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SpaceX Falcon 1 on Launch Pad  (Source: SpaceX)
Falcon 1 Flight 3 experienced an "anomaly" two minutes into flight

Saturday August 2, 2008 was the launch date for SpaceX's third attempt to launch a privately funded rocket into space. Falcon 1 Flight 3 launched from the Kwajalein Atoll located about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii.

According to the New York Times, Falcon 1 Flight 3 failed to reach orbit. Reports say that around two minutes into the flight the rocket was seen to be oscillating before the live signal from an on-board camera went dead and the rocket was lost.

Mission Manager Max Vozoff and launch commentator said, "We are hearing from the launch control center that there has been an anomaly on that vehicle." SpaceX's Elon Musk wrote in a blog post on Saturday at the SpaceX website, "It was obviously a big disappointment not to reach orbit on this flight [Falcon 1, Flight 3].  On the plus side, the flight of our first stage, with the new Merlin 1C engine that will be used in Falcon 9, was picture perfect.  Unfortunately, a problem occurred with stage separation, causing the stages to be held together.  This is under investigation and I will send out a note as soon as we understand exactly what happened."

Musk continued writing, "The most important message I’d like to send right now is that SpaceX will not skip a beat in execution going forward.  We have flight four of Falcon 1 almost ready for flight and flight five right behind that.  I have also given the go ahead to begin fabrication of flight six.  Falcon 9 development will also continue unabated, taking into account the lessons learned with Falcon 1.  We have made great progress this past week with the successful nine engine firing."

Falcon 1 Flight 3 is not the first failure for SpaceX. DailyTech reported in March 2006 that the first Falcon 1 flight failed 20 seconds after liftoff. It was later determined that the failure of the rocket was due to a fuel line leak. In March 2007, DailyTech reported that the second Falcon 1 flight had failed about five minutes into launch.

The payload on Falcon 1 Flight 3 was varied and included the Trailblazer satellite developed for the Jumpstart Program from the Department of Defense's Operationally Responsive Space ORS Office. Two small NASA satellites were also onboard Falcon 1 Flight 3 including PRESat -- a micro laboratory for the Ames Research Center -- and the NanoSail-D -- a test project to study propulsion for space vehicles using an ultra-thin solar sail.

The New York Times reports that the rocket was also carrying the ashes of 208 people who wished to be shot into space. Among the cremated remains were those of astronaut Gordon Cooper and actor James Doohan of Star Trek fame.

SpaceX's Falcon 1 launch facilities are on Omelek Island and part of the Reagan Test Site (RTS) at the United States Army Kwajalein Atoll in the Central Pacific. SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket was designed from the ground up  in Hawthorne, California and is a two-stage, liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene powered vehicle.

SpaceX says that the first stage of the Falcon 1 is powered by a single SpaceX Merlin 1C Regenerative engine and the engine was flying for the first time aboard Falcon 1 Flight 3. The second stage of Falcon 1 is powered by a SpaceX Kestrel engine.



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RE: Leave it to the pros
By Darkskypoet on 8/4/2008 9:14:14 PM , Rating: 0
Yeah... But to keep things in perspective here. The grand daddy of government developed space flight ( although far more capitalist then NASA now ) The ex-Soviets now Russian Federation does a far larger payload for less...

Soyuz (7200/kg to LEO, $45M per launch) has been launched 714 times
http://ambivalentengineer.blogspot.com/2006/02/why...

Nasa used uses the Delta:
The various Delta incarnations (~1985 to 5000 kg to LEO, ~$25-50M per launch) (not counting Delta III) were launched hundreds of times.

Also, Nasa says $450 million per launch on average, with the last Orbiter costing $1.3 Billion to build. So $1.3 Billion per launch seems off, other sites have listed as high as $600 million... (see below for more numbers)
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/about/informat...

Also, you're comparing the Falcon 9 to a manned vehicle with a payload capacity in excess of 50,000lbs, that can repair space craft? Misleading, fair comparison?

The [shuttle] payload capacity is 22,700 kg (50,000 lb). (to LEO), 4,000 (2) to 5,900kg (3) to GTO.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle
(2) http://www.spaceshuttlediscovery.com/Space-Shuttle
(3) http://www.faqs.org/faqs/space/launchers/

Payload capacity on Falcon 1 is 570kg to LEO.@$7.9 million
Payload capacity on Falcon 1e is 1010kg to LEO.@$9.1 million
Payload capacity on Falcon 9 is 6800kg to LEO@$36.75 million
Payload capacity on Falcon 9 is ~5000kg to GTO@57.75 million
(site gives a higher possible to LEO, but says maxes at 6800kg)
http://www.spacex.com/Falcon9DataSheet.pdf

Space X's Falcon 9, which compares more favorably to the Soyuz vehicles... except the 700+ launches to 0 stat. Not one successful launch of a Falcon 9... Not one attempted Launch of Falcon 9... Hmm... But Soyuz does manned launches already... (Can't find pricing on Dragon launches yet)

Heck, Nasa is gonna end up paying roughly $12 million a seat on the Soyuz launches to get people to the ISS... That makes sense though. If NASA has used the shuttle to bring up anything less then a near to full payload, that required special installation, setup, etc. (ie just as a glorified bus) they deserve to be gagged and beaten. Maintenance missions, etc. GREAT! But use its capabilities!

Nasa was far more efficient years ago, because space flight was a war with the Soviets... In that climate people / government funded you, staffed you, and as long as you were winning (or could lie convincingly) they left you the f*** alone.

But in reality, as every government program can be described in terms of a % of GDP... (cough, that was funny to read), a $17.6 Billion budget (FY 2009) to do everything NASA does, isn't too bad... Especially considering they are using a jack of all trades shuttle for ISS construction which accounts for approx 1/4 of its entire budget.

"The NASA budget includes $5.78 billion for the space shuttle and space station programs, $4.44 billion for science, $3.5 billion for development of new manned spacecraft systems and $447 million for aeronautics research."

http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2008/feb/HQ_08034_...

Now, considering there are 6 launches slated in 2009, and NASA has other expenses then shuttle launches in it's $5.78 billion allocated to STS & ISS ops; that means at most shuttle launches are $963.33 million per assuming running the ISS and all staff for a year costs exceptionally little.

Actually when combining info from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Space_S...
and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_space_shuttle...

We find that there is a certain level of fixed cost to the Shuttle program, as expected it is rather large, and that for instance in
2000: $3,011.2 million bought 5 launches, and recoveries transport, repairs, etc;
So ~$600 million per;
2001: $3,125.7 million bought 6 launches, etc.
So ~$520 million per;
2002: $3,278.8 million bought 5 launches, etc.
So $655 million per. (of note, in 2000: 5 launches were the same price as 6 in 2001 - Fuel tanks, and fuel are negligible vs fixed costs of Shuttle Program)

This illustrates 2 things, $1.3 billion isn't correct, and the fixed costs for the program are such that the Shuttle will never be cost effective at such a low number of launches, and payload lifting obviously isn't its sole raison d'etre. But this, I am sure you know.

As well, knowing the shuttle as intimately as I am sure you do. Comparing it to a simple launch platform is retarded. Can we use any variant of the Falcon to repair a Space telescope? Hmm. No.

The shuttle is damn expensive, agreed. But, its also got the unfortunate birthright of being a jack of all trades space craft. It can do more then any other single space craft in existence. However, because it isn't specialized for any one thing, it costs more too. That's a trade off, its not NASA being inefficient as much as the fact it picked an expensive horse a long time ago. If we went the module route, and used the Saturn V to boost ISS pieces, we probably wouldn't have any real repair capabilities at all. But it would have been cheaper. We also wouldn't have a hell of a lot of accumulated knowledge required in the building of an Orbital repair craft, that will be required as space habitation / commercialization picks up. The demand just isn't there yet.

If Falcon 9 Heavy works, the cost savings will be because its a specialized lifting platform, because of the mass produced components within it and her fleet mates, and the fact that they'll actually launch it far more then the shuttle when it gets going. However, I doubt that it will enjoy any sort of advantage over other competing commercial / gov't lifting programs (European, Russian, Chinese in future). Once it launches successfully, and operates as reliably as the other carriers, I bet we'll see price cuts coming, however this is already occurring in the lifting market now as competition heats up.

Yeah the Shuttle is expensive, and yeah NASA has more money then SpaceX... But SpaceX hasn't delivered once yet, and the other specialized lifting firms / orgs are far more comparable to SpaceX... Except they have successful LEO, and GTO launches under their belt.


RE: Leave it to the pros
By Darkskypoet on 8/4/08, Rating: 0
RE: Leave it to the pros
By masher2 (blog) on 8/5/2008 12:11:11 AM , Rating: 2
> "Soyuz (7200/kg to LEO, $45M per launch) has been launched 714 times "

If you're going to quote a random blog, you should at least quote an accurate one. First of all, the term "Soyuz" denotes an entire family of launch systems, with LEO payloads ranging from 2.5 to 8 tons. The commercial launches of the Soyuz-ST variant cost at least $50M, and can only boost 4500 kg to LEO:

http://www.space-travel.com/reports/Soyuz_Booster_...

Furthermore, working out the true total cost of a Soyuz launch is essentially impossible, as the R&D costs are already amortized in, and were done by the Soviet government in a time where cost accounting wasn't done. The figures here are simply "incremental" costs of using an already established launch platform.

> "Also, Nasa says $450 million per launch on average,"

Again, that's an incremental cost. The total cost is simple to calculate -- just take the total expenditures on the entire Shuttle program, and divide by the number of launches. That gives the $1.3B figure.

Furthermore, when comparing figures to a private launch, one must remember that public launch costs don't include a profit margin.

> "Nasa was far more efficient years ago, because space flight was a war with the Soviets... "

Nasa was far more efficient, because it was a young department with a real goal...and without an entrenched bureaucracy that builds up over time in any government department.

> "But in reality, as every government program can be described in terms of a % of GDP... (cough, that was funny to read)"

Quite obviously, the statement intended to suggest a substantial percentage of GDP. Apollo at its height was consuming 4% of the total federal budget. Compared to that, the funding a company like SpaceX receives is incomparably insignificant.

> "Especially considering they are using a jack of all trades shuttle for ISS construction ..."

The problem is that "jack of all trade" shuttle, which never came close to meeting its original design goals, and is regularly launched for no reason at all but to justify its own existence. Take a look at the list of Shuttle missions some time...does another launch to "study the effects of microgravity on the human body" really justify the program or the expense?


RE: Leave it to the pros
By Lifted on 8/5/2008 1:49:21 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Take a look at the list of Shuttle missions some time...does another launch to "study the effects of microgravity on the human body" really justify the program or the expense?


Do you not think it's likely that those are top secret missions to launch/return/repair DOD satellites?


RE: Leave it to the pros
By afkrotch on 8/5/2008 2:10:49 AM , Rating: 2
It's cheaper to launch a new satellite on a Delta, then to return/repair an already launched satellite. Also with advancing technologies, why bother keeping an old model satellite around?

Much rather have that new fancy spy satellite that can look at the split ends on your nose hairs than the old model that could only see your face. ;P


RE: Leave it to the pros
By Darkskypoet on 8/5/2008 7:41:54 AM , Rating: 2
You must have missed the other links for the Soyuz Projects.... And yes it refers to an entire class of launch platforms that has evolved over time.

However, and here is the important part. No customer cares how much it costs the Russians to develop... They care about the price they will be charged... And that ranges from around $45 Million and up. The Soyuz 2 which is a specific platform can boost far more then 4500kg to LEO, especially from Kourou, hell it can do more then that from Baikonur.

http://www.russianspaceweb.com/soyuz2_lv.html

(Not quite just any blog, check the author out before you attempt to divert attention and straw man.)

Funny... $50 million you quote includes 2 middlemen at least, and an initial limited contract to offset the cost of launch facilities. (I read that article too) Further, we have the issue of SpaceX not actually placing any payload in any form of Orbit. Once they actually launch something successfully, then we can compare, right now we have ambitious goals, a launch site, debris, and a website. Woohoo.

I actually take issue with your idea that some how the total cost per launch of any space platform is determined by the program cost / launches. We should then in reality take every single project that has to do with space propulsion that occurred before and during shuttle development, that had some part of its findings, work, etc utilized to build, operate, repair, or modify the shuttle; and then divide it by the cost of all launches for each type of craft used in such a matter.

I mean really, the shuttle ( a really great corporate welfare vehicle in the grand scheme of things) wasn't designed, built, etc in a technological vacuum. Considering all of the building blocks required to get there, it would be prudent to calculate absolutely every dollar that went into any project that contributed to find a true cost.

The fact that many of these costs can also be factored into the ability for any private firm right now to go and build a simplistic space grade kerosene and O2 rocket shouldn't really be ignored either, when calculating its true cost. It's achievable in the private sector only because military / government went there first.

quote:
Furthermore, working out the true total cost of a Soyuz launch is essentially impossible, as the R&D costs are already amortized in, and were done by the Soviet government in a time where cost accounting wasn't done. The figures here are simply "incremental" costs of using an already established launch platform.


Umm. Cost accounting was done, however I doubt we are privy to the figures. Also, at this stage in space flight, much like above with the 'true' cost of any shuttle launch; the true cost of any space lifting platform based on a long history of successes, failures, pioneering basic science, designing everything from the ground up, and past projects attempted, etc is impossible. You can't simply take a project and divide it by launches for these space agencies. It doesn't give you the true cost of diddly squat. You would have to calculate all the costs for all foundational and basic science research as well, and everything else leading up to the success of a project.

However, since we don't have the figures to begin to do that for most vehicles, and much I am sure of the American vehicles would be classified (Military apps count too), the true cost is some number that is far larger, and far harder to calculate then any estimate you've spit out yet.

quote:
Nasa was far more efficient, because it was a young department with a real goal...and without an entrenched bureaucracy that builds up over time in any government department.


Umm... Truly inspirational... really, bravo. But, oversight in government departments, the fish bowl mentality of government work, and the endless corporate welfare has done more to screw with the efficiency of NASA, then most other things... Especially the corporate welfare part.

quote:
Compared to that, the funding a company like SpaceX receives is incomparably insignificant.


So now we're comparing a series of moon missions, and the advancement of science in every darn field known to man vs. not launching a crappy 500kg object into LEO orbit 3 times in a row, and building a snazzy website... Hmm.. Apt comparison, really. (psst. they wouldn't have been able to do so without a decent chunk of the NASA spending in the first place.)

quote:
The problem is that "jack of all trade" shuttle, which never came close to meeting its original design goals, and is regularly launched for no reason at all but to justify its own existence. Take a look at the list of Shuttle missions some time...does another launch to "study the effects of microgravity on the human body" really justify the program or the expense?


Yes, to the first part... As I mentioned it'll soak 1/4 of their budget in 2009, and its replacement will soak at least another 1/4 (development costs). Who benefits from that? Initially it was the trio of private corps sucking the governments teat. Now, some of them, and some NASA employees. Considering it was supposed to launch far more often then it has, the cost per launch is highly inflated. But still higher then what it could be if using a few more specifically designed vehicles.

No to the second part, the military uses the shuttle as well, especially since plans were scrapped for them to have their own. I believe another poster states this as well. Further, as most shuttle costs are sunk, flying 6 times instead of 5 is not really more expensive at all. In fact, as those costs are, say it with me "sunk", it's probably more efficient to make use of it until it is scrapped, then to have fewer launches cost almost as much.

Bottom Line:

Your idea of total cost is incorrect. We don't have the numbers to get a total cost of any thing coming out of these space programs today. As you aptly stated about Soyuz, its development costs go waaaay back. (Not pre-accounting I assure you, that was kind of dumb) Much the same as any project now coming out of NASA is based on all of the stuff that came before it, and as such a true cost is quite a lot higher, and less germane to this discussion then you would have us believe.

The Shuttle was built utilizing new and existing tech, organizational brain trusts, acquired and learned skills, etc. These parts of any modern project come from past projects. A TRUE cost is them the sum total of all of the contributing science, tech, and the funding vehicles (other projects) required to create, and keep this 'stuff' alive.

As such Marginal costs, or in your usage incremental costs, are far more accurate to use as all other costs are sunk. So, we are back to your initial comparison which was bunk. The shuttle does not represent a vehicle that would be used by any firm to simply boost a mass to LEO.

Compare other vehicles used on a regular basis to do this, Soyuz variants, H2, Ariane, etc; using marginal costs, or market prices for a useful, and apt comparison.

Finally, until they launch 1 thing successfully... It doesn't matter how little they'll charge to destroy my payload.


RE: Leave it to the pros
By masher2 (blog) on 8/5/2008 9:26:51 AM , Rating: 2
> "No customer cares how much it costs the Russians to develop... They care about the price they will be charged"

Exactly. And when a private firm only five years old is already cost-competitive with the Russians at the end of a 50-year program, using a design essentially obtained for free from the Soviet military program, that speaks wonders for the innovations of private enterprise.

> We should then in reality take every single project that has to do with space propulsion that occurred before and during shuttle development"

Now you're just being silly. Should we include a line item line item in the calculation for Isaac Newton's efforts at determining the laws of motion? Utter nonsense.

But leaving out obvious costs like the design costs specifically for the shuttle itself is equally silly. We've spent $150 billion on the shuttle program, and it's had 115 launches. That's $1.3 billion per mission. End of story.

> "Umm. Cost accounting was done, however I doubt we are privy to the figures"

Correct cost accounting was *not* done for major Soviet military projects. In fact, such accounting was essentially impossible, due to the command nature of the Soviet economy. Ask any economist or defense analyst specializing in Soviet-era information.

> "So now we're comparing a series of moon missions...vs. not launching a crappy 500kg object into LEO orbit 3 times in a row, and building a snazzy website... Hmm.. Apt comparison, really"

Oops, in 1963, when NASA was as old as SpaceX is now, they hadn't launched a series of moon missions; they'd done nothing but launch a man into LEO for a day. Admittedly more than SpaceX has accomplished sure...but then NASA had not only several percent of the federal budget to work with, but the accumulated decades of knowledge from the best minds of the US (and German) military missile programs.

And yet you're still missing the point. No one is trying to compare the achievements, the glory, or the relative difficulty of the two programs. We're simply pointing out that, once private enterprise matures a bit more, it will be able to operate at a far lower cost structure than a government bureacracy. That's it.


RE: Leave it to the pros
By Darkskypoet on 8/5/2008 1:45:14 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Exactly. And when a private firm only five years old is already cost-competitive with the Russians


BUT THAT'S JUST IT!!! They are not cost competitive, as no launch of Falcon 9 has occurred, and no successful launch of Falcon 1 with a payload has either. Cost competitive means they are successful at doing so, until this point, they are simply advertising a service they have not, and so far can not, delivered. I can do that too, as can you.

Hell, considering that all the really expensive work has been done for SpaceX by other Space Agencies, they too virtually received a free design. (Again, you have to compare their limited R&D cost considering public domain knowledge, vs what NASA had to overcome. Any GOVERNMENT agency starting today would have a massively cheaper time of it then NASA in the 60's. China for a fraction of the investment of either the U.S or Soviet Union will put many of these private firms to shame.

quote:
But leaving out obvious costs like the design costs specifically for the shuttle itself is equally silly. We've spent $150 billion on the shuttle program, and it's had 115 launches. That's $1.3 billion per mission. End of story.


I disagree, that's not a 'true cost' of anything. Furthermore, source much? You're getting these figures from where?

Oh wait, but your incorrect again ... It's actually 123 launches, and counting...
http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/missions/missi...
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/shuttleoperati...

I think I've even found the article your quoting from...
http://www.space.com/news/shuttle_cost_050211.html

But they get the launch count wrong too. Funny that.

quote:
Correct cost accounting was *not* done for major Soviet military projects. In fact, such accounting was essentially impossible, due to the command nature of the Soviet economy. Ask any economist or defense analyst specializing in Soviet-era information.


Yeah I can see your point there, it's still possible to account for labour, resources, and capital inputs in the form of hours and goods, and then to construct a cost structure for the equivalents in other economies, but I can see your point there.

quote:
Oops, in 1963, when NASA was as old as SpaceX is now, they hadn't launched a series of moon missions; they'd done nothing but launch a man into LEO for a day. Admittedly more than SpaceX has accomplished sure...


But Masher, I am simply responding to your response from before:

quote:
Quite obviously, the statement intended to suggest a substantial percentage of GDP. Apollo at its height was consuming 4% of the total federal budget. Compared to that, the funding a company like SpaceX receives is incomparably insignificant.


"The total cost of the Apollo Program was $25 billion, spent between 1962 and 1972. The program is generally agreed to have been the supreme technological achievement of a millennium now drawing to a close, a unifying experience for the human race, and the beginning of
humanity's expansion into the universe."
http://www.ccsn.nevada.edu/planetarium/apollo.html
(Dollar figures in in 1969 dollars)

In 2000, $25,000,000,000.00 from 1969 is worth:
$117,398,418,325.61 using the Consumer Price Index
$95,591,327,954.73 using the GDP deflator
$117,611,598,862.37 using the value of consumer bundle
$120,454,633,238.84 using the unskilled wage
$178,911,879,761.17 using the nominal GDP per capita
$249,263,660,369.69 using the relative share of GDP

US GDP of 1969 (2000 dollars): $3765.4 Billion
http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/Macroeconomics/

Masher come on.. get your facts straight!

So lets say we use $200 Billion for total cost of Apollo Program in 2000 Dollars Hmm.. The ENTIRE Apollo Program cost 5% of just 1969's US GDP. Not quite 4% of GDP /yr as you are rambling on about... to be generous we could say 0.05% of GDP/yr over its course. But still that's how many successful launches? Of how many space craft? Including moon missions for that price. Sure, in 1963 not much yet... 1972, after the spending you allege to occur each year, "during the height of the Apollo program"... NASA's not quite 0 for 3.

EDIT:

You refer to 4% of Federal Budget (My bad)

Federal spending 1969: $183.64 billion

In 2000, $183,640,000,000.00 from 1969 is worth:

$862,361,821,652.58 using the Consumer Price Index
$702,175,658,624.25 using the GDP deflator
$863,927,760,603.44 using the value of consumer bundle
$884,811,553,919.21 using the unskilled wage
$1,314,215,103,973.65 using the nominal GDP per capita
$1,830,991,143,611.62 using the relative share of GDP

Lets use 1,100 Billion for Federal Spending.
$150-200 Billion Cost of Apollo ENTIRE / 10

15-20 Billion/yr (2000 dollars)

15/1,100 = 1.36% of Federal Budget
20/1,100 = 1.82% of Federal Budget

Granted, still a lot of money. However in no way comparable to SpaceX what so ever. The comparison you make is completely ludicrous.


RE: Leave it to the pros
By Darkskypoet on 8/5/2008 1:45:31 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
And yet you're still missing the point. No one is trying to compare the achievements, the glory, or the relative difficulty of the two programs.


Yes in fact you are. You are trying to compare the cost structure of doing something first, with doing something after all the 'heavy lifting' has been done. You compare NASA during early Apollo with SpaceX now. That's doing it!
You compare an overly complex shuttle program with a yet to be successfully launched Falcon 9. That's Doing it.

quote:
We're simply pointing out that, once private enterprise matures a bit more, it will be able to operate at a far lower cost structure than a government bureacracy. That's it.


See, and that is just it... Private enterprise gets to go in after the major spending, risk, etc has already occurred (or when completely underwritten by government). Massive risk with little pay off but pride and scientific achievement is a Market Failure situation. Even though Nasa had the predominantly German research to utilize, it still had to do far more work then SpaceX will ever have to do. Real expensive, risky, unprofitable work. Work that has also enriched private corporations all across the United States immensely.

NASA budgets helped to build McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, etc. W/o those massive expenditures, private space firms would be in their infancy in the U.S, and the global firms would be kicking their as*es.

Private firms also have entrenched bureaucracies, especially those that are protected by gravy train contracts like those handed out ad nauseum by the U.S Government. Most of Nasa's spending indeed went to these private firms. The problem is that NASA doesn't get the patent income that should be derived from their spending, they are forced to tender contracts to an oligopoly that has no fear of being throttled for collusion, as long as everyone gets a chunk. They are also forced to build low quantities, and never realize economies of scale.

If NASA was able to accept foreign bids, and build massive quantities of devices instead of essentially giving that business away to the private firms it essentially enriched; NASA would be in a much different situation then today, and though not in the black, would certainly be deriving a hell of a lot more income from all its efforts then it does today.

Private firms are more efficient in this case, because they can get away with a lot more then an entity like NASA can, but in many cases (Especially the very large aerospace firms) are as inefficient, they are just able to profit more from government handouts, then the government departments / agencies can.

Small firms and start ups, are far more nimble then both large Private and Public enterprise. However, they tend to be unable to mount enough capital to do really big, really hard things. SpaceX is having problems boosting 500kg to LEO, never mind a Falcon 9 launch, or a Falcon 9 heavy. Size is a detriment to efficiency... Private, or Public. Yet lack of size is a detriment to doing really large scale projects. Small payload launches are dropping down in complexity / difficulty /logistical requirements to where small start ups are going to be able to start doing them, this is occurring. However, they are not more efficient at this then the larger companies, yet. They also don't have millions of shareholders that will f***ing lynch them if the fail as spectacularly as SpaceX has.

SpaceX's launches are going for that cheap, because if they were within a stones throw of Boeing, Arianne (sp?), or other larger firms (public or private), no one would risk their payload with them.

I don't know if you really know whether or not SpaceX actually could be making a profit on these first few launches, I seriously doubt they are. Perhaps on cost averaging after a few years consisting of many, many successful launches, they might start too. But I bet they are losing money on each launch (even if successful) and won't break even until their marginal costs drop via production increases in engines, and other components. Which means that their pricing for such an early stage is artificially low, and they are relying on debt financing, or long term investors to foot the initial losses. This of course is SOP, but bottom line is they have to get something into space for cash before they are a competitor to anyone.


RE: Leave it to the pros
By masher2 (blog) on 8/5/2008 2:24:31 PM , Rating: 2
> "They are not cost competitive, as no launch of Falcon 9 has occurred, and no successful launch of Falcon 1 with a payload has either..."

Are you willing to bet that none will? I'm willing to wager any sum you wish up to $1000 of my own money that SpaceX will succeed with Falcon 1 in two years time or less. How about it?

> " they too virtually received a free design"

Err, no. Falcon deviates in several ways from any previous launch platform. Arianespace's launches of Soyuz, on the other hand, are using a perfect clone of the old Soviet design.

> "I disagree, that's not a 'true cost' of anything"

Total costs / total missions = cost per mission. Nothing could possible be simpler. That's standard cost accounting, used by every major government and corporate body in the world.

> "Oh wait, but your incorrect again ... It's actually 123 launches, and counting...But they get the launch count wrong too."

Now you're just being childish again. The costs and launch count I quoted was current as of the end of 2006. The figures are not "wrong".



RE: Leave it to the pros
By Darkskypoet on 8/5/2008 3:54:56 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Are you willing to bet that none will? I'm willing to wager any sum you wish up to $1000 of my own money that SpaceX will succeed


Ok.. So they'll be cost competitive in a couple years then? Oh wait, for Falcon 1... No what about Falcon 9? Falcon 9 competes with Soyuz variants in use, Falcon 1 does not. What time frame for falcon 9?

I am not betting on anything. You stated they ARE cost competitive. Which they ARE NOT. In a few years time? Maybe, but in a few years time will Arianespace, having to compete in an already crowded market, shave costs? Yes. Considerably? Who knows... The Russian Space program, and resultant vehicles, are still well behind where they should of been, had it not been for the lost decade. They too will become cheaper, and offer heavier payload capacity.

So will Falcon 9 be Cost Competitive whenever they can actually use it to generate revenue? Maybe. We don't know.

quote:
Err, no. Falcon deviates in several ways from any previous launch platform. Arianespace's launches of Soyuz, on the other hand, are using a perfect clone of the old Soviet design.


Arianespace buys versions of the Soyuz platform from the Russians, as such they act as a middle man / front company (in a good way). Arianespace is in no way using a perfect clone of anything old. They buy / are supplied CURRENT Soyuz 2-1-a and 2-1-b launch platforms.

Really... Please look this crap up!

Falcon may deviate some, however again the majority of the work has been done for them.

"The pintle style injector at the heart of Merlin was first used in the Apollo Moon program for the lunar module landing engine, one of the most critical phases of the mission."

"The SpaceX nine engine architecture is an improved version of the architecture employed by the Saturn V and Saturn I rockets of the Apollo Program"

"BNI designed and manufactured the Merlin Turbopump for the SpaceX Falcon Launch Vehicle. The Merlin Engine produces more than 100,000 pounds of thrust at sea level and the turbopump is the lightest in its thrust class. Barber-Nichols used its experience gained on the Fastrac and Bantam projects to rapidly develop the Merlin Turbopump."

(Both Bantam and Fastrac were for NASA projects.)

You seriously must not get just how much of the ability for any small firm to build a rocket rests on the fact that these parts / technologies are now commoditized.

quote:
Total costs / total missions = cost per mission. Nothing could possible be simpler. That's standard cost accounting, used by every major government and corporate body in the world.


I still disagree that you are factoring anythings total cost in here. The equation is fine, but we fundamentally disagree on the nature of these projects total costs. That's ok too.

quote:
Now you're just being childish again. The costs and launch count I quoted was current as of the end of 2006. The figures are not "wrong".


Again? ok.. So you spout figures off without sources, they are incorrect as of the time you post them, you don't specify anything about current as of this date, or anything of that nature. Perhaps that is somewhat important to disclose...

However, yes. The figures are wrong, if not accurate, nor marked as only accurate up to x date. Besides, the amount you site for shuttle costs includes equipment not at all necessary for the lifting missions which was your original comparison. As we already agree that the comparison was ludicrous when you made it, it hardly matters now that you stacked the figures in your favour... Does it? Besides, we've also already agreed that the shuttle was a hugely expensive project, and a drain on Nasa's budget. However, I think perhaps we can agree that as a technical achievement, its still pretty f***ing neat, and not at all comparable in anyway shape or form with Falcon launch vehicles.


RE: Leave it to the pros
By masher2 (blog) on 8/5/2008 4:24:14 PM , Rating: 2
> "I still disagree that you are factoring anythings total cost in here. The equation is fine, but we fundamentally disagree on the nature of these projects total costs."

Disagree all you want; the figures are from NASA's own official budget requests.

> "Again? ok.. So you spout figures off without sources..."

Here you go:

http://www.space.com/news/shuttle_cost_050211.html

> "...are incorrect as of the time you post them."

Again, you're being rather childish here. Any program which has ongoing costs will have its values continually changing. The figures I gave were correct through the end of 2006.

Feel free to toss in the 2007 and 6 months of 2008 data....the per-mission cost isn't going to change appreciably. This is all just a smokescreen for you to avoid addressing the real point here, which is the space shuttle has been a extraordinarily costly boondoggle that never lived up to its original design goals.

> " Arianespace is in no way using a perfect clone of anything old. They buy / are supplied CURRENT Soyuz "

You misunderstand my statement Arianespace is using a clone of the Soyuz launch system, which is based on a decades-old Soviet ICBM design. They aren't modifying the design in any way.

SpaceX, on the other hand, is developing new rocket, fairings, and even engine/nozzle designs. They're springboarding off existing knowledge, yes, but they're adding substantially to it.

> "I am not betting on anything"

Doesn't sound like you have a lot of faith in your position.


RE: Leave it to the pros
By Darkskypoet on 8/5/2008 5:25:15 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Disagree all you want; the figures are from NASA's own official budget requests.


Actually this is not in any way what relevant to the discussion of any projects total costs. The shuttle project could not have occurred for its cost without Apollo, which in turn is not really happening without other space projects, etc.

The idea of 'Total Cost' is a philosophical difference of opinion, I don't dispute NASA's figures on what is line item attributed to the shuttle program. Get over it.

quote:
Here you go: http://www.space.com/news/shuttle_cost_050211.html


Yeah, I know... I actually supplied your source a few posts higher. As well, in my last post I also stated that we could agree the shuttle was exceptionally expensive. However, it also does what no other space craft can do. sometimes that's expensive. Necessary? Probably not. Pretty f***ing cool? Yeah, yeah it is.

quote:
You misunderstand my statement Arianespace is using a clone of the Soyuz launch system, which is based on a decades-old Soviet ICBM design. They aren't modifying the design in any way.


No.. actually I do not... They are buying said platform from the creators of said platform. Further it is based on a decades old ICBM design in much the same way that a current Ford Sedan is based on the Model T.

The Soyuz platform to be used by Arianespace is the latest edition of the Soyuz platform which easily differs from many of the older variants in as much as the SpaceX falcon differs from many of its forerunners. Hell most of the design is based off of modified parts funded by NASA. Yes Merlin is 'new', but is based off Apollo parts and other previously built and utilized components.

Clone implies that Ariennespace is building a copy of the Russian Soyuz, it is not a clone when its the actual product, still built by the original manufacturers. Albeit under a different name, in the post soviet Russian space apparatus.

quote:
> "I am not betting on anything" Doesn't sound like you have a lot of faith in your position.


Wow... Just wow... That's all you can come back with? Masher you went from stating so bluntly that SpaceX is cost competitive to this tripe? Obviously they are not cost competitive, and haven't delivered a single payload period.

Why would I bet you anything based on them becoming cost competitive within 2 years, when your claim was them being cost competitive now?

A Falcon 9 is supposed to launch with a paying customer's payload sometime in Q4 2008 / Q1 2009. Considering they haven't gotten a Falcon 1 into LEO with a payload, how confident do you think that customer is that their payload will make it?

You say maybe up to 2 years for Falcon 1, what bout Falcon 9? 6 months enough time? And if it blows to pieces, while the other private firms continue to launch with a much higher success rate, what then? How many more failures before they lose even more customers? How much higher do you think their insurance costs are now? We both know insurance isn't charity Masher.


RE: Leave it to the pros
By masher2 (blog) on 8/5/2008 6:14:47 PM , Rating: 1
> "The idea of 'Total Cost' is a philosophical difference of opinion"

Shuck and jive all you want: when you spend $150 billion to pay for 113 launches, the per-launch cost is roughly $1.3B.

> "No.. actually I do not... They are buying said platform from the creators of said platform. "

You're still trying to claim some sort of parity between what Ariane has done -- which is buy a completed launch system from someone else -- to SpaceX, who has designed their own rocket, using both existing and new technology. The two cases aren't comparable, plain and simple.

> "A Falcon 9 is supposed to launch with a paying customer's payload sometime in Q4 2008 / Q1 2009...how confident do you think that customer is that their payload will make it?"

It doesn't matter. If they don't make the deadline, the customer will be reimbursed costs plus damages. SpaceX is still selling a service that is cost-competitive with other launch services.

> "How much higher do you think their insurance costs are now? We both know insurance isn't charity Masher"

What does this have to do with anything? SpaceX is bearing those costs. Until and unless they begin to raise their rates beyond those of other launch services, the issue of how much they pay for insurance is moot.


RE: Leave it to the pros
By Darkskypoet on 8/5/2008 6:49:53 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Shuck and jive all you want: when you spend $150 billion to pay for 113 launches, the per-launch cost is roughly $1.3B.


Yes, for launches, launch pads, robotics, airframes, manufacturing facilities, all related technology, etc, etc, etc. Something to ponder here, as this technology gets reused, spun off, sold, etc do we then get to start reducing the cost per launch? Or do you simply close it off and disregard future benefits outside the realm of 'just x launches'?? I am curious, as they got far more then 'just x launches' for their money. (And for the 4th or 5th time, yes it was a lot of f***ing money. Most going to fund domestic private aerospace firms.)

quote:
You're still trying to claim some sort of parity between what Ariane has done -- which is buy a completed launch system from someone else -- to SpaceX, who has designed their own rocket, using both existing and new technology. The two cases aren't comparable, plain and simple.


No I am not. In fact I started talking about Soyuz, you started talking about Arianespace. Arianespace is a consortium and as such is much more like the massive American firms in nature, then a small start up like SpaceX.

I am comparing a suitable competitor to SpaceX's lifting platform... One that works. At least in my comparison of Falcon 9 and Soyuz 2 launch platforms, they are both privately for hire, and more comparable then NASA, SpaceX, the shuttle or Falcon anything. Besides, again, Soyuz 2 works, falcon 1 and 9 do not as of yet. I also mentioned the Delta platform, another competitor to Falcon 9, however you seem to like strategically ignoring things like that I've noticed.

quote:
It doesn't matter. If they don't make the deadline, the customer will be reimbursed costs plus damages. SpaceX is still selling a service that is cost-competitive with other launch services.


No they aren't as they have been unable to provide the service even once. Sorry, but its not a cost competitive offering of a service until they actually provide said service. Heck, even if they succeeded once, I'd totally grant you that it was a cost competitive offering. But they haven't, so its merely somewhat false advertising at this point. They have no proof that they can successfully deliver a payload as of yet. You know this as well as I do. Will they one day? Sure as long as people keep up with the huge 'investments'.

quote:
What does this have to do with anything? SpaceX is bearing those costs. Until and unless they begin to raise their rates beyond those of other launch services, the issue of how much they pay for insurance is moot.


It isn't moot, because it directly impacts their bottom line, which with a private firm completely impacts their ability to operate, eventually fulfill launch contracts, and survive. Also, just curious as I don't feel like digging for it, but do you have source that indicates who pays for payload insurance? Or is it just SOP that once safely delivered to SpaceX their insurance takes over? I mean its not as if launches aren't exceptionally risky. Further, is it even insured for full value? or does SpaceX cover a fairly large portion of the cost of payload if things go bad? I am sure it makes a car insurance deductible look tiny.

Even worse then rising insurance costs, is the inability to find a firm that will underwrite the endeavour, this would be a far greater concern, and is a definite possibility if they don't enjoy regular successes soon.


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