Author Topic: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - Business Case/Competition/Alternatives Discussion  (Read 18541 times)

Offline jongoff

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I'm curious if anyone has seen a price target for a modernized RL-10C, IIRC currently they are some $16-17 million each. If that holds and Centaur 5 needs two of them your looking at $45ish million for your first and second stage propulsion with no SRB's.

That RL-10 price is pretty absurd. SpaceX can probably outfit an entire Falcon 9 with engines for less than the price of one RL-10.

I'm really skeptical that RL-10s really cost that much. Most of the time people throw those kinds of numbers around people who actually know have usually commented that those numbers aren't realistic. If they do somehow cost that much, the only way I could imagine is if it's because they're making so few of them that they're having to spread the full fixed cost of the RL-10 team over a half dozen engines or something. The RL-10 is probably no more complex than the Merlin-1Cs were, and are actually quite a bit smaller, with no really exotic materials, so I just really have a hard time believing that they would cost anywhere near that much if they were making a decent quantity per year.

~Jon

Offline WindnWar

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I'm curious if anyone has seen a price target for a modernized RL-10C, IIRC currently they are some $16-17 million each. If that holds and Centaur 5 needs two of them your looking at $45ish million for your first and second stage propulsion with no SRB's.

That RL-10 price is pretty absurd. SpaceX can probably outfit an entire Falcon 9 with engines for less than the price of one RL-10.

I'm really skeptical that RL-10s really cost that much. Most of the time people throw those kinds of numbers around people who actually know have usually commented that those numbers aren't realistic. If they do somehow cost that much, the only way I could imagine is if it's because they're making so few of them that they're having to spread the full fixed cost of the RL-10 team over a half dozen engines or something. The RL-10 is probably no more complex than the Merlin-1Cs were, and are actually quite a bit smaller, with no really exotic materials, so I just really have a hard time believing that they would cost anywhere near that much if they were making a decent quantity per year.

~Jon

The thrust chamber of brazed tubes likely adds a lot more complexity to the build process, though in April of last year they did test a new 3D printed copper chamber that they said would reduce the cost and complexity and lead time. Perhaps that's the version that Vulcan will use.

Offline john smith 19

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I'm curious if anyone has seen a price target for a modernized RL-10C, IIRC currently they are some $16-17 million each. If that holds and Centaur 5 needs two of them your looking at $45ish million for your first and second stage propulsion with no SRB's.

That RL-10 price is pretty absurd. SpaceX can probably outfit an entire Falcon 9 with engines for less than the price of one RL-10.

I'm really skeptical that RL-10s really cost that much. Most of the time people throw those kinds of numbers around people who actually know have usually commented that those numbers aren't realistic. If they do somehow cost that much, the only way I could imagine is if it's because they're making so few of them that they're having to spread the full fixed cost of the RL-10 team over a half dozen engines or something. The RL-10 is probably no more complex than the Merlin-1Cs were, and are actually quite a bit smaller, with no really exotic materials, so I just really have a hard time believing that they would cost anywhere near that much if they were making a decent quantity per year.

~Jon
Yes this is where I saw the comment that ending Shuttle had put up RL-10 prices and I thought "Why?"

This looks like a classic piece of Defense industry pricing at work "You ask us to make more we charge you for the increase. You ask us to make less, we still charge you for the decrease."

In normal industries you have excess capacity you either a) Find a use for it or b)Sell it off. Where you bought that hardware to service a specific customer or contract yo normally include cancellation clauses to cover costs.

I know the USG gave itself the right to walk away from contracts with no penalties but I don't know how often they actually exercise it.

I guess this is what you get when you have a policy of creating "National Champions" and end up with 1 big engine mfg whose acceptable to the USG.  :(
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.
So you're going to Mars to seek a better life. What does that mean to you? Always spot a fanbois by how they react to their idols failures.

Offline rayleighscatter

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Yes this is where I saw the comment that ending Shuttle had put up RL-10 prices and I thought "Why?"

It's because the RL-10 program has to carry more of the company's overhead costs with their shuttle contracts gone.

Offline john smith 19

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Yes this is where I saw the comment that ending Shuttle had put up RL-10 prices and I thought "Why?"

It's because the RL-10 program has to carry more of the company's overhead costs with their shuttle contracts gone.
In most other industries this would be a rather big clue to cut some of that overhead.
Is the ability to individually turn round section tubing into square sided tubing, then bend it into a thrust chamber contour by hand really a vital national resource that needs to be preserved, in the same way that (say) the Irish Republic helps support the last remaining shovel making blacksmith? *

But wait, space launch is special,  and AJR is very special indeed.  :(

So jack up the prices instead as the customer has nowhere to go.

Something ULA should keep in mind for future reference.

Here's the thing.

In 1960 building an LH2 turbine/pump combination was a huge leap into the unknown in materials and technology. 

In 2018 quite a lot of that folklore is in fact obsolete. Better materials, better ability to model the system and better precision in mfg the system to the design ($50 000 for a CNC pipe bender is expensive. About 6 months of the full burdened cost of an employee) before anyone says a word about 3d printing. 

Then there is the ability to eliminate parts wholesale.  In 1960 foil gas bearings were virtually unknown. By the mid 90's every aircraft aircon/APU was running on them. Ball and roller bearings were as obsolete as spinning metal gyroscopes in inertial nav systems for this application. By the late 90's NASA had released a cookbook report to explain how any company could make 1st and 2nd generation foil bearing units for themselves.

Likewise sealing against GH2 is a PITA. GH2 leakage on the SSME (built by one of AJR's predecessor companies IIRC) was 3x the design goal. Seals technology (and the tools to design those seals) was developed that can now deliver the specified leakage.

IOW what AJR does is no longer quite as special as they seem to think it is.

*They will hand forge a shovel to the job you specify it has to do and to your build. Last time I checked it's about $240 with the EU subsidy. It will take a while to get done, so make sure you place your order in plenty of time.
« Last Edit: 01/07/2018 12:16 PM by john smith 19 »
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.
So you're going to Mars to seek a better life. What does that mean to you? Always spot a fanbois by how they react to their idols failures.

Online AncientU

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This is why the 'industry leader' argument is so strange...
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Offline brickmack

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I'm really skeptical that RL-10s really cost that much. Most of the time people throw those kinds of numbers around people who actually know have usually commented that those numbers aren't realistic. If they do somehow cost that much, the only way I could imagine is if it's because they're making so few of them that they're having to spread the full fixed cost of the RL-10 team over a half dozen engines or something.

The 17 million dollar figure is what's been reported as the cost to NASA for buying RL10C-3 engines for the first EUS. All of those are important qualifiers, since EUS only uses 4 engines and there is no other currently-known concept using RL10C-3, so lots of extra development and tooling/personnel costs spread across few units. Plus, government contracting always inflates the price, and human-rating requirements probably add cost too. I'd be surprised if the cost of even the current RL10s to ULA are nearly that high, nevermind the improved version they're working on.

Offline john smith 19

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The 17 million dollar figure is what's been reported as the cost to NASA for buying RL10C-3 engines for the first EUS. All of those are important qualifiers, since EUS only uses 4 engines and there is no other currently-known concept using RL10C-3, so lots of extra development and tooling/personnel costs spread across few units. Plus, government contracting always inflates the price, and human-rating requirements probably add cost too. I'd be surprised if the cost of even the current RL10s to ULA are nearly that high, nevermind the improved version they're working on.
All probably true.

However small note. RL10's flew as the second stages of the Saturn 1. Given the usual "Man Rating" voodoo hocus pocus  (Where the J-2X was mostly built from parts of the non crew rated RS68, yet is now magically crew rated) I'd expect the RL10C-3 inherit their crew ratingness.  :(
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.
So you're going to Mars to seek a better life. What does that mean to you? Always spot a fanbois by how they react to their idols failures.

Offline russianhalo117

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I'm really skeptical that RL-10s really cost that much. Most of the time people throw those kinds of numbers around people who actually know have usually commented that those numbers aren't realistic. If they do somehow cost that much, the only way I could imagine is if it's because they're making so few of them that they're having to spread the full fixed cost of the RL-10 team over a half dozen engines or something.

The 17 million dollar figure is what's been reported as the cost to NASA for buying RL10C-3 engines for the first EUS. All of those are important qualifiers, since EUS only uses 4 engines and there is no other currently-known concept using RL10C-3, so lots of extra development and tooling/personnel costs spread across few units. Plus, government contracting always inflates the price, and human-rating requirements probably add cost too. I'd be surprised if the cost of even the current RL10s to ULA are nearly that high, nevermind the improved version they're working on.
RL-10C-3 is a man rated RL-10C-2 minus one of the three sections Carbon-Carbon Nozzle Extension, which is a man rated RL-10C-1 which is a modernized RL-10B-2 with some RL-10A-4 components minus two of the three sections Carbon-Carbon Nozzle Extension. Yes there are some other changes but that is the major difference.

Offline john smith 19

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RL-10C-3 is a man rated RL-10C-2 minus one of the three sections Carbon-Carbon Nozzle Extension, which is a man rated RL-10C-1 which is a modernized RL-10B-2 with some RL-10A-4 components minus two of the three sections Carbon-Carbon Nozzle Extension. Yes there are some other changes but that is the major difference.
That sounds like it settles the man rating question. although I'm not sure the costs of crew rating the Blue engine would be great enough to make AJR the winner just yet.
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.
So you're going to Mars to seek a better life. What does that mean to you? Always spot a fanbois by how they react to their idols failures.

Offline john smith 19

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This is why the 'industry leader' argument is so strange...
"Industry leader" in the sense of
a) Most LH2 engines launched
b) Highest (or next highest) success rate of LH2 engine missions.
c) Longest history of LH2 engine missions.

They are.

But how much innovation they've made to those engines since development, and their unit pricing, is rather less clear cut.
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.
So you're going to Mars to seek a better life. What does that mean to you? Always spot a fanbois by how they react to their idols failures.

Offline russianhalo117

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RL-10C-3 is a man rated RL-10C-2 minus one of the three sections Carbon-Carbon Nozzle Extension, which is a man rated RL-10C-1 which is a modernized RL-10B-2 with some RL-10A-4 components minus two of the three sections Carbon-Carbon Nozzle Extension. Yes there are some other changes but that is the major difference.
That sounds like it settles the man rating question. although I'm not sure the costs of crew rating the Blue engine would be great enough to make AJR the winner just yet.
Only the deployable Nozzle Extension sections must be man rated otherwise they must develop, qualify and certify for manned flight a new single piece fixed Nozzle Extension for SLS EUS.

Offline titusou

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AFAICT, while all use the term "boostback" (or "rocketback"), all of the notional designs assume a winged first stage and horizontal landing; the SpaceX version of boosback with vertical landing was not considered.

I really don't think that was true. I know Masten and several others (including my blog posts) talked about rocket-based boostback with VTVL landing. SpaceX didn't invent something nobody had thought of, or nobody had thought was possible. They just were the first to reduce it to practice for an orbital launcher. That's a huge enough achievement that we don't need to oversell it by acting like no smart aerospace engineers existed before Elon Musk stepped onto the stage.

And this is getting pretty far afield from ULA though--other than that I do agree with your preference for full-stage gas-and-go boostback VTVL recovery.

~Jon
Wasn't the primary reason for ULA to use [Sensible Modular Autonomous Return Technology] is because the staging timing is too late to do reentry without a heatshield? (unless you wanna burn tons of propellant for rentry/deceleration)

I didn't calculate the math, but from live stream...

Falcon9 SES-10, MECO @ 160s 8,200kph 64km alt
DeltaIV WGS-9, MECO @ 240s, 17,000kph 178km alt
AtlasV WorldView-4, MECO @ 248s, 16,000kph 148km alt

While each variant/mission does be slightly different, but DeltaIV/AtlasV 1st stage burn way longer, and wayyyy faster than Falcon9 at MECO. Kinetic energy along is ~4times compare to Falcon9, and all those need to be kill off before landing...

For me it feels like almost impossible to do full recovery if 1st stage is 250s-sustainer-stage. 150s-booster-stage is much easier to recover, wasn't it?

Maybe that's the real key of full recovery, not about RTLS/VTVL, but staging timing choice, or say, staging architecture?

Titus
« Last Edit: 01/12/2018 02:01 PM by titusou »

Offline TrevorMonty

AFAICT, while all use the term "boostback" (or "rocketback"), all of the notional designs assume a winged first stage and horizontal landing; the SpaceX version of boosback with vertical landing was not considered.

I really don't think that was true. I know Masten and several others (including my blog posts) talked about rocket-based boostback with VTVL landing. SpaceX didn't invent something nobody had thought of, or nobody had thought was possible. They just were the first to reduce it to practice for an orbital launcher. That's a huge enough achievement that we don't need to oversell it by acting like no smart aerospace engineers existed before Elon Musk stepped onto the stage.

And this is getting pretty far afield from ULA though--other than that I do agree with your preference for full-stage gas-and-go boostback VTVL recovery.

~Jon
Wasn't the primary reason for ULA to use [Sensible Modular Autonomous Return Technology] is because the staging timing is too late to do reentry without a heatshield? (unless you wanna burn tons of propellant for rentry/deceleration)

I didn't calculate the math, but from live stream...

Falcon9 SES-10, MECO @ 160s 8,200kph 64km alt
DeltaIV WGS-9, MECO @ 240s, 17,000kph 178km alt
AtlasV WorldView-4, MECO @ 248s, 16,000kph 148km alt

While each variant/mission does be slightly different, but DeltaIV/AtlasV 1st stage burn way longer, and wayyyy faster than Falcon9 at MECO. Kinetic energy along is ~4times compare to Falcon9, and all those need to be kill off before landing...

For me it feels like almost impossible to do full recovery if 1st stage is 250s-sustainer-stage. 150s-booster-stage is much easier to recover, wasn't it?

Maybe that's the real key of full recovery, not about RTLS/VTVL, but staging timing choice, or say, staging architecture?

Titus
You are right in that booster recovery requires earlier staging. 2nd stage needs to be lot larger as it has to provide more DV. In case of ULA they would also need larger more expensive US. Larger US works against them for distributed launch as it needs multiple tanker launches to match Vulcan / ACES single tanker launch.
Also RLV need to do more flights as it lifts less fuel

Here is example
Two 564 Vulcan launches would be
1) tanker 30t fuel. 5t is allowed for tanker dry mass and 28day boiloff. (ULA paper)
 2)ACES + 15T payload +15-20t residual fuel.
Result ACES +15T and 45-50T fuel.

Vulcan sized RLV might be good for 15t, so about 4 12T (3t for tank mass and 28day boiloff) tanker launchers plus payload launch. 5 all up. Of cause this doesn't factor in larger heavier US so more fuel is required for its extra dry, allow another 1-2 launches.
All up 6-7 launches to do same mission.
Logistically the tankers would fill one large tanker which would then fill mission US.

While RLV launch cost maybe $45m compared to $150M for 564. Still need to add tanker payloads to each RLV so allow $50-55M.

Prices are much same for mission but risk factor with RLV is x3 or more.
« Last Edit: 01/12/2018 07:08 PM by TrevorMonty »

Online AncientU

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AFAICT, while all use the term "boostback" (or "rocketback"), all of the notional designs assume a winged first stage and horizontal landing; the SpaceX version of boosback with vertical landing was not considered.

I really don't think that was true. I know Masten and several others (including my blog posts) talked about rocket-based boostback with VTVL landing. SpaceX didn't invent something nobody had thought of, or nobody had thought was possible. They just were the first to reduce it to practice for an orbital launcher. That's a huge enough achievement that we don't need to oversell it by acting like no smart aerospace engineers existed before Elon Musk stepped onto the stage.

And this is getting pretty far afield from ULA though--other than that I do agree with your preference for full-stage gas-and-go boostback VTVL recovery.

~Jon
Wasn't the primary reason for ULA to use [Sensible Modular Autonomous Return Technology] is because the staging timing is too late to do reentry without a heatshield? (unless you wanna burn tons of propellant for rentry/deceleration)

I didn't calculate the math, but from live stream...

Falcon9 SES-10, MECO @ 160s 8,200kph 64km alt
DeltaIV WGS-9, MECO @ 240s, 17,000kph 178km alt
AtlasV WorldView-4, MECO @ 248s, 16,000kph 148km alt

While each variant/mission does be slightly different, but DeltaIV/AtlasV 1st stage burn way longer, and wayyyy faster than Falcon9 at MECO. Kinetic energy along is ~4times compare to Falcon9, and all those need to be kill off before landing...

For me it feels like almost impossible to do full recovery if 1st stage is 250s-sustainer-stage. 150s-booster-stage is much easier to recover, wasn't it?

Maybe that's the real key of full recovery, not about RTLS/VTVL, but staging timing choice, or say, staging architecture?

Titus

ULA had the opportunity to design a new vehicle from a blank sheet if they were interested in reuse.
They weren't and didn't.  SMART is backfilling the decision, not part of the decision itself.
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

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