Author Topic: SPECIAL EVENT: George Sowers - ULA VP for Human Launch Services - Q&A  (Read 57177 times)

Online Chris Bergin

In association with the United Launch Alliance, NASASpaceFlight.com is proud to host an open Q&A session with ULA's vice president for Human Launch Services, George Sowers.

Dr Sowers is happy to answer questions relating to:

ULA's human spaceflight activities with NASA's recent CCiCap awards announcement:
http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/tag/atlas-v/

See also:
Commercial Crew Forum Section:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?board=56.0

Dream Chaser Articles:
http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/?s=SNC
CST-100 Articles:
http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/tag/cst-100/

Questions are also welcomed on:

Orion EFT-1 efforts:
http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/tag/eft-1/

And SLS:
http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/tag/hlv/

Schedule:

Wednesday: This thread is open for ONE QUESTION per member. Questions should be sensible and on topic.

Thursday: 10am MDT, Mr Sowers will begin answering selected questions as posts in the thread.


To other media, this is a NASASpaceFlight.com hosted event and copyright rules are - as always - in effect. NSF hold the right to create articles from the resulting answers. Contact chrisbergin@nasaspaceflight.com for inquires.

Offline Galactic Penguin SST

On the future human flights, how would ULA and the customers deal with safety at the management level to ensure that any problems related to astronaut safety and risks of LOM/LOC can be clearly and effectively reported to the highest level?

GP
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Offline Peter NASA

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Thanks for being willing to participate in this event, Mr Sowers.

How much assistance have NASA provided during the Human Rating efforts under the SAA. Does this cooperation model work, in your opinion?

Offline DavisSTS

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If I can ask, did ULA have to redesign simulated trajectoriesm etc. for crewed Atlas V missions due to black zones, or was that never a real problem?

Offline QuantumG

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Will ULA be building access towers, etc, for the commercial crew vehicles or is that something the vehicle providers will handle themselves?
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Offline HIPAR

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If a fatal accident occurs, what liability will ULA incur?

---  CHAS

Offline Harold KSC

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And further on pad modifications, what are the plans for the EES (Emergency Egress System), past the use of the lift.

Online e of pi

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What is the future of RL-10 and Centaur? Are there modifications under consideration to reduce the costs there to improve the costs of ULA vehicles compared to foreign and domestic competition for commercial or DoD launches?

Offline brihath

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Currently in the commercial space market, insurance companies indemnify the comsat customers for lost payloads and missions related to launch vehicle performance.  Do you envision a similar situation for commercial crew missions?

Offline baldusi

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Have you coordinated clocking of the spacecrafts between CST-100 and DC? And with Dragon?

Offline Martin FL

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What is the plan for the first test launch with a crewed vehicle? (Unmanned, a CST-100 or DC, estimated date for this event)?

Offline Gary NASA

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What are your thoughts on SLS? I assume ULA are still proponents of the "master plan" with prop depots...

http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2009/09/ula-claim-gap-reducing-solution-via-eelv-exploration-master-plan/

..., but does that impact on support for a HLV?

Offline yg1968

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If NASA ends up picking SpaceX as its only commercial crew provider after the end of CCicap in 2014, would ULA continue its human rating efforts relating to the Atlas V in order to service other companies that would decide to service the non-NASA market (e.g., Blue Origin or perhaps Dream Chaser)?

Second, would you consider human rating the Atlas V Heavy to be used for Orion and will the Atlas V Heavy ever be a reality? 

Can you expand on the work that is being done on the dual centaur and the EDS as part of Boeing's CCiCap base period milestones. After the CCiCap base period, will the dual engine centaur and the EDS essentially be ready?
« Last Edit: 11/14/2012 01:40 PM by yg1968 »

Offline PahTo

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With the supply of RD-180 apparently finite, are there plans already in the works for a replacement kerolox engine(s) for Atlas V/human rating?

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Have you any information from P&W about how long it would take them to develop and qualify a cheaper modern manufacturing and materials RL-10 version? If you do, about how long would that be? Also the same questions about XCOR’s RL-10 class replacement engine?

Offline jongoff

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Congratulations to George and team. I know you guys have been trying to fight the fight for a long time now to convince NASA to use Atlas V for flying people (in spite of the fact that they're fine with using it for flying unique, multi $B unmanned payloads).

Do you think the flight rates you'll get for Atlas V between commercial crew flights and existing satellite launches will get high enough to start seeing per-launch costs start dropping again? Does the higher flight rate and more RL-10s per flight make it look like you are likely to get the price of RL-10s back into a sane price/engine range?

~Jon

Offline apace

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Are there any plans to market a man-rated Atlas to customers outside of the current CCicap program or outside of the USA?

Offline RocketmanUS

With the possibility of running out of RD-180's and being replace by a new American made engine(s) will the Atlas first stage be upgraded to a 5 meter core and still be human rated ( Atlas phase II or similar )?

That being with the stumpy version for light payloads, regular length with up to 6 SRB's, and with the possibility to upgrade to the 70mt triple core.
« Last Edit: 08/22/2012 06:02 PM by RocketmanUS »
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Offline sdsds

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To maintain the excellent track record of Atlas V, what level of insight into crewed vehicle designs has ULA required? On the flip side, how much will ULA change its launch operations when keeping crew safe (via abort) can require loss of the launch vehicle during ascent?
-- sdsds --

Online Chris Bergin

I've got a question on EFT-1. What is the launch vehicle availability situation, given NASA are claiming EFT-1 Orion will be ready to fly way ahead of the Delta IV-H's availability. Are there any get-wells to stop the mission slipping into the summer of 2014?

Offline Star One

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What sort of work would be involved and on what timescale should it be desirous to man-rate the D4H in the near future and will the introduction of the RS-68A assist in achieving this in a timely fashion should it be needed?
« Last Edit: 08/22/2012 07:57 PM by Star One »

Online Eric Hedman

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Do you think non-government market for human launch services set to grow significantly and when?   Commercial space stations?  Asteroid mining?  Moon mining?  Orbital Space tourism?  Space based Solar Power construction? etc?

« Last Edit: 08/22/2012 08:39 PM by Eric Hedman »

Offline Don Mc0

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What would be your preference for the Exploration Roadmap? Such as are you interested in the Exploration Platform concept. Would you prefer to go back to the Moon first?

Offline robertross

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Thanks for the Q&A opportunity!

What challenges do you foresee with fixed price (or fixed term) contracts in keeping vehicle costs down (to maintain profitability) with the materials market spikes we have seen in the past (before the market collapse)?
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Offline spectre9

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ULA launch vehicles are seen as expensive compared to SpaceX.

Does ULA plan to compete on price?

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What future business opportunities are available for ULA to get launch rates up?
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How far along is ULA on EELV line consolidation, how much of the LV standardization is internally funded and what items need external funding?

ULA seems to be quite active recently with funding or supporting emerging space companies (ie work with XCOR Aerospace,Masten Space Systems) How does ULA balance new and emerging technologies/suppliers versus the need for technical conservatism in launch contracts, and how would the ramp up process work for new suppliers?

Speaking of which, how will the United Technologies Corporation acquisition of Rocketdyne effect ULA both in present subsystems and future evolution?

Finally and getting back to human launch services, when would we expect to see new infrastructure construction for commercial crew (ie contract not time, like CCiCAp phase one ect) Will the spacecraft builders, ULA, or a combination of both pick the infrastructure needed?

Offline notherspacexfan

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If you were to book a flight to orbit today, would you rather ride on Atlas V + CST-100, Atlas V + Dreamchaser, or Delta IV-H + Orion?

Offline Space Pete

Dr. Sowers:

Under the proposed Exploration Gateway concept, which would see several additional modules delivered to the ISS, the method of delivery was proposed to be a Centuar equipped with a Launch Mission Kit (LMK), in order to allow the Centuar to rendezvous and fly in close proximity with the ISS.

My question is: Has ULA conducted any formal studies or work into the LMK, or the safety of flying a Centuar in close proximity to the ISS? What is the current status of such plans (if indeed they exist at all)?

Thank you for your time.

-Pete Harding, NASASpaceflight.com's ISS reporter.
« Last Edit: 08/23/2012 02:20 PM by Space Pete »
Electronic Engineer by day, NASASpaceflight's ISS Editor by night | Read my NASASpaceflight articles here

Offline Jason Davies

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I would be fascinated as to what you think of SLS's current design, such as the Shuttle Derived elements and thoughts on the booster preference.

Online Chris Bergin

Dr Sowers is in the building and will start answering questions around 10am MDT, which is shortly.

Won't be moving the thread into live events, as we need to move the Atlas V launch into there and it'll only get confusing if we move both. It'll stay top in this ULA section.

Online Chris Bergin

PS Everyone will be allowed to follow up, but respect Dr Sowers already has a lot of questions to get through (whatever he selects), so don't overload. Make sure it's an important follow up.

Offline georgesowers

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PS Everyone will be allowed to follow up, but respect Dr Sowers already has a lot of questions to get through (whatever he selects), so don't overload. Make sure it's an important follow up.

Thanks Chris for the setting this up!  I really appreciate the opportunity to interact with the members here.  It is apparent that my passion for spaceflight is shared by pretty much everyone here.  My plan is just to plow through the questions in the order asked.  My appologies in advance if my answers are (necessarily) brief.

Offline georgesowers

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On the future human flights, how would ULA and the customers deal with safety at the management level to ensure that any problems related to astronaut safety and risks of LOM/LOC can be clearly and effectively reported to the highest level?

GP

One of the challenges facing ULA as we get into human spaceflight is building a culture of safety to the same level of rigor we currently treat mission success.  We are in the process of establishing an internal safety organization with independent reporting, but more important is to instill the idea that safety is everyone's responsibility.

As to the specific process of how safety issues are handled, that will be worked out in conjunction with the prime contractors (e.g. BA and SNC) in conjunction with NASA during CCiCap.  NASA's 1100 series requirements provide a lot of guidance.

Offline georgesowers

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Thanks for being willing to participate in this event, Mr Sowers.

How much assistance have NASA provided during the Human Rating efforts under the SAA. Does this cooperation model work, in your opinion?

NASA's assistance during the SAA was invaluable.  For example, ULA was given access to a wealth of LC-39 data on access and egress designs.  We also profited by the direct and frequent interaction with NASA HSF experts.

The limitation of the SAA was the inability of NASA to provide any formal feedback on the acceptability of our proposed approaches.

Offline georgesowers

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If I can ask, did ULA have to redesign simulated trajectoriesm etc. for crewed Atlas V missions due to black zones, or was that never a real problem?

It was never a real problem.  A trajectory has to be designed from the beginning to close black zones, but that's a fairly standard process.

Offline georgesowers

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Will ULA be building access towers, etc, for the commercial crew vehicles or is that something the vehicle providers will handle themselves?


ULA

Offline georgesowers

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If a fatal accident occurs, what liability will ULA incur?

---  CHAS

The overall issue of liability and indemnification is yet to be worked out.  I'm sure it will keep lawyers (and potentially even congress) busy for many years to come.

Offline georgesowers

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And further on pad modifications, what are the plans for the EES (Emergency Egress System), past the use of the lift.

We are still looking a differrent options for emergency egress.  Detailed hazard analysis of the launch operations is a key determinant and is being refined.  We have the option of implementing a shuttle-like slide wire system, if required.

Offline georgesowers

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What is the future of RL-10 and Centaur? Are there modifications under consideration to reduce the costs there to improve the costs of ULA vehicles compared to foreign and domestic competition for commercial or DoD launches?

We believe RL10 and Centaur have a very bright future.  For example, we and PWR are currently working on the RL10C engine that will be common between Atlas and Delta upper stages.  And we have been working hard on ACES, the next generation Centaur with all kinds of enhancements for producability, reliability, long duration, commonality and performance.

Offline georgesowers

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Currently in the commercial space market, insurance companies indemnify the comsat customers for lost payloads and missions related to launch vehicle performance.  Do you envision a similar situation for commercial crew missions?

See previous answer (question #5)

Offline georgesowers

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Have you coordinated clocking of the spacecrafts between CST-100 and DC? And with Dragon?

Yes, and as a launch provider, we try to maintain compatibility with all potential spacecraft.

Offline georgesowers

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What is the plan for the first test launch with a crewed vehicle? (Unmanned, a CST-100 or DC, estimated date for this event)?

ULA could support the first test launch as early as (late) 2015, if funded.  I can't speak to the specific's of the primes' schedules.

Offline georgesowers

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What are your thoughts on SLS? I assume ULA are still proponents of the "master plan" with prop depots...

http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2009/09/ula-claim-gap-reducing-solution-via-eelv-exploration-master-plan/

..., but does that impact on support for a HLV?

ULA is currently providing the DIV upperstage (through BA) to the be the iCPS for SLS.  ULA is also very supportive of the development of technologies for long duration storage and transfer of cryogenic propellents, as represented by NASA's CPST initiative.  These technologies are, in my opinion, enabling of BEO exploration regardless of the launch architecture.  We are incorporating many of these technologies into ACES.

Offline georgesowers

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If NASA ends up picking SpaceX as its only commercial crew provider after the end of CCicap in 2014, would ULA continue its human rating efforts relating to the Atlas V in order to service other companies that would decide to service the non-NASA market (e.g., Blue Origin or perhaps Dream Chaser)?

Second, would you consider human rating the Atlas V Heavy to be used for Orion and will the Atlas V Heavy ever be a reality? 

Can you expand on the work that is being done on the dual centaur and the EDS as part of Boeing's CCiCap base period milestones. After the CCiCap base period, will the dual centaur and the EDS essentially be ready?

Hard to say what we would do without knowing more about the circumstances, but certainly we would follow the lead of our customers.

Not currently, and unlikely.

Without the options, CCiCap will bring both the DEC and EDS to a CDR level of maturity.

And i thought you only got one question...

Offline georgesowers

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With the supply of RD-180 apparently finite, are there plans already in the works for a replacement kerolox engine(s) for Atlas V/human rating?

There are no limits to the supply of RD-180's. 

That being said, ULA is interested in and supportive of any efforts to develop a US built high performance kerolox engine, like Aerojet's recent award under the SLS advanced booster.

Offline mmeijeri

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Would there be any merit in a future merger between the newly merged Aerojet + Rocketdyne and ULA?
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Offline georgesowers

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Have you any information from P&W about how long it would take them to develop and qualify a cheaper modern manufacturing and materials RL-10 version? If you do, about how long would that be? Also the same questions about XCOR’s RL-10 class replacement engine?

We are always interested in ideas from PWR to improve the RL10 and I already mentioned the RL10C.  Our work with XCOR is aimed at technology development and risk reduction and has a long term horizon.

OK, so I got through one page (whew!!).  Time for a break.  Hopefully I can get to some more later this afternoon.
« Last Edit: 08/23/2012 06:02 PM by georgesowers »

Online Chris Bergin


OK, so I got through one page (whew!!).  Time for a break.  Hopefully I can get to some more later this afternoon.

Much appreciated! :)

Offline Downix

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How is the development of the Delta Common Booster Core coming along?
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Offline MP99

And we have been working hard on ACES, the next generation Centaur with all kinds of enhancements for producability, reliability, long duration, commonality and performance.

Many thanks for some fascinating insights.

Excellent to see ACES is still an ongoing programme - I've had the impression it was less active.

Does it look likely that ACES will make it all the way through to production as things stand (eg to launch existing payloads at lower cost), or would there need to be a specific payload (like drove the RS-68A upgrade) to carry it over the line?

Supplementary (but related) question if I may - how much difference would ACES make over the existing upper stages in helping with launch costs?

Thanks, Martin

Offline PahTo

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Indeed, thanks for taking the time to answer all of these questions, Dr. Sowers!

Offline georgesowers

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Back for a little while.

Congratulations to George and team. I know you guys have been trying to fight the fight for a long time now to convince NASA to use Atlas V for flying people (in spite of the fact that they're fine with using it for flying unique, multi $B unmanned payloads).

Do you think the flight rates you'll get for Atlas V between commercial crew flights and existing satellite launches will get high enough to start seeing per-launch costs start dropping again? Does the higher flight rate and more RL-10s per flight make it look like you are likely to get the price of RL-10s back into a sane price/engine range?

~Jon

As you know, the single greatest factor on per unit launch cost is flight rate.  So yes, additional rate from Commercial Crew would be beneficial across the board, including engines.  (BTW, define "sane")

Offline georgesowers

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Are there any plans to market a man-rated Atlas to customers outside of the current CCicap program or outside of the USA?

ULA (and LM prior to ULA), has been working with Bigelow since 2005.  We are definitely open to anyone who wants to buy launch services.  However, if the end customer is other than the USG, the sale is through either BA or LM.

Offline Jim

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  However, if the end customer is other than the USG, the sale is through either BA or LM.

So, that is why ULA is working directly with BA and SNC for commercial crew vs LM?
« Last Edit: 08/23/2012 08:04 PM by Jim »

Offline georgesowers

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With the possibility of running out of RD-180's and being replace by a new American made engine(s) will the Atlas first stage be upgraded to a 5 meter core and still be human rated ( Atlas phase II or similar )?

That being with the stumpy version for light payloads, regular length with up to 6 SRB's, and with the possibility to upgrade to the 70mt triple core.

Not sure where the notion that RD-180 supply is limited is coming from, but it's not true.

The idea of a 5m Lox/RP booster (the old Atlas phase II) is still a very attractive growth option:  Atlas fuels and engines on a Delta booster tank.  It continues to live on our advanced planning drawing board, waiting for an opportunity.

Offline georgesowers

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To maintain the excellent track record of Atlas V, what level of insight into crewed vehicle designs has ULA required? On the flip side, how much will ULA change its launch operations when keeping crew safe (via abort) can require loss of the launch vehicle during ascent?

We are working hand in glove with the primes to provide an integrated crew delivery service, and recieve (as well as provide) all the insight required to do that.

We are trying to change the launch ops as little as possible while accomodating crew.  Flight ops does require a bit of adjustment.  For example, today's flight SW is designed to always keep trying (to reach orbit) no matter what the vehicle is doing around it.  With crew, the SW mind set has to change to "save the crew first".  The trick is eliminating false aborts (really minimizing), while ensuring every flight failure is survivable (really maximizing).  In safety speak, minimize LOC without increasing LOM.

Offline deepseaskydiver

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While the RD-180 supply is not finite, with some of the recent troubles in the Russian aerospace industry (and rumblings of "buy American" in launch vehicle procurement by the gov't) is there any thought towards American production of the RD-180?

Offline georgesowers

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I've got a question on EFT-1. What is the launch vehicle availability situation, given NASA are claiming EFT-1 Orion will be ready to fly way ahead of the Delta IV-H's availability. Are there any get-wells to stop the mission slipping into the summer of 2014?

The LV for EFT-1 is in our production and launch queue and production is underway.  The projected launch date has been agreed to between ULA, LM and NASA and ULA is on track.  If Orion is planning to an earlier date, that is prudent since it's the first flight for the spacecraft and there's more risk.  The Delta IV rocket, on the other hand, is a mature product.

Offline georgesowers

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What sort of work would be involved and on what timescale should it be desirous to man-rate the D4H in the near future and will the introduction of the RS-68A assist in achieving this in a timely fashion should it be needed?

There is not direct work ongoing to human rate the DIV. 

However, Both Atlas and Delta are going to "common avionics", a ULA funded upgrade which is the baseline for commercial crew.  Common avionics is designed to be human rated and have accomodations for the EDS.  EDS is being designed to accomodate DIV.

In addition, the DIV upperstage, as the iCPS for SLS, will be human rated.  With all that in place, the driver for human rating DIV would be access and egress at the pad.

Not sure the RS68A has any bearing one way or the other.

Offline Star One

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What sort of work would be involved and on what timescale should it be desirous to man-rate the D4H in the near future and will the introduction of the RS-68A assist in achieving this in a timely fashion should it be needed?

There is not direct work ongoing to human rate the DIV. 

However, Both Atlas and Delta are going to "common avionics", a ULA funded upgrade which is the baseline for commercial crew.  Common avionics is designed to be human rated and have accomodations for the EDS.  EDS is being designed to accomodate DIV.

In addition, the DIV upperstage, as the iCPS for SLS, will be human rated.  With all that in place, the driver for human rating DIV would be access and egress at the pad.

Not sure the RS68A has any bearing one way or the other.

Mr Sowers thanks very much for answering that. I raised the issue of the RS68A because I had read that it incorporated a number of improvements that would be useful if it ever came to man rate the Delta IV-H.
« Last Edit: 08/23/2012 08:48 PM by Star One »

Offline georgesowers

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Do you think non-government market for human launch services set to grow significantly and when?   Commercial space stations?  Asteroid mining?  Moon mining?  Orbital Space tourism?  Space based Solar Power construction? etc?



I would love to see any of the potential markets you mention take off and grow.  We have worked with Bigelow for years and I believe his business case has the best chance in the near term (next decade) of any I'm familiar with.  Eventually  I believe mineral and energy scarcity will allow asteriod mining and space solar power to be economically viable.  Question is when.

Offline georgesowers

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What would be your preference for the Exploration Roadmap? Such as are you interested in the Exploration Platform concept. Would you prefer to go back to the Moon first?

My approach to exploration would be incremental.  Do what you can now with what you got.  Build on that experience to take the next step.  An incremental approach is more realistic and sustainable in today's political and fiscal environment.  Near term successes to bolster political and public support, tailorable to change, resilient to cuts.

In that vein, I think some of NASA's ideas for near term lagrange point missions are rational and I hope they get serious consideration.

Offline georgesowers

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Thanks for the Q&A opportunity!

What challenges do you foresee with fixed price (or fixed term) contracts in keeping vehicle costs down (to maintain profitability) with the materials market spikes we have seen in the past (before the market collapse)?

Not sure I understand the question.  For launch services, ULA has always worked in a fixed price environment.

Offline RocketmanUS

With the possibility of running out of RD-180's and being replace by a new American made engine(s) will the Atlas first stage be upgraded to a 5 meter core and still be human rated ( Atlas phase II or similar )?

That being with the stumpy version for light payloads, regular length with up to 6 SRB's, and with the possibility to upgrade to the 70mt triple core.

Not sure where the notion that RD-180 supply is limited is coming from, but it's not true.

The idea of a 5m Lox/RP booster (the old Atlas phase II) is still a very attractive growth option:  Atlas fuels and engines on a Delta booster tank.  It continues to live on our advanced planning drawing board, waiting for an opportunity.
First, thank you for the reply.

Limited supply was for how many RD-180's are in the U.S. as I have read , more would have to be made in Russia or an American production line from what I understand. From what I have read the RD-180 can not be used to launch certain military payload, the other reason I'm looking at an American made engine. So if that is true about certain military payloads, American made engine is needed. However if the Atlas is not needed to launch those types of military payloads and can be made in America then it will be a great engine for AVP2 as it has been for Atlas V. And being able to keep the RD-180 for AVP2 would make it easier to get it ready for crew vehicles?
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Offline QuantumG

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Great thread, thanks for the reply.
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Offline Lee Jay

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However, Both Atlas and Delta are going to "common avionics", a ULA funded upgrade which is the baseline for commercial crew.  Common avionics is designed to be human rated and have accomodations for the EDS.  EDS is being designed to accomodate DIV.

How does this affect the overall philosophy of "dissimilar redundancy" for the purpose of providing continuous assured access?

Offline georgesowers

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ULA launch vehicles are seen as expensive compared to SpaceX.

Does ULA plan to compete on price?

Now here's an interesting question.  The short and direct answer is that ULA has and will continue to compete on total value to include price.  We have gone head to head with SpaceX on several ocasions and have won the majority.  In the launch business, price is never the sole consideration for the buyer.  That's because launch price is a small percentage of the total program value (which can exceed replacement cost when there's no money to replace, like the Glory spacecraft).  In ULA's market of national security payloads and unique science probes, capability, schedule assurance and reliability often overwhelm any other consideration.

As a citizen and taxpayer, I think that's appropriate.

Not to minimize spaceX's impressive achievements, but ULA's customers want to see a track record of success, repeatably delivering complex payloads to orbit, safely and on time. 

Offline georgesowers

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What future business opportunities are available for ULA to get launch rates up?

Right now we are launching EELV's at our highest rate ever.  11 last year (2011) and 11 more this year.  Obviously we are looking at commercial crew as an important future opportunity as well as anything that can come from the BEO exploration program.

Offline PahTo

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ULA launch vehicles are seen as expensive compared to SpaceX.

Does ULA plan to compete on price?

 but ULA's customers want to see a track record of success, repeatably delivering complex payloads to orbit, safely and on time. 

Orbit, and beyond... !

Offline georgesowers

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How far along is ULA on EELV line consolidation, how much of the LV standardization is internally funded and what items need external funding?

ULA seems to be quite active recently with funding or supporting emerging space companies (ie work with XCOR Aerospace,Masten Space Systems) How does ULA balance new and emerging technologies/suppliers versus the need for technical conservatism in launch contracts, and how would the ramp up process work for new suppliers?

Speaking of which, how will the United Technologies Corporation acquisition of Rocketdyne effect ULA both in present subsystems and future evolution?

Finally and getting back to human launch services, when would we expect to see new infrastructure construction for commercial crew (ie contract not time, like CCiCAp phase one ect) Will the spacecraft builders, ULA, or a combination of both pick the infrastructure needed?

Implementing commonality between the Atlas and Delta product lines is a key element in increasing efficiency and reducing cost.  In the first 5 years of ULA we have made great strides on the process and organization side of the house.  And we are starting to make progress on the hardware side as well.  The RL10C engine is an important example.  Common Avionics is 100% internally funded and will reduce our avionics parts count by factors.  ACES is the next big step.

ULA enjoys working with innovative smaller companies.  We get great value for the technology investment dollar, especially on the front end.  As you mention, transition to a flight hardware supplier can be a challenge.

Too early to say much about the PWR acquisition.

ULA will be designing the new launch site infrastructure to meet the requirements of our customers.  We plan to have those designs at a CDR level of maturity at the end of CCiCap.  Construction will not begin until the next phase.

Offline georgesowers

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If you were to book a flight to orbit today, would you rather ride on Atlas V + CST-100, Atlas V + Dreamchaser, or Delta IV-H + Orion?

Whichever one is ready first!

Offline QuantumG

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Right now we are launching EELV's at our highest rate ever.  11 last year (2011) and 11 more this year.

If the market was there to double the launch rate, what steps would ULA take to meet that demand?

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Online Chris Bergin

OH! I have a quick one to add.

Do you forsee the possibility - or are interested in - launching Atlas V from Complex 39 at KSC? We've seen numerous (not ULA) study slides showing Atlas V being integrated in the VAB for launch from 39B, etc. Wishful thinking on KSC's part, or a possibility?

Offline georgesowers

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I would be fascinated as to what you think of SLS's current design, such as the Shuttle Derived elements and thoughts on the booster preference.

Not taking the bait...

Offline georgesowers

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Would there be any merit in a future merger between the newly merged Aerojet + Rocketdyne and ULA?

Perhaps, but in all these kinds of deals, the challenge is how to extract the business value.  For example, the formation of ULA was possible only because the consolidation costs were recoverable through USG contracts once ULA proved a downstream savings of greater than 2 to 1.

Offline georgesowers

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How is the development of the Delta Common Booster Core coming along?

On track for a fleet cut-in in the 2014-2015 timeframe

Offline georgesowers

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  However, if the end customer is other than the USG, the sale is through either BA or LM.

So, that is why ULA is working directly with BA and SNC for commercial crew vs LM?

yep

Offline georgesowers

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First, thank you for the reply.

Limited supply was for how many RD-180's are in the U.S. as I have read , more would have to be made in Russia or an American production line from what I understand. From what I have read the RD-180 can not be used to launch certain military payload, the other reason I'm looking at an American made engine. So if that is true about certain military payloads, American made engine is needed. However if the Atlas is not needed to launch those types of military payloads and can be made in America then it will be a great engine for AVP2 as it has been for Atlas V. And being able to keep the RD-180 for AVP2 would make it easier to get it ready for crew vehicles?

The RD-180 is in ongoing production.  We take deliveries on a regular basis.  And none of our current customers have any restrictions on use.

All of our work to date on the 5m booster concepts have assumed RD-180

Offline georgesowers

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However, Both Atlas and Delta are going to "common avionics", a ULA funded upgrade which is the baseline for commercial crew.  Common avionics is designed to be human rated and have accomodations for the EDS.  EDS is being designed to accomodate DIV.

How does this affect the overall philosophy of "dissimilar redundancy" for the purpose of providing continuous assured access?

Good question.  There have been a number of studies that indicate that "dissimilar redundancy" is desired most for the launch site, and then for propulsion.  In any case, it seems harder to find folks that maintain "assured access" in the sense of "disimilar redundancy" is a hard requirement.

Offline georgesowers

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Right now we are launching EELV's at our highest rate ever.  11 last year (2011) and 11 more this year.

If the market was there to double the launch rate, what steps would ULA take to meet that demand?



First step is to jump for joy!  We still have a lot of untapped capacity in both the production and launch infrastructure.  So we can increase rate by increasing staffing.  At some point depending on where the demand was coming from, we would have to increase launch infrastructure (e.g., additional MLP or VIF for Atlas)

Online Eric Hedman

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Do you see commercial spacecraft especially communications satellites growing in size and mass to take advantage of the large payload capacity of the Delta IV?

Offline georgesowers

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OH! I have a quick one to add.

Do you forsee the possibility - or are interested in - launching Atlas V from Complex 39 at KSC? We've seen numerous (not ULA) study slides showing Atlas V being integrated in the VAB for launch from 39B, etc. Wishful thinking on KSC's part, or a possibility?

ULA is interested in the possibility in launching Atlas or Delta from LC-39.  See previous question on capacity.  We have participated in the KSC led studies looking at options.  Technically it's feasible. The biggest hurdle right now is devising a business model that works.

Offline georgesowers

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Do you see commercial spacecraft especially communications satellites growing in size and mass to take advantage of the large payload capacity of the Delta IV?

Not anytime soon

Online Ronsmytheiii

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Thank you Mr Sowers for all your answers, as you can see we are all very excited for the future of ULA, and human spaceflight.

Edit: PS, if I might sneak in a question, how involved is ULA in SLS development contracting, I recall hearing some subcontracted efforts involved ULA?

And speaking of the DeltaIV-H u/s designated iCPS for SLS, we have seen it attributed to Boeing by NASA yet it is a ULA product?
« Last Edit: 08/23/2012 11:45 PM by Ronsmytheiii »

Offline yg1968

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Thanks for all of the answers. Very informative!

Could the dual engine centaur have uses other than commercial crew?

The Air Force has talked about developing a reusable fly back booster. Do you see any potential in the future for crewed flights for this project?
« Last Edit: 11/14/2012 03:28 AM by yg1968 »

Online Chris Bergin

Super! I'm sure we're all very thankful for Dr Sowers taking the time, a lot of time, to answer all those questions!

Thread remains open for follow ups, like Antonio's, but obviously they will only get answered when Dr Sowers has time. He has a day job with rockets! ;D

Offline robertross

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Thanks for the Q&A opportunity!

What challenges do you foresee with fixed price (or fixed term) contracts in keeping vehicle costs down (to maintain profitability) with the materials market spikes we have seen in the past (before the market collapse)?

Not sure I understand the question.  For launch services, ULA has always worked in a fixed price environment.

Apologies. I'll re-word, though you partially answered this with Ronsmytheiii:

Back at the end of 2010 there was talk that launch costs (all around, but ULA included) would be going up in a big way (ref: http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=23619.msg673361#msg673361)

If you entered into a fixed price contract with NASA commercial crew services for say a 5-year term, and the metals market (specifically, but along with many others) jumped significantly, what (additional) steps could you take to reduce your costs to maintain profitability and appease the shareholders?

I understand that in the currrent market environment all stake holders are in the same boat, it's just that with multiple-launch long-term contracts, profits can easily be hit, and in a negative way.
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Offline Go4TLI

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I would be fascinated as to what you think of SLS's current design, such as the Shuttle Derived elements and thoughts on the booster preference.

Not taking the bait...

Do you believe it is fair to say that it does not have to be an either/or situation and there is no reason that SLS, Atlas, Delta and others cannot work in concert with each other?

Offline spectre9

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ULA launch vehicles are seen as expensive compared to SpaceX.

Does ULA plan to compete on price?

Now here's an interesting question.  The short and direct answer is that ULA has and will continue to compete on total value to include price.  We have gone head to head with SpaceX on several ocasions and have won the majority.  In the launch business, price is never the sole consideration for the buyer.  That's because launch price is a small percentage of the total program value (which can exceed replacement cost when there's no money to replace, like the Glory spacecraft).  In ULA's market of national security payloads and unique science probes, capability, schedule assurance and reliability often overwhelm any other consideration.

As a citizen and taxpayer, I think that's appropriate.

Not to minimize spaceX's impressive achievements, but ULA's customers want to see a track record of success, repeatably delivering complex payloads to orbit, safely and on time. 

Thanks for your response.

Delta II has been a solid rocket and one of those vehicles that has demonstrated a track record of success, will it still be offered for future launch contract competitions?

Offline Downix

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Spectre9's question gave me a question:

Based on my calculations, the Delta IV Small (Delta IV replacing the upper stage with the Delta-K off of the Delta II) would perform a solid job, especially if offered with SRB augmentation. Has ULA considered looking at this solution at some point in the future, should Delta II class payloads remain popular?
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Offline Peter NASA

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Very good, thanks George, although I don't think Jason Davies's question was bait, more a request for someone who does know how vehicles work to speak on SLS, seen as the main objectors tend to be armchair experts, or people, overly concerned about how US tax dollars are spent.
« Last Edit: 08/24/2012 11:40 PM by Chris Bergin »

Offline JohnFornaro

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Thanks Chris Bergin, for setting this up.

And especial thanks to George Sowers, for answering questions under his own name, and not as an avatar!  The more this happens, the closer we can get to 1% for space.

Now to read the Q&A.
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Offline JohnFornaro

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I have a question about "dissimilar redundancy".  What is it?  Why is it desired most for a launch site and then for propulsion?
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Online e of pi

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I have a question about "dissimilar redundancy".  What is it?  Why is it desired most for a launch site and then for propulsion?
As I understand it, "dissimilar redundancy" would seem to indicate redundancy provided through multiple different systems to perform the same function, as opposed to redudancy provided by identical copies of the same system. So, for instance, two non-identical systems for computing position and velocity (say, one from GPS and one from an on-board IMU) would be "dissimilar redundancy"--the systems could cover for one another, as with conventional redundancy, but since they are not the same, a systematic flaw in one would not affect the other, unlike for instance the first Ariane 5 flight, where two redundant but identical guidance systems failed because both experienced the same programming failure. Now why it's desired more for a launch site, and next for propulsion...that I don't have any basis with which to hazard a guess.

Offline JohnFornaro

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I have a question about "dissimilar redundancy".  What is it?  Why is it desired most for a launch site and then for propulsion?
As I understand it, "dissimilar redundancy" would seem to indicate redundancy provided through multiple different systems to perform the same function, as opposed to redudancy provided by identical copies of the same system.

Is this the proper analogy? 

I can put an 800 pound garden tractor in the back of a Ford pickup and drive from Charlottesville to LA.  Or, I can do the same thing in a Chevy Pickup.
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Online e of pi

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Is this the proper analogy?
Not as I would understand it, no (though I'm no expert). It's the difference between starting the journey with two identical Ford pickups, or starting the journey with a single pickup and anything else that can also make the journey--a sedan, maybe, or a minivan. I don't know the reputation of Ford vs Chevy to understand any nuance you might have been trying to convey there, but it's not the difference between having redundant systems and not having redundant systems, it's the question of if you do it through multiple identical units, or via dissimilar systems that perform the same function.

Offline sdsds

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As I understand "dissimilar redundancy" as it relates to EELV, the question is whether an anomaly or other disruption causing one of the systems to stand down will also necessitate standing down the other system. An RD-180 failure would not lead to a stand-down of a system using RS-68. A failure which might be due to anomalous behavior of hypothetical "common avionics," on the other hand, might lead to stand-downs of both the systems using those avionics.

(Sotto voce: geographic redundancy probably involves scenarios we don't want to think much about!)
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Offline A_M_Swallow

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{snip}
(Sotto voce: geographic redundancy probably involves scenarios we don't want to think much about!)

Such as things like hurricanes.  IIRC KSC has been damaged by hurricanes.

Online douglas100

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 An RD-180 failure would not lead to a stand-down of a system using RS-68. A failure which might be due to anomalous behavior of hypothetical "common avionics," on the other hand, might lead to stand-downs of both the systems using those avionics.

An RL-10 failure might stand-down both systems as well, if it involved components common to the 10A and the 10B.
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Offline JohnFornaro

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Quote
I don't know the reputation of Ford vs Chevy to understand any nuance you might have been trying to convey there, but it's not the difference between having redundant systems and not having redundant systems, it's the question of if you do it through multiple identical units, or via dissimilar systems that perform the same function.

Ford and Chevy are classical automotive rivals. They are "dissimilar systems that perform the same function".  Maybe the rocket analogy fails.  Could an F9 be used to launch the same thing a DIV could?
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Offline WHAP

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Quote
I don't know the reputation of Ford vs Chevy to understand any nuance you might have been trying to convey there, but it's not the difference between having redundant systems and not having redundant systems, it's the question of if you do it through multiple identical units, or via dissimilar systems that perform the same function.

Ford and Chevy are classical automotive rivals. They are "dissimilar systems that perform the same function".  Maybe the rocket analogy fails.  Could an F9 be used to launch the same thing a DIV could?

That's starting to drift from the original discussion.  If a given spacecraft wants to have a backup capability, they could contract with two launch providers, as often occurs.  The point being discussed was that ULA, with Common Avionics, would have increased risk of having to stand down both Atlas and Delta if an issue occurred on one vehicle due to the increasing commonality between the two.   
Of course, with any separation at all, ULA is "better off" by having two "partially different" launch vehicles than a single vehicle.  That's not because payloads originally plannng to launch on Atlas could fly on Delta if Atlas had to stand down for an anomaly, but because the payloads already planning to fly on Delta could keep flying if the issue did not affect both launch vehicles.  Moving payloads from one EELV to the other is a nice concept, but in practice requires a fair amount of integration to occur in advance and may even require hardware modifications to the launch vehicle depending on the spacecraft.
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Offline JohnFornaro

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The point being discussed was that ULA, with Common Avionics, would have increased risk of having to stand down both Atlas and Delta if an issue occurred on one vehicle due to the increasing commonality between the two.   ...

Moving payloads from one EELV to the other is a nice concept, but in practice requires a fair amount of integration to occur in advance and may even require hardware modifications to the launch vehicle depending on the spacecraft.

Stretching the automotive analogy a bit, perhaps a Ford engine could be used in the Chevy pickup?

Regarding the Common Avionics; they would need to be very reliable, to the point that a standown would be unlikely on the basis of this part.  Perhaps an individual part would fail, but the product line would be very reliable.  Back to the auto analogy a bit; within a wide range of suppliers, tires are extremely reliable, and not seen as a part which would necessarily cause a standown of the vehicle.  The case of Firestone tires does come to mind, and a number of vehicles were recalled to replace that faulty product.  Quite realizing that a tire and an avionic system are worlds apart in complexity.

Can't systems be tested to the point where reliabilty is assured, even when used on different LV's such as Atlas and Delta?
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Online Chris Bergin

First article resulting from Dr Sower's comments (he was aware I was going to convert his comments into articles):

http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2012/08/ula-experience-to-build-culture-atlas-v-crew-safety/

Comments specific to the article should be posted in the article's thread on the commercial crew section:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=29796.0

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