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Will suborbital space travel suffer the fate of Concorde?

Posted by: The Legionnaire - Sat Dec 06, 2003 8:46 pm
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Will suborbital space travel suffer the fate of Concorde? 
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Post Will suborbital space travel suffer the fate of Concorde?   Posted on: Sat Dec 06, 2003 8:46 pm
In an very positive X-Prize article published on Nov 30 in the Hartford Courant, the only negative comment came from the
respected historian Roger Launius. Here's what he said:

"We're not going to take any one of these vehicles and retire the Space Shuttle. Ask yourself the question: if the Concorde wasn't sustainable at $5000 or so a seat, and this is $100000, what's your market for this kind of thing? And passengers are only going to do it once. How many trips do you have to sell a year to sustain a business."

I think this is a very interesting point. Could the market for public space travel "burn out" if all the rich people fly once and the price fails to drop? What do you think?


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Post    Posted on: Sun Dec 07, 2003 12:07 am
Very good point...

But people get older, young people get old, people die... so always new people to fly into space...

And technology will get more advanced, building vehicles will become easier.
Keep in mind currently all vehicles are kinda unique, what is the price to create 1 new car for GM ? a lot, but not when they sell 10 000 000 of that type, that's making the prices low... the first vehicles of the x-prize(X-Cup) will cost a lot to make, but later same technology, already old, what currently is new, can be re-used, and people will know what to use, no need to test and re-test the very basics of those vehicles, but like airconditioning in a car, better safety, larger vehicles, etc etc will take the new research at that time.. making litterly the space open for even less rich people... again new clients....

Imagen in 1900, cars like we have now, costing WAY TOO MUCH... to who are you going to sell a car for US$10 000 000 ? and when all rich buyed one (or in this case, whent into space) they don't buy a new one...
Well, technology got better, almost everyone has a car in the west...
Same with space, and some people are definatly going to take the space trip more then 1 time..

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Post    Posted on: Sun Dec 07, 2003 6:18 am
Bad analogy. Sure cars are inexpensive. But airplanes have been around 100 years and except for a few kit planes, you aren't going to get much for less than a half a million $. Space ships will never be a mass consumer item.


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Post    Posted on: Sun Dec 07, 2003 3:13 pm
My point was a relative comparision.
Cars get cheaper, when more are build and when technology get less a problem.
Airplanes got cheaper, not to the same price as a car, but the first 747 costed more in the beginning, then if you would buy now a 747 (with the same features).

half a million $ for an airplane is not a lot, how many flights can you do ? how manny people can it move ? what distance can it fly each time ? compared to a car... 300 people can fly at 1 time, each pay 50$ , that's 15000$ 100 flights 1 500 000 us$, and then you can do also 200 flights normaly without problem... 3 000 000 us$

so that's 3 Mil - 0.5 mil - Energy to fly - pilots... and not to forget you can also get profits from selling stuff on the airplane.


Space travel, 1 million to make a vehicle (if it isn't cheaper). (not the first version, it will cost more, but that's an investment, profits come later...), so the 10th is normal operations..

1 million us$ cost 1 vehicle
10th vehicle, so kinda 6 (or more) people can fly with it as passengers.

If you would take an acceptable price of 5 000$ for a ticket, a lot people can buy such a price ticket.

so, if the vehicle would fly every 3 days, that makes it 365/3 = 121 a 122 flights a year 6 visitors each 5 000$ is in total 30 000$, not to forget their space pictures they may buy and other gadgets for extra profit... 30 000$ multiplied with 121 flights, but we should not take 121, cause every 3 days, is when there're no vecation, holidays... (but those may be skipped), but then we should include very terrible weather, so 110 flights.. 30 000$ * 110 flights is 3 300 000$, so a lot of monney to spend on services on the ground and new research and vehicles....

So, yes I see it as a very good business.

And on the long run, it will create the transport industry between Earth, Moon, Mars, other space stations and vehicles, etc etc..

Sigurd
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Post good business?   Posted on: Sun Dec 07, 2003 4:53 pm
Quote:
If you would take an acceptable price of 5 000$ for a ticket, a lot people can buy such a price ticket.


The problem is, the first flights probably won't be that cheap. The second generation X Prize - class vehicles should be much better, since they will be based on prior experience (just as newer airlines are generally cheaper per seat than older airplane designs)

But there's the issue I'm trying to bring up. Will the space tourism industry survive long enough to allow the introduction of "second generation" vehicles? If the customer base "burns out" before the vehicles become cheap...Perhaps it's a race against the clock.


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Post Money making suborbital flights   Posted on: Mon Dec 08, 2003 12:44 am
Sigurd, your estimates are very unrealistic. That half a million cost is for a small single engine airplane, not a large passenger airliner.

I'm sure the vehicle that wins the X Prize will cost more than $1,000,000, even in second and third iterations. Additionally, each flight will have considerable costs: fuel (rocket and jet in the case of SS1), range clearance, liability insurance, not to mention overhead commonly associated with running any business, i.e. salaries, marketing costs, administration, etc.

I am still concerned about the business case of suborbital flight. Just look at how the airlines have performed. Your estimate of only $3.3 million in annual revenues would put a company out of business fairly quickly.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Dec 08, 2003 2:44 am
Perhaps the issue is "repeat" business? What can be done with the sub-orbital industry that would create a repeat buyer?


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Post    Posted on: Mon Dec 08, 2003 3:19 am
"Repeat business" will develop, only if there is significant cost reduction.

The trouble with Concorde is that its technology did not advance beyond its introduction in the 1970's. There was one and only one team that put its supersonic transport aircraft into revenue service. At last count, there seems to be 30 plus teams interested in development of suborbital or orbital vehicles for human travel into space. There will be no shortage of new cost reduction ideas as was the case with Concorde.

Kelly Space & Technology has a very extensive market study on their website http://www.kellyspace.com which is the most detailed study I've seen to date. Titled "2010 -2030 Market Demand", this study evaluates the demand for existing and emerging markets, both commercial and military. Harris Poll conducted the polling of individuals with the financial resources to purchase space tourism products at various price ranges.

From reading the study I have some observations:
1. The backlog of demand for 'suborbital flight' even without any reduction from the $100,000 price tag, should last 10 to 15 years. By then there will be thousands of currently broke students and others who will have built businesses and gained the wealth necessary to afford such a trip. Therefore, I believe there will be a never-ending market and if the cost is reduced significantly the market will be astronomical as well.
2. Suborbital is only the first step. Private orbital flights, which provide days instead of minutes of "zero-g" space experience, will draw the capital necessary to develop cost-reduction technologies across the board and expand the market.
3. We should hold no elusions that any vehicle currently in development will be the suborbital workhorse within even two years of someone winning the XPRIZE.

The big questions for the space tourism industry are:
How will the market share be distributed as new companies come on-line?
When will supply meet the demand?


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Post    Posted on: Tue Dec 09, 2003 5:26 am
Quote:
In an very positive X-Prize article published on Nov 30 in the Hartford Courant, the only negative comment came from the
respected historian Roger Launius. Here's what he said:

"We're not going to take any one of these vehicles and retire the Space Shuttle. Ask yourself the question: if the Concorde wasn't sustainable at $5000 or so a seat, and this is $100000, what's your market for this kind of thing? And passengers are only going to do it once. How many trips do you have to sell a year to sustain a business."

I think this is a very interesting point. Could the market for public space travel "burn out" if all the rich people fly once and the price fails to drop? What do you think?


Instead of comparing X-prize flights to the Concorde, a better comparison would be to those "adventure" packages that people buy to ride on Mig fighter jets, vomit comets, etc. Despite their high prices, these companies still manage to find numerous customers. I doubt if the Concorde really catches peoples' imagination the way a space vehicle will. Passenger jets, even the luxurious or fast ones, just can't capture the adventurous spirit the way a rocket ride can. Also, that space shuttle comment the historian made was idiotic, talk about comparing apples to oranges. Why must these idiots always resort to some big, irrelevant government pork project to make their point that non-government spaceflight is impossibe or too expensive? The space shuttle is only a good example of how not to do space.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Dec 09, 2003 6:24 pm
I just don't think the suborbital market is as big as studies suggest. Essentially, we're talking about a thrill ride. If I was a multimillionare, the technology was proven and safe, and the flights were only $10k, I still wouldn't take a suborbital hop for the heck of it. (and I've been in high performance military jet aircraft, so I've done a few thrill rides in my life). I just don't see the cost/benefit yet, and I'm a space enthusiast.

Have you seen any annual revenue figures from companies like Space Adventures to justify your statement that they have "numerous customers?" I would suspect that the demand for the Mig and "vomit comet" flights is not that high, or else they wouldn't be offering the more down to earth types of tour packages to subsidize the high profile adventures.

But, as I said before small satellite launches are one avenue for making money with these flights. Another would be to extend the range to enable transcontinental flights. The market for same day transcontinental cargo is pretty significant and I know there are military apps as well. If you could get a few more seats, then the world of business travel opens up.

From a layman's view, it does not appear to be too difficult to extend the length of the SS1 by a few feet (or add some type of module) to allow more fuel, hence a longer engine burn and further down range capability.


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