Jump to content

SpaceX Discussion Thread


Recommended Posts

1 minute ago, RyanRising said:

I thought the 10 uses per booster was the figure given as what they wanted to be able to do without substantial refurbishment, not the minimum break-even point.

Well, that's probably related.

But I don't know. Neither does this Thunderf00t guy. That's the main problem with his video. He does a few scoping exercises and comes up with a break-even number between 3 and 6 launches. But it's a lot of guessing.

Link to post
Share on other sites
27 minutes ago, mikegarrison said:

Yeah. Like I said, I've seen a few of this guy's videos. His whole schtick is being really sarcastic as he slices up claims he disagrees with.

I didn't think what he said was necessarily wrong. His biggest stretch was guessing how much SpaceX's costs are. However, most of the guestimates I've seen are that SpaceX needs to get about 10 uses per booster before they really get payback for their reusability. Is that actually true? I don't know.

Think we can say that the margin is not so low they need 10 launches to get profit from reuse. I say that they might get that at the first reuse. 
An launch has lots of other costs in addition to the rocket, you also need to have an new second stage . However reuse save you the cost of the first stage, you have to subtract the cost of recovery and the extra maintenance and testing an used stage need. 
Later will go down with experience. 

Now the main problem with reuse is the development cost of it. Here spacex was very lucky with their falcon 9 who they could modify to be reused as engine was restart-able and designed to be reused, 9 engines let you land on one. 
Finally they then developed  reuse during of normal operations after the first stage was done. 
Pretty much the only rocket capable of this so other has to design new rockets and if you don't launch much that is not economical. 

As for starship, the real technical challenge here is return from orbit and rapid reuse, this has never been done before, the closest is the shuttle. 
However spaceX can repeat the falcon 9 first stage development. Once they know they can get starship into orbit and reliable land superheavy they are in business. 
Starship don't need to successfully land to be viable, With the increased payload capacity launching starlink with starship will be cheaper than falcon 9 and they get to test reentry and landing as an bonus. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, magnemoe said:

Think we can say that the margin is not so low they need 10 launches to get profit from reuse. I say that they might get that at the first reuse. 
An launch has lots of other costs in addition to the rocket, you also need to have an new second stage . However reuse save you the cost of the first stage, you have to subtract the cost of recovery and the extra maintenance and testing an used stage need. 
Later will go down with experience. 

Now the main problem with reuse is the development cost of it. Here spacex was very lucky with their falcon 9 who they could modify to be reused as engine was restart-able and designed to be reused, 9 engines let you land on one. 
Finally they then developed  reuse during of normal operations after the first stage was done. 
Pretty much the only rocket capable of this so other has to design new rockets and if you don't launch much that is not economical. 

As for starship, the real technical challenge here is return from orbit and rapid reuse, this has never been done before, the closest is the shuttle. 
However spaceX can repeat the falcon 9 first stage development. Once they know they can get starship into orbit and reliable land superheavy they are in business. 
Starship don't need to successfully land to be viable, With the increased payload capacity launching starlink with starship will be cheaper than falcon 9 and they get to test reentry and landing as an bonus. 

I think Starship will probably be expensive enough that expending it won't be cheaper than a F9 launch. There's a lot of hardware and work hours that will go into a full-up orbital Starship, and it's a significantly more complex beast than a F9 second stage. That being said, I absolutely think that they'll put Starlink sats on the first couple orbital launches and reentry tests. You're going to orbit anyway, why not put something up there?

Link to post
Share on other sites
18 minutes ago, magnemoe said:

Think we can say that the margin is not so low they need 10 launches to get profit from reuse. I say that they might get that at the first reuse.

Wait, what? That seems really unlikely. There are a lot of parts of a Falcon9 booster that are only the way they are because of the desire for reuse. I have no doubt that it is significantly more expensive than a disposable booster would be, and all those parts need to get "bought" by cost savings on reuse. I don't think a single reuse would be enough to break even versus a disposable rocket.

18 minutes ago, magnemoe said:

Starship don't need to successfully land to be viable, With the increased payload capacity launching starlink with starship will be cheaper than falcon 9 and they get to test reentry and landing as an bonus. 

That also seems completely wrong to me. There is no way a Starship is cheaper than a one-time disposable second stage. No way. And the numbers SpaceX was tossing around for being cheaper than Falcon9 per ton were dependent on full reuse of both stages.

Edited by mikegarrison
Link to post
Share on other sites

In the second video he said “Yeah, sure, SpaceX is perfectly competitive”. In a video called “SpaceX BUSTED”. I don’t think he understands the meaning of the word “busted” very well.

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

Regarding reuse, the cost associated with reusable vs expendable for F9 seems pretty marginal, at least on the vehicle.

Grid fins, and legs. Now fairing hardware, too, I suppose (added thrusters and chutes).

Merlin evolved anyway, increasing margin. That would happen regardless. F9 as a system has so much margin that reuse is not a performance issue except maybe on Starlink launches—the only ones that come close to maxing out payload, and they're almost 10 tons short of F9 payload to LEO with very little remaining room in the fairing.

Off the vehicle, obviously recovery vessels, etc are a substantial expense.

At the point that one SpaceX guy said 28M/launch, I'm not even sure they were recovering fairings. I also have to assume whoever buys a launch pays for the entire vehicle unless they somehow are selling launches for the first flight at a loss, which seems pretty unlikely. Also, there's Starlink, seems bizarre to not make an expendable vehicle if that was actually cheaper.

Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, mikegarrison said:

That also seems completely wrong to me. There is no way a Starship is cheaper than a one-time disposable second stage. No way. And the numbers SpaceX was tossing around for being cheaper than Falcon9 per ton were dependent on full reuse of both stages.

? Launching it could be, assuming it works.

Assume the booster works like F9, so that's reused, and with less refurb. SS itself vs the F9 S2 is the hardware and prop cost of the F9S2 vs the prop cost of SS. What does 1200t of CH4 and LOX cost? That seems to be the math they are doing (we'll have to see if the thing actually works at all, then see if it is actually "rapidly reusable."

I think in the long term Musk is right that "rapid reuse" is required for a "spacefaring" society to be a thing. Phil Bono said as much in the 60s. Getting to that point of course is the hard bit.

Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, mikegarrison said:

Wait, what? That seems really unlikely. There are a lot of parts of a Falcon9 booster that are only the way they are because of the desire for reuse. I have no doubt that it is significantly more expensive than a disposable booster would be, and all those parts need to get "bought" by cost savings on reuse. I don't think a single reuse would be enough to break even versus a disposable rocket.

That also seems completely wrong to me. There is no way a Starship is cheaper than a one-time disposable second stage. No way. And the numbers SpaceX was tossing around for being cheaper than Falcon9 per ton were dependent on full reuse of both stages.

The grind fins are pretty expensive, legs also cost some, however just a fraction of that an full stage and with reuse they can be used multiple times, even reused if stage is scraped or disposed. 
Also I implied the cost of recovery and republish 2 times is cost less than an disposable first stage, the launch itself all the testing they do anyway and the second stage adds to the cost. 
 

Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, mikegarrison said:

Wait, what? That seems really unlikely. There are a lot of parts of a Falcon9 booster that are only the way they are because of the desire for reuse. I have no doubt that it is significantly more expensive than a disposable booster would be, and all those parts need to get "bought" by cost savings on reuse. I don't think a single reuse would be enough to break even versus a disposable rocket.

Well, I think we have to break out development costs separately. If we are talking about operational reuse, we can’t try to amortize in the costs of developing Falcon 9‘S reusability, especially considering that the process of reaching reuse also involved a lot of upgrades that made even an expendable Falcon 9 a lot better of a vehicle. We can talk about how long it will take for operational reuse to pay back the development investment, but for comparing expendable to reusable it needs to be a head-to-head comparison.

We also need to specify what is meant by a single reuse. Are we are comparing two expendable flights to two reusable flights, or to a single booster that is reused once and then expended? I think an accurate head-to-head comparison requires us to use the latter approach; otherwise we are adding in additional recovery costs that aren’t going to convert into profits until the next launch. 

We also have to factor in profit margins. SpaceX benefits from a world where dial-a-rocket capability exists but is fairly imprecise. Falcon 9 has so much margin that it can deliver most commercial payloads to GTO without needing to go expendable, meaning a commercial reusable launch will usually earn the same gross revenue as a commercial expendable launch would.

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, JoeSchmuckatelli said:

Those oil rigs seem like a mistake - unless they use them to extract oil /natural gas. 

They're planning to use them as sea launch platforms. Honestly it seems like a pretty good idea to me - if you want to launch your enormous rocket very frequently, then there's a lot less to worry about out at sea - exclusion zones, regulations and the like. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
19 minutes ago, RealKerbal3x said:

They're planning to use them as sea launch platforms. Honestly it seems like a pretty good idea to me - if you want to launch your enormous rocket very frequently, then there's a lot less to worry about out at sea - exclusion zones, regulations and the like. 

It certainly could get them away from 'local population' concerns... but there is a huge cost associated with major retrofits like they are doing, without a real way to recoup those costs.  At least not any time soon; perhaps if they get to launching every two weeks from each of them that might make sense.  I wonder how many launches they'd have to do to reach 'break even'.

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

People tend to forget that the goal is not to "break even," but to "colonize Mars."

I'm not in the "colonize Mars" camp, myself, mind you, I think it's kooky—but that is their actual goal, something that is important to remember.

Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, tater said:

People tend to forget that the goal is not to "break even," but to "colonize Mars."

I'm not in the "colonize Mars" camp, myself, mind you, I think it's kooky—but that is their actual goal, something that is important to remember.

There's been tons of discussion about the business model for colonising Mars, but that doesn't seem to be what Musk/SpaceX are going for. They want to colonise Mars not for profit but for the future of the human race, so they may well be planning for the possibility of there never being a 'break even' state. Of course, if they can successfully implement a regular and efficient Mars transport system, Musk could become the richest person in history. 

Also:

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, RealKerbal3x said:

There's been tons of discussion about the business model for colonising Mars, but that doesn't seem to be what Musk/SpaceX are going for. They want to colonise Mars not for profit but for the future of the human race, so they may well be planning for the possibility of there never being a 'break even' state.

Making money launching stuff is partially incidental for them, and partially to offset cost for colonization.

Again, I'm very much not in the "colonize Mars" camp, and there is no business model at all for doing so. Musk's best argument for Mars seems flippant, but I think it's true—it's a much more interesting world to live in with humans as a spacefaring species.

 

2 minutes ago, RealKerbal3x said:

Of course, if they can successfully implement a regular and efficient Mars transport system, Musk could become the richest person in history. 

Incidentally, maybe. Mars never has a case for making money. Even if NASA and other programs bought missions, still sorta chump change. Some billions.

Using huge lift capability to drag resources to Earth orbit, then mining it... that might be a huge cash cow at some point.

Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, mikegarrison said:

Yeah. Like I said, I've seen a few of this guy's videos. His whole schtick is being really sarcastic as he slices up claims he disagrees with.

I didn't think what he said was necessarily wrong. His biggest stretch was guessing how much SpaceX's costs are. However, most of the guestimates I've seen are that SpaceX needs to get about 10 uses per booster before they really get payback for their reusability. Is that actually true? I don't know.

For manifests low enough to allow for recovery, 1 landing is likely sufficient.  Also it took 10 landings, expendable launches would have to cost >$200M.  They might be able to charge the government that much (but I wouldn't count on it being profitable, there are a lot of hidden expenses taking Uncle Sam's bucks), but I suspect they've sold expendable launches elsewhere for less.

Of course, that ignores any R&D costs for recovery.  I'd assume that they were mostly low outside of the changes from Falcon9 to Falcon9 block V (in other word, nearly a whole rocket redesign).  But those changes also got them plenty of other business, so might have paid for themselves without recovery.

Link to post
Share on other sites
16 minutes ago, tater said:

 

Incidentally, maybe. Mars never has a case for making money. Even if NASA and other programs bought missions, still sorta chump change. Some billions.

Not so fast.......I think its possibly a brilliant idea. Why? Because the long term future people who might want to go to Mars, are similarly visionary and ultra-wealthy too. Normal people don't "get" this, how can they? What makes you dream? Why can't you achieve the dream? Is is money holding you back? What if you have money, and all that you dreamed of when you were young, you have now achieved? Do you retire? Or dream bigger?

 

16 minutes ago, tater said:

Using huge lift capability to drag resources to Earth orbit, then mining it... that might be a huge cash cow at some point.

Ultimately, that route is a "commodity" provision, like wheat; or milk. There's people making millions off of that, because they are good at it and have invested millions, but at the end of the day commodities are always somewhat marginal operations.

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, paul_c said:

Not so fast.......I think its possibly a brilliant idea. Why? Because the long term future people who might want to go to Mars, are similarly visionary and ultra-wealthy too. Normal people don't "get" this, how can they? What makes you dream? Why can't you achieve the dream? Is is money holding you back? What if you have money, and all that you dreamed of when you were young, you have now achieved? Do you retire? Or dream bigger?

The ultra-wealthy will not move to Mars.

Heck, the merely wealthy will not move to Mars.

I'm tolerably well-off, and I love spaceflight, and colonizing Mars would not ever be on the table for me.

Exploring Mars seems pretty interesting, but not staying there forever.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It'd be nice to become a multiplanetary species, but before planning any kind of Mars colonization, let's at least have a crewed landing first. Not sure if colonization is feasable with our current technological level.

Edited by sh1pman
Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, mikegarrison said:

There are a lot of parts of a Falcon9 booster that are only the way they are because of the desire for reuse. I have no doubt that it is significantly more expensive than a disposable booster would be, and all those parts need to get "bought" by cost savings on reuse. I don't think a single reuse would be enough to break even versus a disposable rocket.

More on this...

Cost Breakdown

Two-launch campaign A (single_reuse)

Two-launch campaign B (expendable)
Costs

One F9 booster

F9 booster recovery hardware

Two F9 upper stages

Prop for two launches

Two launch operations

Booster recovery operation

Booster refurb operation

Two F9 boosters

Two F9 upper stages

Prop for two launches

Two launch operations

Revenue

1x price for 5.5 tonne payload to GTO

1x price for 8.3 tonne payload to GTO

2x price for 8.3 tonne payload to GTO

That's a lot of numbers. Fortunately for us, we don't have to know most of these numbers directly because all we have to look at is the arithmetic difference in the profits between the two types of operations; lots of things can just cancel out.

First, let's talk about revenue. SpaceX prices its reusable GTO launch at $62M but doesn't say what its expendable launch price is. Elon has thrown numbers around but I don't find them particularly reliable, especially because SpaceX can price in significantly lower than the competition, which muddies the water a little. It's very rare that the entire expendable payload to GTO is actually needed. However, ULA has dial-a-rocket options on their Rocket Builder, so we can take a look at that. Remember, we only need to look at the difference in revenue, not the gross revenue. RocketBuilder removed its actual pricing values a couple of years ago, but when it launched (no pun intended) it priced an Atlas V 401 at $109M and an Atlas V 551 at $155M. The site says that you'll need one SRB for a 5.5-tonne payload to GTO and five (plus the 5-meter fairing) for an 8.3-tonne payload to GTO.  Setting aside the cost of the different fairing, we can estimate that the market price charged to customers for those five SRBs is $46M or $9.2M each. A little bit of math, and we can estimate that SpaceX could conceivably charge $36.8M more for an 8.3-tonne launch than for a 5.5-tonne launch. So that's going to be the difference in revenue between Campaign A and Campaign B.

Now, on to costs. Most of the things cancel out: upper stages, propellants, launch operations. You can also cancel the price of the booster for Campaign A. So you're left with the following simplification:

Cost Breakdown Two-launch campaign A (single_reuse) Two-launch campaign B (expendable)
Costs

Recovery hardware

Booster recovery

Booster refurb

One F9 booster
Revenue

$0

$36.8M

For the costs, I don't think it's at all conceivable that recovery hardware, recovery operations, and refurb costs MORE than a single booster. It's just not reasonable. There's no way that landing legs, grid fins, boat operations, and additional work-hours can actually exceed the cost of a brand new booster.

However, the added revenue from sending a heavier payload to GTO certainly makes up the difference...IF that revenue is guaranteed. But it isn't. There's simply not a market for that many gigantic comsats. So without the added revenue, I think they break even after a single reuse.

 

 

14 minutes ago, paul_c said:

1% of the population are bat-&*!% crazy. 0.1% of the population are in the top 0.1% of weath. 

He has ~80,000 customers.

These aren't independent variables though.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, paul_c said:

Higher or lower?

I would imagine being fully "bat $&^% crazy" is largely inconsistent with acquiring truly large sums of money.

I don't know anyone of that wealth level, though I know many people in the "1%" of the US, indeed a large % of the people I tend to interact with fall in that range (cutoff is what, 470k/yr?). Some are goofy, maybe, but not really nuts.

4 minutes ago, sevenperforce said:

That's anyone's guess.

The only really loony rich guy that springs to mind in the space arena is Bigelow. He's not really all that rich, though, and I'm not sure if he's loony enough to want to move to Mars...

Actually, the desire to move to Mars might be the proof of insanity, lol. Hiking alone in some remote middle eastern places would have a Mars like feel, and be substantially less dangerous (even those places that are currently unsafe due to humans harming each other).

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...