Browse Publications Technical Papers 2003-01-2635
2003-07-07

Equivalent Mass Versus Life Cycle Cost for Life Support Technology Selection 2003-01-2635

The decision to develop a particular life support technology or to select it for flight usually depends on the cost to develop and fly it. Other criteria such as performance, safety, reliability, crew time, and technical and schedule risk are considered, but cost is always an important factor. Because launch cost would account for much of the cost of a future planetary mission, and because launch cost is directly proportional to the mass launched, equivalent mass has been used instead of cost to select advanced life support technology. The equivalent mass of a life support system includes the estimated mass of the hardware and of the spacecraft pressurized volume, power supply, and cooling system that the hardware requires. The equivalent mass of a system is defined as the total payload launch mass needed to provide and support the system. An extension of equivalent mass, Equivalent System Mass (ESM), has been established for use in the Advanced Life Support project. ESM adds a mass-equivalent of crew time and possibly other cost factors to equivalent mass. Traditional equivalent mass is strictly based on flown mass and reflects only the launch cost. ESM includes other important cost factors, but it complicates the simple “flown mass” definition of equivalent mass by adding a non-physical mass penalty for crew time that may exceed the actual flown mass. Equivalent mass is used only in life support analysis. Life Cycle Cost (LCC) is much more commonly used. LCC includes DDT&E, launch, and operations costs. For Earth orbit rather than planetary missions, the launch cost is less than the cost of Design, Development, Test, and Evaluation (DDT&E). LCC is a more inclusive cost estimator than equivalent mass. The relative costs of development, launch, and operations vary depending on the mission destination and duration. Since DDT&E or operations may cost more than launch, LCC gives a more accurate relative cost ranking than equivalent mass. To select the lowest cost technology for a particular application we should use LCC rather than equivalent mass.

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