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The Bruce Murray Space Image Library


Filed under future technology, rockets

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SMART Reuse United Launch Alliance's SMART system calls for the Vulcan rocket's first-stage engines to be recovered in mid-air.

United Launch Alliance


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McDiver: 06/30/2015 06:34 CDT

I must be missing something here. How can you add 25% weight and 65% cost and get 90% cost? I’m sure (I’m sure hoping anyway) that these two numbers just coincidentally add up to the third. However there is no discussion (a breakdown of how these numbers were derived) in the article of the percentages so the reader is left to surmise that the 90% is the total of the other two numbers. So I am guessing that the engines are 25% of the 1st stage weight, and 65% of the 1st stage cost. These are numbers come from the initial build of the 1st stage. The 1st stage being the fuel tank that the engines. I understand that reusing the engines could perhaps save 90% of (keyword here) booster “propulsion” (the engines) cost. Since ULA would only need to inspect/repair/recertify the used engines, and manufacturing cost is nil after the first use. So in effect what they are saying is “whatever it cost us to build these engines, it will cost us about 10% of that to refurbish the used engines for reuse”, thus a 90% reduction in booster propulsion (engine) cost. A significant cost reduction in propulsion cost. Though when I think of propulsion I think of engines and fuel, since without fuel engines are great big paper weights. 1st stage cost reduction is 65% because you are reusing the engines, ok I get that, but you still need to build a new fuel tank for each launch. So 1st stage fuel tank cost must be 35%. Why they threw in the 25% weight, I have no idea. I seriously doubt that the engines are actually 1/4 the weight of the fully fueled 1st stage.

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