Fascinating New Propellant Depot Architecture Paper

Keith Cowing just posted a link to a fascinating new pro-Propellant Depot analysis. I was impressed to see who the second coauthor was… When you have one of the leaders of ESAS coming out in favor of propellant depots and commercial launch, that says a ton.

Very much looking forward to reading the article. Thanks for the link, Keith!

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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3 Responses to Fascinating New Propellant Depot Architecture Paper

  1. Albert says:

    Something I always wondered about is how much the “fixed costs” cost. 🙂

    I’ve seen loads of people talk about the fact that launching lots of rockets would decrease the launch cost since you can split fixed costs on multiple rockets, but I never saw any estimate on how much it costs now nor how much the price would decrease.

    I hope it isn’t a thing covered by military or company secret, and that you’re actually able to say something about this elusive detail. Even pointing to other sites/books/people that know more would be very cool.

  2. Roderick Reilly says:

    I hope this isn’t considered OT, but have you seen that SpaceX has beefed up the F9-Heavy payload capability?


    The relevance to me is that its planned 117K lbs to LEO capability combined with a mature fuel depot system is as much heavy lift as will be need for quite some time. IF thay can also come anywhere close to their stated price-per-pound cost, that would be a huge plus; that remains to be seen, however.

  3. Ed Minchau says:

    Albert, some of the fixed costs are up-front, one time costs, for which money must be found before the first launch can take place. This includes things such as R&D, building a test stand, building launch pads, building assembly facilities, and so forth. For a private company, the money isn’t simply lost, it is recouped by adding a little to the price of each launch; the more launches there are, the lower this value can be to eventually recoup all these up-front costs.

    There are also other ongoing fixed costs. For example, when SpaceX launches from Florida it must pay the Coast Guard or Navy to keep boats and aircraft out of a possible debris zone. If they need to use the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System they have to pay NASA for its use. If propellant prices are stable, then that is a fixed cost per launch for a given model of rocket. There’s probably a whole lot more.

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