Responsive Launch Vehicle Cost Model


This paper presents a launch vehicle cost model designed specifically to estimate the additional economic cost of two related system properties that have substantial military utility — responsiveness and surge capability. In addition, the model can be used to
compare alternative methods for achieving these objectives, such as reusable, partially reusable, or fully expendable vehicles.
In general, we estimate that making small space systems responsive, i.e., being able to launch with a few hours or days of demand, will add less than 5% to the total system cost per launch. Surge capability is somewhat more expensive, increasing the total cost per
launch from 5% to 35%. Having a robust surge capability and the ability to do it again quickly is the most expensive option and will likely increase the cost per launch by 30% to 80%.
For all of the options considered, the cost per launch decreases with increasing number of launches per year. In addition, the percentage increase for responsiveness decreases with increasing launch rate as the impact of maintaining vehicles in inventory decreases. In all of the cases considered, expendable vehicles are lower cost than reusable vehicles for all launch rates considered, i.e., 5 launches per year to 100 per year.

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Wertz, J.R., “Responsible Launch Vehicle Cost Model,” Paper No. RS2-2004-2004. Second Responsive Space Conference Los Angeles, CA, April 19–22, 2004