Update on Starship Payload Capacity

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Tim Cash

Feb 16, 2024, 10:04:31 AMFeb 16
to Power Satellite Economics
All Concerned,

I do not believe the cost per Starship could ever be as low as $2 to $10 Million per LV.
Check out this report:

SpaceX on a path to eventually reduce the cost of a single flight of a fully reusable Starship rocket to less than $10 million. However, Starship is still very much a development program, and Payload estimates it currently costs around $90 million for SpaceX to build a fully stacked Starship rocket.
In my calculations at first I used $2 to $10 Million.
This time, I am using $90 Million.

We all know how enthusiastic and overly optimistic Elon is about cost,...,maybe one day?
Why cannot everyone else bring down their costs when Elon has is the $64 Million dollar question I have.  Why is his competition not developing reusable launch vehicles already?
What is wrong with them, lazy?

When we pay $3 per Pound for Hamburger, and $10 per Pound for steak, shouldn't a 2,000 Pound steer cost around $10,000??  Maybe it does, I buy Hamburger by the Pound, not by the Steer.

If tourism is a market, then we will need reusable and reliable launch vehicles to make it be affordable, at least for moi.  I do hope I live to see other rocket companies adopt Musk's strategies.
So far, NO.
NASA SBSP RD1 and RD2 Rev 3 Mission Estimates.xls

Gary barnhard

Feb 20, 2024, 5:43:11 PMFeb 20
to Tim Cash, Kevin Barry, power-satell...@googlegroups.com
Tim, et al. -

At this point, the specific numbers associated with launch costs and their relationship to market price remain illusive but the implications in substantive changes in the same can inform our choices.  We know that the expendable launch vehicle market price effectively did not change after adjustment for inflation until the advent of the SpaceX Falcon 9.  Prior to the same, most if not all rocket launches were sold based on acceptance level pricing where the availability of an operational capability with the right timing, paint color. and decals drove the market, not the market price or for that matter actual launch cost.

So if the question at hand is what are the price implications of Starship, I offer the following for your consideration.

To whit, if we postulate that the landed cost of 1 kg of mass on the Moon is X the playing field in question looks like this . . .

Order of Magnitude Reduction   Landed cost of 1 kg on the Moon Launch System Comments1,2,3,4
0 X = $1,000,000   Landed mass current cost datum
1 X/10 = $100,000    
2 X/100 = $10,000    
3 X/1000 = $1,000 Starship+Super Heavy (Tractable)
Probable design inflection point:
design for space then make it function
design for function then space rate it
4 X/10000 = $100 Starship+Super Heavy (Plausible)
<Nominal cost for a 1 kg delivery from the
Continental US to Antarctica?>

5 X/100000 = $10 Starship+Super Heavy (Aspirational)

Nominal cost for a 1 kg delivery from the
Continental US to Alaska

1 - Calculating the historical costs of going to the Moon (Apollo) is obscured if not overwhelmed by the technology development and infrastructure costs associated with the program.
2 - Calculating the current costs of landing on the Moon is complicated because it has not been done by the United States or a United States company since Apollo 17.
3 - The cost of the Astrobotics Peregrine mission is not a valid data point because it did not end up successfully landing.
4 - The cost of the Intuitive Machines IM-1 mission, assuming it lands successfully, will likely remain indeterminant since the actual breakout between reoccurring costs and the developmental cost burden has yet to be determined much less disclosed.
XISP-Inc, Gary Barnhard, gary.b...@xisp-inc.com

In my opinion what matters most is that we reach or exceed the design inflection point with respect to launch costs.
Before you reach the design inflection point reductions in cost will not a priori result in reductions in the market price of launch.
After you reach the design inflection point the potential for increased demand exceeds any advantage to be found by maintaining an artificially high market price.
This not only disrupts the status-quo market place it effectively reinvents the market place.

Gary Pearce Barnhard
President & CEO
Xtraordinary Innovative Space Partnerships, Inc. - XISP-Inc.

>>> Tim Cash <cash...@gmail.com> 2/16/2024 10:04 AM >>>

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Feb 21, 2024, 7:21:39 AMFeb 21
to Gary barnhard, power-satell...@googlegroups.com



You wrote:


> Probable design inflection point: design for space then make it function  vs.  design for function then space rate it


For the past few years, I’ve been designing low-cost equipment to operate on the lunar surface (a small science camera, and complete lunar rover systems), after spending the past >25 years designing low-cost LEO satellites, and low-cost deep-space missions (usually asteroid missions) --- i.e., all missions in the “Microspace” category (microsats, nanosats, cubesats).


It’s not so simple as “design for space” versus “design for function”. In the bad old days of the 1970s through 2000 (i.e., prior to the Microspace approach becoming well-established), there was *one* aspect of spacecraft design that fit that categorization: the specification of “EEE parts” (i.e., electrical, electronic, and electromechanical parts). In the Bigspace world starting in the 1960s, the low reliability of such parts forced space designers to use “space-rated” (“S-grade”) parts (or their military equivalent), which involved a whole system of designing parts specially for the space environment, then testing them (each and every one of them) to ensure compliance with requirements, then having a whole information infrastructure to keep track of problems with parts (on a lot level) and who was using them in what program, so that alerts could go out if a particular part from a particular batch had a problem. Very very expensive! Many Bigspace programs still use this approach.


My AMSAT buddies were pointing out in the 1990s that commercial parts had become *way* more reliable since the 1960s (for commercial reasons), and that most Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) parts were just fine for space use. The Microspace approach involves using COST parts, then doing radiation testing (at the lot level, if possible) to check that any particular part isn’t going to fall over under the total ionizing dose needed for your mission (TID rates on the lunar surface being not much different from those in LEO, i.e., 1-2 kRad/year). All the satellites/lunar equipment I’ve worked on has followed this approach, which works well.


But for space operation in general, and lunar systems in particular, at the *system* level (not the EEE-part level) you absolutely must design for the thermal environment. Very few parts of a spacecraft are happy getting to a temperature above 60-70C (batteries need rather lower temperatures), or below -30C to -40C (batteries need warmer temperatures), even when not operating (many parts and equipment items have narrower *operating* temperature ranges). But without careful design, a satellite or spacecraft or lunar-surface system can end up outside those temperature ranges --- e.g., the lunar surface itself gets to +130C at local noon anywhere near the equator, and down to -220C at night. So, while you can usually do fine selecting COTS EEE *parts*(which are what give you the desired functionality), at the overall *system* level you have to design for space --- in particular, for the specific thermal situation that your specific space system is going to find itself in. And that in turn may well restrict your choice of EEE parts further than you would otherwise prefer.


- Kieran

Tim Cash

Feb 21, 2024, 8:25:39 AMFeb 21
to k.a.c...@sympatico.ca, Gary barnhard, power-satell...@googlegroups.com
Gary, Kieran,

I really appreciate your insight into how pricing has changed over the years, especially since the micro, nano satellite resolution has taken hold.
I want to ask both of you for written references for the knowledge which you have imparted for my own learning and edification going forward with lunar development.
My understanding of EEE Parts is cursory only, and not in depth as it obviously is with both of you.
Also, the hidden costs of reproducing the Apollo program which you refer to Gary, are of interest, in how do I go forward to price lunar products, satellites for LEO, GEO, or deep space.
For example, I always assumed the pricing of low quantity space equipment was Caveat Emptor, or let the buyer beware, in other words, pay through the nose, very high mark-up costs.
When I took the NASA Numbers for Space Solar Power and worked the cost out from them, it is an exercise in comparative futility that does not matter, since SpaceX will price it's launch vehicles as a hidden cost in order to develop the Launch Vehicle Market to support his Mars Goal of a one million person colony.  The cost of which boggles the mind compared to anything, any cost system developed as yet for Apollo, or for small micro, nanosats either.
Kieran, please provide references for your writeup on EEE Parts.  I need to know much more than I do now to go the distance. I did touch on EEE Parts when I worked with NASA Goddard Engineers, they are quite knowledgeable on these topics.
By the way, my work on Defense Meteorological Satellite Program at Northrop has in fact taught me that DMSP in fact is in a high radiation total dose environment and developed their satellites for the high radiation environment, it has been stated DMSP exceeds 40,000 Rads over the lifetime, which is quite high.  The three satellites have been in operation between 13 and 17 years in their polar orbits, perhaps a record for living in a high radiation environment in earth orbit.
Thanks to both of you for pointing out the "soft" or "hard" factors in pricing for Launch Vehicle, for lunar equipment, satellites, for anything is not trivial, based on numerous factors.


Tim Cash


Gary barnhard

Feb 21, 2024, 1:49:05 PMFeb 21
to power-satell...@googlegroups.com, k.a.c...@sympatico.ca
Kieran -

Thanks for you thoughtful response and insight that you shared about the problem space.  As an engineer that has had to "design for space" as well as "design for function" in both space and terrestrial environments with varying degrees of openness I appreciate the complexities involved at many levels and even have a clue about dealing with some number of them.

Your example of "space rated EEE parts" is an excellent one that shows that a paradigm shift can and in fact has occurred.  I find it of interest that part of this is increased understanding what the interactions actually are, improvements in fault identification and mitigation capabilities, including the ability allow for an evolution to virtualized functions.

In my perhaps skewed view of reality, the "Design for Function" paradigm does not ignore the operational environment, it treats it as another set of design constraints to be addressed after you have determined what functional requirements that you must satisfy.

Alternatively, the "Design for Space" paradigm presumes a scarcity of resources across most if not all system level resources that must be addressed first by constraining the solution space first and then determining what functional requirements that you can satisfy.

Arguably, the best designs should trade well under both paradigms and embody the parsimonious use of resources to achieve the Quality of Service (i.e., performance, availability, and security/safety) to satisfice (i.e., be both satisfactory and sufficient) as well as the scar necessary to meet the growth of requirements with the technological window of the fielded systems.

- Gary 

Gary Pearce Barnhard
President & CEO
Xtraordinary Innovative Space Partnerships, Inc. - XISP-Inc.

>>> <k.a.c...@sympatico.ca> 2/21/2024 7:21 AM >>>


Feb 21, 2024, 2:49:08 PMFeb 21
to Gary barnhard, power-satell...@googlegroups.com

When I was a young engineer, I bought into the prevalent attitude (which was pushed by space agencies and their big contractors) that there was some sort of magic, some “secret sauce” associated with designing spacecraft; and I looked forward to being indoctrinated into those mysteries, to becoming part of the “space engineering priesthood.”


My career path took me into the Microspace world, where I found out that myth was rubbish. It turns out that the key to space engineering is the same as for *all* engineering: decide what your mission objective is, then capture that in a set of requirements, and a design that meets those requirements. In the Bigspace world that is mainly top-down (requirements first), in the Microspace world it is much more bottom-up (candidate design first), but in both cases you certainly have to account for the space environment, and in particular to overcome design reflexes that are based on terrestrial engineering solutions (e.g., in space, getting rid of heat is always a big problem, because there’s no air around you to dump heat into).


“Bigspace” became toxic by learning the wrong lessons from Apollo --- “failure is not an option” is one of those, if you misinterpret it (which all space agencies, the USAF and all the big space contractors did, from 1970 onwards, with only *some* walking back f that in recent years, thanks entirely to the persistent badgering from Microspace people). The Bigspace failure was in incorporating more and more requirements that weren’t actually necessary, in order to reduce more and more the *perceived risk* (not the *actual* risk) of any given program. This traces back to the fact that most space spending is by government agencies, and civil servants are highly incentivized to make sure that if anything goes wrong, it’s not seen as being their fault. Loading on more and more risk-aversion practices into every program gives them more and more things they can point to when something goes wrong, to “prove” that it wasn’t *their* fault --- “look, we required the contractor to carry out endless, tremendously expensive failure modes, effects and criticality analyses, to prove that the mission would have a 99.5% probability of success!” (This causing the actual cost of the program to inflate by 10x, causing it to be a financial failure right from the start, whether it subsequently “succeeded” or not --- yes Hubble and JWST, I’m talking about you.)


Norm Augustine’s book, “Augustine’s Laws” dissects many of the behaviours in government aerospace contracting that lead to these sorts of outcomes. Highly recommended!


Rick Fleeter’s books (The Logic of Microspace, and Micro Space Craft) outline a bunch of ways which those in the Microspace field found to avoid those sorts of outcomes. Highly recommended!


My buddy Peter and I wrote a paper in 2000 that summarized the “death spiral” that Bigspace had been trapped in for the previous several decades, and a few of the main points from Fleeter’s books (and from our AMSAT buddies’ experience and advice) showing how the Microspace approach gave us a way to step off the death-spiral, onto a virtuous cycle instead. You can find it here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264346445_The_Microsat_Way_in_Canada. 24 years old now, but the lessons haven’t aged…


- Kieran

Keith Henson

Feb 21, 2024, 4:18:20 PMFeb 21
to k.a.c...@sympatico.ca, Gary barnhard, power-satell...@googlegroups.com

> (e.g., in space, getting rid of heat is always a big problem, because there’s no air around you to dump heat into).


I have been involved with space radiators since Drexler and I wrote the paper on dust-filled radiators in 1979.  ( Henson, H.K., and K.E. Drexler: Gas Entrained Solids: A Heat Transfer Fluid for Use in Space Space Manufacturing AIAA 1979)

The full paper is reproduced here https://nss.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/L5-News-1979-07.pdf and in the next issue.  It discusses some of the fundamental problems of space radiators such as the diseconomy of scale (bigger radiators are more massive per unit of radiation) and how to use reflectors to reduce the size of the radiator.

More recently, in the context of thermal power satellites, I designed condensing low-temperature steam radiators.  They operate at 20 deg C and mass about a kg/kW.  It surprised me that the mass per kW radiated went down with the temperature.  The reason is that the vapor pressure of water falls faster than T^4 from boiling to freezing.

25 MW tapered condensing radiator tubes are shown in the Beamed Energy Bootstrapping video.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEkZkINrJaA


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