Author Topic: EELV successor: who would bid?  (Read 3924 times)

Offline arachnitect

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EELV successor: who would bid?
« on: 05/26/2015 02:09 AM »
Inspired by the "Aerojet Atlas V" thread: http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=37553.0

and the roiling debate in the Vulcan thread (starting roughly page 51): http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=35754.msg1377500#msg1377500

Over the next decade Department of Defense launch services will change. Right now it looks like the result will be spacex offering the Falcon family and ULA offering one launch vehicle instead of two. I don't know exactly how the Pentagon intends to procure launch services in the future but I am assuming they will want at least two vehicle families. Two vehicles likely means two providers so they will also need some way of assigning launches to both. For the purposes of this thread I'm assuming we'll see something like the NASA CRS model where offerors bid a matrix of missions and prices and the government awards each offeror a portfolio of launches with at least a minimum number of missions. Other models may be possible.

On to the fun part:
Assuming the department of defense requested proposals for an EELV successor program, who would bid alone or as a partnership and how might they fare?

-Spacex bids Falcon 9 family I think this is a given.

-Spacex also bids a methane LV at least one poster suggested the possibility that spacex tries to win it all for themselves

-ULA bids Vulcan

-ULA bids Delta IV? Perhaps with some incremental upgrades. It won't beat Falcon, but the lack of development costs may mean it's cheaper than any new entrants.

New Entrants:

OrbitalATK bids something but what? Antares can't do it. Third time's the charm for Liberty?

Blue Origin They have the ambition and are working on the engines. Lack of experience is an issue. Already partnered with ULA on BE-4.

Aerojet Rocketdyne bids something on AR-1 It's unlikely AR forces Atlas V into their hands. Who else could they work with? Perhaps they form a partnership with someone else? Perhaps they find a financier willing to bet the farm on turning them into a vertically integrated launch services company?

Airbus? They have money and experience and are expanding their manufacturing footprint in the US. A partner for AR?

Northrop Grumman NG mostly got out of the space business. Any chance they'd want back in?

LM or BA without ULA not happening.

Yuzhnoye? I'm assuming Yuzhnoye is either headed "east" or to the scrap heap. But maybe someone buys the equipment and IP for scrap prices and ships it to the US? Not likely but crazy things happen (Aerojet bought the NK-33s). They would need engines.

Who am I missing? Who has access to launch pads? Who has access to engines? Who has integration experience?

Offline Jim

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Re: EELV successor: who would bid?
« Reply #1 on: 05/26/2015 02:57 AM »

OrbitalATK bids something but what? Antares can't do it. Third time's the charm for Liberty?

Airbus? They have money and experience and are expanding their manufacturing footprint in the US. A partner for AR?

Yuzhnoye? I'm assuming Yuzhnoye is either headed "east" or to the scrap heap. But maybe someone buys the equipment and IP for scrap prices and ships it to the US? Not likely but crazy things happen (Aerojet bought the NK-33s). They would need engines.

Non starters.  US content has to be over 50% and likely closer 100% for NSS missions.

Offline Jim

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Re: EELV successor: who would bid?
« Reply #2 on: 05/26/2015 02:59 AM »
For the purposes of this thread I'm assuming we'll see something like the NASA CRS model where offerors bid a matrix of missions and prices and the government awards each offeror a portfolio of launches with at least a minimum number of missions.

The NLS model would be more correct.  Individual missions or groups of missions will be procured.

Offline arachnitect

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Re: EELV successor: who would bid?
« Reply #3 on: 05/26/2015 03:46 AM »

OrbitalATK bids something but what? Antares can't do it. Third time's the charm for Liberty?

Airbus? They have money and experience and are expanding their manufacturing footprint in the US. A partner for AR?

Yuzhnoye? I'm assuming Yuzhnoye is either headed "east" or to the scrap heap. But maybe someone buys the equipment and IP for scrap prices and ships it to the US? Not likely but crazy things happen (Aerojet bought the NK-33s). They would need engines.

Non starters.  US content has to be over 50% and likely closer 100% for NSS missions.

OrbATK has made noises about getting into the EELV business begging the obvious question "with what?" ATK said they had "an RD-180 replacement" (some kind of 3.7m solid probably) but never revealed any details.

Airbus builds helicopters in the US and was going to build tankers here. I think it's unlikely they'd set up a rocket factory in the US but I think they could get around the rules.

Yuzhnoye/Yuzhmash: I know it won't happen. Unfortunately I think Antares will be the last LV built in Ukraine.

I forgot about Japan (MHI), but I think that's less likely even than any of the above.

Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: EELV successor: who would bid?
« Reply #4 on: 05/26/2015 04:58 AM »
@arachnitect

I just don't see any new entrants for the EELV replacement who is not currently a player. If I am not mistaken, currently there are 3 US facilities making large liquid engine cores (Decatur, Hawthorne & Michoud). New entrants for the EELV replacement will need to build a new core assembly facility along with the tooling. Other than Blue, no one else got the capital to build a new launcher without lotta of handouts from various levels of government.

Offline Jim

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Re: EELV successor: who would bid?
« Reply #5 on: 05/26/2015 11:17 AM »

Airbus builds helicopters in the US and was going to build tankers here. I think it's unlikely they'd set up a rocket factory in the US but I think they could get around the rules.


Different rules apply and they were not the lead contractor for the tanker.

Offline gosnold

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Re: EELV successor: who would bid?
« Reply #6 on: 05/26/2015 08:43 PM »
The tanker saga could convince Airbus to stay out of that anyway.

Offline SLC17A5

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Re: EELV successor: who would bid?
« Reply #7 on: 05/26/2015 10:58 PM »
Aerojet Rocketdyne bids something on AR-1 It's unlikely AR forces Atlas V into their hands. Who else could they work with? Perhaps they form a partnership with someone else? Perhaps they find a financier willing to bet the farm on turning them into a vertically integrated launch services company?

A fanciful idea I had --

Would it be practical or competitive for Aerojet Rocketdyne to bring back something similar to the McDonnell Douglas NLS II/III proposals, incorporating 1-2 RS-25E and strap-on solids, with an RL-10 based upper stage?  It leverages SLS development of the STME, but it would probably need a whole new launch infrastructure -- though maybe existing hydrolox plumbing could be rerouted at old Delta pads to reduce the overall amount of work required?

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=31873.5

Offline Jim

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Re: EELV successor: who would bid?
« Reply #8 on: 05/26/2015 11:47 PM »

Would it be practical or competitive for Aerojet Rocketdyne to bring back something similar to the McDonnell Douglas NLS II/III proposals, incorporating 1-2 RS-25E and strap-on solids, with an RL-10 based upper stage?  It leverages SLS development of the STME, but it would probably need a whole new launch infrastructure -- though maybe existing hydrolox plumbing could be rerouted at old Delta pads to reduce the overall amount of work required?

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=31873.5

The old Delta pads could not handle these vehicles, too big and the pads are in the process of being demolished.
Anyways, the "McDonnell Douglas NLS II/III proposals" is Delta IV.  There is no sense for AR to copy it.

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: EELV successor: who would bid?
« Reply #9 on: 05/27/2015 02:53 AM »
Non starters.  US content has to be over 50% and likely closer 100% for NSS missions.

Doesn't that leave out Atlas V with it's Russian engine?  Since the engine alone is more than 50% of the cost of the 1st stage (per Bruno infographic), I'd say for Atlas V it would be nowhere close to 100%.  Plus Russia has never been as close to us politically as Europe and Japan have been.

I think what we've already seen is that the Air Force will be flexible if they have to be.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline Jim

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Re: EELV successor: who would bid?
« Reply #10 on: 05/27/2015 02:59 AM »

Doesn't that leave out Atlas V with it's Russian engine?  Since the engine alone is more than 50% of the cost of the 1st stage (per Bruno infographic), I'd say for Atlas V it would be nowhere close to 100%.  Plus Russia has never been as close to us politically as Europe and Japan have been.

I think what we've already seen is that the Air Force will be flexible if they have to be.

No, the whole vehicle is what matters.  Atlas V meets the requirement of more than 50% US content (so does Antares).  Otherwise it would not get NASA mission either.

The 100% was going forward in the current era for new vehicles.
« Last Edit: 05/27/2015 03:00 AM by Jim »

Offline arachnitect

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Re: EELV successor: who would bid?
« Reply #11 on: 05/27/2015 04:41 PM »
I wasn't thinking cores would be imported, the scenario I was imagining was something like Airbus Defense & Space or MHI setting up a new final assembly line in the US. In the case of Yuzhnoye/Yuzhmash I was assuming they would sell and move the equipment to the US.

What does it cost to build a new rocket factory? Floor space is cheap in the US and assuming you were going to need new tooling anyways what else is there? How hard is it to staff up such an enterprise?

What about launch pads? Are there sites available? Unless ULA hands one of their products over (unlikely) their pads are off limits. Is it possible for an EELV entrant to share 39B with NASA? Would launch sites have to be "inside the fence" at CCAFS/VAFB?

I guess what I'm getting at is the question of how realistic is the possibility of future NSS launches being provided by an entity other than spacex and ULA?

Offline nadreck

Re: EELV successor: who would bid?
« Reply #12 on: 05/27/2015 05:42 PM »

I guess what I'm getting at is the question of how realistic is the possibility of future NSS launches being provided by an entity other than spacex and ULA?

I think that should Blue Origin and Orbital manage to continue development activities and have viable businesses 10 years from now then the business may well include NSS launches via current or updated certification/qualification procedures.  I will also go very far out on a limb and suggest that by 10 years from now a bunch of small sats for DoD/NRO may be being launched under different conditions.
It is all well and good to quote those things that made it past your confirmation bias that other people wrote, but this is a discussion board damnit! Let us know what you think! And why!

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