SpaceX prepares used 1st stage for February launch


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The competition heats up: Even as SpaceX moves forward on an intense launch schedule, with launches planned for January 26 and February 8, it has begun preparations for a late February commercial launch that will be the first to reuse a first stage.

The first stage assigned to SES 10’s launch first flew April 8, 2016, with a Dragon supply ship on a logistics launch to the International Space Station. After detaching from the Falcon 9’s second stage, which continued into orbit, the 15-story first stage booster descended to a vertical landing on SpaceX’s offshore platform a few minutes after liftoff, making the first time the company recovered a rocket intact at sea.

The landing on SpaceX’s barge, or drone ship, last April came four months after the first-ever touchdown of a Falcon 9 first stage on land at Cape Canaveral. That vehicle is now on display outside SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

This pace is calling for a launch every two weeks. It will spectacular if SpaceX can keep that up, but such a pace is not really unprecedented. The Soviets at their height managed it at times quite successfully.

32 comments

  • LocalFluff

    They will have to refurbish a first stage in two weeks (really every 12 day according to schedule these weeks) in order to keep that pace up in the long run.

  • ken anthony

    Launch rate and refurbishment rate are only loosely connected since some launches will continue to use first time vehicles.

  • wayne

    Question:

    -How many working-rockets does SpaceX have available at any given time? Or rather, the necessary parts available to put one together?
    -What does their Fleet consist of, as far as actual hardware in the warehouse? or is that proprietary type info?

  • wayne

    ken anthony–
    Thank you. I was trying to say something like that.

    -How long does it take to manufacture & assemble, one complete Falcon 9?
    -What percentage of the total cost, is the 1st stage?

  • LocalFluff

    They have 7 successful landings, and could get 2 more before the first is reused. If refurbishing time it twice the launch frequency, that stock will be consumed in half a year at current(ly planned) launch rate. And each FH launch will need three refurbishments (of FH-stages which will be different). They obviously expect that refurbishments will be very quick. Blue Origin has already done it suborbitally.
    They could use faster drone ships…

  • wodun

    @ Wayne

    Not sure if this is the most current information but this was an analysis from last April. First stage cost contribution was 75%.

    http://spacenews.com/spacexs-reusable-falcon-9-what-are-the-real-cost-savings-for-customers/

    Wikipedia says the build rate is 18 a year with 6 first stage cores under construction at any one time. Their goal is 40 a year. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falcon_9#Production

  • Edward

    Once they are using three cores on the Falcon Heavy, they will either need more cores, shorter turnaround times, or most likely both. Thus the 40 core per year goal is still reasonable, until they know the lifetime of a first stage.

    The excitement is that such questions need to be pondered and solved. It used to be that manufacturing and pad availability were the limiting factors. Now, it seems, the limiting factors could quickly become core turnaround time and pad turnaround time (related to pad availability), including compatibility with the schedules of other launches from other pads at the launch sites. SpaceX has set itself up to dominate the industry. The competition heats up indeed.

    My quick count is that they have five first stages available for reuse and for verifying their reusability and performance, since the first one recovered was put on display, and one reentered at maximum stresses and will not fly again.

    Since SES-10 is going to geostationary orbit, this will be one of the more stressful launches and landings.

  • wayne

    wodun/Edward–
    Good stuff, that tells me a lot.

  • LocalFluff

    The number of times a core can be re-launched is not important beyond 3 times. Whatever the cost saved by refurbishing instead of building a new core, is halved with the first re-launch. Reduced by two thirds with the second re-launched. By three quarters with the third re-launch. A fourth re-launch would only save another 5% of the total potential cost saving (from 75% to 80%).

  • wayne

    LocalFluff–

    I’m still waking up this morning, –but that’s not the way one calculates costs of reusing the first stage.
    Once a first stage is built, there are just the marginal costs of recovery & refurbishment.

    –can’t find a good short video example off the top of my head, but check out anything on “marginal costs.”

    (There are differences between “average cost per unit,” and “marginal costs per additional unit.”)

    I’d like to know– how does the tax-code treat “space-hardware” for purposes of depreciation and amortization??

  • Steve Earle

    wayne said:
    “…I’d like to know– how does the tax-code treat “space-hardware” for purposes of depreciation and amortization??…”

    That depends. Are you using them for Business or Personal use? ;-)

  • wayne

    Steve–
    Good one. “Keep your receipts..”
    (sex-robot or a launch vehicle?)
    [found my copy of Bladerunner, and will be re-watching it again!]

    The reusability of the first-stage, is the ‘killer-app’ for Musk. (I wish I knew what his margins were on a one-shot basis.)

    Slightly more awake now–

    >LocalFluff IS on the right track.
    If we knew what the recovery & refurbishment costs were, we could begin to calculate the marginal costs of each additional rocket launch.
    We have sunk-costs, operating-costs, marginal-costs, and average-costs, in all the equations.
    (His overall cost of Capital, I would suspect, is relatively low, and he gets to depreciate the costs of his factories over 20-30 years.)

    Do we have any Rocket-Scientists, who are also CPA’s??

    Tangentially– the wife & I ran a small business for 6 years– I loved depreciating our car & we had a home-office so we could depreciate that-fraction of the house, as well.
    (totally tangential– what I did HATE… we had to pay Unemployment-Taxes to the State of Michigan, on ourselves, but as Officer’s we could NEVER collect unemployment. >That’s a big Scam.)

  • Garry

    To keep things simple, let’s say each first stage cost $1 million, and refurbishment costs are negligible (source: anal extraction).

    Let’s look at the total cost per 12 launches under different scenarios.

    No reuse of any first stage: $12 million for 12 launches
    1 reuse per first stage: $6 million per 12 launches (50% savings)
    2 reuses per first stage: $4 million per 12 launches (67%)
    3 reuses per first stage: $3 million per 12 launches (75%)
    5 reuses per first stage: $2 million per 12 launches (83%)
    11 reuses per first stage: $1 million per 12 launches (92%)

    When we compare 2 reuses and 3 reuses, there may not appear to be much different between 75% savings and 67% savings, but looking at it another way, 3 reuses represents a 25% savings (from $4 million to $3 million) compared with 2 reuses.

  • LocalFluff

    To perform 100 launches, you need to build
    50 rockets with 1 reuse (i.e. 2 launches), saving 50 rockets. Or:
    33 rockets with 2 reuses, saving 17 rockets.
    25 rockets with 3 reuses, saving 8 rockets.
    20 rockets with 4 reuses, saving 5 rockets.
    17 rockets with 5 reuses, saving 3 rockets.
    15 rockets with 6 reuses, saving 2 rockets.

    If the extra cost of designing the rocket such that it can be reused 5 times is greater than the cost of building (20-17=) 3 more rockets that can make 4 reuses, it is not profitable to do it. And the marginal cost of building 3 extra rockets when you already have built 17, is less than 3/17 of the cost until then because of economies of scale and the learning curve. Also, you save the cost of (17*5-20*4=) 5 refurbishings. Further, those 5 extra terminal launches don’t need to save fuel for landing, so they can take bigger payloads for a bit higher revenue.

    The only REAL definition of cost is the alternative cost. An economy consists of human actions. The only decision one has to make is the choice between mutually exclusive alternatives of action. (I do know my Ludwig von Mises!)

  • LocalFluff

    ALL decision making is very easy!
    Define decisions as choosing between mutually exclusive alternatives. Either do A or do B.
    If A is much better than B, then the difference is obvious and the choice easy.
    If A and B are both nearly as good, then it doesn’t matter which one you choose!

  • Garry

    LocalFluff, your math and reasoning are correct.

    There are several things we are ignoring (or assuming), such as changes in reliability as a rocket is reused more and more times, and the effect of failure.

    Of course, when we plan, what we’re really talking about is perceived reliability; the actual reliability will reveal itself over time (and change as we learn more and modify designs).

    I always tell my wife she’s the most decisive person I know; she’ll make 3, 5, or even 10 decisions in a situation where I make only one (such as ordering a meal, or choosing what color to paint a room).

  • wodun

    Getting into the taxable depreciation table may be making this more complicated than it needs to be.

    Wouldn’t the marginal cost of each additional launch be refurbishment + 2nd stage + fuel + fairing?

    The last time this came up, Dick Eagleson had some good estimates for various numbers. He calculated the cost of a first stage at $14.4m by using the price of a FH. (FH – F9) / 2. At one point Musk said the cost of a F9 was $16m. Refurbishment was expected to cost about $3m. Fuel $200k or so. Fairing “several million”.

    All of these numbers were from almost a year ago and there is a 100% chance they have all changed.

    Total Cost * .75 = 1st Stage 16 * .75 = 12
    Total Cost – 1st Stage = 2nd Stage + Fairing (or maybe just the 2nd stage not sure) 16 – 12 = 4

    Marginal Cost = 2 (2nd Stage) + 2 (Fairing) + 3 (Refurb) + .2 (Fuel) = $7.2m

    Musk has said he wants to reuse each core at least ten times. We can assume that SpaceX will discount the reusable rockets but I am not sure what that discount is. At one point they said they could cut the price by 30% but no idea if they will.

    With the cost of the first stage amortized over 10 launches, each launch has a 1st stage contribution of $1.2m. With the marginal costs, that means each launch costs about $8.4m.

    Without Reuse
    10 launches @ $62m = $620m revenue, $160m cost, and ROI 287.50%

    With Reuse
    10 launches @ $62m = $620m revenue, $84m cost, and ROI 638.10%
    10 launches @ $43.4m = $434m revenue, $84m cost, and ROI 416.67%

    What that doesn’t tell us is how much their payroll costs or their overhead. That article floating around last week showed they had profits in the low hundreds of thousands of $$.

    Tangentially, you don’t get to collect unemployment but you can collect workman’s compensation or disability if you are injured on the job.

  • Garry

    You can collect workman’s compensation or disability if you choose to set up your business that way, at least in my state. My wife and I specifically set up our business so that we do not fall under workman’s comp.

    The worst thing about paying into unemployment is that the system is stacked against business owners, at least here. A friend fired an employee for theft (from my friend’s private desk), and the employee filed for unemployment. My friend contested it (as his unemployment payments go up if people collect after getting fired by him), and he lost, because the board ruled that the theft was “an isolated incident, and not habitual action.”

    We had an employee quit, and she filed for unemployment. We contested it and won, only after the hearing officer asked us point blank if we would take the employee back and we replied yes (happily, the ex-employee said she would not come back).

    One of the main things I want from a Trump administration is more small business starts; regulations, stacked decks, etc. have caused the rate to drop below small business liquidations.

    “I’m self-employed and my boss is a real S.O.B.”

  • wodun

    @ Garry

    I am an aspiring entrepreneur, haven’t pulled the trigger yet, and do a lot of research on various regulatory hurdles for different ideas. It’s daunting. IMO, if more people tried to start a business, or went through the research on the regulations they would have to follow, they would be less favorable of excessive government regulation.

    Too many people view it as a battle and want to punish employers. And too many people have zero concept of what it actually takes to run a business.

  • wayne

    wodun–
    Good stuff, all around.

    Great input by everyone.

    “Corporate Officer’s,” in Michigan aren’t required to buy worker-comp insurance on themselves. And those are costly, all around. (we loaded up on the health insurance instead and took the gamble.)
    We used “contract” “organizations,” that were professional (or not) people (often 1 person shops) who themselves had set up Inc’s & LLC’s, so we could all get around the ‘who-is-an-employee’ rule. (and we put the daughter to work for 10 weeks every Summer, just to keep a few bucks in the Family.)

    >Payroll Taxes were a killer, and that was just on 2-3 people. That was eye-opening & in-my-face experience. $10/hour costs you $17.50 alone, before any “benefits.”

  • Edward

    LocalFluff wrote: “The number of times a core can be re-launched is not important beyond 3 times.

    I agree that there are diminishing returns, but there is a reason why an airline does not fly a plane only three times then throw it away. As wayne points out, once an asset is in hand, it is better to keep it operating until it is no longer economically advantageous to do so.

    While the cost of building a rocket is still greater than the refurbishment cost of relaunching one, it should remain economically advantageous to relaunch for many launches. This is why the airlines keep their airplanes for so long and why car rental companies keep their cars for so long.

    Thus the real question is how long it takes for them to wear out — for their reliability to degrade — as Garry pointed out. Finding the criteria for retiring a first stage from service is the next phase of SpaceX’s research into the performance of its Falcon rockets.

    LocalFluff wrote: “ALL decision making is very easy! … If A and B are both nearly as good, then it doesn’t matter which one you choose!

    Unless the consequences of the decision are unknown. We do not always know the future, otherwise Kepler and Armadillo would have been as successful as SpaceX. Making the difficult decisions given the unknowns is why business leaders are paid the big bucks. That there are difficult decisions is why companies go out of business every day.

    Some decisions are not at all easy. Otherwise I would have always decided to work at companies that wouldn’t have run out of work for me. And SpaceX wouldn’t have had a rocket explode on the pad, last September.

    wayne,
    LocalFluff mentioned Blue Origin, which has plans to build an orbital rocket. Since Blue Origin seems to plan to make a reusable rocket, just like SpaceX, I suspect that those two companies will be the real competitors in a decade or so.

    Other companies and countries are talking about recovering only the engines, which are the expensive part, but I think that they will find that building a new first stage core for each launch will prove to be expensive, relative to SpaceX and Blue Origin.

    The way to greatly cut costs is not to look only in one area but to find savings throughout the system. Two decades ago, I worked at a place that considered GEO communication satellites to be a commodity, and that reducing the price and the time from order to orbit were crucial to success. Thus I set those as priorities in my work, reducing costs and time spent setting up each satellite once it reached my test stations. I had even put those reductions on my resume.

    ULA, Arianespace and others are going to have to work out similar savings in all of their own areas, if they are to compete for price. If SpaceX or Blue Origin also prove to be highly reliable and quickly available, they will own the market in three major areas that satellite customers look for, and no one else will be able to compete in launching satellites of the size and weight that these two companies will cover. With a capability for a rapid launch cadence, SpaceX seems to be attempting to be a leader in availability, once their current backlog is cleared out.

    SpaceX has pondered making their second stage reusable, too ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSF81yjVbJE — 4 minutes ). They have yet to work much on that, at least they have not announced much work, if they are still considering this option. Blue Origin may be at an advantage if they design their upper stage for reuse right from the start.

    In the late 1990s, there were a couple of companies working on single stage to orbit, which would have made their entire rocket reusable. Skylon is a similar SSTO rocket that is being developed in Britain. The Skylon could be a competitor, too, in a decade or two.

    These are exciting times, in the space industry.

  • Edward

    wodun wrote: “too many people have zero concept of what it actually takes to run a business.

    Neither does our current president (and good riddance to him), which explains why Garry wrote: “One of the main things I want from a Trump administration is more small business starts; regulations, stacked decks, etc. have caused the rate to drop below small business liquidations.

    Our soon-to-be-ex president thinks we are not smart enough and that we don’t work hard enough to build our own companies.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fw8Uze31t8k
    It strikes me that people think, ‘well it must be because I was just so smart.’ There are a lot of smart people out there. ‘It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.’ Let me tell you something: there are a whole lot of hard working people out there.

    There may be plenty of smart, hard working people out here in serf-land, but not all of them who choose to start a business succeed, and part of that lack of success comes from onerous rules, regulations, and laws that take extra time and manpower for compliance. After Obama’s reign, we have to be even smarter and work even harder than before.

    So, yes, when we choose to build a business, we do have to be smarter and work harder than most of those who choose not to build one. The rest haven’t put up a great collateral or investment, and they get to work from nine to five, and if they do a bad job or make a bad decision, someone else loses his collateral or investment, not the nine-to-fiver.

    We may be in this together, as the ignorant president says, but when things do not go well, it is the business owner who takes it in the shorts, not so much the employees, and definitely not the ignoramus. After Obama took over control of and bankrupted General Motors and Chrysler, who lost out and who didn’t?

    So when Obama was running two companies that he didn’t build, he lost nothing when he drove them into bankruptcy. No wonder he doesn’t think the owners and operators didn’t build their own companies. The bleeping idiot operated and then (after bankruptcy) owned two companies that he didn’t build, thus reinforcing his belief that owners and operators don’t build their own companies. Then, in a clusterbleep, he gave away huge portions of those companies to unions that also hadn’t built those companies.

    Thus the answer to who lost and who didn’t is that the original owners lost, and the unions and the sorry excuse for a president won.

    Aren’t we glad he isn’t in charge of our space program?

    Oh, wait …

    Less than fifteen hours left. How much further damage will the dunderhead do in that amount of time?

  • wayne

    Garry/Edward– good stuff!

    wodun–
    missed your 6:26 post.

    >Absolutely– Best wishes on your business adventures!
    Product? Service? Can you expand at all?

    Highly recommend setting up a structure for your business, in advance. “Off the shelf” Company all ready to go, so you’re not distracted and starting from “zero.”
    –We had a straight Corporation; we were “majority stockholders, in a private, closely-held Company, in which we were also Board members, Officers, and Employees.” (And we paid ourselves a Wage, so we did not report our business Gross on our personal taxes.)

    Gets you familiar with the nuts and bolts without triggering certain requirements, until money starts changing hands, etc.
    –I set up everything up “back-office” about year in advance & loaned my fledgling company $500 for a business checking account, while we pondered everything & I finally took the leap. (My wife kept her day job.)

    In Michigan for example, you can Incorporate (or LLC,) for about $100, plus a yearly registration fee of $30, and “Basic” registration allows you to issue 50K shares of “stock.”

    Put everything you can, within the Company, and document every little thing you do… be cleaner than clean.>cleaner than clean.
    (Highly recommend QuickBooks Pro & their Payroll-manger thing. Do your own “accounting,” and 1/4ly filings and tax deposits, but pay a CPA to review your QuickBooks File every quarter and to file your Fed & State Corporate returns.)

    My own personal advice– run on a cash basis and avoid Debt. (I know that’s not always possible, just know that Debt & Taxes, are ever-present and all consuming. >all consuming!)
    >I did what is broadly “professional-services” under the Tax Code, so didn’t need inventory & infrastructure, but the Company was whacked with a 35% flat-rate, at the time, until we made use of the Tax Code a bit deeper.

    Great experience. >Hard work, eye-opening. Eventually… Profitable!
    (did “vocational employment services” for 6 years, and accidentally, but extremely fortuitously, sold-out the Name & Goodwill, just before the economy collapsed.)

  • LocalFluff

    Another consideration. Many reuses means reliance on fewer rockets. Only 2 out of 133 space shuttle launches failed. But both times the fleet was reduced by 25% from 4 to 3 (since it was extended by 1 in between). Capacity wise that 1½% failure rate was as if every fourth launch failed. They built 5 and ended up with 3, a 66% cost for capacity reserve, so that’s a limit for extreme reusability.

    Edward, “Unless the consequences of the decision are unknown.”
    No, decision making is easy then too. If you don’t know anything, it doesn’t matter what you do. Just follow the horoscope for fun!

  • wayne

    Nassim Taleb Talks Antifragile,
    ” Libertarianism, and Capitalism’s Genius for Failure”
    https://youtu.be/ehXxoUH1AlM
    (56:32)

  • Garry

    Making decisions is easy, making good decisions can be difficult.

    Same goes for being a parent, being a spouse, being a boss, and many other important things in this world.

  • While this thread has been without question one of the best and most informative on BtB, I think you all missing one major point.

    When rockets can be reused, we shall see a fundamental change in the nature of the companies themselves. Right now the company that builds the rocket also provides the transportation service. When rockets become reusable vehicles, like airplanes and trucks, then these two functions will split. One company will specialize in building the best reusable rockets it can, and then sell them to various cargo and human transportation companies.

    This change will occur because it is the most efficient and profitable way to go. It will also depend on an increase in demand, requiring many more launches, something that is inevitable if the launch costs drop.

    Thus, many of the assumptions made in this thread are based on the false assumption that the rocket companies that build will also launch.

    Posted from McCarran airport in Las Vegas, on a tablet whose keyboard appears to be failing.

  • wayne

    Mr. Z–
    I’ve recently wondered if current activity in private-space is akin to the early days of the automobile & aerospace industry, in some respects. (haven’t decided yet…)
    Costs of entry are dropping, more private players are getting involved, and demand is going up.
    -Exciting time to be involved in Space, on all sorts of levels.

  • Edward

    LocalFluff wrote: “Edward [wrote], ‘Unless the consequences of the decision are unknown.
    No, decision making is easy then too. If you don’t know anything, it doesn’t matter what you do.

    It actually does matter. In one case that I specified, the correct decision can result in decades of continuous employment, but the wrong decision results in a brief employment and another job search. In the other case, a bad decision can result in a lost rocket and payload, as well as a delay in future launches.

    http://www.sciencealert.com/here-s-how-much-it-really-costs-when-a-spacex-rocket-explodes

    The above article talks only about how much it cost SpaceX, but others lose, too. When a commercial satellite is delayed, the satellite operator loses revenue, as do the operator’s customers. Employees at the satellite operator or at their customers can lose their jobs, even if only temporarily, and other job seekers may lose the opportunity for employment.

    I worked at a company that had received some defective parts come from a vendor, delaying the completion of several satellites for months. We heard of the consequences of the delay at one of our customers: they had to fire people who had already been hired and were being trained to install satellite TV antennas. There can be dire consequences to badly thought out, poor-judgement decisions. Good judgement was one of the criteria on my performance reviews, and having good judgement leads to good decisions that help, not hinder, the employer and his customers.

    Robert wrote: “When rockets become reusable vehicles, like airplanes and trucks, then these two functions will split. One company will specialize in building the best reusable rockets it can, and then sell them to various cargo and human transportation companies.

    I was thinking the same thing, last night. We almost have that already, with ULA. ULA already is a company that operates rockets without being the company that builds them. The analogy is less than perfect, because ULA is owned by the two companies from which it buys all of its rockets, but I was thinking that ULA is a little like TWA (to use the name of a bygone airline), buying the flight hardware then operating it themselves.

    Most current satellite operators are not satellite manufacturers. This supports the notion that the manufacturer may not be the best choice for operator. As with many other industries, a second party as owner-operator of the equipment allows the second party to focus his price and services on a specific customer base, whereas a manufacturer may focus on his most common customer(s).

    A separation of functions can allow for smaller customers to be better served. Think of regional airlines as opposed to the major airlines. Think of local vs national trucking companies. Think also of NanoRacks, which serves small researchers in getting their experiments onto the ISS; NASA focuses on its big customers, and NanoRacks is the “big” customer that acts as the go-between for the little customers with little or no experience with the NASA bureaucracy.

    I believe that for the rocket industry to truly split the functions, the rockets will have to be able to fly a large number of times. Perhaps the hardware needs to be operational for a decade or so. This is how it is done in airlines, satellites, and trucking.

    Some of the analyses on this thread have assumed a loss of economical usefulness after a limited number of reuses. However, airlines reuse their aircraft thousands of times, enduring expensive maintenance, and extensive overhauls every few hundred hours of flight time. Economical usefulness can last a long time, and the purchase price can seem low, when amortized over each flight.

    The price of a Boeing 747 is comparable to the cost of a ULA or Ariane V launch, order of magnitude of a quarter of a billion dollars. A 747 flies thousands of times, so the purchase price amortized over each flight is in the tens of thousands of dollars, which is in the same order of magnitude of the fuel cost.

    (I am having difficulty getting over the fact that) The cost of a Falcon 9 first stage is somewhere around 1/10th the price of a 747, so flying a Falcon 9 a couple thousand times would make its per flight cost around (order of magnitude) $10,000. This is significantly less than the price of propellant; the range that I have read is a low of $200,000 to a high of $750,000.

    I do not think rockets will be thousand-flight capable in the next couple of decades, but I think that eventually there will be significant reuse of launchers as well as of shuttles between Earth orbit and other CisLunar destinations, such as ULA’s proposed reusable ACES. Those companies that make their rockets reusable will likely be the ones with sales, in two decades.

  • Wayne: The best analogy is the airplane industry. In the early days, the builders often built the plane to fly it and make money from it. Over time the builders simply started to sell their work to others who had better skills at using those planes.

    There are some parallels with sailing ships, but it isn’t the same. For centuries, fisherman built their own boats. As the boats became bigger and more sophisticated, the job of building shifted to specialized shipbuilders, from which merchants and fishing companies made their purchase.

    The main difference with rockets is that they are starting out complicated and big, while ships started out simple and small.

    With automobiles and trucks, the industry almost instantly began building to sell.

  • wayne

    Edward–
    Good stuff.

    Mr. Z.,
    Thank you.
    For the auto analogy, I was (kinda) thinking the initial burst of “garage-tinkering” and the period following, just prior to the move toward mass-production.
    I do get the point(s) on airplanes & boats, as well. >Endless possibilities…
    > I’ve also been pondering the similarities (and differences) with Railroads.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Belated thanks for the shout-out above, Wodun. One small nitpick; SpaceX’s pre-2015 annual operating profits were in the low tens of millions, not hundreds of thousands. That revenue/profit graph in the WSJ piece has horizontal lines every $200 million on the vertical axis but it’s not exactly a sterling design effort. It would be nice if the side labels said, say “200”, “400”, etc., but they say “.2”, “.4”, etc. SpaceX’s 2014 operating profit, for example, looks to have been in the $40 – 50 million range as its bar covers between a fifth and a quarter of the distance between zero and that first horizontal $200 million line.

    Overall, that WSJ piece was pretty good confirmation that my derived numbers for SpaceX’s costs and margins are pretty much correct. It’s especially nice that such confirmation comes by way of people like Andy Pazstor who, unlike myself, have been long-time SpaceX skeptics and critics.

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