Space X proposes fully reusable launch system

So we've been talking about space junk and the cost of going into space (that the Chinese can do it more cheaply), so it's seems synergistic that at the same time that China was launching it's first space module, Space X announces it's newest development--a fully reusable launch system.

Why is this a big deal?  If it can be done, they will cut production costs.  According to SpaceX founder Elon Musk, a Falcon 9 costs $50 to $60 million, but only $200,000 is for fuel.  The rest is the rocket itself.  

Musk also said that although they are working on this system, they are continuing with the older system.  So, this new idea is not slowing down their progress.  Incidentally, their first launch to the ISS has been delayed until around January because of the Soyuz failure.  NASA wants to make sure the ISS is fully manned before sending the Dragon capsule up for the first time.  Also, NASA is insisting on an escape module in case the astronauts have to abandon the dragon in-flight. (The Shuttle had no such ability, but the Gemini capsules did.)  That's going to add a couple of years to their manned-flight ability, which is why most reports say manned by 2015 although SpaceX says it's ready to ferry now.

Here's a SpaceX press release about how it can beat China in a space race, BTW.  I doubt they'll be alone in this for long.  Several other companies are on the rise as well.  I promise I'll be looking into them, too.

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS


Walt said...

Two questions that bear on whether the reusable launch system makes economic sense is how much it's going to cost for turn around (i.e.: refurbishing the bird, refueling it, and other incidentals) and the length of time between launches. The last is effected by recovery time (yes, it lands back at the pad, but it still takes time), refurbishment and fueling time, and weather delays. If SpaceX can keep the price down consistently to the neighborhood of a half to three-quarters of a million dollars (U.S.), they should make money hand over fist.

Karina Fabian said...

well, you're assuming that there's only one rocket and they have to pause to refurbish it before using it again. I believe they plan to have several, so that while they are refurbishing one (or two or three at different stages), they are launching with the next one. They also intend to use their non-reusibles in the interim, so it's pretty safe to assume that they will fade these out as they get more reusables. Their business plan calls for a launch a month and right now, the news is saying the problem may be more finding that much business as whether or not they will have the rockets.

Can't say what the refurb will cost, but it's got to be cheaper than buidling new ones every time. It might be a slightly bigger front-end cost as they build them, but then again, they'd build reusables and not expendables.

Post a Comment