Author Topic: Shuttle mission costs vs Apollo LEO  (Read 6199 times)

Offline fredm6463

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Shuttle mission costs vs Apollo LEO
« on: 12/06/2010 05:35 PM »
With all the talk of Shuttle missions costing up to $500 Million and a landing in California adding another $1-2 Million per mission, what was the cost (in 2010 dollars) for a LEO Apollo mission, specifically, the splashdown recovery of the Apollo capsule, which required a fleet of navy ships and helicopters.

I am curious what the recovery costs of a human space capsule splashing down in the Pacific would be compared to the runway landing "recovery mode" costs of the space shuttle or similar lifting body type spacecraft like the X37B.

Seems to me, the recovery at sea would add a large amount to the cost of a mission considering the use of Navy Aircraft carriers, other water vessels and of course the helicopters and all the personnel required to recover the astronauts and spacecraft.

Offline pathfinder_01

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Re: Shuttle mission costs vs Apollo LEO
« Reply #1 on: 12/06/2010 08:49 PM »
Apollo for LEO work was cheaper than the shuttle. The choke point was that without a space station a capsule in orbit is a lot less functional than the shuttle and Skylab as a space station would be primitive a best(No ability to resupply it ect.).

While sea recovery can add a lot to the price of a capsule not all capsules need to land at sea. Future versions of Dragon will be land landers. Soyuz lands by land and the BEO cst100 will land by land.

Offline JayP

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Re: Shuttle mission costs vs Apollo LEO
« Reply #2 on: 12/06/2010 09:06 PM »
The million dollars per mission for a landing at Dryden is for transporting the shuttle across country on the SCA, not the landing itself. It doesn't apply to a land landing at KSC, so that isn't a proper metric for comparing costs

As far as the cost of ocean recovery, those aircraft carriers are owned by the federal goverment. They allready have to pay for their opperations all the time. It would cost the same for them to be recovering spacecraft as it would for them to be steaming around doing carrier qual workups.

Plus, even if the recovery costs $1 million, that is still only 0.2% of the total cost per mission. There are a lot more compelling issues that would drive the choice between land or water landings (like safety).
« Last Edit: 12/07/2010 06:52 PM by JayP »

Offline Jorge

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Re: Shuttle mission costs vs Apollo LEO
« Reply #3 on: 12/07/2010 04:52 AM »
Apollo for LEO work was cheaper than the shuttle.

True, *provided* that only the Saturn IB would have been kept.
JRF

Offline pathfinder_01

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Re: Shuttle mission costs vs Apollo LEO
« Reply #4 on: 12/07/2010 05:04 AM »
Apollo for LEO work was cheaper than the shuttle.

True, *provided* that only the Saturn IB would have been kept.

There were plans to put Apollo on a Titan III for Skylab B. It would take a redesign and lunar capability would be lost.

Offline Jorge

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Re: Shuttle mission costs vs Apollo LEO
« Reply #5 on: 12/07/2010 05:35 AM »
Apollo for LEO work was cheaper than the shuttle.

True, *provided* that only the Saturn IB would have been kept.

There were plans to put Apollo on a Titan III for Skylab B. It would take a redesign and lunar capability would be lost.

Nit conceded. I'll re-word my point: "True, *provided* that the Saturn V would have been retired."
JRF

Offline Patchouli

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Re: Shuttle mission costs vs Apollo LEO
« Reply #6 on: 12/07/2010 05:48 AM »
Apollo for LEO work was cheaper than the shuttle.

True, *provided* that only the Saturn IB would have been kept.

I thought the Saturn IB cost about 107 million USD in 1967 which comes to just under 680 million USD in today's dollars.

I say in this case the shuttle is a better bargain as it carries a crew of 7 and carries a payload larger then anything back then except for the Saturn V.

In modern LV's I think only the Delta IV-H and F9-H can lift more then the shuttle.

Of course there was a lot they could have done to reduce the cost of the Saturn IB.

Just getting the flight rate up by having it also launch space probes etc may have cut  the unit cost by half.

Then maybe also recover the first stages even if just the eight H1's and their thrust structure could be reused it would save millions.
 

The biggest problem was not the Saturn but Apollo it was not reusable and it's systems  were getting out of date by the mid 70s.

They'd probably have to spend a fair amount to bring the vehicle back up to date adding things like a full N2 O2 atmosphere ,LEO mission modules such as an airlock,a proper toilet,VLSI based avionics,and launch adapters to also use Titian III etc.

Saturn's avionics also would need updating I think by the mid 70s the entire LVDC could have been replaced with two or three circuit cards weighing less then a Kg.
« Last Edit: 12/07/2010 06:11 AM by Patchouli »

Offline truth is life

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Re: Shuttle mission costs vs Apollo LEO
« Reply #7 on: 12/07/2010 04:48 PM »
They'd probably have to spend a fair amount to bring the vehicle back up to date adding things like a full N2 O2 atmosphere ,LEO mission modules such as an airlock,a proper toilet,VLSI based avionics,and launch adapters to also use Titian III etc.

Perhaps, but if the Apollo CSM is being used mainly as a space station transport capsule (which seems likely, since a capsule by itself is pretty worthless), then does it really need a toilet or airlock? The maximum mission duration, like the Soyuz-T/Soyuz Ferry, won't be longer than a couple days, and no EVAs are to be expected except under extraordinary conditions.

Offline edkyle99

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Re: Shuttle mission costs vs Apollo LEO
« Reply #8 on: 12/07/2010 05:11 PM »
With all the talk of Shuttle missions costing up to $500 Million and a landing in California adding another $1-2 Million per mission, what was the cost (in 2010 dollars) for a LEO Apollo mission, specifically, the splashdown recovery of the Apollo capsule, which required a fleet of navy ships and helicopters.

Way off.  STS has cost something like $1.4 billion per flight.   Apollo cost $9.9 billion per *piloted* flight, or $3.4 billion per flight if all 32 manned and unmanned Saturn I/IB/and V missions are included in the tally.

 http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1579/1

Looking at these numbers, I have no idea why people thought the U.S. could go to the Moon on a Shuttle budget.  Can't be done.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 12/07/2010 05:14 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline Namechange User

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Re: Shuttle mission costs vs Apollo LEO
« Reply #9 on: 12/07/2010 05:22 PM »
With all the talk of Shuttle missions costing up to $500 Million and a landing in California adding another $1-2 Million per mission, what was the cost (in 2010 dollars) for a LEO Apollo mission, specifically, the splashdown recovery of the Apollo capsule, which required a fleet of navy ships and helicopters.

Way off.  STS has cost something like $1.4 billion per flight.   Apollo cost $9.9 billion per *piloted* flight, or $3.4 billion per flight if all 32 manned and unmanned Saturn I/IB/and V missions are included in the tally.

 http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1579/1

Looking at these numbers, I have no idea why people thought the U.S. could go to the Moon on a Shuttle budget.  Can't be done.

 - Ed Kyle

That's a just adding development and ops costs together and dividing by the number of flights.  Not really the *correct* way of doing it in my opinion, especially for a program that has been operational for decades. 

Using this method, unless the reader understands this going in, sets up the perception that is what it really costs per flight.  In reality, if it was that much, two flights in a year would eat up the entire program budget. 
Enjoying viewing the forum a little better now by filtering certain users.

Offline Patchouli

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Re: Shuttle mission costs vs Apollo LEO
« Reply #10 on: 12/07/2010 06:57 PM »
With all the talk of Shuttle missions costing up to $500 Million and a landing in California adding another $1-2 Million per mission, what was the cost (in 2010 dollars) for a LEO Apollo mission, specifically, the splashdown recovery of the Apollo capsule, which required a fleet of navy ships and helicopters.

Way off.  STS has cost something like $1.4 billion per flight.   Apollo cost $9.9 billion per *piloted* flight, or $3.4 billion per flight if all 32 manned and unmanned Saturn I/IB/and V missions are included in the tally.

 http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1579/1

Looking at these numbers, I have no idea why people thought the U.S. could go to the Moon on a Shuttle budget.  Can't be done.

 - Ed Kyle

That's a just adding development and ops costs together and dividing by the number of flights.  Not really the *correct* way of doing it in my opinion, especially for a program that has been operational for decades. 

Using this method, unless the reader understands this going in, sets up the perception that is what it really costs per flight.  In reality, if it was that much, two flights in a year would eat up the entire program budget. 

The Shuttle once flew nine times in one year when NASA's budget was under 14 billion a year.

The Shuttle is a vehicle that has very high fixed costs nearly 4 billion a year just to maintain the infrastructure.
But it's reoccurring costs are actually fairly low.
It does not cost much to add an extra Shuttle mission.

The same probably could be said of the Saturn IB the actual unit cost likely was not really that much but maintaining the production line was not cheap.

An upgraded Saturn IB plus a reusable variant of Apollo or a mini shuttle probably could have been a fairly low cost transportation system.
« Last Edit: 12/07/2010 07:13 PM by Patchouli »

Offline Namechange User

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Re: Shuttle mission costs vs Apollo LEO
« Reply #11 on: 12/07/2010 07:01 PM »
The shuttle has never had an 8 billion a year budget while flying.  Typical budget in full-swing that everything can run quite comfortably on is around 3 billion a year. 
Enjoying viewing the forum a little better now by filtering certain users.

Offline edkyle99

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Re: Shuttle mission costs vs Apollo LEO
« Reply #12 on: 12/07/2010 08:45 PM »
That's a just adding development and ops costs together and dividing by the number of flights.  Not really the *correct* way of doing it in my opinion, especially for a program that has been operational for decades. 

Using this method, unless the reader understands this going in, sets up the perception that is what it really costs per flight.  In reality, if it was that much, two flights in a year would eat up the entire program budget. 

Only counting a portion of the real cost of a launch system simply ignores reality.  It might be possible to "write off" development cost of a high volume product like a computer or automobile, but development remains a stubbornly significant portion of total orbital launch system cost because of the low launch totals.  Someone paid for this stuff, and that someone is us!  The "reader" *should* perceive these numbers as the real cost of flying, because they are the real costs.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 12/07/2010 08:47 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline alexw

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Re: Shuttle mission costs vs Apollo LEO
« Reply #13 on: 12/08/2010 12:12 AM »
Way off.  STS has cost something like $1.4 billion per flight.   Apollo cost $9.9 billion per *piloted* flight, or $3.4 billion per flight if all 32 manned and unmanned Saturn I/IB/and V missions are included in the tally.
 http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1579/1
Looking at these numbers, I have no idea why people thought the U.S. could go to the Moon on a Shuttle budget.  Can't be done.
That's a just adding development and ops costs together and dividing by the number of flights.  Not really the *correct* way of doing it in my opinion, especially for a program that has been operational for decades. 
Using this method, unless the reader understands this going in, sets up the perception that is what it really costs per flight.  In reality, if it was that much, two flights in a year would eat up the entire program budget. 

      The question "how much does a Shuttle flight cost?" is ill-posed and has multiple answers.

     Ed's response, which is the average cost per flight over the total program, is a perfectly "correct" answer. If you like, you can insist that when such a figure is quoted, it is labeled as such.

There are at least several possibly relevant responses to the question:
- average total cost per flight, over the whole program (in some constant dollars)
- total cost per year, in a given year
- average cost per flight, in a given year
- marginal cost of an additional flight, in a given year

These are all valid, useful, and "correct", regardless of whether a program has been operational for decades.
All figures of course should specify which year's dollars they are using, and also take are of the NASA accounting change back around 2006ish.

 -Alex

Offline Proponent

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Re: Shuttle mission costs vs Apollo LEO
« Reply #14 on: 12/08/2010 05:43 AM »
[T]ake are of the NASA accounting change back around 2006ish.

What were the changes?

Offline alexw

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Re: Shuttle mission costs vs Apollo LEO
« Reply #15 on: 12/08/2010 06:55 AM »
[T]ake are of the NASA accounting change back around 2006ish.
What were the changes?
From "full cost" to "direct". (No, I don't know the story either.)
Some results can be seen at: http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=22392.msg625439#msg625439
-Alex

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