Launch Vehicle Production and Operations Cost Metrics

Michael D. Watson, James R. Neeley, Ruby F. Blackburn
2014 SpaceOps 2014 Conference   unpublished
Traditionally, launch vehicle cost has been evaluated based on $/Kg to orbit. This metric is calculated based on assumptions not typically met by a specific mission. These assumptions include the specified orbit whether Low Earth Orbit (LEO), Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO), or both. The metric also assumes the payload utilizes the full lift mass of the launch vehicle, which is rarely true even with secondary payloads. 1,2,3 Other approaches for cost metrics have been evaluated including unit
more » ... ed including unit cost of the launch vehicle and an approach to consider the full program production and operations costs. 4 Unit cost considers the variable cost of the vehicle and the definition of variable costs are discussed. The full program production and operation costs include both the variable costs and the manufacturing base. This metric also distinguishes operations costs from production costs, including pre-flight operational testing. Operations costs also consider the costs of flight operations, including control center operation and maintenance. Each of these 3 cost metrics show different sensitivities to various aspects of launch vehicle cost drivers. The comparison of these metrics provides the strengths and weaknesses of each yielding an assessment useful for cost metric selection for launch vehicle programs. I. Cost Model There are several approaches that have been used to structure and analyze launch vehicle costs. 5,6 Work Breakdown Structures (WBS) and Product Breakdown Structures (PBS) provide structures from which to analyze cost. Each of the structures provides a different view of the cost. The WBS provides a labor centric view, allowing management of the workforce in developing, manufacturing, and operating the launch vehicle. This provides an organizational centric view on the cost but can be difficult to identify the unit cost of the launch vehicle as labor categories often cut across multiple vehicle elements or components. A PBS provides the product centric view, allowing specific cost of each component, assembly, and element of the launch vehicle to be tracked. This unit costs fall directly out of the PBS and allow specific cost drivers of the vehicle to be identified. The PBS does not clearly indicate cross cutting support functions where one labor unit may support multiple components, assemblies, or elements. The costs for a launch vehicle are often divided between development and production and operations (P&O). The WBS between the development phase of the program and the P&O phase can be very different. During development, engineering disciplines are the focus, and often the WBS is centered on these discipline functions. During P&O, production costs are a much stronger driver and the WBS is aligned more to the production disciplines and the operations disciplines. The PBS also differs between the development and the P&O phase. Development costs are driven by design, analysis, integration, and test costs. These costs collectively define the cost of specific components, assemblies, and elements within the launch vehicle. For the P&O phase, the PBS is driven mainly by the production costs. Operations costs are typically smaller than the cost of producing the launch vehicle. Production costs are the primary driver to P&O phase costs. Production costs are all costs associated with the manufacture of the launch vehicle elements as represented by element unit cost. These include materials, production labor, factory test and inspection, and integration performed at the manufacturing sites. Operations costs are all costs associated with the operation of the launch vehicle after completion of manufacturing. These include green run 1 System Engineer, System Engineering Management Office, Chief Engineers Office
doi:10.2514/6.2014-1606 fatcat:dgavcwsy2vggzbmhfrgavd4duu