Re: Pricing's gonna change...
It will be interesting to see how it goes. One of the things that occurs to me is that if SpaceX do indeed get good mileage out of reusing the first stage the impact would be, in effect, to significantly increase the available supply of launches.
The problem I think they may run into is there not being enough satellite operators out there looking to take advantage. Unless one's satellite is really simple launch cost is already no where near the most expensive part of operating it.
For a decent sized geo comms sat you're looking like spending $1billion building it. The new Iridium satellites are reported to be costing $2.1billion to build, with launch costs with SpaceX of under $500million. After this success Iridium may well be looking for a discount too. If that launch cost comes down to, say, $200million then it will be less than 10% of the build cost and way less than the whole program cost.
And manned flight, to where exactly? They can't launch many payloads to the ISS, there's simply not the need for more than the ones they have already.
So if making the launch cheaper doesn't really dent the total costs of building and operating a fleet of space vehicles, from where is the rush of new operators going to come to take advantage of SpaceX's cheap launches? They may end up with very cheap-to-run re-usable launcher, but not have the regular customer base to really make that pay. We shall see. SpaceX may well end up grabbing a large share of the existing launch market, but growing that market could be really hard.
Of course, that may well be plenty enough for SpaceX!
The space tourism business though, now that could take off in a big way.
Reliable Reusability - Does it Really Bring a Cost Saving?
Musk reported that this was a challenging landing, high wind speed, etc. It will be fascinating to see how reliable it pans out to be in the long run. There could be some difficult consequences:
If they consistently lose, for example, 1 in 2, to landing mishaps then reuse is not really worthwhile. To sustain a launch schedule they'd pretty much have to keep making first stages all the time.
If they lose 1 in 10, that's a bit better but it's still trickier. They'd want to take advantage of that, but they'd still have to have enough of a production run going to guarantee that future launch customers aren't delayed.
If they lose 1 in 30, that then gives them a new problem. Clearly then they'd not be wanting to make a lot of boosters, but they would still have to retain the capability to build them at short notice, just in case.
However, preserving that capability is expensive; all those skilled workers to keep on the books, keeping the facilities together, keeping it all up to date, training new staff, paying into the company pension plan; those costs can never, ever go away.
Those costs currently make up a large portion of the $60million build costs; the raw materials themselves are actually quite cheap; paying the people needed to turn those materials into a launcher is the expensive part.
That will be reflected in the launch cost. The discount can't be too generous because every launch would have to contribute to preserving the launch capability, not just the fuel used and the launch manpower.
Of course they could do the American thing and, having built a fleet of boosters, lay off the portion of the staff that is now idle. Which would make it very expensive and risky to recover from a run of bad luck, and expensive to evolve the design.