back to article Europe blasts back into the heavy launch biz with first Ariane 6 flight

The European Space Agency's new launcher, the Ariane 6, completed its maiden flight on Tuesday. The Agency (ESA) celebrated the launch with a post that offered little detail other than "At 17:06, a little over an hour after liftoff, the first set of satellites on board Ariane 6 were released from the upper stage and placed …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Congratulations

    It's nice to see Arianespace back in the race. And, contrary to some, no multiple delays and rescheduling, just engineers doing their job in the background then, flight.

    Makes you dream, eh Boeing ?

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Congratulations

      The original planned launch date was 2020...

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Congratulations

        The delays were not related to engineering problems.

        1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

          Re: Congratulations

          Really? There's not a lot to an orbital launch system that isn't an engineering problem...

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: Congratulations

            If you class people as an engineering problem.

            1. stiine Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: Congratulations

              Are you referring to their engineers?

          2. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: Congratulations

            Shutting down due to a pandemic isn't an engineering problem, though that can't account for all of the delay.

            1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

              Re: Congratulations

              Most of the delay can be squarely attributed to the attrocious politicking within and around ESA throughout the teens. Loads of projects waited years for approval and even then funding was often withheld. When ESA works well it's great example of international cooperation, but it works badly, it's just as good an example of how difficult they can be. And it only really takes one of the larger members being difficult to hold things back for years. Of course, we've similar things with NASA over the years with huge projects being dreamt up, worked on and then cancelled with nobody talking about the money spent.

    2. Lars Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Congratulations

      Yes congrats to all involved. Reading all comments I would like to add that as soon as "we", we representing what ever country you like stops building, taking part, then that ability is all gone in no time.

      Take nuclear power for instance, Britain is totally out although they once delivered.

      France took just a small pause of 15 years and it was very hard to deliver again.

      There are lots of good examples of similar around the world. What about fast trains in the USA.

      In short, I think it's well worth for all of us that all involved in Ariane keep on working.

      And there is of course also wikipedia for more words.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Congratulations

        "What about fast trains in the USA."

        When trains get talked about some schmuck will start going on about HSR when there isn't anything like an intercity 125 in place. The route that is supposed to be started soon from Los Angeles to Las Vegas won't get going all the way to LA, but will terminate about an hour or so from the city. There's no way to get an HSR into LA Union Station without a lot of pain. California is still spending money like a drunken sailor on the N/S HSR that has been chopped down to run between to cities in the middle of the state that will see no benefit. There's already another Amtrak line that will be much cheaper than HSR unless HSR tickets get heavily subsidized.

        The issue in the US isn't speed, it's routes, stations and schedules. I'd love to take a train to see a friend of mine 1,000 miles away, but the only train arrives and departs at 2am. When I helped him move, he kicked me to the curb at the station around midnight for my trip home. There was no way he was going to be able to stay up any later and the station was 20 minutes away. A second train on that route 12 hours offset would have meant being able to arrive and leave in the middle of the day. I'd really hate to get to someplace at oh dark thirty and not have anybody meeting me as they fell asleep and their phone wasn't waking them up. Factor in freezing temps and a town that closes down at sunset and the only option is to see if you can get a cop to arrest you for something to get a ride into town and someplace warm. For me, arrival time is more important that departure time.

        Weren't we talking about rockets? How about them Bears? Wait, what season is it?

  2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Go

    For a massive multi-national cost-plus programme

    This is pretty good for a first launch. All primary and secondary payloads dropped as required.

    Vinci BTW is a LH2/LO2 engine so restarting one is something that's never been done in Europe.

    Congratulations to all involved and hopefully their next launch will meet restart goals for Vinci.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: For a massive multi-national cost-plus programme

      The thrust at take-off was very impressive. We'll need to wait for analysis of the problems with the APU but the mission was a great success!

    2. KarMann Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: For a massive multi-national cost-plus programme

      To be fair, they didn't restart the engine in Europe this time, either.

  3. Justthefacts Silver badge

    A relief

    Well, it’s a relief that at least Ariane can start shifting some of its backlog. First flights are about 50/50; so 1 for 1 is good.

    I would say that “at least the world is no longer single-sourced on Falcon 9”; but as of a couple months ago even that isn’t true. Japanese H3 launch went fine; and is a good option.

    The new stuff doesn’t work (multiple release in different orbits), so basically it’s a rebuild of Ariana 5, for very little cost improvement, in return for an investment of €4bn over 10 years. Plus an additional subsidy of €340M annually that Ariane 5 didn’t need, which is why I say there’s no cost improvement.

    Anyone with a commercial payload is just going to pick Falcon9: both cheaper *and* a permanent advantage on reliability record (Ariane can launch successfully, but it can’t *catch up* to somebody else launching every 3 days). Those that don’t will go H3. And that’s in today’s environment. By 2027 the competitive landscape will have hugely moved on again.

    Ariane 5 was a commercial workhorse because it was competitive. 6 is just going to launch EU institutional payloads, so that they can say they’ve got a launcher.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: A relief

      You contradict yourself: you say new launches only work 50% of the time, that his one worked, but the new stuff didn't. But there was one shutdown and reignition in space. Getting all that done in the first launch is amazing. And, given the problems with the launch of Ariane 5, the overriding priority for this launch was to get into space without a problem.

      The market has, indeed, changed significantly since the Ariane 6 project was agreed. Much of the delay was related to the inevitable politics of ESA. But commercial projects will welcome the prospect of increased competition. Whether it's from Ariane, JAXA, India or Rocketlab. To remain competitive, providers will need to compete not only on cost but on the service provided.

      As for the finances: it's difficult to compare something like ESA with Space X which, on top of guaranteed NASA contracts, had access to capital markets during a time of unprecedented cheap money; without this the series of rapid prototypes wouldn't have been possible. A better comparison would, perhaps, be the Starliner project, which I personally think has been a far greater clusterfuck.

      Having your own independent launch capacity is something worth having. Remember that it was only a few years ago that the US was dependent upon both Russia and Ariane for certain missions, including to the ISS. Should Europe risk being beholden to temperental manbabies?

      There are lessons to be learned in production and deployment. But I'd be looking for more information on that after 10 launches.

      1. Justthefacts Silver badge

        Re: A relief

        “As for the finances: it's difficult to compare something like ESA with Space X which, on top of guaranteed NASA contracts, had access to capital markets”

        Well, that’s a very interesting statement of your mindset. Ariana is launched by…..Arianegroup, a private company mostly owned by Airbus and Safran. ESA indeed *subsidise* Arianegroup, but they shouldn’t need to.

        Airbus and Safran both have “access to capital markets” they *could* issue bonds….and then just pay the bondholders back from the commercial return. Then they would be free to launch whatever system concept or design they decide is most commercially appealing. Are you really thinking that *Airbus* is no longer capable of successfully issuing bonds in the open market? Is that where you’ve got to in the “client company mindset”?

        Airbus just don’t want to. They’d far rather just take the free money subsidy. ESA decide what to build, which is then commercially unappealing as an actual commercial launcher. But Arianespace don’t care any more, they build what they’re told to, get money, and ESA give them launch contracts.

        Everyone’s happy, closed loop. Doesn’t *do* a lot, but everyone’s happy, and claps bigly.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: A relief

          Disingenuous snark: Ariane was contracted by ESA, and ESA is a political beast. The intention was to improve on Ariane 5 which, at the time, was the most successful commercial launch service in the world. In fact, it essentially created the market. Politics dominate the entire production chain, and even the choice of launch site in French Guiana. Yes, this means there are jobs in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal and an inevitably fiddlier than necessary assembly as a result. Launching from a different continent doesn't help. But it's interesting that you mention Airbus, which has to work under similar constraints, and yet still manages to outcompete Boeing on innovation, quality and safety.

          There are plenty of technical reasons to think that Ariane 6 missed a trick or two, but it should be assessed on what it does do not what we think it should. It's certainly possible that the whole thing was a sunk cost fallacy and it would wrong to continue with it for long. But, before the world has moved on and it's also possible that they're able to find out what the problem with the APU was, fix it and prepare the next test. I would certainly expect it easier to get the funding for this now that the first launch was a success. The rocket was not designed for mass production and serial launches, as you have pointed out, but there will certainly be parts of it that will benefit from improved manufacturing techniques. I don't know what the current projections are but, just as with the previous Arianes, it reasonable to expect improvements going forward.

          Though, I also suspect that we will witness a reassessment of the current free for all in space as the consequences become clearer and the sky more cluttered.

          1. Justthefacts Silver badge

            Re: A relie

            Relying on *political* engineering isn’t the only way R&D can work. Airbus was perfectly capable of making their own strategic decisions; but they (like you) have got enmeshed in an assumption that they *have* to get agreement from ESA, CNES etc otherwise somehow it doesn’t work. That’s a terrible way to run a company, as Airbus Satellites are now finding out.

            Of course, neither ESA nor CNES actually know the right answer, how could they. It’s just an endless echo chamber of PowerPoint presentations, none of whom have ever met a real customer. If you want the future needs or direction, then ask Inmarsat, SES, Intelsat, Yahsat, Sirius or Thaicom. *Any one* of whom have launched more satellites than the entire department of the ESA or CNES officer to whom you are speaking. If you’ve been to an ESA conferences, you’ll know they are dominated by the Germans trotting out Heinrich Hertz again, the French on MTG etc, and you can wait in vain for *anyone* mentioning what pays 90% towards keeping the company afloat.

            “There are plenty of technical reasons to think that Ariane 6 missed a trick or two” But *they* absolutely do not agree and never will. They didn’t “miss” the Reusable boat; they actively dont want to climb aboard. It’s a jobs program, and if you run a jobs-program company, the last thing you want to do is reduce the number of people in your manufacturing program. All they see is: the institutional market = maybe 3-4 per year + several “bonus” commercials. If they build a vehicle which is reusable 20 times, then they only need the manpower to build one vehicle per two years. That’s not the company they want to run. So, based on their “market”, the vehicle that makes sense is…Ariane 5. You don’t invest €4bn to save €50M on 8 flights per year, you just don’t.

            “I would certainly expect it easier to get the funding for this now that the first launch was a success” Noooooooo! Goalie should dive for the line now, and stop that ball going in. Just stop giving Arianespace more subsidy (on top of the €340M annually?!) to re-develop what’s essentially Ariane 5. Let it do what it did before, which was absolutely fine for what ESA want it for, and make this nonsense stop. *If* there is a valid business reason for that functionality (which there may or may not be), let Arianespace fund it on their own dime. That’s how you find out, when people decide to pay for stuff from their own pocket.

            “there will certainly be parts of it that will benefit from improved manufacturing techniques.” And another one! No! Please no more “3D additive manufacturing for space” EU tortured acronym projects. Make it stop, my ears are bleeding. Starship is made from steel rather than carbon fibre, not even because it’s *directly* cheaper, but because there is better availability of skilled workforce welders. That is how real businesses do production engineering.

      2. Justthefacts Silver badge

        Re: A relief

        Also “there was one shutdown and reignition”

        Yes. But they don’t why it was the second one that failed. There’s no reason not to think it was actually a 1 in 2 failure rate of reignition. That’s not going to be ok for commercial launch, no satellite manufacturer is going to think “yes please put my $200M satellite on that”. Eumetsat didn’t

        It doesn’t matter. Only institutional launches will end up on Ariane 6 initially, and nobody care if those blow up, they are just jobs programs. By the time it gets to something important like Kuiper, they’ll either have fixed it or we’ll know it isn’t usable for commercial for another couple years.

        1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

          Re: A relief

          The Angry Astronaut is one of the better YouTuber commentariard. His take on the Ariane 6 launch is here.

          Ariane 6 first flight spectacular, but flawed! Can it compete with SpaceX?

      3. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        Re: A relief

        Having your own independent launch capacity is something worth having.

        You have to remember that Europe started down the road of independent access to space because the USA put a "no compete" rule in allowing launches using US vehicles, so no non-US commercial payloads could be launched by them. That rule no longer exists, but the possibility to be added to a "no fly list" still exists if you anger the beast (e.g. start to match/exceed it in technology, commerce, influence,etc.)

    2. Irongut

      Re: A relief

      > Anyone with a commercial payload is just going to pick Falcon9

      > 6 is just going to launch EU institutional payloads

      Jeff's BO and their sattellites are not a commercial customer?

      There are already 30 flights on the books for Arianne 6 which will take 3 - 5 years to complete. (based on initial 6 / year cadence rising to expected max of 10 / year)

      > By 2027 the competitive landscape will have hugely moved on again

      In 2027, Arianne 6 will still be completing those 30 pre-booked flights and little will have changed.

      1. Justthefacts Silver badge

        Re: A relief

        Yes, Kuiper is really the main commercial win that Ariane 6 has: that’s *18* of Ariane’s 30 booked launches.

        For regulatory reasons, half that constellation needs to go up in 2025 and H1 2026; and all those Kuiper launches are booked in that tranche. This is *incredibly tight*, given that the optimistic schedule has the first proper launch in Dec 2024, aka Jan 2025. There are only two options at this point: either a) Ariane fulfil their contract to Amazon, dedicate 2025 to launching Kuiper, and all the Galileo + institutional launches get pushed by *another* 18 months b) Ariane prioritise Galileo etc, and push Kuiper out to 2026+. Which option do you think Arianespace are going to be forced to pick? And will be Amazon reaction to being offered only launches which don’t meet their own regulatory commitments? It’s not like Amazon will have any choice in the matter, they either launch Kuiper on F9, or the *FCC cancel Kuiper*.

        Kuiper is on really shaky ground right now. The future of Ariane is basically in the hands of an Amazon project which is going badly pear-shaped. It’s only partly Arianespace fault, but it is where they are. It’s entirely possible that more than half of Ariane’s launch manifest will be cancelled over the next two years. Then what do they do? I mean yes, there will be contractual penalty clauses, but that won’t fill the hole.

        Apart from Kuiper, the only commercial launches Ariane has is a couple of Intelsat birds, + Optus. Optus is an Airbus OneSat; OneSat *also* being a project which has gone horrifically pear-shaped, and contributed to most of Airbus taking a total €1.4bn charge for the performance of its satellite division. The amount of blame-storming (and failing to actually do anything to fix the many obvious problems) can be heard from here in London.

        And worse even than that….Ariane 6 is most economic for the large GEO telecoms birds. A market which has almost entirely gone away in the last two years. We’re arguing about whether Ariane is competitive in the market, and failing to notice that the market itself for GEO launch is tanked. That’s why they needed Kuiper, which fills the fairing with multiple launches.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Glad to see ESA continuing to mark the initial Ariane missions with a homophone ... after Ariane 5 sank, Ariane 6 ceased!

    1. Joe W Silver badge
      Pint

      ....

      *spins up foreign language brain parts*

      *iterates languages*

      ...

      ouch.

      Have one --->

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I ought to credit for the original *Ariane cinq took off, exploded and sank .... thus living up to its name" joke to Angus Deayton on "Have I got news for you" at the time (which also indicates how long it's been between Ariane 5 and 6!)

    2. Mast1

      "... homophone......"

      Does that mean that Ariane 7 will be set to work ?

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Ariane 8 will explode - due to its huit allergy.

        Ariane 9 will be made of foam rubber - and hit someone in the face.

        1. Spherical Cow Silver badge

          Will Ariane 9 be German? No!

  5. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    ESA officials need a little more practice counting

    Officials also pointed out that it's not every decade a new heavy launcher takes to the skies.

    OK for all the decades up to 1960, then there were two that decade and two in the '80s so averaging out to one a decade until 2000. Since then it has been three per decade (2 so far this decade with several more planned).

  6. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Money for nothing

    > ESA officials declared the launch a triumph – because it matched the performance of the agency's old Ariane 5 launcher.

    Sounds like a pretty low expectation. For a development cost said to be €3.6 billion, it's as good as the rocket it replaced.

    1. Justthefacts Silver badge

      Re: Money for nothing

      It’s *not* as good as the Ariane 5 it replaced, in one of the most important respects for any commercial customers. Ariane 5 had a 112 out of 117 reliability record. Ariane 6 mathematically *can’t* show data to match its record until it has at least twenty successful launches, unblemished. That’s true for any new launcher, you start at a *massive* disadvantage which you can’t do anything about, and you have to bring some *other* advantage to the table to compensate. Price; availability; mass or specific impulse; something.

      But reliability record is *the* parameter which is always top of the buyers trade-off. And Ariane just threw it away with the Ariane 5. Typical launch insurance premium is 15-25%, the lower figure being for less risky launchers, the higher for riskier ones. So, 10% extra of $400M satellite is $40M per launch…….They didn’t spend €4bn on “no improvement”, they spent €4bn to reduce the value of their service by $40M per launch, for at least the first 20 launches or so. Facepalm. But Arianespace don’t care. They just DGAF . They’ve made the decision that all they care about is launching EU institutional “nationalism pride” launches. CEO stays in post, everybody claps, everybody’s happy.

  7. Dizzy Dwarf Bronze badge

    Lift-off

    I insist that Nasa start saying "décollage".

    It just sounds way cooler.

  8. FrogsAndChips Silver badge
    Coat

    "understand how the rocket behaves in microgravity, because that's not possible on Earth"

    Why don't they try putting it aboard a plane on a parabolic trajectory?

    1. Dizzy Dwarf Bronze badge

      Re: "understand how the rocket behaves in microgravity, because that's not possible on Earth"

      Do you really expect to be allowed onto an aeroplane with more than 100ml of rocket fuel?

      I'm not sure you've fully thought this through.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: "understand how the rocket behaves in microgravity, because that's not possible on Earth"

        It is not merely the microgravity, but the vacuum of near Earth space, and the temperature that has to be replicated for a full test.

        The late, lamented Lester Haines's research into igniting a rocket high up in the atmosphere went to considerable detail. https://www.theregister.com/2016/12/27/the_life_and_times_of_lester_haines/

      2. stiine Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: "understand how the rocket behaves in microgravity, because that's not possible on Earth"

        Getting permission to carry igniferous materials on a parabolic flight has been done, and igniting it in an oven has been done ... but igniting an actual 2nd stage rocket engine on such a flight ... don't hold your breath waiting on them to approve /that/ mission...

  9. steamnut

    Sustainable?

    With the whole world trying to make things sustainable, surely the Ariane 6 is a total fail. Although there is talk of some reusability, at this time there is none.

    They are underplaying the APU "anomaly". The APU is supposed to be a discriminating feature to potential customers. Without the APU a lot of multi-deploy missions will not be possible.

    As the APU needs to be tested in the vacuum of space, then at least one more test launch must be done. It this too fails then it will be serious for Ariane. Extra launches are expensive and will delay the program saying "open for business". They will probably mitigate it with more low cost payload offerings but it is still serious.

    Apart from SpaceX's rapid turnaround which gives them a potential launch cadence of one every three days, the first stage booster and the fairings are reused for most launches.

    With Starship coming soon it is going to be hard for Ariane to compete. Of course, with all of the subsidies they get, making a profit is not a priority.

    In reality, the Ariane program has fallen well behind. It is only loyal EU customers and a determination by the EU to have it's own independent launch system, that is going to keep it afloat.

    1. stiine Silver badge

      Re: Sustainable?

      I'm not a European, but I do think that the EU having its own launch system is a good, if quite expensive, idea. Besides, they have the best launch site for geostationary satellites.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Sustainable?

        ESA isn't an EU institution, which is why Canada is a member.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Sustainable?

          "ESA isn't an EU institution, which is why Canada is a member."

          As is the UK. There was ESAxit :-)

          Not to mention that the UKs Blue Streak influenced the design of Ariane after being the 1st stage of it's predecessor, the Europa project.,

    2. Irongut

      Re: Sustainable?

      > It is only loyal EU customers

      I had no idea Jeff's BO was Eurpoean! I could have sworn he had the stink of America about him.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Eurpoean!

        I like this word "Eurpoean" ... I find it very eurpoetic. :-)

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Sustainable?

      Of course, with all of the subsidies they get, making a profit is not a priority.

      Are you talking about Ariane or Space X? All of these projects have thus far been bankrolled by government contracts, ie. subsidised to a certain degree.

      As for the costs of additional launches, you're lambasting Ariane for this, at the same you're cheerleading Space X which expects to have launch failures. Ariane doesn't have as much money to play with as Space X, so it ran more tests on the ground before the launch. See the recent interview with head of Rocketlab for a similar engineering-led approach.

    4. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Sustainable?

      "Apart from SpaceX's rapid turnaround which gives them a potential launch cadence of one every three days, the first stage booster and the fairings are reused for most launches.

      With Starship coming soon it is going to be hard for Ariane to compete. Of course, with all of the subsidies they get, making a profit is not a priority."

      SpaceX's best turn around time is around a month. Their cadence is more about having a bunch of cores to choose from now. Keep in mind that most of what they launch is Starlink.

      Don't hold your breath over Starship. Thus far, the aren't showing they can get an empty one to orbit and there isn't a market for that vehicle outside of deploying Starlink and the HLS lander they are waaay behind on at this point after already being paid $2bn of the $3bn contract to demonstrate their system. It's also questionable how long SpaceX can keep spending $2bn/year on Starship development and have any chance to recoup the investment.

  10. Boolian

    The Devil you know

    Successful launch and deployment of legacy tech - which is actually a good thing, it is reliable continuity.

    The not so good of course, is that it was delivered a bit late and the only new thing failed, though I fully expect that to be resolved.

    Of course people now expect reuseability, and decry the apparent lack of foresight in developing a rocket with such ability, but we should remember the timeframe for such expectation is relatively recent.

    The shift in geo-politics is relatively recent also. Where one may have had a window of outsourcing launches globally, while rocket surgeons tinkered in the shed designing the novel, reuseable stages de-jour - it was a relatively short window.

    I'm sure many in the EU programme were pushing to develop reuseable capabilities a decade or so ago - but a decade or so ago, Europe was also watching its Eastern borders suddenly hang on a shaky peg.

    There was a short period for the EU to gamble funds on developing the unknown 'New Space' while it had another eye on perhaps requiring those funds to be spent on slightly different kind of 'rocketry'.

    That's a tough call only hindsight can verify - of course the EU would want to compete commercially and potentially lower costs for the State sector space programme, but it also wants to continue actually being the EU.

    The USA is not politically a stable state either (however one may argue otherwise) Its state rocketry is also old skool expendable, late, ruinously expensive, and its novel, reuseables are entirely in the hands of private industry.

    The USA can spin on a political dime at any time regarding access to its technology and attitude to the rest of the world, and its primary, private space enterprise head honchos are hardly a stable touchstone either.

    Upshot: you can't rely on anyone but yourself if you need 'Space', and if you know how to do Space - even if it is 'Old Space' - then do it.

    Ariane may carry some commercial payload to help pay for parking, but its primary purpose is to serve EU member states. Cost may well be an issue which reuseability could help with in 'Commercial Space' - but cost is not necessarily the same issue in 'State Space'.

    The EU has a small, commercial space sector developing reuseables, until then an Ariane will put whatever an EU member state wants, wherever they want it, without recourse to the USA, Russia, China, India et-al. That has a 'worth' and commands a price all if its own.

    Looking at those other nation states, they've followed a similar model, the difference being that certain unified nation states managed to produce insanely wealthy private sectors to drive 'New Space' and/or channel massive state wealth into that sector.

    The 'socialist', politically and tenuously unified EU tends to have other priorities (not least its Eastern borders, if not internal ones) The EU will probably, inevitably transition to reusability, until then at least they have something to rely on.

    Space is hard, yet they popped Ariane 6 up first try - nice one.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: The Devil you know

      "Of course people now expect reuseability, and decry the apparent lack of foresight in developing a rocket with such ability, but we should remember the timeframe for such expectation is relatively recent."

      It's expensive to reuse a rocket. It takes between 40% and 50% more capability in the rocket to be re-landed and have enough margin to be reused. If it can't be landed on land, there's an added cost of a barge that has to be towed out and back again and then possible delays for weather at the launch site and where the barge is.

      The first rocket lander I worked on has well over 200 cycles on it and is still flyable as far as I know. We were doing that before SpaceX even thought to start a program (Grasshopper) to re-land their rockets. NASA was landing rockets on the moon as a precursor for the manned landings. It's been a financial issue to reuse or not and sans a big constellation project, reuse doesn't make sense most of the time. Rapid turn around of a 100t class rocket is insane. There isn't a commercial market for that. The sorts of customers that need super heavy lift are generally spy agencies lofting surveillance satellites where money is no object.

      1. Justthefacts Silver badge

        Re: The Devil you know

        “It's expensive to reuse a rocket. It takes between 40% and 50% more capability in the rocket to be re-landed”

        Second bit is true, first bit not - that’s a wrong assumption from OldSpace, the same rocket-equation crap that has misled them with specific impulse and “super-light aerospace materials” for fifty years. Fuel is the cheapest part of the launcher, by orders of magnitude; dumb mass ( structure) is cheap; smart mass is expensive. Just scaling up the capability mostly adds 50% to the cost of stuff that isn’t your key cost driver anyway. And the motor itself? Ok, so it costs 50% more, how terrible. Then after just two flights of reusable you are back in the black.

        Fun fact: launchers are not expensive, and they really don’t waste that much fuel. Think I’m wrong? Ariane 5 vs Airbus 380 jetliner: takeoff weight 780 tonne vs 560 tonne; fuel, about 750 tonne vs 250 tonnes; price $150M vs $450M (!!); cost of a trip $3000/kg payload vs $5/kg.

        These are very similar beasts, within a factor of a couple, apart from the fact that an Ariane 5 costs only a third of an A380 - and that’s because most of the Ariane mass is cheap dumb fuel. The *only* thing that makes launches expensive is that we throw them away after using them once. A flight on an A380 costs $10/

        Even more fun fact: the ship that transports Ariane from Toulouse to Kourou will use about 500 tonnes of fuel for that round trip, even though it is a hybrid sailing ship.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: The Devil you know

          "Fuel is the cheapest part of the launcher, by orders of magnitude; dumb mass ( structure) is cheap; smart mass is expensive."

          Yes, fuel is cheap but it will take more fuel and a longer burn to haul up the extra needed for landing and to take accelerate and decelerate the added mass from the landing gear. If one can't land on land, there the cost of the barge. If the weather downrange isn't suitable for landing on the barge, that's more more money in schedule slippage.

          A rule of thumb number of re-uses to break even is about 10. It's not "old school" vs. "new space". I'm old, but worked in "new space". It's costs and ROI as it's always been.

          The largest cost item on a launch is the tiny bit at the top, usually by a pretty good margin.

          1. Justthefacts Silver badge

            Re: The Devil you know

            “A rule of thumb number of re-uses to break even is about 10.”

            No, or rather, not for the reason you claim. That makes *another* OldSpace assumption, which is flat-out wrong: if you only ever win five launches per year, even for a twenty year lifetime, then you are struggling to ever launch more than 100 times. Bottom line, the majority of the cost that either Ariane 4 or 5 suffered was still paying off initial development cost.

            If you only ever launch 100 times, but double the initial development cost, then yes you are going to need to save 90% of your airframe build cost by launching 10 times each.

            But if you are launching 100 times *per year*, with 2000 launches over lifetime, the savings on airframes can be much lower.

            OldSpace real mistake is that they never believed in the market at all. They thought even 12 launches per year was a stretch goal. And they believed it was essentially price-insensitive.

            “The largest cost item on a launch is the tiny bit at the top, usually by a pretty good margin.”

            Not necessarily. Cheaper launch means that you can afford satellites to fail as well; which means you can make them using “non-aerospace process”, so they also become cheap. Virtuous circle.

            It’s believed that by the end, each Starlink v1 was costing about $0.7M each, compared to the $6M each on a weight and complexity basis from a standard payload comparator.

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: The Devil you know

      Of course people now expect reuseability, and decry the apparent lack of foresight in developing a rocket with such ability, but we should remember the timeframe for such expectation is relatively recent.

      The important people don't expect reuseability. They're buying a service to get their payload into orbit on time, on budget and intact. The cost per kg and the ability to park my payload where I want it is far more important than reuseability. That's the operators problem, not the customers.

      1. ricegf

        Re: The Devil you know

        But it the operator fails to solve the problem, they will have few customers.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: The Devil you know

          But it the operator fails to solve the problem, they will have few customers.

          Why? I want to get my satellite into orbit. Price is a factor. Reusability isn't, unless that plays a part in the price. If a disposable rocket is cheaper, why wouldn't I use that?

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: The Devil you know

            "Price is a factor. Reusability isn't,"

            Price can be a factor, but often it's not just the cost of the launch, but whether the launch provider can schedule the flight on the customer's schedule. There's also nuances such as international restrictions and whether the launch provider is also a competitor. The last pad explosion of a Falcon 9 had a Facebook/Meta payload on top. The replacement satellite was not going to be flown by SpaceX since around that time, Elon announced a competing service to what the FB bird was built to do.

            Roving Mars by Steve Squires has some bits about launch costs and is a great read with lots of insight into science payloads.

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