Author Topic: Air Force reusable launch  (Read 3792 times)

Online rsdavis9

Air Force reusable launch
« on: 05/03/2017 11:17 AM »
https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/05/air-force-study-says-us-government-should-get-serious-about-reusable-rockets/

So the Air Force may purchase only reusable? Maybe they will sign some future contracts for ITS type launches and put some large sums of money down. They could spread it out between SpaceX and BO.

EDIT: mods move this to a better thread if this has already been discussed
« Last Edit: 05/03/2017 11:22 AM by rsdavis9 »
bob

Offline Eagandale4114

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Re: Air Force reusable launch
« Reply #1 on: 05/03/2017 08:04 PM »
There is some discussion of this article in the general customer reuse opinions thread

Offline macpacheco

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Re: Air Force reusable launch
« Reply #2 on: 05/04/2017 10:32 AM »
I don't read that as launches will be reuse only criteria, that would make little sense until somehow it can be proven that reflown boosters are safer than brand new boosters (with high confidence).

I read that as the Air Force is very willing to accept reflown boosters/upper stages, with the unsaid assumption that SpaceX would have to demonstrate enough safe reflights comparable to certification requirements (perhaps 13 reflights as the easiest certification standard, but possibly 5 or 6 could be enough for them to sign up). Since the rocket is the same, new flight contracts could specify that SpaceX can use reflown boosters as long as they demonstrate enough successful reflights before the first reflown booster is actually used on national security launches.
In a way, such statements function as substantial pressure over ULA to adapt to the new reality. Once USAF/NRO start accepting reflown boosters, SpaceX could perhaps sell USAF/NRO reflight launches with all of the extra overhead required at prices similar to commercial expendable launches at list prices, when that is combined with FH flying as well, it could price ULA out of the market even with the Vulcan engine reuse scheme.
Falcon Heavy with Block V thrust will be a beast, taking care of every or nearly every national security launch.

SpaceX could offer DoD a contract to keep a few F9 + one FH with reflown boosters (plus enough brand new upper stages) in a dedicated national security setting as an assured (and quick) access to space. For instance keep a few GPS birds in storage on the same barn. Cycle those for all national security launches on that site.

This wouldn't put ULA out of business because ULA doesn't have reuse, but rather because ULA launches would be too expensive as a result of using only expendable launch systems. The key criteria is SpaceX achieving zero launch failures in the short run and a very low launch failure rate in the long run (say under 1% failures).

Considering the sizable volume of commercial launches on SpaceX's manifest, and the upcoming need to gradually replace Block III/IV boosters with Block V ones, SpaceX has no hurry in doing just reflight contracts. New Block V boosters can be assigned to DoD/NASA launches until they're 100% on board with reuse.
« Last Edit: 05/04/2017 10:47 AM by macpacheco »
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Offline Mongo62

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Re: Air Force reusable launch
« Reply #3 on: 05/04/2017 06:01 PM »
SpaceX could offer DoD a contract to keep a few F9 + one FH with reflown boosters (plus enough brand new upper stages) in a dedicated national security setting as an assured (and quick) access to space. For instance keep a few GPS birds in storage on the same barn. Cycle those for all national security launches on that site.

I've sometimes wondered if it would be feasible to keep a single F9 on 'standby' at all times for emergency use, in case of (for example) an incident on the ISS requiring near-immediate evacuation of the ISS (and somehow disabling all Soyuz spacecraft already docked to the ISS).

This would tie up SpaceX resources of course. But with reuse, would setting aside a single flight-proven booster and an upper stage (and a Dragon 2?) be out of the question?

Offline Lars-J

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Re: Air Force reusable launch
« Reply #4 on: 05/04/2017 06:08 PM »
SpaceX could offer DoD a contract to keep a few F9 + one FH with reflown boosters (plus enough brand new upper stages) in a dedicated national security setting as an assured (and quick) access to space. For instance keep a few GPS birds in storage on the same barn. Cycle those for all national security launches on that site.

I've sometimes wondered if it would be feasible to keep a single F9 on 'standby' at all times for emergency use, in case of (for example) an incident on the ISS requiring near-immediate evacuation of the ISS (and somehow disabling all Soyuz spacecraft already docked to the ISS).

This would tie up SpaceX resources of course. But with reuse, would setting aside a single flight-proven booster and an upper stage (and a Dragon 2?) be out of the question?

If NASA or the DoD is willing to pay for it, and the F9 configuration stabilizes, I'm sure SpaceX could be convinced to keep one on standby.  :)
« Last Edit: 05/04/2017 06:09 PM by Lars-J »

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Re: Air Force reusable launch
« Reply #5 on: 05/04/2017 06:32 PM »
Kind of silly.

Quote
The end state of the ORS concept is the ability to address emerging, persistent, and/or unanticipated needs through timely augmentation, reconstitution, and exploitation of space force enhancement, space control, and space support capabilities.
Attempts to do this in the past find that you're usually waiting on the payload, not the vehicle.

Usually because the payload is over-complicated, to take advantage of the LV's payload capability.

Which then slows down the LV because it becomes more complicated, including the time to ready the vehicle and possibly miss the window.

What has been suggested is to stack a small solids vehicle, or to leave it  ready. But this relies on the vehicle and its orbit/window are appropriate for the payload.

Which brings you to concepts like air launch (Pegasus), because you can adapt launch to suit (fly around weather etc).

In practice that isn't done, because it's still too costly and dilatory to get such a mission to the point of flying.

Which explains why ORS in practice does not happen.

Have been studying this issue, and more recently microlaunch concept.

Perhaps a better approach is that you do agile payload development that flies soonest, off agile microlaunch LV's.

So the point is that the gating factor is when the agile team sees the window approaching for a potential launch, speculatively pays for a microlaunch on standby for a window/range, integrates a payload/SC/sensor/mission all up to meet that window, and if they make it ontime to the launcher, its launched.

Otherwise the "scrub", for whatever reason, returns the launcher to the provider for a service fee, it's reassigned to a different launch, and things start over again.

You'd get away with this if the cost of a scrub was roughly on a par with the integration cost, such that the loss in the missed window was all up insignificant, so that even the practice as proficiency is its own reward.

That might make ORS worthwhile.

But not Falcon - to big/slow/costly/... You get committed too much to not launch.

Online Doesitfloat

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Re: Air Force reusable launch
« Reply #6 on: 05/04/2017 07:40 PM »
I don't think this proposal has anything to do with they way they currently do things.
I think it's about the Air Force wants a low earth constellation too.  They don't want private industry to have all the cool toys. On the other hand they aren't going to buy weekly launches at 200 million a pop.  If launch prices go to 20 million a launch on a reusable platform then an Air Force constellation becomes possible.

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Re: Air Force reusable launch
« Reply #7 on: 05/04/2017 07:57 PM »
I don't think this proposal has anything to do with they way they currently do things.
I think it's about the Air Force wants a low earth constellation too.  They don't want private industry to have all the cool toys. On the other hand they aren't going to buy weekly launches at 200 million a pop.  If launch prices go to 20 million a launch on a reusable platform then an Air Force constellation becomes possible.

Two different things. One can "piggy back" Google/SX (or other) with a "military me too", paying similar (doesn't have to be same degree of coverage). Or they can innovate something entirely different, at which point they'll need to incrementally deploy/revise before costly scale up.

The first leverages something in place, and budget for it would come out of like operations they already have.

The second would be attempting to buy up a "block buy" of partially reusable launches. Problem with that would be the necessary single source.

Offline macpacheco

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Re: Air Force reusable launch
« Reply #8 on: 05/05/2017 10:52 AM »
I don't think this proposal has anything to do with they way they currently do things.
I think it's about the Air Force wants a low earth constellation too.  They don't want private industry to have all the cool toys. On the other hand they aren't going to buy weekly launches at 200 million a pop.  If launch prices go to 20 million a launch on a reusable platform then an Air Force constellation becomes possible.
I see four purposes to my suggestion:
1 - Provide a separate area for processing national security payloads and LV for such launches (say in the future two payloads are processed at once, if one of them is an NRO launch, it might prevent other payloads from concurrent processing)
 2 - Reduce dedicated resources that must follow the booster/upper stage from production to launch
 3 - Provide quick assured access to space (requires stored payloads as well)
 4 - Decouple any production issues with natl security launches by storing upper stages destined for natl sec launches
Of course its not necessarily a problem mixing those with NASA launches.
In fact perhaps LC39A facilities might gravitate towards that, except for the fact that all FH launches would be mixed in

I'm just reading several well known facts about the DoD <-> ULA relationship and thinking of how SpaceX could offer something that handles all of that and much more.
« Last Edit: 05/05/2017 11:43 AM by macpacheco »
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Offline rockets4life97

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Re: Air Force reusable launch
« Reply #9 on: 05/05/2017 11:14 AM »
Boca Chica will be able to launch FH as well.

Offline macpacheco

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Re: Air Force reusable launch
« Reply #10 on: 05/05/2017 11:16 AM »
Boca Chica will be able to launch FH as well.
Yes, but all BC launches can be done at the cape unless its right at the performance limit.
Obviously, I'm solely adding up a bunch of loose information.
If cost is the highest priority, then none of this makes that much sense.
But DoD/USAF/NRO aren't exactly known to penny pinch, do they ?
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Offline rockets4life97

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Re: Air Force reusable launch
« Reply #11 on: 05/05/2017 11:40 AM »
Boca Chica will be able to launch FH as well.
Yes, but all BC launches can be done at the cape unless its right at the performance limit.
Obviously, I'm solely adding up a bunch of loose information.
If cost is the highest priority, then none of this makes that much sense.
But DoD/USAF/NRO aren't exactly known to penny pinch, do they ?

Yes, I thought BC strengthened your argument. BC is for GTO including FH, while 39A becomes the DoD/NRO/NASA pad. 40 would be used for F9 schedule flexibility. 

Online su27k

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Re: Air Force reusable launch
« Reply #12 on: 05/08/2017 02:47 AM »
There're a lot more quotes from the Ultra Low-Cost Access to Space symposium in this article: http://www.popularmechanics.com/space/rockets/a26347/future-space-exploration-private-industry/

(Also maybe this thread should be moved to commercial space section, SpaceX is only a small part of the conference)

Online AncientU

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Re: Air Force reusable launch
« Reply #13 on: 05/08/2017 06:01 PM »
I've been trying to get transcripts or videos of this symposium with no success.
Anyone know if anything is published?  Tons of interesting material was exchanges as shown in attendees twitter accounts, etc.
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Offline docmordrid

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Re: Air Force reusable launch
« Reply #14 on: 05/08/2017 10:35 PM »
Their last publication was in January. Since the symposium was May 1 an update may take a while.

Jan. 2017...PDF

http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/events/ultra-low-cost-access-to-space-ulcats-symp-may-2017-dc

May 1 2017

Quote
Speakers include:

The Honorable Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives
The Honorable Bob Walker, former chairman of the House Science Committee
Lt. Gen. David Deptula (ret.)
Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, Commander, Air University
Maj. Gen. Roger Teague, Director, Space Programs, (SAF/AQ)
Josh Hartman, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space and Intelligence
Charles Miller, NexGen Space, LLC
Col. Bill Bruner, USAF (Ret.)
Hoyt Davidson, NearEarth LLC
Scott Aughenbaugh, National Defense University
Jean Floyd, Stratolaunch
Brett Alexander, Blue Origin
Tim Hughes, SpaceX
Bob Martinage, Telemus Group
Rick Dunn, former DARPA General Counsel
Les Kovachs, United Launch Alliance
Laetitia Garriott de Cayeux, former CEO, Escape Dynamics
« Last Edit: 05/08/2017 10:40 PM by docmordrid »
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Re: Air Force reusable launch
« Reply #15 on: 05/11/2017 03:58 PM »
SpaceNews have written up another presentation on this, given by Lt. Col. Thomas Schilling, chief of the Commander’s Action Group at the Air Force’s Air University:

http://spacenews.com/military-could-have-truly-low-cost-launch-market-in-five-years-if-government-puts-in-the-effort-experts-say/?sthash.AiRPOvNP.mjjo

Found this snippet particularly interesting:

Quote
“We discovered there’s at least four credible companies that can put the skin in the game and have the technical ability, so they’ll have a competition,” Miller told SpaceNews following the panel discussion.

Two companies have already publicly declared their interest in reusable spacecraft — SpaceX and Blue Origin — but Miller declined to comment on what other organizations said they’re developing reusable technology.

Charles Miller is president of the NexGen Space consultancy.

Online su27k

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Re: Air Force reusable launch
« Reply #16 on: 05/11/2017 04:11 PM »
SpaceNews have written up another presentation on this, given by Lt. Col. Thomas Schilling, chief of the Commander’s Action Group at the Air Force’s Air University:

http://spacenews.com/military-could-have-truly-low-cost-launch-market-in-five-years-if-government-puts-in-the-effort-experts-say/?sthash.AiRPOvNP.mjjo

Found this snippet particularly interesting:

Quote
“We discovered there’s at least four credible companies that can put the skin in the game and have the technical ability, so they’ll have a competition,” Miller told SpaceNews following the panel discussion.

Two companies have already publicly declared their interest in reusable spacecraft — SpaceX and Blue Origin — but Miller declined to comment on what other organizations said they’re developing reusable technology.

ULA is the obvious 3rd, with ACES and SMART. The 4th may be Masten?

Online AncientU

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Re: Air Force reusable launch
« Reply #17 on: 05/11/2017 08:29 PM »
Interesting snippets from that article:

Quote
Low-cost launch is not a new idea, but Hoyt Davidson of Near Earth — an investment firm focused on aerospace — argued that the time is right for the industry to come into its own. He pointed to differences between the present and the 1990s when much of the commercial space sector collapsed.

“What’s different this time? I get that question a lot,” he said.

Technology is a primary factor, Davidson argued, saying that “we’ve had 20 years of Moore’s Law” that reshaped the way computers are used. Electronic miniaturization and modernization now allow for much more capability in a satellite. Communications get more bandwidth, and imaging gets more pixels per dollar of investment, making units far more efficient than they previously have been.

Likewise, satellite production techniques have grown, adding new technology like additive manufacturing to drive down costs and speed up production time.

But perhaps the biggest difference, he said, is that the demand for space services is larger than it ever has been, with sectors like broadband communications growing exponentially among consumers.

“All those companies back then [in the 90s] maybe totaled 1,000 satellites. Now we’re talking about 20,000,” Davidson said. “Twenty years of technology advancement has made a difference.

Funny, I argued this a month or two ago and got tons of pushback...

Quote
Growth in the reusable launch sector could lead to first-stage boosters that could be reused 100 times, and second stages reused 25 times, Davidson said, adding that daily launches might be needed to keep up with multiple companies planning large constellations.

Not hearing these numbers from anyone but SpaceX -- since they are the same numbers, guess they have the USAF ear.
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Online AncientU

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Re: Air Force reusable launch
« Reply #18 on: 05/11/2017 08:35 PM »
SpaceNews have written up another presentation on this, given by Lt. Col. Thomas Schilling, chief of the Commander’s Action Group at the Air Force’s Air University:

http://spacenews.com/military-could-have-truly-low-cost-launch-market-in-five-years-if-government-puts-in-the-effort-experts-say/?sthash.AiRPOvNP.mjjo

Found this snippet particularly interesting:

Quote
“We discovered there’s at least four credible companies that can put the skin in the game and have the technical ability, so they’ll have a competition,” Miller told SpaceNews following the panel discussion.

Two companies have already publicly declared their interest in reusable spacecraft — SpaceX and Blue Origin — but Miller declined to comment on what other organizations said they’re developing reusable technology.

ULA is the obvious 3rd, with ACES and SMART. The 4th may be Masten?

ACES and SMART hardly qualify, though ULA and/or parents might have a skunkworks going to get back in the game.  Anyway, it's great news that there are more players in the reusable competition.  Hope USAF knows that it can be most helpful by avoiding getting in the way and not picking favorites as they traditionally do.
« Last Edit: 05/11/2017 08:35 PM by AncientU »
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Offline RotoSequence

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Re: Air Force reusable launch
« Reply #19 on: 05/11/2017 08:53 PM »
Kind of silly.

Quote
The end state of the ORS concept is the ability to address emerging, persistent, and/or unanticipated needs through timely augmentation, reconstitution, and exploitation of space force enhancement, space control, and space support capabilities.
Attempts to do this in the past find that you're usually waiting on the payload, not the vehicle.

Usually because the payload is over-complicated, to take advantage of the LV's payload capability.

Which then slows down the LV because it becomes more complicated, including the time to ready the vehicle and possibly miss the window.

What has been suggested is to stack a small solids vehicle, or to leave it  ready. But this relies on the vehicle and its orbit/window are appropriate for the payload.

Which brings you to concepts like air launch (Pegasus), because you can adapt launch to suit (fly around weather etc).

In practice that isn't done, because it's still too costly and dilatory to get such a mission to the point of flying.

Which explains why ORS in practice does not happen.

Have been studying this issue, and more recently microlaunch concept.

Perhaps a better approach is that you do agile payload development that flies soonest, off agile microlaunch LV's.

So the point is that the gating factor is when the agile team sees the window approaching for a potential launch, speculatively pays for a microlaunch on standby for a window/range, integrates a payload/SC/sensor/mission all up to meet that window, and if they make it ontime to the launcher, its launched.

Otherwise the "scrub", for whatever reason, returns the launcher to the provider for a service fee, it's reassigned to a different launch, and things start over again.

You'd get away with this if the cost of a scrub was roughly on a par with the integration cost, such that the loss in the missed window was all up insignificant, so that even the practice as proficiency is its own reward.

That might make ORS worthwhile.

But not Falcon - to big/slow/costly/... You get committed too much to not launch.

The whole point of the Fast Space Report was to encourage the Air Force to explore how it can leverage low cost access to space with Falcon 9 and similar EELV class vehicles, and future fully reusable launch vehicles that are coming down the line if they can find a customer, such as the Department of Defense - not how to lower the launch costs of today's satellites. Concepts explored include, but are not limited to, building a large number of simpler and less exquisite satellites that are built well in advance and can be placed in space as needed.
« Last Edit: 05/11/2017 08:57 PM by RotoSequence »

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