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comment by OftenBen

That's an expensive explosion.

Or maybe not. At this scale of cost I get a twitch and nothing makes sense.

user-inactivated  ·  3105 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Let's see if I can do this.

A flight from Chicago to Atlanta is about $100 on Southwest. Southwest uses Boeing 737's, that run $50-$80 MIllion depending on what options you get. This is about the same as a Falcon 9 Launch, rumored to cost $60-70 million per launch.

So, keep that in your head a second. Chicago to Atlanta is about $100 per passenger, and a 737 sits 186 passengers in a max, short haul, configuration. Let's say 180 to keep the math simple. This plane can make three of these runs in a 24 hour period. That is $54,000 is airfare in a 24 hour period. This is not including the costs of fuel, pilots, grounds personnel, luggage handlers etc. I have zero clue how much of that is operating profit and how much is paying to keep the plane in the air. There are 365 days in a year, and assuming a perfect flight history, no weather cancellations, etc, my math says that you get just shy of $19 million in income from this plane in a year. Over a period of 10-15 years this plane can generate $250 million in operating income. Again this is not profit, just income.

Now, imagine this same flight is on a plane that we crash into the runway and can only use once. Those same 180 paying passengers now have to pony up the $50 million for the cost of the plane EACH TIME THEY FLY. You cannot amortize the costs of flight over a decade. Each plane ticket now runs north of $250,000. The plane cannot be recovered at the end of the flight, it cannot be salvaged and then for your return flight you have to wait for the airline to assemble the next plane in Atlanta for your flight home.

Space flight now throws the plane away every time it is used. This is why sending stuff into orbit is so expensive. The hope with SpaceX and Blue Origin and Sierra et al, is to reuse the rockets. Just like reusing the planes in aviation makes the tickets affordable, using a highly engineered piece of airframe more than once has the potential to drop the costs per launch by a factor of 10-100 depending on who you talk to. If you can get the cost of launching stuff into orbit down by half, that opens up a HUGE market that is now cost prohibitive. The Jason-3 satellite paid roughly $82 million for the launch on a mission that is wourth roughly $250 million in total. What if for that same $82 million, they could afford a bigger rocket to make the satellite larger? OR pay for two launches as the second satellite could be made from spare parts for not much additional costs? The Europa Mission being planned out right now is budgeting $250 million in launch costs, not including the spacecraft, ground support, communication fees etc.

This is why this is so exciting. There are many, many missions that simply cannot afford to launch that a reusable launch system suddenly makes viable. And more stuff in space is a great thing.

briandmyers  ·  3105 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I believe I read that that version of the Falcon-9 was being retired anyway, and this was to be its last flight in any case. Don't quote me on that, though.

user-inactivated  ·  3105 days ago  ·  link  ·  

This was the last of the older version of the Falcon 9. This version did not superchill the propellent, had less thrust and the older avionics. One of the reasons that this flight cost NOAA less is that they got the older rocket.