Author Topic: The Reaction Engines Skylon Master Thread (1)  (Read 691571 times)

Offline bearshrimp

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Re: Skylon
« Reply #560 on: 04/15/2012 01:16 am »
I was playing with the numbers in Excel last night and it will work.  I was counting the development costs twice in my initial assessment (whoops).  Trust me, I wouldn't have done that if I were being paid...anyway :)

On the numbers I ran assuming a production run of 10 vehicles and an overall development cost of $15B with a fixed annual operating cost of $4.5M and a variable operating cost of $5M based on 70 missions per year, I came up with a cost to LEO (for the C1) of $1.96M/mt, about half that of Falcon-9.  Once I had the model set up I couldn't resist running some theoretical numbers like:

With a production run of 60 units and an annual duty cycle of 105 launches if the SKYLON was certified for 400 cycles the cost drops to $.70M/mt.

With a production run of 90 units and an annual duty cycle of 158 launches if the SKYLON was certified for 800 cycles the cost drops to $.47M/mt.

And for fun ;) ...With a production run of 180 units and an annual duty cycle of 532 launches if the SKYLON was certified for 6,400 cycles (about 10% of a 737's rating) the cost drops to $.22M/mt.

For all my numbers I figured over a 10 year period using the 3.5% discount rate.  The main issue that I would like to resolve is how much of the operating cost would be fixed and how much would be variable.  I pulled some old files I had on aircraft maintinence costs and compaired them to the overall depreciation of aircraft for my model of the SKYLON's fixed and variable operating costs.

In some ways the SKYLON could be less expensive to operate than a 747 if the production could be high enough.  For example, the LH2/LOX costs of a C1 launch would cost about $400K at today's prices (much lower if we get the H2 economy rolling).  While the Concorde sucked down over 95,000 kg, or $2M of Jet-A per flight!

So, I was wrong.  This could work financialy I will be watching this space.

Online Robotbeat

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Re: Skylon
« Reply #561 on: 04/15/2012 01:47 am »
Only a 3.5% discount rate? Is that subsidized by the government?
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline 93143

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Re: Skylon
« Reply #562 on: 04/15/2012 03:16 am »
It's the UK's official government discount rate.  Not sure what that means exactly, since I'm not an economist, but it seems London Economics used 12% and it still worked...

Offline Moe Grills

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Re: Skylon
« Reply #563 on: 04/18/2012 01:54 am »
I was playing with the numbers in Excel last night and it will work.  I was counting the development costs twice in my initial assessment (whoops).  Trust me, I wouldn't have done that if I were being paid...anyway :)

On the numbers I ran assuming a production run of 10 vehicles and an overall development cost of $15B with a fixed annual operating cost of $4.5M and a variable operating cost of $5M based on 70 missions per year, I came up with a cost to LEO (for the C1) of $1.96M/mt, about half that of Falcon-9.  Once I had the model set up I couldn't resist running some theoretical numbers like:
(Snip!)
.  For example, the LH2/LOX costs of a C1 launch would cost about $400K at today's prices (much lower if we get the H2 economy rolling).  While the Concorde sucked down over 95,000 kg, or $2M of Jet-A per flight!
(Snip!)

 I must vehemently stress that there is little civilian commercial market for LEO at this time for any launch/booster vehicles!

The money is in (and will remain for the foreseeable future in) GEO.
 
What about orbital space tourism in LEO?
Let us assume that a man-rated Skylon is produced, capable of carrying large numbers of passengers into LEO.
Assuming 100 kg per passenger (both average body mass and luggage)
Then assuming $1,000/kg is attainable. The passengers would have to
shell out an average of 100,000 dollars or euros per orbital joy-ride.
Ohhhh! And there's a little matter called profit and another one called
insurance. Lloyd''s of London offering coverage for those passengers
in the foreseeable future?
I'm not holding my breath.

Offline QuantumG

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Re: Skylon
« Reply #564 on: 04/18/2012 01:56 am »
Then assuming $1,000/kg is attainable. The passengers would have to
shell out an average of 100,000 dollars or euros per orbital joy-ride.

Which is phenomenal.. it's $200k for suborbital seats currently. Why would you look down on half the price for orbital? If you want to argue against Skylon, there's a lot easier targets!
Human spaceflight is basically just LARPing now.

Online Lampyridae

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Re: Skylon
« Reply #565 on: 04/18/2012 10:00 am »
In plain terms, discount rate refers to decisions whether or not to invest in a piece of equipment (or other income-generating asset), or whether to just give the profits back to shareholders. Say if an asset costs $100 million dollars now and will generate $150 million in ten years, whereas the discounted cost of the money in ten years is only $130 million, then it is a good investment (if it is risk free). Inherently risky ventures will have to draw in much higher profits to offset that risk of the project bombing.

Offline baldusi

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Re: Skylon
« Reply #566 on: 04/18/2012 12:55 pm »
Actually, it is the expected return has to be bigger than the cost of money. More risk, lower probability of success, so you need a bigger pay off in case of success. All this above the cost of money (capital plus interests).
So, you can use the risk free discount rate, but then you have to take the the probabilities of success or failure of the whole project, or you can borrow the money at venture capital rates, and assume that it will be successful.

Offline Moe Grills

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Re: Skylon
« Reply #567 on: 04/18/2012 05:27 pm »
Then assuming $1,000/kg is attainable. The passengers would have to
shell out an average of 100,000 dollars or euros per orbital joy-ride.

Which is phenomenal.. it's $200k for suborbital seats currently. Why would you look down on half the price for orbital? If you want to argue against Skylon, there's a lot easier targets!


My skepticism, that's all..
You will notice my post mentions a lot of assumptions.
Those assumptions have not been proved yet, if ever.

If Skylon is converted into an orbital passenger vehicle in the next 20 years? 30 years? More power to the investors.

But in the foreseeable future? Skylon would have to make money
for hauling up numerous unmanned payloads.

LEO?  Unless they receive a large, long term contract to polar orbit military/espionage hardware for say the Pentagon, NATO or the British DOD, I don't see the Skylon investment breaking even, never mind obtaining a profit margin.

GEO? Then it would need to carry an OTV plus reduced payload, and that wold rob Skylon of any financial advantage over say a Falcon 9, or government subsidized GEO payload boosters.

Online Robotbeat

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Re: Skylon
« Reply #568 on: 04/18/2012 05:35 pm »
Then assuming $1,000/kg is attainable. The passengers would have to
shell out an average of 100,000 dollars or euros per orbital joy-ride.

Which is phenomenal.. it's $200k for suborbital seats currently. Why would you look down on half the price for orbital? If you want to argue against Skylon, there's a lot easier targets!

I know I'm being a little pedantic, but XCOR offers suborbital seats for $95k. You might think Virgin is ahead of XCOR, but the dates that they are currently planning powered test flights are just months apart (and XCOR has more experience with rapid, quickly reusable rocket plane flights, and their design is more likely to lead to lower costs than Virgin's concept of operations).
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline 93143

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Re: Skylon
« Reply #569 on: 04/18/2012 06:45 pm »
GEO? Then it would need to carry an OTV plus reduced payload, and that wold rob Skylon of any financial advantage over say a Falcon 9, or government subsidized GEO payload boosters.

Why?  The Skylon Upper Stage is reusable (you can catch it as it returns to LEO and take it back down), and leaves plenty of payload for a large next-generation GEO bird.  The 15-tonne D1 was designed around the Alphabus; if they've indeed gone to 20 tonnes, that should cover all contingencies for a while.

$1000/kg isn't the theoretical minimum; it's a relatively conservative extrapolation assuming the market doesn't grow more rapidly than it would have without Skylon.  Fly more often and it drops.

Offline lkm

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Re: Skylon
« Reply #570 on: 04/18/2012 07:04 pm »

According to the Reaction Engines development plan when the Skylon enters regular commercial service in 2020 two prototype Skylons will already have conducted 300-400 flights over two years and will have conducted every possible mission plan at least four times including 16 visits to the ISS 4 of which will deliver crew. That's potentially nearly 90mt and 16 crew.
They intend for a parallel development of the main initial Skylon specific payloads, in time for the flight test program, of the Skylon Upper Stage, the Skylon Passenger/ Logistics Module, the Skylon Small Payload Carrier and the Skylon Orbiting Facility Interface.
The SUS can put a 8.25mt payload into GTO in expendable mode or 6.25mt in reusable mode and has a notional unit cost of $65m(2009).
The SPLM can put up to 24 people in LEO or 3mt of cargo or combination thereof and has a notional unit cost of $75m(2009).

A Skylon can deliver 1.5mt more to GTO than a Falcon 9 at a cheaper price.
Skylon will enter service with more completed flight than any other launch vehicle.
Well that's the plan.

Offline mr. mark

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Re: Skylon
« Reply #571 on: 04/18/2012 07:16 pm »
two prototype Skylons will already have conducted 300-400 flights over two years

That's the biggest bunch of, I don't know, I have ever heard. 300 - 400 launches in two years? LMOL What kind of junk are these people smoking? That would be a launch every other day! There's not enough payloads in the entire commercial catalog to justify so many launches. Cheaper than Falcon 9 really? When you compare total development costs and add them in, I'm sure the picture will look completely different. ::) The Skylon project managers should be subject to a mental evaluation if they actually believe this.
« Last Edit: 04/18/2012 07:27 pm by mr. mark »

Online Robotbeat

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Re: Skylon
« Reply #572 on: 04/18/2012 07:26 pm »
If you're going to do rapid reusability, do rapid reusability.

XCOR has already demonstrated rapid reuse of a rocket plane, with something like 9 flights in a day, etc. Obviously the performance was NOTHING compared to an orbital craft, but the same concept still applies.

I sort of doubt that Skylon will be the cheapest and am skeptical that they aren't running on razor-thin margins somewhere (sure they CLAIM they have lots of margin), but this is the right concept of operations, IMHO.
« Last Edit: 04/18/2012 07:26 pm by Robotbeat »
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline mr. mark

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Re: Skylon
« Reply #573 on: 04/18/2012 07:31 pm »
Rapid reuse is only good if you have enough satellite business to launch that many missions. 300 -400 missions is just laughable. Unlike the suborbital companies, Skylon will not be taking people on joyrides.

Online Robotbeat

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Re: Skylon
« Reply #574 on: 04/18/2012 07:38 pm »
Rapid reuse is only good if you have enough satellite business to launch that many missions. 300 -400 missions is just laughable. Unlike the suborbital companies, Skylon will not be taking people on joyrides.
Reliability and safety are incredibly important. If all you have to do is gas-and-go, then 300-400 missions is NOT laughable. Spending a billion dollars in fuel to demonstrate absolutely unbeatable reliability is not a bad plan.

XCOR plans to do 100 flights before taking paying customers, as well.

This is completely different from the concept of operations of munitions and expendables. This is relatively normal for initial operational tests for a large jet aircraft.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline aga

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Re: Skylon
« Reply #575 on: 04/18/2012 07:38 pm »
as i understand it, it is development plan - if i should guess i would say this means that these 300-400 flights will be without payload mostly... as test flights or so...

then, if i remember correctly, REL plans to sell skylons, not to operate them...

btw:
i am no expert, but i think for any reusability you need some minimal number of flights (much more than any launcher today) - is this thought of mine correct?
then why falcon's reusability is okay and skylon's is not?
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Offline lkm

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Re: Skylon
« Reply #576 on: 04/18/2012 07:44 pm »
Rapid reuse is only good if you have enough satellite business to launch that many missions. 300 -400 missions is just laughable. Unlike the suborbital companies, Skylon will not be taking people on joyrides.
That's the flight test program, not a launch program. Each Skylon  is meant to be qualified for 200 flights and two day turn arround, so they have to fly at least one two hundred times and they can do that inside of two years. They're not carrying any payload other than a sensored test payload for most of them.

Offline flymetothemoon

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Re: Skylon
« Reply #577 on: 04/18/2012 10:44 pm »
two prototype Skylons will already have conducted 300-400 flights over two years

That's the biggest bunch of, I don't know, I have ever heard. 300 - 400 launches in two years? LMOL What kind of junk are these people smoking? That would be a launch every other day! There's not enough payloads in the entire commercial catalog to justify so many launches. Cheaper than Falcon 9 really? When you compare total development costs and add them in, I'm sure the picture will look completely different. ::) The Skylon project managers should be subject to a mental evaluation if they actually believe this.

http://www.reactionengines.co.uk/skylon_dev.html

Would you like to share your proposed flight test plan for an orbital vehicle that is built to fly to and from orbit several times a week?

Rapid reuse is only good if you have enough satellite business to launch that many missions. 300 -400 missions is just laughable. Unlike the suborbital companies, Skylon will not be taking people on joyrides.

What kind of reasoning concludes Skylons would not be taking people on joyrides?
They intend for a parallel development of [...] the Skylon Passenger/ Logistics Module

Very, very rich people take rides to orbit with the Russians right now.

Further reading:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skylon_(spacecraft)

Offline flymetothemoon

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Re: Skylon
« Reply #578 on: 04/18/2012 11:09 pm »
According to the Reaction Engines development plan when the Skylon enters regular commercial service in 2020 two prototype Skylons will already have conducted 300-400 flights over two years and will have conducted every possible mission plan at least four times including 16 visits to the ISS 4 of which will deliver crew. That's potentially nearly 90mt and 16 crew.
They intend for a parallel development of the main initial Skylon specific payloads, in time for the flight test program, of the Skylon Upper Stage, the Skylon Passenger/ Logistics Module, the Skylon Small Payload Carrier and the Skylon Orbiting Facility Interface.
The SUS can put a 8.25mt payload into GTO in expendable mode or 6.25mt in reusable mode and has a notional unit cost of $65m(2009).
The SPLM can put up to 24 people in LEO or 3mt of cargo or combination thereof and has a notional unit cost of $75m(2009).

A Skylon can deliver 1.5mt more to GTO than a Falcon 9 at a cheaper price.
Skylon will enter service with more completed flight than any other launch vehicle.
Well that's the plan.
Hi lkm again.

I am sure you are aware that these are very old figures based on the C1 configuration. The wikipedia entry is my latest info and refers to the C2 config of 15,000kg. I understood C2 could carry 40 in the passenger module (SPLM). Clearly all modules would change with a revised config too. Hence a larger SUS could be launched etc.

I remember reading REL say that they do not want to release any 'D' configuration info until it is finalised. Hence all the info on the website pertains to earlier 'C' revisions. I think they last said D config is well advanced, but they are still finalising some details.

I am hoping Baldusi will see this response and let us know anything more about the 'D4' 20 ton revision?  Do you have any links? Thanks.

Here's my 2 second effort to extrapolate how many might be carried in a Skylon capable of a 20 ton SPLM:

40 x 20/15 = 53 passengers.

Apologies if my figures are awry. I am working from memory!

Offline lkm

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Re: Skylon
« Reply #579 on: 04/18/2012 11:57 pm »
According to the Reaction Engines development plan when the Skylon enters regular commercial service in 2020 two prototype Skylons will already have conducted 300-400 flights over two years and will have conducted every possible mission plan at least four times including 16 visits to the ISS 4 of which will deliver crew. That's potentially nearly 90mt and 16 crew.
They intend for a parallel development of the main initial Skylon specific payloads, in time for the flight test program, of the Skylon Upper Stage, the Skylon Passenger/ Logistics Module, the Skylon Small Payload Carrier and the Skylon Orbiting Facility Interface.
The SUS can put a 8.25mt payload into GTO in expendable mode or 6.25mt in reusable mode and has a notional unit cost of $65m(2009).
The SPLM can put up to 24 people in LEO or 3mt of cargo or combination thereof and has a notional unit cost of $75m(2009).

A Skylon can deliver 1.5mt more to GTO than a Falcon 9 at a cheaper price.
Skylon will enter service with more completed flight than any other launch vehicle.
Well that's the plan.
Hi lkm again.

I am sure you are aware that these are very old figures based on the C1 configuration. The wikipedia entry is my latest info and refers to the C2 config of 15,000kg. I understood C2 could carry 40 in the passenger module (SPLM). Clearly all modules would change with a revised config too. Hence a larger SUS could be launched etc.

I remember reading REL say that they do not want to release any 'D' configuration info until it is finalised. Hence all the info on the website pertains to earlier 'C' revisions. I think they last said D config is well advanced, but they are still finalising some details.

I am hoping Baldusi will see this response and let us know anything more about the 'D4' 20 ton revision?  Do you have any links? Thanks.

Here's my 2 second effort to extrapolate how many might be carried in a Skylon capable of a 20 ton SPLM:

40 x 20/15 = 53 passengers.

Apologies if my figures are awry. I am working from memory!
The figures are mostly from papers submitted at the 60th International Astronautical Congress in '09 although the SUS performance is from the User manual  but they're all based on the C2 config with a 15mt payload.
The SUS has a 950kg dry mass, a 7000kg propellant capacity and can deliver a 8.25mt payload to GTO. That's about 15mt all up.
The SPLM has a mass of 7800 kg but the Skylon can only take around 11mt to the ISS so leaves 3mt of people or cargo to that destination, a lower orbit could mean more people. However the payload bay hasn't gotten substantially bigger and the SPLM as designed is already 9.5m long with internal space for 24 seats (not including the pilots) if you take out all the storage racks. I'm not sure how you'd lay it out for more people unless you can some how do without the SOFI (which takes up 3 metres of bay), and make it longer, and I'm not sure you can.
I've not read anything about a D4 config, the last paper I read on Skylon progress was from October and still called it D1. However the new Sabre 4 cycle is meant to be a vast improvement and combined with expansion deflection nozzles and the good news on the reentry modelling it could be that the latest mass estimates have come down while the performance has gone up.
 However it should be remembered that customers can put whatever payload they want in a Skylon, if there's a better passenger module or upper stage, or docking interconnect, for their needs then they can pay for it.

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