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Posted (edited)

They don't take stages apart. Every indication is that they do very little to recovered stages. Their model of static testing shows how little turn around they need from a firing. Stages get tested in TX, then shipped to launch site, then tested again, then a few days later launched. The 3-times flown stages have been fired at least 6 times each.

Note also that while their commercial launch price of 50-62M doesn't include some ground services they tack on more money for, NASA pays them more than 2X that for each cargo mission, so they seem to take in something just under 2 billion a year as a result (X commercial launches under 100M/each, then 3-4 COTS launches at ~158M). Their payroll is probably a few hundred million bucks a year (6k employees).

24 minutes ago, kerbiloid said:

Add 9 heavier (restartable and reusable) engines and the fuel to accelerate them.

Merlin 1D has an high TWR. The engines likely cost a few hundred thousand each, BTW (he has said that Raptor, which is far more complicated will only cost ~200k/each once in full production).

24 minutes ago, kerbiloid said:

Like this one? Unlike the Mars, this is actually a business.

Consumer marketing is not the same as the launch market. Amazon lost money for years, but they were making a brand. SpaceX captured the commercial market a while ago at this point., there really is no more launch market to get. NASA and the USAF will always split between multiple providers (sensible, they want options), as will some % of the commercial customers, and there are only, what, 20-something total launches available to win each year, total? (Chinese will always use their own LVs, as will many EU launches, and Russian launches, so the market is some other countries, plus the US, not many per year). Once you get to ~20/year, there is nothing more to do, so the idea of intentionally losing money to gain market share... not really a thing (else they would have gained the market, then raised prices, instead of in fact lowering prices slightly). They can make more money by lowering costs.

The goal of SpaceX is not to profit, it's to be able to make bigger rockets in a sustainable way. That includes revenue from the launch business, and investment from like-minded people.

@kerbiloid, my statement that reuse is self-eveidently the way to go is, well, self evident. It's been known for decades that the only way to ever make access to space orders of magnitude cheaper will be rapid reuse (rapid here means low man-hours of refurb---low cost reuse, not cadence). The ideas were out there in the early 1960s, we're starting to see them practiced only now, and only partially. That's a possible place where loss can eventually equal profit, I suppose. Not a loss leader as marketing, but to develop a new tech that then creates a state change. If SpaceX and BO can between them get full operational reuse (gas up, and refly with little work), then prices will drop substantially (having 2 is important here, because prices have no reason to drop without competition. So I spoose you can lose money to develop that tech, providing you indeed develop that tech in the process.

Edited by tater

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What is going on with this thread recently? I feel like it gets raided from time to time just to get it offtop enough to get it closed.

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26 minutes ago, kerbiloid said:

Making the things doesn't mean this is profitable. Rockets as well.

What possible explanation can you give why SpaceX is reusing their boosters if not for money? They love their rockets so much they can’t let them go? For good feels,  pride and accomplishment? To trick their competitors into doing reuse too and losing money on it?

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, sh1pman said:

Heavier, Merlins? lol.

No. Merlins could be lighter. Or they could use 8 instead of 9. So on.
And being not restartable, cheaper. Reusability has its price.

1 hour ago, sh1pman said:

About extra fuel I said already. It’s about 10-15% of fuel reserved for braking and landing.

U C, another several percents.

And don't forget that +15% of fuel means +15% of tanks, and +15% of thrust.
So, 9 * 85% and not reusable = 7 Merlins instead of 9.

2 Merlins are added to make those 7 reusable 3 times. And they also cost money.
 

1 hour ago, sh1pman said:

I don’t understand this. What do you think is cheaper? One 747 flight but paid for entirely by one person, or a small but expendable private jet Cessna that you throw away after the first flight?

Do they scrap 747 after 3 flights?
Launching a, say,  9 t capable rocket to lift 6 t is trashing at least (9-6)/(9*3) = 11% of its total possible payload.

Instead they could use a 6 t rocket, but they can't because having 6 t and 9 t reusable rockets is too expensive. So, they should use 9 as 6.

1 hour ago, sh1pman said:
1 hour ago, kerbiloid said:

Like this one? Unlike the Mars, this is actually a business.

You didn’t address my argument at all, please do

Where do you see profit when a company loses a billion peer year every year (you can google previous years as well)?
But this is a business, and they keep doing it, don't they?

58 minutes ago, tater said:

They don't take stages apart. Every indication is that they do very little to recovered stages. Their model of static testing shows how little turn around they need from a firing. Stages get tested in TX, then shipped to launch site, then tested again, then a few days later launched. The 3-times flown stages have been fired at least 6 times each.

That's nice, though not official, so still presumed. As well, time (aka money) spend by the personnel for their post-flight testing. Numbers are just unknown.
But if they don't disassemble the rocket, why spend months between its launches?

58 minutes ago, tater said:

Merlin 1D has an high TWR. The engines likely cost a few hundred thousand each, BTW (he has said that Raptor, which is far more complicated will only cost ~200k/each once in full production).

And they use 9 instead of 7 just for a triple (currently) reusability of the necessary 7.

58 minutes ago, tater said:

The goal of SpaceX is not to profit, it's to be able to make bigger rockets in a sustainable way.

I don't argue with this, so that puzzles me why people tell that the Falcon reusability made the launches cheaper and makes any economical sense.
I can see absolutely no solid number to make such conclusion for a company which is obviously not aimed at the launch cost decreasing at least on the Falcon phase.

It's possible that Falcon is a bigger grasshopper for something bigger (not necessary Starship, probably just for technology as it is).
In such case a Falcon launch may cost twice compared to an expendable one, this means nothing in terms of its objectives.
In this case also, any words of Space-X CEO or whoever about their 50% economy look just irrelevant. And still add no numbers.

58 minutes ago, tater said:

reuse is self-eveidently the way to go is, well, self evident. It's been known for decades that the only way to ever make access to space orders of magnitude cheaper will be rapid reuse (rapid here means low man-hours of refurb---low cost reuse, not cadence). The ideas were out there in the early 1960s, we're starting to see them practiced only now, and only partially.

Yes, and the 1960s reusability projects are focused on large, 300+ t payload, rockets.
That's what I believe in, too. After some payload treshold reusability starts making sense. But unlikely from a 10 t ubergrasshoppers with varying payload.

51 minutes ago, Wjolcz said:

What is going on with this thread recently? I feel like it gets raided from time to time just to get it offtop enough to get it closed.

Why? Isn't it a "SpaceX Discussion Thread" ?

51 minutes ago, sh1pman said:

What possible explanation can you give why SpaceX is reusing their boosters if not for money? They love their rockets so much they can’t let them go? For good feels,  pride and accomplishment? To trick their competitors into doing reuse too and losing money on it?

For example (I don't claim this) for getting money from some another source which is not interested in personal presence. Say (not a claim), NASA.
If they succeed with bigger reusable rockets, "NASA" will be in a white jacket on a white horse. Otherwise just another failed company.

Partially for market dumping, but very limited.

I.e. don't treat a testbed as a commercial rocket. Probably, we know nothing if its flights are really cheaper than expendable ones, and know nothing if they even care about this.

Spoiler

P.S.
It's more interesting why not drop a Tesla, lol, unless its incoming resources are cheaper than seem. (Not a claim, and obviously an offtopic)

 

Edited by kerbiloid

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25 minutes ago, kerbiloid said:

Partially for market dumping

Now you're stealing talking points from Rogozin.

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1 minute ago, sh1pman said:

Now you're stealing talking points from Rogozin.

Didn't they say it themselves in the early days?

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Just now, kerbiloid said:

Didn't they say it themselves in the early days?

In the early days they didn't have reusable rockets.

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Posted (edited)
9 minutes ago, sh1pman said:

In the early days they didn't have reusable rockets.

In the early days they didn't have any rockets.

But it's too lazy for me to search this absolutely insignificant thing.

(I still insist they said that, but why should it play any role. We lack numbers, not words.)

Edited by kerbiloid

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Without re-use Merlins would still have high TWR.

Without re-use you'd still have nine merlins on a falcon.

Without re-use they'd still be reusable and restartable because that's what's required for the test regimen.

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Posted (edited)
1 minute ago, RCgothic said:

Without re-use you'd still have nine merlins on a falcon.

If payload is the same, then 7. ~15% is additional fuel and its tanks.
But if 9, then payload could be +28%.

Edited by kerbiloid

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Posted (edited)

No, because it's a falcon NINE, and reducing engines is a complete redesign of all the thrust structures, as well as a reduction in length (because you can't lift full tanks anymore) and alteration of all ground support equipment to suit.

With 9 you just have reserve capability. Which the current design does and uses when required.

Edited by RCgothic

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8 minutes ago, kerbiloid said:

If payload is the same, then 7. ~15% is additional fuel and its tanks.
But if 9, then payload could be +28%.

You're completely wrong. 

And here's why.

Falcon 9 B5 has a TWR of around 1.46 at liftoff. Total launch mass + max payload of 23t give ~565t wet mass  (stage 1 - 424t, stage 2 -  116t, payload - 23t, fairing - 2t). Now, let's shave 15% from the stage 1 wet mass. That would be 360t for stage 1, or 500t for the entire rocket. 7 Merlins produce 591t of thrust at sea level. Giving you a pathetic TWR of 1.18 at launch. It will barely ascend. Gravity losses will be huge. In fact, in order to maintain the same TWR of 1.46 you will need... 8.6 Merlin engines! Meaning that you'll still need all 9 of them if you want to go to space.

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Falcon 9 launches are slightly more expensive expended, but expendable F9s are still cheaper than the competition. So the cost of reuse in terms of changes to the rocket simply doesn't matter, they could expend all of them. The operational costs are clearly a thing, but they are even persuing fairing recovery. Fairings might retail for 6 M$, but I doubt they actually cost that much to make. Regardless, the total cost of having a recovery capability only has to net some money to be worthwhile.

Also, NASA paid only 42M$ for the IXPE launch they just bought.

18 minutes ago, RCgothic said:

With 9 you just have reserve capability. Which the current design does and uses when required.

Merlin has also evolved over time, massively improving, which bought them a lot more margin.

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@kerbiloid Imagine a thought experiment. You launch a F9 rocket to space. But it has 15% less fuel in its first stage. And two engines fewer. Do you really think your payload will not decrease in this configuration? Minus two engines and a bit of tank mass won't be a lot of mass. Probably minus 3-5 tons to dry mass, and minus 60 tons to wet mass. I can get my rocket calculator spreadsheet and find exactly by how much your payload will drop. But it just seems obvious to me. 

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It’s been a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing. Re-use never caught on earlier because , as ESA argued, the number of payloads wouldn’t support it, as the factories (and workers) would be idled a lot of the time. But there weren’t a lot of payloads because launches were so expensive.

The USA basically priced themselves out of the commercial market, losing out to Ariane and Soyuz, with Uncle Sam being the sole remaining customer for American rockets. The American govt spent billions per year just to keep the Atlas factories open for when they were needed, at least at one point.

Then along came SpaceX, whose initial, expendable F9 1.0 was cheaper than almost anything else in the world, in its class. They’re slowing down now because they’ve caught up on their backlog, and will use their fleet of used rockets to launch Starlink, creating their own demand

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Posted (edited)
26 minutes ago, sh1pman said:

You launch a F9 rocket to space. But it has 15% less fuel in its first stage. And two engines fewer. Do you really think your payload will not decrease in this configuration? Minus two engines and a bit of tank mass won't be a lot of mass. Probably minus 3-5 tons to dry mass, and minus 60 tons to wet mass.

Don't you forget that they don't spend all fuel on the payload acceleration? They leave some part to break, return, and land.
So, OK, I agree with 8, but obviously the 9th one carries the return fuel and its additional tanks.

50 minutes ago, RCgothic said:

No, because it's a falcon NINE, and reducing engines is a complete redesign of all the thrust structures, as well as a reduction in length (because you can't lift full tanks anymore) and alteration of all ground support equipment to suit.

I don't suggest to redesign the existing one. But if they put 8, it would be Falcon EIGHT, with no additional fuel left in tanks after the stage separation.

36 minutes ago, sh1pman said:

Falcon 9 B5 has a TWR of around 1.46 at liftoff. Total launch mass + max payload of 23t give ~565t wet mass  (stage 1 - 424t, stage 2 -  116t, payload - 23t, fairing - 2t). Now, let's shave 15% from the stage 1 wet mass. That would be 360t for stage 1, or 500t for the entire rocket. 7 Merlins produce 591t of thrust at sea level. Giving you a pathetic TWR of 1.18 at launch. It will barely ascend. Gravity losses will be huge. In fact, in order to maintain the same TWR of 1.46 you will need... 8.6 Merlin engines! Meaning that you'll still need all 9 of them if you want to go to space.

Don't forget to redistribute the mass between rockets, as now you get an imbalance. You are now trying to lift the 2nd stage as heavy as it was before.
So, 8 Merlins are good enough for keeping T/W at 1.35. But this still is ~10% lesser mass.

14 minutes ago, StrandedonEarth said:

SpaceX, whose initial, expendable F9 1.0 was cheaper than almost anything else in the world, in its class.

At least, they say this.

Edited by kerbiloid

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@kerbiloid maybe you should stick to making KSP jokes and posting pictures. You're much better at it than arguing.

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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, Wjolcz said:

@kerbiloid maybe you should stick to making KSP jokes and posting pictures. You're much better at it than arguing.

Easily. Say,

Spoiler

We know how much cheaper is a Falcon flight thanks to its reusability.

We proved this in KSP.

 

Edited by kerbiloid

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New docking port brought up by Dragon (to be used by Crew Dragon and CST-100) attached to ISS.

 

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All this economics talk seems off-topic for the SCIENCE forums (whoever called it the “dismal science “ was feeling generous). 

Spoiler

There is no law of Conservation of Money.

The financial issue aside, I find it likely that  scheduling (the dismal engineering, if you will) is a better driver than build cost. Peter Beck of Rocket Lab stated this as the reason for their reuse plans. 

SpaceX either has to either scale up production to meet its demand, which might require new factories, or reuse its rockets.

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23 minutes ago, kerbiloid said:

At least, they say this.

They charged less, and their prices have dropped over time, in addition to this.

There is no reason whatsoever for SpaceX to leave any money on the table here. As soon as they were a cost-effective alternative to ULA, and non-US LVs for some international payloads, they no longer needed any price reductions at all. NASA bought a launch recently for 42M$. Their ULA alternative was likely 2-3X that number. SpaceX could have charged the usual rate (62M$), and it still would have been a bargain. Why charge even less?

Just now, Nightside said:

SpaceX either has to either scale up production to meet its demand, which might require new factories, or reuse its rockets.

Demand is flat right now, however, except that they need to launch thousands of Starlinks in the next few years. I keep hoping we will start seeing more Starlink launches on the manifest.

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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, tater said:

They charged less, and their prices have dropped over time, in addition to this.

5 minutes ago, tater said:

Why charge even less?

I don't say, they should. I just say, we have no given data to think there is a correlation at all between the launch cost and its price here.

And if their purpose is to test a reusability for any price, such correlation would make no sense.

Edited by kerbiloid

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3 minutes ago, kerbiloid said:

I don't say, they should. I just say, we have no given data to think there is a correlation at all between the launch cost and its price here.

And if their purpose is to test a reusability for any price, such correlation would make no sense.

Reusability at any price has already been established by the Space Shuttle.

It seems pretty clear that SpaceX is not setting prices based on what their costs are, they are likely setting them below the competition, but in a way where they still make as much money as possible. It's estimated that the cost of a F9 booster is something like 70-80% of the total vehicle cost. They could easily be netting the same money on reused vs expended boosters. If the average F9 launch is ~100M$ (some at 70-80, NASA launches at closer to twice that), and F9 costs under 50M to build new, they're doing just fine.

Reuse as was said above has schedule pluses, and if their goal is building the next gen rocket, they can then also move some of their F9 staff to SS/SH work.

More on-topic:

What's the deal with the tall building? there is concrete that connects it to the SS body next to it, so that it can presumably be moved inside (as Hopper was moved)---except that the structure doesn't look like it has any doors aside from the one at the bottom.

My guess is that the cylinder is the working bit of SS, and the part on the left is effectively just a fairing (though it might also have the canards on it). They can then possibly store both parts unstacked inside the structure, assuming it slides open... (unless they add a track, and the building slides). Early tests will be minus payloads, presumably.

 

Also:

Boca Chica Starship just had the lower tank dome lowered in.

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6 hours ago, Flying dutchman said:

Can we perhaps just open a topic to argue about spacex and say negative things so that we can use this one for updates and positive things?

Can we maybe have discussions where people politely disagree without retreating into safe spaces where we only hear voices that say things we like to hear?

4 hours ago, sh1pman said:

@kerbiloid and nothing beats the simple argument: if it wasn’t profitable, they wouldn’t be doing it. They’re business after all, not a charity, not a roscosmos. Keeping two drone ships, a huge recovery fleet, investing god knows how much into reusability R&D and Falcon upgrades. I imagine it all costs quite a bit. So the fact that they’re doing it, and haven’t gone broke yet, suggests that their math works.

This is simply not true. All businesses have activities that are not (currently, or sometimes ever) profitable. "Overhead", for instance.

It's especially true that those raised in the "dot com" era learned that you can run a business for a long time without making a profit. Eventually such a business will either 1) go out of business, 2) get bought by a more profitable business because it owns something valuable, or 3) make a profit. Some of those #3 cases ended up making fabulous profits. And in the #2 cases, typically the business founders made a lot of money even if the business itself never did.

The fact that SpaceX "has not gone broke yet" may indicate they at least have a positive cash flow, or it may indicate that they still have seed money they can keep burning down. From the outside, it's hard to know.

We do know that Blue Origin is not making a profit, but their current source of funds can literally give them a billion dollars a year for another 100 years, so is that a problem for them?

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NOTAM posted...

Hopefully we see a cool hop soon.

15 minutes ago, mikegarrison said:

The fact that SpaceX "has not gone broke yet" may indicate they at least have a positive cash flow, or it may indicate that they still have seed money they can keep burning down. From the outside, it's hard to know.

Yeah, it's a black box.

That said, the launch market is not Amazon, unless they are investing with an eye towards a state change. Aircraft-like spaceflight operations would reduce launch costs to LEO by a 2-3 orders of magnitude. That's the plausible "loss leader" I can at least see (F9 costs money, but they learn the ropes, and SS/SH benefits from F9 operations R&D, and drops prices so much it literally creates a new economy in space. I don;t see that as super likely, but it's plausible that they could be thinking that way. I have a feeling Bezos absolutely thinks that way, and in fact I think that is his stated goal (in a round about way).

Another possibility is more directly related to the stated goal of SpaceX. F9 exists so that SpaceX can exist, and SpaceX exists to create a multiplanetary humanity. I'm on record here as not being sanguine about Mars colonization (a buddy of mine likes to call the first Mars city "New Donner," and I agree). Regardless, if they can keep the shop open with F9 launches, and reuse allows more workers to work on SS/SH instead of F9, while at the same time making the same F9 revenue as they had before, expending LVs, then that's all that is really required, a sort of break even. Any financial benefit simply offsets dev costs.

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