7 votes

Inside the Virgin Galactic spaceport sending the mega rich into space

6 comments

  1. [6]
    spctrvl
    Link
    While it'd definitely be nice to see Virgin Galactic finally start regular tourist service, it's hard to see fifteen minute suborbital hops at this late date as anything but a dead end....

    While it'd definitely be nice to see Virgin Galactic finally start regular tourist service, it's hard to see fifteen minute suborbital hops at this late date as anything but a dead end. Development's taken so long that even without further delays, they're likely to be leapfrogged by orbital tourist flights inside three to five years. Hell, if SpaceX's Starship keeps anything close to its development timelines, we might have Lunar orbital space tourism by that time.

    2 votes
    1. [5]
      emdash
      Link Parent
      Different order of magnitude in costings though. And also availability. Virgin Galactic offers 15 minute hops for ~$250,000 in a hopefully frequently-scheduled service. SpaceX, may, at some point...

      Different order of magnitude in costings though. And also availability. Virgin Galactic offers 15 minute hops for ~$250,000 in a hopefully frequently-scheduled service. SpaceX, may, at some point in the future—probably more than 5 years from now, offer lunar orbital flights to tourists for probably $10,000,000+ each on an infrequent, approach-us-first model.

      It's like wondering why bungee jumping is still popular when skydiving or halojumping exists.

      3 votes
      1. [4]
        spctrvl
        Link Parent
        Eh not necessarily. If Starship gets anywhere close to its stated design goals of <$300/kg, an orbital flight could be done at less than $250k a passenger, and sub orbital hops could be done on...

        Eh not necessarily. If Starship gets anywhere close to its stated design goals of <$300/kg, an orbital flight could be done at less than $250k a passenger, and sub orbital hops could be done on the same hardware for even less. I suppose what I meant to say is that dedicated sub-orbital hardware is a dead end, especially at that price point.

        1 vote
        1. [3]
          emdash
          Link Parent
          Where are you getting $300/kg from? I've followed SpaceX intensely for the last decade and: I've never heard that value before, and That'll never happen. It's like aviation. Sure technically the...

          Where are you getting $300/kg from? I've followed SpaceX intensely for the last decade and:

          1. I've never heard that value before, and
          2. That'll never happen. It's like aviation. Sure technically the cost of jet fuel is only so many thousand dollars per flight, but overhead, capital expenses, actually paying people, maintenance, regulation & compliance will become increasingly large aspects of the cost of a launch as the vehicle is amortized. And it certainly won't happen in the next 5 years.
          2 votes
          1. [2]
            spctrvl
            Link Parent
            https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1094797169565921280 Launch cost of Falcon 9 is <$3000/kg, Musk is targeting a cost per kg of around 1/10 that of the Falcon 9. And it could absolutely happen,...

            https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1094797169565921280

            Launch cost of Falcon 9 is <$3000/kg, Musk is targeting a cost per kg of around 1/10 that of the Falcon 9. And it could absolutely happen, that's nowhere near just the cost of fuel, which would account for less than 4% of that $300, with a rough cost of $1M per launch in fuel.

            1 vote
            1. emdash
              Link Parent
              I wouldn't read too much into what Musk says on Twitter, frankly. Almost everything he says is aspirational and doesn't really align with the practicalities of reality. I certainly wouldn't use it...

              I wouldn't read too much into what Musk says on Twitter, frankly. Almost everything he says is aspirational and doesn't really align with the practicalities of reality. I certainly wouldn't use it to proclaim that suborbital spaceflight tourism is a dead end simply because Elon Musk said something on Twitter.

              Also for most realistic launch costs, F9 is not "<$3000/kg". Using SpaceX's stated pricing, it's $62,000,000 per launch for 5.5 metric tonnes to GTO. That's more like $11,000/kg+ to GTO. If you somehow happened to launch something dense enough to LEO, that actually was able to fit in the F9 fairing (because the F9 fairing is volume constrained), then you're looking at $62,000,000 for 22,800kg which is beneath $3000/kg, but also implausible because the economics and particulars of spaceflight don't work like that. The effective cost is far greater because the rocket's performance characteristics and costs are fixed while payload mass varies significantly.

              That also doesn't include reusability. Those are mostly expendable performance characteristics, which suffer greatly when you bring the first stage back. Again, it's not going to happen and it's foolish to rely on Elon's "forward looking" Twitter statements to declare that an entire market is a "dead end".

              2 votes