Author Topic: Dirt Cheap rocket for Fuel Depot Delivery  (Read 22467 times)

Offline veedriver22

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Dirt Cheap rocket for Fuel Depot Delivery
« on: 09/24/2009 05:13 PM »
 Current launchers (including the EELV's) and the launchers being considered/developed are all overkill to perform fuel delivery to a depot.
They all carry expensive cargo or humans & need to be reasoably reliable.  Fuel is cheap.

 What would a new depot launcher look like and cost?  Are there simple & cheap engines existing that would do the job, or would you develop a new "cheap & not all that reliable engine" ?   The only given is that you would need to be able to guide it to the depot.  But I think you only need to get it close.  The depot would do the capture, link up and fuel transfer.
 
 The rocket itself  I guess would not use any exotic materials.  This would be a good application for some kind of launch assist.  If it fails all you loose is a dirt cheap rocket and some fuel.

 So lets design a launcher! 


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Offline agman25

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Re: Dirt Cheap rocket for Fuel Depot Delivery
« Reply #3 on: 09/24/2009 05:43 PM »
I think that pressure-fed rockets are the cheapest you can get. What kills you is the low ISP at sea-level. Has anyone ever tried to launch from high-altitude, like the Andes or something? A 150psi-chamber-pressure rocket can get about 245 ISP at 15000 feet (that increases to about 285 in vacuum with the same nozzle), using Kerosene and LOX. Two-staging that should be a pretty cheap way to get into orbit. Heck, the fuel could be stored in plastic tanks.
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Online bad_astra

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Re: Dirt Cheap rocket for Fuel Depot Delivery
« Reply #4 on: 09/24/2009 05:52 PM »
I think most of the serious efforts at a pressure-fed bdb were airborn or rockoons. I know ARCA is supposed to try a rockoon launch as part of the Haas program sometime in October.
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Offline Patchouli

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Re: Dirt Cheap rocket for Fuel Depot Delivery
« Reply #5 on: 09/25/2009 02:34 AM »
I liked the Aquarius LV it seems to be a valid concept and really should be funded.
SS/L is an established aerospace company and they probably do know what they are doing.
The Scorpius vehicles also look promising and have test flights.

I wonder if a vehicle could be made to reach orbit with no payload and the left over fuel in the tanks be used to restock a depot?
« Last Edit: 09/25/2009 02:36 AM by Patchouli »

Offline savuporo

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Offline Archibald

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Re: Dirt Cheap rocket for Fuel Depot Delivery
« Reply #7 on: 09/25/2009 06:32 AM »
My own little favourite cheap rocket: a variant of the Saturn INT-05/16/27 series.
Two or three shuttle SRBs with a cluster of RL-10s (S-IV !) on top of that.
Bonus: this would please ATK a lot ;) 

Offline kkattula

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Re: Dirt Cheap rocket for Fuel Depot Delivery
« Reply #8 on: 09/25/2009 06:35 AM »
I'd go with a mix of RLV, ELV and the cheapest technology & operations available:

First Stage - Big, robust, reusable, medium pressure fed, VTVL. Uses LOX and Methane or Ethanol. Film cooled engines, small expansion nozzles. Low to moderate mass ratio.  Just goes straight up and down. Takes the second stage & payload to around 100 km. (Or 75 km with residual vertical velocity). Returns to the launch site.

Second stage - Light, expendable, low pressure fed. Uses LOX and Methane or RP-1. Film cooled engines, high expansion nozzles. High mass ratio. No Avionics, controlled by the payload bus. Supplies about 7 km/s horizontal delta v, leaving the payload just short of orbit. Burns up on re-entry.

Payload Bus - Small, reusable, low pressure fed OMS. Uses LOX and Methane or Ethanol. Cold gas RCS. Avionics to control itself & second stage. Self stabilising capsule shape. Performs final orbit insertion, prox-ops and de-orbit. Transpiration cooled, PICA heat shield. Parachute landing with air bags near launch site.


Most of the large and expensive items get re-used, but don't require complex, expensive recovery mechanisms or operations.
« Last Edit: 09/25/2009 06:36 AM by kkattula »

Offline veedriver22

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Re: Dirt Cheap rocket for Fuel Depot Delivery
« Reply #9 on: 09/25/2009 05:32 PM »
 How about something gun launched?  With a solid fuel second stage to circularize?

Offline Lobo

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Re: Dirt Cheap rocket for Fuel Depot Delivery
« Reply #10 on: 09/25/2009 11:46 PM »
I don't think a gun is viable, unless you want your payload (tanking structure in this case) destroyed.

Probably the cheapest and best way to look at doing something like small fuel deliveries to a LEO depot is something like SpaceShip1 & 2.

STart with a large plane, a C-5 Galaxy or C-17 or something.  Modify it to have high-altitude engines, enlarge the wing area for high altitudes, and try to get it as fast as possible (subsonic obviously).  Then modify the undercarrage to hold a rocket.  Something like SpaceShipOne's hybrid rocket, a solid rocket, or a Kerolox setup.  Something that will take it to the depot orbit (could be 2-stage, but single stage would be cheaper if possible).  Make it all out of aluminum, so light weight, but still cheap. 
So bascially, your "1st stage", the airplane is very cheap and efficient and reusable.

Maybe something like ULA's ACES-41 concept.  Put an SRB as the first stage, then the stage itself is both the upperstage, the RCS system (using the gassified H2 boiloff), and the tanker.  Upong docking with the depot, all residuals are pumped into the depot.  Then just a tad of Lh2/LO2 is left in the ACES stage, so itcan deorbit itself?  The SRB falls away and burns up  or could be recovered depending on how high it goes.  But it could probably be recovered and reused.

Another possibility would be in that same vein, but the rocket has delta wings so that it can still utilize the upper atmosphere somewhat and have control without the need for a gimbaled engine (again, looking at cheap and dirty).  Again, look at something like an ACES stage to be the payload and upper stage.  Itíd have gimbaled engines as all ACES stages would, and the GH2 RCS system.  Itíd do a burn for LEO insertion and redezvous with the depot. 
So your first stage would be a cheap and dirty SRB, and your 2nd stage would also be your tanker and RCS system, and could be mass produced.

A final idea would be to go with the cheap and dirty SRB as the first stage after dropped from the airplane, but you have some kind of reusable mini space plane on the front of it.  The SRB wouldnít have gimballing, attitude control would be a combination of the control surfaces of the spaceplane and the spaceplaneís RCS system.  The SRB burns out and can be recovered, (or not, since itís a cheap and dirty SRB), And the spaceplaceís onboard LH2/LOX system puts it in redenzvous orbit with the depot.  Like the ACES stage, the spaceplaneís RCS system can be gasified H2, so a bit would be left in it to deorbit itself.  Itís unmanned so the deorbit can be very slow.  You donít need much, just a shove.  It has a TPS and lands like a plane.  The Plane would just be a simple lifting body design like the HL-20 or Dreamchaser, with an ACES type stage stuffed into it, and a coupling on the back for the SRB.

Itíd take some investment, but I think that could be almost a fully reusable fuel delivery system.  If you use a TPS like PICA or something and as simple geometry as possible, you could probably get several flights out of the same TPS tiles.  Again, no human life depends on it.  Perhaps even a biconic. 

Offline SpacexULA

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Re: Dirt Cheap rocket for Fuel Depot Delivery
« Reply #11 on: 09/26/2009 12:18 AM »
Aren't you going at the idea of a cheap launcher backwards?

The main costs for a launch vehicle are from Highest to lowest

R&D (Continuing and initial)
Launch Operations staff and facilities
Spacecraft
Launch Vehicle
Insurance
Fuel

You do much better to cut the larger items by a few percent that cutting the small items, so therefore the best cheap rocket would have these characteristics.

-Miniumal R&D, both initial and ongoing.  This could mean that it is a simplified version of a already operational rocket, with much of it's functionality removed.
-Minimal ground infrastructure, and shared infrastructure with another more sophisticated launch vehicle.  Also a minimal crew to launch, the less people needed the better (even if this means the vehicle is not as reliable)
-Integrated 2nd stage and payload.  The 2nd stage IS the payload, all excess fuel is used to fuel the depot.  The 2nd stage would be a stretched version of the more advanced rocket's normal 2nd stage.
-An uninsured rocket.  Preferably launch from a country with little or no environmental regulations.

So something like a Falcon 9-1=8, with a stretched cryo 2nd stage, launched from the Atoll, or a Delta 4 heavy that has been reconfigured to launch with minimal staff and a ACES 2nd stage that is shared with a high rate launcher.

« Last Edit: 09/26/2009 12:20 AM by SpacexULA »
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Offline savuporo

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Re: Dirt Cheap rocket for Fuel Depot Delivery
« Reply #12 on: 09/26/2009 06:29 AM »
The keywords "pressure fed, ablative, simple" google brings you this:
http://www.smad.com/scorpius/AIAA_paper_JPC04CHAK1.pdf
http://www.scorpius.com/Documents/RS4_Bauer.pdf
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Offline sdsds

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Re: Dirt Cheap rocket for Fuel Depot Delivery
« Reply #13 on: 09/26/2009 06:30 AM »
From another thread:

[...]  Historically every new rocket development program is always driven (costs and schedule) by their new engine elements.

As a typical rule, they usually account for 40% of the total development costs.   If you can remove those costs entirely from your new program -- like we do for Jupiter-130 -- that makes an incredible amount of difference.

So you need to design your dirt cheap launch system (at least the initial revision) around existing propulsion systems.  Consider for example the RS-27A that powers Delta II.  It's a kerolox design that's known to work, and Rocketdyne could build you as many as you like.

Use it to power a stage that lifts off from a minimal-cost pad in a highly automated launch sequence.  Add a hypergolic upper stage and a payload fairing, and you're done!  (Leave off the solid boosters so range safety will let you fly.)
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Offline simon-th

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Re: Dirt Cheap rocket for Fuel Depot Delivery
« Reply #14 on: 09/26/2009 07:03 AM »
Realistically, the cheapest option for fuel delivery to orbit are probably just using a multitude of existing rockets at high flight rates - and through competition bring down the prices.

If we had very high demand (2000mt+ per year) of fuel, then it would start to make sense to look into alternatives.

In this case I think we should look at small RLVs. Potentially interesting concepts would be:
 - not really a gun-launched RLV (as mentioned above), but something slightly similar - long-barrel launched RLVs. You dig a tunnel half a kilometre or maybe even a bit deeper at about 80 degrees. Then you launch your RLV in it as a first stage - e.g. by magnetic propulsion, or a rocket sled first stage that de-couples abruptly during the last meters with the actual RLV's engine igniting then. Of course, due to tunnel construction costs (a km of tunnel is expensive), you need very high initial g-loads - not in the order of a gun-launched RLV, but still at least about 40-50g if not a lot more. This first stage would take 2-3 seconds maximum and propel your single-stage RLV to up to Mach 3 or more.
 - still interesting, but extremely expensive, the flyback first stage RLV. Concepts like Venturestar etc. have shown us that these RLVs take tens of billions to develop and are also quite expensive in operations. So a new cheaper concept would have to be worked out.

If RLVs are not the way, and current ELVs are too expensive as well, there still is the road to try to mass produce a cheap, small ELV specifically optimized for fuel delivery. Basically, the simplest possible configuration possible - 2 stages, 1 engine on each stage, mass manufactured, somewhere in the 1mt to 5mt range. For that option to be cheap, a launch site would have to be used near the manufacturing site which doesn't have any other orbital launches going on from there - with a very cheap range service which is purchased "en bulk" for a given year. At one launch per day, mass manufacturing, costs would go down considerably. Failures would be taken into account. At first a reliability rate of 90% would be acceptable. With experience, design flaws etc. could be eliminated and the reliability rate moved significantly near 100%.

Offline Archibald

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Re: Dirt Cheap rocket for Fuel Depot Delivery
« Reply #15 on: 09/26/2009 12:24 PM »
From another thread:

[...]  Historically every new rocket development program is always driven (costs and schedule) by their new engine elements.

As a typical rule, they usually account for 40% of the total development costs.   If you can remove those costs entirely from your new program -- like we do for Jupiter-130 -- that makes an incredible amount of difference.

So you need to design your dirt cheap launch system (at least the initial revision) around existing propulsion systems.  Consider for example the RS-27A that powers Delta II.  It's a kerolox design that's known to work, and Rocketdyne could build you as many as you like.

Use it to power a stage that lifts off from a minimal-cost pad in a highly automated launch sequence.  Add a hypergolic upper stage and a payload fairing, and you're done!  (Leave off the solid boosters so range safety will let you fly.)

More or less the Kistler K-1 no ?

Offline kraisee

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Re: Dirt Cheap rocket for Fuel Depot Delivery
« Reply #16 on: 09/26/2009 02:47 PM »
There are already a range of relatively low-cost launch systems designed to launch small payloads quite reliably.   They're called ICBM's.

If you want a cheap way of launching small stuff regularly, you could probably do a lot worse than checking out the current array of those and then considering what modifications make sense for using them as payload-to-LEO launchers.

Ross.
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Offline brihath

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Re: Dirt Cheap rocket for Fuel Depot Delivery
« Reply #17 on: 09/26/2009 03:03 PM »
I agree with Ross.  Use existing rockets where development costs are already expended.  A good example is the Russian R-7.  Cheap, reliable and with a long history of successful launches.  I would launch them from the ESA Guyana site to get the greatest payload benefit.

Offline Warren Platts

Re: Dirt Cheap rocket for Fuel Depot Delivery
« Reply #18 on: 09/27/2009 12:27 AM »
Quito Ecuador is the best launch spot on the planet. If I had the USD, I'd be aquiring some land around there.

Also don't write off the gun solution quite yet. Gerald Bull, who got murdered for helping Saddam Hussein develop a gun-launched satellite system (cf. the Babylon Gun), figured that such a system could deliver a few hundred kilograms at a time for several hundred USD per kilo. 
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Offline savuporo

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Re: Dirt Cheap rocket for Fuel Depot Delivery
« Reply #19 on: 09/27/2009 05:44 AM »
There are already a range of relatively low-cost launch systems designed to launch small payloads quite reliably.   They're called ICBM's.
Yeah, and things like Dnepr, Stihl, Strela and Rockot are a tested case of using them as launchers.
They havent exactly broken new orders of magnitudes in launch costs, although they are almost the cheapest ways around to get to orbit.
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