Author Topic: SpaceX has a larger effective budget for HSF development than NASA.  (Read 9023 times)

Offline speedevil

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That would mean approx $8-10 bill in development costs by 2022 when he plans to have fully operational BFR/BFS. That would compare to a total for SLS/Orion of approx $44 bill by that time but the difference in capabilities is astounding SLS/Orion is 70 tonnes in LEO and $1.5 bill a flight. Musks states $0.007 bill a flight and 225 tonnes into LEO.

For a fully expended BFS, at SXSW Musk mentioned 'twice the payload' - so around 300 tons expendable. Nominal maximum performance is somewhere close to 170 tons, counting the normal landing fuel - you need to retank to land.

Removing all reusability features (heatshield, landing engines, ...) might get you to close to 400 tons.

On the more speculative side, suborbital refuelling may get you to 350 tons+ with complete reusability.

On the less speculative side, habitation modules made dumbly from one inch thick aluminium, that just fit inside the envelope of a BFS-chomper, and have deflated water bags, filled on orbit with a couple more launches may be really quite cheap indeed in terms of habitable volume.

Offline hkultala

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On the more speculative side, suborbital refuelling may get you to 350 tons+ with complete reusability.

... And switching the engines to use metallic hydrogen monopropellant will give even more.

Both are about equally feasible.

Suborbital refueling is not reasonable speculation, it's dreaming that has no correlation with reality.


1) Rendezvous of crafts is a very slow operation and both need to be launched at practically the same place. There is no practical way of two ascending crafts to rendezvous and dock, and even if there was, it would be very dangerous.

2) For refueling, the crafts dock tail-to-tail. Neither of the crafts can use their main engines while docked for propellant transfer.

3) To transfer the fuel, the manouvering thrusters are used generate acceleration which pushed to fuel to the later craft.

The gravity losses during the ascent while not using the main engines because of the refueling would probably cost much more than the fuel transferred gives.


« Last Edit: 03/18/2018 03:27 PM by hkultala »

Offline Khadgars

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Can someone explain to me why SpaceX community on here always have to pit NASA against SpaceX in some adversarial combat as if they're actively trying to destroy each  other?  NASA is an active investor and willing participant in SpaceX.

This thread has it all wrong.  Its not who's is larger, but what can they do together.

Offline speedevil

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On the more speculative side, suborbital refuelling may get you to 350 tons+ with complete reusability.

... And switching the engines to use metallic hydrogen monopropellant will give even more.

Both are about equally feasible.

1) Rendezvous of crafts is a very slow operation and both need to be launched at practically the same place. There is no practical way of two ascending crafts to rendezvous and dock, and even if there was, it would be very dangerous.

2) For refueling, the crafts dock tail-to-tail. Neither of the crafts can use their main engines while docked for propellant transfer.

3) To transfer the fuel, the manouvering thrusters are used generate acceleration which pushed to fuel to the later craft.

The gravity losses during the ascent while not using the main engines because of the refueling would probably cost much more than the fuel transferred gives.

1) Landing on a launch mount at >>1g, in the presence of winds and drag demonstrates, with a larger vehicle that much of the rendevous is possible rather faster indeed than this.
2) Of course.
3) Simply depressurising somewhat the tank on the receiving vessel causes quite large fuel flows - in the range of nominal engine flows, for obvious reasons, or the engines wouldn't work. Thrusters are of course needed for ullage.
4) During the time of transfer, gravity losses are very considerably lower.

Rough numbers - 100 tons fuel a minute, velocity at 'staging' 6km/s, gravity losses 4.5m/s/s, 400 tons of transferred fuel.
A minute each side for rendevous leads to 6 minutes or 1.6km/s.

However, 1km/s vertical velocity is plausible without much payload loss, meaning the first three minutes you're still going up, and in the second three minutes you've lost only 50km, and if you were on a high suborbital trajectory to begin with, you have that altitude to play with.
Tanker lands considerably downrange, of course.

The fuel transfer numbers are in the range of a nominal fill time for F9, scaled by thrust, and are consistent with propellant flowing through the pipes shown at around 1 bar pressure caused by de-pressurising the receiving BFS.
The landing tanks are used for the initial burn away by the stage going to orbit, while the autogenous pressurisation system gets the tanks up to nominal pressure again.

This is of course not something you would do on the first vehicles, but only once you have experience with operating them.
It is quite easy to test all aspects of this before actually committing to it, as all of the 'hard parts' happen in an environment identical to LEO.



Offline tdperk

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Can someone explain to me why SpaceX community on here always have to pit NASA against SpaceX in some adversarial combat as if they're actively trying to destroy each  other?  NASA is an active investor and willing participant in SpaceX.

This thread has it all wrong.  Its not who's is larger, but what can they do together.

It is more than a merely colorable argument to say there are elements in NASA who desire SpaceX to fail, and reciprocally SpaceX must hope those elements fail in any effort to deprecate and delay SpaceX.

When I say elements, I mean individuals.  Nothing genuinely corporate exists, humanity is not Borg, it has no hivemind -- however, Pournelle's Iron Laws of Bureaucracy have manifest application.
« Last Edit: 03/19/2018 12:57 PM by tdperk »

Offline speedevil

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This thread has it all wrong.  Its not who's is larger, but what can they do together.

It is unclear this is true.
NASA has a large number of very skilled people working for them.
However, a large fraction of these people are very skilled at things which are almost totally useless given a radical reduction in the cost of space launch.

For example, construction of a 'deep space gateway' costing tens of billions has essentially no relevance to any lunar exploration driven by a launcher that can achieve most of the stated goals of DSG and more, for a couple of hundred million. (Internal cost price of SpaceX of placing one BFS around the moon).

Engineering so radically differs between payloads ending up at $500000/kg, and ones that need engineered for $1000/kg that the transferrable 'corporate' skills are almost null.

This is entirely separate from the question of if NASA could politically do it with the existing corporate structure, and any organisational or political resistance to doing things 'cheaply'.


Offline clongton

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Maybe it is just because it seems more tangible and easily visualized, but I can't stop thinking about the physical wealth that sits out in space, waiting for someone to tap into it. And by this I mean the quintillions of dollars of precious minerals inside asteroids.

One needs to consider that the wealth generating capabilities of precious metals is relative to their abundance. There is nothing "precious" about the metals themselves. They are precious only because they are so rare. If a large asteroid is discovered, say 20 kilometers in diameter, that is relatively easily gotten to that is solid platinum for example, as soon as a mining company begins to extract and deliver it to earth-bound consumers, the value of the metal will drop because it is no longer rare. Its availability will be limited only by the mining company's ability to extract and ship. It is entirely possible to flood the market with metals that were once rare, making them become relatively dirt cheap. It is for sure that the price per gram will quickly drop to become a more common price per kilogram, reflecting its drop in value due entirely to its new abundance.

That's the way it would develop in the free market. Of course it could also turn out to be like diamonds. Diamonds are available in great quantities but the market is tightly controlled by just a few individual mine owners who keep the rock at its "rare" status by limiting the amount of diamonds that are newly available each year. An asteroid miner could do the same thing I suppose, but then how would they recover the considerable cost of going there, mining, extracting and shipping just a small amount of the "precious" metal?
« Last Edit: 03/18/2018 07:15 PM by clongton »
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Offline Cinder

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Do we know enough about NEOs (to start with) that that's a likely risk?  Gouging would be restricted by someone else bringing the elements from elsewhere further.

I can't speak for MET, but isn't the sheer amount of material out there such that humans could build on that abundance that much more readily than in something like Earth's scarcity?  There may be reduced profits but wouldn't development (incl HSF) be so much more stimulated?  If the physical wealth out there will remain so far beyond our means to fully exploit for many decades.
The pork must flow.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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The economics of asteroid mining have been thoroughly explored in other threads.  Please take that discussion there.  It's off topic here.

Offline su27k

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Can someone explain to me why SpaceX community on here always have to pit NASA against SpaceX in some adversarial combat as if they're actively trying to destroy each  other?  NASA is an active investor and willing participant in SpaceX.

This thread has it all wrong.  Its not who's is larger, but what can they do together.

The active investment/participation is limited to LEO though. For BLEO there's a competition since NASA and its congressional masters still don't think commercial can do deep space, and SpaceX is trying to show that notion is false. Once this is settled unambiguously the cooperation can start.

Online friendly3

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Can someone explain to me why SpaceX community on here always have to pit NASA against SpaceX in some adversarial combat as if they're actively trying to destroy each  other?  NASA is an active investor and willing participant in SpaceX.

This thread has it all wrong.  Its not who's is larger, but what can they do together.

Well, obviously they can't do SLS/Orion together, nor BFR/BFS...
But we don't blame NASA for that, rather Congress.

Offline Coastal Ron

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Can someone explain to me why SpaceX community on here always have to pit NASA against SpaceX in some adversarial combat as if they're actively trying to destroy each  other?

Is SpaceX, in any way, supposedly trying to destroy NASA?

And is NASA, who works for the President and is funded by Congress, working to destroy SpaceX?

I don't see either as true, so right there that is a false narrative to try and start a debate with.

Quote
This thread has it all wrong.  Its not who's is larger, but what can they do together.

Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars. It's his personal goal, because he believes humanity needs to be multi-planetary to survive long-term. So pointing out that SpaceX a potentially larger effective budget for HSF development than NASA is just an observation of the facts.

As for NASA, they do what the President and Congress tell them to do - NASA employees don't get to vote on what their goals are. And according to the President NASA's goal is now our Moon, not Mars - and SpaceX doesn't really care about our Moon, so voila, no competition.

What am I missing?
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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If the 2017 revenue for 18 launches (estimated) as $83M average of the total for those 18 launches of $1,498M, then for the 2018 30 launches would be $2.5B.

$3B a year of revenue is not that far off.

Another aside is the use of Starlink even though as a part of SpaceX as a launch customer launching 10 to 25 times a year starting in 2019 and by 2025 being >25 / year. If Starlink is purchasing them at cost of ~$30M (F9 reusable) there is a total for the first phase of Starlink 800 sats a total of 25 to 40 launches or $0.75B to $1.2B. If you include launches for the first 4000 sats that is 5X more at $3.75B to $6B in launches revenue at SpaceX internal cost prices.

Offline woods170

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NASA is an active investor and willing participant in SpaceX.

Two things factually wrong with your statement:

- NASA is not an investor in SpaceX. NASA is a SpaceX customer. Example of a SpaceX investor is Google.
- NASA is not a participant in SpaceX. We are not talking some sort of joint-venture here. SpaceX cooperates with NASA for insight and oversight purposes.
« Last Edit: 03/19/2018 11:06 AM by woods170 »

Offline woods170

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Well, obviously they can't do SLS/Orion together, nor BFR/BFS...
But we don't blame NASA for that, rather Congress.

You really wouldn't want NASA and SpaceX to do BFR/BFS together. Progress would be stifled just as much as progress on CCP is delayed by the near endless NASA bureaucracy.

Online AncientU

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Can someone explain to me why SpaceX community on here always have to pit NASA against SpaceX in some adversarial combat as if they're actively trying to destroy each  other?  NASA is an active investor and willing participant in SpaceX.

This thread has it all wrong.  Its not who's is larger, but what can they do together.

Tell that to NASA and Congress... while both give lip service to public-private partnerships, NASA/Congress/large defense contractors are sailing along on a steady BAU course.  All real development monies are 'invested'* in SLS/Orion/DSG, while crumbs fall from the table for support/resupply/etc.

It has gotten so bad that some are planning to go it alone... leaving NASA solidly on terra firma.

* Some would say thrown down a rat hole...
« Last Edit: 03/19/2018 11:08 AM by AncientU »
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
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Offline woods170

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Can someone explain to me why SpaceX community on here always have to pit NASA against SpaceX in some adversarial combat as if they're actively trying to destroy each  other?  NASA is an active investor and willing participant in SpaceX.

This thread has it all wrong.  Its not who's is larger, but what can they do together.

Tell that to NASA and Congress... while both give lip service to public-private partnerships, NASA/Congress/large defense contractors are sailing along on a steady BAU course.  All real development monies are 'invested'* in SLS/Orion/DSG, while crumbs fall from the table for support/resupply/etc.

It has gotten so bad that some are planning to go it alone... leaving NASA solidly on terra firma.

* Some would say thrown down a rat hole...

Yes, that is basically it. The reason BFR/BFS is being developed is because Musk discovered early on that him retiring on Mars is never gonna happen with NASA at the helm. Never, as in "never period".
Going at it alone (helped by several thousand like-minded folks at SpaceX) at least gives Elon a fighting chance to actually retire on Mars.

The beauty of it is that SpaceX is getting all the help they want from NASA during their period of "learning to fly". But the minute NASA involvement becomes more of a burden than an advantage Elon will dump NASA (in fact, that has already happened, given that NASA is not involved in BFR/BFS development).
« Last Edit: 03/19/2018 11:16 AM by woods170 »

Offline envy887

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To be clear, 3B was more-or-less a complete ill-informed guess.
Given my quick estimate, I had assumed SpaceX was under a billion in annual revenue.  Smoliarm (from Moscow Russia) had an excellent accounting of 2017.  So maybe they’re at 1.5B + some backlog revenue. 

Meh. I’d say the title of this thread is incorrect. 

I can see the valuation of SpaceX being above the NASA HSF budget (perhaps $5B).  But that’s a different story because the ISS is defunct at some point around 2025.  It isn’t clear what CRS revenue is in the next 5-10 years.  Obviously building CRS right up until the last ISS orbit seems unlikely as there is a plan (albeit unknown to the public)

So a typical 10x multiplier to annual revenue to estimate the SpaceX (private company) valuation would need a lot more thought.

Satellite business has always been volatile.  But with CRS there, I’m sure the F9 business case is being subsidized for now. 

Given the economy in SoCal, all of this is a jobs program for Orange County to keep the property values up.  They’re located in a totally bankrupt so called ‘nation’ state that is attempting to secede from the US while rudely implying that everyone else’s job across the US is a waste of taxpayer money.

Including Raptor dev and CC milestones, the $2B in revenue and $21B valuation make perfect sense in context of the 10:1 valuation:revenue baseline.

F9 isn't being "subsidized" by CRS unless SpaceX can't turn a profit at the list base F9 price while providing base service. CRS may be more profitable, but that does not mean the F9 can't stand on it's own in the commercial market. Your statement is as baseless as the similar one from certain competitors that SpaceX must be losing millions of dollars on every launch.

You need to reevaluate your definition of a "jobs program". SpaceX isn't doing what essentially amounts to busy work. And the LA metro area has a GDP of over $1 trillion per year - SpaceX is a tiny ripple in that economy.

Online AncientU

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An external take:
Quote
Elon Musk’s ‘Big F**king Rocket’ Is a Big F**ing Deal
Quote
But we have now reached another and very different stage in the journey to deep space. There is clearly a creative tension between the ingrained habits of state-funded projects where defense contractors have grown used to burning up billions of dollars performing on contracts made with sclerotic bureaucracies and people like Musk and Bezos who cut through all the orthodoxy with the energy of entrepreneurs and the experience of building huge businesses from scratch, like Henry Ford and Bill Boeing before them.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/elon-musks-big-fking-rocket-is-a-big-fing-deal
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Offline Ludus

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Can someone explain to me why SpaceX community on here always have to pit NASA against SpaceX in some adversarial combat as if they're actively trying to destroy each  other?  NASA is an active investor and willing participant in SpaceX.

This thread has it all wrong.  Its not who's is larger, but what can they do together.

It is about what they can do together. It’s just that this requires NASA to give up on trying to compete with companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin in building rockets and space transportation and shift its focus and budget to doing things in space.

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