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The basic justification for work on cryostabilized high energy density propellants is two-fold. In the best case the increase in Isp gained by using these propellants may permit radical transformations in launch technology such as single-stage-to-orbit vehicles. The more likely justification, at least in the short term, is that the cost to add and concentrate a CSA in a propellant is more than paid for by a reduction in payload cost per unit mass resulting from the use of an enhanced propellant.
Based on today's launch technology, one can estimate what sort of propellant processing cost is justified. Typical payloads today are in the range of 500 to 20,000 kg, and fuel mass is typically about 50 times payload mass. As of the year 2000, payload costs were about $10,000/kg10. For a RP-1/LOX propellant combination, a 1% improvement is Isp leads to a 2% increase in payload mass to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Thus for a 1,000 kg payload, a 1% improvement in Isp decreases the payload cost by 2%, or about $200,000. A 1000 kg payload would require 50,000 kg of propellant, and allow an increased cost of propellant by about 4 $/kg of propellant. Given that the current cost of LOX is about 0.15 $/kg, it would seem that comparable processes to concentrate CSA's would be economically justified - assuming that full percentage increases in Isp could be achieved.
Please email Steve Bates at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss this research.
Last updated: July 2015