January 08, 2016

SpaceX hopes to make history again on Jan. 17 with a rocket landing on its drone ship

SpaceX hopes to make history again on Jan. 17 by landing a Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship at sea after launching a payload into orbit. SpaceX confirmed to NBC News that it would be making the attempt; the news was earlier reported by space journalist Charles Lurio on Twitter.

This launch will take off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, carrying NASA's Jason-3 satellite. Jason-3 carries instruments to monitor the ocean's surface, collecting information about circulation patterns and perhaps rising sea levels.

The commercial spaceflight company succeeded Dec. 21 in making its first-stage rocket, which is usually discarded after reaching space, return safely to Earth and land upright at a predetermined location nears its launch pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

The Spacex Stage that was landed in December will be kept for Museum Display

"I think we'll probably keep this one on the ground because it's quite unique, it's the first one we brought back," Musk said in a conference call following December's successful landing. The company will "just confirm through tests that it could fly again and then put it somewhere to display."

Here are the estimated costs for one use and partially reusable and more reusable Spacex rockets.

One use Falcon 9 rocket launch cost $1,860/lb
One use Falcon Heavy launch cost $1000/lb
The above costs are from Wikipedia and the Spacex website.

First stage reusable Falcon 9 launch cost $1200/lb
First stage reusable Falcon Heavy launch cost $600/lb

The cost of fuel and the Spacex rockets has been repeated a few times.

Fuel is only 0.3 percent of the total cost of a rocket, with construction materials accounting for no more than 2 percent of the total cost, which for the Falcon 9 is about $60 million.

Musk said that a rocket's first stage accounts for three-quarters of its total price tag, so a vehicle with a reusable first stage can be produced at far less cost — assuming the hardware is fully and rapidly reusable.

A reusable rocket stage would be able to launch about 80% of the cargo of a one use rocket. The weight of fuel is needed to fly the stage back and the extra weight of landing legs and other modifications for reuse have to be carried.

Two launches with second reusing the first stage.
Capital cost - 1.25 times the cost of one full rocket.
0.6% for fuel
Launch cargo 1.6 times the cargo of one rocket.
78% of the cost of a single use rocket

Three launches with reuse of the first stage twice.
Capital cost - 1.5 times the cost of one rocket
0.9% for fuel
Launch cargo 2.4 times the cargo of one rocket
62.5% of the cost of a single use rocket

50% of the cost with five launches and four reuses of the first stage [$930 per pound for the 9 v1.1 and $500 per pound for the heavy]

Reusable first stage falcon heavy [with about twenty reuses] can get down to about $350/lb [one third the one use price].

Reusable (about fifteen times) Falcon 9 rocket launch cost all stages reusable $100/lb [all three stages of a falcon heavy, should get to about ten times cheaper]

SOURCES - Spacex, Twitter, NBC News

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