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Dr. James (Jim) Wertz, Sunday, 3-17-13 March 17, 2013

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Dr. James (Jim) Wertz, Sunday, 3-17-13

http://archived.thespaceshow.com/shows/1975-BWB-2013-03-17.mp3

Guest:  Dr. James (Jim) Wertz.  Topics:  Reducing space mission launch costs, changing space industry attitudes.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information.

We welcomed back Dr. Jim Wertz, President of Microcosm, to continue our discussion on lowering total space mission costs.  For more information, visit the company website, www.smad.com/ie/ieframessr2.html.  Make sure you check out the Scorpius launch vehicle link on the website as this launcher could be a model for what Dr. Wertz talked about during the program.  In the first hour of our 100 minute program, Dr. Wertz identified sequestration and the government response to it as a big problem for the space industry, specifically the smaller companies and financially vulnerable projects.  Also, the fact that we are still on CR with the budget adds to the stress.  Despite the problems, Dr. Wertz did say throughout our discussion that it was possible for something good to come out of all of the problems in that we might actually start focusing on lowering total space mission costs. During much of the first hour, Dr. Wertz discussed the way the industry works, some of the challenges to lowering mission costs, and the need for lots and lots of attitudes to change to embrace the lower mission cost goals rather than the status quo or holding on to thinking that the rough times will pass and then we will be back to normal.  We talked about choke points in the strategy, the challenges, the hurdles.  I asked if NASA and Congress were the obstacles.  Dr. Wertz mostly said it was a collective attitude throughout the industry with all of us and all sectors that prevents the broad scale creation of the low cost mission environment.  He cited many examples, including a ten year spacecraft build out with a 15 year life such that when done, its 25 years behind the times.  He talked about advancing & new technology and the need to stay current, to keep replacing the old with the new.  We also talked about the value & economics of having hardware & component backups on a shelf ready to go when needed.  Reusability came up & I used Doug’s email as the poster question on the subject.  This turned into an detailed discussion about the both the upside and downside of reusability. As you will hear, economics don’t favor reusability unless there is a dramatically higher launch rate.  Dr. Jurist called in to talk about student projects & the need to launch them while the students are still in school. He also talked about this in the context of keeping young people interested in space.  He asked Jim for solutions and Jim suggested simpler designs. For example, pressure fed systems rather than using high speed turbo pumps with thousands of parts, plus the use of more composites, especially in the tanks.  Jim was asked about the minimum possible launcher size and he said about 100 kg or 220 lbs. to LEO.

In our shorter second segment, Dr. Wertz was asked about the commercial private ventures announced in 2012 and so far this year.  He though we were technically capable of doing most of them but that the track record for the private sector in reducing total space mission costs was not that much better than the public sector track record.  He went back to saying the main driver was attitude and that changing attitudes within the industry in the public and private sectors was key to reducing space mission costs.  He cited yet another example, this time the idea to use AMSAT for space communications.  Dr. Wertz added that we need to convey urgency to the policy makers in getting them to change their attitude as other nations are moving forward with space and in many ways we are in retreat.  Claudia in Memphis sent in a note asking if classes were taught in aerospace engineering programs on how to change attitudes within the industry.  Dr. Wertz liked the idea but was not aware of classes of that kind.  As the program was ending, he talked about how and who to influence and used the Rachel Carson environmental book “Silent Spring” as an example.  He concluded the discussion by mentioning the Reinventing Space Conference in Los Angeles, Oct. 13-17 (see www.responsivespace.com). He repeated his hope for a positive outcome from sequestration which would be a renewed focus on the need to actually develop systems & the environment to enable reduction of space mission costs, including launch costs.

Please post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog.  You can email Dr. Wertz at jwertz@smad.com.

Comments»

1. The Space Show - March 19, 2013

Reusability continues to be the brass ring for many in the space industry and for many segments within the industry. Speaking from my business perspective, it would seem to me that if reusability can provide the economic benefits and advantages assigned to it, we would have seen it emerge in the market place by now. DCX is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary so where is reusability? The reusability theme and effort has been around and around, including with shuttle which was only a so-so attempt at it. Now SpaceX is going for it and I wish them great success. But if the claims have so much merit, why has it not shown up yet, even in a small test rocket demo or something similar? The same is true for the promotion of space solar power. If its such a plus economically for us, why is there not even a small demo going on to prove out the business case and economics of the venture?

It seems to me that when unusually positive and spectacular claims are made for technologies and other things that are a bit outside the norm or far outside the norm, those making those claims have the burden of convincing those that stick with the more conventional approaches to getting things done to be believers.

I’m certainly open to new and advancing technologies and to pushing the envelope. But it is hard to embrace claim after claim of fabulous results and rhetoric when in fact all that happens are more claims and rhetoric. I believe in the force of a market and if claims are real, the market should at some point validate the claims. I continue to wait and hope that it happens.

David

Kelly Starks - March 19, 2013

Unfortunately the benefits don’t interest the markets. NASA and DOD have political reasons to need to avoid them – or simply don’t care.

In general though ops and dev costs would be lower – but neither of those cost savings would lower cost to orbit in the current markets. So in declining market the old established Delta-IV and Atlas-V, and the Ariannes pretty much do about as well in cost, and acceptably well in quality/safety, to compete. So not much reason to develop better with no buyers. (Really upset my then fellow McDac folks with the DC-X program.)

You’ld think it would interest more NewSpace folks – it could really cut costs to develop craft – but it doesn’t seem to interest them.

2. Kelly Starks - March 17, 2013

>..We talked about choke points in the strategy, the challenges, the
> hurdles. I asked if NASA and Congress were the obstacles…

Given the NewSpace industry is almost completly reduced to looking for handouts from NASA and Congress – calling them the obstacles is a bit rude.
Beggers shouldn’t insult those they are sticking their hand out to.

>..economics don’t favor reusability unless there is a dramatically
> higher launch rate…

Going over the spreadsheet Jim used to come up with that idea years ago – it was all based on the assumption that reusable cost far more (tens of times more) to develop then expendables. History has shown them to be equivalent in dev cost or cheaper.

In discusions I’ve had with industry and NASA coworkers who were or have been involved in such programs – the reaction was pretty much disbeleaf to rolling eyes.

JM Jurist - March 18, 2013

Even if the RLV R&D costs are not much more than for an ELV, they do impact the bottom line as does refurbishment. The mass penalty for the recovery system and more robust structure required for the RLV reduces the payload fraction. Add these and other issues together, and RLVs are not economical unless the current launch rates are increased by at least one or more orders of magnitude. The Wertz study showed that, and other people revisiting the problem independently have come up with the same answer in more recent times.

Kelly Starks - March 19, 2013

Your argument is based on a couple myths John.

– It’s not more expensive to develop a reusable craft then a expendable – it’s cheaper, generally significantly cheaper. Same for reusable drones vrs expendables. Missiles etc. For example the big shuttle orbiter is (in same year money) about 20% cheaper to develop then the Orion or Apollo capsule and service modules, even though they use the same tech, but the Shuttle is a bigger more capable craft.

– As to servicing costs per flight being higher then manufacturing cost per flight of expendables – again clearly false.

– payload mass fractions are pretty surprisingly irrelevant to cost per flight. It magnifies your fuel/Lox cost per pound of cargo, but it’s so negligible to begin with (less than a thousandth of launch costs per pound) its irrelevant. To quote Elon Musk on a previous Space Show, “at less than 1/1000th the launch cost, it falls below the resolution of accountancy. So the delta-V is free.”

So expendables cost more to develop, and more per flight to fly, and reusables start out and continue cost, quality, and safety edges over xependables.

As to the various folks who looked over Jim W’s paper and agreed with the conclusions. I’m reminded of a Wernher von Braun quip “One test result is worth one thousand expert opinions.”, and history (and logic) doesn’t support the preconceptions of said reviewers. Also, you of all people should know how slipshod and biased (even bigoted) reviews of NewSpace papers are.

John M Jurist - March 19, 2013

First, your response to the Wertz interview appeared minutes after the summary was posted and you appear to have taken several things out of context — listen to the interview itself to get proper context.

Second, comparing Shuttle Orbiter to Orion or Apollo is invalid because of differences in capabilities, knowledge bases, etc. Orion is being developed today and adjusting dollars should be for aerospace engineering, not CPI — hugely different rates. Plus, costs these days are clearly out of control and costs per pound go down with larger vehicles — see Dietrich Koelle.

I never stated that refurbishment costs more than manufacturing a new vehicle. I stated that it impacts the RLV bottom line (and implied that the bottom line is lifetime programmatic cost).

Von Braun’s quote is perhaps valid, but using the aircraft analogy is invalid. “Slipshod” and “biased” reviewers only restates Sturgeon’s law, but some level of review acts as a filter to lessen the volume of junk for a reader to wade through. I know about the biases of reviewers from both sides of the fence.

Since this exchange has become unproductive, I need to get back to reviewing the AIAA papers and NASA grant applications sent to me for the next cycle.

Kelly Starks - March 19, 2013

Ok, though to be clear:

>.. Second, comparing Shuttle Orbiter to Orion or Apollo
> is invalid because of differences in capabilities, ==

Yes which should make the shuttle MORE capable give its so vastly bigger and more capable. Yes, cost per pound is less with bigger craft – but total costs?

>.. Orion is being developed today and adjusting dollars
> should be for aerospace engineering, not CPI —

Oddly though adjusting for inflation the dev prpgramstwo craft cost about the same. $19B for Apollo, $21B for Orion.

You’ld think a les rushed program done with modern tech would be cheaper (course more paperwork now).

Seems consistent across other programs to, boosters, rovers, etc.

Just curious.

Good luck with the grants.

Jim Davis - March 20, 2013

“Going over the spreadsheet Jim used to come up with that idea years ago – it was all based on the assumption that reusable cost far more (tens of times more) to develop then expendables. History has shown them to be equivalent in dev cost or cheaper.”

Just to be clear, Kelly…

Are you claiming that if SpaceX had set out to develop a fully reusable vehicle to place ~10,000 kg in LEO they could have done so for as much or less than what it took them to develop the Falcon 9?

Or am I missing your point entirely?

Kelly Starks - March 20, 2013

Though I have serious doubts about SpaceX’s program in general – yes, given the history of expendable vrs reusable system like this – historically the reusables of similar capacity are a bit cheaper to develop.

Jim Davis - March 21, 2013

When you say “historically” exactly which reusables and expendables of similar capacity are you comparing?

Kelly Starks - March 21, 2013

That’s a issue. Other then Shuttle vrs Apollo & Orion CM/SM’s theres little direct. David Ashford did a chapter in “SpaceFlight Revolution” doing a bunch of compares on various aerospace projects, fighters, airliners, etc etc. Also rocket powered X planes vrs missle or booster stages of similar cargo cap and delta v cap. Expendable vrs recoverable missles drones.

Past that you get into trade study projection for various projects.

Stands tio reason though – easier to do the engineering of a reusable. They are a bit simpler systems – you don’t need to push the performance as hard.

Jim Davis - March 21, 2013

“Stands tio reason though – ”

Not to me. The performance required of any vehicle capable of orbital velocity or beyond is so extreme that hitherto only extreme measures like expendable vehicles will allow one to achieve it. It is just perverse to suggest that many nations, organizations, and people worldwide for over half a century are all doing it the hard way.

I think this will be the case for some time to come.

Kelly Starks - March 21, 2013

The Delta-V isn’t the hard part. Certainly not the expensive high performance issue stuff. If it was that hard they would have upgraded to better engine designs. (air/rocket hybrides, etc)

And its not that everyones doing it wrong. ICBM style boosters extreme performance in off the ground adn cl;ear of the atmosphere is critical for ICBMs. Cost isn’t a big thing in that market — and that market dwarfs commercial launch. None of those companies pushed ELVs as cheaper to do. No one I ever worked withon programs like that ever thought expendable was cheaper. There were good reasons to do it this way = cost reduction not being amoung them

Jim Davis - March 22, 2013

“The Delta-V isn’t the hard part.”

Nonsense. It is so difficult that the only means of achieving it has been to make the entire vehicle expendable.

“And its not that everyones doing it wrong”

Your claim is that reusable launch vehicles are cheaper to develop than expendables of the same capacity. Yet, for the past fifty years, all over the world, expendables are developed.

“No one I ever worked withon programs like that ever thought expendable was cheaper.”

Apparently no one you ever worked with had much input into design decisions.

Kelly, I frankly find your claim incredible. So incredible I think I must not be fully grasping it. So let me try again.

The published SLS estimated development costs are very high. In these budget conscious times are you suggesting that these estimates could be lowered by making SLS (with the same capacity) a reusable?

Kelly Starks - March 22, 2013

>> “The Delta-V isn’t the hard part.”

> Nonsense. It is so difficult that the only means of achieving
> it has been to make the entire vehicle expendable.

Not from a engineering sence. The hard part is is pushing

>> “And its not that everyones doing it wrong”

> Your claim is that reusable launch vehicles are cheaper
> to develop than expendables of the same capacity. Yet,
> for the past fifty years, all over the world, expendables
> are developed.

Which would suggest the builders had other priorities then cost.

>> “No one I ever worked withon programs like that
>> ever thought expendable was cheaper.”

> Apparently no one you ever worked with had much
> input into design decisions.

Given I’ve been a senior systems engineer on NASA development projects – I’ld say not.

> The published SLS estimated development costs are
> very high. In these budget conscious times are you
> suggesting that these estimates could be lowered by
> making SLS (with the same capacity) a reusable?

Yes. So has ever major aeospace contractor to build a launcher. Hell they saved a ton going from Griffins design with the redundant Ares-I to SLS.

And remember, NASA’s primary means of gaining real public support – is by spending money in districts. Hence why they go to great expensive ends to spread the money around, breaking down projects to tiy peaces they can spread about. Drives the cost through the roof – but gain support – hence votes (the true coin for a gov agency).

One task I was given at NASA HQ was to write a small program to take all the addresses of all the contractors in a budget bill, cross map it to congressional districts ad states, and automatically generate reports addressed to them listing the companies and the money going to them, adn the total money going to constituents. I.E., you’re vote will get this much pork for your constituents.

NASA has pretty much always gone for higher cost. On Congresional investigations during the shuttle program, they admitted they passed on upgrades, even ones that would increase safty, to avoid cost reductions.

Jim Davis - March 22, 2013

“NASA has pretty much always gone for higher cost.”

And so, apparently, have the Soviets, ESA, SpaceX, China, etc.

NASA’s quest for higher costs has been spectacularly successful with the Webb telescope. No doubt that small program you wrote is still being used.🙂

Kelly Starks - March 22, 2013

Well the Soviets have other reasons, given money doesn’t mean much in a feudal state. Like us they were busy building missles, and just stuffed a pod full with a couple people. China just copied the Soviet designs. SpaceX… Musk is a jerk and wanted to make a new Soyuz, since he thought Soyuz was the ultimate space craft – but he was to proud to just buy the company.

Kelly Starks - March 22, 2013

Actually Jim, its REALLY easy to figure out a cheaper reusable that you could replace the SLS with derived from the Shuttles. A biamese derived from the orbiters should cost about 2/3rds as much as the SLS booster, and have all the orbiters abilities. You’ld still need a Orion or something for lunar return, but you can do better then Orion for $20B.


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