After 25 Years, Military Told to Move From Expendable to Reusable Rockets

DooKey

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Congress is ordering the military to use reusable rockets whenever possible and they have to include the use of such vehicles in solicitation of launch contracts. Further, everyone knows SpaceX has been the champion of reusable rockets and has launched missions to the ISS as well as military satellites into orbit. This change could significantly fatten the bottom line for SpaceX since they are the only game in town that can meet that kind of contractual requirement. It's good to see Congress is on the ball for once and U.S. taxpayers will start to get better bang for the buck from the military space program. Way to go Congress and SpaceX.

The conference report from the US House and Senate calls for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program of the Department of Defense, commonly known as the EELV program, to be named the "National Security Space Launch program" as of March 1, 2019. No longer will the military rely solely on expendable rockets.
 

PaulP

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I'm sure we'll see some postings soon about how this is just "moar government subsidies for Elon", ignoring the fact that SpaceX charges less than anybody else. And with reuse of boosters (and eventually shrouds), they will continue to drive costs lower.
 

XJJack

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I'm sure we'll see some postings soon about how this is just "moar government subsidies for Elon", ignoring the fact that SpaceX charges less than anybody else. And with reuse of boosters (and eventually shrouds), they will continue to drive costs lower.
This lower cost is false. They are eating the costs right now to push an agenda and we are swallowing. It costs more to reuse then to build a new one.
 

novaflare

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I'm sure we'll see some postings soon about how this is just "moar government subsidies for Elon", ignoring the fact that SpaceX charges less than anybody else. And with reuse of boosters (and eventually shrouds), they will continue to drive costs lower.
My response to that who cares? So what the reusable vs 1 time use are more expensive upfront and they can be lost as we seen the over all net effect is less money needing to be spent in this area over time. That means 1 of 2 things 1 tax reduction or 2 taking the money saved and moving it to other areas. Maybe our guys who serve get a boost to their income or better protection on the ground etc. If elon profits from it awesome that is sort of what owning a company is about. People like to cry allot about nothing.
 

novaflare

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Interesting take. Do you have a link?

I call BS on it costing more to reuse. Like you say lets see a link. I mean ok i suppose elon could have extra sensors debug code and other stuff in there that makes reuse more expensive for now but if he is eating that cost then ok so what. Once all is said and done if that is the case then it can not cost more to re fuel and re use the booster period.
 

DNMock

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I'm sure we'll see some postings soon about how this is just "moar government subsidies for Elon", ignoring the fact that SpaceX charges less than anybody else. And with reuse of boosters (and eventually shrouds), they will continue to drive costs lower.

I too would like to see what you are basing that conclusion on.
 

mdburkey

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Regardless of anyone's feelings on Elon Musk or whether or not this will drive business to SpaceX, the point is that SpaceX has proved that reusable rockets are possible and make sense. This is essentially a warning shot from Congress that other companies like Boeing had better be taking note and updating their future design plans accordingly.
 

Dekoth-E-

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This lower cost is false. They are eating the costs right now to push an agenda and we are swallowing. It costs more to reuse then to build a new one.

I like how someone with 4 posts decides to say something like this and then fail to provide even a single shred of proof. I'm not the biggest musk fan out there but even I question anyone claiming that disposable is ever cheaper than something that can be reused. Smells like Bullshit to me.
 

mdburkey

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This lower cost is false. They are eating the costs right now to push an agenda and we are swallowing. It costs more to reuse then to build a new one.

I call troll on this one. Getting nervous about your Boeing stock?

The time and effort required for the refurbishing process on the Falcon 9 continues to grow shorter and less involved with each launch as they continue to tweak and improve their designs. The manufacturing of the Merlin rocket engines themselves are a large percentage of the cost and being able to reuse them alone saves a large chunk of change, even with refurbishment. When you see the improvements in the Block 5 design, the vast majority of which were all aimed at shortening the refurbishment time and lowering the maintenance cost, it gets even harder to question SpaceX's success (especially when you realize that the eventual aim of the Block 5 is to reduce refurbishment times to the point that the booster could be launched one day, given a quick checkout, and then potentially relaunch it within 24 hours..... they aren't there yet, but their rate of progress has been nothing short of amazing thus far).
 

vegeta535

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I like how someone with 4 posts decides to say something like this and then fail to provide even a single shred of proof. I'm not the biggest musk fan out there but even I question anyone claiming that disposable is ever cheaper than something that can be reused. Smells like Bullshit to me.
I can see a resuable one cost a substantial amount more make. So unless it gets destroyed/lost it is still a savings long term.
 
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PaulP

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I too would like to see what you are basing that conclusion on.
It's logical and based on the history of technology. The first airplanes and automobiles required the engines to be rebuilt after a small number of hours of use. That made them economically unattractive for broad use. Then they improved them such that they could be used for many hours with only minimal maintenance and that changed the economic model completely. Sure they cost a little more upfront, but the reuseability more than made up for that. Same thing is true for one-time use batteries versus rechargeables in consumer products. There is no reason to believe that reuse in spaceflight would be the exception to the rule. Are you willing to argue that it is?
 
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PaulP

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This lower cost is false. They are eating the costs right now to push an agenda and we are swallowing. It costs more to reuse then to build a new one.
It only initially costs more to make a reuseable version. Over time the cost savings overwhelm this difference; sometimes even after the first reuse, although in this case it may be the second one.
 

NickM

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This lower cost is false. They are eating the costs right now to push an agenda and we are swallowing. It costs more to reuse then to build a new one.

Please show us your work-include references and citations.
 

Spidey329

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I like how someone with 4 posts decides to say something like this and then fail to provide even a single shred of proof. I'm not the biggest musk fan out there but even I question anyone claiming that disposable is ever cheaper than something that can be reused. Smells like Bullshit to me.

My guess is that they're comparing the cost to build one reuseable rocket and launching it once versus a disposable rocket that is (naturally) launched just once.

The proper quick math is:

Cost to construct a reusable rocket + cost( n ) for refurbishment / n.

Where n = the number of launches.

Vs. Cost to construct a disposable rocket / 1.
 

CombatChrisNC

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My guess is that they're comparing the cost to build one reuseable rocket and launching it once versus a disposable rocket that is (naturally) launched just once.

The proper quick math is:

Cost to construct a reusable rocket + cost( n ) for refurbishment / n.

Where n = the number of launches.

Vs. Cost to construct a disposable rocket / 1.


GTFO with that 'math' and 'logic'. It doesn't belong here.
 

SvenBent

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This lower cost is false. They are eating the costs right now to push an agenda and we are swallowing. It costs more to reuse then to build a new one.

When one random duded on the internet says something without backing it up with explanations, argument or any kind of evidence support.. then it MUST be the truth.

You claim would be interesting.
Your method of posting is worthless though.
 

seanreisk

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I'm surprised at this announcement. I would have thought that with all the political clout carried by Boeing, Lockheed, Rocketdyne, Northrup and all the senate backers of NASA's SLS, congress wouldn't have opened its mouth and seemingly backed the dark horse, SpaceX.

But if I change the settings on my tinfoil hat from 'conspiracy' to 'trending', I'm thinking this isn't about backing SpaceX, this is about upcoming contracts for Space Command. The US has talked about Space Command for a long time, but so far Space Command has only dabbled in military satellites and tossing the X-37 into space to confuse everything. At some point Space Command has to lay down real military plans, and I'm thinking the first of those is how to replenish military satellites in orbit if we ever go to war with a space-fairing nation. If the enemy takes out our satellites and leaves our military blind, Space Command can't wait for private companies to assemble and test a new rocket - they need a stockpile of satellites and they need to replace them faster than the enemy can destroy them. In a high-attrition space battle the US would need to switch from large, long-term communication and imaging satellites (that are great targets) to many small, stealthy short-term satellites that will be less efficient but a lot more difficult to remove from the sky.

If Space Command is going to do this you can bet that they're thinking they need their own rockets. And until now, none of the major rocket manufacturers were making products that looked similar to an aircraft that the Air Force could maintain and launch on their own schedule. But SpaceX is making exactly what looks like a vehicle that Space Command could buy, maintain, and use/re-use on their cadence. At some point, Space Command is going to issue a (secret) Request For Proposals for launch vehicles that will fill Space Commands needs. And I would bet any amount of money that until SpaceX came along, none of the vendors replying to that RFP would have offered reuseable rockets. Hell, the military has been paying ULA $800 million a year just to keep one rocket ready for launch in case there's a need. SpaceX has already proven that they can have any number of pre-used boosters sitting around ready for use, and all for the cost of storage. They've already practiced taking a booster out of storage, fitting a second stage, and prepping for launch, and they know they can do it in 24 hours if needed. Their launch platform, StrongBack, isn't as complicated as NASA's launch towers, and the Falcon 9 is transportable over US highways.

That's what Space Command wants. They just want to do it with Air Force personnel, not SpaceX personnel.

NASA's COTS program awarded SpaceX a development contract worth $390 million to build a vehicle that could deliver supplies to the ISS. SpaceX showed that they could take that challenge, meet the deadlines, and deliver a vehicle on-time and under budget. I wouldn't be surprised if the Air Force offers SpaceX a similar development contract to explore recovering the Falcon's second stage. Especially since Musk has been thinking about that anyway.
 
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DooKey

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I'm surprised at this announcement. I would have thought that with all the political clout carried by Boeing, Lockheed, Rocketdyne, Northrup and all the senate backers of NASA's SLS, congress wouldn't have opened its mouth and seemingly backed the dark horse, SpaceX.

But if I change the settings on my tinfoil hat from 'conspiracy' to 'trending', I'm thinking this isn't about backing SpaceX, this is about upcoming contracts for Space Command. The US has talked about Space Command for a long time, but so far Space Command has only dabbled in military satellites and tossing the X-37 into space to confuse everything. At some point Space Command has to lay down real military plans, and I'm thinking the first of those is how to replenish military satellites in orbit if we ever go to war with a space-fairing nation. Space Command can't wait around for private companies to make a new rocket so they can get a replacement satellite up and communicating - they need a stockpile of satellites and they need to replenish them better than the enemy can destroy them. In a high attrition space battle the US could easily switch from large, long-term communication and imaging satellites (that are great targets) to many small, stealthy short-term satellites that will be less efficient but a lot more expensive to clean from the sky.

If Space Command is going to implement this idea, you can bet that they're thinking they need their own rockets. And until now, none of the major rocket manufacturers were making products that looked similar to an aircraft that the Air Force could maintain and launch on their own schedule. But SpaceX IS making exactly what looks like a vehicle that Space Command could buy, maintain, and use/re-use on their cadence. At some point, Space Command is going to issue a (secret) Request For Proposals for launch vehicles that will fill Space Commands needs. And I would bet any amount of money that until SpaceX came along, none of the vendors replying to that RFP would have offered reuseable rockets. Hell, the military has been paying ULA $800 million a year just to keep ONE rocket ready for launch in case there's a need. SpaceX has already proven that they can have any number of pre-used boosters sitting around ready for use, and all for the cost of storage. They've already practiced taking a booster out of storage, fitting a second stage, and prepping for launch, and they know they can do it in 24 hours if needed.

That's what Space Command wants. They just want to do it with Air Force personnel, not SpaceX personnel.

NASA's COTS program awarded SpaceX a development contract worth $390 million to build a vehicle that could deliver supplies to the ISS. SpaceX showed that they could take that challenge, meet the deadlines, and deliver a vehicle on-time and under budget. I wouldn't be surprised if the Air Force offers SpaceX a similar development contract to explore recovering the Falcon's second stage. Especially since Musk has been thinking about that anyway.

Good analysis. I'd like to add that I could see Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic entering into the race as well. I especially like the VG tech because it can be used anywhere there's a runway. Just increase the size of the mothership and the spacecraft a little bit and you could launch emergency satellites into LEO pretty quickly.

I can't wait to see where we are in another 10 years. Competition is going to speed up rocket development to a point we haven't seen since the 60's.
 

lcpiper

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Congress is ordering the military to use reusable rockets whenever possible and they have to include the use of such vehicles in solicitation of launch contracts. Further, everyone knows SpaceX has been the champion of reusable rockets and has launched missions to the ISS as well as military satellites into orbit. This change could significantly fatten the bottom line for SpaceX since they are the only game in town that can meet that kind of contractual requirement. It's good to see Congress is on the ball for once and U.S. taxpayers will start to get better bang for the buck from the military space program. Way to go Congress and SpaceX.

The conference report from the US House and Senate calls for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program of the Department of Defense, commonly known as the EELV program, to be named the "National Security Space Launch program" as of March 1, 2019. No longer will the military rely solely on expendable rockets.

I think this is way too simplistic of an analysis of impact. Of course, saying that SpaceX could greatly benefit is certainly possible, but truth of the matter is, it could simply lead to a hell of a lot more money being spent in R&D by other companies to stay in the game. For instance, companies that compete for these military launch programs now have everything to gain and much to loose. They have to step up or willingly move aside.

At the same time, the words "whenever possible" don't really mean whenever possible. What they do mean is that studies have to be done before the RFPs for new contracts go out to decide if reusable is going to be beneficial, operationally and financially, and if not, a report has to be created and sent to congress explaining why reusable is not desirable. For at least awhile, it could turn out that although it seems like SpaceX could throw something together, they might not actually be able to show that they have the resources to meet the contract requirements even though they are the only reusable game currently running, and that means the contract would not have to use reusable launch vehicles. Maybe next contract. Such things could easily give these other contractors ample time to step up their game.

I'm not saying that this is a bad thing and there is a good chance that it'll lead to progress. I'm just saying that making big predictions on the outcome is not so cut and dry. Might happen, might not.

I will start watching SpaceX on the stock market though.

Oh, and H.R. 5155 has not been signed into law, so it's not a done deal yet.

P.S. Because SpaceX remains a private company, there is no publicly traded stock option, but there might still be a way for you to invest in Elon's dream. But you may not like it and at today's price of over $1,250 USD a share, it ain't cheap. Of course, a %20 bump is a %20 bump, even if you only own 3 shares.

https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/08/19/how-to-invest-in-spacex-stock-theres-just-1-way.aspx

Thanks to Google's 2015 investment in SpaceX, Google parent Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) now owns a 7.5% stake in SpaceX. As a result, it is now possible to invest in SpaceX -- by investing in its part-owner, Alphabet. (As a bonus, you also own a whole lot of Google, YouTube, the Android operating system, and a nascent self-driving car project besides.)
 
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lcpiper

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Actually, I think I'd rather build a manufacturing plant in space that can make whatever you want and launch it from there, robotic and all.

You can use a reusable shuttle launch to stock it with raw materials, mine to moon for some as well. 3D printers gone wild to produce components and an assembly line that leads straight to the launch bays for deployment. Make the reusable launch vehicles into orbital taxis, fire them out with a payload that is delivered and the launch vehicle just circle the planet and returns to the plant to be reused again.

I mean if your going to jump, jump big.
 

sirmonkey1985

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This lower cost is false. They are eating the costs right now to push an agenda and we are swallowing. It costs more to reuse then to build a new one.

you're 100% right on the block 4 first stage since it was only designed to do 2 launches.. with the block 5 first stage that's where the cost savings starts since it's designed to do 10 launches.. it'll still be some time before the F9 heavy actually pays for it's self but it'll get there.


ultimately though while this benefits spaceX in the short/medium term i think this is more of a push at Boeing/ULA to get their shit together and upgrade the Delta IV rocket.. they've talked about Vulkan which is suppose to be a partially re-usable launch platform but that won't be for another 2 years and will still cost more than F9 heavy.
 
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Verge

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I'm sure we'll see some postings soon about how this is just "moar government subsidies for Elon", ignoring the fact that SpaceX charges less than anybody else. And with reuse of boosters (and eventually shrouds), they will continue to drive costs lower.

I'm usually saying that, but I won't in this case.


You can bet the military will bring those up in the pricing negotiations though.... well... actually maybe they won't. Pricing negotiations isn't their strong suite.
 

sirmonkey1985

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I'm usually saying that, but I won't in this case.


You can bet the military will bring those up in the pricing negotiations though.... well... actually maybe they won't. Pricing negotiations isn't their strong suite.

since their option are spaceX, ULA(no re-usable rocket), and russia.. spaceX has them by the balls for now. i had actually hoped there would be more competition on the private side by now which makes it amazing how far spaceX has gotten in such a short time.
 

workshop35

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More changes are coming to the industry it seems. ULA and its subcontractors build the best stuff around but that reliabilty is pricey. If they could apply their experience to reusables they would blow spacex out of the water. Too bad it would probably cost 10 times as much and take 10 times aa long to build.
 
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Next, re-usable warheads will be required.
Haha, that was my first thought. I gots me reusable nuke right here, just waiting for a reusable launch booster. After all, nukeyaler weapons aren't the gift that keeps on giving enough anymore.

That being said, I can imagine a technology where warheads are boosted into their ballistic paths by a launcher that detaches and lands again.
 

knowom

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Actually, I think I'd rather build a manufacturing plant in space that can make whatever you want and launch it from there, robotic and all.

You can use a reusable shuttle launch to stock it with raw materials, mine to moon for some as well. 3D printers gone wild to produce components and an assembly line that leads straight to the launch bays for deployment. Make the reusable launch vehicles into orbital taxis, fire them out with a payload that is delivered and the launch vehicle just circle the planet and returns to the plant to be reused again.

I mean if your going to jump, jump big.
So like Quake 2 double jump? I mean we are talking rockets right!?
 

katanaD

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. I especially like the VG tech because it can be used anywhere there's a runway. Just increase the size of the mothership and the spacecraft a little bit and you could launch emergency satellites into LEO pretty quickly.


you mean.. like this craft??

http://www.stratolaunch.com/

:cool:

its being built in the same place, mojave, that scaled composites, aka virgin galactic, is building and testing their stuff.
 

TheOne&OnlyZeke

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Damn it. I came in here thinking "how the fuck can they reuse air to ground or air to air"
maybe tie a string onto the back and just as its about to hit, a little bit breaks off and blows shit up and the main booster part gets wound back on on a fishing rod

:D
 

Jagger100

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Interesting take. Do you have a link?
Do you to the contrary?

Tbh they both have their kickback schemes. The winner kickbacked best.
The Space Shuttle was "re-usable" but the cost per mission by the time it was all said and done was magnitudes higher than promised.
 

DooKey

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Do you to the contrary?

Tbh they both have their kickback schemes. The winner kickbacked best.
The Space Shuttle was "re-usable" but the cost per mission by the time it was all said and done was magnitudes higher than promised.

The Space Shuttle was a terrible craft. Too many design compromises to save cost.
 

CombatChrisNC

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The Space Shuttle was a terrible craft. Too many design compromises to save cost.

Pork. Example: It cost more to recover and refurbish the solid fuel boosters after each launch than it did to simply make new ones. But they kept on doing it because Congress only calls something pork if it's someone else's district.
 

katanaD

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But they kept on doing it because Congress only calls something pork if it's someone else's district.


and part of the problem was.. the shuttle program, as with most NASA projects, get spread around to as many congressional districts as possible, which drives up costs and logistics
 

lcpiper

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So like Quake 2 double jump? I mean we are talking rockets right!?

No, I mean you run something like the new reusable rockets and shuttle type systems to boost raw materials to the station, and the station uses separate reusable rockets like taxis that launch from the orbital station which is already in orbit and boosts the payloads to where it needs to go and continues circling around the globe to return to the station and be reused.

In the meantime, the station can create new satellites because they are manufactured there on the station. You get a new design, new software, etc, it's can all be built right there because 3D printers and robotic assemble lines do it all.
 
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