From this article, I gather that ULA is trying to build reusability into their next generation of launch vehicles. Their plan is summed up nicely in the picture:
In the article, they seem to do some really weird math:
“This will take up to 90 percent of the propulsion cost out of the booster. And this is just the beginning.”
The engines represent a quarter of the first stage’s overall weight and 65 percent of the booster cost, according to ULA.
If the engines only represent 65 percent of the cost, how can they possibly save 90 percent of the cost when they only recover that part? Some other issues I have in this statement:
- What about the cost of the recovery, such as the helicopter, boat, logistics personnel etc. ?
- What about the additional weight added to the system for the heat-shield, parachute, coupling between Engine and ATS etc. ?
- How many times can an engine be reused? If it can only be reused 10 times, the cost of the engines is divided by 10, not reduced to zero.
- How much would it cost to refurbish? Considering that the recovery system (Heat-shield and parachutes) would also need refurbishment
- There is also a very real risk of failure to recover based on this system which don't seem to be taken into consideration.
My question is: What would a realistic estimate be of the cost savings involved?