Author Topic: 100% Success Rate for Reflown Boosters  (Read 23045 times)

Online ChrisWilson68

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100% Success Rate for Reflown Boosters
« on: 03/30/2017 10:42 PM »
As of right now, reflown first stages of orbital launchers have a 100% success rate. :-)

Will the success rate of launches on reflown boosters ever drop below that of launches using unflown boosters?

How long before insurance rates on flight-proven boosters are lower than insurance rates on unflown boosters?

Offline wannamoonbase

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Re: 100% Success Rate for Reflown Boosters
« Reply #1 on: 03/30/2017 10:49 PM »
As Elon said, it's taken 15 years to get to this milestone.

They've done a lot and hopefully as their launch rate increases they reach their other goals of full and rapid reuse-ability sooner than another 15 years.

There's no reason to doubt they will accomplish these goals.  Just how long.

Congrats SpaceX and reflows boosters everywhere.
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Offline dglow

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Re: 100% Success Rate for Reflown Boosters
« Reply #2 on: 03/30/2017 11:00 PM »
This may be an appropriate time to serve up some 'claim chowder' ...

In April of 2015, less than two years ago, some of the discussion looked like this:

How many more attempts before SpaceX gives up on first stage landing?  They've tried twice for the barge and crashed both times, with a third attempt called off by rough waves.  Three prior return tests without the barge also had mixed results.  These experiments are bold and interesting, but they're not free.

 - Ed Kyle

even if they land it, it doesn't mean they can reuse the stage.

Offline ehb

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Re: 100% Success Rate for Reflown Boosters
« Reply #3 on: 03/30/2017 11:07 PM »
This may be an appropriate time to serve up some 'claim chowder' ...

In April of 2015, less than two years ago, some of the discussion looked like this:

How many more attempts before SpaceX gives up on first stage landing?  They've tried twice for the barge and crashed both times, with a third attempt called off by rough waves.  Three prior return tests without the barge also had mixed results.  These experiments are bold and interesting, but they're not free.

 - Ed Kyle

even if they land it, it doesn't mean they can reuse the stage.

They weren't unreasonable opinions.
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Offline Kansan52

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Re: 100% Success Rate for Reflown Boosters
« Reply #4 on: 03/30/2017 11:16 PM »
I had the same feelings. Maybe landing just won't work. The F1 was planned to be recovered and they never even tried. Step by step they improved and kept my hopes up.

Even now, with such a success and history being made, there is no promise that they will get to fast relaunch.

Still, I would not bet against them.

Online ChrisWilson68

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Re: 100% Success Rate for Reflown Boosters
« Reply #5 on: 03/30/2017 11:26 PM »
I was watching the webcast in the office with some coworkers.  A bit before liftoff, a couple of us were expressing high confidence it would work.  Another guy said he was more skeptical.  I offered him a bet with 10-1 odds, but he declined.

Online john smith 19

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Re: 100% Success Rate for Reflown Boosters
« Reply #6 on: 03/31/2017 12:06 AM »
This is excellent news for SX.

Now the question is what does this do for the customer prices and customer insurance premiums?

We presume the customer did not pay full launch price, but did they settle for a 30% cut?

At the end of the day if the end user price does not drop enough to expand the market (a lot) then SX could have gone on doing what they were doing and saved every cent spent on doing this. Which is the choice every previous ELV mfg has made.

Hopefully the price cut will be big enough to expand the market enough to make this effort worthwhile.
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Offline Lar

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Re: 100% Success Rate for Reflown Boosters
« Reply #7 on: 03/31/2017 12:15 AM »
This is excellent news for SX.

Now the question is what does this do for the customer prices and customer insurance premiums?

We presume the customer did not pay full launch price, but did they settle for a 30% cut?

At the end of the day if the end user price does not drop enough to expand the market (a lot) then SX could have gone on doing what they were doing and saved every cent spent on doing this. Which is the choice every previous ELV mfg has made.

Hopefully the price cut will be big enough to expand the market enough to make this effort worthwhile.
No, because they could return to normal hours at Hawthorne production lines by making less S1 components.

But CommsX, if it goes, will lead to a big expansion in number of SpaceX launches.

Economics is off topic for this very narrowly focused thread. So is raw number of launches.  I'm interested to see how low this percentage goes before it starts to climb again, though.
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Offline rpapo

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Re: 100% Success Rate for Reflown Boosters
« Reply #8 on: 03/31/2017 09:14 AM »
No, because they could return to normal hours at Hawthorne production lines by making less S1 components.
Somehow I find it hard to imagine any SpaceX facility working "normal" hours.

But this, too, is off topic.
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Offline Kaputnik

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Re: 100% Success Rate for Reflown Boosters
« Reply #9 on: 03/31/2017 09:41 AM »
This may be an appropriate time to serve up some 'claim chowder' ...

In April of 2015, less than two years ago, some of the discussion looked like this:

How many more attempts before SpaceX gives up on first stage landing?  They've tried twice for the barge and crashed both times, with a third attempt called off by rough waves.  Three prior return tests without the barge also had mixed results.  These experiments are bold and interesting, but they're not free.

 - Ed Kyle

even if they land it, it doesn't mean they can reuse the stage.

Or my first ever encounter with Jim:
A recoverable stage is not an expendable stage with recovery hardware.


Of course he is is correct, really, but at the time I think everybody expected reusable stages would need far more obvious and integrated recovery hardware. The breakthrough with SpaceX is that they have utilised the MPS already on the stage and added the bare minimum of additional hardware. It's kind of obvious in hindsight, but it wasn't always so!
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Online john smith 19

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Re: 100% Success Rate for Reflown Boosters
« Reply #10 on: 03/31/2017 10:07 AM »
Of course he is is correct, really, but at the time I think everybody expected reusable stages would need far more obvious and integrated recovery hardware. The breakthrough with SpaceX is that they have utilised the MPS already on the stage and added the bare minimum of additional hardware. It's kind of obvious in hindsight, but it wasn't always so!
Anyone aware of the mass tradeoff to do 2nd stage recovery would automatically be trying to minimize what hardware they added due to the 1:1 trade in payload mass.

Using the MPS was always the obvious solution, but the massive difference between fully loaded and returned stage weights meant either multiple engines or very deep throttling.

What wasn't obvious was engine control authority with a high aspect ratio structure was inadequate. It's taken the grid fins and their associated hydraulics to supply enough control authority to make reliable landings possible. BTW since I'm unaware of any previous concept for 1st stage reuse that used grid fins (and there were several touted in the 60's and IIRC the 70's as well) I'd conclude that no one really looked at the problem with enough detail to know they were needed, which suggests all of those proposals were (at best) wishful thinking.

A fact any competitor planning to land a full first (or probably second) stage ignores at their peril.

I suspect (but can't prove) that you can make a stage stiff enough that engine TVC could do the job, and you would not have the complexity of the grid fins and their control system to deal with. However I also suspect that you add a lot more structural weight to do so, unless you go short and wide IE the Bono SSTO concepts. Given you didn't want to add the grid fins to begin with staying with an active system limits the additional weight.

And of course the big landing legs.
« Last Edit: 03/31/2017 10:10 AM by john smith 19 »
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Offline AncientU

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Re: 100% Success Rate for Reflown Boosters
« Reply #11 on: 03/31/2017 01:57 PM »
...
Using the MPS was always the obvious solution
...

Shuttle
DoD reusable booster program
Falcon 1/9 early days
NASA inflatables/parachutes program
SMART reuse
New Glenn

Forehead smackingly obvious now

« Last Edit: 03/31/2017 01:59 PM by AncientU »
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Offline JasonAW3

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Re: 100% Success Rate for Reflown Boosters
« Reply #12 on: 03/31/2017 03:54 PM »
      I'm thinking that most companies will still be cautious until, either 3 or 4 boosters have been reflown at least once, or at least one booster is reflown 4 or 5 times.

      The good thing here is, once a life expectancy of the booster is determined for the number of reflights, the last flight can be an expendable launch, with a relatively low value payload.
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Offline meekGee

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Re: 100% Success Rate for Reflown Boosters
« Reply #13 on: 03/31/2017 04:25 PM »
The even bigger misprediction ever since F9 1.1 was that SpaceX should stop "wasting everyone's time and money" with their reusability experiments, and that customers will abandon them because they "can't ​just fly the same configuration".

Both NASA and commercial customers proved very supportive, and clearly the path of self-funding development from revenue of the same flights proved the right way to go.

EDIT
As for the title of the thread, bring tongue in cheek, SpaceX has a record of nailing all the hard things on the first try, and only failing later...

But that's not uncommon in aerospace.
« Last Edit: 03/31/2017 07:33 PM by meekGee »
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Online ChrisWilson68

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Re: 100% Success Rate for Reflown Boosters
« Reply #14 on: 03/31/2017 04:25 PM »
The good thing here is, once a life expectancy of the booster is determined for the number of reflights, the last flight can be an expendable launch, with a relatively low value payload.

For some things, like tires, there's something that is integral to that thing that gets used up, and when it's used up, you can't use it any more.  For other things, like cars, there are some parts that get used up, such as tires and brake pads, but then you replace those and continue using the car.

It sounds like you're considering first stages to be like tires, but I think they're like cars.  Cars can keep going indefinitely as long as you replace the things that get used up or broken.

Musk said they're planning for 10 flights with no refurbishment and 100 with light refurbishment, and that they really could do 1,000.  So I think Musk thinks of them more like cars and less like tires.

So, I don't think there will ever be a point at which SpaceX decides a given first stage can't be reused and might as well be thrown away because it has reached the end of its life.  They might still do expendable launches just because it's the only way to get the performance a given payload needs, but not because the booster can't be used any more.


Offline gospacex

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Re: 100% Success Rate for Reflown Boosters
« Reply #15 on: 03/31/2017 04:37 PM »
I had the same feelings. Maybe landing just won't work. The F1 was planned to be recovered and they never even tried. Step by step they improved and kept my hopes up.

Even now, with such a success and history being made, there is no promise that they will get to fast relaunch.

If you look at that with a different question - "Are there laws of physics which say a RTLSed rocket can't possibly be fueled up and launched again in 24 hours?" - the answer is obvious. No such laws exist. Therefore, it can be done. Yes, it will need changes on the rocket and a lot of support machinery to make many operations automatic, but it can be done.

I'd say it can be cut down even to some ~4 hours.

An example where engineers simply had to cut down time to the absolute minimum - Formula 1 refuelings are below 10 seconds, tire changes are below 2 (!!!) seconds.
« Last Edit: 03/31/2017 04:39 PM by gospacex »

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Re: 100% Success Rate for Reflown Boosters
« Reply #16 on: 03/31/2017 04:51 PM »
Another guy said he was more skeptical.  I offered him a bet with 10-1 odds, but he declined.

What odds would you offer on the next launch?

10-1 odds implies roughly a 90.91% chance of success and a 9.09% chance of failure.
11-1 odds implies roughly a 91.67% chance of success and a 8.33% chance of failure.

But maybe this success cuts their chance of failure on the next attempt in half?

20-1 odds implies roughly a 95.24% chance of success and a 4.76% chance of failure.
[Etc.]
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Offline Kaputnik

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Re: 100% Success Rate for Reflown Boosters
« Reply #17 on: 03/31/2017 05:22 PM »
The good thing here is, once a life expectancy of the booster is determined for the number of reflights, the last flight can be an expendable launch, with a relatively low value payload.

For some things, like tires, there's something that is integral to that thing that gets used up, and when it's used up, you can't use it any more.  For other things, like cars, there are some parts that get used up, such as tires and brake pads, but then you replace those and continue using the car.

It sounds like you're considering first stages to be like tires, but I think they're like cars.  Cars can keep going indefinitely as long as you replace the things that get used up or broken.

Musk said they're planning for 10 flights with no refurbishment and 100 with light refurbishment, and that they really could do 1,000.  So I think Musk thinks of them more like cars and less like tires.

So, I don't think there will ever be a point at which SpaceX decides a given first stage can't be reused and might as well be thrown away because it has reached the end of its life.  They might still do expendable launches just because it's the only way to get the performance a given payload needs, but not because the booster can't be used any more.



I agree. Stages will continue to be used until something is found to be unsafe or uneconomical to refurbish, e.g. cracked welds on a tank dome etc. At that point any usable parts- engines, grid fins, avionics, etc- would be stripped off for reuse and the rest scrapped. This is how it works for other vehicles including aircraft.

So there will not be a point at which someone says 'this stage is safe to fly, but only once more'. Would you get on a plane where the technician had told you that??
« Last Edit: 03/31/2017 05:23 PM by Kaputnik »
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Offline Negan

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Re: 100% Success Rate for Reflown Boosters
« Reply #18 on: 03/31/2017 05:32 PM »
The good thing here is, once a life expectancy of the booster is determined for the number of reflights, the last flight can be an expendable launch, with a relatively low value payload.

For some things, like tires, there's something that is integral to that thing that gets used up, and when it's used up, you can't use it any more.  For other things, like cars, there are some parts that get used up, such as tires and brake pads, but then you replace those and continue using the car.

It sounds like you're considering first stages to be like tires, but I think they're like cars.  Cars can keep going indefinitely as long as you replace the things that get used up or broken.

Musk said they're planning for 10 flights with no refurbishment and 100 with light refurbishment, and that they really could do 1,000.  So I think Musk thinks of them more like cars and less like tires.

So, I don't think there will ever be a point at which SpaceX decides a given first stage can't be reused and might as well be thrown away because it has reached the end of its life.  They might still do expendable launches just because it's the only way to get the performance a given payload needs, but not because the booster can't be used any more.



I agree. Stages will continue to be used until something is found to be unsafe or uneconomical to refurbish, e.g. cracked welds on a tank dome etc. At that point any usable parts- engines, grid fins, avionics, etc- would be stripped off for reuse and the rest scrapped. This is how it works for other vehicles including aircraft.

So there will not be a point at which someone says 'this stage is safe to fly, but only once more'. Would you get on a plane where the technician had told you that??

Plus what makes it acceptable to dump trash into the ocean once you get to that point.

Offline Lar

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Re: 100% Success Rate for Reflown Boosters
« Reply #19 on: 03/31/2017 05:45 PM »
I don't think we will see "safe to fly, but only one more time". (I agree with Kaputnik)

However I DO think we will see something like "this stage is a block 5, it's due for its 100 flight light overhaul in two flights, which costs X USD, but we really want to also upgrade it to a block 7[1] to be current, which costs 42X[2]... if we expend it, we can charge an FH price  for customer S's 9 tonne[3] GTO mission, but do it with an F9 expendable, It's cheaper than the block 7 upgrade and we haven't shut down the Hawthorne line for the block 8 cutover, so we have enough stages in storage before the cutover...  plus we don't put wear and tear on three FH cores, and save some propellant costs  ... so let's expend it"

Working the trades.

1 - yes, I don't believe Block 5 is last
2 - 42 is a notional number, but you knew I'd use it.
3 - notional mission size
« Last Edit: 03/31/2017 06:07 PM by Lar »
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