Author Topic: As the SpaceX steamroller surges, European rocket industry vows to resist  (Read 18135 times)

Offline Oli

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3) The Falcon 9 is not well-suited to LEO constellations because it is structurally limited to half its performance as well as fairing volume-limited.

If even true those limitations can arguably be overcome relatively easily. F9 looks like a cheaper LEO rocket to me unless maybe plane changes are involved. That would imply a low number of sats per plane though, potentially as part of a replenishment strategy (just speculating).

Offline Elvis in Space

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3) The Falcon 9 is not well-suited to LEO constellations because it is structurally limited to half its performance as well as fairing volume-limited.

If even true those limitations can arguably be overcome relatively easily. F9 looks like a cheaper LEO rocket to me unless maybe plane changes are involved. That would imply a low number of sats per plane though, potentially as part of a replenishment strategy (just speculating).

Could it also be that we are continuing to look at launch vehicles based on performance optimization and not cost?  If Spacex actual in house cost to them is a fraction of a better performing vehicle then what does it matter?
Cheeseburgers on Mars!

Offline spacenut

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Fairing size can be increased some, as well as the structure on the second stage to handle heavier payloads.  This is not insurmountable.  It probably will be done soon enough because of Falcon Heavy and possible recovery of second stage.   

So far there has been no need for the above changes, and probably won't as BFS is supposed to begin testing late next year.

Don't sell SpaceX short.  They have done everything they set out to do, even when there was negative thinking and discussion about landing the boosters, it was done.  They also increased the performance of their engines over time.   

Offline dante2308

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3) The Falcon 9 is not well-suited to LEO constellations because it is structurally limited to half its performance as well as fairing volume-limited.

If even true those limitations can arguably be overcome relatively easily. F9 looks like a cheaper LEO rocket to me unless maybe plane changes are involved. That would imply a low number of sats per plane though, potentially as part of a replenishment strategy (just speculating).

I don't think structural limitations are insurmountable. However we're talking about a factor of two here so I don't think it's trivial or that it's a fait accompli. It'll take some work that hasn't happened. The last word on why the Falcon Heavy was delayed from an engineering perspective was to prepare it to handle a different regime of structural loads and the resulting delay was... significant. Therefore I think it's reasonable to simply use the current version as a baseline until a change or plan for a change is announced. Currently, Block 5 seems to be intended to be the final version of the Falcon 9.
« Last Edit: 07/27/2018 01:42 PM by dante2308 »

Offline envy887

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3) The Falcon 9 is not well-suited to LEO constellations because it is structurally limited to half its performance as well as fairing volume-limited.

If even true those limitations can arguably be overcome relatively easily. F9 looks like a cheaper LEO rocket to me unless maybe plane changes are involved. That would imply a low number of sats per plane though, potentially as part of a replenishment strategy (just speculating).

Ariane 64 doesn't actually have much better performance than F9R to the 600-1200 km circular orbits where constellations are actually inserted, despite costing considerably more.

In order to match the cost per kg that Iridium is paying, OneWeb would need to be getting ready Soyuz for $42 million including the dispenser. I rather doubt that they are anywhere near that.

So yes, F9 is just fine for LEO, even before any serious price reductions due to reuse.

Offline dante2308

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3) The Falcon 9 is not well-suited to LEO constellations because it is structurally limited to half its performance as well as fairing volume-limited.

If even true those limitations can arguably be overcome relatively easily. F9 looks like a cheaper LEO rocket to me unless maybe plane changes are involved. That would imply a low number of sats per plane though, potentially as part of a replenishment strategy (just speculating).

Ariane 64 doesn't actually have much better performance than F9R to the 600-1200 km circular orbits where constellations are actually inserted, despite costing considerably more.

In order to match the cost per kg that Iridium is paying, OneWeb would need to be getting ready Soyuz for $42 million including the dispenser. I rather doubt that they are anywhere near that.

So yes, F9 is just fine for LEO, even before any serious price reductions due to reuse.

It's a wash if you take the Falcon 9 Black 5 against the Ariane 64 in terms of price. If a Block 6 comes around all bets are off.

Offline envy887

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3) The Falcon 9 is not well-suited to LEO constellations because it is structurally limited to half its performance as well as fairing volume-limited.

If even true those limitations can arguably be overcome relatively easily. F9 looks like a cheaper LEO rocket to me unless maybe plane changes are involved. That would imply a low number of sats per plane though, potentially as part of a replenishment strategy (just speculating).

I don't think structural limitations are insurmountable. However we're talking about a factor of two here so I don't think it's trivial or that it's a fait accompli. It'll take some work that hasn't happened. The last word on why the Falcon Heavy was delayed from an engineering perspective was to prepare it to handle a different regime of structural loads and the resulting delay was... significant.

It's more like a factor of 1.4 once you adjust for reuse and the higher orbits that LEO commsat go to. Nobody is actually going to 200 km LEO and SpaceX would upcharge for expending a booster to get max payload.

Constellations can optimize more for $/kg than most other payloads. And F9 has good $/kg even with the PAF and fairing limitations.

Offline Oli

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If even true those limitations can arguably be overcome relatively easily. F9 looks like a cheaper LEO rocket to me unless maybe plane changes are involved. That would imply a low number of sats per plane though, potentially as part of a replenishment strategy (just speculating).
Ariane 64 doesn't actually have much better performance than F9R to the 600-1200 km circular orbits where constellations are actually inserted, despite costing considerably more.

600-1200km is part of LEO, I am aware of that. I was talking about plane changes.

Offline envy887

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3) The Falcon 9 is not well-suited to LEO constellations because it is structurally limited to half its performance as well as fairing volume-limited.

If even true those limitations can arguably be overcome relatively easily. F9 looks like a cheaper LEO rocket to me unless maybe plane changes are involved. That would imply a low number of sats per plane though, potentially as part of a replenishment strategy (just speculating).

Ariane 64 doesn't actually have much better performance than F9R to the 600-1200 km circular orbits where constellations are actually inserted, despite costing considerably more.

In order to match the cost per kg that Iridium is paying, OneWeb would need to be getting ready Soyuz for $42 million including the dispenser. I rather doubt that they are anywhere near that.

So yes, F9 is just fine for LEO, even before any serious price reductions due to reuse.

It's a wash if you take the Falcon 9 Black 5 against the Ariane 64 in terms of price. If a Block 6 comes around all bets are off.

Only at the actual price for Iridium ($70M per 10) and the best possible price for A64 (90M per 15).

If A64 is going to cost more like 105M list price unless they get more EU institutional launches, and you take the $62.2M list F9R price that's a considerable difference. Iridium would have needed $611 million (plus dispenser costs) for 5 A64 launches compared to $492 for 7 F9 launches to get their 70 sat base constellation up.

That's about a 20% difference which is quite significant, and it doesn't even account for SpaceX reportedly selling F9R for well below list price recently, at closer to $50M.

If even true those limitations can arguably be overcome relatively easily. F9 looks like a cheaper LEO rocket to me unless maybe plane changes are involved. That would imply a low number of sats per plane though, potentially as part of a replenishment strategy (just speculating).
Ariane 64 doesn't actually have much better performance than F9R to the 600-1200 km circular orbits where constellations are actually inserted, despite costing considerably more.

600-1200km is part of LEO, I am aware of that. I was talking about plane changes.

Yes, I was agreeing with you. Constellation satellites typically can do their own plane changes by changing altitude and thus precession rate relative to the rest of the constellation, so that's not a deal breaker.

Offline Oli

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Yes, I was agreeing with you. Constellation satellites typically can do their own plane changes by changing altitude and thus precession rate relative to the rest of the constellation, so that's not a deal breaker.

Look up what an orbital plane change is.

Offline Chasm

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The Iridium NEXT launches are supposed to cost $61.5 million a pop. (The $492 million for 8 launches signed in 2010)

So 6.56 million US$ per sat. (75, not 80 total. The May launch only had 5 sats.)
Ariane 64 can launch 15 in one go with ~8% payload reserve for plane changes and stage disposal. 6 million per sat, using the current exchange rate 6.99 million US$.

So constellation deployment on Ariane would cost an additional ~$3.25 million. (Much closer than I thought!)
Ordering a block of five Ariane 64 launches might drop the price just that a bit. ;) [If the nominal price of 90M for A64 is real.]


That said Iridium NEXT will be deployed before Ariane 6 launches for the first time.

Offline dante2308

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3) The Falcon 9 is not well-suited to LEO constellations because it is structurally limited to half its performance as well as fairing volume-limited.

If even true those limitations can arguably be overcome relatively easily. F9 looks like a cheaper LEO rocket to me unless maybe plane changes are involved. That would imply a low number of sats per plane though, potentially as part of a replenishment strategy (just speculating).

Ariane 64 doesn't actually have much better performance than F9R to the 600-1200 km circular orbits where constellations are actually inserted, despite costing considerably more.

In order to match the cost per kg that Iridium is paying, OneWeb would need to be getting ready Soyuz for $42 million including the dispenser. I rather doubt that they are anywhere near that.

So yes, F9 is just fine for LEO, even before any serious price reductions due to reuse.

It's a wash if you take the Falcon 9 Black 5 against the Ariane 64 in terms of price. If a Block 6 comes around all bets are off.

Only at the actual price for Iridium ($70M per 10) and the best possible price for A64 (90M per 15).

If A64 is going to cost more like 105M list price unless they get more EU institutional launches, and you take the $62.2M list F9R price that's a considerable difference. Iridium would have needed $611 million (plus dispenser costs) for 5 A64 launches compared to $492 for 7 F9 launches to get their 70 sat base constellation up.

That's about a 20% difference which is quite significant, and it doesn't even account for SpaceX reportedly selling F9R for well below list price recently, at closer to $50M.

If even true those limitations can arguably be overcome relatively easily. F9 looks like a cheaper LEO rocket to me unless maybe plane changes are involved. That would imply a low number of sats per plane though, potentially as part of a replenishment strategy (just speculating).
Ariane 64 doesn't actually have much better performance than F9R to the 600-1200 km circular orbits where constellations are actually inserted, despite costing considerably more.

600-1200km is part of LEO, I am aware of that. I was talking about plane changes.

Yes, I was agreeing with you. Constellation satellites typically can do their own plane changes by changing altitude and thus precession rate relative to the rest of the constellation, so that's not a deal breaker.

If Ariane 6 got 5 launches for Iridium it would meet its price target so you can't combine it with the higher price. And the Ariane 64 could ride share at least one of those flights because it would be full.

Ariane 64 and Falcon 9 are competitive for LEO constellations is about the gist of it. No one is going to lose serious money using one over the other and depending on how you break it down and what assumptions you use, either might come ahead.
« Last Edit: 07/27/2018 02:23 PM by dante2308 »

Offline envy887

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Yes, I was agreeing with you. Constellation satellites typically can do their own plane changes by changing altitude and thus precession rate relative to the rest of the constellation, so that's not a deal breaker.

Look up what an orbital plane change is.

I know what it is. It can be done by the satellite. Iridium switches birds between planes all the time by taking advantage of differential precession rates at different altitudes.

See: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=43173.msg1691716#msg1691716

And

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nodal_precession
« Last Edit: 07/27/2018 02:41 PM by envy887 »

Offline envy887

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The Iridium NEXT launches are supposed to cost $61.5 million a pop. (The $492 million for 8 launches signed in 2010)

So 6.56 million US$ per sat. (75, not 80 total. The May launch only had 5 sats.)
Ariane 64 can launch 15 in one go with ~8% payload reserve for plane changes and stage disposal. 6 million per sat, using the current exchange rate 6.99 million US$.

So constellation deployment on Ariane would cost an additional ~$3.25 million. (Much closer than I thought!)
Ordering a block of five Ariane 64 launches might drop the price just that a bit. ;) [If the nominal price of 90M for A64 is real.]

That said Iridium NEXT will be deployed before Ariane 6 launches for the first time.

Iridium's initial $492M contract was only for 70 sats or $7M each. The 5-sat rideshare with GRACE-FO was separate, those Iridiums were initially not supposed to ride on F9 but on Dnepr.

However, the $7M per sat is over the list price and includes the cost of the payload dispenser, which was provided by SpaceX. Ariane's list price would not include that.

Ariane 64 and Falcon 9 are competitive for LEO constellations is about the gist of it. No one is going to lose serious money using one over the other and depending on how you break it down and what assumptions you use, either might come ahead.

Sure. As long as those assumptions don't include any price reductions with reuse. SpaceX is currently launching at A64 prices or lower, and an obvious path to even lower future costs (and prices, if needed). Ariane 64 pricing is still speculative and based on significant operational cost reductions form Ariane 5, with no apparent mechanism to further reduce costs or prices.

Offline dante2308

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Sure. As long as those assumptions don't include any price reductions with reuse. SpaceX is currently launching at A64 prices or lower, and an obvious path to even lower future costs (and prices, if needed). Ariane 64 pricing is still speculative and based on significant operational cost reductions form Ariane 5, with no apparent mechanism to further reduce costs or prices.

I don't profess to know why Iridium was charged more than $62 million per launch and I don't profess to know the "obvious" path to lower prices and costs on constellations.

Does anyone know what the price of the expendable Falcon 9 is?
« Last Edit: 07/27/2018 03:39 PM by dante2308 »

Online Coastal Ron

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It's a wash if you take the Falcon 9 Black 5 against the Ariane 64 in terms of price.

SpaceX pricing does not reflect Block 5 reusability yet, so it is premature to make that assumption.

As others have pointed out, Ariane 6 prices are likely already as low as they can go, whereas SpaceX is just getting ready to start reducing Falcon 9 prices for reusability.

Quote
If a Block 6 comes around all bets are off.

Elon Musk has said Block 5 is the last major iteration of the Falcon 9. The next transportation system they are focused on now is the BFR/BFS, which will eventually replace the Falcon 9/H - and be priced even less on a $/kg basis.
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 dante2308

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SpaceX's current Falcon 9 pricing can only reflect Block 5, and its price is already a historical fact. Speculation on future price decreases is an unconstrained guess. Any speculation that Ariane 6 will not meet their price reduction goals due to a low launch rate applies to the Falcon 9 for the same reason, especially if they were predicated on a late number of reuses per core and dropping manufacturing costs. If the Falcon 9 is somehow paying for BFR, then there is no mechanism for a substantial price decrease to begin with.

Quote
Elon Musk has said Block 5 is the last major iteration of the Falcon 9. The next transportation system they are focused on now is the BFR/BFS, which will eventually replace the Falcon 9/H - and be priced even less on a $/kg basis.

I am aware and I have said as much in this very page.
« Last Edit: 07/27/2018 03:54 PM by dante2308 »

Offline Lar

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(mod) Thinking this convo is played out. Many facts presented, no one budging. Much mudslinging and casting aspersions.

Locked. Think that was wrong? Appeal via reporting this post and explain why.
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