Post by Thomas Koenig
Hm... I seem to remember there was some kind of spaceship that looked
a bit like an aeroplane and glided down to re-use. I saw something
like that when I visited Houston recently.
Ah, now I remember - the Space Shuttle!
Still hideously expensive, though.
It turned out to be "rebuildable" rather than "reusable". Took a lot
of work between flights.
Yeah, most of the Shuttle was probably best classified as
"rebuildable" even if they did make some progress in moving it from
insane levels of rebuild to merely very extensive rebuild.
The SRB on the other hand barely makes it into "rebuildable",
especially given that it would have been cheaper to just throw them
away and build new ones each time!
I don't know how much goes into refurbishing a Falcon stage.
The details has not been published but obviously it's greatly
dependendant on which block it is.
Block 3/4 boosters was flown at most twice, with significant
refurbishment though by repute nothing like the Space Shuttle.
Scuttlebut suggest it cost "much less than 30% of a new first stage",
probably would go down a lot further if they've kept it up but it was
mainly to get data for the Block 5 design.
The goal for Block 5 boosters is 10 flights with just inspection (no
replacement unless something unexpected is found), and refurbishment
every 10 launches to restart the cycle. Another goal is that should be
possible to the regular inspection AND attaching the new payload (a
multi-hour process in itself!) in 24 hours if necessary (possible
doesn't mean it would be a normal procedure).
So, that's the GOALS but it would be foolhardy to not do more
inspections than this on the early boosters, they got a lot of data
from Block 4 but they still need to verify all the changes they did
and also what further use will result in.
IE, all early birds and especially the flight leaders will get more
thorough inspections, based on timing we know they're a lot faster
than block 4 refurbishment even for those which tends to suggests
they're probably much cheaper too, my guess is that's probably in the
10-15% range now and still decreasing.
SpaceX hopes to demonstrate a 24-hour turnaround during 2019, consider
Elon-time that probably means H1 2020... I suspect they'll do it using
a booster with relatively low number of earlier uses since the
front-runnes will always get extra attention.
24-hour turnarounds likely will require lots of planning and a "all
hands on deck" effort, but the real point is how little refurbishment
SpaceX needs which has huge cost implications to everyone else. It
will demonstrate that even the new rockets on the drawing boards are
already obsolete! with the lone exception of New Glenn...