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Innovative cost engineering approaches, analyses and methods applied to spaceliner - an advanced, hypersonic, suborbital spaceplane case-study
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posted on 22.02.2017by Trivailo, Olga
When commencing a new program within the space sector, the question of expected program costs has emerged as a most critical criterion to be considered, especially within the context of large and highly complex international programs where multiple domains and disciplines are directly interfaced. Given added technical, economic, and political complexities, the real challenge is to representatively estimate costs during the early program phases where physical, technical, performance and programmatic parameters, requirements and specifications might be scarce, unavailable, or still evolving. Here, the disciplines of systems and cost engineering, as well as program management converge to support the costing function.
Cost estimation is a subset of the cost engineering domain, and a plethora of cost estimation methods (CEMs), models, tools and resources applicable to various space sector applications, exist. However, due to the unique nature and specificity of each mission, project and respectively, program, the available arsenal of costing means can often be too general.
A new class of vehicle has also recently established itself as one of prevalent interest – launcher vehicles with a focus on reusability to render them economically viable, while concurrently offering cost-effective access to space for both cargo and humans. For such manned, reusable launchers (RLVs), a lack of historical data implies that classically assuming a single cost estimate based on a single heuristic parametric or analogy cost estimation alone is, by definition, limited. Thus new ways are needed to address cost estimation for complex, unprecedented programs in the early program phase where system specifications are limited, but the available research budget needs to be defined. The hypersonic, suborbital, passenger spaceplane SpaceLiner currently being studied at the German Space Center, DLR, is one such vehicle and is selected as a current RLV case-study to model and apply the advanced cost engineering approaches and innovative techniques developed and described in this work.
Within the context of the case-study, the development of necessary processes and application of advanced and modified cost estimation approaches and programmatic principles is demonstrated. After a thorough literature review of current estimating practices in industry, the parametric method is justified as the prime CEM for optimal use during the early program phase. The TransCost statistical-analytical model for cost estimation and economical optimisation of launch vehicles, as well as two cost models, 4cost aces and the PRICE software, all of which are parametric, are selected. The transparent TransCost model is then extensively tested against realised development programs with an RLV focus, and consequently calibrated.
Prior to the three models being input with high-level, technical SpaceLiner data, some essential programmatic analyses are performed. The SpaceLiner program is considered from a top level as a global whole, and a detailed work breakdown structure of the required components to be developed and produced, is derived. In conjunction, and in accordance with European Cooperation for Space Standardization standards, a baseline program schedule is also established in order to represent the possible timeframe of the global project, to identify major milestones, and to support model inputs for the costing process.
Based on the WBS, program schedule and selected three models, independent development cost estimates are prepared, and an Amalgamation Approach of the multiple sets of results is then assumed. A final baseline development cost range is ultimately determined for the SpaceLiner, being maximally reflective of all currently available inputs. The cost of production is also considered using parametrics, while the operational scenario is qualitatively outlined, completing the SpaceLiner cost- and economics baseline.