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posted by n1 on Monday April 10 2017, @10:13PM   Printer-friendly
from the what-goes-up dept.

The US Air Force is open to buying rides on previously flown SpaceX rockets to put military satellites into orbit, a move expected to cut launch costs for the Pentagon, the head of the Air Force Space Command said on Thursday. [...] "I would be comfortable if we were to fly on a reused booster," General John "Jay" Raymond told reporters at the USSpace Symposium in Colorado Springs. "They've proven they can do it. ... It's going to get us to lower cost."

SpaceX has so far won three launch contracts to fly military and national security satellites - business previously awarded exclusively to United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. All those flights will take place on new Falcon 9 rockets.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 10 2017, @11:40PM (8 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 10 2017, @11:40PM (#492018)


    Over time, flight statistics will make folks will pay extra to fly on a proven but lightly used booster.

    Hopefully, ULA will decide to enter the game that they thought they owned.

    (I still want to know the state of the He tanks on the reused boosters.)

  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday April 10 2017, @11:58PM (1 child)

    by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Monday April 10 2017, @11:58PM (#492028) Journal

    If you mean slightly extra, but still less overall than what is paid today, then maybe.

    That satellite customer of SpaceX's reportedly got around a 10% discount, and that is expected to increase to 30%, and maybe a lot more in the future..

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    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 11 2017, @12:13PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 11 2017, @12:13PM (#492227)

      The prediction was that this is not just about cost, it's about launch success odds.
      Right now folks have to be paid extra to fly on a used booster.
      I predict that will be shown to be backwards.

      The cost model I was thinking about was:

      B = cost to launch a one use booster
      B/10 = cost to launch with a reusable booster
      B/8 = cost to use a reusable rooster in it's most likely success range (tested, but not worn out)

      Over time, the success records are going to make folks prefer to use a slightly used booster.
      The point is we are talking about a service that ULA can't provide even at their old school cost.
      The younger (not ready for retirement) folks at ULA need to get with the program while they still have the opportunity.

  • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Tuesday April 11 2017, @01:11AM (5 children)

    by kaszz (4211) on Tuesday April 11 2017, @01:11AM (#492049) Journal

    I don't think so. Because the cost reduction is so drastic that even a few losses can still make the bottom line beat the one time use rocket. And Space-X is working towards another 10x cost reduction to achieve the goal of Musk target of 100x cost reduction.

    Perhaps one can make cheap rocket fuel in space using solar energy and send back with returning rockets?

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by takyon on Tuesday April 11 2017, @01:38AM (3 children)

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Tuesday April 11 2017, @01:38AM (#492060) Journal

      Send rocket fuel to Earth? No, I think it will be used at refueling stations in space or to launch from lower gravity wells like the Moon.

      Imagine launching a payload to the Moon, attaching it to a set of rockets there, and then relaunching, achieving a greater velocity than could be done from Earth. New Horizons was the fastest launch at an escape velocity of 16.26 kilometers per second. With the lower gravity and lack of drag, you could launch faster from the Moon. So going from Earth to Neptune, Pluto, Planet Nine, whatever would benefit tremendously from the pit stop on the Moon, as long as you have the capability to manufacture rocket fuel using the water there.

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      • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Tuesday April 11 2017, @04:09AM (1 child)

        by kaszz (4211) on Tuesday April 11 2017, @04:09AM (#492122) Journal

        The idea would be to manufacture fuel from scratch in space on the cheap (moon ice + solar panels + accelerator?). And then send it with empty rockets returning back to earth. Kind of cabotage for space.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 11 2017, @05:29PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 11 2017, @05:29PM (#492372)

          Yeah, but Earth is at the bottom of a hole, and it costs energy to climb down the hole without lithobraking at the end. Because you have to burn more fuel to land with fuel, you only get to sell a fraction of the fuel if you return it to Earth -- and then you're competing on price with locally-produced fuel. You can sell all the fuel (or, if the fuel's generated at the bottom of another hole, e.g. lunar surface, at least more of it) if you establish on-orbit fuel depots -- and now you're competing with fuel lifted to orbit, so you get a much higher price.

          Until you have enough manufacturing capacity to fulfill all current and foreseeable fuel needs in space, it makes no sense to ship any of it to Earth, or to the bottom of any hole where fuel can be produced locally.

      • (Score: 2) by mhajicek on Tuesday April 11 2017, @04:59AM

        by mhajicek (51) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday April 11 2017, @04:59AM (#492142)

        I also predict launching rockets from the moon through electromagnetic mountain guns, so they escape with considerable velocity before burning any fuel. Hyperloop technology will help with that.

        The spacelike surfaces of time foliations can have a cusp at the surface of discontinuity. - P. Hajicek