Author Topic: Funding Super Heavy/Starship (BFR) Development (Not funding Mars Colony)  (Read 44029 times)

Offline niwax

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However I disagree about SH/SS without SL and would like to hear a critical take on my thinking.

Based on what we know of Falcon family, I think we understand it is likely cash-flow positive on it's own without reuse.  With reuse, your cash flow increases by the forgone development expense of 1st Stages minus refurb.  This continues (albeit at the lowered market cadence forseen) at least until someone can start to erode your share with their own advances.  My gut feel is that several $100M (if not $500M) per year cash-flow is available to throw at SH/SS.  With the change in material and simplification ISTM that there is no big-chunk that requires a lot of up-front cost.  You can develop on a schedule as allowed by cash-flow.


I suspect that SpaceX does not have nearly as much accessible cash flow as you think.  Looks like SX may be averaging 15 launches per year, at very roughly 70 million per launch that equates to about 1 billion dollars per year.    There are more dollars coming in from NASA for commercial crew and cargo above this as well.

I'd estimate, roughly, that 5000 employees cost about 1 billion dollars per year.     I don't have any idea what all the other necessary costs are but they must be north of 100 million.   

To me, it looks like SpaceX needs to sell above 15 flights per year fund their current level of staffing.    I do suspect that they have considerable abilities within that staffing to work on design and testing of SS and SH.

The worry is that there may not be 15+ paying customers per year.

See, this is engineering. Most of the cost is for labor. A lot of their 5000 employees used to work on F9, Dragon, FH, the space suit, refurbishing launch pads and  so on. With these winding down, they are now free to work on other projects. That's why they don't have to increase the spending they have been able to finance for the last few years to work on SH/SS. They just have to refocus their current resources.

By the same logic, those 5000 employees also contain the ones working on starship. In other words, you just showed that SpaceX can afford to keep working on starship as it does now just fine.
Which booster has the most soot? SpaceX booster launch history! (discussion)

Online jpo234

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However I disagree about SH/SS without SL and would like to hear a critical take on my thinking.

Based on what we know of Falcon family, I think we understand it is likely cash-flow positive on it's own without reuse.  With reuse, your cash flow increases by the forgone development expense of 1st Stages minus refurb.  This continues (albeit at the lowered market cadence forseen) at least until someone can start to erode your share with their own advances.  My gut feel is that several $100M (if not $500M) per year cash-flow is available to throw at SH/SS.  With the change in material and simplification ISTM that there is no big-chunk that requires a lot of up-front cost.  You can develop on a schedule as allowed by cash-flow.


I suspect that SpaceX does not have nearly as much accessible cash flow as you think.  Looks like SX may be averaging 15 launches per year, at very roughly 70 million per launch that equates to about 1 billion dollars per year.    There are more dollars coming in from NASA for commercial crew and cargo above this as well.

I'd estimate, roughly, that 5000 employees cost about 1 billion dollars per year.     I don't have any idea what all the other necessary costs are but they must be north of 100 million.   

To me, it looks like SpaceX needs to sell above 15 flights per year fund their current level of staffing.    I do suspect that they have considerable abilities within that staffing to work on design and testing of SS and SH.

The worry is that there may not be 15+ paying customers per year.

See, this is engineering. Most of the cost is for labor. A lot of their 5000 employees used to work on F9, Dragon, FH, the space suit, refurbishing launch pads and  so on. With these winding down, they are now free to work on other projects. That's why they don't have to increase the spending they have been able to finance for the last few years to work on SH/SS. They just have to refocus their current resources.

By the same logic, those 5000 employees also contain the ones working on starship. In other words, you just showed that SpaceX can afford to keep working on starship as it does now just fine.

Exactly. That was the point. They might not have to increase their spending over current levels for SS/SH as much as some assume. Instead of spending $500mln (number made up) per year on F9/FH/Dragon engineering they are going to spend $500mln per year (number made up, too) on SS/SH.
The Starlink buildup, however, is a completely different thing.
« Last Edit: 02/04/2019 11:12 am by jpo234 »
You want to be inspired by things. You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great. That's what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It's about believing in the future and believing the future will be better than the past. And I can't think of anything more exciting than being out there among the stars.

Offline philw1776

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New FCC filing:
https://fcc.report/IBFS/SES-LIC-INTR2019-00217/1616678

"In this application, a sister company, SpaceX Services, Inc. (ďSpaceX ServicesĒ) seeks a blanket license authorizing operation of up to 1,000,000 earth stations that end-user customers will utilize  to  communicate  with  SpaceXís  NGSO  constellation."

From the SpaceX a Satellite Company thread.
Folks made the point that SpaceX could use this subsidiary to solicit investors for Starlink, without diluting SpaceX shares or Musk losing voting control of SpaceX proper.  Those investors' funds could pay for F9, FH and eventually SS launches of Starlink. SpaceX generating revenue vs expense for Starlink launches relieves huge financial pressures on SpaceX's twin R&D programs.  Having SS launches booked in advance via Starlink really helps SH/SH development funding.

Such outside investment has not happened yet that we know of but it's something to watch for.  I think late this year.
 

« Last Edit: 02/08/2019 03:58 pm by philw1776 »
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Offline AC in NC

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From the SpaceX a Satellite Company thread.
Folks made the point that SpaceX could use this subsidiary to solicit investors for Starlink, without diluting SpaceX shares or Musk losing voting control of SpaceX proper.  Those investors' funds could pay for F9, FH and eventually SS launches of Starlink. SpaceX generating revenue vs expense for Starlink launches relieves huge financial pressures on SpaceX's twin R&D programs.  Having SS launches booked in advance via Starlink really helps SH/SH development funding.

Such outside investment has not happened yet that we know of but it's something to watch for.  I think late this year.

I've touched on this before but (while obviously compelling) I'm having a hard time coming up with a meaningful reason to have Starlink pay $$$'s for SpaceX for launches.  Here's why:

SpaceX's expense is:
  X1) Development
  X2) Fabrication
  X3) F9/FH S2s
  X4) Operations

Starlink's expense is:
  L1) Development
  L2) Fabrication
  L3) Deployment
  L4) Operations

Blanket Disclaimer:  In my opinion ...

X1 and X2 are covered through SpaceX ongoing expenditures from revenues (primarily) as augmented by fundraising (driven by timeline aggression) like the recent round.

L1, L2, and L4 are covered through funds contributed to Starlink from SpaceX and (if necessary) any investors.  L4 is bundled into the "seed funding" until Starlink starts generating customer revenue and passes break-even.

X3 and X4 for External Customers is covered Launch Revenue generating positive cash-flow that contributes to X1, X2, X4

So we are left with Starlink Launches' X3, X4, and L3.  The easy answer (the one I'm having trouble with) is that Starlink raises money for L3 and pays SpaceX a market(-ish) price for launches from which SpaceX uses to cover Starlink-related X3 and X4 leaving positive cash-flow to contribute to X1 and X2 to reduce financial risk, improve timeline, and reduce fundraising.

I think the preferred approach would be this.  SpaceX covers Starlink-related X3 and X4 (which mostly satisfies L3) with Starlink raising money to cover the remaining L3.  Another option would be that Starlink's L3 funding also pays for SpaceX's X3 and perhaps X4.  The difference between any revenue to SpaceX from Starlink and the market-(ish) price for Starlink launches would accrue to SpaceX as Starlink equity.  In some sense I think it's splitting hairs about where money is raised and spent as you could likely accomplish similar results either way. 

I think the important thing to recognize that Starship development doesn't necessarily require big funding boost and consequently Starlink doesn't need to raise funding for SpaceX's full-freight launch costs. 
« Last Edit: 02/08/2019 06:33 pm by AC in NC »

Offline cuddihy

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Eh. This whole subsidiary bit is probably just a way to make the risk that Starlink may flop like Iridium did the first time around  ó even if the tech worksóseverable from the rest of SpaceX. Donít want the Mars dream to founder on LEO SATCOM markets.

Online M.E.T.

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I have advocated a Starlink focused subsidiary for quite some time. Primarily from a funding perspective, as it allows you to sell large chunks of shares to investors in Starlink, without diluting existing shareholders' control over SpaceX in any way. Thus obtaining funding for Starlink - which SpaceX currently doesn't have - while retaining a core focus on Mars, and at the same time use a large chunk of Starlink revenue to fund the Mars dream.

In simple terms, create "SpaceX Services" as a 100% owned subsidiary of SpaceX. Then sell 50% of the shareholding to investors, for as much money as possible. Assume you can raise a few billion dollars this way.

Use this money to pay for the Starlink setup, build the satellites, fund the scores of launches required to get the initial constellation into orbit. Then, once Starlink starts earning revenue, the downside is that SpaceX itself only earns 50% of the dividends generated from Starlink revenue, but it's 50% that cost them nothing, as the investors funded all of it.

And this 50% could eventually grow to become 50% of the profits derived from $30bn dollars or whatever Starlink annual revenue is predicted to grow to. In short, it allows SpaceX to develop a new revenue stream with zero investment from their side. And maybe even earn some money from the launches required to get the constellation up into orbit.

Frankly, I don't really see another path that is as viable as this one, given that SpaceX don't have $5bn to spare to get Starlink up and running. The money will have to come from the outside. And this is the way to do it without giving up any control over SpaceX itself.

And in my view the next subsidiary to be created in this way, maybe 10 years from now, is Spacex Mining. A mature Starship system can serve as the platform to finally open up asteroid mining, and SpaceX can be at the forefront of that virtually unlimited source of revenue. Especially if they bring in the right partner.

So 20 years  from now you could have SpaceX as a holding company, owning say 50% of SpaceX Services (Starlink), and 50% of SpaceX Mining. With the dividends from  these subsidiaries continuing to fund the parent company's colonization of Mars for decades to come.

That would be the long term model that could make a city on Mars a reality.
« Last Edit: 02/10/2019 01:47 pm by M.E.T. »

Online M.E.T.

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So as per latest tweets, Elon believes there might be a path to building Starship for less than the F9.

I assume thatís the upper stage only and not inclusive of Super Heavy. But even if he is off by a factor of two, that is still a game changer.

$120m for Starship would be double the F9 price. If we assume that the F9 price includes a decent profit margin, its cost may be as low as maybe $50m. If Starship costs double that it would come in at around $100m.

If Super Heavy costs twice that - say $200m - then the entire Starship+Super Heavy system could cost under $300m. Of course, thatís probably the bare bones tanker/cargo version, without life support and other crew modules.

Still, that is pretty similar to the expendable - much, much smaller - ULA rockets of today. Funding suddenly becomes a whole lot easier. Of course, this would probably exclude R&D costs, but it really paints a picture of the type of launch costs we could be looking at once this system is operational.

EDIT

Well I have just reread Elonís tweet, and my mind is blown. He in fact referred to a path to building ďStarship/Super HeavyĒ for less than F9. Which implies the entire system, not just the 2nd stage.

Even if off by a factor of two, circa $100m for even the most basic version of a reusable Starship and Super Heavy is astounding.
« Last Edit: 02/11/2019 09:11 am by M.E.T. »

Online jpo234

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So as per latest tweets, Elon believes there might be a path to building Starship for less than the F9.

I assume thatís the upper stage only and not inclusive of Super Heavy. But even if he is off by a factor of two, that is still a game changer.

$120m for Starship would be double the F9 price. If we assume that the F9 price includes a decent profit margin, its cost may be as low as maybe $50m. If Starship costs double that it would come in at around $100m.

If Super Heavy costs twice that - say $200m - then the entire Starship+Super Heavy system could cost under $300m. Of course, thatís probably the bare bones tanker/cargo version, without life support and other crew modules.

Still, that is pretty similar to the expendable - much, much smaller - ULA rockets of today. Funding suddenly becomes a whole lot easier. Of course, this would probably exclude R&D costs, but it really paints a picture of the type of launch costs we could be looking at once this system is operational.

When I read this, I have wondered whether this puts expendable launches with 3x the SLS payload for 20% of the cost back onto the table.
You want to be inspired by things. You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great. That's what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It's about believing in the future and believing the future will be better than the past. And I can't think of anything more exciting than being out there among the stars.

Online M.E.T.

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So as per latest tweets, Elon believes there might be a path to building Starship for less than the F9.

I assume thatís the upper stage only and not inclusive of Super Heavy. But even if he is off by a factor of two, that is still a game changer.

$120m for Starship would be double the F9 price. If we assume that the F9 price includes a decent profit margin, its cost may be as low as maybe $50m. If Starship costs double that it would come in at around $100m.

If Super Heavy costs twice that - say $200m - then the entire Starship+Super Heavy system could cost under $300m. Of course, thatís probably the bare bones tanker/cargo version, without life support and other crew modules.

Still, that is pretty similar to the expendable - much, much smaller - ULA rockets of today. Funding suddenly becomes a whole lot easier. Of course, this would probably exclude R&D costs, but it really paints a picture of the type of launch costs we could be looking at once this system is operational.

When I read this, I have wondered whether this puts expendable launches with 3x the SLS payload for 20% of the cost back onto the table.

Note my correction. I initially thought Elon was talking only about the upper stage. But upon reread it seems he was talking about the entire thing.

Online jpo234

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So as per latest tweets, Elon believes there might be a path to building Starship for less than the F9.

I assume thatís the upper stage only and not inclusive of Super Heavy. But even if he is off by a factor of two, that is still a game changer.

$120m for Starship would be double the F9 price. If we assume that the F9 price includes a decent profit margin, its cost may be as low as maybe $50m. If Starship costs double that it would come in at around $100m.

If Super Heavy costs twice that - say $200m - then the entire Starship+Super Heavy system could cost under $300m. Of course, thatís probably the bare bones tanker/cargo version, without life support and other crew modules.

Still, that is pretty similar to the expendable - much, much smaller - ULA rockets of today. Funding suddenly becomes a whole lot easier. Of course, this would probably exclude R&D costs, but it really paints a picture of the type of launch costs we could be looking at once this system is operational.

When I read this, I have wondered whether this puts expendable launches with 3x the SLS payload for 20% of the cost back onto the table.

Note my correction. I initially thought Elon was talking only about the upper stage. But upon reread it seems he was talking about the entire thing.

I know, but 3x SLS for $35mln (~4% of a SLS launch) seemed too far out.
« Last Edit: 02/11/2019 09:17 am by jpo234 »
You want to be inspired by things. You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great. That's what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It's about believing in the future and believing the future will be better than the past. And I can't think of anything more exciting than being out there among the stars.

Offline cuddihy

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Some are pointing out that that can also be interpreted as development of SS/SH costing less than development of F9 did ó which appears to be closer to $500-$600M

Offline niwax

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It might add up, though. The Merlins are rumored to cost significantly less that $1 million a piece, so maybe the set of raptors can be had for $20 million. They will also be manufactured in great quantity. The most expensive item on F9 is the fairing which SS doesn't have, and the grid fins at $6 million and $500k+ for the sets. After that, it's largely a battle between the exotic aluminium alloy body or a slightly larger 301 steel body and some avionics. I don't think expending a SH/SS will come cheaper than expending F9, but projected manufacturing cost might well be cheaper than the price of an F9 launch, if not manufacture.
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Offline Norm38

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https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1094793664809689089

https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1094794147980931073

Edit to add: borderline for this raptor thread, as Elonís answer was much broader. Iíve moved subsequent tweet about launch costs to tweet summary thread

At $200/kg (effective) vs $3/kg, if the empty mass of 230 tonnes is 2/3rds SS/CF, that's a savings of ~$30 million per SS+booster pair in just raw materials... maybe double that when you factor in the cost to work with it.


A big savings in material costs, but that can't be all of it, not with the number of engines they need.  I know from some experience that aluminum is extremely difficult to weld.  They must be figuring on huge manufacturing savings, much more relaxed requirements.

If they can build SS/SH for less (or equal) to an F9, we may see test flights much earlier than we'd hoped, as they can afford to take more risk.

Offline dnavas

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If they can build SS/SH for less (or equal) to an F9, we may see test flights much earlier than we'd hoped, as they can afford to take more risk.

"thereís a path" != "currently cheaper than"  I think we're seeing the upside of cheaper-to-build in TX right now.  I bet testing will be more aggressive than originally planned.  But that's good, as validating entry models is going to take time. 

ed: maybe the long-term upside of cheaper to build will be earlier (aka on-time) one-way Mars trips (cargo).  I assume those flights still rely on a future source of funding (ie: were not part of the latest funding raise).
« Last Edit: 02/11/2019 01:33 pm by dnavas »

Offline Norm38

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That's a good point, that some of the discussions around the early Moon/Mars missions focused on how hard it will be to do ISRU for every cargo mission, to get all those initial Starships back.
But if they really are that cheap, then there is much less motivation to get them back.  They could send a salvo of initial cargo ships that will never return.  So what if it's the cheapest approach?  SpaceX gets to iterate, a whole bunch of mission risk is eliminated.
And being metal, all that stainless steel at a growing base can at least be raw material for a foundry some day.  No landed mass gets wasted in the long run.
« Last Edit: 02/11/2019 02:43 pm by Norm38 »

Offline rsdavis9

So how many one way starships does it take to fuel a return starship? WAG five?

That way first humans on mars doesn't have to wait for a fully functional ISRU for fuel and the time necessary to make the return flight fuel.
With ELV best efficiency was the paradigm. The new paradigm is reusable, good enough, and commonality of design.
Same engines. Design once. Same vehicle. Design once. Reusable. Build once.

Offline guckyfan

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So how many one way starships does it take to fuel a return starship? WAG five?

That way first humans on mars doesn't have to wait for a fully functional ISRU for fuel and the time necessary to make the return flight fuel.

It is the time until the return window opens. Unless they return after a few weeks of not accomplishing much in the way of ISRU facilities.

Offline Kansan52

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So how many one way starships does it take to fuel a return starship? WAG five?

That way first humans on mars doesn't have to wait for a fully functional ISRU for fuel and the time necessary to make the return flight fuel.

Wouldn't the smaller 'gravity well' reduce the refueling requirements?

Offline rsdavis9

So how many one way starships does it take to fuel a return starship? WAG five?

That way first humans on mars doesn't have to wait for a fully functional ISRU for fuel and the time necessary to make the return flight fuel.

Wouldn't the smaller 'gravity well' reduce the refueling requirements?

Well it is SSTO from the mars surface and it has to reserve fuel for landing and it does have a payload of people and ECLS

I don't have any REAL numbers.
I do know full SS fuel is 1100 tons.
Payload to mars surface has been quoted as 100 tons.
With ELV best efficiency was the paradigm. The new paradigm is reusable, good enough, and commonality of design.
Same engines. Design once. Same vehicle. Design once. Reusable. Build once.

Offline philw1776

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So how many one way starships does it take to fuel a return starship? WAG five?

That way first humans on mars doesn't have to wait for a fully functional ISRU for fuel and the time necessary to make the return flight fuel.

Wouldn't the smaller 'gravity well' reduce the refueling requirements?

Well it is SSTO from the mars surface and it has to reserve fuel for landing and it does have a payload of people and ECLS

I don't have any REAL numbers.
I do know full SS fuel is 1100 tons.
Payload to mars surface has been quoted as 100 tons.

"Wouldn't the smaller 'gravity well' reduce the refueling requirements?"

Yes & no.  Smaller gravity well makes getting up to Mars orbit easier but you need to go further.  Need ~8Km/sec delta V to return to Earth from Mars' surface.  So you still need to fill up the 1100 tonnes of propellant.  No reduction in refueling requirements. Gotta top off the tanks. The Starship with 1100 tonnes (old # probably will be changed) propellant can readily return 1/4th the landed 100T mass or 25T to Earth.

/back to funding topic
« Last Edit: 02/11/2019 04:23 pm by philw1776 »
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