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Apart from EVs, rockets, and solar panels...

Posted by: Troubadour - Mon May 07, 2012 5:28 am
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Apart from EVs, rockets, and solar panels... 
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Post Apart from EVs, rockets, and solar panels...   Posted on: Mon May 07, 2012 5:28 am
...there's something else Elon Musk could do for the world. We could really use an advanced, innovative entrepreneurial aircraft company to overthrow Boeing (and its Euroclone, Airbus) in the passenger jet market. This dinosaur has been making and remaking the same basic aircraft since the 1950s, and it's boring and demoralizing. The fanfare surrounding the 787 and A380 has been embarrassing and surreal - like if car companies in the 1950s were celebrating the development of a lighter or bigger-capacity horse-drawn carriage instead of sleek, fast automobiles. Sounds like a job for Elon Musk, IMHO.

Granted, this isn't nearly as important to humanity as making life multiplanetary and ending dependence on fossil fuels...but it's still exactly the kind of thing Elon Musk seems to revel in. I hope once he is reasonably satisfied that Tesla and SolarCity have all grown up, he'll take a look at the aviation industry for his next Earth-bound secondary project.

Planes in general have not flown higher or faster in generations, and Boeing simply won't take any financial risks to advance the state of the industry - the same reason it sucks as a space company. It did early work on a Mach 0.98 delta-wing passenger jet called the Sonic Cruiser, but just abandoned it when airlines were initially skeptical about the cost-benefit.

That's not the way to do things - if the cost is too high, work to lower it until they're beating down your door to get it. Don't just be like "Oh, it's meant to be. It's our fate to forever fly subsonic tubes packed with passengers like a slave ship." Boeing just doesn't get it anymore and likely never will, so a new company has to overthrow them, and given the difficulty of doing so, the only person capable of it seems like Elon Musk.

I'm thinking maybe SpaceX's work with Stratolaunch over the coming decade might be applied to future aircraft concepts to overthrow Boeing in the aviation industry. I just hate any high-tech industry being run by risk-averse companies that refuse to innovate and just coast on market share without doing anything to pursue fundamentally more powerful capabilities.

Down with the dinosaurs!

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Post Re: Apart from EVs, rockets, and solar panels...   Posted on: Mon May 07, 2012 7:41 am
Well, there is a bit of an issue with basic physics here. General aviation is all about efficiency, and the aeroplane part of that is fuel efficiency. Flying super- or hypersonic is much more expensive, simply because there is much more drag (much, much more drag). IIRC, someone recently wrote here that the fuel costs for Falcon 9 are about $200,000. You would have to make it fully reusable and find a way of putting 200 or so people on it to be able to offer a $2000 trip to the other side of the world in an hour. Probably business travellers would be willing to pay more, but with the current seven people on Dragon, fuel costs alone are $28k. Going half way around the world is barely cheaper than going orbital energetically (hence ICBMs being repurposed as orbital launchers), so that's unlikely to make much of a difference. Another data point is that Concorde never made back its initial investment.

That said, you may want to have a browse around the website of Reaction Engines Ltd..

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Post Re: Apart from EVs, rockets, and solar panels...   Posted on: Mon May 07, 2012 9:39 am
I just wanted to point out Reaction Engines (and Skylon) myself.

You also might want to take a look at what NASA is working on together with "boring" industry giants like Boeing, Lockheed, Grumman, etc.
http://www.nasa.gov/topics/aeronautics/ ... craft.html

Boeing is already flying a small scale BWB prototype:
http://www.nasa.gov/topics/aeronautics/ ... _main.html

To be honest, I have to question your judgement of reality. Granted, that the Concorde didn't work out was a bit of a disappointment, but for subsonic Airplanes there hasn't really been a need for REvolution until recent years but there has been plenty of Evolution.

Same as for cars. They haven't really changed that much in the last 50 years. More efficient, more aerodynamic, safer, but the basic principles have been the same - combustion engine, gearbox, 4 wheels, etc...

I really don't see how the evolution of civil airplanes has been any different than that of cars. :?:

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Post Re: Apart from EVs, rockets, and solar panels...   Posted on: Tue May 08, 2012 7:33 am
Lourens wrote:
General aviation is all about efficiency


If it were about efficiency, it wouldn't exist - trains are far more efficient, and the human body is even more efficient than that. It takes a lot less energy to walk any given distance than to fly a plane that far. The reason we have transportation technologies is that they make time fungible - we can pay somewhat more to go faster, which means a lot more is possible in a lifetime. General aviation has failed to fundamentally advance on these terms since the 1950s, and has even gone backwards with the retirement of the Concorde.

Lourens wrote:
Flying super- or hypersonic is much more expensive, simply because there is much more drag (much, much more drag).


It's more expensive in energy terms, but that doesn't mean it necessarily has to be more expensive economically - any more than is already the case between walking vs. flying. Time has a monetary value based on opportunity costs and also the recurring costs that accrue with longer durations. You could walk 10 miles and burn off fifty cents worth of calories or drive 10 miles and burn off $1 of gasoline, but most people would drive because the real costs favor driving - you accomplish more in the time saved than you lose in the monetary expenditure. Why else do people choose to fly 300-mile commuter flights for half an hour that they could just drive in 6 hours?

Lourens wrote:
IIRC, someone recently wrote here that the fuel costs for Falcon 9 are about $200,000. You would have to make it fully reusable and find a way of putting 200 or so people on it to be able to offer a $2000 trip to the other side of the world in an hour


Okay, but that isn't relevant to aviation. That's a launch vehicle. P2P suborbital capability is a promising long-term subject, but I'm just talking about how fast and how high planes fly. It seems absurd that our only two choices would be flying subsonic tubs or imagining some bleeding-edge hypersonic technology. Who is even investing in exploring this? Who can say what our options even are, when the big dogs won't even look beyond the initial hurdles to what is posible, and innovators have little chance of overcoming Boeing and Airbus's market share no matter what kind of ideas they generate?

Lourens wrote:
Another data point is that Concorde never made back its initial investment.


Then it seems strange the aircraft was in service for 27 years - obviously it was economical enough to stay in operation, and that was with basically 1960s technology. Just imagine what it could be today if the industry had bothered to advance it.

Marcus Zottl wrote:
I just wanted to point out Reaction Engines (and Skylon) myself.


Spaceplanes are way beyond the horizon for what I'm talking about. There is no need to look that far ahead for the aviation industry to get started reigniting progress on speed and altitude.

Marcus Zottl wrote:
You also might want to take a look at what NASA is working on together with "boring" industry giants like Boeing, Lockheed, Grumman, etc.
http://www.nasa.gov/topics/aeronautics/ ... craft.html

Boeing is already flying a small scale BWB prototype:
http://www.nasa.gov/topics/aeronautics/ ... _main.html


Yes, they're always doing things like that, and the test articles remain test articles because the industry giants refuse to do anything with them. Like I said, they simply will not assume any financial risk whatsoever to advance technology - everything they invest in must be just another incremental improvement on what they already have. They're happy to take NASA's money to do computer modeling and build scale models, but they're not going to do anything with them but file patents and then shove them into a file cabinet in a basement somewhere.

Marcus Zottl wrote:
To be honest, I have to question your judgement of reality. Granted, that the Concorde didn't work out was a bit of a disappointment, but for subsonic Airplanes there hasn't really been a need for REvolution until recent years but there has been plenty of Evolution.


There's rarely a "need" for a technology that doesn't exist. We create them in order to make new opportunities. People are perfectly content to ride horse-drawn buggies until they can drive automobiles, and perfectly content with trains until aircraft become an option. But given how cramped and unpleasant aviation has become, perhaps there is finally a need to start drastically cutting down on flight times.

Marcus Zottl wrote:
Same as for cars. They haven't really changed that much in the last 50 years. More efficient, more aerodynamic, safer, but the basic principles have been the same - combustion engine, gearbox, 4 wheels, etc...


And that's an indictment of the auto industry, and another thing Elon Musk has been addressing.

Marcus Zottl wrote:
I really don't see how the evolution of civil airplanes has been any different than that of cars. :?:


Precisely. They've both stagnated under the control of complacent, oligopolous industries that simply coasted on the inertia of their infrastructure instead of being committed to technological progress. We periodically need people like Musk to shake things up.

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Post Re: Apart from EVs, rockets, and solar panels...   Posted on: Tue May 08, 2012 8:26 am
Troubadour wrote:
Lourens wrote:
General aviation is all about efficiency


If it were about efficiency, it wouldn't exist - trains are far more efficient, and the human body is even more efficient than that.


Efficiency for passengers = cost / time, efficiency for the plane = cost / seat / km traveled. The use of general aviation efficiency is a mix of of the above.


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Post Re: Apart from EVs, rockets, and solar panels...   Posted on: Tue May 08, 2012 10:32 am
I would run those ten miles, and burn a giant plate of pasta's worth of calories doing so :-).

You mention that flying has become cramped and unpleasant. That's not the case for everyone; flying is still quite pleasant in First Class, with a special get-through-security-quick card that airlines will happily sell you. But comfort and convenience are expensive, and most people are not willing to pay for them. As a result, our aeroplanes are mostly Economy Class. Would a passenger jet that had only First Class seats make economic sense? That's what a supersonic transport would amount to. The test articles remain test articles because nobody is willing to buy them, and it doesn't make sense for a manufacturer to build something that they can't sell.

Of course we're going to see those more efficient turbo fans retrofitted onto current airliners, as well as the drag-reducing technologies, and even that box wing looks like it could be an upgrade. Doing things incrementally is just solid engineering. Building a modern airliner is difficult enough already.

I don't think technological advancement has slowed since the 1960's, in fact, I think it's steadily accelerated. However, it has become much less visible. Where in the sixties it was aeronautical engineering, it's now electronics and associated nanotechnology at the forefront of technology. The laptop I'm typing this on easily has an order of magnitude more compute power than the one I was using back in 2004, similarly more memory, and it's hooked up to an incredibly fast network. And that old laptop was more or less equivalent to a late-1980's Cray supercomputer I ran into at that time. My current laptop has nothing on modern day compute clusters, and the telephone networks of the 1960's don't compare to the fibrop links of the modern day Internet, which incidentally allow email and video conferencing, technologies that have affected the business world more than intercontinental flight ever has. And all that compute power has led to more simulation and less building of test articles, which has lowered costs dramatically but has also made progress less visible.

Still, materials science has improved too. Racing sailing yachts go around the world twice as fast now as they did a couple of decades ago. Formula One hasn't got much faster, because the drivers wouldn't be able to keep up, but they do get the same speeds with much less powerful engines, and drivers now walk away from crashes that would have killed them in the 1960s. Improved concrete lets us build taller skyscrapers. Electronically controlled engines reduce emissions and improve air quality, better insulated buildings save energy and money, replacement of toxic materials with less harmful ones improves health, we're only getting started on the whole -omics revolution, we're spotting extrasolar planets regularly now, and there are even a bunch of exciting developments in cosmology again.

I agree with you that our Western society has become way too risk-averse, which is perhaps natural as the more you have, the more you have to lose. As Kristian von Bengtson of Copenhagen Suborbitals put it, When Did We All Become Such Wimps? We're also currently afraid of completely the wrong things, e.g. terrorism instead of obesity. But I don't think that technological development has stopped as a result, it's just looking different now.

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Post Re: Apart from EVs, rockets, and solar panels...   Posted on: Tue May 08, 2012 6:42 pm
The problem is regulation. Any new groundbreaking requires government approval on so many levels that the risk is too great. If a company could make, and an airline could fly, any aircraft it wanted without risk of getting sued, or stopped by a government agency, the aviation world would look alot different.

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Post Re: Apart from EVs, rockets, and solar panels...   Posted on: Tue May 08, 2012 10:21 pm
IrquiM wrote:
Efficiency for passengers = cost / time, efficiency for the plane = cost / seat / km traveled. The use of general aviation efficiency is a mix of of the above.


Good point - and one which I think makes higher speeds and altitudes ultimately practicable. The fact that something is more energetic does not necessarily mean it will cost the individual passenger more; and the fact that something does cost the individual passenger more does not mean they wouldn't find it economical given the added value of speed (with the views from higher altitudes as just another bonus).

Lourens wrote:
You mention that flying has become cramped and unpleasant. That's not the case for everyone; flying is still quite pleasant in First Class, with a special get-through-security-quick card that airlines will happily sell you. But comfort and convenience are expensive, and most people are not willing to pay for them. As a result, our aeroplanes are mostly Economy Class. Would a passenger jet that had only First Class seats make economic sense? That's what a supersonic transport would amount to.


Again, I don't accept that this is necessarily the case. I think a sufficiently entrepreneurially-minded company could come up with a pathway to supersonic transport everyone can afford. Think about how Tesla Motors started out with a super-luxury product, the Roadster, and is now moving into the higher-volume, lower-cost product, the Model S that is a standard luxury sedan, all as part of a plan to ultimately produce a mid-range sedan affordable to the masses. I'm not saying a plane company could do exactly that, but don't you think they could follow an analogous process of up-scaling the volume and down-scaling the cost?

Lourens wrote:
The test articles remain test articles because nobody is willing to buy them, and it doesn't make sense for a manufacturer to build something that they can't sell.


They remain test articles because Boeing refuses to put its own money into developing them into something buyers would buy. They refuse to create markets, and thus they are useless as a technology-driver.

Lourens wrote:
Doing things incrementally is just solid engineering.


Yes, but eventually you have to transcend "solid engineering" and put in the effort to take a fundamental step forward or you'll run into the basic limits of a technology. We're pretty close to those limits right now, as the ludicrous difficulties encountered in making the 787 and A380 demonstrate. These planes are baroque, Byzantine monstrosities of complexity - the exact opposite of elegant, robust technology.

Lourens wrote:
I don't think technological advancement has slowed since the 1960's, in fact, I think it's steadily accelerated. However, it has become much less visible.


It has slowed dramatically, and its practitioners simply changed the definition to keep believing what they were doing made sense. Instead of the simple but hard technological fact of physical work - moving matter against force - they focused on mathematical ciphers and information abstraction, and now we have a global network of bridges to nowhere: A tangled Gordian Knot of mostly useless information.

It's not all bad, but the opportunity cost of focusing on IT at the expense of physical mechanics has been massive. If you were to compare the enabling qualities of IT with what we could have accomplished had the same resources been directly invested in improving physical systems, I don't think they'd even be in the same order of magnitude. China, building out its physical infrastructure, now pretty much owns the world; and the US, with our massive investments in IT, hasn't shown nearly the same progress.

Lourens wrote:
The laptop I'm typing this on easily has an order of magnitude more compute power than the one I was using back in 2004, similarly more memory, and it's hooked up to an incredibly fast network.


Irrelevant. Tell your laptop to pick up a fork. Any physical task is still absurdly complicated and expensive for computers to perform - that's why China manufactures everything with underpaid humans working by hand instead of automated factories, and have managed to accumulate the biggest manufacturing base ever assembled. They assemble iPads by hand. Data is nothing more than a commodity, not a technology.

Lourens wrote:
Still, materials science has improved too. Racing sailing yachts go around the world twice as fast now as they did a couple of decades ago. Formula One hasn't got much faster, because the drivers wouldn't be able to keep up, but they do get the same speeds with much less powerful engines, and drivers now walk away from crashes that would have killed them in the 1960s. Improved concrete lets us build taller skyscrapers. Electronically controlled engines reduce emissions and improve air quality, better insulated buildings save energy and money, replacement of toxic materials with less harmful ones improves health, we're only getting started on the whole -omics revolution, we're spotting extrasolar planets regularly now, and there are even a bunch of exciting developments in cosmology again.


Yes, there have been a lot of incremental improvements of legacy hardware. And if that had been going on in the first half of the 20th century the way it's been going on since the 1950s, by now we would have the most efficient, lightest, and safest horse-drawn carriages, coal-fed locomotives, and steam ships you could ever imagine.


Lourens wrote:
We're also currently afraid of completely the wrong things, e.g. terrorism instead of obesity. But I don't think that technological development has stopped as a result, it's just looking different now.


I just take a harder line on the definition of technology. I say it boils down to how much mass you can move, how far, and how fast, against how much force - everything else is just accounting.

SuperShuki wrote:
The problem is regulation. Any new groundbreaking requires government approval on so many levels that the risk is too great.


Highly doubtful that that's the main obstacle, or countries with less regulation would have better technology. They really don't. That said, the FAA could be more helpful.

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Post Re: Apart from EVs, rockets, and solar panels...   Posted on: Wed May 09, 2012 6:16 pm
I fully agree that the US has been neglecting its physical infrastructure in the last couple of decades, in more ways than one, and it's starting to pay the price. However, that doesn't mean that growth can just go on and on. I recently ran into two blog posts by Tom Murphy, a physicist at UCSD. Especially the second one, which deals with efficiency and physical limits to technology, is interesting in this context.

I think the 20th century was an era of nearly unbridled growth, and that the 21st century will be the one where humanity hits the limits of the universe. As Murphy writes, we're already quite close in some cases, and it will only get more difficult to make more progress. Heck, you can see it even in electronics. CPU clock speeds haven't increased much in the past decade, and Intel's latest chips have details only a couple dozen atoms across. It's difficult to imagine another order of magnitude of die shrinkage in the next decade. Maybe they can still increase circuit sizes by going into the third dimension, but that would necessitate some kind of fluid cooling system or something integrated into the chip to get rid of the heat. Not easy.

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Post Re: Apart from EVs, rockets, and solar panels...   Posted on: Thu May 10, 2012 12:03 am
Lourens wrote:
I fully agree that the US has been neglecting its physical infrastructure in the last couple of decades, in more ways than one, and it's starting to pay the price. However, that doesn't mean that growth can just go on and on. I recently ran into two blog posts by Tom Murphy, a physicist at UCSD. Especially the second one, which deals with efficiency and physical limits to technology, is interesting in this context.


I've seen those posts before, and they do raise interesting questions. Unfortunately, they are not nearly as significant as you think, because they're based on a fatal fallacy: The author treats energy as a relative quantity whose benefits are based on a rate of growth rather than an absolute amount, and that isn't a justifiable assumption - energy is an absolute quantity with concrete benefits to a numerically specific population, and rates of change in energy are meaningless out of context. If I pick one berry and then pick two berries five minutes later, I've doubled my energy consumption in five minutes - an annual growth rate of 5,256,000%. But obviously this rate cannot be sustained - there's only so much I can eat.

And yet this fact doesn't limit my options: It increases them. Once the rate of energy growth levels off for my body, I can spend energy on livestock and horses, then on factory machinery, then on automobiles and aircraft, and yet none of them ever approach that multi-million-percent growth rate of picking two berries. Arguably an aircraft provides a much bigger jump in capabilities than picking two berries rather than one, but the rate of energy consumption increase it represents is nowhere near the same. So we see that rate is not as important as the author thinks, nor does a drastic decline in such rates prevent massive leaps in technological capability. In essence the rate is almost irrelevant over the long-term, and it has nothing to do with efficiency so much as simply the fact that the benefits of actual energy are not relative the way that rates of growth are.

Lourens wrote:
I think the 20th century was an era of nearly unbridled growth, and that the 21st century will be the one where humanity hits the limits of the universe.


We're not even close to meeting the limits of this planet:

Image

Granted, as Murphy notes, there are heat-expulsion issues that will have to be dealt with to avoid cooking the planet - perhaps with albedo-manipulation (i.e., large reflective surfaces to offset atmospheric heat absorption) - but that's just a matter of policy and engineering.

Lourens wrote:
Heck, you can see it even in electronics. CPU clock speeds haven't increased much in the past decade, and Intel's latest chips have details only a couple dozen atoms across. It's difficult to imagine another order of magnitude of die shrinkage in the next decade. Maybe they can still increase circuit sizes by going into the third dimension, but that would necessitate some kind of fluid cooling system or something integrated into the chip to get rid of the heat. Not easy.


That's just a limit of a particular approach to processor technology. They're coming up to it because, like in aerospace, the dominant players are lazy and conservative, and haven't bothered to pursue fundamental leaps in capability because there has always been more latent potential in their legacy hardware. There's literally an entire cosmos of difference between the limits of silicon circuits and the theoretical limit of information, and we're nowhere near the latter - and never will be. We're also coming up on a point where most people don't care about added computing power, and don't notice it in the things they use it for. IT is exhausting itself coming up with excuses to use the computational power it's already created - endless numbers of "apps" that do absolutely nothing but distract people; advertising analytics to squeeze one more fraction of a penny out of the consumer market; etc. etc. The whole industry is largely a cul-de-sac. I'm glad money is once again flowing into the physical side - but again, not nearly enough.

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Post Re: Apart from EVs, rockets, and solar panels...   Posted on: Thu May 10, 2012 6:32 pm
Troubadour wrote:

SuperShuki wrote:
The problem is regulation. Any new groundbreaking requires government approval on so many levels that the risk is too great.


Highly doubtful that that's the main obstacle, or countries with less regulation would have better technology. They really don't. That said, the FAA could be more helpful.


The western world had far superior technology than the Soviet Union - because of less government regulation. In the Western World today, most large countries have relatively similar amounts of regulation.

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Post Re: Apart from EVs, rockets, and solar panels...   Posted on: Thu May 10, 2012 11:49 pm
SuperShuki wrote:
The western world had far superior technology than the Soviet Union


It depends on the field of technology. The Soviet Union had superior weaponry for decades, and its manned space technology was much more reliable - as demonstrated by the fact that it's still in operation while ours is not. We exceeded them largely in fields related to consumer goods and entertainment.

SuperShuki wrote:
because of less government regulation.


How does this claim explain China's economic growth? Their government is an arbitrary police state that doesn't merely regulate the economy, but interferes in it according to secret policies that cannot be appealed or criticized, and demands controlling interests in most large enterprises. Obviously the reality is more complicated than you portray it.

On the most basic level, your claim doesn't even make any sense - regulation is not a quantity, and not one-dimensional, so "less" or "more" can mean too many different things to matter. What matters is what the regulation attempts to accomplish, and how intelligently it's approached. If it's designed to promote technology and infrastructure, and approaches those goals intelligently, then that will be the result. If it's designed to stymie competition in order to serve the bottom lines of dominant corporations, then that will be the result. Obviously just extricating government from the process doesn't work.

SuperShuki wrote:
In the Western World today, most large countries have relatively similar amounts of regulation.


Exactly - Western world. As in, not China - the country that is quickly approaching the world's #1 position. You may want to examine your assumptions.

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Post Re: Apart from EVs, rockets, and solar panels...   Posted on: Fri May 11, 2012 8:38 am
Let's assume a new supersonic airliner would cost more to develop that a normal airliner - I think that is a safe assumption as there would be quite a bit of new tech required) The Airbus 380 cost €11 billion (about $12B) up to the first plane. And that's a pretty standard airliner. They cost about $389M each to buy. So Airbus need to sell at least 60 (probably nearer 100) to even get slightly near making a profit. I do not see a market for 60 SS airliners. There were only 20 passenger Concorde's for example.

Even if Musk could halve that to $5B, or even quarter it to $2.5B, that still a lot more than he has ever spent on SpaceX. In fact, he couldn't afford it, and the returns would be rubbish, and not start appearing for 15 years.

Airliners cost much more than rockets.


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Post Re: Apart from EVs, rockets, and solar panels...   Posted on: Fri May 11, 2012 12:14 pm
JamesHughes wrote:
Let's assume a new supersonic airliner would cost more to develop that a normal airliner - I think that is a safe assumption as there would be quite a bit of new tech required)


Ah, but there is a crucial nuance you're missing: It would cost Company A more to develop a supersonic airliner than the same company to develop a subsonic airliner, but that DOES NOT mean it necessarily costs Company A more to develop the supersonic plane than it would cost Company B to develop the subsonic plane. SpaceX developed an entirely new rocket family and launch infrastructure for less than the cost Boeing and Lockheed-Martin typically sink into minor incremental improvements on their existing systems - another industry where real progress has failed to occur in decades. An aviation company that operates like SpaceX could plausibly achieve similar results.

JamesHughes wrote:
The Airbus 380 cost €11 billion (about $12B) up to the first plane. And that's a pretty standard airliner. They cost about $389M each to buy. So Airbus need to sell at least 60 (probably nearer 100) to even get slightly near making a profit. I do not see a market for 60 SS airliners. There were only 20 passenger Concorde's for example.


There's a basic problem with relying on the cost profile of companies that haven't made major investments in fundamental progress in generations. Their prices reflect the limitations of the specific hardware they insist on clinging to, not an intrinsic property of technology itself. This idea that better technology costs more is a relatively new thing, and runs counter to pretty much all of modern history until a few decades ago when anything new had to get the approval of a risk-averse oligopoly to be implemented.

JamesHughes wrote:
Even if Musk could halve that to $5B, or even quarter it to $2.5B, that still a lot more than he has ever spent on SpaceX. In fact, he couldn't afford it, and the returns would be rubbish, and not start appearing for 15 years.


Here too, it's just not valid to rely on the cost and profit numbers of a moribund industry that's spent decades sucking legacy hardware dry of every last ounce of value. A real investment in a fundamental technological advance (like SpaceX), coupled with a credible market strategy for up-scaling production and down-scaling cost (like Tesla), could reset the economic context and achieve a complete different set of numbers.

JamesHughes wrote:
Airliners cost much more than rockets.


But is that definitively the case, or only the case because Boeing has been adding baroque incremental improvements on to the same technology for decades instead of taking the next step? When companies won't invest in new technology, they just load up old technology with bells and whistles to delude customers that what they're selling isn't the same crap rotting in junkyards all over the world. In the automotive world, there is very credible reason to believe that EVs are eventually going to end up a lot cheaper than gasoline cars ever were or ever could be AND faster AND safer AND more efficient, and I don't think anyone can honestly say that's implausible for the aviation industry in terms of supersonic aircraft vs. today's subsonic tubs.

The Concorde is 1960s technology. Let me repeat that: 1960s technology. This is 2012. It's been half a century. Repeat: Half a century. I dismiss on its face any claim that a supersonic plane couldn't be made much more cheaply (both fixed costs and operating costs) today as a first attempt, let alone what could be accomplished iteratively.

As to what Elon Musk could afford, I wasn't saying he should drop what he's doing now and start up an aviation company - obviously he should do the more important things first. Should he succeed at those things, his resources would not be a limiting factor. So I'm not worried about that. But even if it's not him, it should be someone with the both the resources and talent.

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Post Re: Apart from EVs, rockets, and solar panels...   Posted on: Mon May 14, 2012 9:12 am
All your replies rely on SpaceX being able to do airliners MUCH cheaper.

Which I took in to account, by saying they could perhaps do it in half the cost, or even less. Unfortunately, that's still a colossal amount of $. And I doubt they could do that - after all, they still need to conform to the same regulations, which is where a lot of the cost arises.

Re: Concorde. Yes, 60's technology. Yes, we now have modern technology. And yet no-one has come up with a replacement. Why is that?


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