Author Topic: USAF RFP for new EELV Launch Service Agreements (2017-10-05)  (Read 20596 times)

Offline gongora

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New Glenn would also need a launch site for the polar orbit missions. Are there plans for a west coast launch site for New Glenn? Even Orbital has plans to take over Vandenberg SLC-2 (after the last 2018 Delta II mission) for NGL.

May the initial plan be launching from the cape at the highest azimuth to the north and then performing a (quite expensive) orbit inclination change with the third stage?

Vandenberg flights aren't required until a few years into the contract.  Whoever wins will have time to set up a site.

Offline Mike Jones

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So how many bids can we expect on November 20th?
I hope  that every established players and new entrants submit their own bids as Prime contractor to maximize competition:
- ULA with Vulcan centaur (with BE-4 a priori) and then Vulcan ACES (which upper stage engine supplier?)
- SpaceX with Falcon Heavy and then BFR
- Orbital ATK (soon Northrop Grumman) with NGL 500 and then NGL500XL. Who will be their upper stage engine supplier ?
- Blue Origin with new Glenn (2-stage version) and then New Glenn (3-stage)
- Aerojet Rocketdyne with an "Atlas VI" based on AR-1 & RL-10 provided that they should not be part of ULA tea for Vulcan.  But who will be their partner for structures and integration ?

Any ideas ?

Online vaporcobra

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So how many bids can we expect on November 20th?
I hope  that every established players and new entrants submit their own bids as Prime contractor to maximize competition:
- ULA with Vulcan centaur (with BE-4 a priori) and then Vulcan ACES (which upper stage engine supplier?)
- SpaceX with Falcon Heavy and then BFR
- Orbital ATK (soon Northrop Grumman) with NGL 500 and then NGL500XL. Who will be their upper stage engine supplier ?
- Blue Origin with new Glenn (2-stage version) and then New Glenn (3-stage)
- Aerojet Rocketdyne with an "Atlas VI" based on AR-1 & RL-10 provided that they should not be part of ULA tea for Vulcan.  But who will be their partner for structures and integration ?

Any ideas ?

That's a good summary of the field. I think payload requirements in the RFP will push out OATK's NGL 500 and generally point towards SHLV. I would expect Vulcan, BFR/FH, and New Glenn to all receive funds for prototype dev.

I also fully expect the AF to lean towards vehicles that will use propulsion systems they have already partially funded.

Offline gongora

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A company can submit up to two proposals, but only one family of vehicles can get chosen according to the documents.  That would mean SpaceX could get funding for either Falcon or BFR family, not both.  I assume the Air Force would lean towards the one that actually exists already.

Online vaporcobra

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A company can submit up to two proposals, but only one family of vehicles can get chosen according to the documents.  That would mean SpaceX could get funding for either Falcon or BFR family, not both.  I assume the Air Force would lean towards the one that actually exists already.

A fair assumption, no doubt.

I'm torn; BFR could be a boon to all  forms of space access, including military space needs. The AF Space Command is downright enamored with reusable rockets at the moment, and SpaceX will almost certainly submit proposals for both the Falcon family and BFR. FH is definitely the obvious choice given its maturity, but it doesn't look like FH can accomplish all the example missions while recovering all three cores.

I'm sure SpaceX is still somewhat open to expendable missions if there is no alternative, but not 100% sure when we're talking about the '20s. I'd love to see some official numbers on payloads with an expendable center core, but there's also the reality that SpaceX would likely rather recover center cores over side cores.

Online woods170

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Some interestings tidbits from the RFP:

Quote
3.1.2 Section II: Factor 1 EELV Approach
The Offeror shall describe its approach to develop and qualify a launch system that meets EELV
launch service requirements. The SPRD and SIS are listed in Annex C, Attachment 4. At a minimum,
the Offeror shall address the following topics:
1. The ability to meet all EELV reference orbits defined in Table 10 at the orbital insertion
accuracy required in SPRD 3.2.4
<snip>

I can see where that "all EELV reference orbits" came from. It is a requirement to prevent any further "cherry-picking" of NSS missions, such as SpaceX has been doing ever since Falcon 9 became certified for NSS missions.
« Last Edit: 10/24/2017 06:22 AM by woods170 »

Offline Jim

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The AF Space Command is downright enamored with reusable rockets at the moment,


not really

Offline DreamyPickle

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The requirement to also launch "Category C" payloads is potentially very troublesome, but it does make sense. If you're going to fund multiple systems for "assured access to space" you also want to do this for the most expensive missions. It does allow an "incremental approach" of supporting category A/B years before category C so it's not clear it would completely exclude the F9 if applied retroactively because SpaceX has always claimed the Heavy is launching really soon.

This requirement also explains why the Orbital-ATK NGL claims to support direct GEO insertion, they would otherwise be disqualified.

While the Falcon Heavy can already fill all the top requirements it would make sense for SpaceX to propose the BFR and get government funding for it. It almost feels like cheating but seems like it would be allowed.
* They already received money for Raptor so they have a "foot in the door".
* The requirement for direct GEO insertion would probably be met through fuel transfer, developed on DoD money.
* Flights under this agreement begin in 2022 so this actually meshes quite nicely with Elon's statement that the Falcon will be retired.

There is also a recent SpaceNews article with some interesting quotes from the Air Force. It seems that the infamous "Section 1615" could completely block this program in favor of just funding the Aerojet AR1 to replace RD-180. Is this interpretation accurate?
« Last Edit: 11/03/2017 10:54 PM by DreamyPickle »

Offline gongora

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If I'm reading the conference report correctly this RFP just died. (Can't copy/paste well on phone, will post the text later tonight if someone else doesn't get to it first.)

Offline Mike Jones

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Really ? can the US Air Force withdraw this RFP so late in the bidding process ? Deadline is in 10 days ...

Offline gongora

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Conference Committee Text can be found here

The bill does require a report to be submitted to Congress on the best (most cost effective) way to move forward over the next 5 years, 10 years, and life of the program, so something like this process could possibly still occur after consultations with Congress.

Online vaporcobra

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If I'm reading the conference report correctly this RFP just died. (Can't copy/paste well on phone, will post the text later tonight if someone else doesn't get to it first.)

Looks like it, sadly.

Quote
The amendment would terminate the authority to
develop a domestic rocket propulsion system and to develop the
necessary interfaces of a domestic rocket propulsion system once
the Secretary of the Air Force certifies to the congressional
defense committees that a successful full-scale test of a
domestic rocket engine has occurred.

Not completely clear, but this seems to indicate that Blue's successful test firing would mean that the AF can no longer be involved in RPS development after it's verified. Anyway draw a different conclusion?

Offline rockets4life97

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Is this another way of saying that Congress doesn't want to pay for engine/rocket development for a new EELV when the commercial market has already produced a new option?

Offline AncientU

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...

FWIW, two-stage New Glenn looks capable of handling any of these missions, Medium or Heavy, but that assumes a long-coast to third restart capability is available.

 - Ed Kyle

Difficulty would be retiring the development risk and being ready in time -- promising five flights in each of 2020 and 2021 might be a hard sell before a competitor has a qualified engine or ever conducted an orbital launch.  Both Blue and AJR suffer this situation.  Recall that another competitor, with both an engine and a bit of orbital launch experience, was shut out of previous launches. 
« Last Edit: 11/10/2017 01:46 PM by AncientU »
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Offline gosnold

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Quote
The amendment would terminate the authority to
develop a domestic rocket propulsion system and to develop the
necessary interfaces of a domestic rocket propulsion system once
the Secretary of the Air Force certifies to the congressional
defense committees that a successful full-scale test of a
domestic rocket engine has occurred.

This seems to be only about the engine, the RFP is for a launch system so should still stand. Also since Merlin is domestic, wouldn't that terminate the authority right now?

Offline gongora

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Quote
The amendment would terminate the authority to
develop a domestic rocket propulsion system and to develop the
necessary interfaces of a domestic rocket propulsion system once
the Secretary of the Air Force certifies to the congressional
defense committees that a successful full-scale test of a
domestic rocket engine has occurred.

This seems to be only about the engine, the RFP is for a launch system so should still stand. Also since Merlin is domestic, wouldn't that terminate the authority right now?

The legislation doesn't provide funding for the program described in the RFP.  It explicitly says that spending money on the program described in the RFP is not allowed in FY18.  The engine they're talking about is the RD-180 replacement.  Merlin is not the RD-180 replacement.

Offline AncientU

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Quote
The amendment would terminate the authority to
develop a domestic rocket propulsion system and to develop the
necessary interfaces of a domestic rocket propulsion system once
the Secretary of the Air Force certifies to the congressional
defense committees that a successful full-scale test of a
domestic rocket engine has occurred.

This seems to be only about the engine, the RFP is for a launch system so should still stand. Also since Merlin is domestic, wouldn't that terminate the authority right now?

The legislation doesn't provide funding for the program described in the RFP.  It explicitly says that spending money on the program described in the RFP is not allowed in FY18.  The engine they're talking about is the RD-180 replacement.  Merlin is not the RD-180 replacement.

This entire discussion -- attempting to parse Congressional language -- could easily be solved if Congress just said, "Send* this bag of money to Aerojet and ULA."  End of discussion; problem solved.

*But that would be illegal...
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Offline FinalFrontier

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If I read this correctly, no more money for BE4 development?

Doesn't seem like that would be a problem however, because BE4 is pretty far along anyway. As far as it applies to the Vulcan LV I supposed BO and ULA would have to work out who pays for development costs. But I don't think it would kill the engine.

What does this do to the AJ proposal for vulcan though? Does it make it more or less likely?
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Offline gongora

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If I read this correctly, no more money for BE4 development?

Doesn't seem like that would be a problem however, because BE4 is pretty far along anyway. As far as it applies to the Vulcan LV I supposed BO and ULA would have to work out who pays for development costs. But I don't think it would kill the engine.

What does this do to the AJ proposal for vulcan though? Does it make it more or less likely?

So the way I'm reading this, Congress is authorizing money for U.S. industry to develop a replacement for RD-180.  Multiple efforts can be funded until one is finished, but once one of them passes a full scale (and I assume that means full power/full duration of a flight-like engine/motor) test the Air Force will not be able to obligate additional funding to the other competitors.  It will probably be a little while before someone (most likely Blue Origin) does the full scale test, and a while after that before the Secretary of the Air Force certifies to Congress that the test has been completed, so this isn't really instant death for the AJR and O/ATK first stage propulsion programs.

The bill authorizes spending on the interface of the engine to a first stage (and does not say it has to be an existing first stage), so that would cover a lot of plumbing and thrust structure work at the back end of a rocket.  It doesn't allow Air Force spending for the rest of the rocket (tanks, upper stage, avionics, etc.) except...

It still allows the Air Force to spend money to
Quote
"(C) develop capabilities necessary to enable existing or planned commercially available spacelaunch vehicles or infrastructure that are primarily for national security space missions to meet the assured access to space requirements pursuant to section 2273 of title 10, United States Code."
(stuff like long coast, vertical integration, launch pads at both CC and Vandenberg, large fairings, etc.)

Offline gosnold

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It still allows the Air Force to spend money to
Quote
"(C) develop capabilities necessary to enable existing or planned commercially available spacelaunch vehicles or infrastructure that are primarily for national security space missions to meet the assured access to space requirements pursuant to section 2273 of title 10, United States Code."
(stuff like long coast, vertical integration, launch pads at both CC and Vandenberg, large fairings, etc.)

That seems to preclude funding any rocket except ULA's, because they are not primarily for NSS. Vandenberg pads and vertical integration facilities would still be in scope though.

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