Author Topic: Reusability effect on costs  (Read 187373 times)

Offline Jcc

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #540 on: 06/02/2017 11:34 PM »
Rocket engines carrying their own oxygen isn't really that much of a problem. Air breathers have to do the same thing essentially by accelerating oxygen AND nitrogen up to their flight speed before they can burn it for thrust. The total amount of mass accelerated to flight speed (including that nitrogen mass) is actually GREATER for an air breather for an around the world flight.

The advantage of an air breather is not so much the velocity but work done against gravity to reach altitude, and they do not need to lift the mass of O2 and N2 to altitude, it is already there. I'd does need to do work to compress the gasses, and reject heat, plus more work against friction with the wing surface to achieve high velocity. That's why air launch rockets like Pegasus don't launch at supersonic speeds, but I should think there are net fuel savings during air breathing phase.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #541 on: 06/03/2017 12:29 AM »
It's true you get some benefit from the gravitational potential energy of the oxygen being higher for an air breather, but consider that is a very small proportion of the energy of orbit or for hypersonic point to point transport.
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Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #542 on: 06/22/2017 05:45 AM »
New article attempting to analyse reusability savings, with a particular focus on how long it might take SpaceX to recoup their investment so far in re-use:

http://uk.businessinsider.com/spacex-reusable-rocket-launch-costs-profits-2017-6

Their model is here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1TgkiKHRNll3XhhYCZnmbJpL941cxGd5isMHIFFIpaG0/edit?usp=sharing

Offline M.E.T.

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #543 on: 06/22/2017 07:10 AM »
New article attempting to analyse reusability savings, with a particular focus on how long it might take SpaceX to recoup their investment so far in re-use:

http://uk.businessinsider.com/spacex-reusable-rocket-launch-costs-profits-2017-6

Their model is here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1TgkiKHRNll3XhhYCZnmbJpL941cxGd5isMHIFFIpaG0/edit?usp=sharing

Where I think a lot of these estimates may miss the boat is in the high gross profit margin they assume SpaceX is currently achieving - prior to reuse. Generally, in the articles I have read on this topic, the 40% gross margin is traced back to a single source estimate, done some time ago to estimate SpaceX's value should they announce an IPO.

To me this is however applying traditional thinking to this problem. There have been a number of alternative suggestions that SpaceX is in fact operating very close to breakeven on their launches, in order to gain market share. And this distinction is important for purposes of calculating reuse investment recovery, for the simple reason that if the booster costs you 70% of your total launch costs, then saving 70% of $62m means you will profit a lot more from reuse than if you are saving 70% of 60% of $62m.

Basically, if you push SpaceX's launch costs closer to $62m, rather than assuming a 40% gross profit margin built into the $62m, then you increase your reuse savings, and reduce the payback period of the R&D.

Offline AncientU

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #544 on: 06/22/2017 03:10 PM »
Looks like the Europeans are getting more serious about reusable rocketry (and costs):
Quote
Europe Sets Sights on Cheap Rocket Engine by 2030s
Quote

PARIS (Reuters) - Europe aims to develop a low-cost, reusable rocket engine for use after 2030 under a deal between Airbus Safran Launchers and the European Space Agency (ESA).

They signed a development contract at the Paris Airshow on Thursday to develop a demonstrator engine, powered by liquid oxygen and methane.

Airbus Safran said it would use new manufacturing techniques, including the use of 3D printers, to keep the engine's cost down to around 1 million euros ($1.1 million).

"The commercial market - at least the European one - is asking for reliability, on-time delivery and cost, and we have to find the best way to answer these market expectations," its CEO, Alain Charmeau, told Reuters.

The firm, a joint venture between Airbus and Safran that will become ArianeGroup on July 1, currently powers the rockets it uses to launch satellites for commercial clients with Vulcain 2 engines costing around 10 million euros each.

But not all in on reusable rockets yet...

Quote

"We need, and will have Ariane 6 in 2020, but we also have to prepare for the future ...and that is why this (Prometheus) program is important," he said.

The jury was still out on the issue of reusability, however.

California-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) earlier this year achieved what it called "a huge revolution in spaceflight" by reusing part of one of its Falcon 9 rocket on a subsequent launch.

Charmeau said Prometheus would include work on reusability. "(But) the market is not asking for reusability... As long as we have a limited number of institutional launches it's difficult to bet on reusability."

https://www.usnews.com/news/technology/articles/2017-06-22/europe-sets-sights-on-cheap-rocket-engine-by-2030s
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Offline RedLineTrain

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #545 on: 06/22/2017 04:05 PM »
Sounds like Ariane is more or less ceding the field to SpaceX and perhaps Blue Origin for a decade or more.

Offline Semmel

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #546 on: 06/22/2017 04:41 PM »
Everyone goes for methane these days... Very happy to see that! Never understood why this wasn't done decades ago.

Offline AncientU

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #547 on: 06/22/2017 10:30 PM »
Sounds like Ariane is more or less ceding the field to SpaceX and perhaps Blue Origin for a decade or more.

Two years ago, they were referring to reusable rockets as fantasy, and four years ago, they were planning on expensive upgrades of Ariane 5.  Now it's Ariane 6 and low cost methlox engines, with reuse on the horizon.   They've come long, long way.
« Last Edit: 06/22/2017 10:34 PM by AncientU »
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Online Lars-J

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #548 on: 06/22/2017 11:31 PM »
Sounds like Ariane is more or less ceding the field to SpaceX and perhaps Blue Origin for a decade or more.

Two years ago, they were referring to reusable rockets as fantasy, and four years ago, they were planning on expensive upgrades of Ariane 5.  Now it's Ariane 6 and low cost methlox engines, with reuse on the horizon.   They've come long, long way.

But they have a very long way to go still... Ariane 6 could be already be outdated by its first flight.

Offline ulm_atms

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #549 on: 06/22/2017 11:53 PM »
Quote
Charmeau said Prometheus would include work on reusability. "(But) the market is not asking for reusability... As long as we have a limited number of institutional launches it's difficult to bet on reusability."

Does this basically say "We don't fly often enough so that the ROI of reusability R&D isn't worth it at the moment?"

Also, they are correct that the market is not asking for reusability...the market is however asking for a cheaper price per launch as that makes them more money.  The only thing, barring a major discovery in physics that would allow Star Trek like changes to mass/gravity equations(subspace fields to lower mass of object and all that) is to not throw away the rocket after each use.  You can do things like find ways to build a part cheaper to a degree...but rockets already push material science to it's limit as it is so you can only cut costs to a point before it just won't work reliably anymore.  I would be surprised if you could build a rocket like the F9 much cheaper without sacrificing something.  There is a performance to cost floor.  That's true on everything made everywhere.

So yea...I don't buy the "market is not asking for it" comment.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #550 on: 06/23/2017 12:00 AM »
The market is asking for schedule, reliability, and cost. All things that rapid reuse, if you could perfect it, would give you in spades. So it's BS to say the market isn't "asking for reusability."
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Offline Semmel

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #551 on: 06/23/2017 06:05 AM »
The market is asking for schedule, reliability, and cost. All things that rapid reuse, if you could perfect it, would give you in spades. So it's BS to say the market isn't "asking for reusability."

Reusability is the solution to the demand, one of potentially many solutions. So the statement is quite correct.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #552 on: 06/23/2017 06:08 AM »
The market is asking for schedule, reliability, and cost. All things that rapid reuse, if you could perfect it, would give you in spades. So it's BS to say the market isn't "asking for reusability."

Reusability is the solution to the demand, one of potentially many solutions. So the statement is quite correct.
Okay, then the statement is disingenuous. Might as well say that the market isn't asking for any kind of rocket, as the customer just wants their payload in orbit.
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Offline Semmel

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #553 on: 06/23/2017 06:10 AM »
The market is asking for schedule, reliability, and cost. All things that rapid reuse, if you could perfect it, would give you in spades. So it's BS to say the market isn't "asking for reusability."

Reusability is the solution to the demand, one of potentially many solutions. So the statement is quite correct.
Okay, then the statement is disingenuous. Might as well say that the market isn't asking for any kind of rocket, as the customer just wants their payload in orbit.

I would say that's a very accurate statement.  Like a good mathematician would do it. Absolutely correct and equally useless ;-) what was the topic again? Let's get back to it.

Offline AncientU

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #554 on: 06/23/2017 09:43 AM »
Part of what may be holding the Europeans back is the jobs issue.  Low cost, reusable rockets remove the revenue stream that is produced by relatively expensive, expendable Ariane.  Same resistance is seen on multiple fronts in USA...  low cost is not the friend of launch service providers.

The question is whether they can survive on in-house government payloads only, or agree to 'force' -- as much as is practical -- domestic satellite fabricators and operators to use the local launch systems.

Edit: Added this cross-reference as example.  Haven't had time to watch...

As written crosspost from the discussion topic.
Today at the ESA pavilion at the Paris Airshow, there was a live roundtable discussion about the fixed institutional procurement of launches from Arianespace. Link to video
The participents were representatives of: the EU, ESA, France, Germany & Italy, EUMETSAT and Arianespace.

Discussions belong in the discussion threat.
bold mine
« Last Edit: 06/23/2017 10:15 AM by AncientU »
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Offline ZachF

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #555 on: 06/26/2017 03:27 PM »
Sounds like Ariane is more or less ceding the field to SpaceX and perhaps Blue Origin for a decade or more.

Two years ago, they were referring to reusable rockets as fantasy, and four years ago, they were planning on expensive upgrades of Ariane 5.  Now it's Ariane 6 and low cost methlox engines, with reuse on the horizon.   They've come long, long way.

But they have a very long way to go still... Ariane 6 could be already be outdated by its first flight.

It probably arguable that Ariane 6 would be obsolete now nevermind in 2020 when it does fly. In 2020 SpaceX's internal costs to launch Falcon 9 will probably be lower than the cost of Ariane 6's SRBs.
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Offline RedLineTrain

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #556 on: 06/26/2017 04:04 PM »
Where I think a lot of these estimates may miss the boat is in the high gross profit margin they assume SpaceX is currently achieving - prior to reuse. Generally, in the articles I have read on this topic, the 40% gross margin is traced back to a single source estimate, done some time ago to estimate SpaceX's value should they announce an IPO.

To be clear for everyone in case it is not generally known, gross margins are before R&D costs (and sales/general/admin costs) are accounted.  It's probably a good bet that SpaceX breaks even after those costs are accounted.  SpaceX has a lot of development engineers.

Offline toren

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #557 on: 06/26/2017 04:33 PM »
Where I think a lot of these estimates may miss the boat is in the high gross profit margin they assume SpaceX is currently achieving - prior to reuse. Generally, in the articles I have read on this topic, the 40% gross margin is traced back to a single source estimate, done some time ago to estimate SpaceX's value should they announce an IPO.

To be clear for everyone in case it is not generally known, gross margins are before R&D costs (and sales/general/admin costs) are accounted.  It's probably a good bet that SpaceX breaks even after those costs are accounted.  SpaceX has a lot of development engineers.

That's a good bet.  Elon's and SpaceX' MO is to convert internal cash flow into assets, and he has a commendable discipline re building and sticking to general platforms versus one-off, opportunistic projects.  This whole thread is about whether those notional assets actually amount to something.  The pain from ULA and Arianespace suggests that they do. 

Offline M.E.T.

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #558 on: 07/03/2017 08:01 AM »
Despite my excitement about the increased access to space thanks to reusability, I am still struggling to fully reconcile myself with the Business Case for full reusability, from a launch provider point of view.

Basically, if you take it to its logical conclusion where launch costs indeed drop to say 1% of their current level as per Elon's dream, you will end up with a tremendously high ratio between the initial cost of the asset (the reusable rocket) and the revenue earned per each individual launch.

So any payback calculation from a launch provider's point of view, for building or buying a single launch vehicle, will run into the hundreds of launches just to break even.

And that's before you even buy/construct a second or third vehicle to serve as backup in case of inevitable failure or repair requirements. Then you may be talking about a thousand launches just to earn back the initial cost of the asset.

And if you then factor in the inevitable loss of a launch vehicle at some point, this high asset cost/revenue ratio means the loss hits you much harder than a loss in the current launch environment would, from a financial point of view.

Anyway, it is exciting times for space enthusiasts like us, but it seems almost like Elon's greater goal of lowering the cost of access to space is killing the very golden goose that his company is earning its revenue from. Now, he can do that because he is the first in this space, but as I said before, unless you suddenly have tens of thousands of launches  per year - which seems a century away at least - the low margin high volume nature of the business model seems to discourage more entrants into this market. And seems to make profit prospects based on being purely a launch provider rather gloomy, in my view.

No doubt a lot of unexpected and exciting stuff will happen, but as it stands I am struggling to figure out the working business model for the end state that Elon has in mind.
« Last Edit: 07/03/2017 08:05 AM by M.E.T. »

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #559 on: 07/03/2017 10:28 AM »
Launch has always been a terrible way to make money. Reuse doesn't change that equation.

But there's lots of other ways to make money. Commsats are much more effective.

...which is why SpaceX is entering the commsat market.

...and SpaceX does envision increased launch.

And I think you left out one part of your calculation: more total payload per launch. That's part of how SpaceX intends to lower the cost by a factor of >100x.

SpaceX's constellation would require thousands of satellites to be launched per year. And Mueller envisions them eventually growing very large (meaning you're not going to be cluster launching them much). So SpaceX most certainly envisions thousands of launches in far less than a century.
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