Author Topic: NASA Selects Orbital ATK to Begin Negotiations for Space in Iconic VAB  (Read 19345 times)

Offline Chris Bergin

April 18, 2016
RELEASE 09-16
NASA Selects Orbital ATK to Begin Negotiations for Space in Iconic Vehicle Assembly Building

NASA has selected Orbital ATK Inc. of Dulles, Virginia, to begin negotiations on an agreement to use High Bay 2 in the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The prospective property use agreement, which also will include a mobile launcher platform, reflects Kennedy’s transformation to a multi-user spaceport supporting both government and commercial organizations.

“Over the past few years, the people of Kennedy have worked diligently to transform the center. We are now a true multi-user spaceport supporting a variety of different partners successfully,” said Bob Cabana, Kennedy director. “We look forward to working with Orbital ATK in the future to help expand the capabilities of this unique, historic asset.”

NASA will remain the primary user of the VAB for the Space Launch System and Orion programs. If an agreement is negotiated, NASA will act as the overall site operator for the facility.

The potential agreement is the result of a competitive Announcement for Proposals the agency released in June 2015.

The VAB, a national landmark, was completed in 1966 for the assembly of the Apollo/Saturn V moon rockets. For 30 years, it acted as the final assembly point for all space shuttle missions. The building is 525 feet tall and 518 feet wide.

Essentially a large steel box, a mobile launcher platform measures 160 by 135 feet. The platform's surface features wide openings that align with a space-bound vehicle's engines and direct the rocket’s blast into the flame trench below.

For more information about partnership opportunities with Kennedy, visit:

http://kscpartnerships.ksc.nasa.gov

For more information about Orbital ATK, visit:

https://www.orbitalatk.com/

Offline Chris Bergin

High Bay and MLP = Liberty back from the dead? But why?

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Expensively fly a all solid EELV replacement? Counting on SLS solid infrastructure to "cost share"? By twisting certain arms in Congress to rewrite the laws of "financial gravity" through government fiat?

Offline WBY1984

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Scratching my head on this one too. Is there any way that Liberty makes sense? I can't see any advantage over ULA or SpaceX offerings, to say nothing of foreign competition.

Offline shooter6947

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Presumably after ULA having declined Orbital/ATK's buyout bid, Orbital/ATK now want to try to outcompete ULA instead.  If ULA implodes with RD-180 issues and competition they may get an opening, but otherwise it would be an uphill battle.

Offline Ronsmytheiii

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Presumably after ULA having declined Orbital/ATK's buyout bid, Orbital/ATK now want to try to outcompete ULA instead.  If ULA implodes with RD-180 issues and competition they may get an opening, but otherwise it would be an uphill battle.

Think you are mixing this up with Aerojets buyout offer. OrbitalATK has actually increased cooperation with ULA by winning SRB contracts for Atlas V and Vulcan.

So this new project could be the new OA EELV or a move for Antares to win more flights (doubt it).
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Offline Chris Bergin

Ah, it's not Liberty, it's for the *potential* EELV-class Next Generation Launch vehicle system. I'll write it up...

Offline ArbitraryConstant

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Scratching my head on this one too. Is there any way that Liberty makes sense? I can't see any advantage over ULA or SpaceX offerings, to say nothing of foreign competition.
Seems like there might be an advantage over ULA offerings in the sense of being viable at a lower number of launches per year. Say there's a year with 3 DoD launches, and ULA, OATK, and SpaceX each get one. OATK and SpaceX can deal with that, I don't think ULA can. They've also got BE-3 which is new since Liberty was last mooted, should simplify upper stage development. Think Ariane 6 PPH.

Offline arachnitect

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So how does DOD get the payload access they need? Can they get from the VAB to liftoff fast enough for EELV requirements?

Do they build something like the Apollo Mobile Service Structure?

Offline Chris Bergin

Article, including Orbital ATK comments:

https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2016/04/orbital-atk-eye-vab-mlp-potential-eelv-rocket/

And of course a Nathan L2 render envisioning of the EELV class NGL rocket.
« Last Edit: 04/21/2016 11:33 PM by Chris Bergin »

Offline shooter6947

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Presumably after ULA having declined Orbital/ATK's buyout bid, Orbital/ATK now want to try to outcompete ULA instead.  If ULA implodes with RD-180 issues and competition they may get an opening, but otherwise it would be an uphill battle.

Think you are mixing this up with Aerojets buyout offer. OrbitalATK has actually increased cooperation with ULA by winning SRB contracts for Atlas V and Vulcan.

Yup -- you're right, my bad.

Offline Bubbinski

Wonder if part of the reason for this new launcher is to have something to offer for future Cygnus flights if RD-181 engines become unavailable for the Antares 2?

Also wondering if ATK is planning to parachute the first stage into the sea and reuse it like they did with SRB's.
I'll even excitedly look forward to "flags and footprints" and suborbital missions. Just fly...somewhere.

Offline russianhalo117

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Wonder if part of the reason for this new launcher is to have something to offer for future Cygnus flights if RD-181 engines become unavailable for the Antares 2?

Also wondering if ATK is planning to parachute the first stage into the sea and reuse it like they did with SRB's.
Last I read and heard was OA is still reviewing the option of Reusability in the future but that is not the plan for the current design cycle on OA's next gen EELV family. They have not tabled the option either but are going from a lessons learned and personnel experience development approach.

Offline GreenShrike

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Also wondering if ATK is planning to parachute the first stage into the sea and reuse it like they did with SRB's.

I think that only works for steel SRB casings.

I believe the proposed EELV will use motors derived from the segments of the forthcoming Dark Knight advanced SRBs for SLS, and for cost saving and performance reasons they use composite casings. A composite casing would likely be much the worse for wear after it's been fired, and unsuited for refurbishment and then loading additional propellant like the steel casings were.
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Online jacqmans

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NASA has selected Orbital ATK, to begin negotiations on an agreement to use High Bay 2, in the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The prospective property use agreement reflects Kennedy’s transformation to a multi-user spaceport supporting both government and commercial organizations. The agreement also includes a space shuttle-era mobile launcher platform. NASA will remain the primary user of the VAB for the Space Launch System and Orion programs. The potential agreement is the result of a competitive Announcement for Proposals the agency released in June 2015. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Offline TrevorMonty

Here is another article on this.

http://www.floridatoday.com/story/tech/science/space/2016/04/21/ksc-could-launch-new-orbital-atk-rocket/83341276/

The article confirms Blue are supplying the complete US not just BE3. With most of launch facilities already existing, the solid engines based on SLS plus  Gem 63XL SRBs from Vulcan, the development costs should be very modest. This should allow new LV to be economical even at 3 launches a year. Besides DOD and launches, they will now be able to compete for commercial GEO satellite launches.

Blue will most likely use a version of same US for their LV which should keep build costs down.

Surprised they still plan to fly Antares but this may change ones the new LV has proven its self.


Offline Welsh Dragon

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The VAB looks to be an interesting place in the future! Still have my doubts ATKs new bird can be economically viable, but who am I? Nitpick on the article though, it only has imperial units, it need proper metric units added.

Offline Proponent

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As I understand it, the plan is that Orbital ATK (OA) and hopefully other commercial launch providers will fly from LC-39B when NASA doesn't need it for SLS launches.  Suppose SLS manages to fly once per year.  SLS specs we've seen on L2 call for a 120-day turn-around time between SLS launches.  So, if SLS manages to launch once per year, then LC-39B is unavailable for OA or other firms one-third of the time.  That's a problem right there.  There will be some customers who will be willing to put up with that, but others won't.  OA will have to sell launches at a discount.

Then, what if the Evolvable Mars Campaign becomes reality?*  Under either the "split" or "hybrid" options (launch schedule for the latter attached), three SLS launches are required in 2028.  So OA is just going to say, "That's OK, we'll take the year off!"?  I don't think so.  After 2028, two launches per year are not unusual, meaning that LC-39B would be available for commercial use only a third of the time in some 12-month periods.

Finally, recall that OA's Antares exploded not long ago at Wallops, damaging the pad.  Suppose that happened at LC-39B.  If repairs take a year, there will an enormous cost to NASA, given that the fixed costs of Orion/SLS appear to be in the neighborhood of $2 billion annually.  Is NASA going to demand OA be insured for that kind of thing?  How much is that going to cost?

I don't see how commercial use of LC-39B can make any sense at all unless nobody, including NASA, believes that SLS will ever fly more than once every few years (which, coincidentally, is all that's scheduled at present).  At higher SLS launch rates, commercial use of the VAB might make sense if another pad accessible from the VAB but completely separate from 39B were built.

Chris's article describes Pad 39C as being "within Pad 39B."  Would I be correct in assuming that means that 39C would be very close to 39B?  If so, it somewhat eases things, but still raises the question of what happens if an explosion on 39C takes out 39B..

Could someone please explain how I'm wrong.


* Then again, the Florida Today article does explicitly say that "NASA exploration missions" are expected to fly "no more than once a year."  So it's official that the Evolvable Mars Campaign is fiction???
« Last Edit: 04/22/2016 10:14 AM by Proponent »

Offline Rik ISS-fan

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@Proponent:
There is only one MLP for SLS, right? The MLP is needed to assemble the SLS.
I think the turn around involves:
- Buildup of SLS,
- integrate the payload,
- roll out to LC-39B,
- integrate the MLP/SLS with the facilities at LC-39B,
- launch,
- roll back to VAB
- Refurbish MLP
=> Repeat.

This total proces (turn around) takes 120 days. But I think LC-39B is only involved for at most two months (<60 days). The rest of the time LC-39B and LC-39C are available for commercial launchers.
LC-39C is a small pièce of unused land of LC-39B. See the added image

I agree insurance might be an issue.

This potential EELV is directly linked to SLS. SLS becomes more affordable by it (shared solid manufacturing facilities and LC-39B). If US government decides it is ridiculous to spend more than $2.000.000.000 annually on on SLS (the hole development budget for Ariane 6, ELC-4 and Vega-C <$5 billion [<4 billion euro]). OATK has no businesscase for their solid EELV anymore.
I think this EELV is the next best affordable launch vehicle. Only Launchers with an reusable first stage are more affordable. I agree reuse of the composite boosters makes no sense, (it also barely made sence with steel casings).     
« Last Edit: 04/22/2016 10:42 AM by Rik ISS-fan »

Offline Proponent

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OK, so if 39B is tied up for no more than two months at a time, then the Evolvable Mars Campaign still leaves 39B free for six months of the year, worst case.  A more typical availability would be eight months or more (2 SLS launches per year).  It still sounds like an issue to me, but maybe not a complete show stopper.

Of course, there is still the issue of making 39B itself capable of launching multiple vehicles of very different sizes.

Is there any reason anyone would want to launch from 39C but not use the VAB?  I'd think that if you didn't use the VAB, you'd be better off further from 39B, especially if you hope to have a high flight rate.
« Last Edit: 04/22/2016 11:51 AM by Proponent »

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