Author Topic: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - General Discussion Thread 2  (Read 159616 times)

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Re: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - General Discussion Thread 2
« Reply #740 on: 03/19/2017 06:09 PM »
When will ULA announce their choice for first stage engine?
next year.
Sensible.

Allows the histrionic, hoopla, and hype to settle down from other groups, against the likely backdrop of multiple full scale, full duration tests.

Then they'll announce that they have an engine, and a LV to fly it with. The other engine supplier will say theirs is better w/o proof (sound familiar?) and say they'll be ready in a year or two. Bruno will say we need it now and its ready to go.

Offline meekGee

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Re: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - General Discussion Thread 2
« Reply #741 on: 03/19/2017 09:26 PM »
Wrong again.  Cost reduction due to reuse is unproven and therefore stating that a design that doesn't incorporate it is a drawback fails logic.
At this point, saying "cost reduction due to reuse is unproven" is akin to saying, in December, that Trump had not won the election since the electoral college had not yet met.  It's technically a true statement but almost sure to be overturned in the next few months.  After all, SpaceX has recovered several boosters, had plenty of time to inspect them, has test fired them, run them through structural testing, and after all that stated they expect to refurbish them for a few (2-3) million dollars each.  It seems unlikely that their cost estimates are off by an order of magnitude, and they should verify, within weeks, that there are no technical flaws that prevent reuse.  So a rational person should guess that cost reduction from reuse is extremely likely, and expect that within a few months it will be proven.

The second part, saying "stating that a design that doesn't incorporate [reuse] is a drawback fails logic" is also true.  What it should say, IMO, is that a strategy that cannot compete in a world of $50M launches is a drawback.  After all, the customer does not care about reuse, only cost to them.  There are potentially many ways to compete is such a world.  Reuse is one.  A low cost launcher might be another.  A third is to concentrate on high-end, boutique launches, where customers will pay extra for extra service.  The concern is that if Vulcan does not incorporate reuse, it may be too expensive to compete for commodity launches, and there may not be enough high-end launches to sustain the program (plus others may evolve to compete for these).  These I think are legitimate worries.

Of course, but I don't think $50M is the correct number. Not if they can pull off >10 flights per booster, and "days' turn around", which are the stated goals.

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Offline Jim

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Re: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - General Discussion Thread 2
« Reply #742 on: 03/19/2017 10:38 PM »

At this point, saying "cost reduction due to reuse is unproven" is akin to saying, in December, that Trump had not won the election since the electoral college had not yet met.  It's technically a true statement but almost sure to be overturned in the next few months.  After all, SpaceX has recovered several boosters, had plenty of time to inspect them, has test fired them, run them through structural testing, and after all that stated they expect to refurbish them for a few (2-3) million dollars each.  It seems unlikely that their cost estimates are off by an order of magnitude, and they should verify, within weeks, that there are no technical flaws that prevent reuse.  So a rational person should guess that cost reduction from reuse is extremely likely, and expect that within a few months it will be proven.


Wrong, they do not know if they will have shuttle orbiter issue and need to take more time to refurbish than build a stage.  They took 4 months on the first one.  We don't even know how much of the vehicle will be new hardware.

A rational person would not be suck into the hype.

Online LouScheffer

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Re: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - General Discussion Thread 2
« Reply #743 on: 03/19/2017 11:24 PM »
At this point, saying "cost reduction due to reuse is unproven" is akin to saying, in December, that Trump had not won the election since the electoral college had not yet met.  It's technically a true statement but almost sure to be overturned in the next few months.  After all, SpaceX has recovered several boosters, had plenty of time to inspect them, has test fired them, run them through structural testing, and after all that stated they expect to refurbish them for a few (2-3) million dollars each.  It seems unlikely that their cost estimates are off by an order of magnitude, and they should verify, within weeks, that there are no technical flaws that prevent reuse.  So a rational person should guess that cost reduction from reuse is extremely likely, and expect that within a few months it will be proven.
Wrong, they do not know if they will have shuttle orbiter issue and need to take more time to refurbish than build a stage.  They took 4 months on the first one.  We don't even know how much of the vehicle will be new hardware.
WE don't know how much of the vehicle will be new hardware, but THEY know in detail, and said it's a few million dollars to refurbish.   They could be wrong, but wrong by an order of magnitude?

Also, where would that money be spent?  To spend $30M, the cost of a new booster, in labor costs, you would need 450 highly paid workers ($200K/year loaded) over the 4 months they spent.  That's a tenth of the company.  And what would they all be doing?  Plus 4 months was for the first one - surely later trials will take less effort, as they learn what they are doing.

New hardware costs is a reasonable question, but they are not replacing the tanks, they are not replacing the engines (that would be more than a few million right there), so what might they replace that's expensive?  Legs are one possibility, as are grid fins, but what else?  Even if both of these need replacing, they are surely cheaper than a new booster.

In fact I think the shuttle experience shows that the Falcon will surely save money by refurbishing.   The shuttle, by most accounts, was just about breakeven.  But this included three subsystems that were expensive to refurbish - the solid boosters were basically re-assembled, the engines torn down and rebuilt, and the tiles took an enormous amount of complex labor to analyze and fix.   None of these seem applicable to Falcon, so it seems likely it will be cheaper to re-use than build.
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A rational person would not be suck[ed] into the hype.
Certainly true.  A rational person should ignore the hype, and instead analyze the task at hand, and make their best guess as to the costs involved.  This is re-creating from outside the spreadsheet SpaceX surely has internally - $X for engines needing replacing, $Y for reapplying ablatives, $Z for new legs and grid fins, etc.  And while different rational people will get different estimates for these tasks, I can't see how to make the sum of these costs exceed the $30M cost of a new booster.  If you have reasons to believe otherwise I'd love to hear them.

Online envy887

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Re: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - General Discussion Thread 2
« Reply #744 on: 03/19/2017 11:56 PM »
There is a whole thread devoted to refurbishment of SpaceX vehicles. This is not that thread.

The Shuttle orbiters did much better than break even on refurbishment, they saved over 50% of the cost of building a new orbiter. If Vulcan (or Falcon, for that matter) can do the same they will be doing OK.

Offline meekGee

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Re: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - General Discussion Thread 2
« Reply #745 on: 03/20/2017 12:31 AM »
At this point, saying "cost reduction due to reuse is unproven" is akin to saying, in December, that Trump had not won the election since the electoral college had not yet met.  It's technically a true statement but almost sure to be overturned in the next few months.  After all, SpaceX has recovered several boosters, had plenty of time to inspect them, has test fired them, run them through structural testing, and after all that stated they expect to refurbish them for a few (2-3) million dollars each.  It seems unlikely that their cost estimates are off by an order of magnitude, and they should verify, within weeks, that there are no technical flaws that prevent reuse.  So a rational person should guess that cost reduction from reuse is extremely likely, and expect that within a few months it will be proven.
Wrong, they do not know if they will have shuttle orbiter issue and need to take more time to refurbish than build a stage.  They took 4 months on the first one.  We don't even know how much of the vehicle will be new hardware.
WE don't know how much of the vehicle will be new hardware, but THEY know in detail, and said it's a few million dollars to refurbish.   They could be wrong, but wrong by an order of magnitude?

Also, where would that money be spent?  To spend $30M, the cost of a new booster, in labor costs, you would need 450 highly paid workers ($200K/year loaded) over the 4 months they spent.  That's a tenth of the company.  And what would they all be doing?  Plus 4 months was for the first one - surely later trials will take less effort, as they learn what they are doing.

New hardware costs is a reasonable question, but they are not replacing the tanks, they are not replacing the engines (that would be more than a few million right there), so what might they replace that's expensive?  Legs are one possibility, as are grid fins, but what else?  Even if both of these need replacing, they are surely cheaper than a new booster.

In fact I think the shuttle experience shows that the Falcon will surely save money by refurbishing.   The shuttle, by most accounts, was just about breakeven.  But this included three subsystems that were expensive to refurbish - the solid boosters were basically re-assembled, the engines torn down and rebuilt, and the tiles took an enormous amount of complex labor to analyze and fix.   None of these seem applicable to Falcon, so it seems likely it will be cheaper to re-use than build.
Quote
A rational person would not be suck[ed] into the hype.
Certainly true.  A rational person should ignore the hype, and instead analyze the task at hand, and make their best guess as to the costs involved.  This is re-creating from outside the spreadsheet SpaceX surely has internally - $X for engines needing replacing, $Y for reapplying ablatives, $Z for new legs and grid fins, etc.  And while different rational people will get different estimates for these tasks, I can't see how to make the sum of these costs exceed the $30M cost of a new booster.  If you have reasons to believe otherwise I'd love to hear them.

Besides, it's one thing to admit that there is a possibility, theoretical as it may be, that F9 may "prove to be a shuttle"....  But it's quite another to commit your company to a multi-year (multi-decade) effort that only makes sense in that case...

It's a matter of "likely outcome", not "absolute proof".   When absolute proof comes, it's about 10 years too late.
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Online woods170

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Re: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - General Discussion Thread 2
« Reply #746 on: 03/20/2017 11:56 AM »
Excuse me. Is this not supposed to be a ULA thread? What's with all the SpaceX felgercarb here?

Online LouScheffer

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Re: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - General Discussion Thread 2
« Reply #747 on: 03/20/2017 01:15 PM »
Excuse me. Is this not supposed to be a ULA thread? What's with all the SpaceX felgercarb here?
I don't think discussion of competitors is as off-topic as it looks:

How Vulcan will compete in the market that exists when it is introduced is surely on topic.

The question as to what extent re-usability should be designed into Vulcan is also directly on topic. Some posters have commented that they think the lack of re-use in the initial version is a drawback.  This too seems on-topic.

To answer this question, you need to enumerate the advantages and disadvantages of re-usability.  This is surely informed  by a thorough understanding of how well it's working for those competitors that use it.  So a discussion of how well re-usability is working for SpaceX, based on the best available evidence, is certainly very relevant to the design of Vulcan.

In my opinion, if and how Vulcan is designed for reusability will probably have more impact on its long term success than the choice of engine or tooling diameter.  So this seemingly off-topic discussion of the strength of the evidence it's working for SpaceX is actually very much on topic.


Offline TrevorMonty

Stil wrong thread just like the last few posts.

Offline jongoff

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Re: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - General Discussion Thread 2
« Reply #749 on: 03/21/2017 03:29 AM »
Wrong, they do not know if they will have shuttle orbiter issue and need to take more time to refurbish than build a stage.  They took 4 months on the first one.  We don't even know how much of the vehicle will be new hardware.

A rational person would not be suck into the hype.

The rational response to the potential for reuse depends a lot on if you're a customer or a competitor. If you're a launch customer, or someone hoping to see launch prices go down dramatically, then the rational course of action is to err on the side of caution. People have been overoptimistic about reuse in the past, and this could very well just be another repeat.

If on the other hand you're a competitor, like ULA, why is it rational to dismiss reuse potential as hype? In their case the rational position would be to expect that SpaceX will be at least moderately successful with reuse, and base their plans around trying to find a way to compete in that world. If it turns out that SpaceX isn't that successful, then ULA will have at least positioned itself more competitively, and if they are successful, ULA will have better odds of staying competitive enough to stay alive.

~Jon

Offline meekGee

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Re: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - General Discussion Thread 2
« Reply #750 on: 03/21/2017 03:41 AM »
Excuse me. Is this not supposed to be a ULA thread? What's with all the SpaceX felgercarb here?

It is.  The topic being discussed is ULA's management attitude and response to challenges and to changes in the market.

This was relevant back with Michael Gass, and is relevant today with Tory Bruno.

SpaceX was only brought into the discussion when the rationale for their attitude was argued as "RTLS reuse is not proven yet".  It's just like the discussion might veer into "where can ULA and BO's relationship lead", or "how is ULA responding to BO's NG".  The discussion never went into the details of SpaceX-style reuse.
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Online Negan

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Re: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - General Discussion Thread 2
« Reply #751 on: 03/22/2017 09:40 PM »

At this point, saying "cost reduction due to reuse is unproven" is akin to saying, in December, that Trump had not won the election since the electoral college had not yet met.  It's technically a true statement but almost sure to be overturned in the next few months.  After all, SpaceX has recovered several boosters, had plenty of time to inspect them, has test fired them, run them through structural testing, and after all that stated they expect to refurbish them for a few (2-3) million dollars each.  It seems unlikely that their cost estimates are off by an order of magnitude, and they should verify, within weeks, that there are no technical flaws that prevent reuse.  So a rational person should guess that cost reduction from reuse is extremely likely, and expect that within a few months it will be proven.


Wrong, they do not know if they will have shuttle orbiter issue and need to take more time to refurbish than build a stage.  They took 4 months on the first one.  We don't even know how much of the vehicle will be new hardware.

A rational person would not be suck into the hype.

Down to six to eight weeks now and only two to four weeks in a few months. How does that compare to building a new stage?

Offline RyanC

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Re: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - General Discussion Thread 2
« Reply #752 on: 04/01/2017 12:44 PM »
And SES-10 has gone up and come back.

ULA's case for Vulcan is getting cloudier, particularly the "parachute engines back" bit -- They're about six years "behind the curve" now and getting worse...

Offline TrevorMonty

 They are 100+ successful missions in a row and launch on time. Just like most other products/services it is not always about price.

I can see ACES and distributed launch opening up some new markets. When working they will be able to do missions no other LV can.


Online rockets4life97

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Re: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - General Discussion Thread 2
« Reply #754 on: 04/01/2017 01:44 PM »
They are 100+ successful missions in a row and launch on time. Just like most other products/services it is not always about price.

I can see ACES and distributed launch opening up some new markets. When working they will be able to do missions no other LV can.

Yeah, I don't think ULA is going anywhere. But I do think their profit margins are going to take a hit. I think the wild card is if the parent companies decide ULA is not profitable enough to be worth it.

Offline Darkseraph

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Re: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - General Discussion Thread 2
« Reply #755 on: 04/01/2017 02:45 PM »
How feasible would it be for ULA to implement booster flyback & landing for Vulcan, if it is later shown to be an economically practical approach by their competitors? Would it require a complete cleansheet redesign of the Vulcan core stage? If they choose the BE4, they will already be utilising an engine designed for reuse.
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Offline spacenut

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Re: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - General Discussion Thread 2
« Reply #756 on: 04/01/2017 02:52 PM »
Seems like they would need a minimum of 5 engines on the core to use the middle engine for throttling down to land a booster.  5 engines is close to New Glenn.  Otherwise, they could use the old RS-27 or H-1 engine from Saturn I and Delta II on a larger core like SpaceX.  They are going to eventually have to get away from the Russian engines.  Newer engines being developed by SpaceX and Blue Origin are metholox engines at around 500,000 lbs + thrust.  I don't know if they have even started on the AR-1, and it is also a 500k thrust engine.

Offline SweetWater

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Re: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - General Discussion Thread 2
« Reply #757 on: 04/01/2017 03:23 PM »
They are 100+ successful missions in a row and launch on time. Just like most other products/services it is not always about price.

I can see ACES and distributed launch opening up some new markets. When working they will be able to do missions no other LV can.

There will always be people who will be willing to pay more for a service that is reliable and on time. There is also some logic to supporting at least two service providers in a field like space launch where, if a rocket and payload are destroyed in flight, the service provided by that particular provider will be unavailable for an unknown period of time while the incident is investigated and any necessary changes are made.

This was part of the reason the US government didn't downselect to a single EELV and instead supported by the Atlas V and Delta IV. Other launch customers do the same thing - SES has been alternating between Falcon 9 and Ariane 5 launches for similarly sized satellites going to similar orbits for a few years now. It makes sense to have your eggs in multiple baskets.

Where I think ULA might really run into trouble is with Blue's New Glenn joining the mix. We have no idea how reliable the New Glenn will be, but Besos seems committed to the project, and I see no reason to think it won't some day be at least as reliable as Falcon 9 has been to date. With two competitors with cheaper and still-pretty-reliable products on the market, what slice of the market is left to ULA?

Also, something that is getting lost in the conversation, I think, is the fact that Vulcan is still - like New Glenn - a paper rocket at this point. ULA has a great track record, but that doesn't mean Vulcan won't have teething problems - witness what happened with the Delta III.

Offline edkyle99

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Re: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - General Discussion Thread 2
« Reply #758 on: 04/01/2017 04:03 PM »
And SES-10 has gone up and come back.

ULA's case for Vulcan is getting cloudier, particularly the "parachute engines back" bit -- They're about six years "behind the curve" now and getting worse...
To lift the heaviest payloads that Vulcan will lift - the EELV payloads that the Government wants to launch - Falcon will have to be expended entirely, including the engines, so the SES 10 example, remarkable though it might be, does not apply.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 04/01/2017 04:05 PM by edkyle99 »

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Re: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - General Discussion Thread 2
« Reply #759 on: 04/01/2017 04:12 PM »
They are 100+ successful missions in a row and launch on time. Just like most other products/services it is not always about price.

Not quite.  ULA has had a monopoly on USAF launches, so until a second launch provider became available we couldn't see how important launch reliability and schedule reliability was to their customer.  And at least for the launches that SpaceX is able to compete on, we see that the USAF is more concerned with price than perfection.

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I can see ACES and distributed launch opening up some new markets.

As for ACES, what markets?  Who are the customers?  When would they need such services?

"Distributed launch" is just marketing-speak for something that any launch provider can do, so it's not a competitive advantage for ULA, and if anything it probably is an advantage for reusable launch providers.

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When working they will be able to do missions no other LV can.

For the price that ULA will be charging?  I think there will be plenty of competitors at the same or lower price.  Certainly Falcon Heavy will be a competitor, and New Glenn is likely to be too.

According to SES after their historic SES-10 launch, they see the market moving towards a service model where they just buy the service and it won't matter what the transportation system is.  That doesn't bode well for high-performance/high-cost systems like Vulcan/ACES.

The launch market changed this week.  We'll see if ULA decides to change with it...
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

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