Author Topic: US Air Force Reporting SpaceX Helps Cut US Air Force Single Launch Costs By 50%  (Read 8357 times)

Online abaddon

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It is as Monteith named it: SpaceX does not launch on schedule. They launch when they are ready.
While that is true, and will remain true, we might see a day sometime in the next year or two where SpaceX is regularly ready before payloads are.  Maybe even including their own...

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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It is as Monteith named it: SpaceX does not launch on schedule. They launch when they are ready.
While that is true, and will remain true, we might see a day sometime in the next year or two where SpaceX is regularly ready before payloads are.  Maybe even including their own...
There already has been a few cases where the LV was ready but payload was not. But as a look into what could occur in 2018 with at year end a reuse rate of 2 used for every new, they could literally be waiting on practically every payload. Even though the year may end that way it will not start that way. 2018 would start with 1 used flight for every 3 new. And over the course of the year more used flights will occur which also means flight rates would increase. Now it is averaging at just less than 2 a month. By EOY 2018 it could be as high as 4 a month. But the problem is that SpaceX capability will quickly outpace available payloads over the course of the next year. This would have a very big significance for the AF/DOD/gov.

The scenario is that the AF could then be able to do real launch on demand. Such that payloads are stored to be launched when needed to replace not only malfunctioning but intentionally disabled ones on a timetable of launch in less than 3 months from request.

The reason I mention three months is because of the activation timeline of a stored payload not because of SpaceX. SpaceX with a surplus available USs and fairings with also multiple boosters ready to go could launch in as little as 2 weeks from the request. But the encapsulation and checkouts plus possible shipments from wherever the sat was stored will take much longer.

The AF probably sees SpaceX as being able to provide the mythical launch on demand that has eluded the AF for a long time.

Offline Coastal Ron

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2018 would start with 1 used flight for every 3 new. And over the course of the year more used flights will occur which also means flight rates would increase. Now it is averaging at just less than 2 a month. By EOY 2018 it could be as high as 4 a month. But the problem is that SpaceX capability will quickly outpace available payloads over the course of the next year. This would have a very big significance for the AF/DOD/gov.

A good overall view into the future, and I just wanted to add that 2018 will also be the transition point for SpaceX as they incorporate Block 5 1st stages into their mix. But because Block 5 should be far less expensive to reuse than the current Block 3/4, that could cause some temporary new vs used decisions that won't happen in the future.

The other complication is how quickly they can produce Block 5 1st stages. We know there are certain customers (like Commercial Crew) that will require new Block 5 stages, which if they take longer to build could encourage some customers to rely on the reused Block 3/4 stages.

A lot of factors at play here, and it's hard to know how it plays out without internal knowledge of what the priorities are. But it will be entertaining to watch it unfold...  :D
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline AncientU

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2018 would start with 1 used flight for every 3 new. And over the course of the year more used flights will occur which also means flight rates would increase. Now it is averaging at just less than 2 a month. By EOY 2018 it could be as high as 4 a month. But the problem is that SpaceX capability will quickly outpace available payloads over the course of the next year. This would have a very big significance for the AF/DOD/gov.

A good overall view into the future, and I just wanted to add that 2018 will also be the transition point for SpaceX as they incorporate Block 5 1st stages into their mix. But because Block 5 should be far less expensive to reuse than the current Block 3/4, that could cause some temporary new vs used decisions that won't happen in the future.

The other complication is how quickly they can produce Block 5 1st stages. We know there are certain customers (like Commercial Crew) that will require new Block 5 stages, which if they take longer to build could encourage some customers to rely on the reused Block 3/4 stages.

A lot of factors at play here, and it's hard to know how it plays out without internal knowledge of what the priorities are. But it will be entertaining to watch it unfold...  :D

What is interesting is that having 2-3 Block 5 cores at each launch site would be sufficient for all re-flights planned in 2018 and future years. (Might be enough for all flights planned, but some will 'require' new cores.)  I suspect that by the end of 2018, they will retire all cores that are sub-Block 5 unless they keep a few around for expendable flights.
« Last Edit: 09/22/2017 07:02 PM by AncientU »
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Offline punder

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May I just say, thank goodness for the well-reasoned commentary (even in disagreements) available here.

Literally, everything in moderation...  ;)

Quote
The SN comments sections have been a cesspool lately.

A certain SN poster has returned who tends to distract conversations away from the core topics - maybe that's what you're seeing.

No, it's not just him. There are two or three regulars who love to gang up on anyone who even mildly disagrees with their viewpoint. They even engage in asides to each other about the target--"Poor so-and-so is too dumb to realize..." "Yes, isn't it sad..." And heaven help you if you show any sign of being politically conservative... pardon me for injecting politics into this thread, but it's true, as you, Coastal Ron--whose opinions I highly respect--certainly know. (Moderators, if necessary, please edit my post before tossing it out completely!)

I do wonder why SN can't or won't corral these people. The moderation is excellent at NSF, and most posters tend to refrain from ad hominem (or quickly learn to, anyway). It's such a relief after wading through threads at SN and, to a lesser extent, NW.

Offline IntoTheVoid

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http://spacenews.com/spacex-forces-air-force-to-revise-launch-mindset/
Quote from: Mike Fabey
“SpaceX does not launch on schedule,” Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith (commander, 45th Space Wing) said Sept. 20 during a space warfighting panel at the annual Air Force Association Air Space Cyber Conference. “They launch on readiness.”

This launch-when-we’re-ready-to-go attitude has had an impact on SpaceX operational needs and costs, said Monteith, who also is director of the Air Force Eastern Range, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.

“They have forced us — and I mean forced us — to get better, infinitely better, at what we do,” he said. “We are adopting commercial business practices and becom[ing] more efficient and more affordable.

“Working with them, we have been able to reduce our main launch footprint by 60 percent and reduce the cost of a single launch by over 50 percent,” he said. “Based on the autonomous flight safety system they developed with us they will help us get to 48 launches a year.”

Not that it isn't great to hear everyone rehash their favorite reusability points, but it seems that everyone is reading way too much into this article and quote including the OP. Based on the speaker and context, it seems clear that when Monteith says "reduce the cost of a single launch by over 50 percent", he's talking about the range cost to the launch provider, not the cost of a launch to the Air Force. And when he says "SpaceX does not launch on schedule, They launch on readiness" he is talking about the range being responsive to his customers needs, not about the AF taking advantage of some SpaceX capability. The AF is not particularly "becom[ing] more efficient and more affordable" or "get to 48 launches a year". Montieth is a range director, not an acquisition official, when he says 'we' and 'us', he is talking about his area of responsibility, the Eastern Range or the ranges in general. The article is not about SpaceX allowing the AF to do new and great things, it's about the AF (ranges) saying look at us, how great we're doing, learning from industry and lowering our costs.

My 2 cents, thanks; back to your tangents.

Offline Dao Angkan

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Was this previously known?

http://www.investors.com/news/air-force-space-chief-is-all-in-for-reusable-rockets-if-proved-safe/

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In addition to the cost savings, there's another upside to launching reusable rockets. Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, commander of the 45th Space Wing, noted in an interview Tuesday that engineers can actually look at the hardware after it's flown.

For instance, a Falcon rocket had a problem with its GPS systems that likely wouldn't have been discernible from the telemetry data alone, he said. Crews looked at the rocket when it came down and discovered that there wan't enough silicon around a screw.

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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http://spacenews.com/spacex-forces-air-force-to-revise-launch-mindset/
Quote from: Mike Fabey
“SpaceX does not launch on schedule,” Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith (commander, 45th Space Wing) said Sept. 20 during a space warfighting panel at the annual Air Force Association Air Space Cyber Conference. “They launch on readiness.”

This launch-when-we’re-ready-to-go attitude has had an impact on SpaceX operational needs and costs, said Monteith, who also is director of the Air Force Eastern Range, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.

“They have forced us — and I mean forced us — to get better, infinitely better, at what we do,” he said. “We are adopting commercial business practices and becom[ing] more efficient and more affordable.

“Working with them, we have been able to reduce our main launch footprint by 60 percent and reduce the cost of a single launch by over 50 percent,” he said. “Based on the autonomous flight safety system they developed with us they will help us get to 48 launches a year.”

Not that it isn't great to hear everyone rehash their favorite reusability points, but it seems that everyone is reading way too much into this article and quote including the OP. Based on the speaker and context, it seems clear that when Monteith says "reduce the cost of a single launch by over 50 percent", he's talking about the range cost to the launch provider, not the cost of a launch to the Air Force. And when he says "SpaceX does not launch on schedule, They launch on readiness" he is talking about the range being responsive to his customers needs, not about the AF taking advantage of some SpaceX capability. The AF is not particularly "becom[ing] more efficient and more affordable" or "get to 48 launches a year". Montieth is a range director, not an acquisition official, when he says 'we' and 'us', he is talking about his area of responsibility, the Eastern Range or the ranges in general. The article is not about SpaceX allowing the AF to do new and great things, it's about the AF (ranges) saying look at us, how great we're doing, learning from industry and lowering our costs.

My 2 cents, thanks; back to your tangents.
The statements are being made by the general responsible for the AF tip of the spear regarding launch operations. In his evaluation is always including the needs and wants of the future for the AF. So it is not just the ranges how well they are doing but what is expected in the future from the standpoint of a change of view in the way AF operations as well as NSS launches fit in that new view.

Your most likely correct about the cost info since his information on costs are primarily to do with the range operations but he also has the general info about how much each AF launch costs from each provider. This is due to the fact that this information is briefed to him for each launch as the background data. This as well as all the trials and tribulations that occurred to get to the launch. So he is very familiar with each of the providers details on AF launches.

The problem about the statement on costs is that it is unspecific and is general in nature. When the general nature of costs is talked about it is usually the complete costs and not a specific one.

Offline IntoTheVoid

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http://spacenews.com/spacex-forces-air-force-to-revise-launch-mindset/
Quote from: Mike Fabey
“SpaceX does not launch on schedule,” Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith (commander, 45th Space Wing) said Sept. 20 during a space warfighting panel at the annual Air Force Association Air Space Cyber Conference. “They launch on readiness.”

This launch-when-we’re-ready-to-go attitude has had an impact on SpaceX operational needs and costs, said Monteith, who also is director of the Air Force Eastern Range, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.

“They have forced us — and I mean forced us — to get better, infinitely better, at what we do,” he said. “We are adopting commercial business practices and becom[ing] more efficient and more affordable.

“Working with them, we have been able to reduce our main launch footprint by 60 percent and reduce the cost of a single launch by over 50 percent,” he said. “Based on the autonomous flight safety system they developed with us they will help us get to 48 launches a year.”

...
...

The problem about the statement on costs is that it is unspecific and is general in nature. When the general nature of costs is talked about it is usually the complete costs and not a specific one.

I don't find it "unspecific and is general in nature". The 1st half of the sentence says "Working with them, we have been able to reduce our main launch footprint by 60 percent". Do you really remotely think that SpaceX has reduced the launch footprint of the AF by 60%? Do you think that AFSS will help the AF get to 48 in-house launches, absent payloads or a discussion of congressional funding? These statements are only realistic in the context of range operations.

Offline AncientU

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AFTS is probably the only way USAF will get to 48 launches... that and having a launch provider that brings that many payloads to the US launch facilities.  Both AFTS and reusable launches are about cost of launch services... without SpaceX pushing the system incredibly hard, neither of these 'features' would be a part of the USAF's 'problem' because US launchers are otherwise too expensive for anything but USG launches (7-10 per year that are not SpaceX).

Congressional funding is completely irrelevant.

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Do you really remotely think that SpaceX has reduced the launch footprint of the AF by 60%?

yes, that is exactly what the article states:

Quote
“Working with them (SpaceX), we have been able to reduce our main launch footprint by 60 percent and reduce the cost of a single launch by over 50 percent,” he said. “Based on the autonomous flight safety system they (SpaceX again) developed with us they will help us get to 48 launches a year.”

...and they (SpaceX) are bringing the payloads (40+ of the 48).
« Last Edit: 09/22/2017 10:58 PM by AncientU »
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Offline Jim

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Quote
Do you really remotely think that SpaceX has reduced the launch footprint of the AF by 60%?

yes, that is exactly what the article states:


No, wrong interpretation

Offline Coastal Ron

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May I just say, thank goodness for the well-reasoned commentary (even in disagreements) available here.

Literally, everything in moderation...  ;)

Quote
The SN comments sections have been a cesspool lately.

A certain SN poster has returned who tends to distract conversations away from the core topics - maybe that's what you're seeing.

I do wonder why SN can't or won't corral these people. The moderation is excellent at NSF, and most posters tend to refrain from ad hominem (or quickly learn to, anyway). It's such a relief after wading through threads at SN and, to a lesser extent, NW.

I know I'm way Off Topic, but NSF was built for moderation, and it's members are also moderators. Publications like SpaceNews are built for publishing articles (and selling ads), and the comment section is just bonus (or distraction as you point out).

So with SpaceNews (and other publications) they will only step in if someone alerts them to really bad behavior, and they will remove repeat offenders. But sometimes the editor is busy running their publication, and can't pay too much attention.

One of the advantages that NSF has, and has been better at doing these past few years, is segmenting topics. So now we have topics that are for UPDATES and DISCUSSION, and you know you're more likely to be OK talking politics when you're on a topic that is in the POLITICS section. When discussions only happen around articles, everyone one, and every perspective, is dumped into one stream of consciousness.

But NSF takes a lot of work, and I appreciate what our moderators do - even when they moderate me (and maybe this post).
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline john smith 19

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The point is that you can have some 'fixed' schedule payloads on the manifest and flow other payloads around them.

No, that is not the point.  The point is moving the actual launch date to when they are ready vs keeping it on a fixed date (i.e. moving up a few days).

BTW, CRS is fixed schedule
I'm confused.

AIUI SX have control of their pads and can use them and do whatever they want whenever they want but that the firing range services are only available to them during a certain block of days and they can't launch outside of that, until their next allocated block came up.

From what people are saying this is actually more of a convention and SX have been pushing the range and not taking their allocation as set in stone (obviously automated range safety has helped quite a lot here).

Which begs the question do other range users stick to their allocations? If they do what happens if they start calling up the range office and saying (roughly) "I know we agreed Monday week, but we'll be ready this Wednesday coming, do you have a slot?" 
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

Offline john smith 19

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AFTS is probably the only way USAF will get to 48 launches... that and having a launch provider that brings that many payloads to the US launch facilities.  Both AFTS and reusable launches are about cost of launch services... without SpaceX pushing the system incredibly hard, neither of these 'features' would be a part of the USAF's 'problem' because US launchers are otherwise too expensive for anything but USG launches (7-10 per year that are not SpaceX).
I think AFTS is necessary, but not a sufficient feature to get to 48 launches a year.

When I asked, on another thread, if it would be possible to launch all major US launch vehicles (IE Antares, Atlas V, DIV, F9 at the time) in a "salvo" off of different pads within a single week (different pads, so no pad refurb time) Jim posted that it wouldn't and the long pole in the tent was testing the (large) number of voice channels between the different range sites.

Which also begs the question is AFTS now SOP for all LVs on the range?
If not who still needs the manual system, which it's been stated needs the involvement of 98 staff to operate? And when do they plan (or do they plan) to transition to AFTS?

AFTS should be the baseline for new LV's (presumably Vulcan will have it) on US ranges but other LV's predate it and I'm not sure if it's viewed as a nice-to-have or a must-move-to.
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

Offline guckyfan

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ULA won't switch to AFTS with Atlas and Delta. They will implement it on Vulcan. That's what has been discussed. No first hand knowledge by me.

Offline john smith 19

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ULA won't switch to AFTS with Atlas and Delta. They will implement it on Vulcan. That's what has been discussed. No first hand knowledge by me.
Understandable, but once you strip out F9, A V and D IV launches, what's left that could switch?

Obviously another reason for ULA to transition as much as possible to Vulcan once it's flying.
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

Offline Jcc

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Could part of the per launch economy be due to an increased number of launches, which allows fixed costs to be divided by a larger number?

Online deruch

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AFTS is probably the only way USAF will get to 48 launches... that and having a launch provider that brings that many payloads to the US launch facilities.  Both AFTS and reusable launches are about cost of launch services... without SpaceX pushing the system incredibly hard, neither of these 'features' would be a part of the USAF's 'problem' because US launchers are otherwise too expensive for anything but USG launches (7-10 per year that are not SpaceX).

Congressional funding is completely irrelevant.

Quote
Do you really remotely think that SpaceX has reduced the launch footprint of the AF by 60%?

yes, that is exactly what the article states:

Quote
“Working with them (SpaceX), we have been able to reduce our main launch footprint by 60 percent and reduce the cost of a single launch by over 50 percent,” he said. “Based on the autonomous flight safety system they (SpaceX again) developed with us they will help us get to 48 launches a year.”

...and they (SpaceX) are bringing the payloads (40+ of the 48).

Gen. Monteith made some similar statements in a March 2017 interview, after the first SpaceX launch with AFTS in full operation as the primary safety system, which provide some clearer context. 

http://www.floridatoday.com/story/tech/science/space/2017/03/11/spacex-autonomous-flight-safety-system-afss-kennedy-space-center-florida-falcon9-rocket-air-force-military/98539952/  (Be sure to watch the video above the article, too.  Very good.)

Quote
Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, commander of the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, said the successful launch with an Automated Flight Safety System, or AFSS, was a historic “game-changer,” demonstrating technology that will improve safety, lower costs and enable more launches from the Eastern Range.

The company [SpaceX] did not need to buy the services of four Eastern Range systems normally used to track a rocket’s flight and enable its destruction, including radars and telemetry.  As a result, nearly 150 fewer Range personnel than usual staffed the launch and flyback of the Falcon booster — a 60 percent drop. SpaceX will cut its Range-related expenses in half, Monteith said. (Those costs are considered proprietary.)

Automated systems should enable faster turnarounds from one launch to another. Monteith said SpaceX could, in theory, launch twice within hours when both of its Cape pads are available.  “For them I don’t think it’s really just about cost, I really believe it’s flexibility,” he said. “They launch on readiness.”

Another business driver for SpaceX’s was the debut of its Falcon Heavy rocket ... SpaceX wants to land the two side boosters back at Cape Canaveral, while the middle booster flies on to a ship at sea, so all that three can be recovered and potentially reused. But current Range systems can’t track more than one returning booster.  “If you want to fly multiple boosters back, they have got to be autonomous,” said Monteith. “Otherwise, they’ve got to put them in the ocean.”

The Range’s goal is to be able support 48 launches a year by 2020...


Also discussed in this article from NSF by Chris G.:
https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2017/03/air-force-reveals-48-launches-year-cape/
« Last Edit: 09/23/2017 11:50 PM by deruch »
Shouldn't reality posts be in "Advanced concepts"?  --Nomadd

Offline billh

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http://www.floridatoday.com/story/tech/science/space/2017/03/11/spacex-autonomous-flight-safety-system-afss-kennedy-space-center-florida-falcon9-rocket-air-force-military/98539952/  (Be sure to watch the video above the article, too.  Very good.)

Quote
Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, commander of the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, said the successful launch with an Automated Flight Safety System, or AFSS, was a historic “game-changer,” demonstrating technology that will improve safety, lower costs and enable more launches from the Eastern Range.

The company [SpaceX] did not need to buy the services of four Eastern Range systems normally used to track a rocket’s flight and enable its destruction, including radars and telemetry.  As a result, nearly 150 fewer Range personnel than usual staffed the launch and flyback of the Falcon booster — a 60 percent drop. SpaceX will cut its Range-related expenses in half, Monteith said. (Those costs are considered proprietary.)

Automated systems should enable faster turnarounds from one launch to another. Monteith said SpaceX could, in theory, launch twice within hours when both of its Cape pads are available.  “For them I don’t think it’s really just about cost, I really believe it’s flexibility,” he said. “They launch on readiness.”
Is anyone else shocked that several hundred Range personnel are/were required for a launch? I had no idea it was so many. I'd love to see a rough breakdown on how they are employed. Security, emergency response, radar and optical tracking, etc., I suppose. I still wouldn't have thought it was 300 people.

Online deruch

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http://www.floridatoday.com/story/tech/science/space/2017/03/11/spacex-autonomous-flight-safety-system-afss-kennedy-space-center-florida-falcon9-rocket-air-force-military/98539952/  (Be sure to watch the video above the article, too.  Very good.)

Quote
<snip>
The company [SpaceX] did not need to buy the services of four Eastern Range systems normally used to track a rocket’s flight and enable its destruction, including radars and telemetry.  As a result, nearly 150 fewer Range personnel than usual staffed the launch and flyback of the Falcon booster — a 60 percent drop. SpaceX will cut its Range-related expenses in half, Monteith said. (Those costs are considered proprietary.)
<snip>
Is anyone else shocked that several hundred Range personnel are/were required for a launch? I had no idea it was so many. I'd love to see a rough breakdown on how they are employed. Security, emergency response, radar and optical tracking, etc., I suppose. I still wouldn't have thought it was 300 people.

I actually think that might be a misquote or a misstatement by Gen. Monteith in that article.  I think the original total was supposed to be ~150.  In the NSF article I linked at the bottom of that previous comment, he is quoted as saying, "So we came down 96 people that don’t have to be sitting on console.  And the cost to the customer is cut in half."  Which would represent 60% if the total prior to AFTS use was ~150 people. 
« Last Edit: 09/23/2017 11:49 PM by deruch »
Shouldn't reality posts be in "Advanced concepts"?  --Nomadd

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