Author Topic: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires  (Read 17781 times)

Online Space Ghost 1962

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United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires

Quote from: Pat Host
The 2005 joint-venture master agreement between Boeing and Lockheed Martin that created the United Launch Alliance (ULA) expired this month, according to a key US Air Force (USAF) official.

Quote from: Pat Host
The agreement, dated 2 May 2005, hammered out simple issues such as the name of the company, where it would be based, and that each company would control 50% of membership interests. It also gets into details such as how the board of directors would be filled, who would serve as board chairman, a non-compete agreement, and dispute resolution.

At this point, they don't necessarily do revenue sharing, one side could buy out the other.

And perhaps this has consequences for Vulcan?

add:

So I'm out visiting near ULA and hear this, thinking "WTF?", because, yes, I know its supposed to be one thing ... but then one also hears these additional items ... which is why this got posted ...
« Last Edit: 05/11/2017 03:45 PM by Space Ghost 1962 »

Offline Chasm

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #1 on: 05/11/2017 04:24 AM »
¯\_(ツ)_/¯

There will be consequences all around.
Questions is if it just ran out or if the the next steps were already agreed on.

The name change rumors fit into a planned scenario, however that may play out.

Offline joek

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #2 on: 05/11/2017 04:53 AM »
Might be some confusion between two very different items...

The FTC Consent Order was issued 1-May-2007 and expired 1-May-2017.  That contains all of the conditions related to government oversight etc. which were required to make ULA a going concern.

The Joint Venture Master Agreement was inked on 2-May-2005 between Boeing and LM.  That is strictly between Boeing and LM[1] and is unrelated to conditions imposed by the government (it could not as it was two years prior to the FTC Consent Order).  As far as I know it has no expiration.


[1] There is a signature line for an unnamed representative from the "to be formed" joint venture.

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #3 on: 05/11/2017 06:38 AM »
Yes, the key line (to me) from the Janes piece is:

Quote
the Pentagon no longer has oversight duties now that the agreement has expired.

So presumably LM & Boeing are now free(r) to do what they want with ULA, provided as joint owners they agree?
« Last Edit: 05/11/2017 06:54 AM by FutureSpaceTourist »

Online GWH

As far as I understand it Boeing were the ones who were vocal about squashing the Aerojet buyout of ULA in 2015.

From every number I've ran based on available data for Vulcan ACES with distributed lift it is an equally capable (or marginally close to) and far more cost effective alternative to SLS for payloads to beyond LEO. This isn't really talked about by ULA, and the vague mentions of in orbit prop and prop as a secondary payload has a pretty dubious business case without some kind of market for large payloads beyond LEO. Prop depots as I understand are very much a taboo subject for ULA.

So if there were to be a buy out of Boeing's share and ULA's ownership no longer had a vested interest in SLS, one might wonder what that might mean for Vulcan.

Online Space Ghost 1962

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #5 on: 05/11/2017 06:02 PM »
Might be some confusion between two very different items...

The FTC Consent Order was issued 1-May-2007 and expired 1-May-2017.  That contains all of the conditions related to government oversight etc. which were required to make ULA a going concern.
It does unlock certain things. It is also where ULA got its name.

And those who brought this to my attention had a read on it that made it seem non-trivial.

Quote
The Joint Venture Master Agreement was inked on 2-May-2005 between Boeing and LM.  That is strictly between Boeing and LM[1] and is unrelated to conditions imposed by the government (it could not as it was two years prior to the FTC Consent Order).  As far as I know it has no expiration.
But it does have a termination clause.

add:

Couple other things occur to me. Now is a lot different then when both of these agreements were signed.

First, we have another provider, sort of proven in that an NRO launch just occurred with them. So you had two as a backstop then, one is minimally flying now (and a burden going forward). Also, we've got a SHLV capacity with its central core just tested. So you wonder about posture for NSS right now, what does it mean absent the Consent Order?

And ... both Boeing and LockMart don't see this as the same for each other.  Boeing will likely compete launches for its originally Hughes comsats, while those deep space missions (and NSS) will prefer Atlas/Vulcan for some time to come.

Where is the business headed?

It is also unfortunate that BE-4 tests haven't resolved Vulcan futures as of yet.
« Last Edit: 05/11/2017 08:46 PM by Space Ghost 1962 »

Offline yg1968

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #6 on: 05/13/2017 02:54 PM »
Might be some confusion between two very different items...

The FTC Consent Order was issued 1-May-2007 and expired 1-May-2017.  That contains all of the conditions related to government oversight etc. which were required to make ULA a going concern.

The Joint Venture Master Agreement was inked on 2-May-2005 between Boeing and LM.  That is strictly between Boeing and LM[1] and is unrelated to conditions imposed by the government (it could not as it was two years prior to the FTC Consent Order).  As far as I know it has no expiration.


[1] There is a signature line for an unnamed representative from the "to be formed" joint venture.

Good info, here is the relevant clause:

Quote
Section 2.09 Term. The term of the Company shall be perpetual unless earlier terminated in accordance with the provisions of the Operating Agreement.

This essentially means that the company, ULA (a LLC), survives until it is liquidated (the word terminated is used for LLCs).
« Last Edit: 05/13/2017 03:04 PM by yg1968 »

Online Space Ghost 1962

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #7 on: 05/13/2017 03:04 PM »
Might be some confusion between two very different items...

The FTC Consent Order was issued 1-May-2007 and expired 1-May-2017.  That contains all of the conditions related to government oversight etc. which were required to make ULA a going concern.

The Joint Venture Master Agreement was inked on 2-May-2005 between Boeing and LM.  That is strictly between Boeing and LM[1] and is unrelated to conditions imposed by the government (it could not as it was two years prior to the FTC Consent Order).  As far as I know it has no expiration.


[1] There is a signature line for an unnamed representative from the "to be formed" joint venture.

Good info, here is the relevant clause:

Quote
Section 2.09 Term. The term of the Company shall be perpetual unless earlier terminated in accordance with the provisions of the Operating Agreement.

This essentially means that the company (a LLC) survives until it is liquidated (the word terminated is used for LLCs).

Liquidating a JV usually means wholesale sales of parts that cannot be returned to each of the parents.

Generally you cannot operate such as an ongoing basis. It is possible with a termination agreement (additional) that you can keep activities going while you determine disbursements/etc. Or you can "spin out" in whole, and have equity shares, but likely there would have to be passive involvement given the prior Consent Agreement.

Offline joek

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #8 on: 05/13/2017 07:28 PM »
So presumably LM & Boeing are now free(r) to do what they want with ULA, provided as joint owners they agree?

They (LM and Boeing) have always been free to "do what they want with ULA", subject to their JV agreement; expiration of the FTC consent order does not change anything with respect to LM-Boeing's JV agreement.

Offline joek

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #9 on: 05/13/2017 07:48 PM »
Thus, one asks, which of the parents is it in the interest of, to continue the agreement? Or not?

Likely both.  Unless one thinks they can develop an independently competitive LV offering (specifically a USG offering, which was proscribed by the JV).  Doubtful either would choose to go independent vs. remaining with JV/ULA unless one of them thinks ULA is a lost cause and they can do much better independent of ULA  (again, doubtful--they put all their eggs in the ULA basket years ago--cost to bring those eggs back home would be extremely high).
« Last Edit: 05/13/2017 07:51 PM by joek »

Offline cppetrie

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #10 on: 05/13/2017 07:54 PM »
Thus, one asks, which of the parents is it in the interest of, to continue the agreement? Or not?

Likely both.  Unless one thinks they can develop an independently competitive LV offering (specifically a USG offering, which was proscribed by the JV).  Doubtful either would choose to go independent vs. remaining with JV/ULA unless one of them thinks ULA is a lost cause and they can do much better independent of ULA  (again, doubtful--they put all their eggs in the ULA basket years ago--cost to bring those eggs back home would be extremely high).
Unless one of the two companies believes the writing is on the wall and want to sell out in order to get its value out while the gettin's good. All indications are that is not the case, but who knows what sort of boardroom conversations have occurred in both parent companies behind closed doors.

Online Space Ghost 1962

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #11 on: 05/13/2017 08:00 PM »
Thus, one asks, which of the parents is it in the interest of, to continue the agreement? Or not?

Likely both. 
Interesting. In the past I'd heard no end of carping about this from both at the highest levels.

Quote
Unless one thinks they can develop an independently competitive LV offering (specifically a USG offering, which was proscribed by the JV). 

The economics of such are debatable given competitive landscape. If you abandoned SLS, which was never designed for the frequency/cost of launches, yes, you could create a near term competitive case, by sacrificing the under 40T capability.

But I'd think this is even more farfetched than the other options I suggested above. ULA as currently run doesn't seem like the means for such, because they don't have the necessary autonomy.

Quote
Doubtful either would choose to go independent vs. remaining with JV/ULA unless one of them thinks ULA is a lost cause and they can do much better (again, doubtful).
Agreed. They don't have the stomach for it. They never did.

Thus my wildass ideas above.

Unless one of the two companies believes the writing is on the wall and want to sell out in order to get its value out while the gettin's good. All indications are that is not the case, but who knows what sort of boardroom conversations have occurred in both parent companies behind closed doors.

They stand to lose more in loss of control, loss of effective access to IPR that injures other business (spacecraft) than the cash value of it. And equity is somewhat stupid for them to retain, as ETF's trade better.

Offline joek

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #12 on: 05/13/2017 08:12 PM »
Unless one of the two companies believes the writing is on the wall and want to sell out in order to get its value out while the gettin's good. All indications are that is not the case, but who knows what sort of boardroom conversations have occurred in both parent companies behind closed doors.

Both companies will have the same nominal information; whether it's good for them is their decision.  Would Boeing sell to LM because they think they can obtain greater profitability taking their share and investing elsewhere?  Or vice-versa?  Who knows.

But if I were either of them, I'd suggest getting out of the launch services market ASAP--unless, given the expiration of the FTC consent order, they can show that they can achieve additional profitability by bundling their offerings (e.g., Boeing or LM satellites) with launch services.

Don't see that happening.  ULA is a USG-centric service offering.  While that will demand a premium, anything beyond that will not.  In short, if ULA-Boeing-LM want to compete in the USG space, they may stand a chance; otherwise not.
« Last Edit: 05/13/2017 08:19 PM by joek »

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #13 on: 05/13/2017 08:36 PM »
In short, if ULA-Boeing-LM want to compete in the USG space, they may stand a chance; otherwise not.

With the AF mentality of "buying tickets to space" for payloads, perhaps where this is headed with disaggregated payloads is generic launch services, and your replacement for mission assurance is multiple duplicate payloads.

That certainly fits with the recent "fast space" threat profile, which makes the argument for asset restoration over asset preservation.

Offline sdsds

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #14 on: 05/14/2017 12:09 AM »
That certainly fits with the recent "fast space" threat profile, which makes the argument for asset restoration over asset preservation.

You call it "recent" but isn't fast space just operationally responsive space with a new name and a shiny new coat of paint?

E.g.:
allow a President to defend the
United States and coalition interests, signal commitment, and establish assured
overwatch in hours

http://cdn.defensedaily.com/wp-content/uploads/post_attachment/157919.pdf

that doesn't sound like a "recent" idea!

And even if not, how could that concept possibly relate to ULA as it exists today?
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Offline joek

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #15 on: 05/14/2017 02:23 AM »
You call it "recent" but isn't fast space just operationally responsive space with a new name and a shiny new coat of paint?

Yes, kinda-sorta.  Responsive space was oriented towards smaller payloads ("get [mission-specific smallish] payloads up fast").  That is closely related to, but very different from, "disaggregation" mentioned by SG, which is a more systemic approach intended to avoid few large high cost "blue-printed" targets in favor of smaller low cost targets--while increasing the robustness and flexibility of the system. Still lots of debate occurring in the NSS community as to which approach is better.

Offline Kansan52

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #16 on: 05/16/2017 06:26 PM »
Could ULA offer to buy themselves?

Online AncientU

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #17 on: 05/16/2017 06:55 PM »
I went to lunch with a couple buddies still working at ULA today (most have left over last 6 months). 
I learned:
- The final layoff tally is approaching 1000 people across all sites for this year (450+ last year).  Denver is being hit hard and they are still performing mandatory unpaid overtime. 
- The senior leader for the analysis group I worked under has calculated "natural" attrition (people leaving) to be 12% over the last 6 months.  This doesn't count any layoffs, just people quitting.

Employees are worried how all the work is going to get done.  Vulcan has been returning money to the parents because they cannot spend it all given the resource limitations.  Add on another 1000 layoffs and most everyone has given up keeping to any schedules.

Does that mean head count is heading for 2,500 instead of 3,000 discussed earlier?

Sounds grim -- they risk falling below 'critical mass' in staffing... returning Vulcan money to parents is a very bad signal that indicates they may be past this point of no return.

In an all hands meeting towards the end of 2016 Bruno stated their were three times the parents nearly "harvested" the company within the last year and ULA was walking a fine line.  The parent companies see it from a purely business stand point, therefore, they are always weighing the revenue it is generating vs. the value they could "harvest" it for.
...

This, plus the earlier staffing cuts/sending Vulcan money back to parents, indicate that 'harvesting' might be in progress.   Keep staff necessary to collect ELC monies and send maximum to parents,  fly the lucrative NSS and NASA flights on the manifest, then bail.   If they do this, parents risk endangering their SLS/Orion contracts -- might be holding the marriage together.

These are totally grim news items; hopefully you're not trolling NSF...
Hard to make this stuff up.
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Offline IanThePineapple

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #18 on: 05/16/2017 07:04 PM »
This is worrying, what are the current predictions of the company's future?
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Online edkyle99

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #19 on: 05/16/2017 08:35 PM »
This is worrying, what are the current predictions of the company's future?
Here's my perspective, for what it is worth. 

Downsizing is not fun, but in this case it is necessary to get down to fighting weight.  The company plans to shut down three launch vehicles (Delta 2, Delta 4, and Atlas 5) and replace them with one (Vulcan).  It is going to shelve most of the subcontractors involved in those programs in favor of one, likely lower-cost chain.  This is not an easy maneuver.  People are going to be disaffected no matter how it is done, and not just at ULA.  Pulling this big switch off requires lots of money in the short term, but then again ULA's competitors are also spending lots of cash on new developments.

ULA's advantage is that it is highly proficient at this business.  It knows how to roll off success after success for year after year.  It knows its Pentagon customer better than any competitor.  That is where it must continue to excel.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 05/16/2017 08:39 PM by edkyle99 »

Online gongora

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #20 on: 05/16/2017 09:04 PM »
Downsizing is not fun, but in this case it is necessary to get down to fighting weight.  The company plans to shut down three launch vehicles...

Right now all of those vehicles are still flying, the slowdown in the government launch rate hasn't arrived yet, but they're already cutting a large percentage of their workforce.

Online AncientU

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #21 on: 05/17/2017 12:54 AM »
This is worrying, what are the current predictions of the company's future?
Here's my perspective, for what it is worth. 

Downsizing is not fun, but in this case it is necessary to get down to fighting weight.  The company plans to shut down three launch vehicles (Delta 2, Delta 4, and Atlas 5) and replace them with one (Vulcan).  It is going to shelve most of the subcontractors involved in those programs in favor of one, likely lower-cost chain.  This is not an easy maneuver.  People are going to be disaffected no matter how it is done, and not just at ULA.  Pulling this big switch off requires lots of money in the short term, but then again ULA's competitors are also spending lots of cash on new developments.

ULA's advantage is that it is highly proficient at this business.  It knows how to roll off success after success for year after year.  It knows its Pentagon customer better than any competitor.  That is where it must continue to excel.

 - Ed Kyle

Appreciate your perspective. 
Your last paragraph is all true, and these proficiencies aren't questioned by anyone. 

Unfortunately, the first paragraph is the business at which they must demonstrate proficiency to survive... downsizing, reducing to a lean supply chain, cutting three vehicles and developing one.  Spending lots of money to make the transition... and get costs down.  If they fall short on proficiency with these demands imposed by a competitive market, they won't have the opportunity to roll off success after success for year after year.

It's really an IF, THEN situation.
« Last Edit: 05/17/2017 12:55 AM by AncientU »
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Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #22 on: 05/17/2017 02:20 AM »
This is worrying, what are the current predictions of the company's future?
Here's my perspective, for what it is worth. 

Downsizing is not fun, but in this case it is necessary to get down to fighting weight.  The company plans to shut down three launch vehicles (Delta 2, Delta 4, and Atlas 5) and replace them with one (Vulcan).  It is going to shelve most of the subcontractors involved in those programs in favor of one, likely lower-cost chain.  This is not an easy maneuver.  People are going to be disaffected no matter how it is done, and not just at ULA.  Pulling this big switch off requires lots of money in the short term, but then again ULA's competitors are also spending lots of cash on new developments.

ULA's advantage is that it is highly proficient at this business.  It knows how to roll off success after success for year after year.  It knows its Pentagon customer better than any competitor.  That is where it must continue to excel.

 - Ed Kyle

Appreciate your perspective. 
Your last paragraph is all true, and these proficiencies aren't questioned by anyone. 

Unfortunately, the first paragraph is the business at which they must demonstrate proficiency to survive... downsizing, reducing to a lean supply chain, cutting three vehicles and developing one.  Spending lots of money to make the transition... and get costs down.  If they fall short on proficiency with these demands imposed by a competitive market, they won't have the opportunity to roll off success after success for year after year.

It's really an IF, THEN situation.
They already reduced one supply chain the SRB contracts. Instead of two, one for Atlas and one for DIV there is now only 1 for both. It involves a change to the DIV to accommodate the different SRB. That is if they don't already have enough existing SRBs to fly out the planned last DIV medium.

Offline Lars-J

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United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #23 on: 05/17/2017 07:45 AM »
They already reduced one supply chain the SRB contracts. Instead of two, one for Atlas and one for DIV there is now only 1 for both. It involves a change to the DIV to accommodate the different SRB. That is if they don't already have enough existing SRBs to fly out the planned last DIV medium.

Isn't it the opposite that they are actually doing? Atlas V is being modified to use Delta IV solids, which will carry over to Vulcan.

It would make little sense to modify the Delta IV to use different boosters, since there are so few flights left.

Unless I am mistaken...

EDIT: my recollection seems right:
http://www.ulalaunch.com/ula-selects-orbital-atk-solid-boosters.aspx
(Although the boosters will not be the GEM-60 of the Delta IV but instead larger GEM-63?)
« Last Edit: 05/17/2017 08:08 AM by Lars-J »

Offline Chasm

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #24 on: 05/17/2017 11:03 AM »
Orbital ATK boosters are in use on both Delta II and IV and will replace the AJ-60A on Atlas V.

GEM-40 on Delta II, GEM-60 on Delta IV, GEM-63 on Atlas V.
Vulcan will use a stretched GEM-63XL.

On a catalog drawing drawing GEM-63 and GEM-63XL had the same mount points so there may or may not be another reduction in the future.

Offline baldusi

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #25 on: 05/17/2017 01:25 PM »
Downsizing is not fun, but in this case it is necessary to get down to fighting weight.  The company plans to shut down three launch vehicles...

Right now all of those vehicles are still flying, the slowdown in the government launch rate hasn't arrived yet, but they're already cutting a large percentage of their workforce.

Please remember that USG launches usually start at T-5 years. We are probably seeing, in part, the reduction on the 2020-3 manifest.

Online Space Ghost 1962

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #26 on: 05/17/2017 06:11 PM »
Downsizing is not fun, but in this case it is necessary to get down to fighting weight.  The company plans to shut down three launch vehicles...

Right now all of those vehicles are still flying, the slowdown in the government launch rate hasn't arrived yet, but they're already cutting a large percentage of their workforce.

Please remember that USG launches usually start at T-5 years. We are probably seeing, in part, the reduction on the 2020-3 manifest.

Correct. People forget that its the accumulated expense ahead of the activity, paying for staffing in place that's the expense being reduced.

Also, when you've got competition (especially for USG contracts), you need to fit/function like your rival. What this might mean for ULA appearing against their rival, is a drastically reduced workforce that has to somehow learn to do multiple jobs per person that they didn't do before.

Online brickmack

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #27 on: 05/21/2017 05:26 AM »
If Boeing/ULA could have fitted Delta IV with GEM-63 (or any larger GEM), wouldn't they have already done it? Wouldn't have been much more expensive than GEM-60 and should give a nice performance boost (on a rocket with severely underperforming core and upper stage). Yet we've never heard this option discussed, and it wasn't included in the original design either. Adding additional SRBs, various engine upratings or replacements, moving to Al-Li tankage, densified propellants, ACES, etc etc have all been presented at various times as possible upgrade paths, but never new SRBs (which should be cheaper both to develop and build than any of that). I don't know what the reasoning is, but there must be some good explanation why not one single study I've found suggests it.

Online russianhalo117

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #28 on: 05/22/2017 08:40 PM »
If Boeing/ULA could have fitted Delta IV with GEM-63 (or any larger GEM), wouldn't they have already done it? Wouldn't have been much more expensive than GEM-60 and should give a nice performance boost (on a rocket with severely underperforming core and upper stage). Yet we've never heard this option discussed, and it wasn't included in the original design either. Adding additional SRBs, various engine upratings or replacements, moving to Al-Li tankage, densified propellants, ACES, etc etc have all been presented at various times as possible upgrade paths, but never new SRBs (which should be cheaper both to develop and build than any of that). I don't know what the reasoning is, but there must be some good explanation why not one single study I've found suggests it.
GEM-63 did not exist as an option when ULA chose to consolidate and later wind down Delta programmes (DII and DIV). Aerojet being pushy and trying to takeover ULA led to ULA implementing cost cutting by handing over the latest AV solid contract to OA's in development GEM-63 family to replace AR's AJ-60 family. There are other reasons to.

Online brickmack

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #29 on: 05/28/2017 01:38 AM »
And GEM-60 didn't exist when Delta IV entered development. Thats what my point was about, not a mid-life upgrade/consolidation. If the clean-sheet Delta IV back in 1990-something could've accepted a larger SRB (of any size, GEM-61/62/63/whatever), given that the development cost to go from GEM-46 to any larger GEM should be approximately the same, is there any reason they wouldn't have?

Offline savuporo

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #30 on: 05/28/2017 07:55 PM »
Idle thought: There's talk about giving a huge break for tech giants to repatriate their overseas money. Apple has 230 billion overseas.

There's also plenty of talk about where this money could be quickly invested, like Apple buying Tesla etc. I wonder if one of the biggest beneficiary tech giants ( microsoft, alphabet, cisco, oracle ) would be interested in acquiring and investing in ULA.
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Offline rst

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #31 on: 05/29/2017 03:17 AM »
There's also plenty of talk about where this money could be quickly invested, like Apple buying Tesla etc. I wonder if one of the biggest beneficiary tech giants ( microsoft, alphabet, cisco, oracle ) would be interested in acquiring and investing in ULA.

Well, there's already been some speculation that Blue Origin might pick them up in a fire sale, if one were to happen, for patents and as what Silicon Valley types call an "acquihire" -- buying a business to get its technical team on your payroll. (In these events, the acquired company's product is almost invariably discontinued.) But Bezos doesn't need to repatriate funds to get the money for that; if he wants to buy ULA, he's already got the money.

Beyond that, though, ULA is the kind of established industry player that tech billionaires like to "disrupt".  And tech industry players are responsible for at least two well-funded efforts to do that (SpaceX and Blue), along with a few other, more ... speculative plays (Stratolaunch, and various small boosters with venture capital funding).

Also, purely as a business proposition, ULA is effectively dependent on one large customer, the US government -- they've tried to get other business, but with little success, due in part to high prices.  Continued government business is not assured more than a few years out; they'll never let any single booster be their only way into space, but Falcon 9 and New Glenn together could price ULA out of even the DOD market.  If Vulcan is competitive in that environment, then ULA's current owners probably wouldn't be interested in selling the company.  But if not, then the most likely reason for any tech industry buyer to want it would be for the same reasons Blue might -- as a quick way to get a whole lot of good people put to work on something else, but not to continue ULA's own current work in progress.

Offline savuporo

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #32 on: 05/29/2017 03:34 AM »
... But if not, then the most likely reason for any tech industry buyer to want it would be for the same reasons Blue might -- as a quick way to get a whole lot of good people put to work on something else, but not to continue ULA's own current work in progress.

People and IP, and processes, and networks of connections etc. One way to look at it is ULA is a couple billion dollars investment and handcuffs free execution environment away from being the world leader, with all their assets.
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Offline sdsds

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #33 on: 05/29/2017 06:44 AM »
ULA is a couple billion dollars investment and handcuffs free execution environment away from being the world leader

There are some handcuffs that don't come off. AIUI the ULA ethos is to serve its one primary customer with complete loyalty. Doing that presumably imposes some restrictions; some are obvious, some subtle.
-- sdsds --

Offline rst

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #34 on: 05/29/2017 03:02 PM »
People and IP, and processes, and networks of connections etc. One way to look at it is ULA is a couple billion dollars investment and handcuffs free execution environment away from being the world leader, with all their assets.

Also, capital assets -- launch pad facilities, the plant in Decatur, and so forth. Which, come to think of it, could cut both ways. These are probably assets to a new entrant looking for a quick way in to the launch business. But not necessarily for everyone. Blue already has committed to building its own facilities for New Glenn, and Bezos made a point of announcing that NG is "the smallest orbital rocket Blue Origin will ever build". So, if ULA's facilities are undersized for New Armstrong, they might look to Blue like awkward white elephants.

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #35 on: 05/30/2017 08:06 PM »
Related:
Reddit thread about how ULA is  “requiring-but-not-requiring” 10% overtime.

So much for ULA allowing work-life balance as opposed to the evil employee-punishing SX.

They appear to both be the same now.

Interview at ULA Question
Quote from: RocketNewbie
"What I was told during my interview is that the company requires about 10% overtime for each pay period (they do every 2 weeks). I asked them why they have that requirement, but then they said it's not an "official" requirement, but everyone has been told to do that, even if you don't need to in order to get your work done."

Perhaps ULA is quite different post JV/govt agreement expiration?

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #36 on: 05/31/2017 01:51 AM »
Related:
Reddit thread about how ULA is  “requiring-but-not-requiring” 10% overtime.

So much for ULA allowing work-life balance as opposed to the evil employee-punishing SX.

They appear to both be the same now.

Interview at ULA Question
Quote from: RocketNewbie
"What I was told during my interview is that the company requires about 10% overtime for each pay period (they do every 2 weeks). I asked them why they have that requirement, but then they said it's not an "official" requirement, but everyone has been told to do that, even if you don't need to in order to get your work done."

Perhaps ULA is quite different post JV/govt agreement expiration?
Oops.

Ah, many of ULA's contracts are Cost+. The new ones done as competitions are FFP. The charge 10% overtime even if you don't need to is defrauding the government if it is charged on a Cost+ contract work. This is becasue the company makes profit as a percentage of costs spending such as labor costs. On an FFP the company looses profit if the workers are not actually doing work but are still charging.

Offline spacenut

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #37 on: 05/31/2017 02:03 AM »
ULA may go completely out of business once New Glenn and Falcon Heavy are flying.  Two competitors, both reusable.  Then a few years later, ITS or subscale ITS, maybe New Armstrong by then.  Also, a 3 stage solid from Orbital/ATK may come into play also. 

Offline Newton_V

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #38 on: 05/31/2017 02:21 AM »
Related:
Reddit thread about how ULA is  “requiring-but-not-requiring” 10% overtime.

So much for ULA allowing work-life balance as opposed to the evil employee-punishing SX.

They appear to both be the same now.

Interview at ULA Question
Quote from: RocketNewbie
"What I was told during my interview is that the company requires about 10% overtime for each pay period (they do every 2 weeks). I asked them why they have that requirement, but then they said it's not an "official" requirement, but everyone has been told to do that, even if you don't need to in order to get your work done."

Perhaps ULA is quite different post JV/govt agreement expiration?
Oops.

Ah, many of ULA's contracts are Cost+. The new ones done as competitions are FFP. The charge 10% overtime even if you don't need to is defrauding the government if it is charged on a Cost+ contract work. This is becasue the company makes profit as a percentage of costs spending such as labor costs. On an FFP the company looses profit if the workers are not actually doing work but are still charging.

Which contracts are cost+?

Mischarging will get you fired at any company.  Probably even at Space X and Blue Origin.

Online su27k

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #39 on: 05/31/2017 04:54 AM »
Related:
Reddit thread about how ULA is  “requiring-but-not-requiring” 10% overtime.

So much for ULA allowing work-life balance as opposed to the evil employee-punishing SX.

They appear to both be the same now.

Interview at ULA Question
Quote from: RocketNewbie
"What I was told during my interview is that the company requires about 10% overtime for each pay period (they do every 2 weeks). I asked them why they have that requirement, but then they said it's not an "official" requirement, but everyone has been told to do that, even if you don't need to in order to get your work done."

Perhaps ULA is quite different post JV/govt agreement expiration?

In the reddit comments someone mentioned "9/80" going away, what is "9/80"?

Online Space Ghost 1962

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #40 on: 05/31/2017 05:21 AM »
In the reddit comments someone mentioned "9/80" going away, what is "9/80"?

From ULA Internship FAQ:
Quote
What are the typical working hours?

Most ULA employees have a 9/80 work schedule, which means they work nine hours a day Monday through Thursday, eight hours for the “on” Friday and enjoy a day off every other Friday.

Online ChrisWilson68

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #41 on: 05/31/2017 01:05 PM »
Could ULA offer to buy themselves?

A company can't own itself.  Maybe you're thinking of a leveraged management buy-out?  For that, they'd still need to convince someone to put up the money.

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #42 on: 05/31/2017 01:17 PM »
... But if not, then the most likely reason for any tech industry buyer to want it would be for the same reasons Blue might -- as a quick way to get a whole lot of good people put to work on something else, but not to continue ULA's own current work in progress.

People and IP, and processes, and networks of connections etc. One way to look at it is ULA is a couple billion dollars investment and handcuffs free execution environment away from being the world leader, with all their assets.

I don't believe it is true at all that a couple billion dollars and "handcuffs free" would turn ULA into a "world leader".  They were a world leader, but the industry has changed.  They are in a poor position to try to catch up.  There are two newer, fierce competitors that have disrupted the business.  ULA is way behind both of them in reusable launch vehicles.  ULA has poor morale and a lot of employees who need to adapt to a very different way of doing business or be replaced.  Their chance of even reaching parity with Blue Origin and SpaceX are slim.  And, even if they did reach parity, they'd be competing in a commoditized market with two competitors with very deep pockets.  Margins would be too thin to be worth the investment to get there.

ULA's only value today is in riding their existing business into the ground for as long as they can until SpaceX and Blue Origin establish their reusable rockets with attractive track records.

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #43 on: 05/31/2017 01:19 PM »
Related:
Reddit thread about how ULA is  “requiring-but-not-requiring” 10% overtime.

So much for ULA allowing work-life balance as opposed to the evil employee-punishing SX.

They appear to both be the same now.

Interview at ULA Question
Quote from: RocketNewbie
"What I was told during my interview is that the company requires about 10% overtime for each pay period (they do every 2 weeks). I asked them why they have that requirement, but then they said it's not an "official" requirement, but everyone has been told to do that, even if you don't need to in order to get your work done."

Perhaps ULA is quite different post JV/govt agreement expiration?

It's not official because it's illegal.  If someone from ULA is really telling employees this is expected, they're setting themselves up for legal action.

Offline Jim

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #44 on: 05/31/2017 01:19 PM »


Ah, many of ULA's contracts are Cost+.

None of them are cost plus.

Offline Jim

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #45 on: 05/31/2017 01:21 PM »
Related:
Reddit thread about how ULA is  “requiring-but-not-requiring” 10% overtime.

So much for ULA allowing work-life balance as opposed to the evil employee-punishing SX.

They appear to both be the same now.


Not really.  10% is 4 hours per week.  44 hour week.  Spacex is 50 to 60 per week

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #46 on: 06/01/2017 12:51 AM »


Ah, many of ULA's contracts are Cost+.

None of them are cost plus.
Thank you for the clarification.

Then ULA can do anything they want without being in trouble on the gov contracts except how their employees may act or in violations of state or federal labor regulations. But the info so far does not necessarily (the 9/80) support the conclusion of unfair labor practices. Just one that most are not used to.

The info starts to look like to outline that the 10% overtime is not what we think it is just the extended work day in swap for an extra day off.

Online QuantumG

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #47 on: 06/01/2017 12:56 AM »


Ah, many of ULA's contracts are Cost+.

None of them are cost plus.

While you're almost certainly right, if you ask anyone at SpaceX they'll tell you that their competitor operates under cost plus contracting and they don't... but if I could think of a way to convince 5,000+ people that they're wrong I'd be a politician.
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Online su27k

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #48 on: 06/01/2017 02:56 AM »


Ah, many of ULA's contracts are Cost+.

None of them are cost plus.

While you're almost certainly right, if you ask anyone at SpaceX they'll tell you that their competitor operates under cost plus contracting and they don't... but if I could think of a way to convince 5,000+ people that they're wrong I'd be a politician.

Based on the comments from reddit it looks like some (presumed) ULA employees think they're cost plus too, so it's not just SpaceX employees you need to convince...

And I'm not sure Jim is actually correct, open http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/671926.pdf and search for "cost-reimbursement", how do you explain these:
Quote
The United Launch Alliance (ULA)—EELV’s incumbent provider—currently provides national security space launch services under a cost-reimbursement contract for a non-commercial item.

Quote
United Launch Alliance Phase 1 Contract
Contract type:
Includes cost-reimbursement and firm-fixed-price contract line items

Online QuantumG

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #49 on: 06/01/2017 03:22 AM »
Yup. There's a separate cost-plus contract for infrastructure, research and support. That doesn't make it any less wrong to say that ULA has a cost-plus contract for launches. I'm not sure why people feel the need to remain ignorant, or make stuff up. The facts are damning enough, so you might as well get them right.
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Online envy887

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #50 on: 06/01/2017 03:44 AM »
Yup. There's a separate cost-plus contract for infrastructure, research and support. That doesn't make it any less wrong to say that ULA has a cost-plus contract for launches. I'm not sure why people feel the need to remain ignorant, or make stuff up. The facts are damning enough, so you might as well get them right.

And who here said the launch contracts were cost plus?

Online QuantumG

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #51 on: 06/01/2017 03:57 AM »
And who here said the launch contracts were cost plus?

Every SpaceX employee I've ever talked to... it's really cultist how similar that belief seems to be.
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Offline meekGee

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #52 on: 06/01/2017 04:35 AM »
And who here said the launch contracts were cost plus?

Every SpaceX employee I've ever talked to... it's really cultist how similar that belief seems to be.
I think cost+ is a formal type of contract, but there are several others that boil down to the same thing - first we get the job, then we'll tell you how much it was...

Call it cost-plus-ish

When they got the block buy, does anyone know if ULA committed to a price table?
ABCD - Always Be Counting Down

Online Space Ghost 1962

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #53 on: 06/01/2017 05:57 AM »
Related:
Reddit thread about how ULA is  “requiring-but-not-requiring” 10% overtime.

So much for ULA allowing work-life balance as opposed to the evil employee-punishing SX.

They appear to both be the same now.


Not really.  10% is 4 hours per week.  44 hour week.  Spacex is 50 to 60 per week

So ... its 1/3 of SX "unfair" labor practice? What keeps them from moving from 10% to 20%, then 20% to 30%?

Once you start this kind of practice, competition shifts to encompass the same fairly quickly.

Or are you trying to endorse some kind of double standard? Don't get this rhetorical "hat dance".

Offline Jim

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #54 on: 06/01/2017 12:54 PM »
Related:
Reddit thread about how ULA is  “requiring-but-not-requiring” 10% overtime.

So much for ULA allowing work-life balance as opposed to the evil employee-punishing SX.

They appear to both be the same now.


Not really.  10% is 4 hours per week.  44 hour week.  Spacex is 50 to 60 per week

So ... its 1/3 of SX "unfair" labor practice? What keeps them from moving from 10% to 20%, then 20% to 30%?

Once you start this kind of practice, competition shifts to encompass the same fairly quickly.

Or are you trying to endorse some kind of double standard? Don't get this rhetorical "hat dance".

I worked for MDAC Huntsville in the 90's.  The work week was changed to 44 hours for portion of a year.  4 hours is not a big deal

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #55 on: 06/01/2017 01:41 PM »
And who here said the launch contracts were cost plus?

Every SpaceX employee I've ever talked to... it's really cultist how similar that belief seems to be.
For the vast majority of the time that SpaceX has existed, USG launch services contracts with ULA were indeed cost-plus. So depending on when you talked to them, they might have been entirely correct.

Offline Jim

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #56 on: 06/01/2017 01:55 PM »

For the vast majority of the time that SpaceX has existed, USG launch services contracts with ULA were indeed cost-plus.

No, they were fixed price from day one

« Last Edit: 06/01/2017 01:57 PM by Jim »

Online envy887

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #57 on: 06/01/2017 02:20 PM »

For the vast majority of the time that SpaceX has existed, USG launch services contracts with ULA were indeed cost-plus.

No, they were fixed price from day one

Only if either the GAO is entirely wrong, or you are defining "cost-reimbursement" as "fixed-price". I'm not buying either.

From 2015 (bold mine):
Quote
What GAO Found
The Air Force intends to make significant changes to its acquisition approach for acquiring launch services under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program which will alter its current access and insights into certain cost and
performance data. The United Launch Alliance (ULA)—EELV’s incumbent provider—currently provides national security space launch services under a cost-reimbursement contract for a non-commercial item. Under this type of contract, the Air Force is able to obtain from ULA cost and performance data from contractor business systems. The Air Force uses this business data for a variety of purposes, including monitoring contractor performance and identifying risks that could affect the program’s cost, schedule, or performance. However, for at least the first phase of future launches, the Air Force chose to change its acquisition approach to procure launch as a commercial item using a firm-fixed price contract, which will prevent the service from collecting business data at the same level of detail. As a result, the Air Force will have significantly less insight into program costs and performance than what it has under the current contract with ULA, though according to the Air Force the level of information gathered is sufficient for monitoring launch costs in a competitive environment.

And:
Quote
Why GAO Did This Study The Air Force’s EELV program is the primary provider launches for military and intelligence satellites. The Air Force is working to introduce competition into the program, which for almost 10 years had one company capable of providing launches. In working to introduce competition into launch contracts, the Air Force is changing its acquisition approach for launch services, including the amount of cost and performance data that it plans to obtain under future launch contracts.

http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/671926.pdf

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #58 on: 06/01/2017 03:57 PM »
[Brownsville Herald] ULA layoffs raise questions on Harlingen operations
Quote
Officials with United Auto Workers Local 2346 confirmed 26 union workers at the facility at Valley International Airport will be laid off today. They also said 17 non-bargaining unit employees in management would be let go as well, leaving about 75 workers at the facility.
...
“Harlingen basically builds products for only one rocket — the Atlas rocket,” said Donald Mac Tavish, bargaining unit chairman for Local 2346. “The other facilities at ULA build Atlas and Delta rockets, and they’re going to be building the new missile — the Vulcan.

“This is supposed to be far more competitive price-wise with the competition. But they have informed us on three occasions that we will not be getting any of that work.

(I think the other thread on layoffs got canned.)

Online edkyle99

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #59 on: 06/01/2017 06:59 PM »
[Brownsville Herald] ULA layoffs raise questions on Harlingen operations
Quote
Officials with United Auto Workers Local 2346 confirmed 26 union workers at the facility at Valley International Airport will be laid off today. They also said 17 non-bargaining unit employees in management would be let go as well, leaving about 75 workers at the facility.
...
“Harlingen basically builds products for only one rocket — the Atlas rocket,” said Donald Mac Tavish, bargaining unit chairman for Local 2346. “The other facilities at ULA build Atlas and Delta rockets, and they’re going to be building the new missile — the Vulcan.

“This is supposed to be far more competitive price-wise with the competition. But they have informed us on three occasions that we will not be getting any of that work.

(I think the other thread on layoffs got canned.)

Swiss manufacturer Ruag Space will build Vulcan fairings.  (Don't tell the President.)

Wasn't Harlingen a General Dynamics facility from Atlas Centaur days?  Looks like it may be going away entirely. 

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 06/01/2017 07:01 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline jongoff

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #60 on: 06/01/2017 07:07 PM »
Swiss manufacturer Ruag Space will build Vulcan fairings.  (Don't tell the President.)

And they'll be building them in the US (Alabama IIRC), using most likely US citizen employees to do the work. How is this different then Toyota setting up a car shop in the US?

~Jon

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #61 on: 06/01/2017 08:34 PM »
Swiss manufacturer Ruag Space will build Vulcan fairings.  (Don't tell the President.)

And they'll be building them in the US (Alabama IIRC), using most likely US citizen employees to do the work. How is this different then Toyota setting up a car shop in the US?

~Jon
RUAG is not an American company. Remember the president's motto? "Buy American". Regardless of the fairings being constructed in Alabama by US citizens, the profits still go to Switzerland. Much like Toyota's profits going to Japan. It is also the very reason why the US president recently commented on German cars "being bad".

But I digress.

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #62 on: 06/01/2017 11:54 PM »
Only if either the GAO is entirely wrong, or you are defining "cost-reimbursement" as "fixed-price". I'm not buying either.

The GAO got something wrong?!! Say it isn't so! But seriously, I think they're just conflating the two contracts. Jim?

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #63 on: 06/02/2017 09:59 AM »
Jim is right. The EELV launch services contract (ELS) for ULA is firm fixed price.
He however failed to mention that the EELV Launch Capabilities contract (ELC) for ULA is cost plus incentive fee.

Both contracts are involved in case of national security launches via ULA.

Put simply: if and when ULA launches a national security payload then part of the money they received for that launch came from a firm fixed price contract, and part came from a cost plus incentive fee contract.

edit/gongora:  trimmed a few posts after this that weren't adding much to the conversation
« Last Edit: 06/03/2017 04:15 PM by gongora »

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #64 on: 06/03/2017 05:29 PM »
Why is this still happening in a supposedly-competitive market?  How does this fit with fixed-priced launch services... sounds more like classic cost plus environment for one side of the 'managed' competition.

Quote
A day after SpaceX's Inmarsat launch last month, the US Department of Defense quietly awarded ULA an amount not to exceed $27.4 million to convert its launch vehicle from "heritage avionics to common avionics." According to the contract award, the work was to be completed by July 1, 2019 at the company's facilities in Decatur, Alabama. The avionics on board a rocket include communications, navigation, and management of multiple systems to control flight.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/06/the-us-military-is-still-paying-a-spacex-competitor-for-rocket-upgrades/
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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #65 on: 06/03/2017 07:13 PM »
Why is this still happening in a supposedly-competitive market?  How does this fit with fixed-priced launch services... sounds more like classic cost plus environment for one side of the 'managed' competition.

Quote
A day after SpaceX's Inmarsat launch last month, the US Department of Defense quietly awarded ULA an amount not to exceed $27.4 million to convert its launch vehicle from "heritage avionics to common avionics." According to the contract award, the work was to be completed by July 1, 2019 at the company's facilities in Decatur, Alabama. The avionics on board a rocket include communications, navigation, and management of multiple systems to control flight.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/06/the-us-military-is-still-paying-a-spacex-competitor-for-rocket-upgrades/
Happens both ways.
http://www.teslarati.com/spacex-receives-pentagon-help-develop-new-rocket-engine/

 - Ed Kyle

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #66 on: 06/03/2017 07:52 PM »
Why is this still happening in a supposedly-competitive market?  How does this fit with fixed-priced launch services... sounds more like classic cost plus environment for one side of the 'managed' competition.


If NASA contracts Spacex for a launch service with a set price, and then as time passes NASA orders and pays for additional analyses and some additional integration services, isn't that the same as cost plus?  NASA is just paying for costs as they incur them. 
« Last Edit: 06/03/2017 07:52 PM by Jim »

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #67 on: 06/03/2017 08:22 PM »
Why is this still happening in a supposedly-competitive market?  How does this fit with fixed-priced launch services... sounds more like classic cost plus environment for one side of the 'managed' competition.
If NASA contracts Spacex for a launch service with a set price, and then as time passes NASA orders and pays for additional analyses and some additional integration services, isn't that the same as cost plus?  NASA is just paying for costs as they incur them.
If NASA requests additional services outside the scope of the original contract, then obviously they will have to find some more money to get that done. That's not cost-plus, it's called scope creep.

But it's not clear to me how ULA upgrading their vehicles to common avionics is a "service" to the DOD since it wasn't tied (as far as I can tell) to a particular mission requirement.

Why is this still happening in a supposedly-competitive market?  How does this fit with fixed-priced launch services... sounds more like classic cost plus environment for one side of the 'managed' competition.

Quote
A day after SpaceX's Inmarsat launch last month, the US Department of Defense quietly awarded ULA an amount not to exceed $27.4 million to convert its launch vehicle from "heritage avionics to common avionics." According to the contract award, the work was to be completed by July 1, 2019 at the company's facilities in Decatur, Alabama. The avionics on board a rocket include communications, navigation, and management of multiple systems to control flight.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/06/the-us-military-is-still-paying-a-spacex-competitor-for-rocket-upgrades/
Happens both ways.
http://www.teslarati.com/spacex-receives-pentagon-help-develop-new-rocket-engine/

 - Ed Kyle


Both of these appear to be efforts to try to replace RD-180: with SpaceX by developing Raptor and with ULA to enable Delta IV to fly Atlas V missions.

But while SpaceX primarily funded Raptor by contributing at least 2 as much as the USAF funds (and apparently has or had to share any new technology from the development effort with the USAF), it's not clear whether ULA contributed any funds to the common avionics upgrade, or DOD got any new technology at all out of it.
« Last Edit: 06/03/2017 08:23 PM by envy887 »

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #68 on: 06/03/2017 08:28 PM »
Avoiding obsolescence isn't the same as paying for an upgrade that buys the USG a new capability.  RS-68A is such, as is USAF funding larger fairings on Falcon that can accommodate their unique payloads.  Keeping Atlas and Delta flying is ULA's job, not the taxpayers'.  Does USG pay for ULA to paint and rust proof launch facilities?
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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #69 on: 06/04/2017 02:46 AM »

If NASA requests additional services outside the scope of the original contract, then obviously they will have to find some more money to get that done. That's not cost-plus, it's called scope creep.


That is exactly why cost plus existed was for scope creep and ill defined requirements.  There is no difference, the contractor gets paid for work performed.  Fixed pricce actually costs more because the contractor doesn't want to over run on his dime and hence adds a pad

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #70 on: 06/04/2017 02:47 AM »

 it's not clear whether ULA contributed any funds to the common avionics upgrade, or DOD got any new technology at all out of it.

The fleet upgrade cost more than that

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #71 on: 06/04/2017 03:04 AM »
Avoiding obsolescence isn't the same as paying for an upgrade that buys the USG a new capability.  RS-68A is such, as is USAF funding larger fairings on Falcon that can accommodate their unique payloads.  Keeping Atlas and Delta flying is ULA's job, not the taxpayers'.  Does USG pay for ULA to paint and rust proof launch facilities?

What if the payload causes the delays past the obsolescence point? Perhaps because of the payloads delays a booster has to be upgraded. Is that ULA's problem if the spacecraft gets delayed past the contractual date?

Offline meekGee

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #72 on: 06/04/2017 08:54 AM »
Avoiding obsolescence isn't the same as paying for an upgrade that buys the USG a new capability.  RS-68A is such, as is USAF funding larger fairings on Falcon that can accommodate their unique payloads.  Keeping Atlas and Delta flying is ULA's job, not the taxpayers'.  Does USG pay for ULA to paint and rust proof launch facilities?

What if the payload causes the delays past the obsolescence point? Perhaps because of the payloads delays a booster has to be upgraded. Is that ULA's problem if the spacecraft gets delayed past the contractual date?
Of course not, and similar situations might arise under commercial conditions too, and the supplier and customer work it out.

The question is not whether the contract is officially "cost plus". It's whether the company is operating in a competitive environment, or is instead gotten used to relying on generous and riskless government procurement practices, to the point where it can't function in the real world.
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Offline Lars-J

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #73 on: 06/04/2017 02:23 PM »
Why is this still happening in a supposedly-competitive market?  How does this fit with fixed-priced launch services... sounds more like classic cost plus environment for one side of the 'managed' competition.

Quote
A day after SpaceX's Inmarsat launch last month, the US Department of Defense quietly awarded ULA an amount not to exceed $27.4 million to convert its launch vehicle from "heritage avionics to common avionics." According to the contract award, the work was to be completed by July 1, 2019 at the company's facilities in Decatur, Alabama. The avionics on board a rocket include communications, navigation, and management of multiple systems to control flight.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/06/the-us-military-is-still-paying-a-spacex-competitor-for-rocket-upgrades/

The article implies that this contract is for work that ULA already did... Is this accurate? Certainly fishy if true.

And besides, what is the point of common avionics between Atlas V and Delta IV if they have decided to phase out Delta IV?

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #74 on: 06/04/2017 02:35 PM »
...And besides, what is the point of common avionics between Atlas V and Delta IV if they have decided to phase out Delta IV?

Delta IV has contracts through at least 2023.

Offline ethan829

Why is this still happening in a supposedly-competitive market?  How does this fit with fixed-priced launch services... sounds more like classic cost plus environment for one side of the 'managed' competition.

Quote
A day after SpaceX's Inmarsat launch last month, the US Department of Defense quietly awarded ULA an amount not to exceed $27.4 million to convert its launch vehicle from "heritage avionics to common avionics." According to the contract award, the work was to be completed by July 1, 2019 at the company's facilities in Decatur, Alabama. The avionics on board a rocket include communications, navigation, and management of multiple systems to control flight.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/06/the-us-military-is-still-paying-a-spacex-competitor-for-rocket-upgrades/

The article implies that this contract is for work that ULA already did... Is this accurate? Certainly fishy if true.

And besides, what is the point of common avionics between Atlas V and Delta IV if they have decided to phase out Delta IV?

The article certainly implies that, which is unfortunate given the totally mundane explanation. Atlas V already has common avionics, this contract is for upgrading Delta. The upgrade is necessary because the electronics for the original avionics can't be purchased anymore.

https://twitter.com/torybruno/status/870474960095002630
Quote
3 more Delta-mediums to go. Literally can't get the avionics elex parts anymore. Delta-Hvy will fly into the early 2020s

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #76 on: 06/04/2017 03:51 PM »
...And besides, what is the point of common avionics between Atlas V and Delta IV if they have decided to phase out Delta IV?

Delta IV has contracts through at least 2023.
AFAIK, Common Avionics will only be implemented on Atlas V and Delta IV Heavy because the DIV medium configs are nearly retired.

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #77 on: 06/05/2017 12:55 AM »
  Does USG pay for ULA to paint and rust proof launch facilities?

Yes, it is called ELC.

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #78 on: 06/05/2017 12:56 AM »

What if the payload causes the delays past the obsolescence point? Perhaps because of the payloads delays a booster has to be upgraded. Is that ULA's problem if the spacecraft gets delayed past the contractual date?

No, see Delta II's.   NASA pays for the spacecraft driven delays.

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #79 on: 06/05/2017 02:05 AM »

What if the payload causes the delays past the obsolescence point? Perhaps because of the payloads delays a booster has to be upgraded. Is that ULA's problem if the spacecraft gets delayed past the contractual date?

No, see Delta II's.   NASA pays for the spacecraft driven delays.

Thanks Jim... that was the point I was trying to make. I think this contract is to upgrade one booster that was meat to fly heritage avionics to common avionics because of spacecraft delays. Specifically the GPS3 booster. I think it's the only m42 left and has been delayed significantly. My guess is this is a sign it's delayed beyond the cutoff point for common avionics now.

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #80 on: 06/05/2017 04:59 PM »

What if the payload causes the delays past the obsolescence point? Perhaps because of the payloads delays a booster has to be upgraded. Is that ULA's problem if the spacecraft gets delayed past the contractual date?

No, see Delta II's.   NASA pays for the spacecraft driven delays.

Thanks Jim... that was the point I was trying to make. I think this contract is to upgrade one booster that was meat to fly heritage avionics to common avionics because of spacecraft delays. Specifically the GPS3 booster. I think it's the only m42 left and has been delayed significantly. My guess is this is a sign it's delayed beyond the cutoff point for common avionics now.

So, is LM picking up the tab for the delay that they caused, including upgrading their own launcher? 
Doesn't sound like it.
Great work if you can get it.
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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #81 on: 06/05/2017 05:09 PM »
  Does USG pay for ULA to paint and rust proof launch facilities?

Yes, it is called ELC.

Why aren't ELC funds used for this maintenance item?
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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #82 on: 06/05/2017 05:55 PM »
  Does USG pay for ULA to paint and rust proof launch facilities?

Yes, it is called ELC.

Why aren't ELC funds used for this maintenance item?

That are

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #83 on: 06/05/2017 05:56 PM »

So, is LM picking up the tab for the delay that they caused, including upgrading their own launcher? 
Doesn't sound like it.
Great work if you can get it.

No, LM's customer is.  The GPS program office.

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #84 on: 06/06/2017 12:07 AM »
  Does USG pay for ULA to paint and rust proof launch facilities?

Yes, it is called ELC.

Why aren't ELC funds used for this maintenance item?

That are

Keeping the avionics from becoming obsolete?  Seems that the billions provided for 'operations' and 'readiness' over the last ten years would cover such mundane maintenance.  Why is this still a separate billing to the USG?

You've been saying for years that common avionics was one of the ways ULA was reducing costs... doesn't sound like a reduction.
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Offline vapour_nudge

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #85 on: 06/06/2017 12:25 AM »
What have all these contract agreement questions to do with the ULA agreement expiring?

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #86 on: 06/06/2017 12:30 AM »

Keeping the avionics from becoming obsolete?

Never said that.  I was referring to "paint and rust proof launch facility"

Offline Sam Ho

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #87 on: 06/06/2017 01:07 AM »
This is what ULA said about Common Avionics in February of 2016 at the GNC 2016 conference:
Quote
ULA kicks off the first launch in 2016 with the cut in of the new common avionics system. The launch of GPS IIF-12 in February 2016 represents the culmination of several years of development work to update avionics hardware and flight software as well as simulation and test environment tools. Common avionics addresses the challenge of parts obsolescence any program with the longevity of EELV must face. ULA has taken advantage of this opportunity to design and produce a more affordable solution for vehicle control that will also expand the capability of our launcher fleet.

To manage schedule risk while maintaining high launch rates, we used a phased approach to implement the common avionics system. The successful launch of 12 missions in 2015 and 14 missions in 2014 is a testament of the benefits afforded by this approach. GPS IIF-12 includes the first roll out of common avionics hardware and flight software on the Atlas V launch vehicle. Late 2016 marks the phase-in for Atlas of the Inertial Navigation Control Assembly (INCA) flight computer and rate gyro systems. The common avionics suite will then fly on Delta IV Medium and finally the software and systems will be upgraded to operate the Delta IV Heavy.

Fundamentally, common avionics provides the basic functions of rocket control: from power to actuation, from data sensing to telemetry transmission.  The implementation of common avionics stretches beyond these essentials with the simultaneous development of common flight software and a common simulation suite.

Leveraging the heritage of both Atlas and Delta product lines, a single flight software program will be capable of operating the entire fleet. From a Guidance Navigation & Control perspective, this enables a cost effective and more rapid targeting and analysis approach as the Atlas Generalized Guidance algorithms are migrated to Delta. Flight software capability is also expanded to include additional targeted impulse opportunities. This allows the flight program to target and achieve compliant disposal orbits whenever sufficient additional impulse is available. More complex mission designs that require the launch vehicle to fly to multiple orbits can also be targeted. Mission designs with secondary payloads benefit directly, as deployment can occur in orbits fully separated from the primary mission. This capability is invaluable in supporting current expansion in the rideshare choice for cis-lunar space.

Offline meekGee

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #88 on: 06/06/2017 02:22 AM »
What have all these contract agreement questions to do with the ULA agreement expiring?

They have to do with the question being begged, which is - can ULA survive in the commercial world without the lifestyle afforded by basically having one omnipotent customer (with various names).

It doesn't matter if it's an official cost+ contract, or a "access assurance" (??!) payment, or what not.  Can they be lean, can they innovate, can they move fast?

Right now, they are proposing the least innovative platform, they employ a large workforce even though there's comparatively little development, and they take way too long to pursue whatever development is taking place.

They have an unparalleled success rate, but without a path into the future, that won't be enough to survive.

These things are obvious to the corporate parents, and so become more acute as the JV agreement comes to an end.

That's why all these questions are coming up
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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #89 on: 06/06/2017 02:38 AM »
Does ULA even want non-government launches?
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Offline meekGee

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #90 on: 06/06/2017 03:14 AM »
Does ULA even want non-government launches?

That too, but in that respect, I'm sure opinions inside ULA vary, and maybe even between the corporate parents.
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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #91 on: 06/06/2017 06:14 AM »
Does ULA even want non-government launches?

That too, but in that respect, I'm sure opinions inside ULA vary, and maybe even between the corporate parents.
Agreed, given that there is excessive supply of launch services for the commercial market already.

Offline joek

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #92 on: 06/07/2017 01:45 AM »
Does ULA even want non-government launches?

Certainly willing to take, as they have demonstrated.
"Want", maybe not, if it comes at an unacceptable reduction in price/profitability.
Which is to say, no different than any other company,

Offline jongoff

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #93 on: 06/07/2017 01:53 AM »
Does ULA even want non-government launches?


Seeing as how they aren't likely to be able to survive without winning at least some commercial launches, I would think so.

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #94 on: 06/07/2017 01:59 AM »
Does ULA even want non-government launches?


Seeing as how they aren't likely to be able to survive without winning at least some commercial launches, I would think so.

As I recall Tory Bruno specifically said that they would need commercial customers for Vulcan. That may have been because of a forecast for less USG launches, or maybe the economics of retiring Atlas V and Delta IV and building a new rocket required it.
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 joek

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #95 on: 06/07/2017 02:16 AM »
Seeing as how they aren't likely to be able to survive without winning at least some commercial launches, I would think so.

Assuming "they" (as in the parents LM and Boeing) think ULA is where they should put their money, or for other reasons have an interest in seeing ULA survive--I don't see anything but a rapid decline for ULA.

Face it, without captive customers such as the USG willing to pay egregious amounts and suffer margins to do whatever it takes, the launch services market margins and profitability for ULA sucks.

If I were Boeing or LM, I'd be looking to either: (a) divest myself of anything to do with ULA as quickly as possible; or (2) invest a boat load of money into ULA in hopes that a demonstrably thin-margin endeavor will eventually pan out in the face of ever-increasing competition.

No guess which option companies such as Boeing and LM are likely to go with.  They are going to toss ULA in the river at the earliest opportunity.
« Last Edit: 06/07/2017 02:22 AM by joek »

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #96 on: 06/07/2017 02:43 AM »

No guess which option companies such as Boeing and LM are likely to go with.  They are going to toss ULA in the river at the earliest opportunity.

Judging from Vulcan proceeding and AJRD getting rejected when both BO and LM had the choice to divest, I think that the river you are talking about is a bit..toss repellent.

Offline joek

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #97 on: 06/07/2017 02:50 AM »
Judging from Vulcan proceeding and AJRD getting rejected when both BO and LM had the choice to divest, I think that the river you are talking about is a bit..toss repellent.

Yet Boeing and LM refuse to commit to more than short-term quarter-by-quarter funding for Vulcan.  In short, just enough to keep Vulcan alive (maybe).  AJRD rejection is irrelevant.

What are you referring to "when both BO and LM had to choice to divest"?  Divest of what?  There is no intersection between the two.

edit:  p.s. If you are suggesting that rejection of AJ's offer was an indication of a commitment by LM, Boeing, whoever (where did BO get into the mix?)... No.  It was not.  It simply meant that AJ's offer was insufficient.
« Last Edit: 06/07/2017 02:54 AM by joek »

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #98 on: 06/07/2017 03:05 AM »
Judging from Vulcan proceeding and AJRD getting rejected when both BO and LM had the choice to divest, I think that the river you are talking about is a bit..toss repellent.

Yet Boeing and LM refuse to commit to more than short-term quarter-by-quarter funding for Vulcan.  In short, just enough to keep Vulcan alive (maybe).  AJRD rejection is irrelevant.

I think the point is this is not a binary choice between (a) toss away asap and (b) invest boat load of money asap. There's a middle road where the parents get as much profit from ULA as possible, keep their options open and see what happens next.

Offline meekGee

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #99 on: 06/07/2017 05:57 AM »
Judging from Vulcan proceeding and AJRD getting rejected when both BO and LM had the choice to divest, I think that the river you are talking about is a bit..toss repellent.

Yet Boeing and LM refuse to commit to more than short-term quarter-by-quarter funding for Vulcan.  In short, just enough to keep Vulcan alive (maybe).  AJRD rejection is irrelevant.

I think the point is this is not a binary choice between (a) toss away asap and (b) invest boat load of money asap. There's a middle road where the parents get as much profit from ULA as possible, keep their options open and see what happens next.

Correct.  The universe in which SpaceX has some failures in the next year is not infinitely improbable...  And then Vulcan can at least survive for a while, and more options may become real.  So for the time being - hang in there, wait and see.  Definitely not a rush to try to win.
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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #100 on: 06/07/2017 12:19 PM »
Quote
A day after SpaceX's Inmarsat launch last month, the US Department of Defense quietly awarded ULA an amount not to exceed $27.4 million to convert its launch vehicle from "heritage avionics to common avionics." According to the contract award, the work was to be completed by July 1, 2019 at the company's facilities in Decatur, Alabama. The avionics on board a rocket include communications, navigation, and management of multiple systems to control flight.
https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/06/the-us-military-is-still-paying-a-spacex-competitor-for-rocket-upgrades/
[...] totally mundane explanation. Atlas V already has common avionics, this contract is for upgrading Delta. The upgrade is necessary because the electronics for the original avionics can't be purchased anymore.
https://twitter.com/torybruno/status/870474960095002630
Quote
3 more Delta-mediums to go. Literally can't get the avionics elex parts anymore. Delta-Hvy will fly into the early 2020s

This still seems odd to me.  Wasn't the whole point of the block buy to get a better price by ordering components in bulk?  Here it looks like ULA not only did not buy the components, but did not even place the order for future delivery.  (At least when I worked at HP, when we had future orders for equipment we were obsoleting, we gave customers a final chance to stockpile enough for their needs.  I presume the avionics vendors would do the same.)

So if these Deltas are part of the block buy, this should have been ULA's responsibility.  They contracted to deliver working cores for a certain price.  If there is a part they can't get any more, it's on their dime to qualify and buy a replacement, to meet the commitment they made to deliver a booster.

Offline Chasm

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #101 on: 06/07/2017 12:49 PM »
I suspect that it has to do with the final Delta Heavy launches.

We know via Tory that ULA simply can't buy all of the heritage avionics components any longer. They can't skip the upgrade and have to switch before the last Delta IV gets launched. What we can't know is how many complete sets they have left in storage and how many additional ones are required.

I really doubt that the NRO wants to be the first to fly common avionics. The situation is not new, so Delta IV medium gets upgraded as previously planned. Doing the first flight on a cheap(ish) GPS satellite instead of the earlier NROL-47 also fits. If things go wrong there is still one more medium to test with, WGS-10.

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #102 on: 06/07/2017 01:11 PM »
IOW, ULA sold launches without a viable launch vehicle.
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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #103 on: 06/07/2017 01:19 PM »
I don't agree with that view.   The USAF bought a vehicle for a specific spacecraft.  That spacecraft delayed so long that it's launch vehicle has obsolescence parts.

Edit/Lar
« Last Edit: 06/07/2017 02:57 PM by Lar »

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #104 on: 06/07/2017 01:20 PM »
Judging from Vulcan proceeding and AJRD getting rejected when both BO and LM had the choice to divest, I think that the river you are talking about is a bit..toss repellent.

Yet Boeing and LM refuse to commit to more than short-term quarter-by-quarter funding for Vulcan.  In short, just enough to keep Vulcan alive (maybe).  AJRD rejection is irrelevant.

I think the point is this is not a binary choice between (a) toss away asap and (b) invest boat load of money asap. There's a middle road where the parents get as much profit from ULA as possible, keep their options open and see what happens next.

Correct.  The universe in which SpaceX has some failures in the next year is not infinitely improbable...  And then Vulcan can at least survive for a while, and more options may become real.  So for the time being - hang in there, wait and see.  Definitely not a rush to try to win.

Most think it is likely probable.

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #105 on: 06/07/2017 02:26 PM »
The USAF bought a vehicle for a specific spacecraft.  That spacecraft delayed so long that it's launch vehicle has obsolescence parts.
Well, if ULA actually bought the parts, but they have "expired" due to customer delays, I have sympathy to this view.  If ULA choose not to buy the parts up front for the block buy, but now finds they can't get them, then it's their problem and they should eat the costs.  After all, the ULA website says:

Quote
The “Block Buy” contract is a commitment of 35 launch vehicle cores to achieve the economy of scale savings. The contract procures the hardware for 35 new cores and the capability to launch those and previous cores procured in prior year contracts (as early as 2002).

This looks very much like they did not procure the hardware, and do not have the capability to launch them, without additional customer money.   This looks very much like a cost-plus operation - fulfilling our contractual obligations is more expensive than we thought, so we need more money.

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #106 on: 06/07/2017 02:30 PM »
Correct.  The universe in which SpaceX has some failures in the next year is not infinitely improbable...  And then Vulcan can at least survive for a while, and more options may become real.  So for the time being - hang in there, wait and see.  Definitely not a rush to try to win.
Most think it is likely probable.

SpaceX will certainly have more failures, it's only a matter of time. Given their penchant for pushing the envelope, probably sooner rather than later. However, at this point SpaceX has enough resources to survive multiple failures. The question is whether ULA can survive the inevitable competition (including from Blue, eventually). It's questionable whether LM and Boeing even want to operate ULA in the forthcoming competitive environment, based on their rather limited investment in moving their technology forward.

There's no rush to try to "win", but a static company will eventually be noncompetitive and it takes a long time to develop and operate new technology in this market. They can't dally too long before making a concerted effort to stay ahead.

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #107 on: 06/07/2017 03:08 PM »
The USAF bought a vehicle for a specific spacecraft.  That spacecraft delayed so long that it's launch vehicle has obsolescence parts.
Well, if ULA actually bought the parts, but they have "expired" due to customer delays, I have sympathy to this view.  If ULA choose not to buy the parts up front for the block buy, but now finds they can't get them, then it's their problem and they should eat the costs.  After all, the ULA website says:

Quote
The “Block Buy” contract is a commitment of 35 launch vehicle cores to achieve the economy of scale savings. The contract procures the hardware for 35 new cores and the capability to launch those and previous cores procured in prior year contracts (as early as 2002).

This looks very much like they did not procure the hardware, and do not have the capability to launch them, without additional customer money.   This looks very much like a cost-plus operation - fulfilling our contractual obligations is more expensive than we thought, so we need more money.

It isn't specific parts.  The avionics upgrade also meant that the Delta IV launch control GSE was also change to handle the Atlas based avionics upgrade.   It is not backwards compatible with an older vehicle

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #108 on: 06/07/2017 03:32 PM »
Judging from Vulcan proceeding and AJRD getting rejected when both BO and LM had the choice to divest, I think that the river you are talking about is a bit..toss repellent.

Yet Boeing and LM refuse to commit to more than short-term quarter-by-quarter funding for Vulcan.  In short, just enough to keep Vulcan alive (maybe).  AJRD rejection is irrelevant.

I think the point is this is not a binary choice between (a) toss away asap and (b) invest boat load of money asap. There's a middle road where the parents get as much profit from ULA as possible, keep their options open and see what happens next.

If they wait just a little bit longer the contracts for the next round of AF launcher development start flowing and they only have to pay for 1/3 of Vulcan development.  O/ATK isn't in any hurry to spend more than 1/3 of development costs either.  Those two and SpaceX should all get a nice chunk of change from the first round of contracts.

Offline Jim

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #109 on: 06/07/2017 03:33 PM »
That post had nothing to do with ULA. It was a statement on what Spacex customers think

Offline Lar

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #110 on: 06/07/2017 04:48 PM »
A reminder to SpaceX fans and others, please keep this discussion professional. ULA is a company worthy of respect and the same is true of every single person that works there, or anywhere else.
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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #111 on: 06/07/2017 09:46 PM »
This thread is drifting OT. Topic is the effects of the expiration of the USG agreement that started/named ULA.

You'll note it is still named "ULA", even though we heard it might be renamed. (And, it is somewhat quiet.)

They are getting and losing business/grants - are these due to in part to ULA needing to change as a result?

Boeing is moving X-37B off Atlas V 401. Perhaps NSS to XS-1 long term? Do the "parents" regard ULA differently?

What is life like for ULA employees during a interval of time that must be quite a challenge. Like ... overtime?

Does successful BE-4 full scale test firing mean anything special post agreement?

Like ... newco/name announcement/formation?

Suggest these fit the topic better than the posts above.

Offline Chasm

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #112 on: 06/08/2017 09:56 AM »
[...]
It isn't specific parts.  The avionics upgrade also meant that the Delta IV launch control GSE was also change to handle the Atlas based avionics upgrade.   It is not backwards compatible with an older vehicle

Ah! That makes sense.
I was wondering why the avionics had an use by date.


What is life like for ULA employees during a interval of time that must be quite a challenge. Like ... overtime?

There seems to be quite a bit of turmoil. Messages about overtime and work hours got (intentionally?) lost in translation and Tory is once more doing damage control on reddit.
The more problematic issue in my view are the repeated rumors that ULA had to return Vulcan funds every quarter because they are unable to spend them. To me that is a sign that the layoffs went to far or fast.


Does successful BE-4 full scale test firing mean anything special post agreement?

Seems like a likely inflection point to me.  ULA and the parents have a plan. Once BE-4 is real they can go ahead, if not they have to pivot to AR-1 or something else.

Offline ethan829

As it turns out, the Joint Venture agreement isn't what expired. It was the Consent Order.

https://www.reddit.com/r/ula/comments/6agiy7/united_launch_alliance_jointventure_agreement/diiza98/
Quote
Headline is a bit misleading. What expired was a USG enforced Consent Order imposed when the FTC allowed the formation of the JV. This placed a number of requirements on ULA to make sure that its owners were not unfairly advantaged over other satellite providers since ULA would be the only domestic launch provider

As a competitive "merchant supplier" we will continue to make sure all our customers are treated evenly and fairly, with the general provisions remaining intact

There's some more information here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/12/19/2016-30422/notice-is-given-as-a-reminder-of-the-united-launch-alliance-ula-consent-order-department-of-defense
« Last Edit: 06/08/2017 10:19 AM by ethan829 »

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #114 on: 06/09/2017 07:53 AM »
As it turns out, the Joint Venture agreement isn't what expired. It was the Consent Order.

https://www.reddit.com/r/ula/comments/6agiy7/united_launch_alliance_jointventure_agreement/diiza98/
Quote
Headline is a bit misleading. What expired was a USG enforced Consent Order imposed when the FTC allowed the formation of the JV. This placed a number of requirements on ULA to make sure that its owners were not unfairly advantaged over other satellite providers since ULA would be the only domestic launch provider

As a competitive "merchant supplier" we will continue to make sure all our customers are treated evenly and fairly, with the general provisions remaining intact

There's some more information here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/12/19/2016-30422/notice-is-given-as-a-reminder-of-the-united-launch-alliance-ula-consent-order-department-of-defense

Since the Consent Order was requiring "LMC and Boeing, as space vehicle manufacturers, consider all qualified launch service providers on a non-discriminatory basis."  Does this mean that LM/Boeing can now choose ULA for launches on a discriminatory basis?
In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice.  But, in practice, there is.  --Jan van de Snepscheut

Offline psionedge

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #115 on: 06/09/2017 05:33 PM »
I suppose they could just go to ULA for the purpose of getting more money back to them via ULA, but it seems unlikely. First, most satellite buyers choose to buy their own launch services, so Boeing and LM don't play there.

Second, if the satellite provider is contracted to also procure the launch service would they bid a ULA launch and add on $40M/launch (or whatever it is) to their proposal? The satellite contract will likely outweigh the launch portion, so why take the risk of losing the whole thing?

Trying to assign some malice to Boeing or LM on this expiration just reeks of personal bias.

Offline joek

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #116 on: 06/10/2017 12:19 AM »
As it turns out, the Joint Venture agreement isn't what expired. It was the Consent Order.
Correct; as noted previously here.

Since the Consent Order was requiring "LMC and Boeing, as space vehicle manufacturers, consider all qualified launch service providers on a non-discriminatory basis."  Does this mean that LM/Boeing can now choose ULA for launches on a discriminatory basis?
Correct; not to mention the FTC order cut both ways...
1. "LMC and Boeing...consider all qualified launch service providers on a non-discriminatory basis..."
2. "ULA shall provide Launch Services on a non-discriminatory basis... [laundry list]".

So now they are all (ULA, Boeing, LM) free to discriminate.  As previously mentioned, unlikely to make financial sense to exercise that freedom.
« Last Edit: 06/10/2017 12:21 AM by joek »

Offline joek

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #117 on: 06/10/2017 12:38 AM »
This looks very much like they did not procure the hardware, and do not have the capability to launch them, without additional customer money.   This looks very much like a cost-plus operation - fulfilling our contractual obligations is more expensive than we thought, so we need more money.

Careful.  Part of these contracts are fixed price; other parts are cost-plus-incentive.[1]  Some parts of the contracts are fixed price at the time of contract award (e.g., hardware, some services); some parts are cost-plus-incentive awarded on an annual basis (e.g., ELC).

That could be interpreted as "more expensive than we thought, so we need more money" or "you didn't commit specifically to launch payload X on date Y with service Z in year Q, so price is subject to change (within pre-negotiated bounds).

Thus the ongoing debate about the real costs; but that's been hashed over in other threads--no need to revisit it here.


[1] At least there was an incentive portion last time I checked; doubt it has been changed.

Offline joek

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #118 on: 06/10/2017 12:50 AM »
Trying to assign some malice to Boeing or LM on this expiration just reeks of personal bias.

Not sure where that is coming from; I don't see it.  The ink was dry and the die set 10 years ago.  There was nothing ULA, Boeing or LM did (or likely could have done) to change that.  Short of filing for a prior and premature end to the FTC consent order--which obviously did not happen--everyone has known what would happen and when it would happen for a decade.

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #119 on: 06/10/2017 04:44 AM »
Second, if the satellite provider is contracted to also procure the launch service would they bid a ULA launch and add on $40M/launch (or whatever it is) to their proposal? The satellite contract will likely outweigh the launch portion, so why take the risk of losing the whole thing?

I understand that its already relatively common for satellite manufacturers to offer launch services (not necessarily their own rocket, but they deal with procuring and integrating the payload on behalf of the customer) bundled with the spacecraft. Especially in the case where the satellite provider builds their own rockets, the idea is that they can cut prices to the customer while still remaining profitable (no need to double dip on profits, plus payload integration should be simpler). Boeing could say "we can either sell you a satellite at 80 million dollars, and you can go buy yourself a rocket for like 50 million more... or we can sell you the same bus plus a Vulcan and charge you 100 million for the whole thing". Customer can pick either option, but theres a clear advantage to all involved by going with the bundled one

Offline joek

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #120 on: 06/11/2017 10:04 AM »
Customer can pick either option, but theres a clear advantage to all involved by going with the bundled one

Given the current state of the market, no.  Else China and Russia would own the market; there are manifold reasons why that has not happened.

By the same token, are LM or Boeing likely to have an advantage because they now have an "in" with ULA?  Extremely doubtful.

The satellite and launch services markets are simply too different; any purported "synergies" are bogus and the success rate of tying the two together is extremely thin, even with heavy government subsidies.
« Last Edit: 06/11/2017 10:27 AM by joek »

Offline WindnWar

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #121 on: 06/11/2017 12:24 PM »
Second, if the satellite provider is contracted to also procure the launch service would they bid a ULA launch and add on $40M/launch (or whatever it is) to their proposal? The satellite contract will likely outweigh the launch portion, so why take the risk of losing the whole thing?

I understand that its already relatively common for satellite manufacturers to offer launch services (not necessarily their own rocket, but they deal with procuring and integrating the payload on behalf of the customer) bundled with the spacecraft. Especially in the case where the satellite provider builds their own rockets, the idea is that they can cut prices to the customer while still remaining profitable (no need to double dip on profits, plus payload integration should be simpler). Boeing could say "we can either sell you a satellite at 80 million dollars, and you can go buy yourself a rocket for like 50 million more... or we can sell you the same bus plus a Vulcan and charge you 100 million for the whole thing". Customer can pick either option, but theres a clear advantage to all involved by going with the bundled one

Given that sats themselves live in a competitive environment, you can't jack up the price of the sat to be high enough to offset that sort of price give away on the launch without risking losing the sat order to Thales or Airbus etc. No one here thinks Vulcan or Atlas costs less than $50 million to build so you'd be losing money on a bundle like that in order to try to pull market share from your competition. And it would only work on your sats, it would have no effect on the sats built by the many other providers. It simply can't work unless you can build a rocket for less than the cost of the competition, in which case you'd win by being cheapest in launch, not because you gave up a chunk of your sat margins to offset your launch cost. As long as both sats and launch are competitive environments you can't bundle like that and succeed. Simply no way to hide the costs without losing money.

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #122 on: 06/12/2017 06:51 PM »
I suppose they could just go to ULA for the purpose of getting more money back to them via ULA, but it seems unlikely. First, most satellite buyers choose to buy their own launch services, so Boeing and LM don't play there.

Second, if the satellite provider is contracted to also procure the launch service would they bid a ULA launch and add on $40M/launch (or whatever it is) to their proposal? The satellite contract will likely outweigh the launch portion, so why take the risk of losing the whole thing?

Trying to assign some malice to Boeing or LM on this expiration just reeks of personal bias.

The consent order only ever covered government programs, not commercial ones.  Defined as: "Covered programs are Government programs which are delivered in orbit and utilize medium-to-heavy launch services."  So, I'm not sure that an analysis based on commercial launch practices is the best basis.     

If that last bit was meant for me, my question was a perfectly straight request for informed opinion.  No malice intended.  I used the language directly from the order. 
« Last Edit: 06/12/2017 06:54 PM by deruch »
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Offline baldusi

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Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #123 on: 06/13/2017 01:25 PM »
Nothing will change, now the realities of the launch market dictate that LM and Boeing's satellite business will use whatever LV the customer requests. Price, schedule and reliability are still the same trade off for commercial customers. And USG customers have their own FAR rules. So this changes nothing.
Regarding the incentives, LM and Boeing will not allow ULA to be free. It still is a cash cow, they can't close it down when it isn't (DoD won't allow it), and they won't ever sell it nor spin it off. The most dangerous company to LM/Boeing duopoly in NASA's LV/Spacecraft development contacts is ULA. If there's a company that can stomp over MFSC rockets is ULA. SpaceX/Blue will keep their game to their own.

Offline Chris Bergin

Several members have tried to self moderate (correctly) this thread and people aren't listening, so locking it. Start new threads for SPECIFIC elements to continue relevant conversations.

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