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Cost of a T-Space CXV launch

Posted by: Andy Hill - Tue Aug 23, 2005 8:03 am
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Cost of a T-Space CXV launch 
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Post Cost of a T-Space CXV launch   Posted on: Tue Aug 23, 2005 8:03 am
I find it difficult to accept that the cost of a T-Space CXV launch would be about $20m given that even unmanned Delta/Atlas launches are over $100m. Does anyone know whether this cost includes recovery of the capsule?

One assumes that for a NASA flight the US Navy will be fishing it out of the sea as it did for Apollo and that wont come cheap. If it costs over a million to move the shuttle by air what will the cost be of having a Navy vessel on standby?

Given the above and NASA's tendancy to inflate costs at every opportunity I think that a CXV launch will be more expensive than $20m, even so it is likely to be a fraction of a EELV or shuttle launch and may be comparable to the cost of Soyuz which would introduce some competition.

If Bigelow attached a large inflatable to the ISS more launches could be made and regular flights could become cheaper. Its all very well being able to send 6 people to the ISS but where are you going to put them when you get there given its restricted living accommodation.

Regular CXV flights might also solve NASA's problem of having a life boat permanently attached which if they cant come to some arrangement with the Russians will mean evacuation the ISS of US personnel.

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Post    Posted on: Tue Aug 23, 2005 8:27 am
As I understand t/Space's informations their CXV-capsule is going to be not very larger than my living room or my whole appartment here in Hamburg.

Burt Rutan once said that the suborbital vehicles of Virgin Galactic will have to be comfortable and luxury - but an orbital vehicle in the opposite will be not simply because it will be used to carry persons to the orbit but not to live in it - similar to my car or a taxi which both also are not designed to live in but simply to carry me from Hamburg to any other city, town, village, location. May it be that t/Space's CXV is smaller than the Apollo-capsules? They don't need to go to the Moon and so there is no need to live within them - they simply go to the ISS or Nautilus and then back to Earth. Within hours if I am right.

The small size etc. may make it possible to recover the capsule by normal barges or ships - perhaps t/Space or an operating company like Virgin Galactic will own a ship or barge modified for recovery of the CXV-capsule.

So it may be interesting to serach for informations about all this -and I will do so.

What about it?



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Post    Posted on: Tue Aug 23, 2005 8:41 am
I think that the journey time is likely to be more than a couple of hours, the shuttle takes a day or 2 to catch the ISS after it is launched.

Even if T-Space do not need the US Navy to recover the capsule it will need to be tracked accurately and a purpose built ship will probably be needed which will add to the cost of each launch.

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Post    Posted on: Tue Aug 23, 2005 9:13 am
Oh, sorry, my speaking about "within hours" wasn't meant that literally but only to illustrate that the persons aboard will be carried to a station as directly and quickly as possible and then leave the CXV there. They will not enter the CXV again until they return to Earth by it. For this reason t/Space's CXV can be significantly smaller than the Space Shuttle not only but than its crew habitation too which includes beds etc. T/Space's CXV also doesn't have to carry that much food and drinking water etc. as the Shuttle.

But regarding the launch costs I in between recognized another point that is much more essential: the price for launching an expendable like Delta or Atlas has to cover the price of the complete rocket/vehicle plus the propellent. This is so because these expendables launch only once each and then are thrwon away. T/Space's CXV is no expendable but reusable - so the price for one launch doesn't need to cover the price of the complete vehicle. It's like in my calculations regarding the accumulation of a financial base. The more the CXV can be launched the smaller the fraction of the price of the CXV that has to be covered by the launch price - this makes a significant difference in launch "costs".

If I find informations about the CXV similar and similar complete as about Virgin Galactic's vehicles and operations I will calculate variable costs and the like for the CXV too. Currently the only informations are that the CXV will require 400 million dollars and one flight will cost 20 million dollars. This allows for a comparison only: If there would be no variable costs then they will have back the 400 million dollars after 20 flights at 20 million dollars flight-price. These would be between 3 million dollars and 5 million dollars ticket-price because the CXV can carry 4 to 6 persons at one flight.

But to calculate and illustrate the low launch cocst really I would need data about the expectations when they assume to be in the profit zone, what the turn-arond-time will be, what ticket-price they take, which price-policy they will apply and the like - unfortunately it's too earlier for that.

The high Delta/Atlas launche costs will include the complete vehicle price/investment - they are depreciated completely by one launch - while the low t/Space-CXV launch costs will not because it will be depreciated by a larger number of launches.

...?



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Post    Posted on: Tue Aug 23, 2005 9:55 am
I didn't think the CXV design was completely reusable, isn't the upper stage allowed to burn up once it delivers the capsule to orbit?

Also there is the cost of reburbishment of the capsule and booster for the next launch from re-entry and sea water damage. With development, fuel and logistic costs added $20m seems to be a bit low to me but I think you are right that there is not enough information around about weights, sizes and component parts to make an accurate assessment of the costs though.

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Post    Posted on: Tue Aug 23, 2005 11:18 am
In between I am trying to think about it another way too.

The vehicles Virgin Galactic buy have a price of 20 million dollars each and each is reusable. In the accumulation-...-in-detail thread I calculated that the avaregae variable cost will be not higher than 121,000 dollars per flight if the available informations are applied and the number of flights required to break even is 3,000.

Now each vehicle Virgin Galactic is buying has wings while the CXV will have no wings. So the investment into the wings and the mechanism for the feather mode will be left and can be subtracted from the investment costs of Virgin Galactic's vehicles.

Next each of Virgin Galactic's vehicles can carry seven passengers and one pilot - the second pilot will be the one in the mothership. But the CXV will carry 4 to 6 persons only - 6 persons would be one person less than 7 passengers while 4 persons would be 3 persons less than 7 passengers plus one pilot - this means that the CXV will be smaller than each of Virgin Galactic's vehicles.

Finally each of Virgin Galactic's vehicles will be sufficiently voluminous to allow the passengers to float around in weightlessness - this voluminousity would be left in the CXV.

So it can be expected that the CXV-capsule will be significantly smaller than the SSO. So less material is required.

What will be added in turn will be

- cooling for rentry,
- solar panels for electricity generation,
- steering jets for manoevering,
- braking rockets,
- tanks for the propellant required for braking.
- ...

This all will add material and weight.

The stage to carry the capsule into space will have to be compared to the propellant of Virgin galactic's vehicles and the container of that propellant. Itis not that clear if Virgin Galactic's vehicles need a new tank/engine/nozzle each flight but it may be. If it's really so than the tank/engine/nozzle is included in the averaged variable costs of 121,000 dollars I calculated - so the stage carrying the CXV into orbit wouldn't be that expensive. If - on the other and - Virgin Galactic's vehicles don't need another tank/engine/nozzle each flight then their costs can and must be considered to be included in the fixed costs I used in the calculations - this would mean that the stage of CXV has a chance to be reusable or could be modified to be reusable later. Perhaps we should think of SpaceX's Falcons - the lower stage of the Falcon I is reusable as well as the lower stage of the Falcon V will be. So there is a chance that the stage of the CXV can be reusable too.

May be that a major portion of th 400 millions t/Space has been speaking about is development costs including propellant for test fligths into the orbit, failures of such flights and complete losses of vehicles.

As far as I know the propellant requirements make up a significant portion of the costs of orbital flights. Is that right?

...



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Post    Posted on: Tue Aug 23, 2005 1:51 pm
I dont think SSO and the CXV are comparable as they are totally different designs with different objectives, just because they are both air launch does not make them similar.

SSO's engine is an integral part of its fuselarge while the CXV requires separate booster and upper stages. Looking at T-Space's animation of a CXV launch on their website it appears that the upper stage will not be recovered and burn up on re-entry adding to costs, the spent engine of SSO was returned when it landed so could possibly have been refurbished.

Although there will be a weight saving because the CXV does not have wings and may be smaller than the virgin galactic craft this will be negligable compared to the extra weight of a heatsheild and extra materials used to strengthen the craft for re-entry (not to mention other things like docking mechanisms, thrusters, avionics and solar panels). All this is likely to result in a smaller craft that is heavier with the additional weight and cost of extra stages and a lot more fuel to get to LEO.

Throwing an upper stage away with each launch will result in higher launch costs, I dont know what the cost of a cheap upper stage is but I would guess it would be a few million at least.

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Post    Posted on: Tue Aug 23, 2005 3:24 pm
In a few other threads, there have been extensively estimated comparisons drawn between CXV and Falcon V. They seem to be similar in scale and capacity.

The SpaceX website says that Falcon V launches go for $15.8 Million, that does not include the price of a manned capsule. It sounds as though t/Space is planning to be similarly priced.

The SpaceX site also describes the recovery of the first stage only, not the second (just as CXV). I might point out that the upper stage of both these systems is required to drive the capsule to orbital velocity; as such, it is subject to the same re-entry envelope. It is undoubtedly considered by both teams to be prohibitively expensive to outfit the upper stage with heat shielding in order to recover what is basically just an aluminum tube. I guess it is worth eating an engine.

The CXV capsule is alleged to be re-usable, the thermal protection system is also semi-active and relies on water-cooling, as I recall. I have not seen specific data on it.

When they drop-tested the CXV capsule a few weeks back, they subbed out a commercial chopper company. I assume they would do the same for recoveries. Anyone not flying a spaceplane (i.e. all orbital players post-STS) will have the same issue.

When the question of on-orbit rendezvous came up in another thread a while back, Pete pointed out that the LEM was able to rendezvous with CSM about 30 mins after leaving the lunar surface. His position was that NASA was using an unnecessary day in the ISS flights. I agree. I looked up project Gemini and discovered that the Agena rendezvous all took place within 45-90 minutes. I expect you could rendezvous within 6 hours to ISS if you had the ability to launch at will from anywhere within 500 miles of the West Coast.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Aug 23, 2005 5:26 pm
Hello, Andy Hill,

what I said in my previous post was menat to get an idea of the cost structure simply - the relation between variable costs and fixed costs.

It seems to me that the fixed costs will be significant and that the fixed costs of Virgin Galactic can be used as areference from the view of economics. The reference is valid for material only. Then to this reference costs some costs have to be added which are caused by the ability to fly into the orbit while others have to be subtracted. It's a special approach for estimations simply and doesn't mean a comparison - perhaps an economic indicator merely which is something Enterprise Economics don't include (they have key numbers but no indicators - perhaps I should say something in short about it in the "Ticket costs and prices - how estimations are done"-thread)

I have had a look into t/Space's pdfs too because I am interested in numbers an number-equivalent informations. They say that the stage is low-cost expendable. This term is essential regarding the costs I think - it seems to mean that what's burned up or thrown away is cheap compared to the Shuttle's external tank or the CXV-capsule.

I will have to have some additional looks into the pdfs regarding some numbers to determine if they can be used to get some raw insights into the structure of the 20,000,000 flight costs. If yes then I will do the calculations and post the results.



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Post    Posted on: Wed Aug 24, 2005 1:05 pm
I have had a closer look now and I think the follwing data and issues seem to be usable for the calculations I have in mind:

www.transformspace.com/document_library ... ummary.pdf

Quote:
The booster technology is under development by AirLaunch LLC via an $11.3 million contract in the DARPA/Air Force Falcon program.


They say that the booster will have no turbopumps because of VAPAK - this may be interesting for calculations and estimations.

Quote:
The program's goal is a booster able to loft small spacecraft for less than $5 million per launch, and with just 24-hour notice.


Quote:
The Drop Test Article (DTA) representing the CXV was full size (14.74 feet long by 14 feet diameter) and full weight at 8,100 lbs.


According to the pdf the mockup measures 19 feet from nose to rear staircase and the picture seems to indicate that this is intended to be more than the size of the finally flying capsule.

The seats will weigh less than 20% of Shuttle Seats.



www.transformspace.com/index.cfm?fuseac ... 270F2B83AA

Quote:
Because the booster engines need to operate only at altitude, and not at sea-level pressure, this simple low-pressure engine approach is an appropriate technology choice for a low-cost expendable booster system.




This all I will try to use (additional to the 400 million project costs and 20 million flight costs) - I have to think about it a while.



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Post    Posted on: Mon Sep 05, 2005 11:35 am
I didn't find sufficient time to think and work about it systematically yet. But I have ready a first real-cost-approach.

The data available allow to calculate surface and volume assuming the DARPA-payload as well as the CXV were cylindrical - which the CXV at least will not be (it explicitly will be bathtub-shaped):

Code:
surface        volume         surface/volume   radius   height   object
in m^2         in m^3                          in m     in m
6,283185307    1,178097245   7,402203301      0,5      1,5      "spacecraft"
86,0557626     61,26426117    1,404664987      2,1      4,422    "full size"
                                                                 "Drop Test
                                                                  Article re-
                                                                  presenting
                                                                  the CXV"


The column titled "surface/volume" tells the costs per m^3 in units of surface which are m^2. At the CXV these costs obviously are reduced by the factor 5,27 compared to the DARPA-spacecraft.

This means that there will be economies of scale of the factor 5,27 if the surface of both the DARPA-spacecraft and the CXV would be made of the same material.

The real economies of scale will be different because the CXV will not be cylindrical and I am clearly very doubting that any DARPA-spacecraft will be. But this wil tend to even less surface and thus surface-material.

But I've seen no costs in dollars - monetary costs regarding surface-material yet nor informations what material is going to be used. For this reason I still go on to look into it another way. Currently I am trying to close a few informational gaps.



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Post    Posted on: Wed Sep 07, 2005 8:18 pm
Nice model from one of the Star Trek: The Next Generation effects masters:
http://www.spacemodelsystems.com/tspace.html

CEV pics.
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/forums ... 14&start=1


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Post    Posted on: Thu Sep 08, 2005 1:10 pm
In between I found some data filling a major gap - the booster.

Under www.transformspace.com/index.cfm?fuseac ... 3D296F773A
t/Space say

Quote:
The dummy booster dropped today was the third and final in the t/Space program, with previous drops on May 24 and June 7. All test articles dropped were inert -- two steel tanks welded together with a Fiberglas nose and nozzle. They were 23% of the size of the actual rockets to be developed for sending a four-person capsule into orbit.


and under 64.78.33.215/document_library/media/tLAD_Test_Program_21Jun05-2.pdf
they say

Quote:
The DTA is a 23% scale model of the t/Space booster. The DTA is 250 inches long (20.83 ft), 37.4 inches in diameter, and weighs 2,018 pounds.
.

In meters this means a height of 6,249 meters, a diameter of 0,935 meters and a radius of 0,4675 meters.

Then I get the follwoing table:

Code:
surface      volume           surface/volume radius   height     object
19.7289741     4.290655319   4.598126075    0,4675   6,249      DTA of                                                                         booster                                                                       23 % scale                                                                     model
386,2028145   376,4186656     1,02599273     2,1     27,16956522 theor. full                                                                   scale height


The weights are 2018 and 39503,18327.

I have calculated other numbers too where I interpreted scale to be meaning not height but something else but I remeber to have read somewhere that the original booster will be 27 meters long.

These numbers I can use now to go on.



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Post    Posted on: Mon Sep 12, 2005 11:45 am
In the last post I calculated a full-scale volume of the booster of 376.418666 m^3. These are 99439.29144 US.liq.gal. which are the units propane is sold by at the markets if I am right.

The german commercial newspaper Handelsblatt in its printed version published the following prices a few weeks ago:

Code:
Propan NYMEX   42000 galls,   42000 galls
25.08.2005     c/gall.        total in $
Sep            96.25          40425
Okt            96.75          40635
Nov.           97.25          40845


The totals I calculated myself.

Using these 42000 galls the amount of propane which could be filled into the booster would cost one of the following three alternatives:

Code:
95710,31801
96207,51447
96704,71093



This would mean to assume that only propane is used and filled into the booster but as I understand it O2 would be filled into it too. As far as I know propane is C3H8 and the reaction with oxygen results in 3 CO2 and 4 H2O. Then for each molecule C3H8 5 molecules O2 are required. I don't have available the differences in volume between propane and molecular oxygen now and so simply assume that the volume is equal. This would mean that only a sixth of the above calculated numbers is valid regarding propane - which means costs of 16,117.45.

Unfortunately I could find the price of liquid oxygen and so have to try some alternative assumptions.

1. I could apply a 33.333 % safety margin to the calculated costs of using propane only which would result in 128,939.61457 $.
2. I could apply a price of 3 times the price of propane for the oxygen which would result in 257,879.2273135 $.
3. I could assume that the value under 2. has to be multiplied by 10 which would result in 2,578,792.273135 $.

I have an infinite number of alternatives I don't want to apply and discuss here.

Does somebody else know the price of oxygen to be applied here?

In between I will go on based on what's available to me at present in the next post.



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Post    Posted on: Mon Sep 12, 2005 3:38 pm
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Last edited by whonos on Thu Jun 07, 2007 7:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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