Author Topic: A bet on whether re-usable is really cheaper  (Read 24710 times)

Offline ccdengr

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Re: A bet on whether re-usable is really cheaper
« Reply #40 on: 04/17/2018 10:56 PM »
Of course reusable is cheaper.  I don't see the question as even debatable.
Well, it's good to see you're keeping an open mind about it.  ;)

Reusable could end up being more expensive if the cost to recover and refurb is too high, if the lifetime of reusable items is too short, or if the performance penalties associated with reuse outweigh the savings, just to name three reasons.

IMHO, it's still an open question as to whether SpaceX will make reuse work in the long term.

Offline Oberon_Command

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Re: A bet on whether re-usable is really cheaper
« Reply #41 on: 04/17/2018 11:17 PM »
Of course reusable is cheaper.  I don't see the question as even debatable.
Well, it's good to see you're keeping an open mind about it.  ;)

Reusable could end up being more expensive if the cost to recover and refurb is too high, if the lifetime of reusable items is too short, or if the performance penalties associated with reuse outweigh the savings, just to name three reasons.

IMHO, it's still an open question as to whether SpaceX will make reuse work in the long term.


Didn't Shotwell say that refurbishing the booster on the very first re-flight cost less than half of a new booster? And that was just the first one they did...

Offline envy887

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Re: A bet on whether re-usable is really cheaper
« Reply #42 on: 04/17/2018 11:29 PM »
Of course reusable is cheaper.  I don't see the question as even debatable.
Well, it's good to see you're keeping an open mind about it.  ;)

Reusable could end up being more expensive if the cost to recover and refurb is too high, if the lifetime of reusable items is too short, or if the performance penalties associated with reuse outweigh the savings, just to name three reasons.

IMHO, it's still an open question as to whether SpaceX will make reuse work in the long term.

Those three reasons have been summarily dispatched already. There can be no reasonable doubt at this point as to whether reuse is cheaper for SpaceX.

Offline AC in NC

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Re: A bet on whether re-usable is really cheaper
« Reply #43 on: 04/17/2018 11:33 PM »
Of course reusable is cheaper.  I don't see the question as even debatable.
Reusable could end up being more expensive if the cost to recover and refurb is too high, if the lifetime of reusable items is too short, or if the performance penalties associated with reuse outweigh the savings, just to name three reasons.

We're beyond those.  Admittedly I can't know this for a fact.  But, we ARE beyond those.  F1-era?  Certainly!!!  Pre-Recovery?  Fair enough!  OCISLY RUD's?  Still debatable.  After a string of something like a string of 90-95%-ish rate on attempted recoveries and successful relaunch?  Not really in question.

There are two remaining possibilities that show just how "not in question" reusuability being cheaper really is.

1)  Massive Fraud in what SpaceX has stated about it; or ...
2)  Failures caused by reuse that cannot be avoided through post-recovery validation.

The second is somewhat like recover/refurb cost but different and I think largely behind us as well.  There are scenarios I could imagine where SpaceX fails as a company and yet, at this point, that would not change the cost-effectiveness of reuse.
« Last Edit: 04/18/2018 12:18 AM by AC in NC »

Offline Nilof

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Re: A bet on whether re-usable is really cheaper
« Reply #44 on: 04/18/2018 01:08 AM »
Of course reusable is cheaper.  I don't see the question as even debatable.
Well, it's good to see you're keeping an open mind about it.  ;)

Reusable could end up being more expensive if the cost to recover and refurb is too high, if the lifetime of reusable items is too short, or if the performance penalties associated with reuse outweigh the savings, just to name three reasons.

IMHO, it's still an open question as to whether SpaceX will make reuse work in the long term.

They are making it work profitably right now.

The point is, that it's worth doing even if it doesn't save too much, if it lets them launch more often, because it directly increases their total revenue as long as they are not demand limited. Though in practice, it probably does reduce internal costs as well, just not necessarily as much as a simplistic analysis would make you think, and in a way that depends heavily on launch rate.
For a variable Isp spacecraft running at constant power and constant acceleration, the mass ratio is linear in delta-v.   Δv = ve0(MR-1). Or equivalently: Δv = vef PMF. Also, this is energy-optimal for a fixed delta-v and mass ratio.

Offline ccdengr

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Re: A bet on whether re-usable is really cheaper
« Reply #45 on: 04/18/2018 03:28 AM »
Didn't Shotwell say that refurbishing the booster on the very first re-flight cost less than half of a new booster?
Does this account for the loss in payload mass from reusability?  Does it factor in all the money that was spent developing the reusability?

I think it's been demonstrated that most people here have made up their minds on this topic and aren't interested in debate.  Since we can't see SpaceX's balance sheets we can't know for sure where they stand; I find it very hard to believe that reusability has paid for itself yet.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: A bet on whether re-usable is really cheaper
« Reply #46 on: 04/18/2018 03:49 AM »
Didn't Shotwell say that refurbishing the booster on the very first re-flight cost less than half of a new booster?
Does this account for the loss in payload mass from reusability?  Does it factor in all the money that was spent developing the reusability?

I think it's been demonstrated that most people here have made up their minds on this topic and aren't interested in debate.  Since we can't see SpaceX's balance sheets we can't know for sure where they stand; I find it very hard to believe that reusability has paid for itself yet.
It does take that into account due to the ability to access a wide array of payload sizes efficiently, a fact consistently ignored by people who should know better (and who use “dial a rocket” when speaking of strap on SRBs).

You should take him up on the bet. SpaceX can’t continually launch over a dozen reusable rockets every year without it being financially worthwhile, so while we don’t get access to their books, reality will certainly bring the truth to light by forcing SpaceX’s long term behavior to adapt or die. The point of this thread is to let people put their money where their mouth is, therefore finishing a bit of the never-ending debate and incentivizing people to be more careful and rational in their reasoning.
« Last Edit: 04/18/2018 03:53 AM by Robotbeat »
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Offline mme

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Re: A bet on whether re-usable is really cheaper
« Reply #47 on: 04/18/2018 03:55 AM »
Didn't Shotwell say that refurbishing the booster on the very first re-flight cost less than half of a new booster?
Does this account for the loss in payload mass from reusability?  Does it factor in all the money that was spent developing the reusability?

I think it's been demonstrated that most people here have made up their minds on this topic and aren't interested in debate.  Since we can't see SpaceX's balance sheets we can't know for sure where they stand; I find it very hard to believe that reusability has paid for itself yet.
Now you're dragging goal posts. You've gone from "maybe reuse costs more including recovery and refurbishment" which seems really unlikely to "well I doubt it's paid off already" relative to an alternative timeline where they just designed and built an inexpensive expendable.

I guess we'll get to see that comparison when Vulcan comes online. Want to bet which is less expensive to fly or which flies more often?

Better yet, if you're so confident that reuse is unlikely to pay off, why not take LouScheffer's bet.  The point of this thread, at least for me, is the debate has grown boring.
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Offline Kabloona

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Re: A bet on whether re-usable is really cheaper
« Reply #48 on: 04/18/2018 03:59 AM »
Didn't Shotwell say that refurbishing the booster on the very first re-flight cost less than half of a new booster?
Does this account for the loss in payload mass from reusability?  Does it factor in all the money that was spent developing the reusability?

I think it's been demonstrated that most people here have made up their minds on this topic and aren't interested in debate.  Since we can't see SpaceX's balance sheets we can't know for sure where they stand; I find it very hard to believe that reusability has paid for itself yet.

No one is saying reusability has paid for itself yet. You're confusing "reusability being profitable" with "having paid back the entire amount invested in reusability."

"Reusability being profitable" only means that SpaceX is saving sufficient cost on each reusable launch that each reusable launch "earns" them part of their investment back, and that "earned" savings on each launch is large enough that they'll eventually recoup their investment and begin to get net positive on reusability.

It's like borrowing money to start a business. The business can be immediately profitable even though it may take a few years to repay the loan.

Offline sewebster

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Re: A bet on whether re-usable is really cheaper
« Reply #49 on: 04/18/2018 06:25 AM »
It's like borrowing money to start a business. The business can be immediately profitable even though it may take a few years to repay the loan.

In that case though you are only profitable if you at least make enough to pay the interest on the loan... if the capital investment is large enough and the savings small enough, you won't ever pay it back (even if you are indeed saving money every time).

(not that I am arguing that this is the case for SpaceX)

Online speedevil

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Re: A bet on whether re-usable is really cheaper
« Reply #50 on: 04/18/2018 10:21 AM »
In that case though you are only profitable if you at least make enough to pay the interest on the loan... if the capital investment is large enough and the savings small enough, you won't ever pay it back (even if you are indeed saving money every time)
And of course if you can't put off some fraction of that investment as useful for defraying further costs in R&D, which seems very likely.

Offline JamesH65

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Re: A bet on whether re-usable is really cheaper
« Reply #51 on: 04/18/2018 11:40 AM »
I'd take the bet right now except for 2 things:

1. I think because it's crossing various governmental boundaries that it may be illegal in the US.

2. It'll be a fairer bet when it's all Block 5 boosters.

I'm amused by the idea that if re-use wasn't a good thing SpaceX wouldn't be doing it. Considering the foolishness that Elon is doing over at Tesla, I wouldn't be surprised at all if SpaceX wasn't also neck-deep in folly.

So, once they go all Block 5 and I know I won't be violating gambling laws, I'll check back on this thread and see if the bet is still on.

There's no foolishness going on at Tesla. Media hype.


Offline Kabloona

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Re: A bet on whether re-usable is really cheaper
« Reply #52 on: 04/18/2018 11:43 AM »
It's like borrowing money to start a business. The business can be immediately profitable even though it may take a few years to repay the loan.

In that case though you are only profitable if you at least make enough to pay the interest on the loan... if the capital investment is large enough and the savings small enough, you won't ever pay it back (even if you are indeed saving money every time).


That is correct. But if the numbers SpaceX has been quoting are true, ie saving roughly half the cost (let's say $20 million) of an F9 on a reusable mission, and $1 billion invested in reusability, that's 50 reusable missions to break even (plus a few more, say for interest/opportunity cost). That's just a few years of normal operations for SpaceX.
« Last Edit: 04/18/2018 11:45 AM by Kabloona »

Offline Ultrafamicom

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Re: A bet on whether re-usable is really cheaper
« Reply #53 on: 04/18/2018 11:59 AM »

I'm amused by the idea that if re-use wasn't a good thing SpaceX wouldn't be doing it. Considering the foolishness that Elon is doing over at Tesla, I wouldn't be surprised at all if SpaceX wasn't also neck-deep in folly.


Tesla teared down the fully automatic transfer belts as well as many other automatic equipment in Fremont only months after they found it obsolete.

There is no reason for SpaceX to continue doing it for 29 months and well into routine if they found it does little or no good.
« Last Edit: 04/18/2018 12:04 PM by Ultrafamicom »

Online speedevil

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Re: A bet on whether re-usable is really cheaper
« Reply #54 on: 04/18/2018 12:29 PM »
There's no foolishness going on at Tesla. Media hype.

I note that SpaceX (to drag it sort of back on topic) is nicely insulated from most of this, and does not have to answer to stockholders.

Note that if the Tesla stock price crashes, various people stand to make $10B or so on that, which is plenty of motivation to encourage less than accurate reporting. (due to short positions on the stock).


Online Cologan

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Re: A bet on whether re-usable is really cheaper
« Reply #55 on: 04/18/2018 01:08 PM »
I dont wanna go too much into detail as i dont have all the numbers and there are already very similiar posts here, and there are far more comprehensible works out there talking about this topic. But i still wanna throw in my 2 cents :)

Just taking numbers given by SpX Coo and Ceo at face value, doing very primitive math, the first reusable launch should have been about even with an expendable launch.
(50% of Stage 1 Price to refurb, Price of Stage 1 is roughly 70% of the total thing, 35ish % cost savings on the whole rocket, 30ish % loss in capacity due to reusability)


Now this obviously ignores RND and other standing cost. But what it does tell (at least me) is, that any advancements to the rocket that give more % in capability than they add % in price, gives you cheaper launches (at least for SpX).

So for me, its not whether or not if its cheaper, but at what launch cadence is it cheaper. To me it seems that, even if SpX isnt there yet, they are doing their best to get there. Unless they are hemorrhaging money like crazy in the background, which we wouldnt necessarily know about, i dont really see SpX beeing foolish here.

So, obviously, lots of holes in my post here. Feel free to tell me where i am wrong , atm i just think that the evidence available to the general public points towards a yay on reusability, not a nay.
« Last Edit: 04/18/2018 01:16 PM by Cologan »

Offline AC in NC

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Re: A bet on whether re-usable is really cheaper
« Reply #56 on: 04/18/2018 03:39 PM »
Didn't Shotwell say that refurbishing the booster on the very first re-flight cost less than half of a new booster?
Does this account for the loss in payload mass from reusability?  Does it factor in all the money that was spent developing the reusability?

Loss of payload mass doesn't factor in.  You won't accept that, but it doesn't as a practical matter.  The money spent also doesn't matter.  It matters for profitability.  It doesn't matter for cheaper.  But even on this one, we have sufficient evidence to reasonably conclude reusability is profitable irrespective of whether SpaceX is profitable.  That sentence likely won't make sense to you, but remains true.

But "cheaper"?  Absolutely.  It doesn't matter what they spent on it.  That's now sunk cost.  The are going to refly because reflying is cheaper than building.
« Last Edit: 04/18/2018 03:54 PM by AC in NC »

Offline whitelancer64

Re: A bet on whether re-usable is really cheaper
« Reply #57 on: 04/18/2018 03:45 PM »

I'm amused by the idea that if re-use wasn't a good thing SpaceX wouldn't be doing it. Considering the foolishness that Elon is doing over at Tesla, I wouldn't be surprised at all if SpaceX wasn't also neck-deep in folly.


Tesla teared down the fully automatic transfer belts as well as many other automatic equipment in Fremont only months after they found it obsolete.

There is no reason for SpaceX to continue doing it for 29 months and well into routine if they found it does little or no good.

That reminds me very strongly of the automated baggage transfer system fiasco at Denver International Airport.
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Online AncientU

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Re: A bet on whether re-usable is really cheaper
« Reply #58 on: 04/18/2018 04:17 PM »
It's like borrowing money to start a business. The business can be immediately profitable even though it may take a few years to repay the loan.

In that case though you are only profitable if you at least make enough to pay the interest on the loan... if the capital investment is large enough and the savings small enough, you won't ever pay it back (even if you are indeed saving money every time).


That is correct. But if the numbers SpaceX has been quoting are true, ie saving roughly half the cost (let's say $20 million) of an F9 on a reusable mission, and $1 billion invested in reusability, that's 50 reusable missions to break even (plus a few more, say for interest/opportunity cost). That's just a few years of normal operations for SpaceX.

Think of $1B for Falcon reusability as technology development for BFR/BFS, including landing on Mars with massive payloads. 

While some debate is reasonable on whether developing a reusable EELV-class launcher actually saves money vs a simple expendable -- if all you plan to do is launch NSS and commercial payloads -- there is no question that SpaceX Mars plans require full reusability.  Chalk off all R&D expense for reuse as a Mars development cost... then evaluate whether flying Falcon Block 5 boosters as reusable makes more financial sense than flying them expendable.
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Offline envy887

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Re: A bet on whether re-usable is really cheaper
« Reply #59 on: 04/18/2018 06:14 PM »
It's like borrowing money to start a business. The business can be immediately profitable even though it may take a few years to repay the loan.

In that case though you are only profitable if you at least make enough to pay the interest on the loan... if the capital investment is large enough and the savings small enough, you won't ever pay it back (even if you are indeed saving money every time).


That is correct. But if the numbers SpaceX has been quoting are true, ie saving roughly half the cost (let's say $20 million) of an F9 on a reusable mission, and $1 billion invested in reusability, that's 50 reusable missions to break even (plus a few more, say for interest/opportunity cost). That's just a few years of normal operations for SpaceX.

The quote was "substantially less than half" the cost of a new booster. And less that that for later reuses.

Didn't Shotwell say that refurbishing the booster on the very first re-flight cost less than half of a new booster?
Does this account for the loss in payload mass from reusability?  Does it factor in all the money that was spent developing the reusability?

I think it's been demonstrated that most people here have made up their minds on this topic and aren't interested in debate.  Since we can't see SpaceX's balance sheets we can't know for sure where they stand; I find it very hard to believe that reusability has paid for itself yet.


Whether it has already paid for itself is irrelevant to whether SpaceX "will make it work". The cost to make Falcon reusable is sunk, and it is being reused at an accelerating cadence. Reuse is here to stay.

The average person can't see SpaceX's balance sheets, but their investors can... and they are lining up to throw money at SpaceX.

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