Author Topic: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires  (Read 5381 times)

Online gongora

  • Global Moderator
  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 985
  • US
  • Liked: 595
  • Likes Given: 565
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

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3916
  • Liked: 2361
  • Likes Given: 3250
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 »
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2642
  • Florida
  • Liked: 1063
  • Likes Given: 62
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.

Online Lars-J

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2859
  • California
  • Liked: 2252
  • Likes Given: 1308
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

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 126
  • Liked: 62
  • Likes Given: 0
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

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7417
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Liked: 1413
  • Likes Given: 4390
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

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2045
  • Whatcha gonna do when the Ghost zaps you?
  • Liked: 1774
  • Likes Given: 1263
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.

Offline brickmack

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 165
  • USA
  • Liked: 47
  • Likes Given: 4
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

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3286
  • AR USA / Berlin, DE / Moscow, RF
  • Liked: 538
  • Likes Given: 339
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.

Offline brickmack

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 165
  • USA
  • Liked: 47
  • Likes Given: 4
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?

Online savuporo

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4766
  • Liked: 790
  • Likes Given: 274
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.
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Online rst

  • Full Member
  • **
  • Posts: 258
  • Liked: 56
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #31 on: Today at 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.

Online savuporo

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4766
  • Liked: 790
  • Likes Given: 274
Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #32 on: Today at 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.
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Offline sdsds

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5476
  • "With peace and hope for all mankind."
  • Seattle
  • Liked: 575
  • Likes Given: 674
Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #33 on: Today at 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 --

Online rst

  • Full Member
  • **
  • Posts: 258
  • Liked: 56
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires
« Reply #34 on: Today at 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.

Tags: