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Saturday, May 21, 2011


 Via Jerry Pournelle this is from the last page of a  NASA report on their costs and SpaceX's
For the Falcon 9 analysis, NASA used NAFCOM to predict the development cost for the Falcon 9 launch vehicle using two methodologies:

1) Cost to develop Falcon 9 using traditional NASA approach, and

2) Cost using a more commercial development approach.

Under methodology #1, the cost model predicted that the Falcon 9 would cost $4.0 billion based on a traditional approach. Under methodology #2, NAFCOM predicted $1.7 billion when the inputs were adjusted to a more commercial development approach. Thus, the predicted the cost to develop the Falcon 9 if done by NASA would have been between $1.7 billion and $4.0 billion.

SpaceX has publicly indicated that the development cost for Falcon 9 launch vehicle was approximately $300 million. Additionally, approximately $90 million was spent developing the Falcon 1 launch vehicle which did contribute to some extent to the Falcon 9, for a total of $390 million. NASA has verified these costs.

It is difficult to determine exactly why the actual cost was so dramatically lower.... [no shit Sherlock]

Regardless of the specific factors, this analysis does indicate the potential for reducing space hardware development costs ...
   But since NASA's "radical; lets be more commercial" option merely reduces the cost to $1.7 bn it ain't going to be through them.

    If this doesn't prove to every politician and bureaucrat that X-Prizes, which are the real commercial option, are far better they are simply uninterested in facts. Which indeed is what Britain's Cabinet Office have openly admitted is the case.

  As the Harvard academic paper proved there is a "coefficient of 0.3" between the seedcorn needed to be put up in prizes for commercially useful inventions and the amount the producer spends. Thus for SpaceX's Falcons 1 & 9 a prize of  $117 million (£73 million) compared to NASA's (minimum if experience is justified) of $4 bn. A ratio of 34 to 1.

   This also fits closely with what DARPA said in another X-Prize case. They said that a prize of $3m would have matched conventional spending of at least $100m, assuming it had worked.

   I was previously asked to submit a proposal for British X-Prizes, funded by taking the £260 million we annually put into the European Space Agency (much less efficient than NASA because everything has to be divvied up on lines of national pull rather than competence) and putting it into a X-Prize Foundation. Unfortunately having asked for it it seems to have been filed in the appropriate receptacle. For presumably purely political reasons our politicians and bureaucracy would far prefer to give our money to European bureaucrats than to use it to achieve leadership in space industrialisation.

   I would be confident that putting 1 year's worth of our contribution to ESA would be enough to get SpaceX (or conceivably somebody else) to make the second commercial site for the Falcon Heavy Lift Vehicle (equivalent of a 737 to orbit in 2013/14, from British territory (my previous suggestion being Ascension Island). Since the money is already being spent this would have cost us nothing. Had we started a few years ago we could have had the first commercial site but we didn't. Better late than never.

  Space industrialisation is has economic possibilities not only greater than any other terrestrial industry but greater than all other terrestrial industries put together and nations which decide to ignore the opportunities are condemning themselves to the margins of human progress or indeed excluding themselves entirely.

I would also like to point out the 13:1 ratio of costs between things run by parasitic government organisations matches that for the Millenium Dome in Britain (£46 million to £670 million) and the Scottish Parliament (a commercial firm offered to do it at £40m but the government did it at, officially, £414 million plus landscaping and other uncounted costs). Other public projects may have a lower parasitic cost ratio, if they work.

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