Author Topic: Virgin Galactic (Orbit) preparing for busy LauncherOne future  (Read 38975 times)


Offline imprezive

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Not a big fan of the Virgin Orbit concept but I have to say I really respect their commitment to getting it done. The picture of the number of staff is phenomenal, there must be 300-400 people in that shot. It may be partially marketing, like all Virgin activities, but behind it is a really serious company.

Why are you not a fan of the concept?

Online ringsider

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Not a big fan of the Virgin Orbit concept but I have to say I really respect their commitment to getting it done. The picture of the number of staff is phenomenal, there must be 300-400 people in that shot. It may be partially marketing, like all Virgin activities, but behind it is a really serious company.

Why are you not a fan of the concept?
I think air-launch is expensive and more difficult - even though there are a few benefits, they are hard won. And the case of Virgin they use the 747 as a marketing prop from Virgin Atlantic.

But as I said I actually have a lot of respect for the way they are going about it, despite my preferences. I have nothing bad to say about Virgin Orbit, they are professional and serious.
« Last Edit: 08/11/2017 08:13 PM by ringsider »

Offline russianhalo117

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Not a big fan of the Virgin Orbit concept but I have to say I really respect their commitment to getting it done. The picture of the number of staff is phenomenal, there must be 300-400 people in that shot. It may be partially marketing, like all Virgin activities, but behind it is a really serious company.

Why are you not a fan of the concept?
I think air-launch is expensive and more difficult - even though there are a few benefits, they are hard won. And the case of Virgin they use the 747 as a marketing prop from Virgin Atlantic.

But as I said I actually have a lot of respect for the way they are going about it, despite my preferences. I have nothing bad to say about Virgin Orbit, they are professional and serious.

Air launch for a Pegasus is much cheaper and easier than using its ground equivalent Minotaur-C.

Offline envy887

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Not a big fan of the Virgin Orbit concept but I have to say I really respect their commitment to getting it done. The picture of the number of staff is phenomenal, there must be 300-400 people in that shot. It may be partially marketing, like all Virgin activities, but behind it is a really serious company.

Why are you not a fan of the concept?
I think air-launch is expensive and more difficult - even though there are a few benefits, they are hard won. And the case of Virgin they use the 747 as a marketing prop from Virgin Atlantic.

But as I said I actually have a lot of respect for the way they are going about it, despite my preferences. I have nothing bad to say about Virgin Orbit, they are professional and serious.

Air launch for a Pegasus is much cheaper and easier than using its ground equivalent Minotaur-C.

Minotaur gives triple the Pegasus payload for slightly more cost. An equivalent payload first stage might be cheaper than air-launch.

Offline TrevorMonty

Not a big fan of the Virgin Orbit concept but I have to say I really respect their commitment to getting it done. The picture of the number of staff is phenomenal, there must be 300-400 people in that shot. It may be partially marketing, like all Virgin activities, but behind it is a really serious company.

Why are you not a fan of the concept?
I think air-launch is expensive and more difficult - even though there are a few benefits, they are hard won. And the case of Virgin they use the 747 as a marketing prop from Virgin Atlantic.

But as I said I actually have a lot of respect for the way they are going about it, despite my preferences. I have nothing bad to say about Virgin Orbit, they are professional and serious.
Peter Beck from RL has discovered the hard way that developing launch pad facilities is not any easier. Air launch has more flexibility in launch orbits and can fly round bad weather. Using common 747 is good business practice, can easily be maintained and replaced if need be.

Time will tell which system is better.

Online ringsider

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Not a big fan of the Virgin Orbit concept but I have to say I really respect their commitment to getting it done. The picture of the number of staff is phenomenal, there must be 300-400 people in that shot. It may be partially marketing, like all Virgin activities, but behind it is a really serious company.

Why are you not a fan of the concept?
I think air-launch is expensive and more difficult - even though there are a few benefits, they are hard won. And the case of Virgin they use the 747 as a marketing prop from Virgin Atlantic.

But as I said I actually have a lot of respect for the way they are going about it, despite my preferences. I have nothing bad to say about Virgin Orbit, they are professional and serious.
Peter Beck from RL has discovered the hard way that developing launch pad facilities is not any easier. Air launch has more flexibility in launch orbits and can fly round bad weather. Using common 747 is good business practice, can easily be maintained and replaced if need be.

Time will tell which system is better.
Yeah those are the supposed benefits.

But the reality is the cost of airframe conversion is quite high, as is annual maintenance. I doubt that building a concrete pad and steel tower is as hard as a 747 D-check, even if Peter found it hard. It could also be he is trying to wave competitors off, you know? Make it look very hard.

Then you have the added risk of humans (pilots) involved proximally to the air launch system, while it carries a liquid-fuelled rocket under-wing. That is a much bigger risk than an unmanned VL system.

There is a reason so few horizontals have been built.
« Last Edit: 08/12/2017 10:19 PM by ringsider »

Offline imprezive

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Not a big fan of the Virgin Orbit concept but I have to say I really respect their commitment to getting it done. The picture of the number of staff is phenomenal, there must be 300-400 people in that shot. It may be partially marketing, like all Virgin activities, but behind it is a really serious company.

Why are you not a fan of the concept?
I think air-launch is expensive and more difficult - even though there are a few benefits, they are hard won. And the case of Virgin they use the 747 as a marketing prop from Virgin Atlantic.

But as I said I actually have a lot of respect for the way they are going about it, despite my preferences. I have nothing bad to say about Virgin Orbit, they are professional and serious.
Peter Beck from RL has discovered the hard way that developing launch pad facilities is not any easier. Air launch has more flexibility in launch orbits and can fly round bad weather. Using common 747 is good business practice, can easily be maintained and replaced if need be.

Time will tell which system is better.
Yeah those are the supposed benefits.

But the reality is the cost of airframe conversion is quite high, as is annual maintenance. I doubt that building a concrete pad and steel tower is as hard as a 747 D-check, even if Peter found it hard. It could also be he is trying to wave competitors off, you know? Make it look very hard.

Then you have the added risk of humans (pilots) involved proximally to the air launch system, while it carries a liquid-fuelled rocket under-wing. That is a much bigger risk than an unmanned VL system.

There is a reason so few horizontals have been built.

D-checks are every 5 years and the utilization of the Virgin Orbit plane is far less than an airliner so maybe longer. I don't know the cost of pad maintenance vs the 747 but my gut is the pad would be more.

Safety is certainly a real difference. Of course people fly on rockets too so it's just a matter of redundancy.

Online ringsider

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Cosmic Girl had a full D check before being allowed to be put to this use by the FAA, and then a conversion which probably includes some kind of fuelling / dumping system inside the plane as well as the attach / release mechanisms. None of that is trivial. So there is that cost and complexity to be considered up front.

https://www.popularmechanics.com/space/rockets/amp19987/virgin-galactic-cosmic-girl-747-launch-satellites/

I would be surprised if you got out of that process for less than the entire cost of a fixed pad, really surprised. That is at least 10-15m USD, plus the cost of the aircraft itself, which given the conversion is probably not on a simple lease.

Everybody things horizontal is easy and cheap, but if that were true it would be much more common. There are challenges that only become obvious when you look at it really carefully.

Even Virgin's L1 flight schedule acknowledges this (I posted it here a few months ago), with a ratio of aborts to successful launches. Imagine if they have to abort mid-air - what do they do with the liquid oxygen and extra RP-1 in the LV? Can't land with that for sure, so will dumping of large amounts of RP-1 into the Pacific or desert become SOP after an abort? How do you safely vent RP-1 and LOX at 500knots? What if the first LV explodes "on the pad"? I mean it's not like that is an unknown phenomenon.

Again I am not knocking Virgin Orbit, I am sure they have plans, just outlining my views on the challenges of air launch.
« Last Edit: 08/13/2017 07:57 AM by ringsider »

Offline imprezive

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Cosmic Girl had a full D check before being allowed to be put to this use by the FAA, and then a conversion which probably includes some kind of fuelling / dumping system inside the plane as well as the attach / release mechanisms. None of that is trivial. So there is that cost and complexity to be considered up front.

https://www.popularmechanics.com/space/rockets/amp19987/virgin-galactic-cosmic-girl-747-launch-satellites/

I would be surprised if you got out of that process for less than the entire cost of a fixed pad, really surprised. That is at least 10-15m USD, plus the cost of the aircraft itself, which given the conversion is probably not on a simple lease.

Everybody things horizontal is easy and cheap, but if that were true it would be much more common. There are challenges that only become obvious when you look at it really carefully.

Even Virgin's L1 flight schedule acknowledges this (I posted it here a few months ago), with a ratio of aborts to successful launches. Imagine if they have to abort mid-air - what do they do with the liquid oxygen and extra RP-1 in the LV? Can't land with that for sure, so will dumping of large amounts of RP-1 into the Pacific or desert become SOP after an abort? How do you safely vent RP-1 and LOX at 500knots? What if the first LV explodes "on the pad"? I mean it's not like that is an unknown phenomenon.

Again I am not knocking Virgin Orbit, I am sure they have plans, just outlining my views on the challenges of air launch.

By no means am I saying the costs are trivial but neither are the costs of building/refurbing a launch pad. According to Wikipedia SpaceX spent $20-30 million for their Vandenberg pad and $5-$10 million a year in maintenance. That's just for one pad, to hit low and high inclination orbits you'd need two.

Horizontal launch might not be common but neither are small launch vehicles. The economics might very well be different.

What makes you think that you have to dump the RP1 and LOX to land?

I know you aren't knocking Virgin Orbit, you always seem to have good comments so I enjoy your perspective.

Online ringsider

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By no means am I saying the costs are trivial but neither are the costs of building/refurbing a launch pad. According to Wikipedia SpaceX spent $20-30 million for their Vandenberg pad and $5-$10 million a year in maintenance. That's just for one pad, to hit low and high inclination orbits you'd need two.

Yes but that is for Falcon 9 which has a fully tanked mass of 550 tons. Rocket Lab Electron is less than 20 tons, and that is more in the same class as Virgin Orbit. I can't imagine the same costs apply to a pad of that scale - can't be more than $5-10m for the complete build out. Also from that pad they have a wide range of inclinations available.

Quote
What makes you think that you have to dump the RP1 and LOX to land?

Mainly risk. That is a 30-35 ton vehicle under the wing, I'm not sure it's clever or allowable to land in the main gear with that fully tanked. They may have a pumping solution to fuel/defuel it in flight, I don't know, but it's a complex process whatever they do.

Offline TrevorMonty

In RL case I don't think actual launch pad facilities construction was much more difficult than expected. More likely it was local roading upgrade required and ground work.

 "I know more about gravel compaction and aggregate size than I ever wanted to know in my life," says Beck.

Online ppb

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Not a big fan of the Virgin Orbit concept but I have to say I really respect their commitment to getting it done. The picture of the number of staff is phenomenal, there must be 300-400 people in that shot. It may be partially marketing, like all Virgin activities, but behind it is a really serious company.

Why are you not a fan of the concept?
I think air-launch is expensive and more difficult - even though there are a few benefits, they are hard won. And the case of Virgin they use the 747 as a marketing prop from Virgin Atlantic.

But as I said I actually have a lot of respect for the way they are going about it, despite my preferences. I have nothing bad to say about Virgin Orbit, they are professional and serious.
Peter Beck from RL has discovered the hard way that developing launch pad facilities is not any easier. Air launch has more flexibility in launch orbits and can fly round bad weather. Using common 747 is good business practice, can easily be maintained and replaced if need be.

Time will tell which system is better.
Yeah those are the supposed benefits.

But the reality is the cost of airframe conversion is quite high, as is annual maintenance. I doubt that building a concrete pad and steel tower is as hard as a 747 D-check, even if Peter found it hard. It could also be he is trying to wave competitors off, you know? Make it look very hard.

Then you have the added risk of humans (pilots) involved proximally to the air launch system, while it carries a liquid-fuelled rocket under-wing. That is a much bigger risk than an unmanned VL system.

There is a reason so few horizontals have been built.

You identified the number one reason this concept is a bad idea.  It's repeating the Space Shuttle mistake all over again:  unnecessarily risking people to launch unmanned payloads into orbit.  Almost every rocket design has had a RUD event near the launch point at some time in its history, some sooner than others.  Take a good look at the Cosmic Girl-- when that event inevitably happens to Launcher One, that will be the end of the Girl and the poor crewmen whose number came up that day.  Probably the end of Virgin Orbit as well.  All for some range flexibility and questionable decrease in price.
Quam celerrime ad astra

Offline GClark

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Wow, you're right.  We've never succeeded at this before.  Why, remember all those X-15s that RUD'd, sending those B-52's crashing to Earth and killing the crews.

/sarc

Offline TrevorMonty

RUD typically happen after  engines are light by which time carry aircaft would be will clear.

F9 US explosion on pad being one of few exceptions.

Offline Bananas_on_Mars

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Even Virgin's L1 flight schedule acknowledges this (I posted it here a few months ago), with a ratio of aborts to successful launches. Imagine if they have to abort mid-air - what do they do with the liquid oxygen and extra RP-1 in the LV? Can't land with that for sure, so will dumping of large amounts of RP-1 into the Pacific or desert become SOP after an abort? How do you safely vent RP-1 and LOX at 500knots?
Since RP-1 is just a "purer" standard for kerosene, you can pump it into the normal airplanes tanks if necessary.
And dumping of kerosene is kind of standard emergency procedure for airplanes. Not nice, but most of it should evaporate before it hits the ground.

Dumping LOX should be a nobrainer in my opinion.

Offline meekGee

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Even Virgin's L1 flight schedule acknowledges this (I posted it here a few months ago), with a ratio of aborts to successful launches. Imagine if they have to abort mid-air - what do they do with the liquid oxygen and extra RP-1 in the LV? Can't land with that for sure, so will dumping of large amounts of RP-1 into the Pacific or desert become SOP after an abort? How do you safely vent RP-1 and LOX at 500knots?
Since RP-1 is just a "purer" standard for kerosene, you can pump it into the normal airplanes tanks if necessary.
And dumping of kerosene is kind of standard emergency procedure for airplanes. Not nice, but most of it should evaporate before it hits the ground.

Dumping LOX should be a nobrainer in my opinion.

Agreed, and once the O2 is dumped, I don't even know if you need to dump the RP-1, since the O2 is the heavier component.

However, the quote below is misguided:
Wow, you're right.  We've never succeeded at this before.  Why, remember all those X-15s that RUD'd, sending those B-52's crashing to Earth and killing the crews.
/sarc

Just because it was done, doesn't mean it should.  There's a reason launch pads get evacuated before fueling, and not before launch.  Even on manned flights (which this isn't), crew loading is a high-risk step, and witness the recent public discussion about "crew first" or "fuel first" - so why do it when it's just a mini-sat that's being launched?

---

In the grand scheme of things though, I think with a modern vehicle, this is not a giant overbearing risk, certainly not "an accident waiting to happen".  The payload is largely passive, and airplanes carry dangerous payloads all the time.

As long as the rocket is far enough away when the ignition sequence starts, I think it's ok.
« Last Edit: 08/19/2017 05:21 PM by meekGee »
ABCD - Always Be Counting Down

Offline edkyle99

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Wow, you're right.  We've never succeeded at this before.  Why, remember all those X-15s that RUD'd, sending those B-52's crashing to Earth and killing the crews.

/sarc

There were two or three X-1 explosions while being carried by B-50 mother ships. 

Pressurized RP/LOX rockets occasionally explode.  Just last year, for example, at SLC 41.

 - Ed Kyle

Offline GClark

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Four actually - X-1D, X-1#3, X-2#1, and X-1A (in that order).  All were lost to the same root cause.

I deliberately ignored them, as I was comparing like to like - under-wing pylon mounted being the discriminator.

I agree that RUDs are possible.  X-15#3 famously had one.

I disagree with the way it was being characterized - it is inevitable, the launch aircraft will be destroyed and people will die, therefore it is too dangerous and shouldn't be done.

Online FutureSpaceTourist

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Quote
.@Virgin_Orbit #LauncherOne 30 sec test of NewtonFour 5klbf LOX/RP upper stage engine (1st night test; Aug 29, 2017) instagram.com/p/BYrH9PZgu-D

https://twitter.com/ac_charania/status/905201873703104514

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