could, and then design a path to see if your right...is the point. One, I think, is lost on the rest of the industry...at least for now. 
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 04/18/2016 01:05 AM
Do you have a link to a video of that talk with Bruno and Shotwell? That'd be instructive.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: QuantumG on 04/18/2016 01:09 AM
As has been mentioned a lot already, we have no idea about SpaceX's costs... it's not abundantly clear that they're making money on launch.
It's not likely that launch alone could sustain their entire organization at this point (if it could, it would be a dramatic feat). But that's hardly a fair comparison

It wasn't a comparison. Stating facts shouldn't be shot down like this.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rcoppola on 04/18/2016 01:11 AM
Do you have a link to a video of that talk with Bruno and Shotwell? That'd be instructive.
I wish I did. I've been searching everywhere for panel videos from the Space Symposium. Here's one article but there are others that provide additional color.

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=2158
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Brovane on 04/18/2016 05:06 PM
As has been mentioned a lot already, we have no idea about SpaceX's costs... it's not abundantly clear that they're making money on launch.
It's not likely that launch alone could sustain their entire organization at this point (if it could, it would be a dramatic feat). But that's hardly a fair comparison, as SpaceX is growing, adding lots of capacity, and have Dragon and (later) a constellation to provide other business. Poor ULA is excluded from those other markets, so they have little room to grow, thus a reduction in launch costs means they have to cut staff.

For that figure would you also include CCtCap revenue for SpaceX? 

In between Private Commercial launch revenue, NASA CRS-1 contract and Commercial crew contract I can easily see how SpaceX is taking in enough revenue to sustain their organization. 
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: nadreck on 04/18/2016 07:11 PM
Even some of the smartest people just don't/can't/won't see beyond their own view of their world. History is littered with examples. I recall a very specific example that reminds me of this and how it pertains to reuse and all it potentially implies.

"I will believe it when I see it" is a cliché, but it is really a bit of mental subterfuge like Orwellian newspeak, because it is often used when the person really embodies the completely different expression: "I will see it when I believe it".   You didn't write "their view of the world" but "their view of their world" ... also very telling.  A dumb person can only explain away so much to make their imagined world match the real world. But for a very smart person there is hardly anything limiting them from explaining away all sorts of perturbations between the world the believe in and the world they interact with (think the epicycles in pre-Copernican astronomy, and then the re-invention of epicycles to explain distorted orbits in pre-Keplerian astronomy).


I hear similar things from people such as Stephen and Tory of Arianespace and ULA respectively. It's illustrative of a back and forth between Tory and Gwynne  during the 32nd Space Symposium where Tory could not, would not wrap his around around the idea that launch could or will become a commodity. He thought that was mistaken thinking, that it could not happen.  Gwynne, replied that the mistake was to think it couldn't happen, because if you think something can't happen then you wouldn't even bother trying to do it. And that lack of imagination and trying, is the real mistake. And I agree.

Whether one agrees that the commoditization of launch through reuse can or will happen is almost besides the point. The ability to imagine that it could, and then design a path to see if your right...is the point. One, I think, is lost on the rest of the industry...at least for now.

Not only will you not bother trying to do it, you won't prepare your business in anyway for the possibility of someone else doing it.  It is also a problem with corporate cultures that encourage that false view, whatever else can be said of the former VP of Engineering at ULA, you can show that he clearly bought into the idea that there was no possibility that what SpaceX was doing everyday could even exist. His statements about what their real cost structure was only made sense as a denial, it didn't explain how SpaceX could have operated as long as it has so far under those circumstances. Apple and Microsoft (among many other companies) benefited from the lack of vision at IBM and other entrenched mainframe and mini computer manufacturers because they were allowed to create their own empires right under the noses of the entrenched who didn't see how PCs were relevant to their businesses.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RocketGoBoom on 04/18/2016 10:40 PM

I hear similar things from people such as Stephen and Tory of Arianespace and ULA respectively. It's illustrative of a back and forth between Tory and Gwynne  during the 32nd Space Symposium where Tory could not, would not wrap his around around the idea that launch could or will become a commodity. He thought that was mistaken thinking, that it could not happen.  Gwynne, replied that the mistake was to think it couldn't happen, because if you think something can't happen then you wouldn't even bother trying to do it. And that lack of imagination and trying, is the real mistake. And I agree.


Not only will you not bother trying to do it, you won't prepare your business in anyway for the possibility of someone else doing it.  It is also a problem with corporate cultures that encourage that false view, whatever else can be said of the former VP of Engineering at ULA, you can show that he clearly bought into the idea that there was no possibility that what SpaceX was doing everyday could even exist. His statements about what their real cost structure was only made sense as a denial, it didn't explain how SpaceX could have operated as long as it has so far under those circumstances.

I had high hopes for CEO Bruno that he would bring a new culture to ULA and become a real competitor. But that interview with quotes from Bruno and Shotwell really highlights the core differences.

Bruno seems to be another version of the former VP of Engineering Brett Tobey, but Bruno has a better filter when speaking publicly. However the lack of vision, in spite of everything their competition is doing (BO and SX), just seems to be sealing the fate of ULA.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: baldusi on 04/19/2016 01:19 AM
I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss Tony. First, because the innovators methods aren't proven. But more importantly, because he can't trump his competitor's strengths.
He has to play the "old reliable" card in public, no matter how disruptive he is inside his company. And even then, since he arrived, ULA has shown an impressive innovative drive AND a willingness to do the necessary and paintful steps.

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 04/19/2016 01:54 AM
I want space launches to be boring.

As long as they are viewed as one-offs, as Tory describes them, they'll be expensive. And expensive launches mean we remain confined here on Earth.

I prefer Gwynn's vision. She and Elon are betting their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on inventing the future, a future in which we are a spacefaring civlization, not just a few heros but all of us. They aren't listening to the nay-sayers. Yes, they may be wrong. But I'd rather they go down swinging than that we settle for Tory's vision.

(I respect Tory and think he's doing great work within his constraints. But I prefer the SpaceX vision of the future to the ULA one)

I think the National Defense article puts that into perspective.

THAT said I think we may be into general secret sauce stuff rather than staying focused on the business case for reuse and the spreadsheet and assumptions behind it...
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: su27k on 04/19/2016 02:32 AM
These days engine reuse barely gets a mention, ULA seems to be mainly selling upper stage reuse, I wonder how ACES reuse can be rationalized with the excel, because I have trouble seeing it...

There's also an interesting post on /r/ULA regarding the different reuse paths, the speculation is that ULA didn't choose first stage reuse because they need the full performance of first stage, given their upper stage has low thrust and would have a big performance hit if first stage left it early.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Coastal Ron on 04/19/2016 03:07 AM
I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss Tony.

If not now, when?   ;)

Quote
First, because the innovators methods aren't proven.

Recovery has been, for both land and sea.  ULA needs to recover their engine module using techniques that now appear to be far more complicated, and yield far less recoverable value.

So at this point it is ULA, not SpaceX, that has the most to prove.

Quote
But more importantly, because he can't trump his competitor's strengths.

I think this is what many of us find the most disappointing.  That ULA has a lot of smart engineers, yet they chose a solution that from the get-go is far behind their competition.

Quote
He has to play the "old reliable" card in public, no matter how disruptive he is inside his company. And even then, since he arrived, ULA has shown an impressive innovative drive AND a willingness to do the necessary and paintful steps.

Regarding that last part, not from what I have seen.  If they were doing "Me Too" solutions at least I could be encouraged, but Vulcan more of a half solution.

My $0.02
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RocketGoBoom on 04/19/2016 04:21 AM
I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss Tony. First, because the innovators methods aren't proven.

At this point, they are proven. Only those with real defects are still in denial about reusability.

REUSABILITY DENIER !!!

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Pipcard on 04/19/2016 04:42 AM
...Only those with real defects are still in denial about reusability.

While I trust that SpaceX can make economical reuse possible (i.e. succeed where STS failed) and that it will be revolutionary, they would have to relaunch a used core in order to fully "prove" it.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 04/19/2016 04:59 AM
Reusability hasn't reduced SpaceX $/kg to GTO yet. They are offering lower price launch with match lower payload performance.

Bezos idea is to lower launch costs enough that it creates whole new markets resulting in higher launch rates. I'm hoping he is right, Tory has said as much to but unlike Elon and Bezos he can't bet his investors' money on the idea.



Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: QuantumG on 04/19/2016 05:02 AM
I don't know if even relaunching a core would "prove" reuse is economical. Just look at Tesla for an example of how even the open books of a public company isn't sufficient to stop Elon from making numbers just magically appear in the wrong columns. For customers getting Falcon 9 launches at Falcon 1 prices, the cost reductions have already arrived. How sustainable the lower prices are is all that really matters, right?

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Coastal Ron on 04/19/2016 05:17 AM
Reusability hasn't reduced SpaceX $/kg to GTO yet. They are offering lower price launch with match lower payload performance.

I could be wrong, but I'm not sure that is right.  Has SpaceX stated that GEO payloads are excluded from the 30% price reduction?  They haven't successfully recovered a core from that flight profile, but I'm not aware that they had given up on trying.

Quote
Bezos idea is to lower launch costs enough that it creates whole new markets resulting in higher launch rates. I'm hoping he is right, Tory has said as much to but unlike Elon and Bezos he can't bet his investors' money on the idea.

Not sure why you are excluding Elon Musk from this statement.  Musk has been talking about lowering the cost to access space longer than Bezos has, and Musk/SpaceX are already doing it.  Bezos hasn't.  Not yet at least.

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: GWH on 04/19/2016 01:42 PM
These days engine reuse barely gets a mention, ULA seems to be mainly selling upper stage reuse, I wonder how ACES reuse can be rationalized with the excel, because I have trouble seeing it...

Tory has stated that additional capacity of Vulcan ACES would be to transfer unused prop for later missions.  So say as an example 1 light mission to LEO, excess prop stays in ACES in orbit, next mission docks in LEO, refuels then departs for GTO or escape velocity.  Solid booster requirements on said 2nd mission greatly reduced, cost per flight shared.  Maybe each ACES for GTO cycles back to LEO, its all very vague and they haven't gone into detail.

In this scenario in orbit propellant becomes a high value commodity, availability is dependant on excess payload capacity being fully utilized each mission to accumulate extra prop.  It actually provides a justification for the entire spreadsheet where $/kg is a true concern vs. $/payload.  Whether or not that is truly economically feasible is the question.
 
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: AncientU on 04/20/2016 12:26 AM
I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss Tony. First, because the innovators methods aren't proven.


Tory

Without even considering reuse, one innovator's proven methods are threatening ULA's (and Ariane's) existence.

Reusability merely ups the ante, using same development approach, same reinvestment of revenue, same test philosophy, same fabrication/production facilities, same skilled workforce, same 'certified' processes, ... 

Reuse is not yet a proven innovation... technically correct, for another few months anyway.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 04/20/2016 01:42 AM

Without even considering reuse, one innovator's proven methods are threatening ULA's (and Ariane's) existence.


It is not an innovation, it is just a lower salaries and longer work week and not having to work to the same requirements.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RocketGoBoom on 04/20/2016 01:54 AM

Without even considering reuse, one innovator's proven methods are threatening ULA's (and Ariane's) existence.


It is not an innovation, it is just a lower salaries and longer work week and not having to work to the same requirements.

Ignorantly wrong.

There is an entirely different strategy between the incumbent and the insurgent.
No need to repeat it all here again. Certain people will never get it.

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
-- Upton Sinclair

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 04/20/2016 01:58 AM

Without even considering reuse, one innovator's proven methods are threatening ULA's (and Ariane's) existence.


It is not an innovation, it is just a lower salaries and longer work week and not having to work to the same requirements.

Ignorantly wrong.

There is an entirely different strategy between the incumbent and the insurgent.
No need to repeat it all here again. Certain people will never get i



wrong.  vertical integration has less effect than the lower wages.  See the  employment figures.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Hirox on 04/20/2016 02:11 AM
Tory wrote a post on reddita couple of hours ago:

Quote
10 reuses to break even. 15 to make it economicly worthwhile.

This is independent of the $/Kg metric, which is only relevent in the event that a given mission is without excess capability.

Booster recovery would only be used on missions that do not stress the Launch Vehicle's capability. Because the penalties are significant, there will be many missions that cannot employ full booster flyback.

For those that can afford the performance hit to fly back to a downrange barge or to the point of origin, the 10/15 math applies.

We have chosen to start with engine recovery because the breakeven point is only 2 reuses AND because there is no significant performance hit, allowing recovery on every flight.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 04/20/2016 02:23 AM
Tory wrote a post on reddita couple of hours ago:

Quote
10 reuses to break even. 15 to make it economicly worthwhile.

This is independent of the $/Kg metric, which is only relevent in the event that a given mission is without excess capability.

Booster recovery would only be used on missions that do not stress the Launch Vehicle's capability. Because the penalties are significant, there will be many missions that cannot employ full booster flyback.

For those that can afford the performance hit to fly back to a downrange barge or to the point of origin, the 10/15 math applies.

We have chosen to start with engine recovery because the breakeven point is only 2 reuses AND because there is no significant performance hit, allowing recovery on every flight.

Tory can assert 10 to breakeven all he likes, it's not clear that is true, and repeating it doesn't make it so. Maybe it does for ULA but I doubt very much it will be so for SpaceX. If that's because they have different payload models, so be it.

Because what matters is if the per launch price goes down while SpaceX reinvests revenue and prospers. If that's the case, the model really doesn't have any relevance. TO SpaceX.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: abaddon on 04/20/2016 02:56 PM
For customers getting Falcon 9 launches at Falcon 1 prices, the cost reductions have already arrived.
Don't be disingenuous, the only customers with Falcon 1 prices for Falcon 9 launches had signed Falcon 1 contracts before SpaceX discontinued the launcher.  Contracts have been signed for multiple years now in the $60 +/- a few million ballpark.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: LouScheffer on 04/20/2016 04:19 PM
Tory wrote a post on reddita couple of hours ago:

Quote
10 reuses to break even. 15 to make it economicly worthwhile.

This is independent of the $/Kg metric, which is only relevent in the event that a given mission is without excess capability.

Booster recovery would only be used on missions that do not stress the Launch Vehicle's capability. Because the penalties are significant, there will be many missions that cannot employ full booster flyback.

For those that can afford the performance hit to fly back to a downrange barge or to the point of origin, the 10/15 math applies.

We have chosen to start with engine recovery because the breakeven point is only 2 reuses AND because there is no significant performance hit, allowing recovery on every flight.
Common sense would suggest that if you can recover a booster and refurbish it for less than the cost of a new one, then you could save money with even one re-use (assuming the re-use cost is less than the quantity discount cost for manufacturing more boosters in the non-reuse case). 

So what assumptions can you possibly make so that it takes 10 uses to break even??  Going back to Tory's spreadsheet, using the $/kg metric, he assumes that a reusable rocket has only half the payload of an expendable.  But more or less rational calculations (https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=39816.0) suggest the penalty is more like a factor of 1.2 .  Strangely enough, when you plug this into Tory's spreadsheet, you save money with 2 uses for each booster. 

So Tory's argument proves only that if you plug unrealistic values into a spreadsheet, you get unrealistic results.  This to me is very disappointing, as I would love for ULA to become a strong competitor.   But the first step to competing is an honest assessment of what you are competing against, and I don't see that.  And of course SpaceX (and BO) will save money, or not, based on their actual performance, not the numbers in Tory's spreadsheet.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Paul451 on 04/20/2016 06:32 PM
Tory wrote a post on reddita couple of hours ago:
Quote
10 reuses to break even [for full boosters]. 15 to make it economicly worthwhile.
We have chosen to start with engine recovery because the breakeven point is only 2 reuses AND because there is no significant performance hit, allowing recovery on every flight.

I'll eat my hat if they can reduce the cost of aerial recovery of the engine module to that of full-booster VTOL recovery.

Or if they can reduce the cost of the development of a jettisonable and mid-air recoverable engine module to that of the parts added onto a VTOL booster.

For customers getting Falcon 9 launches at Falcon 1 prices, the cost reductions have already arrived.
Don't be disingenuous, the only customers with Falcon 1 prices for Falcon 9 launches had signed Falcon 1 contracts before SpaceX discontinued the launcher.  Contracts have been signed for multiple years now in the $60 +/- a few million ballpark.

F1-equivalent payloads (<1t) are generally flying as secondary or even tertiary payloads, hence at a reduced price, not $60m.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Doesitfloat on 04/20/2016 07:00 PM
There might be another reason they need 10 flights to recover costs.  The lifespan of the booster is only 1 launch. Tory preaches the high performance of the rockets.  IMO they have worked every system and part down to the lightest component to get the job done; and done a very good job at it.  But the downside is that once the booster is done firing the components of that booster are at the end of their serviceable lifetime. If they could recover a booster the only thing they could reuse would be the motor.  They would have to redesign all their systems and tanks to get a longer serviceable lifetime.  Plus ULA would have to tell their suppliers; that worked so hard at getting high performance lightweight parts,  that they need to redesign for a longer lifetime to support reuse.--Pretty much a completely new rocket
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Space Ghost 1962 on 04/20/2016 07:14 PM
Tory wrote a post on reddit a couple of hours ago:

Quote
10 reuses to break even. 15 to make it economically worthwhile.

This is independent of the $/Kg metric, which is only relevant in the event that a given mission is without excess capability.

Booster recovery would only be used on missions that do not stress the Launch Vehicle's capability. Because the penalties are significant, there will be many missions that cannot employ full booster flyback.

For those that can afford the performance hit to fly back to a downrange barge or to the point of origin, the 10/15 math applies.

We have chosen to start with engine recovery because the breakeven point is only 2 reuses AND because there is no significant performance hit, allowing recovery on every flight.

Suggest that for SX/ULA financial structure and performance that each is self-consistent from each providers POV.

Keep in mind that ULA is a JV where cash flows back/from parents, but little is held there. So they have a much more limited scope/interval (1 Q) than SX (10 years). Given this, it makes sense that they'd risk the minimum to get any ROI on reuse. It has to work right from the beginning, and return a value.

Suggest the 2 reuses is a 50/50 launch recovery threshold for how much to outstanding risk before deeming the project viable or not. And that then if it was viable, they'd take the engines and upgrade estimates to expand the scope to a common case, working up to the next recovery threshold.

Note that they don't want to sacrifice performance/margin at all. As you can see with the OA-6 anomaly, they rely on that margin a great deal.

As to their view of SX, really that is irrelevant, because they'd never adopt a LV strategy like SX does, because it proceeds from a completely different set of assumptions. Would suggest to them to STFU because it makes them look bad, when they try to explain SX number of reuses necessary as a means of attempting to look better or put the best game face on - doesn't work.

They keep forgetting that SX now has a reusability architecture that is likely to work soon, while they have a decade old strategy that isn't even scheduled to be developed or even parts flown. They are out of touch with reality on that point. At least with Ariane 6, they gave up showing that ridiculous flyback scheme that looked like tiny angels were toting the engine section back to land ;)

ULA listens to ULA, they really don't yet *get it*.

At the cost of extending this post but being diligent, SX is doing an agile reuse development strategy to ULA's glacial one. They have no trouble with changing horses in midstream, which is an anathema to ULA/LMT/BA/AR/...

So if they need more margin for XYZ reason, they find a way to accommodate it in economically. Likewise other elements of reuse. They delay launch, rework, retest, and then launch. Wash, rinse, and repeat. Even big scale changes.

So how they get in the long term economics is that they write-off development not as a one time thing but as needed, keeping to a fixed cost box that even shrinks now. That's how they do it. It is not Tory's costing, and it just hurts ULA to take on a losing battle when they hammer this - they haven't won "converts".

At best it causes short term doubt about SX, which when SX succeeds drops. And then ULA just looks like a "bad mouth". Or worse. Not doing them any favors.

At least just talk about own reusability story and why it works for them. Then they look like they are on message, engaged in an industry trend, and vital in the industry as they should be. Instead of "tone deaf".

Criticism not complaint.

There might be another reason they need 10 flights to recover costs.  The lifespan of the booster is only 1 launch. Tory preaches the high performance of the rockets.  IMO they have worked every system and part down to the lightest component to get the job done; and done a very good job at it.  But the downside is that once the booster is done firing the components of that booster are at the end of their serviceable lifetime. If they could recover a booster the only thing they could reuse would be the motor.  They would have to redesign all their systems and tanks to get a longer serviceable lifetime.  Plus ULA would have to tell their suppliers; that worked so hard at getting high performance lightweight parts,  that they need to redesign for a longer lifetime to support reuse.--Pretty much a completely new rocket

Yes. They have a fixed "top end" that's been made high-rel. Since it will never refly whole, never designed for that, thats what they cling to and make reliable for that single flight.

Lets say they got engine reuse going. Then they'd possible add more (forget the Crimean issue for the moment). Gradually move the battleship into port.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Kabloona on 04/20/2016 07:16 PM
Tory wrote a post on reddita couple of hours ago:
Quote
10 reuses to break even [for full boosters]. 15 to make it economicly worthwhile.
We have chosen to start with engine recovery because the breakeven point is only 2 reuses AND because there is no significant performance hit, allowing recovery on every flight.

I'll eat my hat if they can reduce the cost of aerial recovery of the engine module to that of full-booster VTOL recovery.

Why wouldn't engine recovery be much less expensive than full-booster recovery? Full booster recovery requires building a new landing facility and/or ASDS-type barge, plus leasing a "standing armada" of tugboats and support ships ala SpaceX, and those costs have to be factored into the equation.

Engine recovery requires virtually no new ground (or sea) infrastructure. Recovery aircraft uses an existing airport, and maybe you build some new handling fixtures for the engine pod, but that's pretty much it.

Whether they can actually do it or not is a different question. But the potential for aerial recovery of engines to be a lot less expensive because it requires a lot less infrastructure seems reasonable to me.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 04/20/2016 07:49 PM
I think barge (component) development tends to be cheaper than aircraft (component) development ... tolerances are lower.

I'd be surprised if they can develop their midair capture tech for less than SpaceX spent on ASDS.

NOTE: I think the spreadsheet is Dr. Sowers'  not Tory Bruno's (some folk were saying Tory's spreadsheet)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 04/20/2016 07:59 PM
I think barge (component) development tends to be cheaper than aircraft (component) development ..

A sling is going more than kludging all those components into an ASDS?  No safing systems; no RF control systems; no station keeping thrusters and control system; no video systems, etc.  And then there is the matter of adding wings on a barge.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Coastal Ron on 04/20/2016 08:02 PM
Tory wrote a post on reddita couple of hours ago:
Quote
10 reuses to break even [for full boosters]. 15 to make it economicly worthwhile.
We have chosen to start with engine recovery because the breakeven point is only 2 reuses AND because there is no significant performance hit, allowing recovery on every flight.

I'll eat my hat if they can reduce the cost of aerial recovery of the engine module to that of full-booster VTOL recovery.

Why wouldn't engine recovery be much less expensive than full-booster recovery? Full booster recovery requires building a new landing facility and/or ASDS-type barge, plus leasing a "standing armada" of tugboats and support ships ala SpaceX, and those costs have to be factored into the equation.

Engine recovery requires virtually no new ground (or sea) infrastructure. Recovery aircraft uses an existing airport, and maybe you build some new handling fixtures for the engine pod, but that's pretty much it.

Whether they can actually do it or not is a different question. But the potential for aerial recovery of engines to be a lot less expensive because it requires a lot less infrastructure seems reasonable to me.

Another financial angle to consider is that engine-only recovery may not provide the same overall amount of monetary return as full stage recovery.

For instance, if it costs ULA $2m to recover a $20M engine module, and for SpaceX it costs them $5M to recover a $40M stage, SpaceX is saving $35M versus the $18M ULA is.  And these are all fictitious numbers I'm using, but do you see what I'm getting at?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: acsawdey on 04/20/2016 08:04 PM
I think barge (component) development tends to be cheaper than aircraft (component) development ... tolerances are lower.

I'd be surprised if they can develop their midair capture tech for less than SpaceX spent on ASDS.

NOTE: I think the spreadsheet is Dr. Sowers'  not Tory Bruno's (some folk were saying Tory's spreadsheet)

It isn't the price of the midair capture tech that would worry me, it's the hypersonic inflatable decelerator followed by the steerable parafoil, both of which have to work properly and then be thrown away. And that is for you to even get to the point of the midair capture.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rcoppola on 04/20/2016 08:08 PM
With regards to Engine Recovery:

Engine recovery is a one trick pony...a dead end. It's one cost savings/data point with no evolutionary path towards the ultimate goal of launch becoming a commodity partially realized by full and rapid reusability. The launch systems that are exploring reuse, as envisioned by SpaceX and others, will be evolved into an ever more updated and capable launch system for both Earth and other planetary bodies.

Trotting out this spreadsheet every few months is such a disconnect.  If you don't believe in it, fine, go about your business. Because in the end, the customer is going to decide which model they prefer, which risks they are willing to take and what prices they are willing to pay. In other words, the market will decide.

And nobody is going to care two sh%^$ about a competitors spreadsheet while the other has two returned cores sitting in their basement. The optics of which is just so incredibly tone deaf. Regardless of the merits or lack thereof.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 04/20/2016 08:14 PM
With regards to Engine Recovery:

Engine recovery is a one trick pony...a dead end. It's one cost savings/data point with no evolutionary path towards the ultimate goal of launch becoming a commodity partially realized by full and rapid reusability. The launch systems that are exploring reuse, as envisioned by SpaceX and others, will be evolved into an ever more updated and capable launch system for both Earth and other planetary bodies.

Trotting out this spreadsheet every few months is such a disconnect.  If you don't believe in it, fine, go about your business. Because in the end, the customer is going to decide which model they prefer, which risks they are willing to take and what prices they are willing to pay. In other words, the market will decide.

I wish Dr. Sowers would come back and comment, because there were a fair few objections raised before, but I agree with this, and said as much before although perhaps not as well... the spreadsheet is nice and all, but what matters in the end is... does SpaceX use this revenue stream to lever up, each time around the loop improving processes, introducing equipment that makes it work better, streamlining times and touchpoints, etc. until 5 or 10 years from  now we see almost airline like turnarounds...  and also we see their "empire" expanding... more launchpads online, more capabilities, BFR in early trials, etc.  That is what matters, and that's the silly valley way, don't worry about the short term, stay focused on the long game.

And nobody is going to care two sh%^$ about a competitors spreadsheet while the other has two returned cores sitting in their basement. The optics of which is just so incredibly tone deaf. Regardless of the merits or lack thereof.
Tone deaf optics! Holy mixed metaphor, Batman! But ya.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Kabloona on 04/20/2016 08:17 PM
Quote
Engine recovery is a one trick pony...a dead end. It's one cost savings/data point with no evolutionary path towards the ultimate goal of launch becoming a commodity partially realized by full and rapid reusability. The launch systems that are exploring reuse, as envisioned by SpaceX and others, will be evolved into an ever more updated and capable launch system for both Earth and other planetary bodies.

ULA is now fighting for their lives, trying everything they can think of to reduce costs. Will engine recovery revolutionize space travel? No, but it's a step towards a cheaper launch vehicle that might help ULA survive, and that's all they care about right now.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 04/20/2016 08:32 PM
Quote
Engine recovery is a one trick pony...a dead end. It's one cost savings/data point with no evolutionary path towards the ultimate goal of launch becoming a commodity partially realized by full and rapid reusability. The launch systems that are exploring reuse, as envisioned by SpaceX and others, will be evolved into an ever more updated and capable launch system for both Earth and other planetary bodies.

ULA is now fighting for their lives, trying everything they can think of to reduce costs. Will engine recovery revolutionize space travel? No, but it's a step towards a cheaper launch vehicle that might help ULA survive, and that's all they care about right now.

And you know what? I hope it works for them, even if it doesn't save as much as full reuse of the stage will.

I want ULA around. I may not agree with their owners. I may not agree with the spreadsheet that started this thread, I may not agree that they're currently fully aware of the existential threat they face, I may not agree that their owners are going to let them do what they need to do... but I want them around. If only because I'm selfish and I want ACES and IVF ... those innovations will drive upper stage competition and that's a good thing.

But also because they're cool. Atlas is a wonderful rocket. Delta is a wonderful rocket. ULA has a lot of really bright people who are doing cool things.  Go ULA.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rayleighscatter on 04/20/2016 08:34 PM
Engine recovery is a one trick pony...a dead end. It's one cost savings/data point with no evolutionary path towards the ultimate goal of launch becoming a commodity partially realized by full and rapid reusability.
But evidence suggests even full reuse won't provide that. SpaceX's CRS-2 bid is essentially identical to their CRS-1 bid which means prices should have at least remained level but instead they rose (considerably). If SpaceX won't show any confidence in reuse lowering prices it's hard to see how the rest of the market will.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 04/20/2016 08:44 PM
Engine recovery is a one trick pony...a dead end. It's one cost savings/data point with no evolutionary path towards the ultimate goal of launch becoming a commodity partially realized by full and rapid reusability.
But evidence suggests even full reuse won't provide that. SpaceX's CRS-2 bid is essentially identical to their CRS-1 bid which means prices should have at least remained level but instead they rose (considerably). If SpaceX won't show any confidence in reuse lowering prices it's hard to see how the rest of the market will.
Wrong thread to go into much detail here but that doesn't follow. As discussed on the CRS2 threads, SpaceX didn't need to lowball their bid, they almost certainly were going to be selected, and were almost certainly going to get a fair few missions, as long as they weren't too high.

Reuse is about cost, not price. Growing market share is about price...
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Paul451 on 04/20/2016 08:51 PM
Why wouldn't engine recovery be much less expensive than full-booster recovery? Full booster recovery requires building a new landing facility and/or ASDS-type barge, plus leasing a "standing armada" of tugboats and support ships ala SpaceX, and those costs have to be factored into the equation.

Aerial retrieval requires a "flying amada". Not just the heavy-lift helicopter that performs the capture, but various spotter aircraft. And it still requires a barge or similar ship, because the helicopter will not have sufficient range under load. You'll need to transfer the engine module onto the ship for safing and securing.

And if they expect aerial retrieval for all launch profiles, as claimed, you'll need to refuel or ferry the capture-helicopter at sea too. Typical ranges on large helos wouldn't allow: ground to recovery area, loiter for any launch holds, then perform the high-thrust manoeuvres for capture, then the unloading of the engine onto the transport ship, then transit back to the mainland. So your engine recovery ship will also need to be helo compatible, so you can carry the helicopter out, wait until Vulcan launch, then and only then lift-off. (The fixed-wing spotter aircraft will need to be kept in the air for the entire duration, obviously.)

Assuming they use a large flat-deck barge, that's not unreasonable. But it still means taking off and landing at sea, which means having a ship/barge capable of being stable enough to land the helicopter in unexpectedly crappy conditions. You can abort the recovery of a stage (or an engine module), but you can't "abort" the recovery of the helicopter itself. That makes you twitchy over weather conditions before you launch the helo. Likewise, you can crash a stage, or miss an engine module, but you can't risk the fully crewed helicopter. That makes all aspects of operation more expensive.

These kinds of aerial recovery methods are fairly expensive. For large masses (a multi-tonne engine pod), they are going to be hideously expensive.

and maybe you build some new handling fixtures for the engine pod, but that's pretty much it.

Errr, no. You need to build the entire jettison system, RCS, inflatable re-entry shield, and parafoil system into the engine module. They're not just replacing a few bolts with frangibles.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Space Ghost 1962 on 04/20/2016 08:56 PM
Engine recovery is a one trick pony...a dead end. It's one cost savings/data point with no evolutionary path towards the ultimate goal of launch becoming a commodity partially realized by full and rapid reusability.
But evidence suggests even full reuse won't provide that. SpaceX's CRS-2 bid is essentially identical to their CRS-1 bid which means prices should have at least remained level but instead they rose (considerably). If SpaceX won't show any confidence in reuse lowering prices it's hard to see how the rest of the market will.
Wrong thread to go into much detail here but that doesn't follow. As discussed on the CRS2 threads, SpaceX didn't need to lowball their bid, they almost certainly were going to be selected, and were almost certainly going to get a fair few missions, as long as they weren't too high.

Reuse is about cost, not price. Growing market share is about price...
The term you wish to use is "value pricing". That the value is set by few alternatives, reliability in servicing need, and unique capabilities performed or being introduced.

Market share is about the amount of services sold in a given market against alternatives. If your relative contribution, either through price or quantity relatively increases, your market share increases.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rcoppola on 04/20/2016 09:00 PM
Engine recovery is a one trick pony...a dead end. It's one cost savings/data point with no evolutionary path towards the ultimate goal of launch becoming a commodity partially realized by full and rapid reusability.
But evidence suggests even full reuse won't provide that. SpaceX's CRS-2 bid is essentially identical to their CRS-1 bid which means prices should have at least remained level but instead they rose (considerably). If SpaceX won't show any confidence in reuse lowering prices it's hard to see how the rest of the market will.
Not sure I understand the correlation. CRS is not a launch service it's a Resupply Service to the ISS where the F9 is but one component among others including Capsule/Trunk.

What we do know, is they very publicly committed to re-flying the CRS-8  booster, for a discount, to a paying customer in the next few months. Even f that doesn't pan out, I'd say that clearly shows they have confidence in reuse as does the fact that they spend tens of millions of dollars trying to make it work and broadcast those efforts in realtime all over the world during actual missions. So yes, I'd say they express confidence to the rest of the market. But again, we'll see how it all goes and how the market will respond. I suspect the response will eventually be quite positive.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rayleighscatter on 04/20/2016 09:14 PM

Reuse is about cost, not price. Growing market share is about price...

Market share is about the amount of services sold in a given market against alternatives. If your relative contribution, either through price or quantity relatively increases, your market share increases.

I said nothing about market share.

I replied to someone who implied that SpaceX's reuse approach was what was needed to grow the market through reduced prices. I pointed out that their own pricing was in fact running counter to this point.

Market share is irrelevant except in that a large market share in few hands almost always leads to higher prices.

Not sure I understand the correlation. CRS is not a launch service it's a Resupply Service to the ISS where the F9 is but one component among others including Capsule/Trunk.
Could NASA have flown some sort of additional mission(s) and increased the total launch market for that half a billion? We'll never know, but fewer mission is less commoditization of the market. 
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: QuantumG on 04/20/2016 09:17 PM
Don't be disingenuous

I'm not.

Quote from: abaddon
, the only customers with Falcon 1 prices for Falcon 9 launches had signed Falcon 1 contracts before SpaceX discontinued the launcher.

They're still launching those customers.

Quote from: abaddon
Contracts have been signed for multiple years now in the $60 +/- a few million ballpark.

Who said they hadn't?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: abaddon on 04/20/2016 09:26 PM
Quote from: abaddon
, the only customers with Falcon 1 prices for Falcon 9 launches had signed Falcon 1 contracts before SpaceX discontinued the launcher.

They're still launching those customers.

Quote from: abaddon
Contracts have been signed for multiple years now in the $60 +/- a few million ballpark.

Who said they hadn't?
These reduced prices reflect SpaceX eating a loss to treat their customers in good faith, who signed contracts for a perfectly good rocket that SpaceX retired.  They do not represent reduced prices due to any manufacturing/operational efficiency or reuse.  They do not represent any prices that any customers in the future will be able to get.  Therefore to bring them up in a "reuse business case" thread is in fact inappropriate, as it has absolutely nothing to do with the economics of reuse.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: QuantumG on 04/20/2016 09:28 PM
These reduced prices reflect SpaceX eating a loss to treat their customers in good faith, who signed contracts for a perfectly good rocket that SpaceX retired.  They do not represent reduced prices due to any manufacturing/operational efficiency or reuse.  They do not represent any prices that any customers in the future will be able to get.  Therefore to bring them up in a "reuse business case" thread is in fact inappropriate, as it has absolutely nothing to do with the economics of reuse.

I'm not sure I agree with your assessment of the points I raised.

Edit/Lar: soften
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 04/20/2016 09:55 PM
I think barge (component) development tends to be cheaper than aircraft (component) development ... tolerances are lower.

I'd be surprised if they can develop their midair capture tech for less than SpaceX spent on ASDS.

NOTE: I think the spreadsheet is Dr. Sowers'  not Tory Bruno's (some folk were saying Tory's spreadsheet)

It isn't the price of the midair capture tech that would worry me, it's the hypersonic inflatable decelerator followed by the steerable parafoil, both of which have to work properly and then be thrown away. And that is for you to even get to the point of the midair capture.
You don't have to throw either away, though they're both cheap enough to do so.

But something like that makes more sense for upper stage recovery. Blue Origin and SpaceX have both proved that this idea of first stage VTVL recovery works. Just build a bigger first stage to compensate for the performance loss (a 3, 4, or 5 engine Vulcan? Built with Blue Origin tech? Optionally VTVL recoverable?), use the HIAD thing for upper stage recovery, and boom, ULA has a fully reusable VTVL rocket.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Kabloona on 04/20/2016 10:11 PM
Why wouldn't engine recovery be much less expensive than full-booster recovery? Full booster recovery requires building a new landing facility and/or ASDS-type barge, plus leasing a "standing armada" of tugboats and support ships ala SpaceX, and those costs have to be factored into the equation.

Aerial retrieval requires a "flying amada". Not just the heavy-lift helicopter that performs the capture, but various spotter aircraft. And it still requires a barge or similar ship, because the helicopter will not have sufficient range under load. You'll need to transfer the engine module onto the ship for safing and securing.

And if they expect aerial retrieval for all launch profiles, as claimed, you'll need to refuel or ferry the capture-helicopter at sea too. Typical ranges on large helos wouldn't allow: ground to recovery area, loiter for any launch holds, then perform the high-thrust manoeuvres for capture, then the unloading of the engine onto the transport ship, then transit back to the mainland. So your engine recovery ship will also need to be helo compatible, so you can carry the helicopter out, wait until Vulcan launch, then and only then lift-off. (The fixed-wing spotter aircraft will need to be kept in the air for the entire duration, obviously.)

Assuming they use a large flat-deck barge, that's not unreasonable. But it still means taking off and landing at sea, which means having a ship/barge capable of being stable enough to land the helicopter in unexpectedly crappy conditions. You can abort the recovery of a stage (or an engine module), but you can't "abort" the recovery of the helicopter itself. That makes you twitchy over weather conditions before you launch the helo. Likewise, you can crash a stage, or miss an engine module, but you can't risk the fully crewed helicopter. That makes all aspects of operation more expensive.

These kinds of aerial recovery methods are fairly expensive. For large masses (a multi-tonne engine pod), they are going to be hideously expensive.

and maybe you build some new handling fixtures for the engine pod, but that's pretty much it.

Errr, no. You need to build the entire jettison system, RCS, inflatable re-entry shield, and parafoil system into the engine module. They're not just replacing a few bolts with frangibles.

Obviously major design changes and additional systems would be needed on the vehicle, but that's also true for full-booster recovery. My comments were comparing only the new ground/sea/air infrastructure needed for recovery ops.

You may be correct that ULA has underestimated the cost of aerial recovery. OTOH, they seem to be quite conservative in estimating a 10x reuse breakeven point for full-booster recovery.

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lars-J on 04/21/2016 12:47 AM
I think part of ULA's cultural inability in grasping why anyone would waste performance for reuse is that they only fly launch vehicles that can be finely tuned for specific performance needs. Need more performance? Add a solid booster.

So from their perspective, to add performance margin to recover a booster like SpaceX (assuming Vulcan could do vertical landing) they really need to add a SRB on top of what they 'really need' for the payload. And maybe add yet another SRB for RTLS. They've tuned performance so carefully that it just boggles their mind why anyone would spend  1-2 extra SRBs ($$$)  :o just to return a booster. From they point of view it doesn't make sense. At all.

...Which explains the complete disconnect with the economics of SpaceX's approach, which in their mind always wastes performance.

Another way to state it would be that they have fallen into the trap of optimizing for performance instead of optimizing for cost.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 04/21/2016 12:58 AM
Aerial retrieval requires a "flying amada". Not just the heavy-lift helicopter that performs the capture, but various spotter aircraft.

No spotter aircraft needed.  And if so,  maybe one and that is easily rented for a few hours.

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: su27k on 04/21/2016 03:56 AM
These days engine reuse barely gets a mention, ULA seems to be mainly selling upper stage reuse, I wonder how ACES reuse can be rationalized with the excel, because I have trouble seeing it...

Tory has stated that additional capacity of Vulcan ACES would be to transfer unused prop for later missions.  So say as an example 1 light mission to LEO, excess prop stays in ACES in orbit, next mission docks in LEO, refuels then departs for GTO or escape velocity.  Solid booster requirements on said 2nd mission greatly reduced, cost per flight shared.  Maybe each ACES for GTO cycles back to LEO, its all very vague and they haven't gone into detail.

But if the spreadsheet is based on $/kg, then there is no excess performance or propellant, that's the whole point. The spreadsheet is basically calculating the scenario where launches are used solely for filling up an orbital depot for example, so there won't be light mission or heavy mission, every mission is the same. If you reserve some propellant in the first mission, you have to bring more in later mission to make up the deficit, so I just don't see how this can reduce the cost.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: su27k on 04/21/2016 04:13 AM
Tory wrote a post on reddita couple of hours ago:

Quote
10 reuses to break even. 15 to make it economicly worthwhile.

This is independent of the $/Kg metric, which is only relevent in the event that a given mission is without excess capability.

Booster recovery would only be used on missions that do not stress the Launch Vehicle's capability. Because the penalties are significant, there will be many missions that cannot employ full booster flyback.

For those that can afford the performance hit to fly back to a downrange barge or to the point of origin, the 10/15 math applies.

We have chosen to start with engine recovery because the breakeven point is only 2 reuses AND because there is no significant performance hit, allowing recovery on every flight.

Tory can assert 10 to breakeven all he likes, it's not clear that is true, and repeating it doesn't make it so. Maybe it does for ULA but I doubt very much it will be so for SpaceX. If that's because they have different payload models, so be it.

Because what matters is if the per launch price goes down while SpaceX reinvests revenue and prospers. If that's the case, the model really doesn't have any relevance. TO SpaceX.

If I remember the math correctly, 10 to break even is assuming reusable flies the same # of flights as expendable, this put reusable at a severe disadvantage because it has less performance but couldn't fly more to make up the deficit even if flying more wouldn't cost more.

Once you replace this assumption with more reasonable ones such as same total cost or same total kg to orbit, then 10 to break even disappears.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 04/21/2016 08:14 AM


I think barge (component) development tends to be cheaper than aircraft (component) development ... tolerances are lower.

I'd be surprised if they can develop their midair capture tech for less than SpaceX spent on ASDS.

NOTE: I think the spreadsheet is Dr. Sowers'  not Tory Bruno's (some folk were saying Tory's spreadsheet)

It isn't the price of the midair capture tech that would worry me, it's the hypersonic inflatable decelerator followed by the steerable parafoil, both of which have to work properly and then be thrown away. And that is for you to even get to the point of the midair capture.
You don't have to throw either away, though they're both cheap enough to do so.

But something like that makes more sense for upper stage recovery. Blue Origin and SpaceX have both proved that this idea of first stage VTVL recovery works. Just build a bigger first stage to compensate for the performance loss (a 3, 4, or 5 engine Vulcan? Built with Blue Origin tech? Optionally VTVL recoverable?), use the HIAD thing for upper stage recovery, and boom, ULA has a fully reusable VTVL rocket.

If ULA decide to build a 3-4 engine VTVL booster and they follow F9R test program it will be about 10 launches before a booster is successfully recovered. All the development launches will be sold at cost of a 2 engine ELV as that all performance missions need. ULA will have to wear extra cost of extra engines and larger stage. If they are lucky each launch will just break even ie no profit, more likely they will lose money on each launch.

With SMART they will still make a reduced profit on each development flight same as SpaceX did with F9. But most importantly a reasonable profit.

I do think SMART has higher chance of succeeding with less attempts than F9R. Both HIAD and MAR have already been proven along with explosive separation of engines ( see earlier Atlas ver1-2??).

Sent from my ALCATEL ONE TOUCH 6030X using Tapatalk

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: gadgetmind on 04/21/2016 08:35 AM
Contracts have been signed for multiple years now in the $60 +/- a few million ballpark.

But then I see the cost of the 1st stage being quoted as $60m and wonder how they intend to make money?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Rebel44 on 04/21/2016 09:24 AM
Contracts have been signed for multiple years now in the $60 +/- a few million ballpark.

But then I see the cost of the 1st stage being quoted as $60m and wonder how they intend to make money?

1st stage (Falcon 9) doesnt cost $60M.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: gadgetmind on 04/21/2016 01:02 PM
1st stage (Falcon 9) doesnt cost $60M.

I'm totally sure you're right, but I've seen it widely quoted, and it's also what Elon said again in the CRS-8 post launch (and landing!) news event. However, he did say "the rocket" so this could be taken to mean both stages, but only one came back.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Rebel44 on 04/21/2016 01:49 PM
1st stage (Falcon 9) doesnt cost $60M.

I'm totally sure you're right, but I've seen it widely quoted, and it's also what Elon said again in the CRS-8 post launch (and landing!) news event. However, he did say "the rocket" so this could be taken to mean both stages, but only one came back.
+-$60M is reported cost of Falcon 9 launch
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: woods170 on 04/22/2016 11:05 AM
That is strange. There was a rather honest post by .gif in this thread, but it's gone now. Either he removed it himself, or the mods did. I wonder why...
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Johnnyhinbos on 04/22/2016 12:45 PM



I think barge (component) development tends to be cheaper than aircraft (component) development ... tolerances are lower.

I'd be surprised if they can develop their midair capture tech for less than SpaceX spent on ASDS.

NOTE: I think the spreadsheet is Dr. Sowers'  not Tory Bruno's (some folk were saying Tory's spreadsheet)

It isn't the price of the midair capture tech that would worry me, it's the hypersonic inflatable decelerator followed by the steerable parafoil, both of which have to work properly and then be thrown away. And that is for you to even get to the point of the midair capture.
You don't have to throw either away, though they're both cheap enough to do so.

But something like that makes more sense for upper stage recovery. Blue Origin and SpaceX have both proved that this idea of first stage VTVL recovery works. Just build a bigger first stage to compensate for the performance loss (a 3, 4, or 5 engine Vulcan? Built with Blue Origin tech? Optionally VTVL recoverable?), use the HIAD thing for upper stage recovery, and boom, ULA has a fully reusable VTVL rocket.

If ULA decide to build a 3-4 engine VTVL booster and they follow F9R test program it will be about 10 launches before a booster is successfully recovered. All the development launches will be sold at cost of a 2 engine ELV as that all performance missions need. ULA will have to wear extra cost of extra engines and larger stage. If they are lucky each launch will just break even ie no profit, more likely they will lose money on each launch.

With SMART they will still make a reduced profit on each development flight same as SpaceX did with F9. But most importantly a reasonable profit.

I do think SMART has higher chance of succeeding with less attempts than F9R. Both HIAD and MAR have already been proven along with explosive separation of engines ( see earlier Atlas ver1-2??).

Sent from my ALCATEL ONE TOUCH 6030X using Tapatalk
The thing that gets me about this is that there are other factors at play with recovering the entire stage. Ignoring for a moment the refirb / reuse part, there's incredible value to having the entire stage to examine in entirety to see if there design areas to improve to make the system more robust / find potential failure points / etc.

Let alone all the knowledge SpaceX is gaining for "free" that they will be able to employ in future systems development.

That all has direct, if less tangible, value and should really be factored into the business case as a whole...
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: russianhalo117 on 04/22/2016 06:32 PM
That is strange. There was a rather honest post by .gif in this thread, but it's gone now. Either he removed it himself, or the mods did. I wonder why...
I believe .gif is a ULA employee.
he was modded

(No, he wasn't. RussianHalo isn't a moderator and is not in a position to make such a claim. As below, his comment was shown to be totally false - Chris).
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: gadgetmind on 04/22/2016 09:03 PM
That is strange. There was a rather honest post by .gif in this thread, but it's gone now. Either he removed it himself, or the mods did. I wonder why...
I believe .gif is a ULA employee.
he was modded

Those of us who have full delivery of postings via email still have that message, but whether withdrawn by author or mods, it's best forgotten.  I'm sure we all vent at times and then regret it, so let's let this sleeping dog lie.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rcoppola on 04/22/2016 09:55 PM
Some of us would love nothing more than to let certain sleeping dogs lie. But it seems every time a falcon lands, the dog awakes all on its own.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: .gif on 04/23/2016 06:06 AM
That is strange. There was a rather honest post by .gif in this thread, but it's gone now. Either he removed it himself, or the mods did. I wonder why...
I believe .gif is a ULA employee.
he was modded
I modded myself. There was nothing proprietary or anything, I was just venting abut our executive leadership. It didn't really add to the discussion.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: gadgetmind on 04/23/2016 07:57 AM
I don't really understand the "trash talk" aspects of this. If one has a better idea, then crack on with implementation, and let the strength of the concept shine through once launching.  I think we've seen plenty of ideas for launching/landing that looked great in powerpoints and spreadsheets but that didn't pan out in practice.

I'm utterly convinced that reuse is critical, but TBH all the players need to be able to turn on a profit on launching alone while they perfect it.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 04/23/2016 12:43 PM
I don't really understand the "trash talk" aspects of this. If one has a better idea, then crack on with implementation, and let the strength of the concept shine through once launching.   

That's engineering thinking. Clearly you're not a marketer. (I'm an engineer and it's the sort of thinking I prefer but...)  FUD is a great marketing technique
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rcoppola on 04/23/2016 04:11 PM
I don't really understand the "trash talk" aspects of this. If one has a better idea, then crack on with implementation, and let the strength of the concept shine through once launching.   

That's engineering thinking. Clearly you're not a marketer. (I'm an engineer and it's the sort of thinking I prefer but...)  FUD is a great marketing technique
Everyone has a role to play. With very few exceptions, it's typically not a good idea to have your engineers design your communications or your marketers design your rockets.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: .gif on 04/23/2016 05:47 PM
FUD is a great marketing technique
ULA is very bad at it though.  It just comes across as sour grapes and reeks of desperation.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: gadgetmind on 04/23/2016 06:31 PM
That's engineering thinking. Clearly you're not a marketer. (I'm an engineer and it's the sort of thinking I prefer but...)  FUD is a great marketing technique

I'm described as a "Senior Director" and have to get into marketing, PR, and other such murky areas as well as engineering (life blood). However, I'm semiconductors, so totally different market.

But I just can't see why you'd spout forth about your approach being better when 1) competitor has theirs working, 2) you're years off, 3) who knows which is best until you're flying/landing head to head.

I can't see customers being either fooled or particularly caring, so whose eyes is the wool being pulled over? US politicians? Investors? I really don't know.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Space Ghost 1962 on 04/23/2016 06:38 PM
I'm utterly convinced that reuse is critical, but TBH all the players need to be able to turn on a profit on launching alone while they perfect it.

Reuse is as political as it is economic. These run contrary, because the "high expense" of expendables pays certain constituencies, many of which also rail against government waste, but when some waste falls under the illusion of "necessary waste" as in "soft power" of "national security" by "only proven means" as expendable, why then you annoy them by making it reusable/economic.

The virtue to many of the Shuttle was that it wasn't economic, even though a demonstration of partially reusable.

It should be no surprise that only billionaires could do reusable space. Because billionaires can get away with flaunting other billion dollar activities, which would use economics to extinguish anything smaller.

If reusable economics due change the rules here, expendables and govt investment won't go away, it'll just be that it "transmutes" into some other form, which may or may not make use of some reusable components.

I don't really understand the "trash talk" aspects of this. If one has a better idea, then crack on with implementation, and let the strength of the concept shine through once launching.  I think we've seen plenty of ideas for launching/landing that looked great in powerpoints and spreadsheets but that didn't pan out in practice.

ULA has insecurities about this, along with government primes, because of attempts to change the rules by one of the players - Musk - he "monkey wrenches" their survival because its in his way (Bezos coopts them, in comparison, just like he'd sell his own mother for the right price IMHO). All here are quite ruthless.

The "trash talk" is simply done to gain advantage. Because there are dopes that like it. Just like presidential candidates.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 04/23/2016 06:44 PM
But I just can't see why you'd spout forth about your approach being better when 1) competitor has theirs working, 2) you're years off, 3) who knows which is best until you're flying/landing head to head.

If you ask outsiders[1], both MS and IBM were perceived as doing this with some considerable success for many years.

1 - Don't ask me, I am not an official spokeperson for IBM and I don't trash competitors so I can't say about either one, but that's what I've heard :)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: oldAtlas_Eguy on 04/23/2016 08:14 PM
I posted a economic modeling conclusion on this other thread which is also gremain to this one:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=40121.msg1522842#msg1522842

Quote
The thing I found when modeling the Mass production and Reuse is that if the % cost of refurbishment/flight to the cost of a new vehicle is more than 30% then Mass production starts to have an edge for being cheaper at high flight rates >5. But if refurb costs are less than 30% of a new vehicle (gas and go) then reuse wins hands down even at as low a reuse rate of 2 flights per vehicle. The even point between Mass production and reuse was a reuse rate of 5, flight rate of >5 and a refurbishment % of 30%.

So for SpaceX with a refurb % looking to be as low as 10% and flight rates pushing eventually 20 with possible reuse of 10 there is no way Mass production/expendable method will be able to match the prices. [Added] The difference is that reuse at these values is 46% of that of Mass production/expendable so even if you consider the performance loss for reuse of 30% in comparison of strict $/kg values, Mass production still costs more.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: AncientU on 04/25/2016 11:04 PM

I don't really understand the "trash talk" aspects of this. If one has a better idea, then crack on with implementation, and let the strength of the concept shine through once launching.  I think we've seen plenty of ideas for launching/landing that looked great in powerpoints and spreadsheets but that didn't pan out in practice.

ULA has insecurities about this, along with government primes, because of attempts to change the rules by one of the players - Musk - he "monkey wrenches" their survival because its in his way (Bezos coopts them, in comparison, just like he'd sell his own mother for the right price IMHO). All here are quite ruthless.

The "trash talk" is simply done to gain advantage. Because there are dopes that like it. Just like presidential candidates.

'SMART' reuse... trash talk begins at the beginning of this discussion. (Note: Not-so-subtle put down, unless subtly is completely lost on you.)
That's how the game has been played from the start.

FUD is a great marketing technique
ULA is very bad at it though.  It just comes across as sour grapes and reeks of desperation.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RyanC on 05/07/2016 01:41 AM
ULA is boned.

Right now, SpaceX is starting to capture the all important mental "head space" of the general public with the barge landings of Falcon 9, even though they've just started.

By the time Vulcan launches in 2019; SpX is going to have been recovering boosters like clockwork for three years and the public (and congress) is going to ask why NASA/DoD contract money is being spent on something that dumps the first stage in the ocean (Vulcan isn't even going to have engine recovery until a few years down the line).
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Dante80 on 05/07/2016 01:57 AM
ULA is boned.

Right now, SpaceX is starting to capture the all important mental "head space" of the general public with the barge landings of Falcon 9, even though they've just started.

By the time Vulcan launches in 2019; SpX is going to have been recovering boosters like clockwork for three years and the public (and congress) is going to ask why NASA/DoD contract money is being spent on something that dumps the first stage in the ocean (Vulcan isn't even going to have engine recovery until a few years down the line).

Recovering boosters is one thing. Re-launching them at a net profit is another though. Don't be so fast.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Coastal Ron on 05/07/2016 02:19 AM
Recovering boosters is one thing. Re-launching them at a net profit is another though. Don't be so fast.

Out of curiosity, what do you think are the areas of concern for reuse that could make reuse unprofitable?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: The Amazing Catstronaut on 05/07/2016 02:44 AM


Recovering boosters is one thing. Re-launching them at a net profit is another though. Don't be so fast.

Yeah, about that. I'm with you in principle, but there's already evidence in existence that recovering boosters is worth its weight in data anyway. For all we know some of that data may be incorporated into future iterations of F9. It's certainly invaluable for figuring out the true tolerances of their hardware.

They've already proven that they can relight recovered boosters repeatedly after only a non-destructive inspection - the only elements of the process left are to launch and recover again with a booster that's already been launched and recovered.

It's the equivalent of having all the pieces of the jigsaw, you just have to put them together. The processes for preparing a recovered stage for use and a fresh stage can't be all that different anyway. Both are exposed to rigorous amounts of testing and inspection before they get anywhere near being mated to anything, and even then you have the precaution of the static fire.

I agree that we shouldn't organise the parade until the method is proven, but it's becoming borderline unlikely that they're going to fail at this point. This is not the space shuttle - you're not rebuilding any massive tankage, SRBs, thermal protection systems. You're simply preparing a core for launch.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 05/07/2016 02:51 AM
Recovering boosters is one thing. Re-launching them at a net profit is another though. Don't be so fast.
So many people saying this. Yes. You're correct, it is possible that you can't refurbish and relaunch to cover costs and make it worthwhile.

It's possible.

But the smart way to bet is that SpaceX has this figured out , and will be, within say half a dozen iterations, getting these prepped with high automation and a fairly small workforce....  Who here doesn't see the odds on that at 90% or better? Seriously.

Call me a fan boy, I'm cool with that, I don't have the chops. But seriously. Stop kidding yourselves. Odds are they are going to pull this off.

And when they do it's going to blow this business case model to heck, because the assumptions about how this costing works are incorrect.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: The Amazing Catstronaut on 05/07/2016 03:08 AM

And when they do it's going to blow this business case model to heck, because the assumptions about how this costing works are incorrect.

Right on.

Which is why ULA (hey, this is a ULA centric thread) should be thinking about how it can emulate F9r (preferably F9H) cost savings now. Now now now now. Don't wait for the carpet to disappear, don't wait for supposedly SMART reuse, start designing a TSTO which can propulsively land the core stage, now. If they can figure out a way of evolving Vulcan into such a design, they should do so, but do it.

And if it doesn't work, you'll have an LV which shouldn't be too expensive to operate. Unfortunately, that's not what is going to happen. Vulcan is going to have to compete on grounds other than cost.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: gadgetmind on 05/07/2016 07:29 AM
unless subtly is completely lost on you

I'm an engineer.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 05/07/2016 09:21 AM
ULA is now fighting for their lives, trying everything they can think of to reduce costs. Will engine recovery revolutionize space travel? No, but it's a step towards a cheaper launch vehicle that might help ULA survive, and that's all they care about right now.

Sadly, they don't even seem to be doing that.  They published their study on mid-air engine recovery years ago.  They trotted it out again recently and attached it to Vulcan, but it's not actually new.  And, as far as I can tell, it doesn't seem to be anything they're even putting any actual resources behind right now.  They seem to be saying, "Over the next few years we'll develop Vulcan in a couple of steps, first stage one and then, later, stage two.  Then, someday after that, we'll decide whether to actually try to do engine recovery."

For the rest of this decade and well into the next, at least, engine recovery is just PR for ULA, unless something is going on we don't know about.

Meanwhile, SpaceX has landed three whole stages in the last few months.

This is going to be in textbooks someday about how existing dominant suppliers fail to respond to disruptive competition.

ULA should be fighting for their lives.  But, instead, they're trying to convince everyone they don't need to.

Sad.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 05/07/2016 11:15 AM
ULA should be fighting for their lives.  But, instead, they're trying to convince everyone they don't need to.

They may well agree with you, but they would hardly admit it publicly! In the pretty near future ULA will have less than half the workforce of SpaceX. That's quite a turnaround.

Getting back to the re-use business case, clearly the assumptions underpinning any re-use model are fundamental. I think SpaceX are going to have some hard data on that in the very near future. (If you're interested I started a poll on first commercial re-use here (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=40254.0).)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Kabloona on 05/07/2016 11:19 AM
ULA is now fighting for their lives, trying everything they can think of to reduce costs. Will engine recovery revolutionize space travel? No, but it's a step towards a cheaper launch vehicle that might help ULA survive, and that's all they care about right now.

Sadly, they don't even seem to be doing that.  They published their study on mid-air engine recovery years ago.  They trotted it out again recently and attached it to Vulcan, but it's not actually new.  And, as far as I can tell, it doesn't seem to be anything they're even putting any actual resources behind right now.  They seem to be saying, "Over the next few years we'll develop Vulcan in a couple of steps, first stage one and then, later, stage two.  Then, someday after that, we'll decide whether to actually try to do engine recovery."

That, and paying a bunch of employees to go away. Admittedly the "fight" so far looks pretty anemic. It seems Tory Bruno understands the severity of the challenge, but his hands may be tied by a "wait and see" attitude from corporate parents who are trying to figure out whether it even makes business sense to throw money at
Vulcan.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 05/07/2016 11:44 AM
ULA are far from broke and it's parents well capable of funding a large R&D project. It really comes down where Boeing and LM see launch industry going and if they want to stay in it together.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Paul451 on 05/07/2016 12:19 PM
In the pretty near future ULA will have less than half the workforce of SpaceX. That's quite a turnaround.

Remember that ULA doesn't actually build anything. You can't make a meaningful comparison between the workforce size of the two fundamentally different types of companies.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Ronsmytheiii on 05/07/2016 12:30 PM
ULA is boned.

Far from it, there are limits to SpaceX's ambitions right now:

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=36967.msg1529935#msg1529935


Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: spacenut on 05/07/2016 12:57 PM
Isn't the old H1 engine or remade RS-27, I think, about the same power as the Merlin?  ULA could go back to it and make a 9 engine rocket similar to Falcon 9.  I think they were using this engine on the old Delta II.  They might even make a 5 or 7 engine rocket that could take strap-on solids for extra performance, and still land the thing.  Maybe even use the Atlas or Delta tooling for the tankage. 
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: cscott on 05/07/2016 12:58 PM


ULA is boned.

Far from it, there are limits to SpaceX's ambitions right now:

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=36967.msg1529935#msg1529935

"We're not working on this because nobody is paying us to" is not really a "limit to SpaceX ambition".  It's just a priority decision, which is what we expect from competent management.  If ULA falters, even its "protected" clients will start to look elsewhere, and when they do I'm sure SpaceX will be willing to take their money.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/07/2016 01:12 PM

Remember that ULA doesn't actually build anything.

Wrong, it builds most of the structure of the vehicles.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Chris Bergin on 05/07/2016 01:48 PM
I want to see people improve their posts. However, I agree, ULA is way behind the game, but saying they are "boned" is childish.

However, opinion is totally allowed. Personal attacks are not. It's interesting when someone reports a post asking for a "thread to be deleted" based on an opinion, if badly worded, post, and then go and personally attack a member.

Guess which post was deleted?

Think on!
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: su27k on 05/07/2016 02:12 PM
By the time Vulcan launches in 2019; SpX is going to have been recovering boosters like clockwork for three years and the public (and congress) is going to ask why NASA/DoD contract money is being spent on something that dumps the first stage in the ocean (Vulcan isn't even going to have engine recovery until a few years down the line).

DoD can just explain they need two launchers for redundancy. Plus SpaceX may not bother with some of the weird requirements for DoD launches, so it looks to me that ULA would always have some business, it's just not as many as before.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: The Amazing Catstronaut on 05/07/2016 02:43 PM

DoD can just explain they need two launchers for redundancy. Plus SpaceX may not bother with some of the weird requirements for DoD launches, so it looks to me that ULA would always have some business, it's just not as many as before.

Which would satisfy ULA's original mandate and would provide the USA with launch assurance. However, ULA has outlined that Vulcan needs to be commercially competitive as well in order to make sense as an LV. Who would it compete with? Ariane? Europe is rather protectionist with their satellite launches which would impair them slightly. The ability to do direct GTO insertion would be valuable on the commercial market, but what would the expected costs be? How fast can that reliability cadence climb?

I'm sure they can obtain some commercial launches, but the slice of the pie isn't a wholesome one. SMART reuse could help them get there, but the refurbishment for SMART reuse might end up costing more than reusing the entire core due the inherent complexities of engine separation. Plus, they're not really working on it yet.

ULA certainly has a future providing their parents keep in the game, but they don't have to settle for a future where they're playing second fiddle.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/07/2016 02:50 PM

DoD can just explain they need two launchers for redundancy. Plus SpaceX may not bother with some of the weird requirements for DoD launches, so it looks to me that ULA would always have some business, it's just not as many as before.

Which would satisfy ULA's original mandate and would provide the USA with launch assurance. However, ULA has outlined that Vulcan needs to be commercially competitive as well in order to make sense as an LV. Who would it compete with? Ariane? Europe is rather protectionist with their satellite launches which would impair them slightly. The ability to do direct GTO insertion would be valuable on the commercial market, but what would the expected costs be? How fast can that reliability cadence climb?

I'm sure they can obtain some commercial launches, but the slice of the pie isn't a wholesome one.

And it will be a flashback to the early 90's

Martin Marietta with Titan IV  ->ULA

General Dynamics with Atlas II ->Spacex 

MDAC with Delta II ->OA (Antares) 

The last two did commercial and NASA with some minor DOD (GPS, DSCS, UFO) and the first did DOD.

So, ULA is not toast

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Ike17055 on 05/07/2016 03:23 PM
Even some of the smartest people just don't/can't/won't see beyond their own view of their world....

Intel's CEO Paul Otellini didn't believe his company would be able to earn enough money building mobile chips for Apple's new iPhone to cover their development costs. This was due in large part because he couldn't imagine Apple selling iPhones in large quantities. Later on, he said he wished he'd have put down all the spread sheets and just listened to his gut.

I hear similar things from people such as Stephen and Tory of Arianespace and ULA respectively....the ability to imagine that it could, and then design a path to see if your right...is the point. One, I think, is lost on the rest of the industry...at least for now.


intel's CEO may have wished he could "go with his gut" but as CEO he carried huge responsibilities of risk management, as does every CEO and board of directors.   Hardly anyone imagined the degree of ultimate success of iPhone, may  even Apple, so on paper, his choice may have been "right"  by the book, but this serves as more of an example of the constraints the governing body and management of a public company face, as opposed to the entrepreneur, who is perhaps in a better position to roll the dice, because a gamble is exactly what this "go with the gut" approach is. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But a CEO can't lose sight of the fact he is playing with shareholder's money. A losing bet carries enormous consequences for both the public and private company, but the range of freedom to make that choice is very different and not necessarily indicative of a lack of "vision" -- but may simply be the exercise of reasonable responsibility, looking at the possibilities vs. the probabilities. Nearly all important decisions are made with incomplete information.  If management was easy, we would all be millionaires.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Johnnyhinbos on 05/07/2016 03:24 PM

Sadly Jim, and this is just my personal opinion, but I think in this instance you're wrong.

I really like Tory and feel he's been dealt an unjust hand.

There been a paradigm shift and as usual, the folks running the old way of doing things don't even see it happening until they're standing there wondering where the party went.

ULA represents the flip phone of the rocket industry. Perhaps better stated, they're the physical button phone maker...

"Of course everyone wants buttons on their phones. They always have and always will. The idea of anything else is preposterous. As a matter of fact, we've built this massive keyboard that slides out with even more buttons - because THAT'S innovation!"

Paradigm shift. Poof.

So sadly, I don't see ULA in existence by end of 2020. That's only four years away.

The good thing is that time will tell - and I'll be happy to eat my words (keyboard). But I don't think I'll be wrong.

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: The Amazing Catstronaut on 05/07/2016 03:27 PM
The nineties, but significantly cheaper and prone to disruption again later on. We can live with that.

Considering what has happened to half of the companies Jim has listed between then and now, I wonder what commercial space entities will exist 20< years from now. Reusability will definitively change the rate of osmosis.


Really, commercial reusability was a process that had many of its roots within the 90s - at least the basic idea, and many of the scattered concepts for streamlining the manufacturing and engineering aspects of orbital rocketry, it just had a lot of misfires.

Hindsight will be interesting on this one.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/07/2016 03:32 PM


ULA will have its niche and Spacex isn't going to go play in that sandbox. There are requirements for DIV Heavy past 2020.

NASA is buying a vehicle for the Mars 2020 rover right now.  Guess who is going to fly it?

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Ike17055 on 05/07/2016 03:37 PM
I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss Tony. First, because the innovators methods aren't proven.

At this point, they are proven. Only those with real defects are still in denial about reusability.

REUSABILITY DENIER !!!

As others point out, Reusability is a lot more than just getting your stage back on earth. Recovery, refurbishment, re-use is a complex chain with many unknown costs over the long haul.  More will be clear with more experience.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: yg1968 on 05/07/2016 04:30 PM
Tory wrote a post on reddita couple of hours ago:

Quote
10 reuses to break even. 15 to make it economicly worthwhile.

This is independent of the $/Kg metric, which is only relevent in the event that a given mission is without excess capability.

Booster recovery would only be used on missions that do not stress the Launch Vehicle's capability. Because the penalties are significant, there will be many missions that cannot employ full booster flyback.

For those that can afford the performance hit to fly back to a downrange barge or to the point of origin, the 10/15 math applies.

We have chosen to start with engine recovery because the breakeven point is only 2 reuses AND because there is no significant performance hit, allowing recovery on every flight.

10 to 15 flights for reuse makes sense to me. It's also in line with other studies. SpaceX is starting to launch once a month. So they should be able to get to that number starting now. Blue also said that their initial objective for orbital flights was once a month (and they also intend to reuse their first stage).
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: AJW on 05/07/2016 04:37 PM
My takeaway is that if this is the perspective and attitudes of senior ULA management, their future is indeed bleak with little or no commercial and only a shrinking niche of NASA or DOD launches. 

When over a dozens posts raised questions about the assumptions in the spreadsheet, rather than addressing those concerns, they were ignored and Dr. Sowers instead proclaimed that his analysis was both accepted and correct when he stated, 
I believe the takeaway from the 4 pages of discussions above is that the basic equation is valid and that the analysis of barge landing is reasonable.

Dr Sowers posts,
The numbers do not in any way compare SpaceX to ULA costs or performance.
and then follows with a post where he does nothing but make direct comparisons.

SMART only recovers the engine(s), representing slightly over 50% of just the 1S costs, which is typically 60-70% of the overall HW costs.   This means that the best-case scenario, assuming HIAD & MAR go off without a hitch, and refurbishment and reintegration costs are low, is that you could reduce HW costs by 30% while their competitors may have already reduced their percentage of costs by twice that.    Meanwhile SpX will continue to examine options for 2S recovery with the possibility of reducing their costs by another third.

Sowers must be representing the views of the board since we have seen how swiftly they move when a senior manager fails to toe the company line.   This leads one to ask just what was the intent of the original post?   Is it an attempt to spread FUD as has been suggested?    ULA’s underestimation of the NSF community appears to parallel their complacency towards their competition.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RyanC on 05/07/2016 04:49 PM
NASA is buying a vehicle for the Mars 2020 rover right now.  Guess who is going to fly it?

ULA has admitted that the DoD/NASA market isn't big enough to support it, hence them focusing on the commercial side for Vulcan.

But the commercial side is being sewn up by SpX -- people have noticed that over in the Russian space forums, they're calling the latest Falcon 9 iteration a "Proton killer", and Arianespace is getting nervous.

SpX doesn't have to eat the entire lunch in order to drive ULA out of business by about 2025 -- just enough that there isn't enough left for ULA to viably survive as a business entity.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/07/2016 05:02 PM

But the commercial side is being sewn up by SpX

Not true at all.  There are might not be enough for 4 suppliers but SX can't get and can't handle the whole commercial side.


SpX doesn't have to eat the entire lunch in order to drive ULA out of business by about 2025 -- just enough that there isn't enough left for ULA to viably survive as a business entity.

That isn't going to happen. 

Again, it is the same nonsense that SX is going to take over all the space launch business.  It is the Demolition Man Taco Bell analogy all over again.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/07/2016 05:08 PM

At this point, they are proven. Only those with real defects are still in denial about reusability.

REUSABILITY DENIER !!!


Have you been next to a flown booster?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: yg1968 on 05/07/2016 05:21 PM

At this point, they are proven. Only those with real defects are still in denial about reusability.

REUSABILITY DENIER !!!


Have you been next to a flown booster?

You think that refurbishment of the recovered first stages will be difficult?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/07/2016 05:23 PM

You think that refurbishment of the recovered first stages will be difficult?

No, but it is not just recover and fly.  There are pics on the forum showing the damage.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Space Ghost 1962 on 05/07/2016 05:30 PM

At this point, they are proven. Only those with real defects are still in denial about reusability.

REUSABILITY DENIER !!!


Have you been next to a flown booster?

Yes. And before that many times parts of one, over a very long span.

Love to hear your opinion of external airframe integrity, effects of hotspots on it, effectiveness of TPS around the engine compartment. Especially asymmetric wear patterns.

And SX isn't either rushing to reflight, nor shipping off stages to Texas/New Mexico/California. Nor are we seeing obvious changes in the successively flown boosters that would require many months slip in launch. Haven't seen rapid refires of stages at either pad. And the one we did see had some engine issues.

The recovered boosters have too many issues to be claimed as "aircraft like operations". The first clearly wasn't "flight worthy".

Still, they appear to have three recovered stages. With the first recovered Shuttles we learned quite a bit, not to mention with the ALT flight tests too.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Rocket Science on 05/07/2016 05:43 PM

Sadly Jim, and this is just my personal opinion, but I think in this instance you're wrong.

I really like Tory and feel he's been dealt an unjust hand.

There been a paradigm shift and as usual, the folks running the old way of doing things don't even see it happening until they're standing there wondering where the party went.

ULA represents the flip phone of the rocket industry. Perhaps better stated, they're the physical button phone maker...

"Of course everyone wants buttons on their phones. They always have and always will. The idea of anything else is preposterous. As a matter of fact, we've built this massive keyboard that slides out with even more buttons - because THAT'S innovation!"

Paradigm shift. Poof.

So sadly, I don't see ULA in existence by end of 2020. That's only four years away.

The good thing is that time will tell - and I'll be happy to eat my words (keyboard). But I don't think I'll be wrong.
'
Hey Johnny, Samsung released a new flip phone... Just sayin' ;)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Coastal Ron on 05/07/2016 06:03 PM

But the commercial side is being sewn up by SpX

Not true at all.  There are might not be enough for 4 suppliers but SX can't get and can't handle the whole commercial side.

I hope that ULA can survive, even thrive in the future with Vulcan.

But unfortunately saying there is enough market for 4 launch providers doesn't mean that ULA will be one of them, so ULA has to find a niche in the commercial marketplace that they are going to take away from one or more existing launch providers.

Because unlike the U.S. Government market, where the U.S. Government has an interest in maintaining redundancy for NASA and Air Force needs, the worldwide commercial market has no such need to support ULA.  And ULA will be competing with launchers that will have far more known reliability than the upcoming Vulcan.  How ironic for ULA.

So assume that ULA gets guaranteed 40-60% of the USG market by the time Vulcan becomes operational, and that is tempered by the potential drop in overall need from the Air Force.  That means ULA will make or break their profitability on the commercial marketplace, meaning we should be watching for indications for how they plan to muscle their way into that wide marketplace and displace one or more existing launch provider to some degree.

And ULA has to do that without a mature in-house commercial marketing department.  So watching for hirings in their marketing department should also be an indicator of how they will approach this market.

My $0.02
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/07/2016 06:08 PM

And ULA has to do that without a mature in-house commercial marketing department.  So watching for hirings in their marketing department should also be an indicator of how they will approach this market.


Not true, ULA is supported by Boeing launch services and Lockheed Martin commercial launch services. 
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RocketGoBoom on 05/07/2016 06:57 PM

And ULA has to do that without a mature in-house commercial marketing department.  So watching for hirings in their marketing department should also be an indicator of how they will approach this market.


Not true, ULA is supported by Boeing launch services and Lockheed Martin commercial launch services.

With the block buy and annual ELC ending around 2019, just for the purposes of cash flow we would expect Vulcan (or Atlas) to start having some commercial launches by 2020 to fill the void.

So I would expect their commercial launch services to be spinning up now. Then probably need to be building a commercial launch manifest with contracts announced by 2018. If we are not seeing commercial contracts in the years leading up to 2020, then I have my doubts that ULA or Vulcan will be viable on 3-4 launches per year from the DoD/NASA.

That doesn't mean that ULA goes under. It just means that someone needs to cover their operations with subsidies. Maybe the ELC comes back in some form just to keep a second player viable.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/07/2016 07:02 PM
What 3-4 per year?.  It is twice that.  Also, ULA has dream chaser, cst-100 and occasional Cygnus. and then there maybe bigelow
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RyanC on 05/07/2016 07:14 PM
Also, ULA has dream chaser, cst-100 and occasional Cygnus. and then there maybe bigelow

How long will NASA continue to eat the significant extra cost for a CCrew or CCargo launch just to maintain a second launch provider? We're talking about a $100M vs $65M cost -- a decent amount of pocket change.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/07/2016 07:27 PM
Also, ULA has dream chaser, cst-100 and occasional Cygnus. and then there maybe bigelow

How long will NASA continue to eat the significant extra cost for a CCrew or CCargo launch just to maintain a second launch provider? We're talking about a $100M vs $65M cost -- a decent amount of pocket change.

Forever, its protection against CRS-7 events.

Again, it is a nonsensical line of thinking.  SX is not going to take over all ISS cargo and crew.

The US would be on a worse position without ULA.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RocketGoBoom on 05/07/2016 07:57 PM
What 3-4 per year?.  It is twice that.  Also, ULA has dream chaser, cst-100 and occasional Cygnus. and then there maybe bigelow

If you follow what CEO Bruno has said himself, he is expecting the DoD/USAF needs to decline to about 6-7 launches per year and he only expects to win about half of those at best after the block buy is complete. His own quote was along the lines of, "ULA cannot survive on 3 launches per year".

Bruno believes ULA/Vulcan needs commercial business to survive. So do the math. Will Vulcan be able to grab market share from Ariane 6, SX and BO? We will see.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rcoppola on 05/07/2016 08:29 PM
For many reasons, some of which have already been mentioned, ULA will be around for many years to come. In exactly what form, with what capabilities is another matter. Regardless...

I'm noticing a subtle shift in the way ULA (Tory) talks about their reuse strategy. It's becoming more about 2nd stage reuse with Smart thrown in for good measure. It used to be the either way around.(iirc)  Now that would be an interesting Biz Case comparison....

SpaceX Core reuse Vs. ULA 2nd Stage reuse. Now that's a spreadsheet I would't mind tearing into.

On a somewhat related note. The idea that there are certain payload types that SpaceX will not bother with (either initially or ever) for NASA, DOD-(NRO), etc., as currently designed, implies that most of those payloads will always need those requirements.

While I agree SpaceX will decide to pass on some because of the expense, I don't quite agree on the final outcome or the overall cause and effect. (ie. SpaceX passes, ULA gets) It assumes those payloads will only ever be designed, built to their current requirements, integration or otherwise. But what if that's not what happens.  Technical advancements and the response to Space no longer being seen as a benign operating environment will drive new requirements. That's where I begin to see where reuse, both in costs and speed to launch, being something the DOD begins to incorporate into their requirements in a meaningful way.  So within that context, I wonder where Core reuse Vs. 2nd stage reuse could potentially play out...
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Space Ghost 1962 on 05/07/2016 08:47 PM
Sincerely doubt any serious reuse of either orbital US or booster (or components!) by any non SX vendor for foreseeable future.

Likely path for ULA near term is Atlas V and Delta IVH flights with limited manifest for the indefinite future, on a reduced operating footprint.

It's not exciting but that's just what will be happening.

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Coastal Ron on 05/07/2016 09:38 PM

And ULA has to do that without a mature in-house commercial marketing department.  So watching for hirings in their marketing department should also be an indicator of how they will approach this market.


Not true, ULA is supported by Boeing launch services and Lockheed Martin commercial launch services.

Yeah, not ULA but ULA's parents - and just in general, trying to keep track of what ULA can or can't do just goes to show how limited they are in being able to control their own future.

So regarding the survivability of ULA, both of the parents need to increase their commercial marketing abilities if ULA is going to survive, and seeing if they are doing that will be an indication of ULA's future.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: edkyle99 on 05/07/2016 11:50 PM
The recovered boosters have too many issues to be claimed as "aircraft like operations". The first clearly wasn't "flight worthy".
The third had a post-reentry fire like the first, so it could conceivably suffer from some of the same issues.  I'm beginning to wonder if these initial recovered boosters will, in the end, be "parted out" at best rather than outright re-flown.  Each recovery does, however, offer lessons learned that could improve the process.

I think ULA will be just fine.  SpaceX prices have already risen, and will continue to rise, even as it increases its "footprint" with new buildings and launch pads, etc..  Meanwhile ULA is slashing staffing and subcontractors and footprint, and therefore slashing its own costs.  The real unknowns are 1.) Falcon Heavy - will it work and what will it really cost?  2.) OATK's EELV goals and 3.) Blue Origin's long-term intentions.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: The Amazing Catstronaut on 05/08/2016 12:05 AM
Jim is right: there is a need for a launch provider with ULA level reliability. SpaceX is going to have to attain that reliability at some point if they want to launch 100 man interplanetary liners, but the buisness is always better with a second hand on the rudder. A second opinion. You wouldn't want one party in politics, why one company to get out of the stratosphere?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: yoram on 05/08/2016 12:16 AM
Quote
I think ULA will be just fine.  SpaceX prices have already risen, and will continue to rise, even as it increases its "footprint" with new buildings and launch pads, etc..  Meanwhile ULA is slashing staffing and subcontractors and footprint, and therefore slashing its own costs.  The real unknowns are 1.) Falcon Heavy - will it work and what will it really cost?  2.) OATK's EELV goals and 3.) Blue Origin's long-term intentions.

There's also 4) Stratolaunch to consider, but haven't heard from them for some time. At some point they claimed test flights in 2016. But if their plans work out they may also have an EELV class competitor?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Steam Chaser on 05/08/2016 12:49 AM
Quote
I think ULA will be just fine.  SpaceX prices have already risen, and will continue to rise, even as it increases its "footprint" with new buildings and launch pads, etc..  Meanwhile ULA is slashing staffing and subcontractors and footprint, and therefore slashing its own costs.  The real unknowns are 1.) Falcon Heavy - will it work and what will it really cost?  2.) OATK's EELV goals and 3.) Blue Origin's long-term intentions.

There's also 4) Stratolaunch to consider, but haven't heard from them for some time. At some point they claimed test flights in 2016. But if their plans work out they may also have an EELV class competitor?

https://twitter.com/jeff_foust/status/720736818216312832

"Beames: can’t talk about Stratolaunch launch vehicle strategy now; “we’ll make quite a series of announcements over the coming year.” #32SS"

There is also the possibility that some of the under-development small launchers from Firefly, Rocket Lab, Virgin Galactic, DARPA XS-1 competitors, etc will complete development, gain traction, and provide a foundation that allows their developers to migrate to larger launch vehicles.

There is also the possibility that SLS will be finished, and will compete politically with ULA for launches.  That might not amount to a lot of launches, but as an example, the SLS backers might shift funding for a half dozen smaller planetary science or astrophysics missions to a single SLS-launched mission, which could put a big dent in ULA's potential NASA business.

ULA could be seeing a lot of competition in a few years, so it would make sense for their parents to invest heavily in reuse (SMART, 2nd stage refueling, etc) to keep competitive.  I don't think giving up on ULA over the long term is a useful strategy, since it would leave lots of other Boeing and Lockheed-Martin business lines vulnerable (CST-100, SLS, Orion, satellites, planetary missions, etc) if the launch companies that take their place branch out.  Investing weakly in ULA (or getting partners to invest in it ... like perhaps Blue) amounts to giving up with this level of upcoming competition.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: jongoff on 05/08/2016 01:33 AM

But the commercial side is being sewn up by SpX

Not true at all.  There are might not be enough for 4 suppliers but SX can't get and can't handle the whole commercial side.

While I agree that commercial customers aren't going to go exclusively with one provider, especially a provider who is more or less trying to also compete in their space (from what I hear commsat customers for some reason take a dim view on their launch provider trying to put them out of business... go figure), it's not at all clear that ULA has positioned itself as a strong second to SpaceX yet. They're trying, and it's not their fault that geopolitics are forcing them to focus on replacing the RD-180 when they'd really like to be pushing ACES and other technologies that could keep them in a good position compared to other providers. But I really, really hope they're adjusting their priors after the most recent SpaceX successes, and can find some way to accelerate their efforts to adapt and compete. They're making some painful and badly needed changes, but I really do worry that they're not evolving fast enough yet.

~Jon
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 05/08/2016 02:10 AM


ULA will have its niche and Spacex isn't going to go play in that sandbox. There are requirements for DIV Heavy past 2020.

NASA is buying a vehicle for the Mars 2020 rover right now.  Guess who is going to fly it?
Yes, this will take time and they're not there yet, but I'm certain SpaceX will play in that sandbox eventually (unless there are serious financial problems for SpaceX, always a possibility). SpaceX has been climbing the value-chain ever since they started, and they're not likely to stop just short of large national security launches.

...which doesn't mean end-of-the-road for ULA. There's a national security imperative to have launcher redundancy.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 05/08/2016 02:15 AM
As far as reliability: Falcon 9 has greater reliability (whether you include partial failures or just full failures) than Ariane 5 did at this point in its flight history. Ariane 5 is the same class of reliability as Atlas V.

I don't see any real reason to doubt that SpaceX will achieve Delta IV or Atlas V reliability (arguably basically there for Delta IV).


EDIT: But I still cross my fingers every Falcon 9 launch. I feel far more at ease watching an Atlas V launch.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: The Amazing Catstronaut on 05/08/2016 03:18 AM
SpaceX prices have already risen, and will continue to rise

With inflation.

The increases have been fairly marginal and the performance gains have outpaced the increases, thus making more favourable the overall dollars-to-kilograms ratio offered by SpaceX.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 05/08/2016 03:44 AM
By the time Vulcan launches in 2019; SpX is going to have been recovering boosters like clockwork for three years and the public (and congress) is going to ask why NASA/DoD contract money is being spent on something that dumps the first stage in the ocean (Vulcan isn't even going to have engine recovery until a few years down the line).

DoD can just explain they need two launchers for redundancy. Plus SpaceX may not bother with some of the weird requirements for DoD launches, so it looks to me that ULA would always have some business, it's just not as many as before.

Until Blue Origin or Firefly or Rocket Labs or Orbital or some other company realizes they can displace ULA by being the second provider more cheaply than ULA.  Blue Origin looks most likely to me.

If they put their full resources into it right now, ULA could probably still secure their place as a competitor to SpaceX.  But they would need to make massive investments in reusability.  Instead, they're leaving space for another company to grab the number two position.

Now, as others have pointed out, it's really LM and Boeing that pull the strings at ULA, so it's not necessarily ULA execs themselves that are to blame, but for whatever reason ULA is not moving aggressively enough.

I don't believe ULA can survive as number three.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 05/08/2016 04:00 AM
SpaceX prices have already risen,

As has others have pointed out, the rise is roughly in line with inflation, so true prices have remained more or less the same, while performance has greatly increased.

and will continue to rise,

There's zero evidence to indicate they will rise and a whole lot of evidence their costs will decrease, starting with stage reuse.

even as it increases its "footprint" with new buildings and launch pads, etc..

SpaceX's footprint is not increasing because they need a bigger footprint to support their existing revenue stream.  It's increasing because they are supporting new revenue streams, including commercial crew, Falcon Heavy, and an increase in launch rate for Falcon 9.  All those things involve new costs but also allow some costs for Falcon 9 to be shared among more revenue streams.  All that indicates SpaceX's costs per Falcon 9 launch will go down, not up.  Whether they pass those costs on to their customers is up to them, but it's certainly not evidence that SpaceX prices to their customers will go up.

Meanwhile ULA is slashing staffing and subcontractors and footprint, and therefore slashing its own costs.

Some of that may lead to real cost reduction per-launch for ULA.  But some of that is also because their expected launch rate will be going down in the coming years (and Bruno himself has said).  When launch rates go down, fixed costs must be spread over fewer launches which tends to drive the cost per launch up.

So, it's unclear which is the bigger factor, and hence unclear whether ULA's per-launch costs will be going up or down.

The real unknowns are 1.) Falcon Heavy - will it work and what will it really cost?

There's so much commonality between Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9 that it's hard to believe there's much chance it would either not work or have costs very far from what SpaceX expects.  So, while we can never be 100% sure of either, it seems clear the odds are very high that it will work and will cost what SpaceX has said it will cost (and signed contracts for it to cost).

2.) OATK's EELV goals and 3.) Blue Origin's long-term intentions.

I agree that those are unknowns.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: AJW on 05/08/2016 05:30 AM


ULA will have its niche and Spacex isn't going to go play in that sandbox. There are requirements for DIV Heavy past 2020.

NASA is buying a vehicle for the Mars 2020 rover right now.  Guess who is going to fly it?
Yes, this will take time and they're not there yet, but I'm certain SpaceX will play in that sandbox eventually (unless there are serious financial problems for SpaceX, always a possibility). SpaceX has been climbing the value-chain ever since they started, and they're not likely to stop just short of large national security launches.

...which doesn't mean end-of-the-road for ULA. There's a national security imperative to have launcher redundancy.

I believe the Brits refer to this as the Heir and the Spare.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: woods170 on 05/08/2016 12:52 PM
Excuse me folks. As far as I can remember this thread is about the reuse business case. Not about ULA and/or SpaceX either shrinking or expanding or supposedly doing anything else.

So, let's get back on-topic:
An honest, but now removed, post by a ULA insider revealed that the business case model found earlier in this thread (and provided by a ULA employee) is way too simple and should not be taken seriously.
IMO, what remains is that the reuse business case is unproven at this point in time given that no reuse has actually taken place so far. Let SpaceX reuse a number of booster stages first and let's see how that turns out. Then we can really go back to discussing the reuse business case. Any discussion at this stage is uninformed speculation at best given that nobody here has direct access to whatever concrete (non-speculative) data SpaceX and or ULA have on the subject.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/08/2016 01:03 PM

There is also the possibility that SLS will be finished, and will compete politically with ULA for launches.  That might not amount to a lot of launches, but as an example, the SLS backers might shift funding for a half dozen smaller planetary science or astrophysics missions to a single SLS-launched mission, which could put a big dent in ULA's potential NASA business.


Never would happen. 
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: AJW on 05/08/2016 05:20 PM
This document uses Dr. Sower's work and provides some additional background.

http://www.ulalaunch.com/uploads/docs/Published_Papers/Supporting_Technologies/LV_Recovery_and_Reuse_AIAASpace_2015.pdf

I think that Shuttle indeed taught us that refurbishment costs are key, and an interesting study would be on how projected refurbishment costs would differ using SMART, ADELINE and full recovery.   It also important to remember that while full recovery adds mass for legs, grid fins and consumes fuel, SMART's use of HIAD, recovery chutes, and structural requirements to allow separation of the engine(s) will also reduce performance.  ADELINE expects a 10% weight penalty.  I believe a scaled-down version of HIAD has only been tested successfully once.  This is crucial since SMART depends on this capability, so until we see HIAD tested at scale and actual loads, I expect we will continue to see limited progress on Vulcan.

Section V-A of the document is rather telling of ULA's attitudes, first comparing retro-propulsion to a comic book approach, and then discounting it as both 'not new' and 'Russian'. 
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RyanC on 05/08/2016 05:53 PM
I want to see people improve their posts. However, I agree, ULA is way behind the game, but saying they are "boned" is childish.

I can't see any other way of putting it in a short, succinct sentence.

If you asked me for a more detailed explanation (the $5 dollar option as opposed to the $0.50 option) -- I'd say that ULA is creeping very fast into "Death zone" of airplane performance graphs -- where you don't have sufficient altitude and/or airspeed to recover before Controlled Flight into Ground (CFIT). The disaster is coming, and it's going to be visible in slow motion; like CFIT from the Death zone.

As ChrisWilson68 posted; ULA did a study on engine recovery almost ten years ago:

http://www.ulalaunch.com/uploads/docs/Published_Papers/Evolution/PartialRocketReuseUsingMidAirRecovery20087874.pdf

But they didn't really do anything with it until Spring 2015, when Vulcan was announced and that it'd use SMART recovery.

Now, its becoming apparent that Vulcan SMART won't actually happen until 2024, some sixteen years after that 2008 paper and five years after Vulcan's maiden flight in 2019.

SpaceX will have been recovering cores for EIGHT YEARS by the time ULA lands the first engine pod.

If ULA was only 12-18 months away from SMART recovery on Atlas V, then things would be different. But they're not; so...  :-X
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/08/2016 06:04 PM
I want to see people improve their posts. However, I agree, ULA is way behind the game, but saying they are "boned" is childish.

I can't see any other way of putting it in a short, succinct sentence.

If you asked me for a more detailed explanation (the $5 dollar option as opposed to the $0.50 option) -- I'd say that ULA is creeping very fast into "Death zone" of airplane performance graphs -- where you don't have sufficient altitude and/or airspeed to recover before Controlled Flight into Ground (CFIT). The disaster is coming, and it's going to be visible in slow motion; like CFIT from the Death zone.


Childish and just plain wrong.  Nothing supports that opinion.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: AJW on 05/08/2016 07:10 PM
Jim,

Without violating confidentiality, can you provide your assessment of refurbishment beyond what most of us have only gleaned from photos?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/08/2016 07:56 PM
Jim,

Without violating confidentiality, can you provide your assessment of refurbishment beyond what most of us have only gleaned from photos?

I don't really know, just saw some damage as it passed by me.  The damage can be seen on some of those threads.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: baldusi on 05/08/2016 08:34 PM
What I find interesting about ULA's concept about the payload cost of reusability, is that they scale upwards (in performance) thanks to SRB thrust augmentation, at the cost of needing a VIF. SpaceX has for everything but the biggest GTO birds, a totally oversized LV (kind of Atlas V552/Proton). And will cover the rest of the market downwards thanks to the use of reusability. And they have gone with cheap HIF.
May be both are right with different assumptions?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Space Ghost 1962 on 05/08/2016 08:48 PM
What I find interesting about ULA's concept about the payload cost of reusability, is that they scale upwards (in performance) thanks to SRB thrust augmentation, at the cost of needing a VIF. SpaceX has for everything but the biggest GTO birds, a totally oversized LV (kind of Atlas V552/Proton). And will cover the rest of the market downwards thanks to the use of reusability. And they have gone with cheap HIF.

That's a fair comparison. They are "apples and oranges", relying on different presumptions.

Suggest that the "runaway" advantage here could be launch frequency for an almost "gas n go" ... presuming "aircraft operations" were to become realistic and not governed by "dog that caught the bus" issues that clearly dominate right now.

What chance is there of that, or is Musk smoking something like ULA insists?

Quote
May be both are right with different assumptions?

Perhaps if you add in the costs for ULA to "switch horses midstream" to the other direction too. Remember that capital costs for ULA need to be factored back through the "parents".
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Space Ghost 1962 on 05/08/2016 08:50 PM
Jim,

Without violating confidentiality, can you provide your assessment of refurbishment beyond what most of us have only gleaned from photos?

I don't really know, just saw some damage as it passed by me.  The damage can be seen on some of those threads.

In your pictures too, thank you again for them.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Semmel on 05/08/2016 09:31 PM
Reading the last pages of this thread, it appears that many users thing SpaceX and its re-usability is an out-of-context problem [1] for ULA. I dont think that is true though. ULA has very smart engineers. If the company comes under pressure, the management will come around and invest in new technology faster than in the past. Like Vulcan with a re-usable engine section. This technology can be put forwards faster if SpaceX actually can demonstrate economic re-usability. Also, there is a strong incentive by the government and the private industry as well to keep ULA around. Jim named some stuff but its also the pure fact that there need to be competition otherwise SpaceX might start to sit on their hands without much progress.

ULA does not has a cozy monopoly in the past for DoD any more, thats all. Calling SpaceXs re-usability plans the beginning of the end to ULA is not realistic in my opinion.


[1]: Out of context problem as in Iain M. Banks: Excession. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excession#Outside_Context_Problem
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/08/2016 09:51 PM
at the cost of needing a VIF.

Vertical integration drove the need for a VIF

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Space Ghost 1962 on 05/08/2016 10:09 PM
Reading the last pages of this thread, it appears that many users thing SpaceX and its re-usability is an out-of-context problem [1] for ULA. I dont think that is true though. ULA has very smart engineers.
Nope.

ULA is unlike SX. A JV. That means it takes orders+resources from "parents" for launches, achieves launches generating revenues, revenues return back to "parents", waits for more. They aren't fully in charge of fate/budget.

If ULA "parents" said to make a LV reusable (with budget), ULA can (and would) make and achieve it. They don't.

Reasons abound why they don't. Trying to boil these down to minimum so you'll "get it".

BTW ULA is really good at a) not increasing liabilities, and b) generating net cash flow. As a good JV should. SX isn't.

Reusability would a) increase liabilities, and b) greatly absorb cash flow. Neither "parent" would want this.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 05/09/2016 12:37 AM
This document uses Dr. Sower's work and provides some additional background.

http://www.ulalaunch.com/uploads/docs/Published_Papers/Supporting_Technologies/LV_Recovery_and_Reuse_AIAASpace_2015.pdf

I think that Shuttle indeed taught us that refurbishment costs are key, and an interesting study would be on how projected refurbishment costs would differ using SMART, ADELINE and full recovery.   It also important to remember that while full recovery adds mass for legs, grid fins and consumes fuel, SMART's use of HIAD, recovery chutes, and structural requirements to allow separation of the engine(s) will also reduce performance.  ADELINE expects a 10% weight penalty.  I believe a scaled-down version of HIAD has only been tested successfully once.  This is crucial since SMART depends on this capability, so until we see HIAD tested at scale and actual loads, I expect we will continue to see limited progress on Vulcan.

Section V-A of the document is rather telling of ULA's attitudes, first comparing retro-propulsion to a comic book approach, and then discounting it as both 'not new' and 'Russian'. 
Difficult to take this document seriously. They don't even spell the name of their major competitor correctly. If you're that unaware of basics it calls the rest of it into question.  And I think we've picked the assumptions of the analysis Dr. Sowers presented to pieces quite successfully.  The equation is questionable and so are a lot of the factors (for example 30% performance hit applies to RTLS, not ASDS, and for another, F is very questionable, it is not clear that per unit cost of first stages for SpaceX is going to go up at all. I'd rather expect it to go down as they work down the cost curve via continuous improvement)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: baldusi on 05/09/2016 01:53 AM
at the cost of needing a VIF.

Vertical integration drove the need for a VIF
Yes, Altas V is an excellent optimization to the EELV requirements. Falcon 9 is optimized for a bunch of other requirements. Part of why I say that both might very well be right.
I just wonder about SpaceX skimming ULA's manifest. Can ULA survive with 2 NRO, 1 Navy and 1 USAF launch per year? If you add 1 ISS Crew, 1 Dream Chaser they are pretty close to their 8/yr number. So I'm not discounting but sort of wondering because it looks tight. Could go either way.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Coastal Ron on 05/09/2016 03:20 AM
This document uses Dr. Sower's work and provides some additional background.

http://www.ulalaunch.com/uploads/docs/Published_Papers/Supporting_Technologies/LV_Recovery_and_Reuse_AIAASpace_2015.pdf

From that paper:

"Figure 10 shows the results for SMART vs. Booster Fly Back using retro-propulsion. The former becomes profitable after a couple of uses while the latter requires ten uses to become profitable. The difference is mainly because of the 30 per cent performance loss to land the booster downrange on a barge. Using the same rationale, equation, and input data, booster fly back is never profitable in a return to launch site scenario."

Two thoughts:

1.  ULA, and the rest of the world, should soon find out if return to launch site is never profitable.  Personally I would think it would be more profitable than GTO-mission barge return, but they may not have foreseen that scenario (or never imagined it was possible).

2.  If ULA can do reuse and be profitable about it after TWO launches, then I find it unbelievable that ULA is not making it a priority - don't they know that they are in a price war that affects their profit?

Unfortunately I think this paper was really more marketing than research, so I wouldn't rely on it for guidance on what SpaceX is doing.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: jongoff on 05/09/2016 05:55 AM
Jim,

Without violating confidentiality, can you provide your assessment of refurbishment beyond what most of us have only gleaned from photos?

I don't really know, just saw some damage as it passed by me.  The damage can be seen on some of those threads.

In your pictures too, thank you again for them.

I must have missed the thread discussing these pictures. Would one of you be willing/able to point out where I could find those?

~Jon
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Paul451 on 05/09/2016 05:56 AM
or is Musk smoking something like ULA insists?

Musk would have a clear idea of the cost added to the basic F9 core to allow landing. He would have precise figures for payload differences. And he has had two returned cores (now three) to learn what the cost of refurbishment is likely to be. He seems confident enough to talk about the first reuse later this year.

And while we all know to take SpaceX scheduling with a grain of salt, when it comes to capability they don't seem to oversell what they can do, nor persist with a bad idea. When cross-feed became more complex, heavy or expensive (don't know which) than they expected, they dropped it without hesitation. When MethaLox promised to be more useful than KeroLox, Merlin 2 was dropped for Raptor. And when the optimum size of Raptor changed, they happily changed the numbers. On the flip side, Merlin gets more thrust than predicted, F9 delivers more payload than originally modelled, and FH seems to be heading for full capacity in spite of dropping cross-feed.

So, if Musk believes that he can quickly and cheaply relaunch a recovered core, then he can indeed quickly and cheaply relaunch a recovered core.

ULA however...

Like Vulcan with a re-usable engine section. This technology can be put forwards faster if SpaceX actually can demonstrate economic re-usability.

... To turn an expendable Vulcan into a reusable one is a much more demanding task than converting an F9 core. It's more than just adding legs and fins. It's a total redesign of the engine module, and engine/tank interface, as well as developing an inflatable reentry system and the parafoil system.

They would save some future cost and time if they intend to design the jettisonable engine module into the expendable mode right from the beginning. But that assumes they strongly believe reusability is worth the extra cost, which really really doesn't seem to be the case.

but its also the pure fact that there need to be competition otherwise SpaceX might start to sit on their hands without much progress.

Given Musk's personal obsession, that seems extremely unlikely. "SpaceX might not pass on savings from reusability", yes, "SpaceX might stop new development", no.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Oli on 05/09/2016 10:19 AM
Difficult to take this document seriously.

Their analysis focuses on $/kg. It's a very simple model but that doesn't mean its wrong or useless.

They don't even spell the name of their major competitor correctly. If you're that unaware of basics it calls the rest of it into question.

Seriously?  ???

And I think we've picked the assumptions of the analysis Dr. Sowers presented to pieces quite successfully.

None of it has invalidated the model.

for example 30% performance hit applies to RTLS, not ASDS

30% performance hit is compatible with the numbers we have from SpaceX now (0.7*8.3t=5.8t).

F is very questionable, it is not clear that per unit cost of first stages for SpaceX is going to go up at all. I'd rather expect it to go down as they work down the cost curve via continuous improvement

You do not understand F.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: meekGee on 05/09/2016 03:20 PM

They don't even spell the name of their major competitor correctly. If you're that unaware of basics it calls the rest of it into question.

Seriously?  ???

Lar's right.  The attitude of ULA and Ariane towards SpaceX has been one of condescension and dismissal. This has been apparent in their business decision, and this article is cover for this attitude.

And this habit of misspelling SpaceX's name is oddly prevalent. When you see it on this forum, you just shake your head and shrug.  It's Kindergarten stuff.  But when the attitude shows up in communications from senior staff (and this is not an isolated one), then it's indicative of a way of thought.

Yes, it's about $/kg, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out that if you can achieve low cost reuse, your $/kg will be far lower, even if your payload penalty is high.  And given that "a rocket is more than the sum of its parts", clearly a re-flying booster has a huge advantage.

So the entire "business case" is a house of cards that hinges on SpaceX not being able to achieve low cost reuse, and you hear that all the time as the daily prayer: "Yes but they still haven't proven economical reuse".

Business wise, the block buy had a detrimental effect on ULA/parents. It took the evolutionary pressure off of them, and so instead of feeling the fear and doing something drastic, they've settled into Vulcan in 2019 and maybe engine recovery some years afterwards.

If this idea is so good, why aren't they fast-tracking the whole thing?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 05/09/2016 03:26 PM
And I think we've picked the assumptions of the analysis Dr. Sowers presented to pieces quite successfully.

None of it has invalidated the model.

Yes, it has.

The model assumes a fixed number of flights and also assumes a $/kg metric is the target for optimization.  As has been said over and over on this thread, that makes absolutely no sense.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: meekGee on 05/09/2016 05:34 PM
And I think we've picked the assumptions of the analysis Dr. Sowers presented to pieces quite successfully.

None of it has invalidated the model.

Yes, it has.

The model assumes a fixed number of flights and also assumes a $/kg metric is the target for optimization.  As has been said over and over on this thread, that makes absolutely no sense.

Further than that, let's talk $/kg.

Suppose re-use has a 50% payload penalty.  So your $/kg just went up by 2x.

So for example, if you had a completely 100% reusable rocket with exactly zero turn around and launch costs, and the rocket could only fly twice, you'd be back to the same $/kg.

But suppose the payload penalty is only 33%. So your $/kg just went up by 1.5x.

Now your theoretical rocket that flies twice has some margin for a disposable second stage and some turn around costs.

And if it flies 3 times?  or 10 times?

-----------------

So the conclusion in the PDF that says that "booster fly back is never profitable in a RTLS scenario" is clearly wrong.  Maybe a hint is in the preamble:  "Using the same rationale, equation, and input data".  If you assume a high refurbishment cost, then sure, it'll never make sense.  But it's the author's assumption.

So look at the XLSX and PDF files in Sawyer's spreadsheet.  These numbers have a huge play in them. 

For example, in order to get the "always >1" graph, the spreadsheet uses these parameters (attached)

Look at row #2:  "Fraction of recovered HW production cost to total launch service cost"
Currently only 60% - so of course reuse makes less sense...  Where is this number from?  Is it applicable to an environment where your rapidly launching a large number of similar missions? (comm sats, refueling, etc)

Now change the number in the spreadsheet from 60% to 70%.  Not a big change, right?

Voila. Suddenly instead of never making sense, RTLS makes sense at 7 flights.

Make it 75%, and RTLS makes sense at 5 flights.

So yeah.  Pick and Choose.

In fact, what this spreadsheet does is solve the question: "Under what set of parameters does RTLS never makes sense"...
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: woods170 on 05/10/2016 05:08 PM
We already know from an earlier removed post (from a ULA employee) that the reuse business-case model posted by another ULA employee is not to be taken seriously. It holds no merit. Besides, the folks here were very good at taking the model apart and exposing the many flaws in it.
Can we just forget about it? It's pointless to continue discussing a model that is pretty much useless.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Space Ghost 1962 on 05/10/2016 05:42 PM
at the cost of needing a VIF.

Vertical integration drove the need for a VIF
Yes, Altas V is an excellent optimization to the EELV requirements.
Absolutely. Which is why it should (would) have "won" the EELV competition. (Much of why it didn't was for "wrong" reasons we all know, however consider that Russian engine financial "ledge/cliff" that occasionally visits - note how much the "advantage" of a cheap highest performance engine didn't matter to sealing that deal).

Quote
Falcon 9 is optimized for a bunch of other requirements.
Meaning it is not meant to compete for govt/military launches in the same "hand fits glove" way.
Quote
Part of why I say that both might very well be right.
No - one chose to address narrowly need irrespective of launch frequency growth. The other addressed global market broadly, taking a "reusable" gamble (that has yet to pay off) to address low manifest differently.
Quote
I just wonder about SpaceX skimming ULA's manifest.

ULA's pragmatism comes from past experience and is obvious. Narrow footprint with least risk. Its weakness is external vendors for things like engines, thus, the BE4 for Vulcan is "even better" than foreign "low cost" engines. By avoiding corporate loading through co-production/co-development, non-typical vendor relationship - same possibly true for US engine.

While if there was a "launch winter" for SX, they'd endure by trimming back booster production, focus on booster reflights, and mothballing launch facilities.

Quote
Can ULA survive with 2 NRO, 1 Navy and 1 USAF launch per year? If you add 1 ISS Crew, 1 Dream Chaser they are pretty close to their 8/yr number. So I'm not discounting but sort of wondering because it looks tight. Could go either way.

A question of "rifle shot revenues" against a high discount, high volume recent provider, who hasn't yet got cost structure under control.

As we saw with GPS contract, broad can win against narrow if its "good enough". And, as long as broad has a larger manifest, the argument of "strong getting stronger" encourages this in a continuing way.

Don't doubt that ULA can survive on fewest launches. Suspect however that AF does doubt that it can maintain the proficiency on those few launches, and that is why OA's "solid EELV" might be seen as a "backup plan" for that. ULA might get stretched too thin with erratically transitioning between existing EELV to NGLS, and while supporting infrequent complex launch needs, even with the advantage of a high valued launch need vehicle.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Space Ghost 1962 on 05/10/2016 05:46 PM
We already know from an earlier removed post (from a ULA employee) that the reuse business-case model posted by another ULA employee is not to be taken seriously. It holds no merit. Besides, the folks here were very good at taking the model apart and exposing the many flaws in it.
Can we just forget about it? It's pointless to continue discussing a model that is pretty much useless.

He's attempting to beat them to death with their own model. Which is fair game for this thread.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: meekGee on 05/10/2016 07:08 PM
We already know from an earlier removed post (from a ULA employee) that the reuse business-case model posted by another ULA employee is not to be taken seriously. It holds no merit. Besides, the folks here were very good at taking the model apart and exposing the many flaws in it.
Can we just forget about it? It's pointless to continue discussing a model that is pretty much useless.

Apologies, I wasn't following upthread, I thought I was the first to notice.

This was posted by Dr. Sowers though, and he's more than just an employee - he's a high ranking persona there.

Not cool, not for him, and not for ULA.

EDIT:  Fixed spelling
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: The Amazing Catstronaut on 05/10/2016 07:15 PM
Is it Sowers or Sawyer? I'm forgetting if I'm in the EM drive thread or the ULA reuse business case thread. Am I being dumb and missing a name here?

Anyway, Sowers is invested in a particular form of reusability because it's something that his section covers. There's nothing wrong with being emotionally invested in your program. As for SMART being something more than a paper presentation, that is, as of yet, unknown.

Oli, there really isn't a lot of evidence supportive of Sowers's numbers as far as I'm aware. It requires knowledge of both ULA internal workings, SpaceX's internal workings, and materials science than none of us have direct access to. Sowers has access to the former naturally, but not the latter.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lemurion on 05/10/2016 08:24 PM
When you look at the differing reuse cases the real issue I see isn't ULA vs. SpaceX, it's ULA vs. Blue Origin.

Both Blue and ULA are planning to use the BE-4 engine as reusable propulsion on a first stage. ULA is apparently planning on using SMART engine recovery, while Blue is planning full stage reuse with vertical landing. Cost-wise, the commonality of engine is going to make direct comparisons much easier. Blue is also planning to achieve that in the 2019-2020 time frame, well before ULA goes SMART with Vulcan.

Sure the government is going to want a second source, even if SpaceX handles a majority of flights, but once Blue gets the BE-4 going it's likely to become the compelling alternative to SpaceX. SMART is going to have to prove itself incredibly compelling to stand up to two competitors with full stage recovery. At that point, it's going to be whether the government is willing to support ULA as a third alternative with little or no foothold in the commercial launch market.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: meekGee on 05/10/2016 08:29 PM
Is it Sowers or Sawyer? I'm forgetting if I'm in the EM drive thread or the ULA reuse business case thread. Am I being dumb and missing a name here?

Anyway, Sowers is invested in a particular form of reusability because it's something that his section covers. There's nothing wrong with being emotionally invested in your program. As for SMART being something more than a paper presentation, that is, as of yet, unknown.

Oli, there really isn't a lot of evidence supportive of Sowers's numbers as far as I'm aware. It requires knowledge of both ULA internal workings, SpaceX's internal workings, and materials science than none of us have direct access to. Sowers has access to the former naturally, but not the latter.

I messed up the name above, fixed it (thanks Space Ghost).

And you absolutely HAVE to be emotionally invested in your program, because this is what gives you drive.

And then once you are, you should always beware of doing what Dr. Sowers is doing - painting the numbers around a pre-known conclusion.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/10/2016 08:53 PM

Sure the government is going to want a second source, even if SpaceX handles a majority of flights, but once Blue gets the BE-4 going it's likely to become the compelling alternative to SpaceX.

Why?  And BO has said they are not going for that market anyways. 
Also, why is it a given that Spacex gets the majority.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RocketGoBoom on 05/10/2016 09:05 PM

2.  If ULA can do reuse and be profitable about it after TWO launches, then I find it unbelievable that ULA is not making it a priority - don't they know that they are in a price war that affects their profit?


I am also wondering why this isn't more of a priority for 2019 with the first versions of Vulcan. Just build it to be more competitive right from the start. Three years is a long time and many iterations for SpaceX. I cannot even imagine how much further along SpaceX will be in 2019.

SpaceX will likely have landed between 30-50 first stage boosters by 2019. They will either be reusing them regularly or donating them to museums for outdoor artwork or doing soft ocean landings to create artificial reefs.

Vulcan's quoted 2019 target prices don't seem competitive with SpaceX's 2016 fully expendable prices. In order to compete with Ariane in the commercial launch market, Vulcan needs to do something special.

If SpaceX is picking up their launch rate to fully meet their manifest demand, I wonder if the commercial market will even consider a new player at $100 million per launch.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RocketGoBoom on 05/10/2016 09:09 PM

Sure the government is going to want a second source, even if SpaceX handles a majority of flights, but once Blue gets the BE-4 going it's likely to become the compelling alternative to SpaceX.

Why?  And BO has said they are not going for that market anyways. 
Also, why is it a given that Spacex gets the majority.

BO (aka Amazon) is known for being an aggressive competitor and expanding into new markets. Any talk otherwise is just them being polite for now.

If SpaceX can increase their flight rate, avoid any explosions and keep prices around $80 million to $90 million, they are going to win a lot of launches after the block buy is over. I don't think anyone would be surprised by SX becoming the market share leader after 2019.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lemurion on 05/10/2016 09:42 PM

Sure the government is going to want a second source, even if SpaceX handles a majority of flights, but once Blue gets the BE-4 going it's likely to become the compelling alternative to SpaceX.

Why?  And BO has said they are not going for that market anyways. 
Also, why is it a given that Spacex gets the majority.

I didn't say that SpaceX would get the majority of government flights, but that even if SpaceX did get the majority of government flights the government would want a second source.

As for Blue competing with ULA, I'm sorry for not making myself clear but I was thinking more the general partly reusable launch market than government-specific payloads. If ULA needs more launches to support its business model than the government provides, then it would be competing with Blue and anyone else launching in its class. Otherwise ULA has to depend on the government for all its business.

One thing I am presuming is that market entry is going to be a major factor in determining the initial market share for reusable and partly reusable launchers. That being the case, I see SpaceX getting most of the initial market for reusable launcher because they are going to be first to market, followed by Blue, and only then will ULA enter the reusable market. These things are likely to change over time, but that's how I see the market starting out.

That being the case, I see ULA needing to prove their partial reuse method is better in very short order, as they'll be entering a market that already has two players with reusable launchers.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/10/2016 10:49 PM

That being the case, I see ULA needing to prove their partial reuse method is better in very short order, as they'll be entering a market that already has two players with reusable launchers.

What two players?

So far, there is a recoverable orbital launcher and a reusable suborbital launcher and no orbital reusable launcher.

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/10/2016 10:52 PM
they are going to win a lot of launches after the block buy is over.

Not really.  Spacex is not going to bend to DOD requirements.  They want to keep the F9 generic.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lemurion on 05/10/2016 10:55 PM

That being the case, I see ULA needing to prove their partial reuse method is better in very short order, as they'll be entering a market that already has two players with reusable launchers.

What two players?

So far, there is a recoverable orbital launcher and a reusable suborbital launcher and no orbital reusable launcher.

The two that are expected to be in service circa. 2020, before ULA goes SMART with Vulcan.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/10/2016 10:58 PM
The two that are expected to be in service circa. 2020, before ULA goes SMART with Vulcan.

Who is expecting?  where is the proof that reuse will be viable?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: gospacex on 05/11/2016 12:13 AM
The two that are expected to be in service circa. 2020, before ULA goes SMART with Vulcan.

Who is expecting?  where is the proof that reuse will be viable?

Are you ready to say that you think it's likely that SpaceX will be unable to economically reuse their 1st stage?

If you can't say that, it means even _you_ expect them to succeed.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Prettz on 05/11/2016 12:40 AM
We still have yet to see what the economics of reuse will be.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: gospacex on 05/11/2016 12:48 AM
We still have yet to see what the economics of reuse will be.

Captain Obvious, is it you?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lemurion on 05/11/2016 01:03 AM
The two that are expected to be in service circa. 2020, before ULA goes SMART with Vulcan.

Who is expecting?  where is the proof that reuse will be viable?

If it's not at least technically viable, the whole discussion of the business case is moot.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 05/11/2016 03:39 AM
We don't know with certainty how this is all going to come out. But as I said before the way to bet is becoming clearer as we all watch SpaceX iterate this.

I doubt there are many, even among the doubters, who would go on record saying it's impossible they will sort the whole thing within a few years.. And very few who would bet against them at even odds that they'll have it down by 2020.

To those people, who are still sure or mostly sure SpaceX (and Blue) will fail... I extend my sympathy. I hope ULA's bluffing and have a much better hand in the wings because this hand they're playing now? It's not a goer...
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: WindnWar on 05/11/2016 03:56 AM
The two that are expected to be in service circa. 2020, before ULA goes SMART with Vulcan.

Who is expecting?  where is the proof that reuse will be viable?

At this point the more apt question is where is the proof that it won't be, as this reuse business case certainly doesn't apply as ULA sees it. Every stage they land gives them knowledge on what to improve, what is working, and what sort of margin they actually have in the structure. Betting against their success seems to be ill advised at this point. However you seem to often have a dim view of SpaceX when it comes to their costs or their competitiveness compared to ULA. That's fine, but at some point you need to realize the bias in these statements over the years.

I respect your knowledge in general, but I have my doubts on objectivity when it comes to these two competitors and their respective odds of success based on your statements.

By years end if they continue their launch campaign with even half of what they expect to launch this year, there will be plenty more stages to test, and eventually refly, and plenty of time to understand what sort of refurbishment is needed as well as to continue to refine their return flight models. Judging their odds of success on some damage seen on the very first returned stages seems to undersell their ability to learn from an iterate improvements. It makes as much sense on basing the success of future flights of STS based on how much TPS damage it suffered on its first flight.



Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Oli on 05/11/2016 10:56 AM
Lar's right.  The attitude of ULA and Ariane towards SpaceX has been one of condescension and dismissal.

From now on I will write Space-X in order to demonstrate my condescending attitude towards Space-X.  ::)

Yes, it has.

The model assumes a fixed number of flights and also assumes a $/kg metric is the target for optimization.  As has been said over and over on this thread, that makes absolutely no sense.

For assessing the benefit of reusability in a general way using $/kg as a metric makes sense. It doesn't tell us anything about Space-X' business case in a specific market environment, so what? It doesn't invalidate the model.

Fixing total payload instead of the number of flights changes the results by very little. For example a 30% reduction in payload increases the flight rate by 43%. Assuming equal rate curve for all costs the increase in number of flights decreases the per flight costs by ~5%. Now you might say: The rate curve is wrong! (10% cost reduction for each doubling of production rate). For example with 0.5 instead of 0.9, the per flight cost reduction would be 30% from a 43% increase in flight rate. The problem is in such a case the cost penalty from decreasing the production rate with reusability is a lot worse.

So really, nobody has convincingly invalidated the model in this thread.

So yeah.  Pick and Choose.

Obviously with different parameters you get different results. That doesn't invalidate the model. Also I'd say the chosen parameters are a lot more reasonable that the fantasy numbers Space-X fans come up with.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: The Amazing Catstronaut on 05/11/2016 11:15 AM


Obviously with different parameters you get different results. That doesn't invalidate the model. Also I'd say the chosen parameters are a lot more reasonable that the fantasy numbers Space-X fans come up with.

But why? You do not have the relevant SpaceX internal data to dismiss any "fantasy numbers". You're claiming that the model is valid because it fits the explanation given for the existence of the model, which is in-turn predicated upon assumption. One of the assumptions that you are making is that you know how the production rate impacts cost. Apart from the general possibility of a negative trend, you don't know if that relationship is linear, exponential, because you don't have SpaceX's internal figures.

The problem with claiming other people are using fantasy numbers is when you also use fantasy relationships which in-turn will leave you with yet more fantasy numbers. I'll admit that I don't know any better than you do as to what cost savings the various kinds of reusability will provide in the end. But I won't try to justify the math when I don't have access to the prerequisite data for the math.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Oli on 05/11/2016 11:51 AM
One of the assumptions that you are making is that you know how the production rate impacts cost.

Dr. Sowers makes the assumption and I give him the benefit of doubt, simply as that. Until somebody comes up with something better.

He doesn't pretend it's fully accurate and I do not assume it is.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: cscott on 05/11/2016 12:23 PM
Firing shots at each other is a boring way to spend this thread.  And making up numbers and then arguing over the fantasy numbers is also boring.

Far better are the posts which examine the bounds of the various parameter.  *If* this can be lowered to *this* value then reuse becomes feasible at *this* number of reflights.  That helps us understand the limitations of the model, and also helps us understand the bar that SpaceX (or ULA) has set for itself.

I'm afraid almost all the productive discussion of that sort happened in the first dozen or so pages of this thread, though.  Is there really anything more to add at this time?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 05/11/2016 12:30 PM
Lar's right.  The attitude of ULA and Ariane towards SpaceX has been one of condescension and dismissal.

From now on I will write Space-X in order to demonstrate my condescending attitude towards Space-X.  ::)

Condescending attitudes are not welcome here, take that nonsense to FB[1] or Reddit. Exhibit too much condescension and your words won't stick. Even Jim, who has more chops in the rocket biz than 99++% of us, gets moderated.

1 - Apologies to The Roadie, and his compatriots, who run one of the very best groups on FB, regardless of subject :)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 05/11/2016 12:43 PM

Firing shots at each other is a boring way to spend this thread.  And making up numbers and then arguing over the fantasy numbers is also boring.

Far better are the posts which examine the bounds of the various parameter.  *If* this can be lowered to *this* value then reuse becomes feasible at *this* number of reflights.  That helps us understand the limitations of the model, and also helps us understand the bar that SpaceX (or ULA) has set for itself.

That assumes the model is valid. We have had lots of discussion about why it is not. So sticking different numbers into an invalid model just gives you different, yet still invalid, numbers out.

I think most (but not all) posters here agree the model is invalid. Science isn't a democracy but there's such a thing as consensus.   But just as with some other models in other domains, noticing who stubbornly sticks to an invalid one, or who argues against consensus because of their internal reasons, is often a useful thing... it informs you of their potential bias which helps you evaluate other things that are said.

My bias is obvious and open. I want SpaceX to succeed, and I think they will. Economical reuse is a big part of why. I also want other companies, old and new, to succeed. But I want them to succeed on merits, rather than lobbying or FUD.  This model, in my view, is FUD. It may have been created with the best of intentions, but since all valid objections are brushed aside, it has turned into FUD. 

The thread may need retitling as I think there are other models out there that have better predictive power.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jcc on 05/11/2016 01:10 PM
As far as reuse business case, you can't use the ULA cost structure as a guide to assess the SpaceX business case, and vice-versa. Dr. Sowers was looking for opinions on reuse business case, but only with ULA in mind, since those are the only figures he has, and obviously what he is concerned with. He is very certain that there is no business case for ULA to do full reuse of the first stage, and he is probably 100% correct about that. That doesn't imply that SpaceX can't succeed in doing so.

Of course, reuse needs to be proven, but so did recovery, and that is now proven. RTLS, check, sea recovery of LEO mission, check, sea recovery of GTO mission, check. It's looking better and better that that they can recover the great majority of first stages, and that is without a Billion dollar development effort dedicated to recovery, it probably cost a fraction of that. It might well cost ULA a $1B to do the same thing, so that blows the business case right there.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Oli on 05/11/2016 01:40 PM
Lar's right.  The attitude of ULA and Ariane towards SpaceX has been one of condescension and dismissal.

From now on I will write Space-X in order to demonstrate my condescending attitude towards Space-X.  ::)

Condescending attitudes are not welcome here, take that nonsense to FB[1] or Reddit.

That was a joke. Making fun of the idea that writing Space-X demonstrates a condescending attitude towards SpaceX.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 05/11/2016 02:00 PM


As far as reuse business case, you can't use the ULA cost structure as a guide to assess the SpaceX business case, and vice-versa. Dr. Sowers was looking for opinions on reuse business case, but only with ULA in mind, since those are the only figures he has, and obviously what he is concerned with. He is very certain that there is no business case for ULA to do full reuse of the first stage, and he is probably 100% correct about that. That doesn't imply that SpaceX can't succeed in doing so.

Of course, reuse needs to be proven, but so did recovery, and that is now proven. RTLS, check, sea recovery of LEO mission, check, sea recovery of GTO mission, check. It's looking better and better that that they can recover the great majority of first stages, and that is without a Billion dollar development effort dedicated to recovery, it probably cost a fraction of that. It might well cost ULA a $1B to do the same thing, so that blows the business case right there.

As JCC pointed out it development cost of RLV that needs to be taken into consideration. IMHO and obviously ULA' s option they can develop SMART for considerably less than fully reusable booster. In case of SMART the R&D payback could be 10-20 flights while reusable booster will most likely be 3 -5 times that. With RTLS they need to develop a lot larger LV compared to SMART for same size payload, resulting higher development and manufacturing cost.

The payback doesn't start happening till recovery is successful on regular basis. As SpaceX has shown this can be dozen's of flights while SMART is more likely to be hand fully.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RocketGoBoom on 05/11/2016 02:05 PM
It's looking better and better that that they can recover the great majority of first stages, and that is without a Billion dollar development effort dedicated to recovery, it probably cost a fraction of that. It might well cost ULA a $1B to do the same thing, so that blows the business case right there.

Jcc, I think you make an excellent differentiation between the reuse cases of ULA and SpaceX. Process and cost structure matter. Both companies have wildly different management styles and cost structures.

We have no idea how much money SpaceX spent to get to their current ability to recover stages. $100 million? $50 million? When SX is planning for weekly launches and can possibly save $15 million per launch recovering the first stage, this completely makes sense to figure it out.

I think we can all agree that ULA probably would have spent a lot more for full stage recovery. When presented with the project budget of $500 million (WAG) to "maybe" save $10 million per launch (WAG) then it probably would have been shot down by the board right away.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 05/11/2016 02:30 PM
Dr. Sowers presented the case, and made assumptions about SpaceX in his model, which he stated as such. He identified them by name.

If he intended to only apply to ULA, why present SpaceX assumptions? More damaging to the thesis that this is about ULA only.... is that he drew conclusions (and ULA has been presenting elsewhere, using this model, in a manner calculated to sow FUD) ... conclusions that SpaceX is pursueing an uneconomical path.  His model is seriously flawed w.r.t. SpaceX... and he wasn't willing to constructively engage with those trying to improve it.

Posters stating that SpaceX is in a far different place than ULA are spot on. MAYBE this model works for ULA, although I doubt it, but it certainly doesn't model SpaceX.

One example.. the change in cost based on number of stages.  The model assumes more stages have a lower unit cost and you just dial in how much lower to see what happens. That works for ULA which apparently has lots of idle capacity and can turn up the production rate without a lot of capex or expensive overtime....Guess what? SpaceX is capacity constrained. They have a manifest that stretches out for years and Hawthorne is apparently running flat out. Shotwell stated that Hawthorne is good for 2 vehicles a month. (upper and lower stages). In the static case, if you want to increase the number of stages beyond that rate, you are going to have a step function, in that you have to bring on a second, then a third, shift, or you have to buy more tooling which increases your fixed costs.  Given that the same line builds second stages, if you don't need as many first stages, you get to build more second stages. That increases your flight rate possible, and under the assumption that more pads and streamlined processes means you can support a higher flight rate, you will increase it.

So that factor? It's not .7 or .9??? The best single point guess at it?  Greater than one! Meaning that more first stages produced means a HIGHER unit cost per first stage, not a lower one.  But a more accurate model would find the steps and model them. (a step at going to second shift, a step for each new piece of equipment or factory floor space you have to buy, etc)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 05/11/2016 02:39 PM
That was a joke. Making fun of the idea that writing Space-X demonstrates a condescending attitude towards SpaceX.
Making fun is also not appropriate. You're mocking other posters pointing out that it does in fact demonstrate a condescending attitude. Mocking isn't on. Won't be tolerated. Be excellent to each other.

You should be arguing against the following:

It's well known in academic circles that if you want, say, a case study to be taken seriously, you have to use the name of the organization that the organization chooses. I have first hand experience of this, with the branding that The LEGO Group uses. Go ahead and try to find an academic study about the LEGO phenomenon, or about how TLG interacts with fans[1] and how it influences company decisions, or about how use of LEGO elements is a positive thing in education, or any number of other topics, where the researcher uses "legos".

But more generally, it's well known that mislabeling is a way to try to sow discord. We see it in our election cycle in the US, with one of our candidates deliberately using pejorative or wrong names for his opponents ("Little Marco" is not a sign of affection, much less "Lyin' Ted").  These authors, by using Space-X instead of the correct name, are showing their disrespect for the company. That calls all the rest into question. It's a small point but it nevertheless does.

Go ahead and try to refute that point about naming and labeling (and mind space control) using cogent, well reasoned argument. But don't mock.  If you disagree with that, if you think mocking is ok.... you should be spraining your thumb pressing the "report to mod" button to get me overruled.

I'm not kidding.

1 - I was cited in a PhD thesis on that topic.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 05/11/2016 02:47 PM
The payback doesn't start happening till recovery is successful on regular basis. As SpaceX has shown this can be dozen's of flights while SMART is more likely to be hand fully.
I'm not sure that follows. Recovery seems to be successful at least part of the time (we don't know what the steady state rate is going to be but it's increasing, we've seen a string of fails, a success, a fail, then two successes in a row.. not enough points to plot a curve yet but it's promising) for SpaceX and it was less than 2 dozen F9 flights when the first success happened... but sure, dozens. And we don't know how many recovered stages are ultimately going to be scrapped on the way to reusable stages, the "refly this one" statements might be a tad optimistic so far...

The part that's more questionable is that SMART will be a success within a handful of tries. What's your basis for that? It's actually a far more complicated system and it has humans in the loop.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 05/11/2016 02:56 PM
I think probability of successful recovery using SMART in first three flights is very high.
SMART can be broken down into 3 distinct stages and developed/tested separately.
1) Engine pod separation using explosive bolts. Has been flight proven 1000s times eg Shuttle tank, SRBs , stage separation, fairing separation. Can also be tested on grounded.
2) Mid air recovery. Already proven dozens of times. Can use sub scale tedt articles, capture speeds are same as for full-scale. Full scale test article can use dummy engines and heat shield.
3) HIAD and reentry. Had been proven and ULA plan sub scale tests as secondary payloads on centuar. Full scale testing may have to be skipped.

If recovery fails and there is no time apply a fix for next flight, they can remove expensive parachutes and heat shields and treat it like any other ELV mission. With reuseable booster you don't have this option, still expending an oversized booster.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jcc on 05/11/2016 03:08 PM
Dr. Sowers presented the case, and made assumptions about SpaceX in his model, which he stated as such. He identified them by name.



Very true, good point. The concern with SpaceX is competitive, that is, how likely will it be that they actually reduce the cost of flight by a significant factor, which would put additional competitive pressure on ULA? In a way even that is moot, since SpaceX already outcompetes ULA on price, despite possibly wasting money on resue efforts that may not pan out. Imagine if they didn't spend any effort on reuse, how cheap would they be then? If the answer is not that much cheaper, it shows how feasible their reuse efforts are since they were able to "bake them in" to a market leading competitive structure.

Dr. Sowers'  assumptions with regard to SpaceX do not seem to acknowledge that and were not based on hard evidence,  since that is proprietary. So in effect, even though he attempted to make the case against reuse on SpeceX behalf, it is not very a strong case, and looks like an attempt to sooth ULA's (and their owners/shareholders) concerns.   
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 05/11/2016 03:18 PM
If recovery fails and there is no time apply a fix for next flight, they can remove expensive parachutes and heat shields and treat it like any other ELV mission. With reuseable booster you don't have this option, still expending an oversized booster.
Good point. (and I now buy your analysis that it may take less tries, although we could quibble about how many a handful is)

I wonder how late in the game  for a particular launch you could say "oops, reuse didn't work, pull that weight and now we get to use one less strapon solid" ???
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lemurion on 05/11/2016 04:00 PM
If I had to bet on it, I'd say that SpaceX flying at least one reused booster is a near certainty. They're already recovering them (regardless of the actual success rate), so eventually they'll get at least one they can refurbish to the point they can launch it again. After all, Grasshopper, the F9R, and New Shepard have proven the principle of rocket reusability. Liquid fueled rockets can be refueled and reflown.

Also, given their capacity constraints, reuse is likely to be the most cost effective way to increase flight rates since it appears that it would bypass Hawthorne.

I hadn't really thought about the R&D issue, but since SpaceX has been working towards reuse for years and ULA hasn't, it makes sense that it would be a bigger and more expensive jump for ULA to shift fully over. It also scales with flight rate and SpaceX appears to be targeting more flights per year. It's going to be fascinating to watch it play out.

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/11/2016 04:03 PM
If I had to bet on it, I'd say that SpaceX flying at least one reused booster is a near certainty


An opinion based on little to no data.

After all, Grasshopper, the F9R, and New Shepard have proven the principle of rocket reusability. Liquid fueled rockets can be refueled and reflown.


None of those went through entry heating.  Also, you forgot DC-X and the shuttle.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 05/11/2016 04:10 PM
The RLV will be bigger than SMART LV for same payload. I'm going to assume SMART LV is $70m while RLV is $80m, this is their ELV price.

Reuse saving for SMART is $10m while RLV is $30m, both realistic numbers. So $60M for SMART and $50M RLV when recovering reliably.

For SMART system they should be recovering reliably by flight 5 as most systems can be pretested, see early posting. While RLV it is likely to be 15-20 (F9R flight history)as most of testing is done on real missions.

By time RLV recovery is reliable (15 flights) the SMART has a 10 flight lead.
Total cost for these first 15 missions is.
SMART 3x $70M(failed recovery) + 12 x $60m(successful recovery) =$930m.
RLV 12 x$80m + 3x $50m= $1110m.

It will take another 9 flights(successful recovery) for RLV to have made up the $180m difference with SMART.

All going well the RLV system should have caught up by flight 25. But it is not that simple. This only is true if RLV sells first 25 flights at $80M each and SMART sells its at $70M each. To be competitive RLV should be selling at $70M.

The above comparison is not comparing companies but the cost of developing the different systems by same company.

Flights have to be sold at ELV prices well past the reliable recovery stage as extra R&D money needs to be recovered.
If SMART extra R&D costs were $200M it wouldn't be able to reduce prices from $70m to $60m till flight 25.

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 05/11/2016 04:11 PM
If I had to bet on it, I'd say that SpaceX flying at least one reused booster is a near certainty

An opinion based on little to no data.

Jim, as of right now, based on what you know, what do you personally think the probability is that SpaceX will fly at least one reused booster at some point? And what do you think the conditional probability of success is, given that they fly one?

An educated guess based on little to no data (but arguably more than most of us have) from you would be interesting.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/11/2016 04:17 PM

Jim, as of right now, based on what you know, what do you personally think the probability is that SpaceX will fly at least one reused booster at some point? And what do you think the conditional probability of success is, given that they fly one?

An educated guess based on little to no data (but arguably more than most of us have) from you would be interesting.


From what I saw, the aft end needs much more protection.  There were panels that were damaged and opened on the previous booster.  The fires on the current booster may have been internal.   
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RocketGoBoom on 05/11/2016 05:14 PM
If I had to bet on it, I'd say that SpaceX flying at least one reused booster is a near certainty

An opinion based on little to no data.

Jim, as of right now, based on what you know, what do you personally think the probability is that SpaceX will fly at least one reused booster at some point? And what do you think the conditional probability of success is, given that they fly one?

An educated guess based on little to no data (but arguably more than most of us have) from you would be interesting.

I am not Jim (big disappointment for all) but I would guess that the odds of SpaceX flying at least one reused booster this year are 90%, even with Elon time. He said this summer, so that gives even Elon plenty of extra time.

And my guess is that they are going to be applying way more inspecting and testing to this first reuse than they typically would for future launches. So much is riding on proving that a first stage can be reused that they won't launch it unless it is passing every test they would perform on a new first stage to qualify it for flight.

They are unlikely to let it slide on anything. It either meets the same safety margins of a new first stage or it won't launch.

Their internal confidence in success can likely be determined based on whether they agree to put an SES satellite on it. If SpaceX only does a dummy payload, that would be a bad signal to their confidence.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: JasonAW3 on 05/11/2016 05:37 PM
If I had to bet on it, I'd say that SpaceX flying at least one reused booster is a near certainty


An opinion based on little to no data.

Not exactly an opinion.  It has been stated numerous times by SpaceX and Elon, that they fully intends on reflying one of their boosters fairly soon.

After all, Grasshopper, the F9R, and New Shepard have proven the principle of rocket reusability. Liquid fueled rockets can be refueled and reflown.


None of those went through entry heating.  Also, you forgot DC-X and the shuttle.

The DC-X never went through hyper sonic flight and re-entry and the Space Shuttle only refueled the OMS pods and reaction control systems, in addition to the SRBs.  Neither are exactly good examples, but the point does hold up,overall.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lemurion on 05/11/2016 05:38 PM
If I had to bet on it, I'd say that SpaceX flying at least one reused booster is a near certainty


An opinion based on little to no data.

After all, Grasshopper, the F9R, and New Shepard have proven the principle of rocket reusability. Liquid fueled rockets can be refueled and reflown.


None of those went through entry heating.  Also, you forgot DC-X and the shuttle.

I thought about DC-X, but figured 3 recent examples were enough.

As for the entry heating and data issues, I would say that while there's not a lot of data, there is at least some data from which to draw conclusions at least in principle.

We know that a stage can survive entry heating, and that it can perform a controlled burn afterwards without refurbishment because that's a requirement for a successful propulsive landing. The stage structure itself was also able to survive the landing loads. The post-landing test fire is further proof of principle that the engines can be used after surviving entry.

Yes, I'm aware that there were thrust fluctuations, but the fact they were able to do it at all is proof of principle. If it were impossible, none of the engines would have functioned properly.

We also know from test fires that the Falcon 9 booster can be refueled, and in at least one case even after recovery.

Ignoring the amount of refurbishment required for the moment as that's as much an economic question as a technical one; reusing a stage requires that it be refueled and then make a controlled burn. SpaceX has essentially already done everything they would need to do to reuse a stage, just not to the same degree.

Going for a full stage reuse involves more of the same, rather than something entirely new. They may need to increase the thermal protection, they may need to tweak other elements that I'm not aware of, but they have the basics.

Propulsive landing is proof of principle for stage reuse.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: jongoff on 05/11/2016 05:53 PM

Jim, as of right now, based on what you know, what do you personally think the probability is that SpaceX will fly at least one reused booster at some point? And what do you think the conditional probability of success is, given that they fly one?

An educated guess based on little to no data (but arguably more than most of us have) from you would be interesting.


From what I saw, the aft end needs much more protection.  There were panels that were damaged and opened on the previous booster.  The fires on the current booster may have been internal.   

While I agree with you that they haven't *yet* recovered a booster in a condition to refly it, as they get more data do you really think they can't make modifications to eliminate those issues and get a booster back in good enough condition to fly? I'm not seeing any showstoppers to eventually having something they can reuse at least a small number of times. It will probably take them longer than the fanboys expect, and the performance hit necessary for all the features they'll need for reuse may be more than currently expected, but I'd be really surprised if they couldn't figure it out eventually (with eventually being in the 1-2yrs range).

Now, getting Falcon 9 to their mythical 100x reuse level? I'm skeptical as heck about that. But reusing it enough to allow them to offer non-trivial price reductions? That seems pretty likely to me.

~Jon
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/11/2016 05:53 PM

Propulsive landing is proof of principle for stage reuse.

Not true at all.  See any planetary lander.

The stage structure itself was also able to survive the landing loads.

Survive and reuse are two different things.  And also, reuse and cost savings are two different things.


Ignoring the amount of refurbishment required for the moment as that's as much an economic question as a technical one;

That's the point.  It is a economic question.  They could have done it already with no real payload and made the entry of the stage even more benign.  And done the reflights with that.

I think there will be no "gas and go" and refurb will always be needed and will be no where close to the savings predicted.


Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/11/2016 05:55 PM

Now, getting Falcon 9 to their mythical 100x reuse level? I'm skeptical as heck about that. But reusing it enough to allow them to offer non-trivial price reductions? That seems pretty likely to me.


I believe what they have done up to this point on the design and operation of the vehicle without reuse is a larger impact to the cost of the vehicle than what they will get out of reuse.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lemurion on 05/11/2016 06:40 PM

Propulsive landing is proof of principle for stage reuse.

Not true at all.  See any planetary lander.

The stage structure itself was also able to survive the landing loads.

Survive and reuse are two different things.  And also, reuse and cost savings are two different things.


Ignoring the amount of refurbishment required for the moment as that's as much an economic question as a technical one;

That's the point.  It is a economic question.  They could have done it already with no real payload and made the entry of the stage even more benign.  And done the reflights with that.

I think there will be no "gas and go" and refurb will always be needed and will be no where close to the savings predicted.




I don't see "gas and go" coming immediately if at all. As to the amount of savings, that depends on the degree of refurbishment and we don't have enough examples for numbers on that. However, if they are capacity constrained as has been argued, then the economics may change again in reuse's favor as it would act as a production multiplier giving the capacity to sell more flights than they would otherwise be able to produce launchers for.

But that's another question.

As for proof of principle: SpaceX has demonstrated that a stage is capable of powered maneuvers after entry. That's the basics of reuse.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: spacenut on 05/11/2016 07:13 PM
To me, SpaceX is going to have to check the entire booster for stresses.  Not just engines, but legs, the structure itself, internal components.  Worse case scenario is they will not be able to reuse the booster, but just some of the engines, and maybe a few other components.  However, even if they can't reuse it but one time, it would cut launch costs on the second launch.  Hopefully they can reuse them about 10 times or more.  This may take a while. 
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: meekGee on 05/11/2016 07:21 PM
Dr. Sowers presented the case, and made assumptions about SpaceX in his model, which he stated as such. He identified them by name.



Very true, good point. The concern with SpaceX is competitive, that is, how likely will it be that they actually reduce the cost of flight by a significant factor, which would put additional competitive pressure on ULA? In a way even that is moot, since SpaceX already outcompetes ULA on price, despite possibly wasting money on resue efforts that may not pan out. Imagine if they didn't spend any effort on reuse, how cheap would they be then? If the answer is not that much cheaper, it shows how feasible their reuse efforts are since they were able to "bake them in" to a market leading competitive structure.

Dr. Sowers'  assumptions with regard to SpaceX do not seem to acknowledge that and were not based on hard evidence,  since that is proprietary. So in effect, even though he attempted to make the case against reuse on SpeceX behalf, it is not very a strong case, and looks like an attempt to sooth ULA's (and their owners/shareholders) concerns.

The spreadsheet, as attached, was configured to arrive at a conclusion that RTLS never ever makes sense.

Sure, there was a disclaimer, but the disclaimer didn't say that the conclusion is extremely sensitive to input parameters that are anyone's guess, such as the HW cost fraction relative to the entire mission cost, which is so ill defined it's not even inaccurate.

After that people propagate the conclusion, citing the spreadsheet as the basis for their logic, and a "fact" is born.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Space Ghost 1962 on 05/11/2016 08:44 PM

Jim, as of right now, based on what you know, what do you personally think the probability is that SpaceX will fly at least one reused booster at some point? And what do you think the conditional probability of success is, given that they fly one?

An educated guess based on little to no data (but arguably more than most of us have) from you would be interesting.


From what I saw, the aft end needs much more protection.  There were panels that were damaged and opened on the previous booster.  The fires on the current booster may have been internal.   

While I agree with you that they haven't *yet* recovered a booster in a condition to refly it, as they get more data do you really think they can't make modifications to eliminate those issues and get a booster back in good enough condition to fly? I'm not seeing any showstoppers to eventually having something they can reuse at least a small number of times. It will probably take them longer than the fanboys expect, and the performance hit necessary for all the features they'll need for reuse may be more than currently expected, but I'd be really surprised if they couldn't figure it out eventually (with eventually being in the 1-2yrs range).

Jim didn't answer Lar's questions, but provided trusted insight instead. Agree with Jon on all he said, answering part of Lar's questions.

Would like to point out that all of the structural concerns for recovered boosters as well as most of the retropropulsion plume impingement issues seem to have gone by the wayside.

Jim's observations/concerns are about a very specific area of the vehicle, which can be addressed in different ways.

In addition, I'll add that we've not been hearing about hotfires, so engine issues are also on my "hot list"  8)

Lar, from Jim/Jon's/mine's observations, the reflight IMHO of a stage will have as high a degree of success as the original flight or better. But Musk likely won't rush to prematurely fly a reflight, and the question you should be asking is "does he redesign or does he reprocess/remediate stages/engines?". E.g. do we have a step in this where "non aircraft operations" (which are likely to NOT be economic reuse) occurs, as a step along the path to "aircraft like operations".

Plain (heh) and simple, the dog that caught the bus isn't set up (right handling, right flight systems/vehicle, right CONOPs, ...) to do what he says he'll do.

Quote
Now, getting Falcon 9 to their mythical 100x reuse level? I'm skeptical as heck about that. But reusing it enough to allow them to offer non-trivial price reductions? That seems pretty likely to me.

I'm not so skeptical, just this isn't the vehicle that will do it. Yes they can launch cheaper, the question is enough cheaper to matter?


Propulsive landing is proof of principle for stage reuse.

Not true at all.  See any planetary lander.
LM? Proposed "hoppers"?

Quote
The stage structure itself was also able to survive the landing loads.

Survive and reuse are two different things.  And also, reuse and cost savings are two different things.
Structure that can be reused likely has additional structural margin, if reused a lot, then quite a lot.

Is saving this economic or not? Has to prove itself. Hasn't with Shuttle.

Quote

Ignoring the amount of refurbishment required for the moment as that's as much an economic question as a technical one;

That's the point.  It is a economic question.  They could have done it already with no real payload and made the entry of the stage even more benign.  And done the reflights with that.
Absolutely. Am wondering why they did not - were they stopped by economics already, or do performance "ambitions" factor in here.

Quote
I think there will be no "gas and go" and refurb will always be needed and will be no where close to the savings predicted.
Thank you Jim for that candid statement. Precisely what I wonder too.

So the question might be reframed as "Does it require a larger, more capable RLV to achieve 'gas-n-go' operation?". Would that cause Musk to "go slow" here?

Kinda runs counter to Jon's small RLV claims ... ;)


Now, getting Falcon 9 to their mythical 100x reuse level? I'm skeptical as heck about that. But reusing it enough to allow them to offer non-trivial price reductions? That seems pretty likely to me.


I believe what they have done up to this point on the design and operation of the vehicle without reuse is a larger impact to the cost of the vehicle than what they will get out of reuse.

(my highlighting)

So either we haven't "seen it all" yet meaning WIP, or they have built a "gold plated turkey" as POC?

Translation: "not enough" for Lar's post.

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: jongoff on 05/11/2016 10:01 PM

Now, getting Falcon 9 to their mythical 100x reuse level? I'm skeptical as heck about that. But reusing it enough to allow them to offer non-trivial price reductions? That seems pretty likely to me.


I believe what they have done up to this point on the design and operation of the vehicle without reuse is a larger impact to the cost of the vehicle than what they will get out of reuse.

Hmm... to be honest, I'm not sure whether I agree with this or not. To-date I agree that their design and operations choices have definitely had a larger impact on vehicle cost, and at least near-term that may still be the case. But even without getting into the 100x reuse level, I think they'll get to a point where reuse is making a bigger difference than just their design and operations choices can provide.

~Jon
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RocketGoBoom on 05/11/2016 10:23 PM

I believe what they have done up to this point on the design and operation of the vehicle without reuse is a larger impact to the cost of the vehicle than what they will get out of reuse.

Hmm... to be honest, I'm not sure whether I agree with this or not. To-date I agree that their design and operations choices have definitely had a larger impact on vehicle cost, and at least near-term that may still be the case. But even without getting into the 100x reuse level, I think they'll get to a point where reuse is making a bigger difference than just their design and operations choices can provide.

~Jon

The design and operation choices that SX has made so far clearly have not hurt them. They are producing an expendable LV that has morphed into a plausible reusable first stage. Even in full expendable mode SX has a massive cost advantage on their competition.

Are you saying that their quoted price per launch would be perhaps $57 million (full expendable mode) instead of the current $62 million if SX never even bothered with the effort to land the first stage? If their attitude was F9 is a stable platform and they are not doing any more iterations, then overall it would be cheaper?

These numbers seem like rounding errors compared to the prices of their competitors.

In the big scheme of things, it doesn't seem like it has cost SX much to get to this level of capability. I would be shocked if they have spent more than $50 million on the Grasshopper program, the barges, the labor of the landing effort, etc. They got all of the test landings practically for free by using paying customer launches.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: jongoff on 05/11/2016 10:42 PM
In addition, I'll add that we've not been hearing about hotfires, so engine issues are also on my "hot list"  8)

I've been thinking this too. With how important reuse is to SpaceX's long-term vision, you would think that if everything was going swimmingly they'd be a lot more open about it. That doesn't say they'll never get there, just that their recovery successes are to paraphrase Obi Wan their "first steps into a larger world." At the time of SpaceX's and Blue's first recoveries late last year I wanted to do a blog post about what I thought the path forward might look like. I'm personally pretty optimistic they'll get reuse working to the point where it is a clear economic win, I'm just less clear on if they're really on a path to the most optimistic numbers you hear tossed about ($10M Falcon 9 flights and such).

Quote
I'm not so skeptical, just this isn't the vehicle that will do it. Yes they can launch cheaper, the question is enough cheaper to matter?

I definitely agree that Falcon 9 as is probably is nowhere close to a vehicle that can safely fly 100x. But I'm pretty optimistic they can get a few flights out of each core, and do so in a way that gives a noticeable cost savings.

Quote
Structure that can be reused likely has additional structural margin, if reused a lot, then quite a lot.

Is saving this economic or not? Has to prove itself. Hasn't with Shuttle.

Quote
So the question might be reframed as "Does it require a larger, more capable RLV to achieve 'gas-n-go' operation?". Would that cause Musk to "go slow" here?

Kinda runs counter to Jon's small RLV claims ... ;)

To answer your later question, I think that RLVs capable of high numbers of reflights with gas-n-go operations are possible, they're just going to require living with a lower payload fraction (payload mass to GLOW). So small RLVs are still possible, they're just going to require more launcher GLOW per unit payload delivered. If you're targeting something in the 1-5klb to orbit range though, it can still be small compared to Falcon 9/Vulcan while also being built a lot more robustly. It won't be as light as a SpaceX style RLV would for the same payload, and it won't be able to do things in the exact same way as a traditional launcher (small RLVs will likely lean a lot more on distributed launch or depots instead of direct missions), but I think it's perfectly feasible. In fact, in many ways I still strongly think that small RLVs are going to get up to high-flight rates long before EELV class ones do.

But that's getting pretty far afield, and into the realm where I'm stating opinions that I can't really prove yet.

~Jon
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: jongoff on 05/11/2016 10:44 PM
The design and operation choices that SX has made so far clearly have not hurt them. They are producing an expendable LV that has morphed into a plausible reusable first stage. Even in full expendable mode SX has a massive cost advantage on their competition.

Are you saying that their quoted price per launch would be perhaps $57 million (full expendable mode) instead of the current $62 million if SX never even bothered with the effort to land the first stage? If their attitude was F9 is a stable platform and they are not doing any more iterations, then overall it would be cheaper?

These numbers seem like rounding errors compared to the prices of their competitors.

In the big scheme of things, it doesn't seem like it has cost SX much to get to this level of capability. I would be shocked if they have spent more than $50 million on the Grasshopper program, the barges, the labor of the landing effort, etc. They got all of the test landings practically for free by using paying customer launches.

That's not at all what I was trying to say. I was just saying that so far most of the cost savings they've had compared to their competitors has come from design/operations choices, and little so far from reusability, but that I'm optimistic that eventually a larger share of the relative cost savings will start coming from reusability.

~Jon
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: mkent on 05/11/2016 11:40 PM
That's not at all what I was trying to say. I was just saying that so far most of the cost savings they've had compared to their competitors has come from design/operations choices, and little so far from reusability, but that I'm optimistic that eventually a larger share of the relative cost savings will start coming from reusability.

I agree with Jon's first point whole-heartedly, and I'll agree with his second point on a long enough time scale.  I also think that there is nothing in SpaceX's near-term re-usability scheme that will come close to the cost savings SpaceX would have by just upping their flight rate first into the 12 / year range and then in the 18-20 / year range.

So if I had to rank SpaceX's potential cost advantages over their competition, my ranking would be

1) Design / operational choices
2) High flight-rate
3) High-value component re-use (engines, system components, etc.)
4) Intact stage re-use

This, I think, is the underlying bone of contention (can you feel it?) in this thread between the seasoned veterans at ULA and other places and the SpaceX fans.  SpaceX is trying to jump straight from #1 to #4 when there is much more bang for the buck to be had in steps 2 and 3.

ULA has it worse.  They have to start at #1.  There's no point in even attempting #4 if you don't have a low-cost design or operations.

This, in my opinion, is all that Dr. Sowers was trying to say with his spreadsheet.  There's no need to get too deep into the numbers -- it's meant to be more of a big-picture look at things.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: woods170 on 05/12/2016 06:15 AM
they are going to win a lot of launches after the block buy is over.

Not really.  Spacex is not going to bend to DOD requirements.  They want to keep the F9 generic.
That may be the situation now, but it wasn't during the early cycles of certification. Remember the conclusions of the panel that investigated the dragged-out certification process for F9? It became evident that USAF had forced SpaceX into changing parts of the F9 design. Once this practice was exposed by the panel, the practice was discontinued at the suggestion of the secretary of the air force. From that point forward the certification process became more smooth. Now that USAF can effectively no longer force SpaceX to change the design it is quite easy for SpaceX to say: "Hey general Hyten, we're not gonna bend to you and your boys anymore."
The obvious disadvantage is that Falcon 9 will not be suitable for all USAF and NRO missions. So yeah, they will continue to lose missions to ULA. But then again, in the current situation, that's welcome news for Tory et al..
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: woods170 on 05/12/2016 06:21 AM
We already know from an earlier removed post (from a ULA employee) that the reuse business-case model posted by another ULA employee is not to be taken seriously. It holds no merit. Besides, the folks here were very good at taking the model apart and exposing the many flaws in it.
Can we just forget about it? It's pointless to continue discussing a model that is pretty much useless.

Apologies, I wasn't following upthread, I thought I was the first to notice.

This was posted by Dr. Sowers though, and he's more than just an employee - he's a high ranking persona there.

Not cool, not for him, and not for ULA.

EDIT:  Fixed spelling

I agree. It's not cool for Dr. Sowers and ULA to publically post a seriously flawed model and then use it to spread FUD. This was pointed out by the discrediting ULA employee and Lar upthread. Given his senior role within ULA Dr. Sowers really should have known better.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: woods170 on 05/12/2016 06:29 AM

Jim, as of right now, based on what you know, what do you personally think the probability is that SpaceX will fly at least one reused booster at some point? And what do you think the conditional probability of success is, given that they fly one?

An educated guess based on little to no data (but arguably more than most of us have) from you would be interesting.


From what I saw, the aft end needs much more protection.  There were panels that were damaged and opened on the previous booster.  The fires on the current booster may have been internal.   
Careful Jim. You might be giving too much information. Temporary inside insight is good, but you may be walking a red line here.
That aside: it is to be expected that the first succesfully recovered boosters will reveal issues that need addressing. After all, when was the last time someone tried to propulsively recover the first stage of an orbital launcher? SpaceX are the first ones to do so and are therefore the first ones to get a good understanding of the unique problems associated with it.
What I don't doubt for a minute is that SpaceX will ultimately fully understand the causes of the issues and fix them. And given how SpaceX works, the issues will probably be fixed sooner than most competitors expect.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: saliva_sweet on 05/12/2016 06:29 AM
I believe what they have done up to this point on the design and operation of the vehicle without reuse is a larger impact to the cost of the vehicle than what they will get out of reuse.

But none of this would and probably even could have happened without the promise of reuse and Mars. Mars colonization and rocket reusability have already halved the cost of spaceflight even though no-one has gone to Mars and no rocket has been reused.

How about that for a business case?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 05/12/2016 04:06 PM

Jim, as of right now, based on what you know, what do you personally think the probability is that SpaceX will fly at least one reused booster at some point? And what do you think the conditional probability of success is, given that they fly one?

An educated guess based on little to no data (but arguably more than most of us have) from you would be interesting.


From what I saw, the aft end needs much more protection.  There were panels that were damaged and opened on the previous booster.  The fires on the current booster may have been internal.   
Careful Jim. You might be giving too much information. Temporary inside insight is good, but you may be walking a red line here....
You can see this on images of the returned stage(s). This really doesn't look like inside info.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: LouScheffer on 05/12/2016 04:14 PM

Would like to point out that all of the structural concerns for recovered boosters as well as most of the retropropulsion plume impingement issues seem to have gone by the wayside.
I'm somewhat surprised they have not taken a used booster, hauled it to Texas, put it in the structural test stand, filled it with an inert fluid, pressurized it, then subjected it to 140% flight loads (or whatever they use for a new booster).  If that test passes, the avionics work, and the engines check out (tested by hot fire) then it would seem they could retire almost all risk.  I would think a full structural test would also a big confidence boost for the first customer of re-use. 

There are several possibilities here.  Maybe they have not gotten to it yet.  Maybe they are sure it would fail from the inspections they have already done, and are waiting for some revision that will do better.    Maybe such a ultimate load test tweaks the booster to the point it can't the re-used, and they are not willing to give up on any recovered boosters yet.  Maybe they are so certain it will pass that it's not worth the trouble to test (though this one seems unlikely to me - SpaceX would surely like to make sure there are no unanticipated problems, and customers would surely like to know SpaceX has checked for this).  Anyway I'm surprised they've not done a full up structural test.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: oldAtlas_Eguy on 05/12/2016 05:07 PM
We already know from an earlier removed post (from a ULA employee) that the reuse business-case model posted by another ULA employee is not to be taken seriously. It holds no merit. Besides, the folks here were very good at taking the model apart and exposing the many flaws in it.
Can we just forget about it? It's pointless to continue discussing a model that is pretty much useless.

Apologies, I wasn't following upthread, I thought I was the first to notice.

This was posted by Dr. Sowers though, and he's more than just an employee - he's a high ranking persona there.

Not cool, not for him, and not for ULA.

EDIT:  Fixed spelling

I agree. It's not cool for Dr. Sowers and ULA to publically post a seriously flawed model and then use it to spread FUD. This was pointed out by the discrediting ULA employee and Lar upthread. Given his senior role within ULA Dr. Sowers really should have known better.
With the model presented as being discredited for being applicable to the Reuse Business Case (other than by ULA executives for justifying their own decisions possibly), where does that leave us in the analysis of the reuse business case?

What are the assumptions?
1) That for a given sat weight and delivery orbit, reuse lowers the launch cost.
2) That even if the reuse systems and margins were removed that the $/kg is either equal or less for the reuse case.
3) That flight rate plays an equal part for non-reuse as it does for reuse in generally lower launch costs.

So are these true or false for F9 vs F9R? And are there more assumptions being made?

The problem is we don not know yet. And will not until new prices for launches using reuse is published. We can speculate that SpaceX has answered these and it is in the direction of true. Otherwise they would have stopped and  started new significant vehicle modifications to make them true or to go in in a different direct in the seeking of lower launch costs.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rst on 05/12/2016 05:18 PM
In addition, I'll add that we've not been hearing about hotfires, so engine issues are also on my "hot list"  8)

Would we necessarily hear about them?  In the photo of the aft ends of the first two returned boosters, the OG-2 booster had several engines removed.  Without specific info, I kind of assumed that they'd been taken to the test stand.  And checking them out wouldn't necessarily look all that different from more typical activity at McGregor, when viewed from over the property line.

Agreed on broader structural issues, though; I was surprised to see Elon talking about re-firing the engines, but not re-qualifying the structure.  Significant expense for that is one of ULA's assumptions in the business memo, and I would have thought a reasonable one at least for the first few launches.  But that may ultimately wind up being between SpaceX, their relanch customer(s), and their insurance companies...
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: saliva_sweet on 05/12/2016 05:19 PM
With the model presented as being discredited for being applicable to the Reuse Business Case (other than by ULA executives for justifying their own decisions possibly)

While the model is getting disparaged left and right it might be worth reminding that it's non-applicability is not a consensus opinion. Some people, me included, still believe the model is valid despite it's limitations and a great source of insight that explains a lot of SpaceX's actions happening now and for some time and their challenges going forward.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 05/12/2016 05:50 PM
With the model presented as being discredited for being applicable to the Reuse Business Case (other than by ULA executives for justifying their own decisions possibly)

While the model is getting disparaged left and right it might be worth reminding that it's non-applicability is not a consensus opinion. Some people, me included, still believe the model is valid despite it's limitations and a great source of insight that explains a lot of SpaceX's actions happening now and for some time and their challenges going forward.

Please elaborate ... I'm always interested in explanations for actions, and in identification of challenges...  That's a serious question because I didn't see this model predicting much given its inapplicability (as I perceive it)

Also, as a note, "consensus" does not mean unanimous agreement.  That would be "unanimous consensus" ... if a small minority disagrees that's not a block to calling consensus.

We are NOT going to have a poll on this but I think far more posters have found and identified significant flaws than have said "this model, as is, is accurate and a good predictor"
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Space Ghost 1962 on 05/12/2016 05:51 PM
That's not at all what I was trying to say. I was just saying that so far most of the cost savings they've had compared to their competitors has come from design/operations choices, and little so far from reusability, but that I'm optimistic that eventually a larger share of the relative cost savings will start coming from reusability.

I agree with Jon's first point whole-heartedly, and I'll agree with his second point on a long enough time scale.  I also think that there is nothing in SpaceX's near-term re-usability scheme that will come close to the cost savings SpaceX would have by just upping their flight rate first into the 12 / year range and then in the 18-20 / year range.

E.g. be "traditional provider" for a few years longer. Which suggests that they don't want such. Something that ULA would give its eye teeth for, modulo "parents" own issues.

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So if I had to rank SpaceX's potential cost advantages over their competition, my ranking would be

1) Design / operational choices
2) High flight-rate
3) High-value component re-use (engines, system components, etc.)
4) Intact stage re-use

This, I think, is the underlying bone of contention (can you feel it?) in this thread between the seasoned veterans at ULA and other places and the SpaceX fans.  SpaceX is trying to jump straight from #1 to #4 when there is much more bang for the buck to be had in steps 2 and 3.

Sensible given what we've seen. But perhaps the reason one jumps steps is that a) you can't envision the end result until you're there (and you get the "flying faireys" toting an Ariane 6 engine pod back to land  ::) solutions),  and b) what you're really shooting for is so far out of the picture (entire vehicle reuse) that the interim steps actually hurt in that they distract/slow you down.

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ULA has it worse.  They have to start at #1.  There's no point in even attempting #4 if you don't have a low-cost design or operations.

Keep in mind that to the "parents", ULA's business is a means to an end. The only reason they'll commit to such is if it incrementally appears to "pay off" for them. The only reason ULA is even talking reuse at all, is to appear "competitive", because they lost the monopoly and risk having it used against them. Defensive.

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This, in my opinion, is all that Dr. Sowers was trying to say with his spreadsheet.  There's no need to get too deep into the numbers -- it's meant to be more of a big-picture look at things.

Its a weak apology to serve for why they aren't allowed to pursue head to head competition. Which is very frustrating for its remaining workforce.

they are going to win a lot of launches after the block buy is over.

Not really.  Spacex is not going to bend to DOD requirements.  They want to keep the F9 generic.
That may be the situation now, but it wasn't during the early cycles of certification. Remember the conclusions of the panel that investigated the dragged-out certification process for F9? It became evident that USAF had forced SpaceX into changing parts of the F9 design. Once this practice was exposed by the panel, the practice was discontinued at the suggestion of the secretary of the air force. From that point forward the certification process became more smooth. Now that USAF can effectively no longer force SpaceX to change the design it is quite easy for SpaceX to say: "Hey general Hyten, we're not gonna bend to you and your boys anymore."

That was unfortunate in so many ways. AF did wear out its welcome for no gain (and not for the first time).

Suggest though SX always wanted a "generic" launcher in F9. The missed advantage for both was AF's involvement in taking SX further/faster along its "evolution" with same time/resources, instead of butting heads for who's anatomy is longer. Was done for agendas clearly.

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The obvious disadvantage is that Falcon 9 will not be suitable for all USAF and NRO missions. So yeah, they will continue to lose missions to ULA. But then again, in the current situation, that's welcome news for Tory et al..

No, suggest actually that it is what will doom ULA eventually, like a slow acting poison. Believe that ULA needed even more than SX the above mentioned "evolution" for its survival - it was a part of Tory's reinvention that was missed due to shortsightedness of holding off an upstart. Too busy defending the turf thru advocates, didn't see the larger goal in the distance.

We already know from an earlier removed post (from a ULA employee) that the reuse business-case model posted by another ULA employee is not to be taken seriously. It holds no merit. Besides, the folks here were very good at taking the model apart and exposing the many flaws in it.
Can we just forget about it? It's pointless to continue discussing a model that is pretty much useless.

Apologies, I wasn't following upthread, I thought I was the first to notice.

This was posted by Dr. Sowers though, and he's more than just an employee - he's a high ranking persona there.

Not cool, not for him, and not for ULA.

EDIT:  Fixed spelling

I agree. It's not cool for Dr. Sowers and ULA to publically post a seriously flawed model and then use it to spread FUD. This was pointed out by the discrediting ULA employee and Lar upthread. Given his senior role within ULA Dr. Sowers really should have known better.

Sowers is exhibit B for the prior mentioned case. I watched him rudely treat an aerospace grad who took him to task over this. Fine to want your team to win, unfortunate that the "parents" handcuff this, but no excuse for such. Same one who talked to Bruno at another get together got an entirely different convo. Was not surprised at the Tobey meltdown given the spread between Bruno and Sowers.

Jim, as of right now, based on what you know, what do you personally think the probability is that SpaceX will fly at least one reused booster at some point? And what do you think the conditional probability of success is, given that they fly one?

An educated guess based on little to no data (but arguably more than most of us have) from you would be interesting.


From what I saw, the aft end needs much more protection.  There were panels that were damaged and opened on the previous booster.  The fires on the current booster may have been internal.   
Careful Jim. You might be giving too much information. Temporary inside insight is good, but you may be walking a red line here.

The red line is in using your expertise to improve the state of the art beyond what is obvious in the public domain. Easy to cross when you think everyone see's what you see, but doesn't say it.

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That aside: it is to be expected that the first succesfully recovered boosters will reveal issues that need addressing. After all, when was the last time someone tried to propulsively recover the first stage of an orbital launcher? SpaceX are the first ones to do so and are therefore the first ones to get a good understanding of the unique problems associated with it.
What I don't doubt for a minute is that SpaceX will ultimately fully understand the causes of the issues and fix them. And given how SpaceX works, the issues will probably be fixed sooner than most competitors expect.

In this case, its a difficult issue and the 1-10 reflight solution won't be the 10-100 one. Also, how much do you do to the vehicle to affect the CONOPs that limit as well? How much do you leave for a future vehicle on the drawing boards? Scope?

I believe what they have done up to this point on the design and operation of the vehicle without reuse is a larger impact to the cost of the vehicle than what they will get out of reuse.

But none of this would and probably even could have happened without the promise of reuse and Mars. Mars colonization and rocket reusability have already halved the cost of spaceflight even though no-one has gone to Mars and no rocket has been reused.

How about that for a business case?

This thread is about ULA reuse business case, not SX. But you're right. Suggest that F9 reuse is about a generic LV that enters EELV territory for global market dominance, but stops there before specialization while retaining max payload advantage. This forces ULA's hand in order to bid competitively, yet "parents" have no belly for enduring actual "reuse". SX's "stepping stone" to BFR/BFS is like Thor's hammer on their chest - pinning them down.


Would like to point out that all of the structural concerns for recovered boosters as well as most of the retropropulsion plume impingement issues seem to have gone by the wayside.
I'm somewhat surprised they have not taken a used booster, hauled it to Texas, put it in the structural test stand, filled it with an inert fluid, pressurized it, then subjected it to 140% flight loads (or whatever they use for a new booster).  If that test passes, the avionics work, and the engines check out (tested by hot fire) then it would seem they could retire almost all risk.  I would think a full structural test would also a big confidence boost for the first customer of re-use. 

Yup, me too. Suggest they already think they are golden as far as those issues. That was the plan. Obviously not going to plan.

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There are several possibilities here.  Maybe they have not gotten to it yet.  Maybe they are sure it would fail from the inspections they have already done, and are waiting for some revision that will do better.

Doubt that. My contacts suggest they are more confident than ever, that they are overwhelmed with flight data and ways to proceed further. Everyone thinks that these guys know more than they do. I think they are just as shocked as the rest of us that they have actually recovered LV's.

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Maybe such a ultimate load test tweaks the booster to the point it can't the re-used, and they are not willing to give up on any recovered boosters yet.  Maybe they are so certain it will pass that it's not worth the trouble to test (though this one seems unlikely to me - SpaceX would surely like to make sure there are no unanticipated problems, and customers would surely like to know SpaceX has checked for this).  Anyway I'm surprised they've not done a full up structural test.

Suggest that they think they have enough to prove that the flight envelopes that they were to explore in NM SA were more of a "plan B" when things didn't work out. And that the real test for structural is reflight itself, and then again reflight. They want to build a corpus where you see the fatigue issues telling the story "in system".

They are probably right too, given experience in airframes, which isn't perfectly transferable to this.

The problem is we don not know yet. And will not until new prices for launches using reuse is published. We can speculate that SpaceX has answered these and it is in the direction of true. Otherwise they would have stopped an.d  started new significant vehicle modifications to make them true or to go in in a different direct in the seeking of lower launch costs.

I think we are in uncharted territory, with a half completed program. Consider it a inflection (or "wild") point.

They are flooded with flight data, with more on the way. My bet is short term remediation and reflight, while they factor in a revised vehicle. How fast they iterate is unclear.

In addition, I'll add that we've not been hearing about hotfires, so engine issues are also on my "hot list"  8)

Would we necessarily hear about them?  In the photo of the aft ends of the first two returned boosters, the OG-2 booster had several engines removed.  Without specific info, I kind of assumed that they'd been taken to the test stand.  And checking them out wouldn't necessarily look all that different from more typical activity at McGregor, when viewed from over the property line.

I think we're not and they are busy on those engines, likely on the design side in Hawthorne and in the test/analysis of wear/environ issues. Keep in mind that they my have scheduling issues with keeping up production schedules to work down the manifest, while also figuring "how to test" reused engines. Not many have experience with what to do with a flown engine.

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Agreed on broader structural issues, though; I was surprised to see Elon talking about re-firing the engines, but not re-qualifying the structure.  Significant expense for that is one of ULA's assumptions in the business memo, and I would have thought a reasonable one at least for the first few launches.

Me too. SX isn't ULA again, and ULA's assumptions spring from the hyperfine "systems engineering" refinements of EELV. SX does "agile with SE feedback", so they are "mutually incomprehensible" if not antagonistic. FWIW those like me are considered "heretics" 8)

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But that may ultimately wind up being between SpaceX, their relanch customer(s), and their insurance companies...

Suggest they convince with the "eventually reuse vehicles will be more trusted, not less" meme. They are probably right in the long term. Which is something that traditional launch should take seriously but do not.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: oldAtlas_Eguy on 05/12/2016 06:02 PM
With the model presented as being discredited for being applicable to the Reuse Business Case (other than by ULA executives for justifying their own decisions possibly)

While the model is getting disparaged left and right it might be worth reminding that it's non-applicability is not a consensus opinion. Some people, me included, still believe the model is valid despite it's limitations and a great source of insight that explains a lot of SpaceX's actions happening now and for some time and their challenges going forward.
I did not say that all of its concepts can be ignored, just using it in its entirety. The basic concept of $/kg is one that  should be still evaluated but its significance is that you are attempting to keep the $/kg equal or less, using the concept of a LV capable of larger (expendable) payload for same basic launch costs. Launch costs generally go down $/kg as launcher size increases. So by using a larger launcher to do reuse for a smaller payload the $/kg you are using for an evaluation is lower that the smaller expendable vehicle that you are comparing $/kg for same size payload on the reusable system. It is this basic phenomena that invalidates some of the conclusions made in the model. A reusable system starts with a larger LV that has a lower $/kg before it lowers the costs/launch in the reuse case applicable for use on smaller payloads. So the result is a lower $/kg for the same size payload using the reusable LV vs a equal capable expendable LV. The only thing you can do for comparison of $/kg between using the same LV as expendable vs reusable is that it does not make the $/kg worse or not much worse when used as reusable LV. The gain in cost savings as a system per payload size is realized by the reusable system vs an equal sized expendable LV.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: AncientU on 05/12/2016 07:25 PM
Using generic $/kg omits the elephant in the room -- that SpaceX $/kg is already half (or lower) than ULA $/kg, with reuse hardware installed and tested on the SpaceX vehicle.

If/when the advertised 30% reduction in price of a launch with a reused booster is realized, ULA will have to cut their price by a factor of three instead of two to be comparably cost competitive.  Comparing business cases with actual dollars per kilogram is the only honest way to analyze the value of reuse strategies.

The second elephant in the as-presented business case room is that a 30% price reduction on first reuse isn't predicted at all... ten non-SMART reuses are needed to break even by the model.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 05/12/2016 07:36 PM
1) IF you keep the number of launches per year constant, you'll almost always have a lower cost per kilogram if you use a bigger, more capable rocket.

2) On the other hand, a bigger rocket than you need is (potentially) wasteful and will increase your cost per kg.


Additionally:
0) Cost is basically always lower per launch with a higher launch rate, if you keep the rocket payload constant.

So reuse allows you to use a bigger rocket (#1) without being wasteful (avoiding the problem of #2). And since this means you have 1 rocket doing the flights that you'd otherwise need multiple rocket types for, it improves #0 as well. (Dial-a-rocket sort of also does this.)

So even if you take for a given that reuse doesn't lower the cost-per-kg for a rocket launch, it still allows big cost reductions by allowing you to use a big rocket without being wasteful.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: meekGee on 05/12/2016 07:48 PM
With the model presented as being discredited for being applicable to the Reuse Business Case (other than by ULA executives for justifying their own decisions possibly)

While the model is getting disparaged left and right it might be worth reminding that it's non-applicability is not a consensus opinion. Some people, me included, still believe the model is valid despite it's limitations and a great source of insight that explains a lot of SpaceX's actions happening now and for some time and their challenges going forward.

Even if the model was robust, like in all models: "garbage in, garbage out".

What caught my eye first was the 60% value for "fraction of mission cost that is hardware".   It's clearly a critical input parameter, and if you plug in 70%, for example, the conclusion regarding RTLS becomes completely opposite.

So why 60%?  And why not put the obligatory note that says "This value results in conclusion A, but a slightly different value results in conclusion B, and so neither conclusion really stems from this analysis"?

(And mind you, I'm open to the argument that as hardware cost drops, that fraction will actually decrease....  But I also think that as launch rate increases, and missions become repetitive (e.g. LEO comm sats), then overhead will decrease too...)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: CorvusCorax on 05/14/2016 05:09 PM
In my opinion the original model might be good enough to describe ULA's business case and decide (for ULA) which way to go for recovery options with short time development.

All the assumptions - approximately constant number of launches, optimizing for $ per kg with a fixed size rocket and known cost ratios, hold surprisingly well for ULA - considering ULA's current roadmap.

For a comparison with SpaceX the model is completely useless for a number of reasons.
1. SpaceX optimized the rockets capability for an existing launch market - based on $ per launch for a certain set of payload classes. (The model doesn't work like that)

2. SpaceX compensated for the performance penalty involved with reuse by scaling the rocket up. Instead of limiting themselves to smaller payloads in case of re-use - they evolved the launch vehicle to get the extra power (through 1.1 and eventually FT) to still launch the same payload and be reuseable. With likely only small changes in cost.

3. There's a large number of unknowns in the equation that make it almost impossible to use the model to SpaceX even if it could apply. Take for example the FT changes. The engine was already designed with this in mind, so there's almost no additional cost to the stage hardware from making it more powerful - on the other hand, handling the superchilled propellant on the ground must have had a massive effect on their static as well as per launch handling cost - at least short term (remember the delays with OG2 and tanking, that must have cost a fortune) - but not necessarily long term (I assume with enough experience the deep cryo propellant handling won't be a large factor in their pad operational cost per launch)

There's so many unknowns in the equation, and attempt to model this from the outside would come to arbitrary results - ranging from "SpaceX must be making millions of losses with every recovered launch" to "Recovery will reduce SpaceX launch cost by 2/3 or more"

----

Beyond that, a question that kinda crystallizes out is if the roadmap of ULA leads in the right direction. The model originally posted is good to analyse which kind of reuse scheme is optimal for a Vulcan type rocket, and putting in the parameters and expected launches for the Vulcan, SMART seems to be the way to go. But is there a market for Vulcan, with and without SMART - beyond a limited number of Vulcan tailored US Government launches?

The model is not able to tell that. It only compares relative prizes. It's actually possible that no rocket ULA might design can ever be competitive. If ULA's fixed and operational launch cost are just high enough, they'd always fight an uphill battle, and no matter how cheap the vehicle is and how much of it can be reused, they'd still be too expensive.

Assume both competitors launch comparably sized payloads per launch, then we can calculate $ per launch instead of $ per kilogram and simplify as follows:

Let Cf in $/year be the fixed cost
R in launches/year the launch rate
Cv in $/launch the variable cost
Cn in $/launch the price of a new vehicle
and
Cr in $/launch the price of a recovered vehicle (refurbishment cost, including new second stage, tanks, etc...)

If we have Launch provider A (ULA, or ArianeSpace) and Launch provider B (Competitor)
If
(Cf(A)/R(A)) + Cv(A) > (Cf(B)/R(B))+Cv(B)+Cr(B)
then A will not be able to compete, no matter what recovery scheme they use, even if they make the rocket for free.

The same happens if
(Cf(A)/R(A)) + Cv(A) + Cr(A) > (Cf(B)/R(B))+Cv(B)+Cn(B)
aka if launching a refurbished Vulcan (with reused engines) is still more expensive than launching a brand new vehicle of a low cost competitor (in the same class of launch vehicles)

Those are the two hard limits. They are both still dependant on the launch vehicle, because both Cf and Cv are dependant on the complexity of the vehicle and how complicated handling is.

I'm quite convinced SpaceX brought both Cf and Cv up by introducing recovery. Densified fuel, operating drone- and support ships, those are all cost drivers.
But SpaceX also has faciliated massive cost savers: Horizontal assembly, truck road transport, one fuel for both stages, highly automated launch procedures.

Even with the recovery penalty applied, we can assume Cv to be a lot cheaper than Cv(Atlas) or Cv(Delta).  Cv(Vulcan) needs to be optimized to be Cv(Falcon) or lower to be competitive.

Cf is less critical, it can be compensated by a higher launch rate - IF the market flexibility allows it. This is also the term where the companies profits come from. If you are competitive with a low R (10/y), then a high R allows you to finance the development of the next gen launch vehicle with the extra profits.

All the discussion about launch vehicle cost and reuse distract from these basics. Only if the homework on the fixed costs is done, can one even consider reducing the launch vehicle price, and/or reuse technology.

The more expensive the launch vehicle, the more re-uses it needs to break even. Also the more of it needs to be re-used. There's no point of having 80% reuse on an expensive vehicle, when the remaining 20% are still more expensive than the competitors 50% reuse, or another competitors entire rocket.

SpaceX is aiming for a high reuse percentage on a cheap vehicle. That sets the bar pretty high. Only recovering Vulcan's engine, considering an expensive expendable upper stage, might not be able to be competitive.

But it would be absolutely wrong to blame the SMART technology. SMART might be still be the most profitable reuse technology possible considering Vulcan's design, but it would be the cost of its upper stage that makes or breaks its business case.


All this considered, I think the role of reuse for the overall business case is currently overhyped. Reuse might eventually be needed, once the launch cost of one competitors reused vehicle drop below the manufacturing cost of the cheapest possible (solid state, throw away stick) booster thinkable. Once that happens, one HAS to adapt reuseability. But for that to make sense, one has to play in the same league in the first place, and be able to compete with expendable launch prizes of the same vehicle (and the non-recoverable parts) at least.

ULA, Arianespace, Orbital ATK, the Indians, even the Chinese (if you drop subsidies) aren't there yet.
If your launch operational costs are already too high, then just simply adding re-use to everyone's rocket solution increases the gap between competitors instead of reducing it.

Edit:

The reuse technology applied to Vulcan will eventually become vital (sooner than later once SpaceX starts re-launching used boosters regularly) but its just the keystone on the very top of an architecture - combining a rocket design from one side and the organizational and operational overhead from the other side. And all together it defines if there's a business case or not.

It makes sense only if you both optimize the vehicle flow for high launch rates with lowest possible per launch costs, and at the same time design the vehicle with very low non-recoverable costs.

Or in other words, reuse only really makes sense when you designed for a reuse-optimized business case from the get go.

Looking at the economics of reuse alone and isolated is pointless.

So I really really hope for ULA's sake that they looked at the whole picture, and did not treat component recovery as an isolated problem.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lemurion on 05/15/2016 11:49 PM
The more I look at it, the less sense a direct reusability comparison between ULA and SpaceX makes. Both SpaceX's launchers and its business plan were designed with the transition to at least partial reusability in mind. It's been on the company's roadmap for years. SpaceX's plans and infrastructure were designed to account for reusability.

ULA has been studying it, but the company hasn't been planning for it. It is something to consider, but it's not a company-wide goal. ULA is not in the same position to exploit it that SpaceX is.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: CorvusCorax on 05/16/2016 11:25 AM
The more I look at it, the less sense a direct reusability comparison between ULA and SpaceX makes. Both SpaceX's launchers and its business plan were designed with the transition to at least partial reusability in mind. It's been on the company's roadmap for years. SpaceX's plans and infrastructure were designed to account for reusability.

ULA has been studying it, but the company hasn't been planning for it. It is something to consider, but it's not a company-wide goal. ULA is not in the same position to exploit it that SpaceX is.

Vulcan has a lot in common with Ariane 6.

They are both rocket designs that have been in the drawers for a while - worked on in design studies and on CAD files but without the commitment to really throw funds and massive development at them until recently.

When they were dug out, both were designs for a more powerful and more cost effective expendable launch vehicle using 21st century technology, but basically still 20th century design paradigms.

The reason they were dug out and worked on with pressure now is the pressure put on the market primarily by SpaceX - and maybe a bit by Blue Origin looming on the horizon, as well as other international players that might decide to copy these new paradigms in their own low cost approach.

However at the time they were dug out, SpaceX recovery option was just a distant design study - envisioned in a very sci-fi rendered video that showed such crazy things as a booster returning to the launch site and a second stage reentering and landing.  At the time that video was published it would have likely caused a knowing grin upon the faces of managers at any established launch providers, together with a comment among the lines of "well, they are certainly ambitions, but delusional, no one will manage that in this century, its not even possible."

Nevertheless, SpaceX put money into reuseability, and every big launch provider had enough reuseability studies in the drawer to know it *could* save money if done right (aka, not like space shuttle). So to cover for the eventuality that SpaceX might indeed be on to something, better dig them out and put them on the roadmap for real.

And tadaaa: Vulcan gets a returnable engine pod.
Hey, guess what: So does Ariane 6!

And both approaches make perfect sense, they are the most promising approaches to squeeze the business case of Vulcan/Ariane by applying reuse. That proofs that ULA/Arianespace are still "on it" with a reliable, powerful and cost effective rocket.... right?


What both ULA and Arianespace would have needed to do instead is scrap the Vulcan and Ariane6 concepts and start over with an entirely new design paradigm. Except that at the time that decision would have had to be made, it wasn't obvious yet. And now that it's obvious, it might be too late.

Unless a new vehicle has already secretly been designed on since like 3 years ago that no one outside the company has even heard of yet. Maybe there is an ace up ULA's sleeve. There better is.

But Vulcan isn't it. And if they only design a new rocket by the time they realize that neither Vulcan nor Ariane6 has a real chance on the international launch market (unless offered at diminishing profits, like Arianespace is rumored to be doing right now with Ariane5) then it won't be ready for action before 2025-2030. Who knows where SpaceX might be by then. Maybe busy setting up new all robotic launch facilities. On Mars ;)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: guckyfan on 05/16/2016 12:25 PM
And tadaaa: Vulcan gets a returnable engine pod.
Hey, guess what: So does Ariane 6!

No, they don't. It is not baselined in the design for both rockets. There is just some talk that they may one day decide to look into it, after their rockets are flying.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/16/2016 03:30 PM

What both ULA and Arianespace would have needed to do instead is scrap the Vulcan and Ariane6 concepts and start over with an entirely new design paradigm. Except that at the time that decision would have had to be made, it wasn't obvious yet. And now that it's obvious, it might be too late.


Based on what?  Reuse hasn't been proven yet.  It could still end up like the shuttle
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: jongoff on 05/16/2016 03:36 PM

What both ULA and Arianespace would have needed to do instead is scrap the Vulcan and Ariane6 concepts and start over with an entirely new design paradigm. Except that at the time that decision would have had to be made, it wasn't obvious yet. And now that it's obvious, it might be too late.


Based on what?  Reuse hasn't been proven yet.  It could still end up like the shuttle

I'm not sure that assuming limited reuse will fail is the most business-conservative approach for ULA to take. In business it seems like the conservative approach would be to assume your competitors will be more successful than you think. Now for fans and launch customers, the conservative approach would be to assume that claims of reusability won't pan out as quickly or as awesomely as they're hyped, but I don't see why that approach makes sense for ULA.

And frankly, I haven't seen evidence of a showstopper that suggests SpaceX reuse is going to be a flop. Do they still have a ton of work until they have it working well enough for it to start saving them money? Sure. But now that they're getting stages back, it seems like only a matter of time and iteration before they get at least some economic benefit from it. I'm cautiously optimistic.

~Jon
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: CorvusCorax on 05/16/2016 04:59 PM

What both ULA and Arianespace would have needed to do instead is scrap the Vulcan and Ariane6 concepts and start over with an entirely new design paradigm. Except that at the time that decision would have had to be made, it wasn't obvious yet. And now that it's obvious, it might be too late.


Based on what?  Reuse hasn't been proven yet.  It could still end up like the shuttle

That sounds a bit like the stance some people have towards their CO2 emissions and global warming.
What happens if SpaceX does get to refly a booster somewhen this or next year and actually manages to make the changes to get to a profitable "repaint,refuel,relaunch" flow within lets say 5 to 7 years? That would be a lot less optimistic than SpaceX is, but still it would be a problem for ULA. Even if it takes them 10 years.

It's like watching a speeding bus coming towards you, saying "it's not proven yet that it'll hit me, it could still brake, or evade..."

The problem is, if you wait until you have definite proof, it might be too late.

One glance at the beat and burnt stage SpaceX just put into their 39A hangar makes clear, they aren't there yet. But still that stage just managed the feat of a controlled suicide burn landing, which also proves that even in that battle-worn state after a hot re-entry it is still capable of high powered precision manoeuvres.

If I were in charge at ULA, I'd better have a contingency plan ready for the case that my competitor DOES make this work and it does not end up like the shuttle. And since that latest landing, that contingency plan would be on my desk, open, with stuff highlighted with a marker - as opposed to sitting idly in a drawer.

I agree with you, a few month ago, in fact before the first landed booster, landing first stages was still vaporware, and reflying them a purely theoretical problem. But with 3 stages back in the hangar, recovery is suddenly real, and reflying - in some form - a matter of time.

SpaceX likely won't manage "refuel and relaunch" this year or even the next. That will likely need a few technology iterations, and maybe it can't work at all because the extra shielding needed would be too heavy. But even right now SpaceX could almost certainly take *some* components from the used booster and put them on a new one. That wouldn't proof quick and rapid booster reuse yet, but that one could at least save money and manufacturing time on new boosters that way is - at this point in time - very very plausible.

SpaceX would consider that a failure, but for ULA - or any other active launch provider - it would still be a huge problem, because SpaceX is already the cheapest provider (while already shouldering the overhead of launching the booster with recovery technology and recovering them) They already have all the reuse penalties and expenses - extra weight, extra fuel, droneship operation, ... , anything they achieve from now - even if they reuse but a single screw - on will be on their profit side.

Frankly ULA's business case looks more and more like a huge gamble. A gamble for SpaceX' plans to fail, or at least not succeed fully for at least most of the product life span of a rocket currently still in development. A gamble with quickly diminishing win probability.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/16/2016 05:07 PM

That sounds a bit like the stance some people have towards their CO2 emissions and global warming.


No where close to the same thing
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/16/2016 05:09 PM

One glance at the beat and burnt stage SpaceX just put into their 39A hangar makes clear, they aren't there yet. But still that stage just managed the feat of a controlled suicide burn landing, which also proves that even in that battle-worn state after a hot re-entry it is still capable of high powered precision manoeuvres.


No different than the shuttle. Still doesn't have a bearing on the cost to refurb.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: jg on 05/16/2016 06:03 PM

What both ULA and Arianespace would have needed to do instead is scrap the Vulcan and Ariane6 concepts and start over with an entirely new design paradigm. Except that at the time that decision would have had to be made, it wasn't obvious yet. And now that it's obvious, it might be too late.


Based on what?  Reuse hasn't been proven yet.  It could still end up like the shuttle

I agree it's not proven, but....

As I understand the shuttle reuse problems hurting economics, they were four:

1) fragile tiles, that were easily damaged during launch due to the shuttle being launched next to the boosters and the main tank, and prone to damage from falling debris, and required a lot of hand labor to replace by trained technicians.
2) The main engines required refurb, on an almost every flight basis.
3) The main tank was thrown away.
4) The solid boosters required return to factory refurbishment and ended up nearly/as as expensive as fully expendable solids.

SpaceX, on the other hand:

1) does not have the tile problem
2) designed Merlin's presuming reuse: we have some statements from SpaceX to what degree.
3) recovers the main tank.
4) avoids the solids entirely.

Against this, SpaceX may have:

a) does not have the tile problem; it does have some issue for sure with the grid fins.  Some tuning of ablative/materials on the rocket to avoid damage, e.g. SPAM, changing materials/designs.  This is exactly analogous to the shuttle on its early flights, where modeling had failed to correctly predict exactly where the heating problems were going to be; e.g. the now known problem with the grid fins. These were severe enough on shuttle that they could have caused loss of space-craft had they not been fixed.

And do we now know for sure the access panels are having issues?  Has anyone seen that closely enough? Or are we waving our hands still?

b) unknown (to us) issues with heating on the tank walls themselves, though some here have jumped to conclusions that seem so far unjustified due to soot and colors on the stage making our inspections as armchair rocket designers poor.  I'd love to see concrete data here; dunno if we'll get it soon though.  This last flight seems to maybe have had some problem, but it still may be cosmetic.  It certainly isn't the "tanks are cracked" that some have suggested.

c) the engines seem to have survived and been refired quite quickly, with a hickup on one engine that may or may not have been related to prior use.

So personally, on net, I think it likely SpaceX is well on their way to economic re-use.  And trotting out the "it could end up like the shuttle" bug-a-boo every time seems very unproductive. 

More productive seems to be to try to identify, as best we can, the problems SpaceX is having, and how difficult the solutions may or may not be to real issues as they are identified.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/16/2016 06:04 PM


SpaceX, on the other hand:

1) does not have the tile problem
2) designed Merlin's presuming reuse: we have some statements from SpaceX to what degree.
3) recovers the main tank.
4) avoids the solids entirely.


Throws away second stage
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: meekGee on 05/16/2016 06:20 PM
And tadaaa: Vulcan gets a returnable engine pod.
Hey, guess what: So does Ariane 6!

No, they don't. It is not baselined in the design for both rockets. There is just some talk that they may one day decide to look into it, after their rockets are flying.

He was just being generous for the sake of the argument...
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: meekGee on 05/16/2016 06:26 PM

What both ULA and Arianespace would have needed to do instead is scrap the Vulcan and Ariane6 concepts and start over with an entirely new design paradigm. Except that at the time that decision would have had to be made, it wasn't obvious yet. And now that it's obvious, it might be too late.


Based on what?  Reuse hasn't been proven yet.  It could still end up like the shuttle

I'm not sure that assuming limited reuse will fail is the most business-conservative approach for ULA to take. In business it seems like the conservative approach would be to assume your competitors will be more successful than you think. Now for fans and launch customers, the conservative approach would be to assume that claims of reusability won't pan out as quickly or as awesomely as they're hyped, but I don't see why that approach makes sense for ULA.

And frankly, I haven't seen evidence of a showstopper that suggests SpaceX reuse is going to be a flop. Do they still have a ton of work until they have it working well enough for it to start saving them money? Sure. But now that they're getting stages back, it seems like only a matter of time and iteration before they get at least some economic benefit from it. I'm cautiously optimistic.

~Jon

I have a friend, a corporate VP, I once heard him describe this style of management "Driving (forward) using only the rear view mirror".*

It's possible, but you only react to changes in the road direction once you get to them... You lose the benefits of foresight because "it's not here yet", are always late to react, and if the change in direction is too abrupt, well, you go off the road.

*Maybe a more familiar experience is backing up while only looking forward...  This is why car analogies suck... :)


 
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: CorvusCorax on 05/16/2016 06:57 PM

One glance at the beat and burnt stage SpaceX just put into their 39A hangar makes clear, they aren't there yet. But still that stage just managed the feat of a controlled suicide burn landing, which also proves that even in that battle-worn state after a hot re-entry it is still capable of high powered precision manoeuvres.


No different than the shuttle. Still doesn't have a bearing on the cost to refurb.

This comparison with the shuttle is invalid.

The shuttle cost somewhere between 400 Million and 1 Billion per flight, depending what expenses you count and to which years inflation you normalize.

Considering the shuttle had a manufacturing price tag of between 1.5 and 4 Billion, refurbishment - although horribly inefficient compared with other expendable launch vehicles of the day - was still the correct way to go for the shuttle. It would have been much more expensive to throw away the shuttle after flight and build a new one.

The shuttle could however have been designed a lot cheaper, if it had been designed as an expendable system (and not a "shuttle")


In contrast, the Falcon 9 happens to be one of the cheapest launch vehicles ever designed - at least per kilogram payload. That still holds if it is launching in recoverable mode, aka 30% reduced payload.

Are you really suggesting getting that recovered Falcon 9 back into flight worthy condition would be more expensive than building a brand new one from scratch, if not even the shuttle was more expensive to refurbish than building a new shuttle?

You seem to be forgetting that:

On one side, when judging the business model of re-use in general, one has to compare the total cost of a recoverable launch vehicle per launch (including recovery and refurbishment) against the cost of a launch vehicle of the same capability and launch rate designed from the get go to be the cheapest possible expendable launch vehicle - with no reuse capability at all.

On the other side, when comparing Vulcan to Falcon 9, one has to compare to a launch vehicle that already is designed to be recoverable and has all the penalties already applied. The only thing left is refurbishment.

That's why its so hard to apply the model in the original post to Falcon9, because in that case we only have a rocket with the penalties already built in and can only speculate how much cheaper a Falcon9-designed-to-be-always-expendable would have been. Too many unknowns.

If NASA had to fly a shuttle and either build a new one from scratch or use one that happened come back from a flight - with badly damaged TPS, worn engines, and lots of system overhauls to be done, it would be a no-brainer. Refurbishing the orbiter was always cheaper (although just flying another launch vehicle might have been even cheaper)

Currently there are no cheaper launch vehicles than the Falcon 9. So the only question is refurbish the stage or build one from scratch. Where you are allowed to build from scratch but use used parts wherever possible.

To assume that anything but rebuilding from scratch at this very point would still be more expensive is delusional.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 05/16/2016 07:20 PM
The whole stage needs to be reusable with minimal refurbishment  otherwise they ŕeuse model is no better than ULA and Ariane recoverable engine pod concepts. In ULA and Ariane concepts the critcal engine pod systems are protected from re-entry forces plus they have a lower payload penalty.



Sent from my SM-T810 using Tapatalk

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/16/2016 07:26 PM

You seem to be forgetting that:


You seem to be forgetting that reliability has a large role in determining how effective reuse will be.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/16/2016 07:38 PM
One thing that is over looked that inspection after recovery is more useful in finding problems with the return phase than it is with the ascent phase. 
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: LouScheffer on 05/16/2016 07:44 PM
One thing that is over looked that inspection after recovery is more useful in finding problems with the return phase than it is with the ascent phase. 
And more useful for finding problems in the ascent phase than not recovering at all.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/16/2016 07:47 PM
One thing that is over looked that inspection after recovery is more useful in finding problems with the return phase than it is with the ascent phase. 
And more useful for finding problems in the ascent phase than not recovering at all.

Not when they are masked by the effects of recovery environment or the vehicle doesn't last until recovery
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: JasonAW3 on 05/16/2016 07:47 PM

What both ULA and Arianespace would have needed to do instead is scrap the Vulcan and Ariane6 concepts and start over with an entirely new design paradigm. Except that at the time that decision would have had to be made, it wasn't obvious yet. And now that it's obvious, it might be too late.


Based on what?  Reuse hasn't been proven yet.  It could still end up like the shuttle

Nope, it hasn't.

     But recovery of these stages makes it far more likely that they will figure out how to do this, and, because SpaceX is doing it on their own dime, it makes it far more likely that they will succeed, as they don't have to fight Congress for the budget to actually DO the research.

     We all know that MANY potentially game changing technologies were killed during their development at NASA due to budget restrictions and shortfalls.

     Some of these might not have lead anywhere.  I'll be the first to admit that, but others, like the DC-X showed a great deal of promise.

     That project wasn't a complete loss as it gave us a better handle on what would be involved with both SSTO craft and rocket recovery for reuse.  (Yes, I KNOW both the Shuttle and the SRBs were recovered and reused, but this is a completely different kettle of fish).

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Pipcard on 05/16/2016 07:49 PM


SpaceX, on the other hand:

1) does not have the tile problem
2) designed Merlin's presuming reuse: we have some statements from SpaceX to what degree.
3) recovers the main tank.
4) avoids the solids entirely.


Throws away second stage
Considering that the Falcon 9 uses (mostly) common engines on both stages, most of the cost of the rocket will be in the first stage.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: JasonAW3 on 05/16/2016 07:56 PM
One thing that is over looked that inspection after recovery is more useful in finding problems with the return phase than it is with the ascent phase. 
And more useful for finding problems in the ascent phase than not recovering at all.

Not when they are masked by the effects of recovery environment or the vehicle doesn't last until recovery

     The masking that you are mentioning could be an issue, but not quite as much of a show stopper as you might suspect.  Using aircraft as an example, the FAA seems to be able to routinely be able to determine causes of accidents even after the craft has taken excessive damage from the crash itself and any fires that would result.  (Yes, there are some that they can never be sure of, but their track record is actually quite good).

     While telemetry is all well and good, especially with the inclusion of cameras in the tanks, much can be learned of ascent stressed from an internal examination of these stages when they are recovered.

     While reentry stresses may conceal or exaggerate issues found upon recovery, the data from telemetry, plus that likely recorded during the entire flight and return, (including camera footage) would likely help in understanding which damage is which.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: LouScheffer on 05/16/2016 08:04 PM
One thing that is over looked that inspection after recovery is more useful in finding problems with the return phase than it is with the ascent phase. 
And more useful for finding problems in the ascent phase than not recovering at all.

Not when they are masked by the effects of recovery environment or the vehicle doesn't last until recovery
You are an engineer in charge of a part that acted flaky on ascent.  After the vehicle lands (or crashes) , a box containing the suspect part is on your desk.  Do you:

(a) Open the box and examine the part, in the hope of learning why it failed, or
(b) Throw the box, unopened, into the ocean never to be seen again?

Unless you answered (b), you've admitted recovery is better than no recovery, even for ascent problems.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Brovane on 05/16/2016 08:11 PM

What both ULA and Arianespace would have needed to do instead is scrap the Vulcan and Ariane6 concepts and start over with an entirely new design paradigm. Except that at the time that decision would have had to be made, it wasn't obvious yet. And now that it's obvious, it might be too late.


Based on what?  Reuse hasn't been proven yet.  It could still end up like the shuttle

I'm not sure that assuming limited reuse will fail is the most business-conservative approach for ULA to take. In business it seems like the conservative approach would be to assume your competitors will be more successful than you think. Now for fans and launch customers, the conservative approach would be to assume that claims of reusability won't pan out as quickly or as awesomely as they're hyped, but I don't see why that approach makes sense for ULA.

And frankly, I haven't seen evidence of a showstopper that suggests SpaceX reuse is going to be a flop. Do they still have a ton of work until they have it working well enough for it to start saving them money? Sure. But now that they're getting stages back, it seems like only a matter of time and iteration before they get at least some economic benefit from it. I'm cautiously optimistic.

~Jon

I have a friend, a corporate VP, I once heard him describe this style of management "Driving (forward) using only the rear view mirror".*

It's possible, but you only react to changes in the road direction once you get to them... You lose the benefits of foresight because "it's not here yet", are always late to react, and if the change in direction is too abrupt, well, you go off the road.

*Maybe a more familiar experience is backing up while only looking forward...  This is why car analogies suck... :)


I believe the term for what SpaceX is doing with it's re-usability development is called "Sparse Matrix Engineering".   
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: meekGee on 05/16/2016 08:24 PM

What both ULA and Arianespace would have needed to do instead is scrap the Vulcan and Ariane6 concepts and start over with an entirely new design paradigm. Except that at the time that decision would have had to be made, it wasn't obvious yet. And now that it's obvious, it might be too late.


Based on what?  Reuse hasn't been proven yet.  It could still end up like the shuttle

I'm not sure that assuming limited reuse will fail is the most business-conservative approach for ULA to take. In business it seems like the conservative approach would be to assume your competitors will be more successful than you think. Now for fans and launch customers, the conservative approach would be to assume that claims of reusability won't pan out as quickly or as awesomely as they're hyped, but I don't see why that approach makes sense for ULA.

And frankly, I haven't seen evidence of a showstopper that suggests SpaceX reuse is going to be a flop. Do they still have a ton of work until they have it working well enough for it to start saving them money? Sure. But now that they're getting stages back, it seems like only a matter of time and iteration before they get at least some economic benefit from it. I'm cautiously optimistic.

~Jon

I have a friend, a corporate VP, I once heard him describe this style of management "Driving (forward) using only the rear view mirror".*

It's possible, but you only react to changes in the road direction once you get to them... You lose the benefits of foresight because "it's not here yet", are always late to react, and if the change in direction is too abrupt, well, you go off the road.

*Maybe a more familiar experience is backing up while only looking forward...  This is why car analogies suck... :)


I believe the term for what SpaceX is doing with it's re-usability development is called "Sparse Matrix Engineering".   

The problem with ULA is not the engineering... 

Shuttle has a top-level engineering problem, but top notch component engineering that saved the day in spite of the flawed system concept.

EELVs are now on their what, 5th generation?  They are well defined, efficient, and Vulcan will be even more so.

Another car analogy.

I visited the R&D division of one the large automakers in Detroit.  Saw one of their crown jewels.  The combustion research lab.  The guy was showing me all the equipment used to photograph and analyze droplets of fuel as they interact with surrounding air and combust.  Amazing stuff.

The thing he's developing is still preliminary though, probably won't hit the market for 10 years.  Awesome engineering.  But did management hear about electric cars?  Maybe now they have, but this lab and this research project have been in the pipe for another 10 years already, and what are they gonna do?  Cancel it all?

Besides, electric vehicles as replacement for your average car haven't been proven yet...
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: jongoff on 05/16/2016 08:26 PM
One thing that is over looked that inspection after recovery is more useful in finding problems with the return phase than it is with the ascent phase. 
And more useful for finding problems in the ascent phase than not recovering at all.

Both are true, and both are interesting points.

~Jon
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: CorvusCorax on 05/16/2016 08:55 PM
The whole stage needs to be reusable with minimal refurbishment  otherwise they ŕeuse model is no better than ULA and Ariane recoverable engine pod concepts. In ULA and Ariane concepts the critcal engine pod systems are protected from re-entry forces plus they have a lower payload penalty.



Sent from my SM-T810 using Tapatalk

That is very true. SpaceX considers that a failure, but it would still be a remarkable achievement.

In this scenario, when each launch provider uses partial reuse, SpaceX would have a slight disadvantage. Landing the entire rocket is a bit cumbersome if you just plan to reuse the engine and a few electronics, and comes at a significant payload penalty.
On the other hand, landing the entire rocket is by now proven technology (unlike a few months ago), while jettisoning and then recovering engines is not.
It's another separation event, and the technology to safely re-enter the engine compartment and retrieve it still needs to be developed.  Air-retrieval of film capsules per airplane is one thing, but grabbing thousands of pounds of rocket engine from midair poses additional problems.

Each of the concepts would then be directly competing, so it comes down to which vehicle is cheaper to operate in total (including partial reuse)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: CorvusCorax on 05/16/2016 09:17 PM
One thing that is over looked that inspection after recovery is more useful in finding problems with the return phase than it is with the ascent phase.

That depends how you inspect. Considering you'd want the stage to behave its best in both scenarios, you'd want to fix any issue you find, regardless if it occurred during ascent or return.

After all, if you would not recover, all you had is a few debris and radio telemetry.
If you recover, you get:

1. On board logged data that can exceed the radio bandwidth limited telemetry stream.

2. Physical inspection of an intact vehicle that is still functional and as such can be tested - things like:
- Engine test runs
- Pressurizing tanks to design limits and/or beyond, to see if there's any difference to a new one.
- Actual reflights to see how a vehicle holds up after multiple flights.

3. Much more physical material to inspect in the first place.

And although wear on re-entry could potentially mask wear that happened on ascent, it still tells you about a high wear potential weak spot. Either its harmless as a whole, then the ascent wear is most likely harmless too, or its not, then you do something about it, and in the process either fix both, or fix only the descent wear, which then exposes the ascent wear on the next flight. Or you could be smart and add a few extra sensors that tell you on the next flight where exactly the wear came from.

Even if there's an ascent problem that leads to loss of vehicle, you could use another recovered stage and examine it, to see if there's any physical evidence to any telemetry based theories about what caused the issue.

In any way, you have data you wouldn't otherwise have. And that's never a bad thing.

In fact, hasn't Arianespace occasionally recovered parts of their boosters for just that reason, to gain data and access how it held up?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: baldusi on 05/16/2016 09:19 PM
Well, the huge difference between Shuttle and Falcon 9 first stage is that the former was a human certified and carrying stack that was to be used by DoD (didn't quite pan out), GTO launches, escape missions, SSO, LEO habitat/lab, space station taxi, ferry, construction, space research and I'm probably forgetting something else.
Changes had to be validated and certified for everything (later GTO, escape and SSO were dropped).
Falcon 9 first stage just has to supply 5,000m/s of impulse and then do whatever it wants.
But that's not all! Shuttle was built to the very limits of mission profiles, because it had to do everything and little was optional. It used the most extreme, or even invented new more complicated technologies for the miriad or requirements that it had to comply with. F9 first stage uses the most basic technology and is completely oversized for 70% of its missions.
The difference in requierements, complexity and payload margin allows tinkering with the F9, while actually prevented on the shuttle. That easiness to laser focus on a single objective with lots of margin and low complexity is the actual difference between the two and why they really aren't quite comparable.
May be the real question is if Vulcan and Ariane 6 lend themselves for the unavoidable tinkering needed to create the experience and know how of a reusable stage.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 05/16/2016 09:29 PM
You can either maximize your business case for your competition failing, or you can maximize your business case for your competition succeeding. Then you look at how to handle the case where you bet wrong.

Looking in from the outside ULA seems to be betting on the competition failing. If they're right it avoids a lot of cost. But if they're wrong they may lose it all.

However it's possible that they evaluated the situation, realised they need to bet SpaceX is likely to succeed, and then realised they can't, with their heritage, their employees, their cost structure, and their masters, outcompete SpaceX at their own game (cost). So the game is "We're better, we're more reliable, you sleep well at night with Atlas" and that makes the higher prices worth it to customer.   FUD is an important part of that strategy often.

It's possible we can't tell the difference between a wrong model that will lead ULA astray, or a model that's just out there to spread FUD.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: john smith 19 on 05/16/2016 09:40 PM
Suggest they convince with the "eventually reuse vehicles will be more trusted, not less" meme. They are probably right in the long term. Which is something that traditional launch should take seriously but do not.
Yes. Up to this point every LV design has been an "open loop" design exercise. No one knew if a part was over designed, adequately designed or just borderline, awaiting a part to be mfg on the edge of tolerance so it would fail if just a bit over stressed.

SX is the only company in the world who now know the answers to these questions.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: CorvusCorax on 05/16/2016 09:49 PM
You can either maximize your business case for your competition failing, or you can maximize your business case for your competition succeeding. Then you look at how to handle the case where you bet wrong.

Looking in from the outside ULA seems to be betting on the competition failing. If they're right it avoids a lot of cost. But if they're wrong they may lose it all.

However it's possible that they evaluated the situation, realised they need to bet SpaceX is likely to succeed, and then realised they can't, with their heritage, their employees, their cost structure, and their masters, outcompete SpaceX at their own game (cost). So the game is "We're better, we're more reliable, you sleep well at night with Atlas" and that makes the higher prices worth it to customer.   FUD is an important part of that strategy often.

It's possible we can't tell the difference between a wrong model that will lead ULA astray, or a model that's just out there to spread FUD.

Come to think of it, those scenarios are not even mutually exclusive, as companies realizing they have been led fatally astray will also often resort to FUD as a last resort. Not the least to give their investors something they can believe in until the bitter end.

Only afterwards it usually becomes clear ;)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 05/16/2016 09:49 PM
Up to this point every LV design has been an "open loop" design exercise. No one knew if a part was over designed, adequately designed or just borderline, awaiting a part to be mfg on the edge of tolerance so it would fail if just a bit over stressed.

SX is the only company in the world who now know the answers to these questions.

Except for Shuttle. And X37. And DCX. And Blue.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rcoppola on 05/16/2016 10:03 PM
I always wanted to insert the word "test" in between business and case. After all, that's what all of this is. A grand test. it has been since GH and continues to be right on through to having 3 cores inside 39As HIF.

3 landings and recoveries later and reuse is unproven and in testing. Which is perfectly understandable and not unexpected. They say it before every launch and landing attempt. Everything is in motion...until it isn't. Meaning, there is no red line, no Milestone 34.1.2b that will be offered as a definitive demarkation point in going from test to operational.

At some point LEO, single engine landing burn at LZ-1 will be graduated to operational. Then perhaps LEO to ASDS, or the either way around, then perhaps 3 engine high velocity return/burn a few launches later, etc...Essentially they are going to roll this out over a long period of time. With lots of vehicle and recovery modifications along the way. This is and will remain a reuse business test case for quite some time. Even after the first reuse. So everybody gets to be right and wrong all at the same time. Kind of like a grand Schrodinger's Rocket.

As the days, weeks, months pass, I care less and less of what others will or won't do in response. Good luck to them all.

I will say however, where SpaceX ends up with all of this, may just surprise them...and everyone else.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Space Ghost 1962 on 05/16/2016 10:07 PM
Suggest they convince with the "eventually reuse vehicles will be more trusted, not less" meme. They are probably right in the long term. Which is something that traditional launch should take seriously but do not.
Yes. Up to this point every LV design has been an "open loop" design exercise. No one knew if a part was over designed, adequately designed or just borderline, awaiting a part to be mfg on the edge of tolerance so it would fail if just a bit over stressed.

SX is the only company in the world who now know the answers to these questions.

Yes - because you have to have "recoverable" within the context of "as used" (in this case orbital launch), to be able to "close loop" the process, and iterate til you get "reusable".

Then, having "reusable" same context, you iterate til you get "economic reuse".

ULA's parents can't even stomach a few flights risk to recover a single engine that maybe is a reusable part.

No way they could stomach 10+ flights to recover, 5+ flights to reuse, and 5+ flights for economic reuse.

To them, "launch is a small part of the business". Why risk so much ... for so little. Just a matter of mindset.

Personally think it's just butt headed stubbornness. The recoverable here is far closer to economic reuse than Shuttle. It looks "closable" to me.

If I consider the business landscape of having > 50 % of global launch business (SX), or have the Vulcan/Ariane eventual 5-7% of high-end that both seem to plan for, I'd much rather have the former than the latter. Because the first will get cheaper and more frequent, while the second will get more expensive and less frequent.

That is already happening, and we haven't got to booster reflight yet.

add:

Up to this point every LV design has been an "open loop" design exercise. No one knew if a part was over designed, adequately designed or just borderline, awaiting a part to be mfg on the edge of tolerance so it would fail if just a bit over stressed.

SX is the only company in the world who now know the answers to these questions.

Except for Shuttle. And X37. And DCX. And Blue.

Only Shuttle made orbit. Shuttle's use case was astonishingly narrow - flying a military stack means polar and GTO. The Vandenberg Shuttle would have required significant performance increase to fit the use case that a F9 already can.

X37 is irrelevant. DCX and Blue are not recoverable in a use case yet. DCX never got to a use case.

Use case here is important because by the time you actually get the benefit, the flight profile expands considerable, such that recover/reuse of early tests may no longer be adequate for that. Much as SX can only recover vehicles for reuse within certain profiles and not others.

And yes, Sowers model is FUD.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: jongoff on 05/16/2016 10:51 PM
Up to this point every LV design has been an "open loop" design exercise. No one knew if a part was over designed, adequately designed or just borderline, awaiting a part to be mfg on the edge of tolerance so it would fail if just a bit over stressed.

SX is the only company in the world who now know the answers to these questions.

Except for Shuttle. And X37. And DCX. And Blue.

If you're counting suborbital vehicles, don't forget wee bitty Masten...

~Jon
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: AncientU on 05/17/2016 02:19 AM
One thing that is over looked that inspection after recovery is more useful in finding problems with the return phase than it is with the ascent phase.

And so ULA wouldn't prefer to have that last RD-180 back to examine?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Newton_V on 05/17/2016 02:44 AM
One thing that is over looked that inspection after recovery is more useful in finding problems with the return phase than it is with the ascent phase.

And so ULA wouldn't prefer to have that last RD-180 back to examine?

No.  Because that would mean OA-6 would be sitting at the bottom of the ocean.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: meekGee on 05/17/2016 03:44 AM
Up to this point every LV design has been an "open loop" design exercise. No one knew if a part was over designed, adequately designed or just borderline, awaiting a part to be mfg on the edge of tolerance so it would fail if just a bit over stressed.

SX is the only company in the world who now know the answers to these questions.

Except for Shuttle. And X37. And DCX. And Blue.

He said company, not vehicle.

DCX was a prototype.
X37 is not a launcher.  All returning capsules were available for post-flight analysis.
Blue is suborbital, might as well include Virgin and Masten.
Shuttle, yes.  Was.

So his statement stands.  You can add "among all its competitors..." as an implicit preamble.

Shuttle, yes.

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: CorvusCorax on 05/17/2016 06:38 AM
One thing that is over looked that inspection after recovery is more useful in finding problems with the return phase than it is with the ascent phase.

And so ULA wouldn't prefer to have that last RD-180 back to examine?

No.  Because that would mean OA-6 would be sitting at the bottom of the ocean.

That is actually a very very relevant comment to this thread, if you think about it. The Cygnus made it to orbit, thanks to extreme margins of the Centaur upper stage. Burning a minute longer than needed - wow! That's some serious extra delta-V they gave that thing.

If you fly to orbit with that much "to spare" you can compensate for severe malfunctions and still make it, but it of course affects your business case - you can't do that if your payload kg is at the limit.

However its not uncommon. Most payloads are not at the limit. SpaceX deliberately flies below the limit if they can help it, so they can recover the booster. However that "recovery margin" serves a dual purpose, because that also can be used to cover the extra gravity losses related to an under-performance or engine out - or even multiple engine out scenario on the booster.

In that case you trade the - then lost - booster, for a payload that still made it to orbit.

The model posted by the thread-starter overlooks this aspect completely since it assumes all rockets launch at the payload limit for optimum kg/$ - but they don't.

In this case you can directly link recovery capability to quantifiable increase in reliability (of reaching orbit)

On the other hand, if SpaceX has an engine failure on ascent they most likely won't get the engine back for inspection either - if they eat up the recovery margins to compensate. But still, its the ability to recover that gives you the ability to still reach orbit, and that's what counts for the customer.

This "dual-purpose" margin is economically much more profitable than shipping truckloads of unneeded upper-stage propellant into LEO "just in case".

OA-6 however was such a case, I'm glad and happy for everyone involved that they did :-)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Space Ghost 1962 on 05/17/2016 07:08 AM
There's a fundamental irreconcilable point here between Atlas and Falcon.

It's in how the use case is addressed.

Atlas is about a massive effort to reduce down "flaws" (for lack of a better term to generalize a lot) to the fewest, and to use its two highly performant stages to have enough margin remaining, even given remaining operations related issues, to insure payload makes orbit.

Falcon is about padding performance so much, that the residual/parasitic costs of its additional complexity (for things like recovery) and with a lower cost base system made cheap by highly redundant application, that after all the losses you still have adequate margin to insure the payload makes orbit. Unlike the Atlas case, there's a additional step of recovery that may be lost when that margin is dug into due to shortfall of the vehicle.

The first's prime protection is an over abundance of margin, the second's is to sacrifice recovery to gain the same protection.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: AJW on 05/17/2016 07:49 AM
I always wanted to insert the word "test" in between business and case. After all, that's what all of this is. A grand test. it has been since GH and continues to be right on through to having 3 cores inside 39As HIF.

3 landings and recoveries later and reuse is unproven and in testing. Which is perfectly understandable and not unexpected. They say it before every launch and landing attempt. Everything is in motion...until it isn't. Meaning, there is no red line, no Milestone 34.1.2b that will be offered as a definitive demarkation point in going from test to operational.

At some point LEO, single engine landing burn at LZ-1 will be graduated to operational. Then perhaps LEO to ASDS, or the either way around, then perhaps 3 engine high velocity return/burn a few launches later, etc...Essentially they are going to roll this out over a long period of time. With lots of vehicle and recovery modifications along the way. This is and will remain a reuse business test case for quite some time. Even after the first reuse. So everybody gets to be right and wrong all at the same time. Kind of like a grand Schrodinger's Rocket.

As the days, weeks, months pass, I care less and less of what others will or won't do in response. Good luck to them all.

I will say however, where SpaceX ends up with all of this, may just surprise them...and everyone else.

Falcon 1.0 retired after 5 flights over 3 years.  1.1 retired after 15 flights, in a little over 2 years.  1.2 (FT) has had 4 flights.  There have long been discussion of F9R, the fully reusable version.   Whether this is a series of incremental changes, or a more significant redesign, I don't think we have long to wait.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/17/2016 01:26 PM

EELVs are now on their what, 5th generation?


First generation.  Atlas V and Delta IV are the only EELV's that have ever existed.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: meekGee on 05/17/2016 01:33 PM

EELVs are now on their what, 5th generation?


First generation.  Atlas V and Delta IV are the only EELV's that have ever existed.
Semantics.  "Evolved" is relative, it's just a marketing term for this iteration.  Vulcan will be Extremely Evolved Expendable LV...  E3LV.  You'll see...

They are mature technology, having been iterated on many times.  Just like internal combustion engines.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/17/2016 01:43 PM

EELVs are now on their what, 5th generation?


First generation.  Atlas V and Delta IV are the only EELV's that have ever existed.
Semantics.  "Evolved" is relative, it's just a marketing term for this iteration.  Vulcan will be Extremely Evolved Expendable LV...  E3LV.  You'll see...

They are mature technology, having been iterated on many times.  Just like internal combustion engines.

No,  EELV is a program name to specific to the two vehicles (just like JSF only refers to F-35 Lightning II).   ELV is the generic term you are looking for which applies to Antares, Delta II, Titan IV, Soyuz, Proton, Ariane etc , much like strike fighter applies to other aircraft like F-15E, F/A-18E/F, F-16
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: CorvusCorax on 05/17/2016 09:01 PM
There's a fundamental irreconcilable point here between Atlas and Falcon.

It's in how the use case is addressed.

Atlas is about a massive effort to reduce down "flaws" (for lack of a better term to generalize a lot) to the fewest, and to use its two highly performant stages to have enough margin remaining, even given remaining operations related issues, to insure payload makes orbit.

Falcon is about padding performance so much, that the residual/parasitic costs of its additional complexity (for things like recovery) and with a lower cost base system made cheap by highly redundant application, that after all the losses you still have adequate margin to insure the payload makes orbit. Unlike the Atlas case, there's a additional step of recovery that may be lost when that margin is dug into due to shortfall of the vehicle.

The first's prime protection is an over abundance of margin, the second's is to sacrifice recovery to gain the same protection.

That's a bit like the launch abort system of Orion versus that of Dragon2. The Orion (like Soyus, Apollo, most others) LAS is extra dead-weight unless its needed. Versus the Dragon2 is eventually supposed to use that same engines and propellant for in flight manoeuvres and propulsive touchdown - if it wasn't needed.

Similarly the EELV's performance margin is extra dead-weight unless its needed. Versus the Falcon9 is supposed to use that extra propellant for reentry and propulsive landing - if it wasn't needed.


That's actually one big advantage of propulsive recovery versus other types (winged, parachute, helicopter-snatch, ...) - you don't need as many extra components on the stage - weight wise. (Although grid fins and landing legs certainly do add some extra weight), and instead carry regular rocket fuel as your main recovery-penalty.

But that extra fuel can act as a margin for launch oopses - wings, parachutes and a engine-pod jettison mechanism cannot.

As such the stage propulsive landing has the same advantage in respect to compensating booster malfunctions as the capsule propulsive landing has in respect to acting as a launch abort system.

I have to say there is a certain simple but beautifully consequent elegance to SpaceX's approach. Like in a good game of chess or go, any really good move serves more than one purpose and gives you multiple advantages in different fields simultaneously.

As opposed to compromising and paying for any advantage on one corner for a disadvantage in another as it's so common in rocket science.

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 05/25/2016 03:52 AM
I think this nicely sums up the different viewpoints ULA and SpaceX have on re-usability:

Quote
ULA's Taliancich says rocket reusability is business case decision. SpaceX's Rosen calls it "learning case" decision: informs Mars flight.
https://twitter.com/flatoday_jdean/status/735184259900657664 (https://twitter.com/flatoday_jdean/status/735184259900657664)

Quote
Both are correct
https://twitter.com/torybruno/status/735185090578374657 (https://twitter.com/torybruno/status/735185090578374657)

Also:

Quote
Lee Rosen/SpaceX captures crux of SpaceX vs ULA rivalry: "For you, reuse is a business case decision. For us, it’s a learning decision."
https://twitter.com/stephenclark1/status/735184418302758912 (https://twitter.com/stephenclark1/status/735184418302758912)

Quote
Lee Rosen’s comment business case vs learning decision on rocket reuse could also extend to hard realities of public vs private companies.
https://twitter.com/stephenclark1/status/735185010701959169 (https://twitter.com/stephenclark1/status/735185010701959169)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/25/2016 02:15 PM

Similarly the EELV's performance margin is extra dead-weight unless its needed. Versus the Falcon9 is supposed to use that extra propellant for reentry and propulsive landing - if it wasn't needed.


It is an exception and not the rule.  Most missions have little margin.  If a mission has excess margin, it is likely a tweeter (GPS) or no solid mission (OA).
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 05/25/2016 03:08 PM

Similarly the EELV's performance margin is extra dead-weight unless its needed. Versus the Falcon9 is supposed to use that extra propellant for reentry and propulsive landing - if it wasn't needed.


It is an exception and not the rule.  Most missions have little margin.  If a mission has excess margin, it is likely a tweeter (GPS) or no solid mission (OA).
Most Atlas missions are no-solid missions.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Newton_V on 05/25/2016 04:17 PM

Similarly the EELV's performance margin is extra dead-weight unless its needed. Versus the Falcon9 is supposed to use that extra propellant for reentry and propulsive landing - if it wasn't needed.


It is an exception and not the rule.  Most missions have little margin.  If a mission has excess margin, it is likely a tweeter (GPS) or no solid mission (OA).
Most Atlas missions are no-solid missions.

That doesn't mean they don't have little margin.
Customers will use that margin to get a better delta-V to GSO, if that's their final orbit.
They might use it to load more prop on their SV if GSO isn't their ultimate destination, or go to a different orbit.
They might add secondaries/cubesats.
They might use it to increase the launch window with non-optimal steering.
And/or mix in an upper stage disposal burn combined with any or all of the above.
As Jim mentioned, GPS is more the exception than the rule, solids or no solids.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Jim on 05/25/2016 04:50 PM

Similarly the EELV's performance margin is extra dead-weight unless its needed. Versus the Falcon9 is supposed to use that extra propellant for reentry and propulsive landing - if it wasn't needed.


It is an exception and not the rule.  Most missions have little margin.  If a mission has excess margin, it is likely a tweeter (GPS) or no solid mission (OA).
Most Atlas missions are no-solid missions.

That doesn't mean they don't have little margin.
Customers will use that margin to get a better delta-V to GSO, if that's their final orbit.
They might use it to load more prop on their SV if GSO isn't their ultimate destination, or go to a different orbit.
They might add secondaries/cubesats.
They might use it to increase the launch window with non-optimal steering.
And/or mix in an upper stage disposal burn combined with any or all of the above.
As Jim mentioned, GPS is more the exception than the rule, solids or no solids.

And what I meant by tweener is GPS on Delta IV couldn't be done with no solids and with two had excess performance.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: bstrong on 05/25/2016 05:12 PM
That doesn't mean they don't have little margin.
Customers will use that margin to get a better delta-V to GSO, if that's their final orbit.
They might use it to load more prop on their SV if GSO isn't their ultimate destination, or go to a different orbit.
They might add secondaries/cubesats.
They might use it to increase the launch window with non-optimal steering.
And/or mix in an upper stage disposal burn combined with any or all of the above.
As Jim mentioned, GPS is more the exception than the rule, solids or no solids.

Thanks for clarifying this. I think I finally understand why the model is based on $/kg with a fixed number of flights. It sort of makes sense if mission requirements expand to use up all the available margin (without adding more solids).

If I understand correctly, that's an important difference in behavior between commercial customers and government customers. Commercial customers will size their payloads to preserve the option of using multiple launchers and probably don't have as much input into decisions like increasing the duration of launch windows. But it sounds like government customers will consume all margin available until the next increment in cost.

The real question is whether they are just using the margin because it's there, or if they actually value it enough to pay more for it. The $/kg model basically assumes they are willing to pay the same price for it that they paid for the "minimum required payload." I'm guessing that is true in some cases and not in others, but in any case they will probably be very reluctant to give it up once they are accustomed to it.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 05/25/2016 05:16 PM

Similarly the EELV's performance margin is extra dead-weight unless its needed. Versus the Falcon9 is supposed to use that extra propellant for reentry and propulsive landing - if it wasn't needed.


It is an exception and not the rule.  Most missions have little margin.  If a mission has excess margin, it is likely a tweeter (GPS) or no solid mission (OA).
Most Atlas missions are no-solid missions.

That doesn't mean they don't have little margin.
Customers will use that margin to get a better delta-V to GSO, if that's their final orbit.
They might use it to load more prop on their SV if GSO isn't their ultimate destination, or go to a different orbit.
They might add secondaries/cubesats.
They might use it to increase the launch window with non-optimal steering.
And/or mix in an upper stage disposal burn combined with any or all of the above.
As Jim mentioned, GPS is more the exception than the rule, solids or no solids.

And what I meant by tweener is GPS on Delta IV couldn't be done with no solids and with two had excess performance.
Gotcha. I had misread and/or misunderstood what your post was.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: jabe on 06/12/2016 12:56 PM
I think this tweet could go here..
https://twitter.com/paulvans/status/741816502081331200 (https://twitter.com/paulvans/status/741816502081331200)
Quote
Great Space Resources Roundtable! ULA announced they are willing to purchase water/liquid oxygen and hydrogen in LEO for $3000.-/kg
so they obviously want it for their cis lunar plans..ACES Xeus..but the fee they are willing to pay seems REALLY high.  AS a vendor it is great price.  So for commercial companies that sounds like a good deal...Can see Spacex using reused boosters to send prop depots up..  The other small launch companies should be able to get investment to make bigger rockets to fill niche..
anyone else think this is big news??
jb


edit:i forgot to mention George sowers will post the presentation online soon..he mentioned it earlier in the week but didn't think he would have such great news in the presentation..well done ULA
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 06/12/2016 06:01 PM
I think this tweet could go here..
https://twitter.com/paulvans/status/741816502081331200 (https://twitter.com/paulvans/status/741816502081331200)
Quote
Great Space Resources Roundtable! ULA announced they are willing to purchase water/liquid oxygen and hydrogen in LEO for $3000.-/kg
so they obviously want it for their cis lunar plans..ACES Xeus..but the fee they are willing to pay seems REALLY high.  AS a vendor it is great price.  So for commercial companies that sounds like a good deal...Can see Spacex using reused boosters to send prop depots up..  The other small launch companies should be able to get investment to make bigger rockets to fill niche..
anyone else think this is big news??
jb


edit:i forgot to mention George sowers will post the presentation online soon..he mentioned it earlier in the week but didn't think he would have such great news in the presentation..well done ULA
The company delivering fuel needs to provide tanker/depot as well LV.
 FH might just be able to do it at this price.

Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: jabe on 06/12/2016 06:59 PM
true but if launch costs low seems like a good margin for return of launch and depot devlopment costs...
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 06/12/2016 07:31 PM
true but if launch costs low seems like a good margin for return of launch and depot devlopment costs...
Yeah, part of the problem here is that if launch is cheap enough to provide propellant at $3000/kg, the people providing propellant may just want to compete for ULA's job of launching satellites in the first place.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 06/12/2016 08:44 PM
Satellites are not the only potential market. HSF to cislunar space eg DSH of lunar flyby. An ACES with habitat module could carry 6 crew to DSH and return or do a lunar flyby.

There is also resupply of DSH.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: jabe on 06/12/2016 09:18 PM
really looking forward to reading the presentation to see what info is discussed..


edit:oh..and nice thing about launching depots there is no multimillion dollar satellite on it..just a depot ..that could be mass produced if market open up so cost of each could be "cheap".. so insurance could be alot lower... which lowers launch cost
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Robotbeat on 06/13/2016 02:08 PM
really looking forward to reading the presentation to see what info is discussed..


edit:oh..and nice thing about launching depots there is no multimillion dollar satellite on it..just a depot ..that could be mass produced if market open up so cost of each could be "cheap".. so insurance could be alot lower... which lowers launch cost
Depot is not a tanker.

Tankers can be mass-produced. A depot is a multimillion dollar spacecraft.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: jabe on 06/13/2016 08:15 PM
really looking forward to reading the presentation to see what info is discussed..


edit:oh..and nice thing about launching depots there is no multimillion dollar satellite on it..just a depot ..that could be mass produced if market open up so cost of each could be "cheap".. so insurance could be alot lower... which lowers launch cost
Depot is not a tanker.

Tankers can be mass-produced. A depot is a multimillion dollar spacecraft.
good clarification..so can they launch a tanker to fill the depot? :)
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: S.Paulissen on 06/24/2016 12:32 PM
really looking forward to reading the presentation to see what info is discussed..


edit:oh..and nice thing about launching depots there is no multimillion dollar satellite on it..just a depot ..that could be mass produced if market open up so cost of each could be "cheap".. so insurance could be alot lower... which lowers launch cost
Depot is not a tanker.

Tankers can be mass-produced. A depot is a multimillion dollar spacecraft.

Technically, any LV with appreciable payload to LEO for this application is probably also a multimillion dollar spacecraft.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lar on 06/27/2017 07:56 PM
Has anyone reexamined the original spreadsheet in view of what SpaceX has been observed to be doing?
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: envy887 on 06/28/2017 03:39 PM
If you are modelling traditional payloads, then the $/kg metric in entirely incorrect; change to $/payload and reusability jumps ahead.

No, you cannot say that. Expendable rockets can adjust to payload too. You can:

- Simply build a smaller rocket (smaller/less engines, tanks)
- Vary the number of boosters.
- Vary the number of stages.

All those methods save cost. So when Elon says reusability pays off with one reuse its almost like ULA saying launching Atlas V without boosters pays off (when the boosters are not needed).

It doesn't address the fundamental issue of reusable vs expendable.

Building a smaller rocket requires maintaining manufacturing, test, and launch infrastructure for another rocket. That's not "adjusting" it's paying more money that now needs a certain flight rate to support.

Varying the number of boosters and stages does adjust both payload and cost, but the problem is getting a design that's both small enough for low cost payloads and scalable enough for the largest payloads.

The incremental cost for reusing a big rocket vs throwing away a medium rocket is what we're after.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: rst on 06/28/2017 09:00 PM
Has anyone reexamined the original spreadsheet in view of what SpaceX has been observed to be doing?

No, but it was already noted quite a bit earlier that the model is very sensitive to the refurb cost parameter (among others):

Look at row #2:  "Fraction of recovered HW production cost to total launch service cost"
Currently only 60% - so of course reuse makes less sense...  Where is this number from?  Is it applicable to an environment where your rapidly launching a large number of similar missions? (comm sats, refueling, etc)

Now change the number in the spreadsheet from 60% to 70%.  Not a big change, right?

Voila. Suddenly instead of never making sense, RTLS makes sense at 7 flights.

Make it 75%, and RTLS makes sense at 5 flights.

So yeah.  Pick and Choose.

It's been obvious for quite some time that SpaceX has been aiming toward refurb costs way lower than the ULA spreadsheet was assuming.  Per meekGee's original post, the payload penalty assumptions are likewise perhaps high (it's not clear that they were figuring in sea landings).  I don't think I have trustworthy numbers on any of this stuff, but anyone who thinks they do might want to play around a bit...
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lars-J on 06/28/2017 09:34 PM
I'd be curious alto hear if Mr. Sowers still stands behind his formula, now that he is no longer associated with ULA.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RedLineTrain on 06/28/2017 09:53 PM
Has anyone reexamined the original spreadsheet in view of what SpaceX has been observed to be doing?

I don't think the validity of the model has changed based on SpaceX's experience, except perhaps to show the benefit to launch cadence of reuse.  Of course, Sowers could argue that if not doing reuse, you would simply plan your manufacturing to a higher rate.

The model is very sensitive to two variables, one of which is k, the fraction of recovered HW production cost to total launch service cost.  Sowers suggests that this might be 0.4 for SpaceX, leading to a need for a 10-reflight breakeven.  But SpaceX says that this variable is more like 0.7, which leads to a 3-reflight breakeven.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Space Ghost 1962 on 06/28/2017 10:19 PM
There are many shortcomings of Sower's spreadsheet. Won't detail them. The whole point was to undercut a long term business case in the short term.

The key thing to focus on is the growth of manifest and the increased flight rate reused boosters enabled. We're watching it take hold.

Note that the Iridium guys are considering "flight proven" boosters, where prior it was new ones. That's because those fly quicker, rather than having to wait for an entire all-up new vehicle to be built and tested. Only a F9US needs to be built and tested.

The modified Sower's spreadsheet happens later, years later.

Meanwhile SX global market share gradually rises. And with it the reuse pivot shifts the market momentum into competition over reuse.

Another missing part of the ULA business analysis of reuse vs expendable - when enough of the market depends on reuse altering "time to flight", then it becomes un-dislodgable. That turns out to be between 20-30% global market share.

We are seeing that underway. Predict that around 35% or so, competitive launch service providers will move to have a portion of their vehicle reusable in 2-3 years (easiest is the fairing). Those that don't will become moribund.

add:

People are really upset as to how SX is disrupting space launch. But not me. This is big. And they are reacting negatively. In the past they could find and fire disruptive influences, or wreck such suppliers. They can't now.

They spend 5-10 years on sats. they spend a decade on LV's. When you increase cadence on launch, suddenly everyone has to march faster, getting things down to 4-6 months.

The aerospace industry is beginning to act more like the computer industry, working more at Internet time.

And this really PO's most of the industry. Because if they don't move faster, someone else might.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Coastal Ron on 06/28/2017 11:10 PM
It's been obvious for quite some time that SpaceX has been aiming toward refurb costs way lower than the ULA spreadsheet was assuming.

I looked at that as a marketing initiative from ULA, not a true engineering analysis. It will be interesting to see if Dr. Sowers talks about that again now that he no longer works for ULA.

Quote
Per meekGee's original post, the payload penalty assumptions are likewise perhaps high (it's not clear that they were figuring in sea landings).

What "payload penalties"?

If SpaceX can build and launch a rocket for less than what ULA can, and it can perform the same service as a ULA rocket, then it doesn't matter whether the SpaceX rocket is using 100% of it's capabilities or less than that (which it has to for reusability), since there is nothing to penalize - the same work is accomplished, just in a different way.

Judging a rocket on it's theoretical capabilities is a vanity metric. All that matters is the cost of performing the same service, and if SpaceX can recover their 1st stage while performing the same service as an expendable ULA rocket, great. There is no "payload penalty".
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Lars-J on 06/29/2017 12:22 AM
Judging a rocket on it's theoretical capabilities is a vanity metric. All that matters is the cost of performing the same service, and if SpaceX can recover their 1st stage while performing the same service as an expendable ULA rocket, great. There is no "payload penalty".

This x 1000! This is a concept that ULA can't seem to wrap their heads around. But I suppose that is to be expected when you operate two dial-a-rocket launch vehicles. Having more performance than strictly needed is an alien concept to them.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: MikeAtkinson on 06/29/2017 07:04 AM
I've been meaning to post this for a long time. The main flaw in the analysis is how different launchers adapt to different payload masses.

Ariane 5 : dual launch
Atlas V : add solids
Falcon 9 : one size fits all.

Dual launch on Ariane 5 gives them some flexibility on pricing individual, but they need to match low and high mass satellites. Reusability means less payload and this directly follows through to less income per launch.

Adding solids means that lower payload due to reusability has to be made up with more solids, hence greatly reducing any cost benefits.

SpaceX's one size fit all approach means that many satellites are way below the max payload and so for those there is no performance penalty. The continued improvements to Falcon 9 have meant that adding reusability has come at the same time as improved performance. Finally, vertical landing allows downrange landings on a ASDS and so the same launcher can be used in three modes (TRLS, ASDS and expendable) allowing the flexibility that the basic one size fits all strategy lacks.

Quite agree about the time benefits for reusability. Particularly for constellations, were much of the integration and analysis has been done for previous missions. Cutting time from order to flight, will force the rest of the industry to work at a faster pace.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: deruch on 06/29/2017 11:10 AM
Sowers suggests that this might be 0.4 for SpaceX, leading to a need for a 10-reflight breakeven.  But SpaceX says that this variable is more like 0.7, which leads to a 3-reflight breakeven.

SpaceX has said that the first stage represents about 70% of the cost of the rocket, not 70% of the launch service price.  Not positive how that difference plays into Dr. Sowers' model, but I don't think you can just substitute 0.7 for the k value.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: LouScheffer on 06/29/2017 01:28 PM
From the very first post in this thread:
The figure of merit I chose to evaluate is pure $/kg of the reusable system compared to $/kg of the same system used in expendable mode.  [...]

An example of where this pure case applies directly is the launch of a commodity like propellant to fill an orbiting stage or depot.  In that case every launcher would load as much as it could carry and $/kg is all that matters.
This, I think, is the fundamental flaw.  The customers that exist today are not optimizing $/kg -they are searching for a minimum-cost solution to launching their particular payload, whose mass is already determined.   

IF you are filling a propellent depot, the application George points out, then re-usablility is much tougher to justify (70% of the cost, for 70% of the capacity, and re-use never pays off).  But if you want to launch a single payload, and it fits within that 70%, then re-use pays off immediately.

I think a more realistic (but more complex) spreadsheet would start with an assumed distribution of demand (so many 4000kg launches, 4500 kg launches, 5000 kg launches, etc) and look at the cost per payload.  You could compare re-usable, dial-a-rocket, paired launches, and other approaches.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: gospacex on 06/29/2017 01:33 PM
Sowers suggests that this might be 0.4 for SpaceX, leading to a need for a 10-reflight breakeven.  But SpaceX says that this variable is more like 0.7, which leads to a 3-reflight breakeven.

SpaceX has said that the first stage represents about 70% of the cost of the rocket, not 70% of the launch service price.

It was addressed before. All fixed components of launch are irrelevant when you compare reused core and expendable core, since they do not change. That is an another mistake in the comparison.

The correct question is, "after how many reflights reuse of a core breaks even compared to expending a new core each time", not "compared to *the cost of entire launch*". Therefore other costs (example: cost of the second stage) are irrelevant.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: RedLineTrain on 06/29/2017 01:48 PM
Sowers suggests that this might be 0.4 for SpaceX, leading to a need for a 10-reflight breakeven.  But SpaceX says that this variable is more like 0.7, which leads to a 3-reflight breakeven.

SpaceX has said that the first stage represents about 70% of the cost of the rocket, not 70% of the launch service price.  Not positive how that difference plays into Dr. Sowers' model, but I don't think you can just substitute 0.7 for the k value.

Price is irrelevant to the model.  k is defined as "the fraction of recovered HW production cost to total launch service cost."  The total launch service cost would be the cost of producing the rocket plus operations to get it launched.

Given that ULA's customer is the government, the operations costs are a lot higher.  But for SpaceX, many/most of its customers are commercial.  So I stand by the k = 0.7 for SpaceX.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: Paul451 on 06/29/2017 01:52 PM
I looked at that as a marketing initiative from ULA, not a true engineering analysis. It will be interesting to see if Dr. Sowers talks about that again now that he no longer works for ULA.

Given his distinct lack of interest in improving his model, I'd say your first assumption is correct.

Per meekGee's original post, the payload penalty assumptions are likewise perhaps high (it's not clear that they were figuring in sea landings).
What "payload penalties"?

The model treats revenue as if each launcher has a fixed, linear $/kg income rate. Hence if reusability costs you 30% of your payload, the model assumes you lose 30% of your revenue. (If you, for example, assume the original price had a 100% mark-up on unit-costs, then even saving 60% on the unit-costs through reusability is completely eaten by that phony reduced revenue. And that's before you add any increase in fixed costs for developing reusability.)

While $/kg is a quick'n'dirty way to compare across launch providers, this model shows the limits of doing so, especially for comparing launchers with variants of themselves.

If the top 30% of your launcher's capacity is only required for 5% of your potential market, but revenue-per-payload is roughly the same, then you don't have to save much from reusability before you are better off. (Even if those top 5% of payloads typical pay double the usual market rate, that's still less than 10% of your revenue, not 30%.)

It's not that the model is "simple", as its creator claims, it's that the model is completely misleading on that measure alone.

But in addition...

IF you are filling a propellent depot, the application George points out, then re-usablility is much tougher to justify

The model effectively assumes a fixed number of launches. It assumes that you aren't going to increase your market share via lower prices, to make up for giving up that potential top 5% of the market. Nor will you lose market share if you don't add reusability. That adds another artificial distortion.

It makes no sense to assume fungible payloads ($/kg) and a fixed number of launches. If you are really are modelling a future fuel-depot market, that market will be measured in number of tonnes/yr, not number of launches/yr. Reduce the capacity of each launch and you need to increase the number of launches, reducing the share of fixed costs in each launch as well as the unit-cost via reusability.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: TrevorMonty on 06/29/2017 02:41 PM
Reuse does rely on high launch rate to recover R&D in reasonable time. Current launch market is finite with only so many missions avaliable to compete for. With lot of customers deliberately spreading their missions between current launch providers to spread their risk and to stop a monopoly.

What SpaceX and Blue especially are banking on is a new markets opening up due to lower price. The likes of space tourism as example could dramatically increase demand which goes up as launch price comes down. The existing  launch providers can't justify $Bs on R&D for non exist market that may or may not appear. These old space companies have been burnt before by large satellite markets that didn't appear.
SpaceX also to certain extent with F1, why can it once flying if there was large demand.

Where reuse does shine is in short lead time between booking and flying. Possible greater reliability of reused stage, yet to be proved. Being able inspect a flown stage should allow for  engineering of more reliable LV.
Both of these features are hard to put a price on but may well be more important than lower price.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: saliva_sweet on 06/29/2017 03:32 PM
It's been obvious for quite some time that SpaceX has been aiming toward refurb costs way lower than the ULA spreadsheet was assuming.

The spreadsheet isn't assuming anything. You can plug in any value you like. That's why I like it.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: envy887 on 06/29/2017 03:46 PM
It's been obvious for quite some time that SpaceX has been aiming toward refurb costs way lower than the ULA spreadsheet was assuming.

The spreadsheet isn't assuming anything. You can plug in any value you like. That's why I like it.

Many things are not modeled and therefore assumed constant... but improving the model makes it a lot more complex an increases the already high uncertainty.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: saliva_sweet on 06/29/2017 03:55 PM
Has anyone reexamined the original spreadsheet in view of what SpaceX has been observed to be doing?

I've been doing that more or less since Sowers posted it (and getting a lot of flak for it). Everything Elon Musk, ULA and Arianespace have been saying is entirely concordant with this spreadsheet. You can use it to see what conditions need to be met for reuse to truly make sense over the best theoretical expendable. It requires high launch rates and low overhead costs. These are the conditions Spacex needs to force. If they succeed, the savings can heavily snowball and reusable system will easily beat the best expendable. The spreadsheet shows and quantifies that. It also shows that SMART and Adeline (or whatever the ariane equivalent was) are dead ends and will never fly.

People often mistake Sowers' work for some sort of current market analysis. It is not.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: GWH on 06/29/2017 10:32 PM
Has anyone reexamined the original spreadsheet in view of what SpaceX has been observed to be doing?

I've been doing that more or less since Sowers posted it (and getting a lot of flak for it). Everything Elon Musk, ULA and Arianespace have been saying is entirely concordant with this spreadsheet. You can use it to see what conditions need to be met for reuse to truly make sense over the best theoretical expendable. It requires high launch rates and low overhead costs. These are the conditions Spacex needs to force. If they succeed, the savings can heavily snowball and reusable system will easily beat the best expendable. The spreadsheet shows and quantifies that. It also shows that SMART and Adeline (or whatever the ariane equivalent was) are dead ends and will never fly.

People often mistake Sowers' work for some sort of current market analysis. It is not.

Yeah its a pretty weak spreadsheet since it doesn't breakdown fixed costs vs. launch rate, allow for FH and corresponding uptick in core production, there is no production sharing for common hardware like F9 booster & US architecture, refurbishment is assumed on a per flight basis and not intermittent etc.
Title: Re: Reuse business case
Post by: oldAtlas_Eguy on 06/30/2017 01:21 AM
In the SpaceX case there is a few complicating events. One was that SpaceX increased their expendable payload capability of the F9 from the original v1.0 to the Block 5 by 145% while only increase the price by 15%. So the effect is that even by loosing 30% of that payload capability increase means that the reusable version has increased payload capability by 71% over that of the original while reducing the price by 7.5%. So the actual occurrence was that payload increased and price decreased.

Another item is that the 2 reuse flights this year represents 5% of all orbital launches this year. A BTW SpaceX has launched 22% of all orbital launches in the world so far for the year. If they do 70% of their launches reuse launches for 2018 that would represent 15% of all launches world wide.