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posted by martyb on Thursday November 30 2017, @10:11PM   Printer-friendly

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) believes that SpaceX will realize significant cost savings with reusable boosters (archive) without needing to launch them ten times each — as bitter SpaceX competitor United Launch Alliance asserts:

Gerd Gruppe, a member of DLR's executive board and responsible for DLR's space program, said the agency has concluded that SpaceX is on the verge of realizing the savings it has promised from reusing first stages. "With 20 launches a year the Falcon 9 uses around 200 engines, and while their cost of refurbishment is unknown, we think SpaceX is well on the way to establishing a competitive system based on the reusability" of the rocket's first stage, Gruppe said here Oct. 24 at the Space Tech Expo conference.

Not everyone is so sure. Leslie Kovacs, executive branch director at United Launch Alliance (ULA), said ULA has concluded that SpaceX needs to refly Falcon 9 first stages 10 times each to make reusability pay. "The question of reusability is not a technical problem. It boils down to an economic problem," Kovacs siad here Oct. 24. "Our internal analysis shows that if you are going to do that [reuse the first stage], the break-even point is about 10 times. You have to bring back that first stage 10 times for it to be economically beneficial for you."

Meanwhile, SpaceX has thrown the future of the European commercial launch provider Arianespace into doubt. Although Arianespace plans to launch its cheaper Ariane 6 rocket in 2020, it may not be able to compete with SpaceX's reusable rockets even with European subsidies (which Germany is reluctant to provide):

In what was likely an unexpected question during a Nov. 19 interview with Europe 1 radio, French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire was asked if SpaceX meant the death of Ariane. "Death? I'm not sure I'd say that. But I am certain of the threat," Le Maire said. "I am worried." Le Maire cited figures that are far from proven — including a possible 80% reduction in the already low SpaceX Falcon 9 launch price once the benefits of reusability are realized.

SpaceX has raised an additional $100 million, valuing the company at $21.5 billion. This is not much different from the valuation in July.

One analyst has joked that Elon Musk will reach Mars before Tesla, which has been burning cash and struggling to meet production targets, becomes profitable:

"Tesla stock is an extreme bet on the future," said [Frank] Schwope. "The share development depends on the transformation of the company from a small premium manufacturer with five-digit sales figures to a mass manufacturer with figures in the six-digit or millions range. We don't see Tesla as a tough competitor of the established automakers, but rather as a trailblazer that will push long-established companies to boost their performance."

Lastly, a former SpaceX intern thinks that Musk is Satoshi Nakamoto, inventor of Bitcoin. Musk denies it.


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  • (Score: 2) by frojack on Thursday November 30 2017, @10:39PM (2 children)

    by frojack (1554) on Thursday November 30 2017, @10:39PM (#603689) Journal

    SpaceX can save even more money if they just follow the Rat Rod [tumblr.com] crowd, and forget about repainting everything every time, and just paint what has to be painted for metal protection. (Some paints are ablative or corrosion protection and serve a purpose other than looking good).

    Probably customers want to see a pretty rocket if they are going to launch something. Nobody cares how much graffiti or rusted paint is on a boxcar hauling their precious stuff but nobody wants to see a rocket looking shabby.

    Still, I'd be interested in exactly just what does need to be refurbished between flights. Other than the fuel tanks and pump systems needing purge and reset, there isn't much in a booster besides the engines that seems to the untrained eye something that might need a look.

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by bob_super on Thursday November 30 2017, @11:04PM

    by bob_super (1357) on Thursday November 30 2017, @11:04PM (#603708)

    Considering the weight added by painting such a big surface, I would bet the paint has a good reason the be there.
    With RTLS, they may save a bit on the corrosion compared to the barges, but they're still right on the ocean, loading super-cold stuff under bright southern sun.

    The refurbishment bill will drop a bit if they find a way to avoid having fires on landing, as was clearly visible in the last two.

  • (Score: 1) by ElizabethGreene on Friday December 01 2017, @04:01PM

    by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Friday December 01 2017, @04:01PM (#603941) Journal

    The Blue origin guys didn't repaint their recycled (sub-orbital) rockets, so the idea has at least some merit. It was cool to see the rocket a little banged-up and dirty from being to space a half-dozen times.