Author Topic: SpaceX customers' views on reuse  (Read 73615 times)

Offline ArbitraryConstant

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #20 on: 04/11/2017 08:35 PM »
Proton's rate is shocking... customers will certainly notice this surcharge (as well as the basis for it) that wipes out the cost advantage of going with Proton -- 8% increase on a $500M satellite would be $40M of increased premium.  On the other hand, the 'slightly higher' rates for Falcon 9 would be more than compensated by lower launch costs.
I'm curious why Falcon 9 is so low in that case, as they've had several of their own failures.

Even if we ignore Amos 6 since it's a design flaw that can be addressed, I don't know how we can be so confident a this point that all such issues have been shaken out, and CRS-7 failed due to a material/process issue that seems like it shows them to be vulnerable to other failures of that type.

Offline kaiser

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #21 on: 04/11/2017 08:42 PM »
Proton's rate is shocking... customers will certainly notice this surcharge (as well as the basis for it) that wipes out the cost advantage of going with Proton -- 8% increase on a $500M satellite would be $40M of increased premium.  On the other hand, the 'slightly higher' rates for Falcon 9 would be more than compensated by lower launch costs.
I'm curious why Falcon 9 is so low in that case, as they've had several of their own failures.

Even if we ignore Amos 6 since it's a design flaw that can be addressed, I don't know how we can be so confident a this point that all such issues have been shaken out, and CRS-7 failed due to a material/process issue that seems like it shows them to be vulnerable to other failures of that type.

My guess would be internal data -- the information that SpaceX has shared about their failure data and corrective actions likely adds some confidence bringing down rates more so than Proton's.

Offline envy887

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #22 on: 04/11/2017 08:45 PM »
Proton's rate is shocking... customers will certainly notice this surcharge (as well as the basis for it) that wipes out the cost advantage of going with Proton -- 8% increase on a $500M satellite would be $40M of increased premium.  On the other hand, the 'slightly higher' rates for Falcon 9 would be more than compensated by lower launch costs.
I'm curious why Falcon 9 is so low in that case, as they've had several of their own failures.

Even if we ignore Amos 6 since it's a design flaw that can be addressed, I don't know how we can be so confident a this point that all such issues have been shaken out, and CRS-7 failed due to a material/process issue that seems like it shows them to be vulnerable to other failures of that type.

I'm very curious about this as well. But SpaceX's customers and their insurers have far better insight into SpaceX's failures, investigations, and processes than we do. NASA and USAF in particular have very good insight and both appear to be receptive to booster reflights.

Offline J-V

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #23 on: 04/12/2017 06:00 AM »
I don't know it this has been discussed in another thread already, but does lowering of launch cost have any effect on how the payloads are designed? If a launch costs $100M+, it doesn't help too much to build a cheaper satellite because your total cost is dominated by the launch cost. If launch cost is around $40M, does it make sense to make simpler satellites, but launch a few more. This seems to be the case for LEO constellations, but are GEO birds limited by orbital slots or some other constraint?

Offline john smith 19

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #24 on: 04/12/2017 07:57 AM »
I don't know it this has been discussed in another thread already, but does lowering of launch cost have any effect on how the payloads are designed? If a launch costs $100M+, it doesn't help too much to build a cheaper satellite because your total cost is dominated by the launch cost. If launch cost is around $40M, does it make sense to make simpler satellites, but launch a few more. This seems to be the case for LEO constellations, but are GEO birds limited by orbital slots or some other constraint?
In theory launch cost has nothing to do with payload cost because they are totally different things.

IRL JPL have stated that their rough rule of thumb is the payload is about 2x the launch cost and the ops budget is about 3x the launch cost. Hence you see descriptions of "Pioneer" or "Discovery" class missions with different masses and hence needing different LV's. I'm quite sure other organizations have their one rules of thumb.

So if the payload price (for a reasonable sized payload) drops enough you either have to make everything a lot cheaper (JPL and Goddard are IIRC already leaders in the use of AI techniques in payload monitoring, fault diagnosis and experiment planning, although I suspect SX have studied their work closely) or run detailed cost planning to identify where the money really goes and ask for that instead.

However low launch price are only a part of the issue.

What the military calls "responsive space" is also needed. With a low enough launch price you can launch satellites without triple redundancy and cross strapping of I/O that comm sats have, provided if it does fail you can get a replacement on orbit adequately "quickly," for varying definitions of quickly.

That means either on orbit spares (needs a bigger LV, or make multiple smaller payloads) or you can more or less ask for a launch on demand. You may also need to build a satellite on demand if you didn't buy a bunch when you made the original. Being able to recover part or all of the satellite would also be nice (especially if people want to get serious about space mfg).
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Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #25 on: 04/12/2017 08:22 AM »
Proton's rate is shocking... customers will certainly notice this surcharge (as well as the basis for it) that wipes out the cost advantage of going with Proton -- 8% increase on a $500M satellite would be $40M of increased premium.  On the other hand, the 'slightly higher' rates for Falcon 9 would be more than compensated by lower launch costs.
I'm curious why Falcon 9 is so low in that case, as they've had several of their own failures.

Even if we ignore Amos 6 since it's a design flaw that can be addressed, I don't know how we can be so confident a this point that all such issues have been shaken out, and CRS-7 failed due to a material/process issue that seems like it shows them to be vulnerable to other failures of that type.

The root causes of CRS-7 were fixed just as much as the root causes of Amos 6.  Neither can happen again.  And the CRS-7 issue was with a supplier, not with SpaceX, except to the extent that SpaceX should be blamed for trusting the supplier.

We can't be sure that all the issues have been shaken out.  That's why the insurance isn't free.  But the insurance costs being comparable to those of A5 means that the insurance companies have studied the details long and hard and concluded that the risks going forward are similar for F9 and A5.

Offline Rei

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #26 on: 04/12/2017 08:51 AM »
I don't know it this has been discussed in another thread already, but does lowering of launch cost have any effect on how the payloads are designed? If a launch costs $100M+, it doesn't help too much to build a cheaper satellite because your total cost is dominated by the launch cost. If launch cost is around $40M, does it make sense to make simpler satellites, but launch a few more. This seems to be the case for LEO constellations, but are GEO birds limited by orbital slots or some other constraint?

I don't have the refs onhand, but I'd previously seen some work suggesting a very strong dependence on payload costs with launch costs. Shaving mass is very expensive (ex., the several-orders-magnitude difference in price between triple-junction and off-the-shelf solar cells), you can tolerate more risk in your design when launches are cheap (aka, if your design fails, you don't get stuck with a second ridiculously expensive launch), and the total market increases dramatically, which means that your component suppliers gain economies of scale.
« Last Edit: 04/12/2017 08:53 AM by Rei »

Offline J-V

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #27 on: 04/12/2017 09:16 AM »
I don't know it this has been discussed in another thread already, but does lowering of launch cost have any effect on how the payloads are designed? If a launch costs $100M+, it doesn't help too much to build a cheaper satellite because your total cost is dominated by the launch cost. If launch cost is around $40M, does it make sense to make simpler satellites, but launch a few more. This seems to be the case for LEO constellations, but are GEO birds limited by orbital slots or some other constraint?

I don't have the refs onhand, but I'd previously seen some work suggesting a very strong dependence on payload costs with launch costs. Shaving mass is very expensive (ex., the several-orders-magnitude difference in price between triple-junction and off-the-shelf solar cells), you can tolerate more risk in your design when launches are cheap (aka, if your design fails, you don't get stuck with a second ridiculously expensive launch), and the total market increases dramatically, which means that your component suppliers gain economies of scale.

So in theory reusable flights being cheaper could start a positive spiral of cost reductions. Cheaper launches -> cheaper payloads -> more payloads -> more launches -> economics of scale -> cheaper launches. Of course there is more to the equation than just sats and LVs, but I could imagine that things such as GSE, launch sites, etc. are somewhat easier things to deal with than reusability.

Online FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #28 on: 04/12/2017 09:21 AM »
Can I suggest starting a new thread on the impact of reduced launch costs on payloads? (although there may well be another one already)

The aim for this thread was rather more modest, to collect evidence for SpaceX customers' opinions on re-use.

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #29 on: 04/12/2017 05:24 PM »
I am not sure if this one was posted earlier but here is Inmarsat's view on reuse.
http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/03/29/521941656/launch-land-launch-spacex-tries-reusing-its-rocket

Quote
"This is indeed a first," says Michele Franci, the chief technology officer of Inmarsat, a London company that runs a satellite network for tracking ships and planes. Inmarsat is a SpaceX customer, and Franci says if launch costs come down, companies like his could launch more satellites, more often, and build a better network.

But he says that to really bring prices down, SpaceX will have to recycle each rocket more than just once.

"The question is how many times they can reuse each individual rocket, and how often they can do it," he says.

Offline john smith 19

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #30 on: 04/12/2017 07:52 PM »
So in theory reusable flights being cheaper could start a positive spiral of cost reductions. Cheaper launches -> cheaper payloads -> more payloads -> more launches -> economics of scale -> cheaper launches. Of course there is more to the equation than just sats and LVs, but I could imagine that things such as GSE, launch sites, etc. are somewhat easier things to deal with than reusability.
The problem is the bar has been so high for so long that it has to go down a lot for that cycle to start.

It has to get to the point where people stop saying "That idea would work great but the (current) launch prices will wipe us out" to "we can make this work. let's start making some calls to raise the cash."
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Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #31 on: 04/12/2017 08:13 PM »
The implications from the Inmarsat's CTO comment is that with cheaper launch the inflection point where design life/costs of the sat makes more sense to have sats design life of significantly less than 15+ years so that the replacement rate is once every 7-10 years. This is an increase in launch rate of up to a factor of 2 without actually increasing the number of on-orbit active sats. They are just swapped out more often.

It has to do with the business case in that a shorter life (cheaper sat) + cheaper launch, does that result in more profit?

What the hint is that the answer could very well be yes to this question.

The result for SpaceX would be instead of 10-15 GEOSAT launches /year they would in 5 years be doing 20-30 GEOSAT launches/yr.

Offline garcianc

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #32 on: 04/13/2017 03:05 AM »
I was hesitant to introduce any speculation on this thread, but the original post did say "potential" customers. So I see this as a good place to ask about a couple of potential scenarios that I have not seen discussed elsewhere.

1. If I were a customer who paid a premium for a brand new booster, I would consider that (to use the airplane analogy) I paid for not just the flight, but for the airplane itself. Therefore, the hardware "belongs" to me and SpaceX should buy it back or let me continue to use it.

2. Along the same lines, what if I were a customer who demanded a brand new booster, paid a premium, then expected to reuse that same hardware on subsequent flights for a cost less than a new customer who would fly on the same hardware? For example, if customer B pays 60% of the advertised rate to use flight-proven hardware, me (customer A) would expect to pay less (i.e. 40%) for reusing hardware that I originally paid full price for.

or

3. A customer who wants to pay a discounted rate, regardless of hardware, as part of a bundle of multiple missions. For example, a contract for 3 missions at 66% the advertised rate (3 for 2) that allows SpaceX to decide which hardware to use or re-use. The contract could have bonus clauses to, for example, deliver all missions within a negotiated time frame, which would drive and essentially pay for rapid reusability improvements.

I think scenario 3 is where I would expect things to go.

Mods, please feel free to delete this if it is too speculative for this thread.


Offline Dao Angkan

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #33 on: 04/13/2017 06:26 AM »
A better airplane analogy would be chartering a cargo flight.

Online FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #34 on: 04/13/2017 06:39 AM »
A better airplane analogy would be chartering a cargo flight.

Yes, the service customers are buying is delivery of payload(s) to orbit. SpaceX don't just provide the LV, they operate it too.

I put 'potential customers' in the OP because I'm interested in what the whole launch market (not just existing SpaceX customers) think of re-use. For some time there's been a view that just because re-use may be technically achievable it doesn't mean that it's economically viable. One key aspect of that is whether there's any demand for (or at least tolerance of) re-use, hence this thread.
« Last Edit: 04/13/2017 06:40 AM by FutureSpaceTourist »

Offline meekGee

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #35 on: 04/13/2017 06:57 AM »
The implications from the Inmarsat's CTO comment is that with cheaper launch the inflection point where design life/costs of the sat makes more sense to have sats design life of significantly less than 15+ years so that the replacement rate is once every 7-10 years. This is an increase in launch rate of up to a factor of 2 without actually increasing the number of on-orbit active sats. They are just swapped out more often.

It has to do with the business case in that a shorter life (cheaper sat) + cheaper launch, does that result in more profit?

What the hint is that the answer could very well be yes to this question.

The result for SpaceX would be instead of 10-15 GEOSAT launches /year they would in 5 years be doing 20-30 GEOSAT launches/yr.
From the customer's POV, it's not just that satellites can be designed for a shorter life time, it's that they can keep on-orbit technology more up to date.

15 years is a long time in telecom. 
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Offline Lar

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #36 on: 04/13/2017 01:48 PM »
I wonder if and when SpaceX will drop their "free relaunch if your launch fails" policy[1]?  That may affect customer perception.

1 - or practice, or generally done thing, whatever it is, not sure it's actual "policy" per se...
« Last Edit: 04/13/2017 01:54 PM by Lar »
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Offline ugordan

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #37 on: 04/13/2017 02:13 PM »
I wonder if and when SpaceX will drop their "free relaunch if your launch fails" policy[1]?  That may affect customer perception.

Does it really affect customer perception as much as, say, insisting on four-leaf clovers on mission patches, despite losing two vehicles over a span of barely a year?

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #38 on: 04/13/2017 04:28 PM »
I wonder if and when SpaceX will drop their "free relaunch if your launch fails" policy[1]?  That may affect customer perception.

Does it really affect customer perception as much as, say, insisting on four-leaf clovers on mission patches, despite losing two vehicles over a span of barely a year?
This is nothing more than SpaceX telling their customers that SpaceX will insure the costs of the launch as part of the price. That value is between a $2-4M discount on the $62M price for the customer. For the government they self insure and are unlikely to relaunch the same or very similar payload. Both the DOD and especially NASA the payloads are mostly one of a kind. For them this feature is not actually usable depending on the contract details for the replacement flight.

The other item to this is that it locks the customer into using SpaceX for it's replacement sat.

This would be seen by customers as a marketing incentive by SpaceX. The question is: does this marketing incentive actually achieve it's goal?

Offline faramund

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Re: SpaceX customers' views on reuse
« Reply #39 on: 04/14/2017 05:39 AM »
I was hesitant to introduce any speculation on this thread, but the original post did say "potential" customers. So I see this as a good place to ask about a couple of potential scenarios that I have not seen discussed elsewhere.

1. If I were a customer who paid a premium for a brand new booster, I would consider that (to use the airplane analogy) I paid for not just the flight, but for the airplane itself. Therefore, the hardware "belongs" to me and SpaceX should buy it back or let me continue to use it.


Really, if a car hire place, that usually hires for $100 a day, did a special offer where if you paid an extra $100 - it would allow the first 5 such ustomer's to hire a new car - would suddenly mean that the customer's would think that the hire place should buy the car back or let them continue to use it?

How is this different?

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