Author Topic: Reuse business case  (Read 133866 times)

Online WindnWar

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #40 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. 

Offline The Amazing Catstronaut

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #41 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.
Resident feline spaceflight expert. Knows nothing of value about human spaceflight.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #42 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.

Offline falconeer

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #43 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.

Offline muomega0

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #44 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,  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.....
« Last Edit: 04/29/2015 02:35 PM by muomega0 »

Offline falconeer

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #45 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,  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.

Offline joek

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #46 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--these are comparable only if actual costs and cost structures are comparable--which they are not.
« Last Edit: 05/02/2015 08:55 AM by joek »

Offline falconeer

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #47 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.
« Last Edit: 05/03/2015 02:36 AM by falconeer »

Offline joek

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #48 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.
« Last Edit: 05/03/2015 06:43 PM by joek »

Offline falconeer

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #49 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.

Offline joek

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #50 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.

Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #51 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?

Offline falconeer

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #52 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  :)
« Last Edit: 05/05/2015 04:32 AM by falconeer »

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #53 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.

Offline joek

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #54 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 itís <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.
« Last Edit: 05/05/2015 11:53 PM by joek »

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #55 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.





Offline joek

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #56 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?

Offline a_langwich

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #57 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?"

Offline joek

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #58 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.

Offline Remes

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Re: Reuse business case
« Reply #59 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 similar, but less informed thoughts on reuse. So thanks a lot George for these insights.

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