Author Topic: EELV Costs from Air Force FY2018 Budget  (Read 6309 times)

Online AncientU

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EELV Costs from Air Force FY2018 Budget
« on: 06/16/2017 10:27 AM »
ULA is getting an engine, one way of the other. Moreover, even if both engine programs fail (not that probable), DoD is not going to disqualify their most reliable LV solution because John McCain is hysterical about Putin. Atlas V will keep launching.

That scenario would be bad for ULA (as per Tory Brunos' testimony under oath, they need a more competitive LV when the DoD launch rate ramps down in the early 20s), but far from catastrophic.

Reliable, yes.  But at any price?

New article on ULA costs:
Quote
Air Force budget reveals how much SpaceX undercuts launch prices
Spoiler alert: Itís a lot.
Quote
That ($422M*) is a tad more expensive than the amount ULA would ever tell taxpayers they are paying for one of its launches, and it illustrates the extent to which those taxpayers are forced to subsidize ULA in order to maintain the fiction that it is a competitive private sector company.

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* ...based upon discussions with various space policy experts, this is the maximum amount the Air Force believes it will need to pay, per launch, if United Launch Alliance is selected for all of its launch needs in 2020.
https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/06/air-force-budget-reveals-how-much-spacex-undercuts-launch-prices/
« Last Edit: 06/16/2017 06:32 PM by gongora »
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Online Lars-J

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That article is probably a bit misleading since we don't know what an *equivalent* SpaceX launch will cost. The real difference is probably large, but not as large as the article suggests.
« Last Edit: 06/16/2017 10:47 AM by Lars-J »

Offline woods170

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That article is probably a bit misleading since we don't know what an *equivalent* SpaceX launch will cost. The real difference is probably large, but not as large as the article suggests.
Misleading indeed given that the budget lines in the USAF budget request is a maximum amount. A substantial part of the ULA launches for the government will probably have (significant?) lower price-tags due to the nature of those launches.

Online Semmel

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That article is probably a bit misleading since we don't know what an *equivalent* SpaceX launch will cost. The real difference is probably large, but not as large as the article suggests.
Misleading indeed given that the budget lines in the USAF budget request is a maximum amount. A substantial part of the ULA launches for the government will probably have (significant?) lower price-tags due to the nature of those launches.

Without the statistics, we dont know what they might have meant. But if it is, like they say, the maximum, then its probably some Delta4 Heavy launch. But deviding the 1B for ELC by 6 launches for the government per year gives in the order of 150M extra on top of each launch. So it could also mean the maximum of mean of launch cost including ELC, that is expected in 2020. We dont know. Furthermore the comparison is questionable at best because ULA offers quite some substantial capabilities that SpaceX lacks.

Offline Chasm

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Looks like $422M is indeed a Delta IV Heavy launch. In 2020, maximum price thereof.
The joy of ....selective reporting. (There should be enough difference to favor SpaceX without adding more bias. In the long run it just makes the argument weaker.)

Tory tweeted the attached infographic.
Launch cost over the whole ELC duration of 78 missions averages to $225M a pop with Delta IV Heavy at ~$400M and Atlas starting at ~$164M.

Via recent bids we know that Atlas has dropped in price. The Heavy pricing is not really relevant, it goes away soon. Replacement prices, that would be interesting.

Offline Jim

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Online gongora

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Looks like $422M is indeed a Delta IV Heavy launch. In 2020, maximum price thereof.
The joy of ....selective reporting. (There should be enough difference to favor SpaceX without adding more bias. In the long run it just makes the argument weaker.)

Tory tweeted the attached infographic.
Launch cost over the whole ELC duration of 78 missions averages to $225M a pop with Delta IV Heavy at ~$400M and Atlas starting at ~$164M.

Via recent bids we know that Atlas has dropped in price. The Heavy pricing is not really relevant, it goes away soon. Replacement prices, that would be interesting.

No, the $422M is the average price once LCC is no longer being billed as a separate line item.  A small part of that is overhead on the AF side.  If you look at the actual budget document it's both very confusing and interesting.  The LCC is going up significantly for FY2018, and launch vehicle unit prices go up too because it's no longer within the block buy.  (If you look at the LCC costs in the document make sure to read the explanatory text saying this is only the Air Force's 75% of the actual amount.)  The number of launches they list also seems kinda low, even though it doesn't include NRO launches.  (I should probably break this discussion into a separate thread.)
« Last Edit: 06/16/2017 06:30 PM by gongora »

Online gongora

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Re: EELV Costs from Air Force FY2018 Budget
« Reply #7 on: 06/16/2017 06:35 PM »
In the budget document EELV Launch Capability section starts on 103, and the rest of EELV starts on 109.

Online Brovane

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That article is probably a bit misleading since we don't know what an *equivalent* SpaceX launch will cost. The real difference is probably large, but not as large as the article suggests.
Misleading indeed given that the budget lines in the USAF budget request is a maximum amount. A substantial part of the ULA launches for the government will probably have (significant?) lower price-tags due to the nature of those launches.

Without the statistics, we dont know what they might have meant. But if it is, like they say, the maximum, then its probably some Delta4 Heavy launch. But deviding the 1B for ELC by 6 launches for the government per year gives in the order of 150M extra on top of each launch. So it could also mean the maximum of mean of launch cost including ELC, that is expected in 2020. We dont know. Furthermore the comparison is questionable at best because ULA offers quite some substantial capabilities that SpaceX lacks.

How are you defining substantial?   
"Look at that! If anybody ever said, "you'll be sitting in a spacecraft naked with a 134-pound backpack on your knees charging it", I'd have said "Aw, get serious". - John Young - Apollo-16

Online Semmel

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Re: EELV Costs from Air Force FY2018 Budget
« Reply #9 on: 06/16/2017 09:09 PM »
Direct insertion to GEO, vertical integration, payload to GTO and beyond, launching on time..

Online Rebel44

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Re: EELV Costs from Air Force FY2018 Budget
« Reply #10 on: 06/16/2017 09:26 PM »
Direct insertion to GEO, vertical integration, payload to GTO and beyond, launching on time..

1. SpaceX recently demonstrated long coast ability of 2nd stage - so they can do direct-to-GEO
2. SpaceX said, that they will provide VI - when they sign up a contract that requires it
3. SpaceX already launches to GTO and beyond, so thats is not an issue
4. next years SpaceX is likely to catch up with their launch manifest, at which point launching on time shouldnt be a big issue

Offline c3infinity

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Re: EELV Costs from Air Force FY2018 Budget
« Reply #11 on: 06/16/2017 09:55 PM »
Direct insertion to GEO, vertical integration, payload to GTO and beyond, launching on time..

1. SpaceX recently demonstrated long coast ability of 2nd stage - so they can do direct-to-GEO
2. SpaceX said, that they will provide VI - when they sign up a contract that requires it
3. SpaceX already launches to GTO and beyond, so thats is not an issue
4. next years SpaceX is likely to catch up with their launch manifest, at which point launching on time shouldnt be a big issue

1. There's more to direct insertion to GEO besides just coasting for X hours before a burn...guidance accuracy is a big issue.
2. Do we have any idea of the cost for SpaceX to develop, provide, and maintain that capability?
3. The end destination doesn't matter as much as the required launch vehicle trajectory to place the spacecraft at its desired separation point.
4. I wouldn't bet against SpaceX, but time will certainly tell.

Online Rebel44

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Re: EELV Costs from Air Force FY2018 Budget
« Reply #12 on: 06/16/2017 10:20 PM »
Direct insertion to GEO, vertical integration, payload to GTO and beyond, launching on time..

1. SpaceX recently demonstrated long coast ability of 2nd stage - so they can do direct-to-GEO
2. SpaceX said, that they will provide VI - when they sign up a contract that requires it
3. SpaceX already launches to GTO and beyond, so thats is not an issue
4. next years SpaceX is likely to catch up with their launch manifest, at which point launching on time shouldnt be a big issue

1. There's more to direct insertion to GEO besides just coasting for X hours before a burn...guidance accuracy is a big issue.
2. Do we have any idea of the cost for SpaceX to develop, provide, and maintain that capability?
3. The end destination doesn't matter as much as the required launch vehicle trajectory to place the spacecraft at its desired separation point.
4. I wouldn't bet against SpaceX, but time will certainly tell.

1. Sure, but I dont see any indication that SX wouldnt be able to provide required guidance accuracy - do you have any data to indicate otherwise?
2. We dont, since there are quite a few variables, but that doesnt mean SX isnt able to provide such service. Details + cost are something for SX and USAF to negotiate.
3. Which AFAIK hasnt been a problem for past SX missions, so I dont see why it would be an issue with USAF payload.

Online Lars-J

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Re: EELV Costs from Air Force FY2018 Budget
« Reply #13 on: 06/16/2017 10:23 PM »
3. The end destination doesn't matter as much as the required launch vehicle trajectory to place the spacecraft at its desired separation point.

Is there some magic pixie dust that only ULA has that allows them to do this? I know that is an exaggeration, but it really does seem that some believe that only ULA will ever be capable of certain things...

Online gongora

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Re: EELV Costs from Air Force FY2018 Budget
« Reply #14 on: 06/16/2017 10:27 PM »
FH Demo could answer a lot of those questions if SpaceX chooses to use it for that (and I think the AF would like to see it since demonstrating those capabilities could impact a bunch of upcoming bids).

Offline Chasm

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Re: EELV Costs from Air Force FY2018 Budget
« Reply #15 on: 06/16/2017 11:13 PM »
In the budget document EELV Launch Capability section starts on 103, and the rest of EELV starts on 109.

Thank you for the pointers.

Making a way through the budgetary system is interesting. Trying for apples to apples I don't even come out at apples to oranges but rather apples to road apples...  :-\



Is there magic pixie dust? I highly doubt that. Quite a bit of experience and proven capability. SpaceX and others will get there in time.

Online Brovane

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Re: EELV Costs from Air Force FY2018 Budget
« Reply #16 on: 06/16/2017 11:25 PM »
Direct insertion to GEO, vertical integration, payload to GTO and beyond, launching on time..

SpaceX hasn't had a customer launch that requires direct insertion to GEO.  Doesn't mean they lack the capability. 
SpaceX hasn't had a customer launch that requires vertical integration.  Doesn't mean they lack the capability. 
DSCOVR satellite was launched to Sun-Earth L1
ULA also suffers delayed launches.

You have nothing quantifiable to justify this statement.  "ULA offers quite some substantial capabilities that SpaceX lacks."

If you are going to define substantial, you might want to define something relevant.

For example, ULA has the capability to do a direct GSO insertion of a 6,000kg satellite.  This is something that SpaceX lacks but I wouldn't call it substantial. 


"Look at that! If anybody ever said, "you'll be sitting in a spacecraft naked with a 134-pound backpack on your knees charging it", I'd have said "Aw, get serious". - John Young - Apollo-16

Offline su27k

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Re: EELV Costs from Air Force FY2018 Budget
« Reply #17 on: 06/17/2017 03:47 AM »
Let's not turn this into another SpaceX vs ULA thread. The topic is EELV costs, here's some thoughts:
1. I don't think this per unit cost is really news, if you check FY14 budget request, it has only one line item for both ELC and launch, so basically the same format as the 2020 column in FY18's budget request. In the description section it says the ELC is only separated out as a separate line item after FY15 request.
2. The FY14 budget request shows a "Gross/Weapon System Unit Cost" for FY2013 as $419.964M, so this over $400M price tag is not new either. And given this information, I don't buy the explanation that $422M is the maximum or it's for all launches on Delta IV Heavy. Seems to me $422M is the average price USAF expects to pay in 2020 for specific launches they already know about. The question is how much of the $422M would be paid to ULA and what specialized services it covers.
3. Reading the FY18 document, one thing jumps out: On page 105 it has a breakdown of the capability line item, and $139.906M is assigned to Phase 1A Launch Capability. As I understand it Phase 1A is the competed missions, so the launch cost should already be covered in MSEELV line item? If so what is this $139.906M for? Can't possibly cost these much to run the competition itself?
« Last Edit: 06/17/2017 03:49 AM by su27k »

Offline mkent

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No, the $422M is the average price once LCC is no longer being billed as a separate line item.

The infographic includes the ELC cost in the $225 million average cost figure ($164 million for Atlas V 401 to ~$400 million for Delta IV Heavy).  That's pretty close to what I calculated from the AF document below.

Quote
A small part of that is overhead on the AF side.

Correct.  This budget document includes the costs for the Air Force itself and other contractors (such as the Aerospace Corp.).  Subtracting those other costs out, "only" about $1.035 billion will go to ULA for four FY16 launches, $1.190 billion for five FY17 launches, and $1.136 billion for three FY18 launches.

Looking at the manifest, I believe FY16 funds 2 Atlases, 1 Delta Medium, and 1 Delta Heavy; FY17 funds 4 Atlases and 1 Delta Heavy; and FY18 funds 1 Atlas and 2 Delta Heavies.

If my hunch is correct, a little algebra yields the total ULA cost (launch contract plus ELC) of an Atlas V to be $178 million, a Delta IV Medium to be $201 million, and a Delta IV Heavy to be $479 million.

That's pretty close to Tory's infographic.

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(If you look at the LCC costs in the document make sure to read the explanatory text saying this is only the Air Force's 75% of the actual amount.)

Correct, but the number of launches doesn't include NRO launches either.

Quote
The number of launches they list also seems kinda low, even though it doesn't include NRO launches.

It doesn't include NASA launches or commercial launches with a military flavor (e.g. Worldview) either.  And don't forget that by this time the WGS, MUOS, AEHF, and SBIRS constellations should all be deployed.

Offline c3infinity

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Re: EELV Costs from Air Force FY2018 Budget
« Reply #19 on: 06/17/2017 06:12 AM »
1. Sure, but I dont see any indication that SX wouldnt be able to provide required guidance accuracy - do you have any data to indicate otherwise?
2. We dont, since there are quite a few variables, but that doesnt mean SX isnt able to provide such service. Details + cost are something for SX and USAF to negotiate.
3. Which AFAIK hasnt been a problem for past SX missions, so I dont see why it would be an issue with USAF payload.

3. The end destination doesn't matter as much as the required launch vehicle trajectory to place the spacecraft at its desired separation point.

Is there some magic pixie dust that only ULA has that allows them to do this? I know that is an exaggeration, but it really does seem that some believe that only ULA will ever be capable of certain things...

My point here is that capability costs money. There's no magic pixie dust, but engineering and analysis takes time and money.

Part of the reason for ULA costs are the types of missions that they fly (and the capabilities they are required to maintain to do so). Spacecraft with unique requirements and trajectory considerations require a large amount of effort to ensure everything is done right. Then there's the independent verification of ULA's work by organizations like Aerospace Corp. The time ULA engineers spend interfacing, providing data, etc, isn't free.

We've seen this effect already on SpaceX prices. GPS launches, for example, are significantly more than the advertised no-frills F9 price. And GPS is one of the more risk-tolerant programs in terms of launch. Now try to imagine what would be required to launch top of the line Delta IV Heavy class payloads. You'll start to understand why ULA costs are what they are.

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