Author Topic: Falcon 9 Minimal Cost of Operation  (Read 1801 times)

Offline rpapo

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Falcon 9 Minimal Cost of Operation
« on: 05/18/2018 04:13 PM »
Do we have any good idea what the cost of a Falcon 9 launch would be if everything possible were reused?  That is, what do these items cost:

(1) The cost of any new parts required (stage 2, basically).

(2) The cost of recovering the used parts (stage 1, fairing) from a prior launch.

(3) The cost of bringing the two stages and a payload to a standing position on the launch pad.

(4) The cost of launching the stack, including fuel and manpower requirements.

All of the above are costs which will be incurred with every launch, no matter what. 

Any design changes to the Falcon itself are off topic here.
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Offline johnfwhitesell

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Re: Falcon 9 Minimal Cost of Operation
« Reply #1 on: 05/18/2018 04:20 PM »
Do we have any good idea what the cost of a Falcon 9 launch would be if everything possible were reused?  That is, what do these items cost:

(1) The cost of any new parts required (stage 2, basically).

(2) The cost of recovering the used parts (stage 1, fairing) from a prior launch.

(3) The cost of bringing the two stages and a payload to a standing position on the launch pad.

(4) The cost of launching the stack, including fuel and manpower requirements.

All of the above are costs which will be incurred with every launch, no matter what. 

Any design changes to the Falcon itself are off topic here.

I have heard that the breakdown is roughly 60% stage 1, 20% stage 2, 10% fairing, 10% operations.  So if the cost is 65 million and you reduce stage 1 and fairing by 85%*, that would bring the cost down to ~26 million.  Higher volume would probably also bring down the operations costs substantially.

* Based on the idea that they will build 40-50 block 5 boosters and have 300 flights before BFR comes online.  With more flights, the costs come down more.

Offline rpapo

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Re: Falcon 9 Minimal Cost of Operation
« Reply #2 on: 05/18/2018 04:25 PM »
I have heard that the breakdown is roughly 60% stage 1, 20% stage 2, 10% fairing, 10% operations.  So if the cost is 65 million and you reduce stage 1 and fairing by 85%*, that would bring the cost down to ~26 million.  Higher volume would probably also bring down the operations costs substantially.

* Based on the idea that they will build 40-50 block 5 boosters and have 300 flights before BFR comes online.  With more flights, the costs come down more.
We need to keep in mind the difference between asking price and cost.  Even so, I have a very hard time believing that they can reduce the minimal cost of a Falcon 9 mission to the $6M figure we're heard repeatedly.

Cost of recovery varies sharply between land and sea recovery, of course, but I can't imagine any practical way to recover the fairings that doesn't involve some part of the SpaceX Navy.
« Last Edit: 05/18/2018 04:25 PM by rpapo »
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Offline johnfwhitesell

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Re: Falcon 9 Minimal Cost of Operation
« Reply #3 on: 05/18/2018 04:41 PM »
Well I was giving you the average cost while what you are talking about now is more the marginal cost.  For marginal cost you are basically looking at this hypothetical: suppose it's 2020 and stage 1 and fairing reuse are common and you are doing 50 flights.  What is the cost of adding flight 51?

For marginal cost:
Stage 1: ~zero, you have plenty of boosters that aren't yet at 10 flights
Fairing: ~zero, you have plenty of recovered fairings
Operations: very low, maybe $15k, you just need to schedule a dozen plus control room people for another shift
Fuel: ~200k
Second stage: Here is where all the costs are going to show up!  But the thing is, how much will this cost if economies of scale start to kick in?
-Merlin 1D Vacuum: ~1 million
-Electronics and Avionics: Well the electronics are about equivalent to 3 high end gaming rigs and some cameras plus scheduling some workers for a few extra hours, <$100k
-Second stage body and fittings: This is the part I really dont know

So if you think that the cost of building a 51st second stage body in 2020 can be brought down to 4.5 million dollars, they can hit that 6 million dollar figure. For marginal cost.
« Last Edit: 05/18/2018 04:42 PM by johnfwhitesell »

Offline Jet Black

Re: Falcon 9 Minimal Cost of Operation
« Reply #4 on: 05/23/2018 08:01 AM »
Well I was giving you the average cost while what you are talking about now is more the marginal cost.  For marginal cost you are basically looking at this hypothetical: suppose it's 2020 and stage 1 and fairing reuse are common and you are doing 50 flights.  What is the cost of adding flight 51?

For marginal cost:
Stage 1: ~zero, you have plenty of boosters that aren't yet at 10 flights
Fairing: ~zero, you have plenty of recovered fairings
Operations: very low, maybe $15k, you just need to schedule a dozen plus control room people for another shift
Fuel: ~200k
Second stage: Here is where all the costs are going to show up!  But the thing is, how much will this cost if economies of scale start to kick in?
-Merlin 1D Vacuum: ~1 million
-Electronics and Avionics: Well the electronics are about equivalent to 3 high end gaming rigs and some cameras plus scheduling some workers for a few extra hours, <$100k
-Second stage body and fittings: This is the part I really dont know

So if you think that the cost of building a 51st second stage body in 2020 can be brought down to 4.5 million dollars, they can hit that 6 million dollar figure. For marginal cost.

There are plenty overheads though that need considering, like rental, refurbishment, transport, cleaning (not only of the boosters and fairings, but the facilities).
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled. -- Richard Feynman

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