Re: SPACE: If you got the bucks you can go

From: Adrian Tymes (
Date: Sun May 20 2001 - 11:47:12 MDT

"Robert J. Bradbury" wrote:
> If you figure 2 people at $20 million a pop, thats
> $40 million -- can the production cost of the rocket
> and launch expenses really be less than that?
> Thats about an order of magnitude less than what a
> shuttle launch costs (though I think they can fit 6
> on the shuttle).

Ah, *but* - NASA doesn't do any significant cost optimization, choosing
instead to worry only about safety. (For instance, to fix a minor
wiring problem found once the shuttle's on the pad ready for liftoff,
procedures dictate that the shuttle must be hauled back to the hangar
on a slow tractor, even if the fault could just as easily be fixed on
the pad directly. This then causes all kinds of delays to highly
scheduled activities.) Note the use of "significant": they have
undoubtedly done some efforts at this, with at least $0.01 resulting
savings, but compared to how well they could do it with no loss of

> It now gets interesting, if you view the launch facilities
> as sunk costs (paid for by the taxpayers, satellite launches,
> etc.) are we starting to get to the era where the cost
> of producing and flying the rocket & capsule is affortable
> by perhaps 0.0004% of the people in the first world if
> you fly from the third world? What is the size of the
> ground control team that you need if you are just
> circling the Earth?

For which vehicle? There are designs that would require zero ground
control. (They may require communication with the ground, say to
inform the customer that their satellite has been deployed, but if one
can equip the orbiter with communication gear that can place a call
through some provider's usually-communicating-with-the-ground phone

That said, a lot of this comes down to procedures and practices of the
organization that operates the orbiter, more than the orbiter itself.

> I think Tito's trip is going to have a big impact as
> a paradigm breaker.

Agreed. I'd go so far as to say the paradigm was broken already; he
just proved it.

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