Author Topic: Surplus ICBM engines sold for Commercial launches - Discussion topic  (Read 4539 times)

Offline Rik ISS-fan

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In april a serie of three five news articles were posted on SpaceNews,
1. Op-ed | Dumping excess boosters on market would short-circuit commercial space renaissance
2. Op-ed | Ending ban on retired ICBMs would allow U.S. companies to reclaim small satellite launch market
3. Hyten tries to find sweet-spot on surplus icbm issue
4. house committee weighs small launch vehicle policy issues
5. faa-advisory committee recommends no changes to icbm-motor policy
all about Orbital ATK lobby to be able to offer ICBM surplus engine launch vehicles commercially.
I couldn't find a topic on NSF where this was discussed, did I miss the topic, or did the NSFcommunity miss this news?

I (as European) think it is an interesting subject for a discussion.
What are the pro's ans cons for commercial launch vehicles that use ICBM surplus engines?
What should be the price for these launch vehicles?
Are these launch systems goeing to compete with Venture Class launchers?
Where is DoD going to spend the money on it gets from the soled surplus ICBM's?
Is Orbilal ATK the only launch provider, or do other companies also have the right to use these engines?

Lots of things that can be discussed. I invite you to post your view on this.

Edit: thank you Sam Ho for posting the two articles I overlooked
« Last Edit: 05/03/2016 08:31 AM by Rik ISS-fan »

Offline Rik ISS-fan

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Now my view on this. (I'm from Europe, so I might have a strange view on this.)

Let me start with some developments I think are related to this subject.
In Europe there is a project called QB-50, from the von Karman Institute. It is a swarm off 50 cubesats (build by student teams) that have to be launched to a low LEO orbit. Their purpose is to study the lower thermosphere (200-380km) that has hardly been investigated.
This project has had and still has difficulty getting into orbit. They are now at the third or fourth launch scenario, and this scenario is all but sustain. Most of the cubesats will launch via Nanoracks deployment from the ISS (40 cubesats) this year. The other 10 cubesats should launch on two different Dnepr launchers at Q3 2016 and Q4 2016/ Q1 2017. But will Dnepr rockets launch given the current situation between Russia and Ukrane?
Then there was the EXPERT reentry vehicle that should have launched on a Russian SLBM, before ESA's IXV. But Russia changed their minde and wouldn't execute the launch. So EXPERT didn't launch jet, it currently is shelved in Europe.
The point I want to make, is that the offered small launch vehicles don't match with the requirements for these launchers.         

I think that the USA surplus ICBM launch vehicles could fill this requirement gap. I also think they are in another mass category then the Venture Class launch vehicles. The price for these launch vehicles should not undermine the Venture Class systems. I think the launch price should be between 15 and 35 mln $, for 500-1500 kg (1000-3000lb) to LEO.
But I don't think Orbital ATK Minotaur family as currently offered, are the right launch vehicles for the market.
There are two surplus ICBM's Minuteman (M55+SR-19{+SR73}) and Peacekeeper (SR118+SR119+SR120). Minuteman has a take of weight lower then 37mT (80k lb), and Peacekeeper weights less then 90mT (200k lb).
Orbital ATK offers launch vehicles with solid and hydrazine stages. I think stages derived from the venture class could improve the ICBM surplus launch systems a lot.

I think it is a good idea to open the commercial offering of surplus ICBM launch vehicles. BUT at a fair price and it should improve launcher development (not stagnate it). For DoD there could be two methods of payment for the surplus ICBM stages; with money or with services / decreased cost for new ICBM's or an upgrade program. I think a part of what the DoD gets for the surplus ICBM's should be invested in rocket technology development.
If the surplus ICBM's would be offered commercially mainly US taxpayers and new rocket technologies should benefit. Orbital ATK should benefit form higher launch cadence, and thus lower range cost for their new build launch vehicles. There lower range cost will also benefit the Venture class launchers.
If executed properly, the surplus ICBM's launch vehicles are supplementary to the Venture class and darpa's XS-1 vehiclesl. And launcher innovation is accelerated not decreased. (This is difficult but doable)
The big question is if OATK still wants this unther these conditions, because they will not benefit a lot from it.
« Last Edit: 05/01/2016 11:18 PM by Rik ISS-fan »

Offline russianhalo117

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In april a serie of three news articles were posted on SpaceNews, 1 2 3
all about Orbital ATK lobby to be able to offer ICBM surplus engine launch vehicles commercially.
I couldn't find a topic on NSF where this was discussed, did I miss the topic, or did the NSFcommunity miss this news?

I (as European) think it is an interesting subject for a discussion.
What are the pro's ans cons for commercial launch vehicles that use ICBM surplus engines?
What should be the price for these launch vehicles?
Are these launch systems goeing to compete with Venture Class launchers?
Where is DoD going to spend the money on it gets from the soled surplus ICBM's?
Is Orbilal ATK the only launch provider, or do other companies also have the right to use these engines?

Lots of things that can be discussed. I invite you to post your view on this.

If such a lobby by OA was successful, the IBCM motors would only be allowed to be stored and fly via US soil. NATO shared surplus weapons wouldnt be as restrictive as they could be launched from NATO installations from the different types of silos that were built for them provided they are still functional. There are many other surplus missile systems which are also used for suborbital and orbital missions, most notably the converted Polaris SSBM's and its derivative SSBM's the newest of which is Trident II.

Jim Oberg (His Profile is here: http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?action=profile;u=1095) and Ed Kyle (His profile is here: http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?action=profile;u=1253) would be able to answer you questions best.
« Last Edit: 05/02/2016 12:03 AM by russianhalo117 »

Offline Sam Ho

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There were also duelling opinion pieces from OA and VG in SpaceNews.

http://spacenews.com/op-ed-dumping-excess-boosters-on-market-would-short-circuit-commercial-space-renaissance/
http://spacenews.com/op-ed-ending-ban-on-retired-icbms-would-allow-u-s-companies-to-reclaim-small-satellite-launch-market/

The debate more or less boils down to OA wanting to sell Minotaur commercially, and other small launcher developers, particularly VG, not wanting OA to do so.

There are also launchers based in Russian ICBMs (Dnepr, Rockot) but they don't have all that high a launch rate, and there's no restriction on flying them commercially.

Offline Steven Pietrobon

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The winners from this decision are the new small launch vehicle builders. The losers are customers wanting to launch their small satellites, having to wait for these new launch vehicles to prove themselves and being forced to pay $50,000/kg or more since competition from cheaper US launch vehicles has been eliminated.
Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design #1:  Engineering is done with numbers.  Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.

Offline Rik ISS-fan

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The 2th article reafirms my view that surplus ICBM's are in another launch vehicle catagory then the Venture class. The Venture class has a payload capability lower then 500kg (~1000lb) to LEO. (ELectron 150kg SSO; Firefly Alfa 200kg SSO; Launcher one 250kg SSO {Airbus_SpaceUK2016}). The surplus ICBM launch vehicles are in the 500-2000kg (1k-4k lb) range. The XS-1 vehicles should be a little more capable then the surplus ICBM's.
The second versions of the venture class vehicles (only Firefly Beta is known) are in the surplus ICBM payload range in my oppinion. (Also the SpX Sherpa flight main payloads are in this category).   

The article states that the competitors are Dnepr, Rockot, Vega and PSLV. I would add the russian Angara 1.2, the Chinese LM-6 & LM-11; Japan's Epsilon and possibly USA Athena.
Dnepr is rumored to not be available anymore (because of the political situation between Russia and Ukrane). The Spanish PAZ earth observation satellite should have launched on Dnepr the first quarter of this year, but it didn't. I don't expect any more flights of Dnepr. (not good for QB-50)
Rockot also looks on the end of it's operational live. It will launch two times with European Sentinel satellites before the second half of 2017, and some Russian satellites will launch. But I expect Rocket to stop launching before the end of 2017, Angara 1.2 and Soyuz 2.1v will take over the place of both Rockot and Dnepr. (although they are more capable, XS-1 mass class)
Vega is going to move out of the category as well, when Vega-C becomes operational (>2000kg; Vega-E >2500kg). It will launch the 500-2000kg payloads in multi payload flights.

The surplus Russian ICBM's are hypergolic (NTO & UDMH) liquid systems. The easiest way to get rid of them is regarding them as scrape metal. They aren't toxic nor dangerous when stowed because no fuel is inside.
This is not the case with US surplus ICBM's (and SLBM's) those are solid stages. The only way to get rid of solid is to burn the propellant in a controlled fashion. Using the surplus US ICBM stages give them a useful purpose. I don't expect more then eight flights per year (two from each of the four launch sites).
I also think the upperstages of the venture class launch vehicles and XS-1 vehicles could be tested / matured on surplus ICBM launches. Launch cost for surplus ICBM's launchers will be more expansive then venture class and XS-1 launches also on $/kg basis. Because for commercial launches the stages should be payed for (some way or the other).

Offline Rik ISS-fan

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Does someone know the lead time to a Minotaur IV (or VI) launch?
The two Iridium second generation test satellites that should have launched on Dnepr, might be a good candidate for a Minotaur IV launch. I think for them there is no alternative available.
Could this launch take place before October (SpX 10x Iridium SG launch)?
« Last Edit: 05/03/2016 11:19 AM by Rik ISS-fan »

Offline Rik ISS-fan

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Today first I found the Eagle Launch vehicle family from E Prime Aerospace Corporation, on Spacerockets.
Then I found out SpaceNews posted a sixth article:
'Current debate on ICBM use a throwback to the 1990s'.

I've added an picture with possible new surplus ICBM launch vehicles.
« Last Edit: 05/06/2016 09:42 PM by Rik ISS-fan »

Offline Sam Ho

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USAF RSLP are soliciting industry comments on the Use of Excess ICBM Motors for Commerical Space Launches.  They note that any such use would require legislative action and would be NET FY18.  Respond by August 22.

https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=6695f8611975b93ee0a7ef9438cb742b&tab=core&_cview=0

Offline Danderman

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This has been the subject of debate for many years.

Ironically, Orbital led the charge against use of surplus ICBMs as commercial satellite launchers, so they got the contract to fly those launchers, originally just for government customers.

Online saliva_sweet

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The 2th article reafirms my view that surplus ICBM's are in another launch vehicle catagory then the Venture class.

I believe most (if not all, even if they deny it) small launch start-ups have aspirations to use their vehicles as spring-boards to develop bigger vehicles. They would not want that path to close.

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