Author Topic: Could ATK and OSC's Merger Mean a new EELV Class Commercial LV?  (Read 84054 times)

Offline Lobo

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Given this article:

 http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2014/04/orbital-atk-form-space-flight-super-group/

And given that ATK has been wanting to have an EELV class LV commercial vehicle visa vi Liberty and Liberty 2, could this mean something along that lines to compete with SpaceX, ULA, and ArianeSpace?

It looks like the Pegasus II vehicle will have LEO performance similar to Antares.  5-6mt to LEO.  But will there be any interest in more than that?  Or GTO capability?

Antares seems like it would have a hard time with a solid upper stage getting much better LEO performance, and it's GTO performance would be similarly hampered even using a 3rd stage.  Using the Pegasus II composite SRB casings, they could create something like Liberty.  Maybe with a modified Antares kerolox stage on top with the NK-43/AJ26-59 upper stage engine?  And a 3rd stage for GTO payloads?

Or go the route of Ariane 6?  The big solid booster, with a 1-seg solid second stage (like a big Castor 30XL), with a hydrolox or kerolox 3rd stage?

Or will they be content to be in that Delta II class with Antares and Pegasus II?  Those would already be similar capability to the Ariane 6.  Seems like those two LV's would overlap each other though with their similar capabilities.


Offline edkyle99

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I think it unlikely that Antares will aim for substantial EELV work, if any.  It's next step is to upgrade to 7 tonnes LEO/ISS for CRS-2.  Replacing Castor 30XL with a hydrogen upper stage on that rocket would allow it to boost maybe 5 tonnes to GTO, which would only enter the low end of the EELV range.  Orbital is probably more interested in a 3 tonne class GTO payload capability, which matches its satellite catalog.

 - Ed Kyle

Offline Prober

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I think it unlikely that Antares will aim for substantial EELV work, if any.  It's next step is to upgrade to 7 tonnes LEO/ISS for CRS-2.  Replacing Castor 30XL with a hydrogen upper stage on that rocket would allow it to boost maybe 5 tonnes to GTO, which would only enter the low end of the EELV range.  Orbital is probably more interested in a 3 tonne class GTO payload capability, which matches its satellite catalog.

 - Ed Kyle

Been looking (when time permits) at the Orbital ATK.  &  http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=34558.msg1188951#msg1188951

Don't forget to factor in Kodiak Launch Complex
« Last Edit: 04/30/2014 07:12 PM by Prober »
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Offline arachnitect

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I think it unlikely that Antares will aim for substantial EELV work, if any.  It's next step is to upgrade to 7 tonnes LEO/ISS for CRS-2.  Replacing Castor 30XL with a hydrogen upper stage on that rocket would allow it to boost maybe 5 tonnes to GTO, which would only enter the low end of the EELV range.  Orbital is probably more interested in a 3 tonne class GTO payload capability, which matches its satellite catalog.

 - Ed Kyle

What about increased first stage thrust and a (larger than currently planned) BTS?

For CRS-2 they need to wring "only" another 1 - 1.5 tonnes out of it.

Offline Prober

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I think it unlikely that Antares will aim for substantial EELV work, if any.  It's next step is to upgrade to 7 tonnes LEO/ISS for CRS-2.  Replacing Castor 30XL with a hydrogen upper stage on that rocket would allow it to boost maybe 5 tonnes to GTO, which would only enter the low end of the EELV range.  Orbital is probably more interested in a 3 tonne class GTO payload capability, which matches its satellite catalog.

 - Ed Kyle

What about increased first stage thrust and a (larger than currently planned) BTS?

For CRS-2 they need to wring "only" another 1 - 1.5 tonnes out of it.

If the company starts manufacturing their own engines.....they could add a third engine for their next model.
A 2 or 3 engine Antares might fit a lot of possible launches.
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Offline Lars_J

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Where is this fantasy that OrbitalATK would build its own NK-33 coming from?

Online ChrisWilson68

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And given that ATK has been wanting to have an EELV class LV commercial vehicle visa vi Liberty and Liberty 2, could this mean something along that lines to compete with SpaceX, ULA, and ArianeSpace?

ATK has shown zero interest in actually spending their own money on Liberty.  What they wanted was to convince the government to pay for development of Liberty.

There's nothing about the merger with Orbital that changes this calculus.  If developing Liberty on their own dime makes sense after the merger, it would have made sense before the merger and ATK would already be doing it, which they're not.

SpaceX is putting tremendous price pressure on this market right now.  Why would a new entrant want to invest a huge amount to get into a business that is overcrowded and unattractive?

Antares is different because the investment level is much less, the government paid much of that investment, and the government is willing to pay far more to keep Antares in the commercial cargo business than SpaceX charges just for the sake of having a second player.  None of that applies to the heavier EELV-class market.

Offline Prober

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Where is this fantasy that OrbitalATK would build its own NK-33 coming from?

What makes it a fantasy?

Remember SpaceX built Merlin's out of the Fastrac design.  You saying ATK can't manufacture?
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Offline Lar

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No. Just that they won't.  ...no money in it.  It is way early for a Fast Follower and anyone else is foolish to enter.

But they could. You know they could design and fly a kickAss rocket(tm)... Just like so many oldSpace companies, stuffed with talent, but shackled by how it is.
« Last Edit: 05/01/2014 12:26 AM by Lar »
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Offline edkyle99

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Here's my guess for a composite solid motor Antares, including a growth version for CRS-2 missions.  Replacing the Castor 30XL third stage of the growth version with an equal mass liquid hydrogen stage gets 4.8 tonnes to GTO (GEO-1,500 m/s) or 3.1 tonnes to escape velocity, or maybe more than 12 tonnes to LEO.

For the growth version, I assumed essentially equal motors for the first two stages, similar to Athena 2, Minotaur 6, Shavit-3, etc.

 - Ed Kyle 

Offline Prober

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Here's my guess for a composite solid motor Antares, including a growth version for CRS-2 missions.  Replacing the Castor 30XL third stage of the growth version with an equal mass liquid hydrogen stage gets 4.8 tonnes to GTO (GEO-1,500 m/s) or 3.1 tonnes to escape velocity, or maybe more than 12 tonnes to LEO.

For the growth version, I assumed essentially equal motors for the first two stages, similar to Athena 2, Minotaur 6, Shavit-3, etc.

 - Ed Kyle

Sorry ,Ed don't think you thinking big enough .....this is the direction they might be going with Antares as the Center core.
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Offline Jim

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Sorry ,Ed don't think you thinking big enough .....this is the direction they might be going with Antares as the Center core.


Huh?  That is an SLS competitor and not EELV competitor.  They aren't going in that direction
« Last Edit: 05/01/2014 02:30 AM by Jim »

Offline Prober

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Sorry ,Ed don't think you thinking big enough .....this is the direction they might be going with Antares as the Center core.


Huh?  That is an SLS competitor and not EELV competitor.  They aren't going in that direction

A fair comment as I didn't give any specs.   Was thinking of a Delta IV level competitor. 

Try this: given Antares for the cots contract wished to use only one AJ-26.

1) Antares core w/1 AJ-26
2) Two Solids (kind of flexible here)

« Last Edit: 05/01/2014 08:08 PM by Prober »
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Offline jongoff

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Where is this fantasy that OrbitalATK would build its own NK-33 coming from?

I think Prober is the only one suggesting that.

~Jon

Offline jongoff

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Where is this fantasy that OrbitalATK would build its own NK-33 coming from?

What makes it a fantasy?

Remember SpaceX built Merlin's out of the Fastrac design.  You saying ATK can't manufacture?

Merlin may have started as a loosely Fastrac-inspired design, but even the Merlin-1A was a vastly different beast from Fastrac by the time it started flying. They had to sink many years and lots of money into getting to a working engine, and many more years to get to an engine that had the performance they wanted and the manufacturability. Staged combustion rocket engines are complex enough that even if you started with a complete set of prints and material specs, getting to an actual working engine that operates reliably and with proper performance is a many years and lots of money task. It's not just a case of "print me up another one Scotty" and it'll just work out of the box.

I think anyone who has ever built and fired a LPRE of any complexity is scratching their heads in bemusement at your insistence that ATK could just reverse engineer an NK-33 and get it into production post-haste.

~Jon

Offline Danderman

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Try this: given Antares for the cots contract wished to use only one AJ-26.

Actually, one outcome might be to use ATK motors for SRBs, and cut back the Antares core to 1 NK-33, that would allow Orbital to get more flights out of its current stockpile of engines.

The question is whether Wallops could accommodate a vehicle with large SRBs.


« Last Edit: 05/01/2014 07:12 PM by Danderman »

Offline Prober

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Where is this fantasy that OrbitalATK would build its own NK-33 coming from?

I think anyone who has ever built and fired a LPRE of any complexity is scratching their heads in bemusement at your insistence that ATK could just reverse engineer an NK-33 and get it into production post-haste.

~Jon


Let me correct you right there.......I'm talking a clone engine, not a reverse engineered engine.   Its a whole different ball game, that I'm sure many don't understand as yet.
« Last Edit: 05/01/2014 08:15 PM by Prober »
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Offline arachnitect

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Try this: given Antares for the cots contract wished to use only one AJ-26.

Actually, one outcome might be to use ATK motors for SRBs, and cut back the Antares core to 1 NK-33, that would allow Orbital to get more flights out of its current stockpile of engines.

The question is whether Wallops could accommodate a vehicle with large SRBs.


Doesn't really help if you think about it. As this modification is in development you're drawing down your stockpile of AJ-26. By the time the single AJ Antares is flying you only have a handful of the engines left and you're back to square one. Now you either abandon the NK heritage engine, or you restart production and have to spread the fixed costs of new production over half as many engines.

If they go solid they'll go all the way and use something that looks like Athena III or Ed's design.

Offline Lobo

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And given that ATK has been wanting to have an EELV class LV commercial vehicle visa vi Liberty and Liberty 2, could this mean something along that lines to compete with SpaceX, ULA, and ArianeSpace?

ATK has shown zero interest in actually spending their own money on Liberty.  What they wanted was to convince the government to pay for development of Liberty.

There's nothing about the merger with Orbital that changes this calculus.  If developing Liberty on their own dime makes sense after the merger, it would have made sense before the merger and ATK would already be doing it, which they're not.

SpaceX is putting tremendous price pressure on this market right now.  Why would a new entrant want to invest a huge amount to get into a business that is overcrowded and unattractive?

Antares is different because the investment level is much less, the government paid much of that investment, and the government is willing to pay far more to keep Antares in the commercial cargo business than SpaceX charges just for the sake of having a second player.  None of that applies to the heavier EELV-class market.

It may or may not change the calculus.  That's why I posed the question.  The merger would give each better access to hardware than they had before.  And as it looks, Antares and Pegasus II will have similar performance. (Can someone let me know if that's correct?  It seems that from Chris's article.

So, they operate two Delta II class LV's...which doesn't seem to make too much sense unless there's enough payloads to keep them both busy.  Or they keep one and perhaps try to broaden their fleet?
ATK was trying to get the government to pay for Liberty, but they seemed to want an LV in that class and thought they could get some market share if they could keep their investment to a minimum.

And I don't know that the commercial market is all that over crowded.  ULA doesn't really play in it.  And SpaceX seems to be gobbling it up with a manifest they are having to build new pads to fill.
There's Arianespace and the Russians, but working with the Russians presents it's own set of challenges aside from price.  As does/will the Chinese.  There could be room for a low coast solid based EELV-class LV perhaps?  Maybe they could beat ArianeSpace to a US version of Ariane 6.

The composite SRB segments of the STS/SLS diameter they are going to use for Pegasus II creates some interesting possibilities.  Not to mention so SLS were to somehow go with ATK solid boosters.  There'd be synergy there.  ATK could probably make a pretty good offer if they were already tooled up to make those SRB segments for other LV's.  (setting aside the performance shortfalls with advanced solids and the EUS for a moment).


Offline Jim

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Let me correct you right there.......I'm talking a clone engine, not a reverse engineered engine.   Its a whole different ball game, that I'm sure many don't understand as yet.


No, you don't understand that ATK isn't going into liquid engine

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