Author Topic: Reusability effect on costs  (Read 184046 times)

Offline M.E.T.

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #560 on: 07/03/2017 11:15 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.

Yes. I guess it's the sheer scope of the vision that makes it challenging to conceptualize at times. One can assess the impact of reducing launch revenue to $30m or $10m per launch fairly easily, but it is more difficult to envisage how the myriad of other changes to the industry will impact the overall model.

Online envy887

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #561 on: 07/03/2017 12:47 PM »
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.

No different than any other form of transportation. Trucks, ships, trains, and planes are very expensive relative the cost of a single trip on them. They simple are used very often for a long time and fail very rarely.

So for a 100x reduction in launch cost, there needs to be a 100x increase in launch rate assuming the same profit margin. Also a 100x improvement in reliability, so the cost of failure does not change relative to the amount of revenue.

Offline gospacex

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #562 on: 07/03/2017 01:13 PM »
I am struggling to figure out the working business model for the end state that Elon has in mind.

I am at a loss trying to imagine the failure mode you are afraid of. The starting part is clear:

(1) Launch becomes cheaper
(2) Now every launch brings in much less revenue, and every launch failure is more painful than before

but then what? "Therefore launch providers operate at a loss and go bankrupt?" Why would that happen?

Are all low-cost airlines bankrupt now, and we are back to the days where taking a flight was a bit of a luxury? No, of course. _Some_ do go bankrupt, but those who find the right balance between "minimize prices" and "be profitable" survive. Overall, it results in more efficient passenger air transport. Yes, this means that being an airline is not easy, but the goal of economy is not to make airlines lives easy - its goal is to optimize all kinds of economic activity.
« Last Edit: 07/03/2017 01:14 PM by gospacex »

Offline M.E.T.

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #563 on: 07/03/2017 01:42 PM »
I am struggling to figure out the working business model for the end state that Elon has in mind.

I am at a loss trying to imagine the failure mode you are afraid of. The starting part is clear:

(1) Launch becomes cheaper
(2) Now every launch brings in much less revenue, and every launch failure is more painful than before

but then what? "Therefore launch providers operate at a loss and go bankrupt?" Why would that happen?

Are all low-cost airlines bankrupt now, and we are back to the days where taking a flight was a bit of a luxury? No, of course. _Some_ do go bankrupt, but those who find the right balance between "minimize prices" and "be profitable" survive. Overall, it results in more efficient passenger air transport. Yes, this means that being an airline is not easy, but the goal of economy is not to make airlines lives easy - its goal is to optimize all kinds of economic activity.

Good question. I guess it's the difficulty in seeing the type of volumes in orbital launches that we see in air travel. It is easy to talk about 10,000 orbital launches a year, but it just seems to boggle the mind thinking about all the technological and regulatory hurdles that will have to be cleared to get there.

I'm sure it will happen. I'm just pointing out that I find it difficult to connect all the dots yet.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #564 on: 07/03/2017 01:53 PM »
Lower launch cost also means you can drive the reliability up much higher by exercising your capability a lot.

There's no law of physics that says launch can't get to 99.999% reliability or higher.
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Offline HIP2BSQRE

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #565 on: 07/03/2017 01:56 PM »
I am struggling to figure out the working business model for the end state that Elon has in mind.

I am at a loss trying to imagine the failure mode you are afraid of. The starting part is clear:

(1) Launch becomes cheaper
(2) Now every launch brings in much less revenue, and every launch failure is more painful than before

but then what? "Therefore launch providers operate at a loss and go bankrupt?" Why would that happen?

Are all low-cost airlines bankrupt now, and we are back to the days where taking a flight was a bit of a luxury? No, of course. _Some_ do go bankrupt, but those who find the right balance between "minimize prices" and "be profitable" survive. Overall, it results in more efficient passenger air transport. Yes, this means that being an airline is not easy, but the goal of economy is not to make airlines lives easy - its goal is to optimize all kinds of economic activity.

Good question. I guess it's the difficulty in seeing the type of volumes in orbital launches that we see in air travel. It is easy to talk about 10,000 orbital launches a year, but it just seems to boggle the mind thinking about all the technological and regulatory hurdles that will have to be cleared to get there.

I'm sure it will happen. I'm just pointing out that I find it difficult to connect all the dots yet.

Just go back to 1940 and think of the number of airline flights.  Then move 30 years to 1970 and tell me about the number of commercial flights.  Now if we would have told someone in 1930 on the number of flights in today they would have said impossible.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #566 on: 07/03/2017 01:57 PM »
Tell someone in 1910 or 1890. Or 1917.
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 gospacex

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #567 on: 07/03/2017 02:00 PM »
I am struggling to figure out the working business model for the end state that Elon has in mind.

I am at a loss trying to imagine the failure mode you are afraid of. The starting part is clear:

(1) Launch becomes cheaper
(2) Now every launch brings in much less revenue, and every launch failure is more painful than before

but then what? "Therefore launch providers operate at a loss and go bankrupt?" Why would that happen?

Are all low-cost airlines bankrupt now, and we are back to the days where taking a flight was a bit of a luxury? No, of course. _Some_ do go bankrupt, but those who find the right balance between "minimize prices" and "be profitable" survive. Overall, it results in more efficient passenger air transport. Yes, this means that being an airline is not easy, but the goal of economy is not to make airlines lives easy - its goal is to optimize all kinds of economic activity.

Good question. I guess it's the difficulty in seeing the type of volumes in orbital launches that we see in air travel. It is easy to talk about 10,000 orbital launches a year, but it just seems to boggle the mind thinking about all the technological and regulatory hurdles that will have to be cleared to get there.

Lower launch costs don't need dramatic increases in launch volume (although it should lead to an  increase, economics 101). Elon demonstrates this experimentally right now: "merely" by making the rocket "the right way" and optimizing his operations for cost, he steals market from existing players. It works even with current volume, because all pre-existing players were inefficient (they were either government programs or monopolies).

Offline M.E.T.

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #568 on: 07/03/2017 02:35 PM »
I am struggling to figure out the working business model for the end state that Elon has in mind.

I am at a loss trying to imagine the failure mode you are afraid of. The starting part is clear:

(1) Launch becomes cheaper
(2) Now every launch brings in much less revenue, and every launch failure is more painful than before

but then what? "Therefore launch providers operate at a loss and go bankrupt?" Why would that happen?

Are all low-cost airlines bankrupt now, and we are back to the days where taking a flight was a bit of a luxury? No, of course. _Some_ do go bankrupt, but those who find the right balance between "minimize prices" and "be profitable" survive. Overall, it results in more efficient passenger air transport. Yes, this means that being an airline is not easy, but the goal of economy is not to make airlines lives easy - its goal is to optimize all kinds of economic activity.

Good question. I guess it's the difficulty in seeing the type of volumes in orbital launches that we see in air travel. It is easy to talk about 10,000 orbital launches a year, but it just seems to boggle the mind thinking about all the technological and regulatory hurdles that will have to be cleared to get there.

Lower launch costs don't need dramatic increases in launch volume (although it should lead to an  increase, economics 101). Elon demonstrates this experimentally right now: "merely" by making the rocket "the right way" and optimizing his operations for cost, he steals market from existing players. It works even with current volume, because all pre-existing players were inefficient (they were either government programs or monopolies).

Sure. I agree. I fully understand why being able to launch for $50m, while having a partially reusable F9 that costs you only $25m, makes for a fantastic business model. It's when those revenues drop to only $1m per launch on a BFR costing $500m to construct, that the required volumes start bothering me a bit.

But it is exciting stuff. I'm just trying to understand it properly.

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #569 on: 07/03/2017 02:48 PM »
The one item that reusability has an effect on that is often overlooked is vehicle availability to be able to do a higher launch rate without a much higher manufacturing infrastructure. A very high (100+ vehicles a year) would require a very large amount of capital equipment, buildings, and other suppliers certification of parts to be done all requiring a large capital investment expenditure. Reuse allows the capability to greatly expand the launch rate without the large capital expenditure on the supply chain. This in itself is a very large savings of capital for the reusable rocket manufacturer.

Then there is this item that SpaceX just demonstrated as a possibility. They showed that if the 35e launch could be done without a hotfire then the interval would have been 6 days on the LC-39A pad. That is a demonstrated minimum interval between been full engine pad ignitions and pad refurbishment of 6 days. At that interval the launch rate just from 39A could be as high as 60 launches per year. Now add LC-40, Boca Chica and SLC-4E and the max launch rate could be easily above 200.

In order to reach such high launch rates without a very large expansion of manufacturing infrastructure and supply chain requires reusability to be economically successful.

This financial direction frees up capital for R&D to make the vehicle or new vehicle design even more efficient and reliable in the reusable domain. This is what is currently happening at SpaceX. This bootstrapping method is very traditional in commercial businesses. Get a first product out that sells then expand its availability (Supply) while using profits to develop its replacement or making significant improvements to the product at a much higher level of supply at a much lower unit cost to maintain the position in the competitive market.

The current orbital launch rate for the world id 80-100 launches. This is with SpaceX doing about 18-22 launches in one year. An increase in launches by SpaceX to 50 to launch LEO constellations (a new payload customer not a stealing of the existing market) brings the world total to 110 to 130. But this also changes SpaceX % of the world launch market from the current 22% of to 38% up to 45%. Now if the world launch rate because of the great expansion of LEO constellations deployments increases the world launch rate to 200 and SpceX is doing 100 of that total with a new provider (BO) doing the other 30 to 50 additional launches to get the totals up that high then SpaceX would be 50% of all the world launches with the second reusable launch provider at as high as 25% of the world launches. bringing the total of reusable launches to 75% of all the world orbital launches. This scenario is not that far away. It could happen by the early 2020's.

Added: A BTW Robotbeat talks of the threshold of used boosters to total boosters launched 25% of creating a significant turnover point for booster developers to only develop reusable boosters because anything else just will not compete in the world market. If SpaceX expands its launch rate to just 50 and only 70% (35 launches) of those are used boosters then the used boosters to total launches world wide (130 launches) is 27%. This condition could exist as early as 2020.
« Last Edit: 07/03/2017 03:15 PM by oldAtlas_Eguy »

Offline spacenut

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #570 on: 07/03/2017 03:11 PM »
I read somewhere that it is cheaper per passenger/mile to fly a 747 than an old 1920's-1930's Ford tri-motor.  If launch rates increase to a certain point, larger rockets will be cheaper to operate than smaller rockets. 

Say the Irridium satellites.  F9 can do 10 per launch.  An ITS could do say 100.  If F9 costs $30 million per launch and there is $30 million in profit, ITS could cost  say $200 million per launch and $400 in profits.  That would be a higher profit margin, but only one launch.  SpaceX could lower launch costs $100 million and still get the same profits.  ITS would have an even greater effect on launch costs. 

Seems like the more you reuse a F9 the more profits SpaceX makes.  Then if ITS is cheaper per/lb or kg, then reuse of ITS becomes even more cheaper. 

Like you say, with New Glenn coming on line, and even Vulcan, launch costs should begin to come down when reusability and more competitors get in the game. 

Offline BrightLight

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #571 on: 07/03/2017 03:31 PM »
Between 1950 and 2017 the cost of an airline ticket has dropped by a factor of 10, the aircraft technology has gone through 3 or 4 generations of improved reliability. SpaceX (and I suspect Blue Origin) are second generation reusable launch vehicles. A cost of 30 million per flight - or less - with very high reliability should be within reach within the next decade if not now.

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #572 on: 07/03/2017 04:25 PM »
STS at $500M per launch with a LEO payload capability of 25mt max is $20,000/kg.

SpaceX's F9 at $50M per launch of a used booster and recovery ASDS with a LEO payload capability of 15mt max is $3,333/kg.

That is a reduction between first and second generation reusable vehicles of a factor of 6.

If the next generation reusable LV can match the reduction factor then the price per kg drops to about $500/kg.

Also that in ticket price for passengers goes from the F9/D2 of $20M/passenger to $3.4M/passenger.

A forth generation reusable LV would then drop the passenger ticket price to orbit to just $500K.

The fifth generation would then get down to $80K per passenger.

The timeline is that in 5 years the 3rd generation reusable vehicles would start flying. 2022
4th - 2027
5th - 2032

At the 5th generation prices the tourist alone would be in the high hundreds to a few thousand. Now add the capability to visit the Lunar surface at $400K or go to Mars at $500 to $1M. And the volume of persons going into orbit will be very large >100X compared to our current 12/year rate (which just dropped to 10 because of high costs).

An FH with reusing the US and faring and able to recover the boosters too could come down to a Price of $30M and deliver to LEO 20mt  is $1,500/kg a factor of 2 reduction which could happen in 3 years or less. In actauality that reduction could be here almost immediately with FH without reusing the US because a all used booster FH at a price <$80M (possibly as low as $60M) could deliver that $2,000 to $1,500/kg as still part of the 2nd gen vehicle. This would be a reduction of a factor of 10 between it and STS.

If this is achieved then the 4th generation reusable LV would achieve the very large passenger counts and bulk to orbit payload tonnage for $20K to orbit for passengers and $20/kg for cargo.

4th generation reusable vehicles could be as little as 10 years into the future.

Offline BrightLight

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #573 on: 07/03/2017 04:51 PM »

That is a reduction between first and second generation reusable vehicles of a factor of 6.
If the next generation reusable LV can match the reduction factor then the price per kg drops to about $500/kg.
The difference between the DC-3 and the Constellation was reliability and improved payload.  The 707 brought a step change in lower maintenance costs and fast turnaround times. It appears to me that SpaceX Falcon is in that region where reliability is being evaluated - and if proven cost-effective, the next iteration of Falcon - supposedly the last - will see lower launch costs.

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #574 on: 07/03/2017 05:00 PM »

That is a reduction between first and second generation reusable vehicles of a factor of 6.
If the next generation reusable LV can match the reduction factor then the price per kg drops to about $500/kg.
The difference between the DC-3 and the Constellation was reliability and improved payload.  The 707 brought a step change in lower maintenance costs and fast turnaround times. It appears to me that SpaceX Falcon is in that region where reliability is being evaluated - and if proven cost-effective, the next iteration of Falcon - supposedly the last - will see lower launch costs.
The F9 is going through improvements but at the same level of generation which is about basic design and that design's basic limitations. The limitations can be stretched just like there were improvements over the operational life's of the DC-3 Constellation and 707 but still within each's generation.

Generations represent a new design like full resuability vs the F9's partial. A much larger full reusable LV than the FH that is just a 2 stage vehicle having a lot less complexity and also a lot less costs in handling would represent a new generation.

Online Eerie

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #575 on: 07/03/2017 06:49 PM »
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.

[rest of the post omitted]

Your mistake is not taking the reliability of the launch vehicle into account.

If you have a 500M$ reusable BFR rocket, you are not going to sell a launch for a 1M$, unless you know that the rocket has less than 1/500 chance of failure. Preferably much less. Otherwise you will lose money. It's just plain statistics.

What you are going to do instead is start with a price slightly lower than an expendable launch, and slowly push it down as you go, while you figure out the reliability of your launch vehicle.

Which is exactly what SpaceX are doing.
« Last Edit: 07/03/2017 06:50 PM by Eerie »

Online TrevorMonty

Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #576 on: 07/03/2017 07:32 PM »
STS at $500M per launch with a LEO payload capability of 25mt max is $20,000/kg.

SpaceX's F9 at $50M per launch of a used booster and recovery ASDS with a LEO payload capability of 15mt max is $3,333/kg.

That is a reduction between first and second generation reusable vehicles of a factor of 6.

If the next generation reusable LV can match the reduction factor then the price per kg drops to about $500/kg.

Also that in ticket price for passengers goes from the F9/D2 of $20M/passenger to $3.4M/passenger.

A forth generation reusable LV would then drop the passenger ticket price to orbit to just $500K.

The fifth generation would then get down to $80K per passenger.

The timeline is that in 5 years the 3rd generation reusable vehicles would start flying. 2022
4th - 2027
5th - 2032

At the 5th generation prices the tourist alone would be in the high hundreds to a few thousand. Now add the capability to visit the Lunar surface at $400K or go to Mars at $500 to $1M. And the volume of persons going into orbit will be very large >100X compared to our current 12/year rate (which just dropped to 10 because of high costs).

An FH with reusing the US and faring and able to recover the boosters too could come down to a Price of $30M and deliver to LEO 20mt  is $1,500/kg a factor of 2 reduction which could happen in 3 years or less. In actauality that reduction could be here almost immediately with FH without reusing the US because a all used booster FH at a price <$80M (possibly as low as $60M) could deliver that $2,000 to $1,500/kg as still part of the 2nd gen vehicle. This would be a reduction of a factor of 10 between it and STS.

If this is achieved then the 4th generation reusable LV would achieve the very large passenger counts and bulk to orbit payload tonnage for $20K to orbit for passengers and $20/kg for cargo.

4th generation reusable vehicles could be as little as 10 years into the future.
BLEO seat prices may not much more than 2-3 times LEO if low cost lunar and asteriod fuel becomes available. Cheaper it is access space, cheaper it is to build and maintain ISRU making BLEO space even cheaper.

Offline rakaydos

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #577 on: 07/03/2017 11:26 PM »
STS at $500M per launch with a LEO payload capability of 25mt max is $20,000/kg.

SpaceX's F9 at $50M per launch of a used booster and recovery ASDS with a LEO payload capability of 15mt max is $3,333/kg.

That is a reduction between first and second generation reusable vehicles of a factor of 6.

If the next generation reusable LV can match the reduction factor then the price per kg drops to about $500/kg.

Also that in ticket price for passengers goes from the F9/D2 of $20M/passenger to $3.4M/passenger.

A forth generation reusable LV would then drop the passenger ticket price to orbit to just $500K.

The fifth generation would then get down to $80K per passenger.

The timeline is that in 5 years the 3rd generation reusable vehicles would start flying. 2022
4th - 2027
5th - 2032

At the 5th generation prices the tourist alone would be in the high hundreds to a few thousand. Now add the capability to visit the Lunar surface at $400K or go to Mars at $500 to $1M. And the volume of persons going into orbit will be very large >100X compared to our current 12/year rate (which just dropped to 10 because of high costs).

An FH with reusing the US and faring and able to recover the boosters too could come down to a Price of $30M and deliver to LEO 20mt  is $1,500/kg a factor of 2 reduction which could happen in 3 years or less. In actauality that reduction could be here almost immediately with FH without reusing the US because a all used booster FH at a price <$80M (possibly as low as $60M) could deliver that $2,000 to $1,500/kg as still part of the 2nd gen vehicle. This would be a reduction of a factor of 10 between it and STS.

If this is achieved then the 4th generation reusable LV would achieve the very large passenger counts and bulk to orbit payload tonnage for $20K to orbit for passengers and $20/kg for cargo.

4th generation reusable vehicles could be as little as 10 years into the future.
If the shuttle for 1st generation reusable and Falcon 9 2nd gen, introducing cost effective rapid reuse, I assume BFR would be 3rd gen, introducing bulk transport efficencies to spaceflight. What would 4th gen be, to get a 6-fold reduction in cost over BFR?

There would have to be some new technoligy to pull off gen 4. Perhaps some kind of practical fusion pulse drive, taking the Orion NPP concept for superheavy lift in a more enviromentally friendly direction?

In any case, I dont see gen 4 happening anywhere near as fast as gen 2 and gen 3, since gen 2 could have happened as early as the Delta Clipper days and gan 3 just relies on launch market expansion from gen 2.

Online meekGee

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #578 on: 07/04/2017 05:51 PM »
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.

Inadvertently, you're treading awfully close to an airplane analogy...
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Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: Reusability effect on costs
« Reply #579 on: 07/04/2017 07:44 PM »
STS at $500M per launch with a LEO payload capability of 25mt max is $20,000/kg.

SpaceX's F9 at $50M per launch of a used booster and recovery ASDS with a LEO payload capability of 15mt max is $3,333/kg.

That is a reduction between first and second generation reusable vehicles of a factor of 6.

If the next generation reusable LV can match the reduction factor then the price per kg drops to about $500/kg.

Also that in ticket price for passengers goes from the F9/D2 of $20M/passenger to $3.4M/passenger.

A forth generation reusable LV would then drop the passenger ticket price to orbit to just $500K.

The fifth generation would then get down to $80K per passenger.

The timeline is that in 5 years the 3rd generation reusable vehicles would start flying. 2022
4th - 2027
5th - 2032

At the 5th generation prices the tourist alone would be in the high hundreds to a few thousand. Now add the capability to visit the Lunar surface at $400K or go to Mars at $500 to $1M. And the volume of persons going into orbit will be very large >100X compared to our current 12/year rate (which just dropped to 10 because of high costs).

An FH with reusing the US and faring and able to recover the boosters too could come down to a Price of $30M and deliver to LEO 20mt  is $1,500/kg a factor of 2 reduction which could happen in 3 years or less. In actauality that reduction could be here almost immediately with FH without reusing the US because a all used booster FH at a price <$80M (possibly as low as $60M) could deliver that $2,000 to $1,500/kg as still part of the 2nd gen vehicle. This would be a reduction of a factor of 10 between it and STS.

If this is achieved then the 4th generation reusable LV would achieve the very large passenger counts and bulk to orbit payload tonnage for $20K to orbit for passengers and $20/kg for cargo.

4th generation reusable vehicles could be as little as 10 years into the future.
If the shuttle for 1st generation reusable and Falcon 9 2nd gen, introducing cost effective rapid reuse, I assume BFR would be 3rd gen, introducing bulk transport efficencies to spaceflight. What would 4th gen be, to get a 6-fold reduction in cost over BFR?

There would have to be some new technoligy to pull off gen 4. Perhaps some kind of practical fusion pulse drive, taking the Orion NPP concept for superheavy lift in a more enviromentally friendly direction?

In any case, I dont see gen 4 happening anywhere near as fast as gen 2 and gen 3, since gen 2 could have happened as early as the Delta Clipper days and gan 3 just relies on launch market expansion from gen 2.
Currently it looks to be an intermediary design between the F9/FH and BFR/BFS that will be the 3rd generation. It would be a full reusable SHLV (50+mt to LEO as a full reusable payload [12-25 persons crew capability to LEO]). This vehicle would also because of its smaller size would have about the same costs to operate as a vehicle BFR/BFS of 6 times larger. But it would also because of rapid resuablility higher reliability and other advances would reduce the $/kg etc from F9/FH by factor of 6 or more. BFR/BFS would then be the 4th generation just due to its size and further technological improvements over that of the intermediate.

Each generation the intermediate occurring in ~5 years and then the BFR/BFS being about 10 years out. The intermediate may be able the perform a scaled back Mars mission in the mid 2020s.

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