Author Topic: Solid Propellant Industrial Base  (Read 9605 times)

Online Kabloona

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Re: Solid Propellant Industrial Base
« Reply #80 on: 06/26/2017 11:14 PM »
Yes, F9, FH, Vulcan, New Glenn, etc are going to be mainstays of the LV business going forward. Reduced role of solids in that arena means DoD has to find other ways to keep solids mfg base intact, eg for next gen ICBM. Loss of Shuttle was evidently a huge hit in that respect.

Yet somehow they managed before Shuttle, so there has to be a way.

OATK and AJR just have to start behaving like normal corporations. When the demand is down, you downsize. You don't build things at full production speed and take a few years break. No, you slow down production. That's how you keep skills alive. The DoD can order in as big of batches as they want, but if you know the demand is temporary you simply extend the delivery window.

Well, you're right, of course. Shuttle was just a big anomalous "camel's hump" of a production bulge in the solids industry, and now that it's gone, we're back to status quo ante bellum. And life goes on as it must, somehow.  ;)


Offline rayleighscatter

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Re: Solid Propellant Industrial Base
« Reply #81 on: 06/26/2017 11:36 PM »
The DoD can order in as big of batches as they want, but if you know the demand is temporary you simply extend the delivery window.
DoD dictates the delivery window, not the vendor.

Offline Rebel44

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Re: Solid Propellant Industrial Base
« Reply #82 on: 06/27/2017 12:00 AM »
The DoD can order in as big of batches as they want, but if you know the demand is temporary you simply extend the delivery window.
DoD dictates the delivery window, not the vendor.
In that case (inflexible demands on suppliers), DoD better be prepared to pay for upkeep of industrial base in times of low demand....
Or DoD can try to find more viable way to stabilize solid propellant industrial base - even if it means making compromises - like spreading orders over timeinstead of huge short term orders.

Last time I checked, not even US DoD has blank checks for most of its projects, so they better start acting like they live in same reality as rest of us.

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Re: Solid Propellant Industrial Base
« Reply #83 on: 06/27/2017 12:08 AM »
We can always make more AP, but  turning it into an actual motor is the hard part, especially if a lot of experienced people have already retired and not enough new blood has been infused because demand has been anemic for a long period.
Kabloona, we're in full agreement here.

And I've spoken with university students and those involved with new propulsion concepts. One even used a solid state laser boost ...

My suggestion is to broaden into "R", "r&d" and "D" oriented programs aimed at the under 30 crowd, including new formulations, new concepts, and enhancements of existing formulations.

(The trouble, like what happened to pre-ULA, was too much focus on "operational" and not enough on less restricted IR&D, which was viewed as "waste" by parents/management. They even sought out creative people for dismissal as they were too "disruptive". After all, they could hire such if they needed such, which they never did.)

Ask why there's so few in the the field, and its the same pre-SX as other areas of aerospace, and why many of the most successful engineers (by manner of hire) are dull, and why I encounter the more creative ones as having moved from that field to another quite different one.

The same has been true for those in solid fuel propulsion.

The obvious answer to this is to change the funding assumptions that presume we're simply trying to maintain an old, "figured out" field ... and present challenges that allow the field to become attractive to "risk takers", who are the "early adopters" of this future improvement. The "late adopters" are the ones that follow, who intermediate past/present/future and make variations on them. One breaks the wave, the next widens it.

This however runs counter to past aerospace practice. In the extreme, an inconsequential budget is shot at NIAC programs, a pittance that is used for occasional wild ideas. Unfortunately, this has been viewed more of as a "catch-all" that it shouldn't be. It is utterly irrelevant to what I'm referring to above.

The reason behind your concern is because no one wants to be in the field. It is necessary to reconstruct things such that it becomes very desirable.

In that context, those who are experts of the past become collaborators to build the near future and further future.

That's how you'd get the desired outcome.

Online gongora

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Re: Solid Propellant Industrial Base
« Reply #84 on: 06/27/2017 02:55 AM »
The DoD can order in as big of batches as they want, but if you know the demand is temporary you simply extend the delivery window.
DoD dictates the delivery window, not the vendor.
In that case (inflexible demands on suppliers), DoD better be prepared to pay for upkeep of industrial base in times of low demand....
Or DoD can try to find more viable way to stabilize solid propellant industrial base - even if it means making compromises - like spreading orders over timeinstead of huge short term orders.

Last time I checked, not even US DoD has blank checks for most of its projects, so they better start acting like they live in same reality as rest of us.

It would almost certainly be cheaper to directly subsidize the AP manufacturer than it would be to spread out procurement of a new generation ICBM.

Online Kabloona

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Re: Solid Propellant Industrial Base
« Reply #85 on: 06/27/2017 02:55 AM »
We can always make more AP, but  turning it into an actual motor is the hard part, especially if a lot of experienced people have already retired and not enough new blood has been infused because demand has been anemic for a long period.
Kabloona, we're in full agreement here.

And I've spoken with university students and those involved with new propulsion concepts. One even used a solid state laser boost ...

My suggestion is to broaden into "R", "r&d" and "D" oriented programs aimed at the under 30 crowd, including new formulations, new concepts, and enhancements of existing formulations.

(The trouble, like what happened to pre-ULA, was too much focus on "operational" and not enough on less restricted IR&D, which was viewed as "waste" by parents/management. They even sought out creative people for dismissal as they were too "disruptive". After all, they could hire such if they needed such, which they never did.)

Ask why there's so few in the the field, and its the same pre-SX as other areas of aerospace, and why many of the most successful engineers (by manner of hire) are dull, and why I encounter the more creative ones as having moved from that field to another quite different one.

The same has been true for those in solid fuel propulsion.

The obvious answer to this is to change the funding assumptions that presume we're simply trying to maintain an old, "figured out" field ... and present challenges that allow the field to become attractive to "risk takers", who are the "early adopters" of this future improvement. The "late adopters" are the ones that follow, who intermediate past/present/future and make variations on them. One breaks the wave, the next widens it.

This however runs counter to past aerospace practice. In the extreme, an inconsequential budget is shot at NIAC programs, a pittance that is used for occasional wild ideas. Unfortunately, this has been viewed more of as a "catch-all" that it shouldn't be. It is utterly irrelevant to what I'm referring to above.

The reason behind your concern is because no one wants to be in the field. It is necessary to reconstruct things such that it becomes very desirable.

In that context, those who are experts of the past become collaborators to build the near future and further future.

That's how you'd get the desired outcome.

The thing is, most of the solids R&D in the US is either directly or indirectly funded by DoD, so industry by itself can't do much. I got into the solids industry first in grad school doing solid propellant research funded by the Navy, and then in the Air Force doing solid propellant R&D at the old Rocket Lab at Edwards AFB. So my career path was totally Gov't funded. And the IR&D being done at the time by the big solids companies (then Thiokol, Hercules, Aerojet, and UT/CSD) were all funded by their profits from Gov't contracts, and not hugely effective. Much of the corporate IR&D at the time was focused on clean propellants, an Air Force-driven initiative for Advanced Launch System that went nowhere. So pretty much a wasted effort.

That was the state of things 30 years ago, and I doubt much has changed. DoD has the funding to do solids R&D within the various services, and I don't know how corporate IR&D compares in terms of funding, but I'd be surprised if it matches DoD's funding.

I got into rockets in high school because I liked making stuff burn, or explode, and/or go fast. Didn't know I'd end up as a solids propulsion engineer.

There must still be plenty of high school kids who like to make stuff burn, or explode, and/or go fast. The challenge is getting to them early and showing them that an interesting, rewarding career in solid propulsion is possible. Heck, even if you're not inventing new propellants, playing with the old ones can still be fun.
« Last Edit: 06/27/2017 03:12 AM by Kabloona »

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Re: Solid Propellant Industrial Base
« Reply #86 on: 06/27/2017 06:34 PM »
The thing is, most of the solids R&D in the US is either directly or indirectly funded by DoD, so industry by itself can't do much.
Which is why Bezos/Musk have such an opportunity to disrupt aerospace.

Existing companies "hide" behind national security and political defenders so they don't have to be effective.

Then they can blame their lot in life for the ills they create/ignore. A poor use of privilege.

Which means they corrode continually, because they have no true "one on one" competition. Which is what I've massively disliked about the whole ULA/SX nonsense. It obscures true virtues/flaws of both.

One of my "hot" buttons is when someone defends off of heritage, which I respect, but it's usually a victimization rant that obscures the situation by mixing heritage with malpractice, to hide the malpractice. It destroys the value of heritage.

"Good" firms change on their own, they don't wait for their industry.

Ask Tory Bruno about this. We had a nice discussion on this topic.

Quote
I got into the solids industry first in grad school doing solid propellant research funded by the Navy, and then in the Air Force doing solid propellant R&D at the old Rocket Lab at Edwards AFB. So my career path was totally Gov't funded.
Were there grants/initiatives/scholarships in your grad first/second year? Something akin to the NESSF?

(These are part of what I'm suggesting.)

(BTW, I was a "kid" who understood RTI in mathematics/programs. My compact proof of concepts were ridiculed, then run, then adopted. When they weren't used, bad things often happened. Such was the state of chaotic process modeling in the era of "the best and brightest" - it offended their Confucian sensibilities. Combustion theories, vortex shedding, magnetic flux reconnection, even protein folding and contradictions in GNC. Solids I know from the placement within to alter the thrust profile. My gimmick was to understand "how things worked" from those that made things work, so sponged up a lot of trivia.)

Quote
And the IR&D being done at the time by the big solids companies (then Thiokol, Hercules, Aerojet, and UT/CSD) were all funded by their profits from Gov't contracts, and not hugely effective.
They made IR&D into waste. Cutting their own throats. But that's ok, USG will bail you out if its needed ... So wrong.

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Much of the corporate IR&D at the time was focused on clean propellants, an Air Force-driven initiative for Advanced Launch System that went nowhere. So pretty much a wasted effort.
They never thought about it as part of the "mainline business", just fobbed off "irritations" like the stupid eco stuff. "Make it go away".

IR&D was never considered a virtue.

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That was the state of things 30 years ago, and I doubt much has changed. DoD has the funding to do solids R&D within the various services, and I don't know how corporate IR&D compares in terms of funding, but I'd be surprised if it matches DoD's funding.
Well, you've documented where the problem is. And its worse than the politics of solids in space launch. Or AP.

Quote
I got into rockets in high school because I liked making stuff burn, or explode, and/or go fast. Didn't know I'd end up as a solids propulsion engineer.

Reminds of the "Rocket Boys" "October Sky". Which inspired two kids I know to become leaders in industry and space science.

(Myself, was a 9th grade student who got a intern position for a scientist working on deciphering Venus atmosphere's from IR spectra - he had me use a mechanical gadget to physically measure the area under a curve by tracing its outline, where the gadget would do the integration. Asked to use a computer with the raw data to do it better, then did successively the processing of the data into a mathematical model which fed in chaotic processes, then got "borrowed" by his NASA coauthors for related projects in aerospace engineering, avionics, and other fields. One of the scientists inspired me to moderate explosive nitrogen tri-iodine into a fuel with a chemical that repressed detonation, and I made my own high yield solid fuel rocket. Stuff was so touchy that crystals drying on the windowsill in the sun would be set off by flies touching it, with little purple mushroom clouds.)

Quote
There must still be plenty of high school kids who like to make stuff burn, or explode, and/or go fast. The challenge is getting to them early and showing them that an interesting, rewarding career in solid propulsion is possible.
Agreed.

I've done outreach all my life, even when it was high pressure/zero time off. Have been a science fair judge, done events in elementary through grad school math/engineering/science/healthcare to "start up" young minds.

(In February one of those I judged was about a solid fueled rocket design (he want to become an accountant!). His dad was at ATK.)

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Heck, even if you're not inventing new propellants, playing with the old ones can still be fun.
Yes. We need to become a country of true innovation.

BTW, one of Vinod Khosla's investments is in Galvanize. The idea is to tun all of America into a innovation culture, top to bottom.

Online Lar

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Re: Solid Propellant Industrial Base
« Reply #87 on: 06/27/2017 07:04 PM »
Take me through why, in this day and age, we need solids for anything at all other than very small munitions, for which the procurement cycle could be smoothed enough that it's not an issue. It might be my politics showing through but I don't see the need for vast standing armadas of ICBMs.

Or, never mind. I said my bit and we'd be veering into Space Policy.
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Offline Jim

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Re: Solid Propellant Industrial Base
« Reply #88 on: 06/27/2017 07:30 PM »
Take me through why, in this day and age, we need solids for anything at all other than very small munitions, for which the procurement cycle could be smoothed enough that it's not an issue. It might be my politics showing through but I don't see the need for vast standing armadas of ICBMs.

Or, never mind. I said my bit and we'd be veering into Space Policy.

You are forgetting about SLBMs, cruise missile, stand off weapons and maybe eventually, conventionally armed ICBM's.  Or responsive space launch.

Online Lar

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Re: Solid Propellant Industrial Base
« Reply #89 on: 06/27/2017 08:15 PM »
My point is that I think, eventually, all of those will be liquid. Better for the environment and cheaper, in the long run. IMHO. All the rocket experts disagree with me. Which is fine.
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

Offline Jim

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Re: Solid Propellant Industrial Base
« Reply #90 on: 06/27/2017 08:59 PM »
My point is that I think, eventually, all of those will be liquid. Better for the environment and cheaper, in the long run. IMHO. All the rocket experts disagree with me. Which is fine.

Submariners, seamen, airmen and soldiers would also disagree.  They all try to avoid liquids in their systems.  Too complex and too vulnerable.  They went from liquids to solids in the 50's to 60's.

« Last Edit: 06/27/2017 09:00 PM by Jim »

Online Kabloona

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Re: Solid Propellant Industrial Base
« Reply #91 on: 06/27/2017 09:36 PM »
My point is that I think, eventually, all of those will be liquid. Better for the environment and cheaper, in the long run. IMHO. All the rocket experts disagree with me. Which is fine.

Lar, the Air Force, Navy, and Army will never go back to liquids for ICBMs, SLBM's, MLRS, etc. It's not a matter of cost or environment. If you haven't already seen it, the documentary "Command and Control" illustrates why.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/command-and-control/
« Last Edit: 06/27/2017 09:52 PM by Kabloona »

Online Kabloona

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Re: Solid Propellant Industrial Base
« Reply #92 on: 06/27/2017 09:47 PM »

I got into the solids industry first in grad school doing solid propellant research funded by the Navy, and then in the Air Force doing solid propellant R&D at the old Rocket Lab at Edwards AFB. So my career path was totally Gov't funded.
Were there grants/initiatives/scholarships in your grad first/second year? Something akin to the NESSF?

(These are part of what I'm suggesting.)

I went through undergrad on an Air Force ROTC scholarship, then grad school on a research assistantship funded by the Navy. So I owe my entire education to DoD. I'm not familiar with NESSF, but certainly those kinds of incentives are good ideas to attract new blood.

Quote
Reminds of the "Rocket Boys" "October Sky". Which inspired two kids I know to become leaders in industry and space science.

(Myself, was a 9th grade student who got a intern position for a scientist working on deciphering Venus atmosphere's from IR spectra - he had me use a mechanical gadget to physically measure the area under a curve by tracing its outline, where the gadget would do the integration. Asked to use a computer with the raw data to do it better, then did successively the processing of the data into a mathematical model which fed in chaotic processes, then got "borrowed" by his NASA coauthors for related projects in aerospace engineering, avionics, and other fields. One of the scientists inspired me to moderate explosive nitrogen tri-iodine into a fuel with a chemical that repressed detonation, and I made my own high yield solid fuel rocket. Stuff was so touchy that crystals drying on the windowsill in the sun would be set off by flies touching it, with little purple mushroom clouds.)

Great movie, and you yourself should have gone into the solids industry! But it sounds like you have too many interests to confine yourself there.  ;)

Anyway, kudos to you for your outreach efforts and promoting innovation in the industry. Every bit helps, especially when you can reach kids at a young age.
« Last Edit: 06/27/2017 10:56 PM by Kabloona »

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Re: Solid Propellant Industrial Base
« Reply #93 on: 06/27/2017 10:56 PM »
Great movie, and you yourself should have gone into the solids industry!
Like many other critical situations, fixed their math. As well as in any axialized radiographic/ultrasound imagery - allows you to see tiny voids/fractures/tumors/...

I'm glad you were in the solids industry.

Online Kabloona

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Re: Solid Propellant Industrial Base
« Reply #94 on: 06/27/2017 11:03 PM »
Great movie, and you yourself should have gone into the solids industry!
Like many other critical situations, fixed their math. As well as in any axialized radiographic/ultrasound imagery - allows you to see tiny voids/fractures/tumors/...

I'm glad you were in the solids industry.

Excellent. Yes, the dreaded voids...

Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: Solid Propellant Industrial Base
« Reply #95 on: 06/28/2017 12:26 AM »
My point is that I think, eventually, all of those will be liquid. Better for the environment and cheaper, in the long run. IMHO. All the rocket experts disagree with me. Which is fine.

Lar, the Air Force, Navy, and Army will never go back to liquids for ICBMs, SLBM's, MLRS, etc. It's not a matter of cost or environment. If you haven't already seen it, the documentary "Command and Control" illustrates why.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/command-and-control/

Slightly OT.

Did anyone consider hybrid solid motor for strategic missile propulsion?

Online Kabloona

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Re: Solid Propellant Industrial Base
« Reply #96 on: 06/28/2017 03:18 AM »
My point is that I think, eventually, all of those will be liquid. Better for the environment and cheaper, in the long run. IMHO. All the rocket experts disagree with me. Which is fine.

Lar, the Air Force, Navy, and Army will never go back to liquids for ICBMs, SLBM's, MLRS, etc. It's not a matter of cost or environment. If you haven't already seen it, the documentary "Command and Control" illustrates why.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/command-and-control/

Slightly OT.

Did anyone consider hybrid solid motor for strategic missile propulsion?

Not here in the States, because that's like being halfway pregnant: you still have a hazardous liquid oxidizer to deal with, along with the other problems of hybrids (see Virgin Galactic). So you may as well get all the way pregnant and go back to a fully liquid system, which at least has better performance.

No, any type of liquid is out of the question for strategic missiles, at least in this country.

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