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We have the example of many Dragon capsules recovered by SpaceX, renting a ship (American Islander) for the duration of the mission each time. It is registered to American Marine Corp.

Contrast that with the EFT-1 Orion test flight, the USS Anchorage, LDP-23, a San Antonio class amphibious transport ship, with a crew of 396, plus NASA staff, which of course, did not have the 'paid for' directly.

What is the real world cost of two days of operations (one day delay in launch of EFT-1 still required the vessel on call) vs the real world cost that SpaceX is incurring in recovery?

If a price can be derived for the LDP-23 ships time, perhaps that could be compared to the cost of the ASDS to be used for landing first stages, plus tug time to move it around.

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  • $\begingroup$ I can't answer this question, but Orion will only fly once every 3-4 years. So the name of the game for Orion is fixed costs. Which are very high of course... $\endgroup$ – Erik Dec 9 '14 at 23:13
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SpaceX likely recognises that they are in the space business, not the marine business, and is focussing on core competencies. I understand that you are asking specifically about monetary cost, for which I have no answer. However, the idea that SpaceX would recover their own capsules has a very high opportunity and time cost as well.

A ship owned by SpaceX used for recovery would be idle for 50 weeks out of the year currently. During that time, SpaceX would have to pay for maintenance of craft and crew. And that crew would be sorely lacking in real world experience, even if they kept doing practice drills for the 50 weeks of idle time. Additionally, SpaceX would have to manage a marine services division complete with human resource structure. It would have to develop hiring and training materials, pensions, and account for expected promotion and mobility within the company, at the expense of opportunities for the engineers.

I see a lot of "the Unix philosophy" at SpaceX (do one thing, and do it well). Not recovering their own capsules is an obvious extension of that.

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    $\begingroup$ No disagreement there, but it does not really address the question. SpaceX does not get to use the US Navy for free, which NASA does. So what is a real world cost for the use of the US Navy by NASA? We know SpaceX's cost is manageable for a private company. $\endgroup$ – geoffc Dec 13 '14 at 23:37

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