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Nathan Koren

"Further reductions in price will be tied more to success in developing new engines rather than adding more payload mass, unless a greater than Saturn V-class vehicle is around the corner;"

Not necessarily; there's at least two other factors which could reduce costs. So far, Elon has always said that the pricing is based on "no reusability," which makes sense, given that the reusability of these kind of rockets is very much an unknown. However, if it turns out the Falcons are very easily reusable, the price could fall significantly.

The other factor is the scale of production. Right now, I expect that SpaceX is tooling up to produce around 50 Merlins (for example) per year. That's one kind of production line. If they could justify producing 500 Merlins per year, then that's an entirely different sort of production line, and the unit cost should again be significantly lower (but notice that these two factors are, at first glance, somewhat at cross purposes to one another).

Of course, the ideal situation would be one in which the Falcon's reusability allows for lower cost, creating entirely new markets which grow business so quickly that large-scale production lines are needed to increase the number of Falcons flying, even though they're all being reused. If this (admittedly optimistic) scenario were to occur, then I suspect that the cost of the Falcon would be drastically lower, without any new engines at all.

Daniel Schmelzer

Regarding cost savings from reusability, I'm taking Musk at his word that reusability would provide a modest reduction in prices. As for scale, where would they get the demand to justify producing 10 times the engines (for example) versus their current plans? At a minimum, it would take many years to grow the market to that scale.

Lee Valentine

The German company OTRAG planned to use a common propulsion module comprising not only the (common) engine but also a common tank into a single module that would be clustered. Their design was not for reuse but for low manufacturing cost.

I am not certain of the specifics, however, it appears that the problems they had were not technical but political.

The principal, Lutz Kayser,is still around and would like to pick up where he left off years ago.

Lutz Kayser

Yes, Lee Valentine is right in his September 23 comment.
I think the new NASA launcher family will result in orbital transport cost well above 10 K$/lb and thus will allow the private space launcher industry plenty of business.
The only condition for success is a propulsion breakthrough resulting in net cost of 1 K$/lb in orbit. It can be done using Common Rocket Propulsion Units in all stages and it will generate lots of profit immediately. See "Encyclopedia Astronautica"

Daniel Schmelzer

I note that the Falcon line of launchers as detailed on SpaceX's web site is not going to deliver net costs of $1,000/lb. Rather, it will achieve $1,4000/lb. Further, there's nothing magical about a $1,000/lb. cost. It is just an arbitrary goal. Also, we don't know if there will be sufficient business for SpaceX at their price point to maximize profit for the company. It looks like they might have sufficient business over time, but we don't know for certain. Lastly, this doesn't seem like a propulsion breakthrough to me -- no exotic technology is involved. Rather, the Falcon IX looks similar to the EELVs in many respects.

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