Author Topic: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle (as announced/built) - General Discussion Thread 3  (Read 84988 times)

Offline brickmack

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50% reduction still yields doubled engine costs on Centaur V assuming 4 engines vs. one on Classic Centaur.
75% reduction yields same engine cost; 87.5% reduction yields half cost which is the goal.
50% is what I'm assuming they can achieve... at best; this probably requires volume production.

The B330 lunar mission announcement specified (despite the video showing otherwise, but thats probably artistic error) a Vulcan 562 (Centaur V) for deployment to LEO. B330 is known to be over 20 tons (launch mass. Will increase after orbital outfitting), making it probably the heaviest payload Vulcan will ever actually fly (other than tanker missions). On Atlas V, that mission would need DEC as well, so the cost savings are the same. Plus, even if they can only break even on the engines, Centaur V has other cost reductions (cheaper tank manufacturing, aft-mounted avionics), even more for ACES (IVF).

Online AncientU

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...Centaur V has other cost reductions (cheaper tank manufacturing, aft-mounted avionics), even more for ACES (IVF).

The baseline that has to beaten (by reduction of 50%) is the Classic Centaur.
1. 3.08m vs 5.4m
2. 1 RL-10 to 3-4 RL-10s
3. 20t payload vs. payload up to 30t plus dynamic loads of fairing on ascent
4. Additional helium volume/tankage to pressurize 3-4x volume

So, lots more requirements on Centaur V ... maybe 'cheaper tank manufacturing' could cut cost of Classic in half, but they're no longer building Classic.  The requirements have been increased dramatically (doubled?).   Are they going to get all these cost reductions from 'aft-mounted avionics'?

I'm not seeing where they reduce vehicle cost by 50% as advertised.
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Offline john smith 19

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The baseline that has to beaten (by reduction of 50%) is the Classic Centaur.
1. 3.08m vs 5.4m
2. 1 RL-10 to 3-4 RL-10s
3. 20t payload vs. payload up to 30t plus dynamic loads of fairing on ascent
4. Additional helium volume/tankage to pressurize 3-4x volume

So, lots more requirements on Centaur V ... maybe 'cheaper tank manufacturing' could cut cost of Classic in half, but they're no longer building Classic.  The requirements have been increased dramatically (doubled?).   Are they going to get all these cost reductions from 'aft-mounted avionics'?

I'm not seeing where they reduce vehicle cost by 50% as advertised.
Well it depends how the costing works out between the engines and the structures and of course how much AJR have really managed to cut the price of their RL-10s.

It's been know for decades that certainly some of their mfg methods were very labor and time intensive.

I'm betting there is a lot that could have been done, but stability was always viewed as more important and no one was prepared to pay for doing the work (heaven forbid AJR actually reinvest some of their profits to this, like a normal mfg business would).

An interesting question would be if Centaur 5 is so much bigger than previous Centaurs is a baseline engine a bit bigger than an RL10 the way to go?
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Offline deruch

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I'm not seeing where they reduce vehicle cost by 50% as advertised.

Maybe that's just accountant speak and not about actual dollars spent to buy/build an upper stage?
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Offline Patchouli

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AJR have been doing lot work to modernise RL10 and reduce its build cost. They need to past those savings onto ULA if what a decent production rate of 20-40, otherwise it is only 4 a year for SLS.
There is a lot ARJ could do to make it cheaper and easier to manufacture.
As it is the RL-10 is pretty hard to beat as far as ISP and reliability go.
I wonder what impact getting rid of the hand assembled tube wall construction for channel wall would have on it or can assembly of the old design be automated in some way?
« Last Edit: 12/11/2017 12:06 AM by Patchouli »

Offline TrevorMonty



AJR have been doing lot work to modernise RL10 and reduce its build cost. They need to past those savings onto ULA if what a decent production rate of 20-40, otherwise it is only 4 a year for SLS.
There is a lot ARJ could do to make it cheaper and easier to manufacture.
As it is the RL-10 is pretty hard to beat as far as ISP and reliability go.
I wonder what impact getting rid of the hand assembled tube wall construction for channel wall would have on it or can assembly of the old design be automated in some way?

They have successful tested fired a 3D printed version that eliminates hand assembled tube wall construction.

Offline Chasm

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Previously someone dug up that some jet engines of the same era used similar tubular construction and that it got automated before it was superseded in later designs.

Today 3d printing is the way to go. Only question seems to be how much additional work outside the printer like plating is acceptable.

As far as the high but elusive RL10 price goes I wonder how much of the cost is compound interest on the lot buy engines and what is added by the ongoing support and update/modification work. Also how many totally new RL10 engines get build instead of modified from existing engines or parts.

Offline john smith 19

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There is a lot ARJ could do to make it cheaper and easier to manufacture.
As it is the RL-10 is pretty hard to beat as far as ISP and reliability go.
Actually that's doubtful, given that AFAIK the pump design parameters haven't had any major changes since it was designed for the "Suntan" M3 surveillance aircraft in the mid 50's.  Design techniques and propellant properties knowledge have advanced considerably since then.
Quote from: Patchouli
I wonder what impact getting rid of the hand assembled tube wall construction for channel wall would have on it or can assembly of the old design be automated in some way?
It wasn't just the hand assembly.

They were also "flattened" by hand so the tubes would have flattish surfaces to press against each other.


They have successful tested fired a 3D printed version that eliminates hand assembled tube wall construction.
I'm weary of 3d printing as a panacea for everything, especially where supercritical H2 is concerned.

That said if the metal quality is good enough that would eliminate a lot of work. I know NASA has done work on LO2/LH2 3d printed engines that have radically cut part counts. Every welded joint that's eliminated also eliminates all the weld testing processes that go with it.

Likewise merging the piping with say a valve body (done on the NASA project) reduces all the assembly and jigging needed to position those parts and join them.

My instinct is also that there is a lot that could be done to simplify and improve the design. I liked the fact the nozzle was on a motor powered extension, but making the interstage longer eliminates this hardware and the critical events (nozzle extension and locking) it was responsible for.

While the basics haven't changed seal and valve technology (and the tools to make those parts) have advanced radically since the 1960's, as have the tools to plan assembly tasks.

 So lots of improvement seems possible. It's a question of how much it will cost and what price AJR want to charge.
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Offline Chasm

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Some news on Centaur V, PDR complete. [via Tory on reddit]

That should answer the question if the Vulcan CDR was for both or not. :)

Offline john smith 19

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Some news on Centaur V, PDR complete. [via Tory on reddit]

That should answer the question if the Vulcan CDR was for both or not. :)
that does suggest the booster CDR  either covered both options or they have already made their decision.

I'm not sure if it was known for sure if they had split the process into 2 tracks, one for the booster and one for the US. Clearly they have.
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Offline PahTo

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Concur on the two tracks, but clearly one informs the other.  That is, going to 5.4m diameter didn't happen in a vacuum for one or the other.

Online AncientU

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Reposted:
Surprising news!

OrbitalATK is considering the AerojetRocketdyne RL10 or ArianeGroup Vinci rocket engine for its Next Generation Launcher upper stage after rejecting Blueorigin's BE-3U. Decision expected in Q1 2018.

http://aviationweek.com/awinspace/orbital-atk-pick-upper-stage-engine-ngl

Wonder what Orbital saw in Blue's engine that they didn't like?  Does this reduce Blue's chances on Vulcan, too?
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Online AncientU

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Reposted:
Surprising news!

OrbitalATK is considering the AerojetRocketdyne RL10 or ArianeGroup Vinci rocket engine for its Next Generation Launcher upper stage after rejecting Blueorigin's BE-3U. Decision expected in Q1 2018.

http://aviationweek.com/awinspace/orbital-atk-pick-upper-stage-engine-ngl

Wonder what Orbital saw in Blue's engine that they didn't like?  Does this reduce Blue's chances on Vulcan, too?
Perhaps ... timing?

Qualifying a US engine might be a "long pole" ... what if it's too far "downstream" for BO ... remember they only need BE-3U for a third stage vehicle. They might want others to foot the bill/take the risk, ahead of that. Unacceptable for NSS use.

That also might cause ULA grief as well ... so they postpone the down-select perhaps?

Vinci will/must be qualified for NSS use. RL10 already is.

Could it be that ULA has an exclusive on BE-4 and 3U?  CDR completion might have triggered such an agreement if Blue's engines were chosen.
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Offline TrevorMonty

I just realised we've been discussing the NGLV engine choice on wrong thread. Best place any future comments in OA NGLV thread.

edit/gongora:  Moved some of the non-ULA related posts to the NGL thread.
« Last Edit: 12/14/2017 08:18 PM by gongora »

Offline brickmack

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(It would not surprise me if Centaur 3 is used on Vulcan/Atlas for near term payloads as before. And that Centaur V will phase in with 2/4/1 engine configurations, with a "lower cost configuration" not involving an RL10 longer term - possibly a shorter variant?)

Tory Bruno said he expected the change to Centaur V to delay the deployment of Vulcan by a couple months. Sounds like they aren't planning to use Centaur III on it ever (which probably helps keep costs down, fewer extra components need to be kept in production). And theres been no indication of an intermediate stage between Centaur V and ACES (which is what a Centaur V with resized tanks and/or a new engine would be)

Offline john smith 19

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The baseline that has to beaten (by reduction of 50%) is the Classic Centaur.
1. 3.08m vs 5.4m
2. 1 RL-10 to 3-4 RL-10s
3. 20t payload vs. payload up to 30t plus dynamic loads of fairing on ascent
4. Additional helium volume/tankage to pressurize 3-4x volume

So, lots more requirements on Centaur V ... maybe 'cheaper tank manufacturing' could cut cost of Classic in half, but they're no longer building Classic.  The requirements have been increased dramatically (doubled?).   Are they going to get all these cost reductions from 'aft-mounted avionics'?

I'm not seeing where they reduce vehicle cost by 50% as advertised.
If they are going to cover the full spectrum of launch profiles, right up to Delta IV Heavy, from the off then going IVF from the start seems a pretty good move.

ULA have said going IVF on Centaur would increase their payload capability by 500Kg but I'd bet it does quite a lot for their costs as well.

Right now stage building involves a lot of people attaching a lot of separate bits to the stage. Tanks, thrusters, plumbing, valving, batteries.  IVF dumps most (all?) the tanks (both HP and Hypergol), a lot of plumbing and a lot of valving for 2 packages built off line and just bolted to the stage.

That means a)Fewer bought in parts b)Simpler assembly and testing c)Simpler fitting d)No hypergol handling costs

If one Full Time Equivalent member of the workforce costs $1/8milllion how many can be eliminated throughout the organization?

That's before considering a replacement to the RL10.
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Offline envy887

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(It would not surprise me if Centaur 3 is used on Vulcan/Atlas for near term payloads as before. And that Centaur V will phase in with 2/4/1 engine configurations, with a "lower cost configuration" not involving an RL10 longer term - possibly a shorter variant?)

Tory Bruno said he expected the change to Centaur V to delay the deployment of Vulcan by a couple months. Sounds like they aren't planning to use Centaur III on it ever (which probably helps keep costs down, fewer extra components need to be kept in production). And theres been no indication of an intermediate stage between Centaur V and ACES (which is what a Centaur V with resized tanks and/or a new engine would be)

I don't see how the 5 can be cheaper than the 3. We know the majority of the Centaur cost is the RL-10, and the Centaur 5 will need 1 to 3 more RL-10s than Centaur 3. Even if RL-10 cost is halved, that would simple make the Centaur 3 that much cheaper.

They have to keep the Centaur 3 around until Atlas V is retired anyway, right?

Offline john smith 19

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I don't see how the 5 can be cheaper than the 3. We know the majority of the Centaur cost is the RL-10, and the Centaur 5 will need 1 to 3 more RL-10s than Centaur 3. Even if RL-10 cost is halved, that would simple make the Centaur 3 that much cheaper.
Wellllll...
They could double the thrust of a single RL-10 maybe.

Otherwise the only way this works is that people have seriously seriously underestimated AJR's capacity to lower the RL10 price

But that only works if they can actually make RL10's cheaply enough to the kind of profit AJR are used to making on RL10's at the current price.

Quote from: envy887
They have to keep the Centaur 3 around until Atlas V is retired anyway, right?
ULA don't seem to have a problem with putting rockets in long term storage awaiting customers.

I can't remember the last time Delta II launches were in anyway common, but someone wanted to use their last one and they did it.
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Offline envy887

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I don't see how the 5 can be cheaper than the 3. We know the majority of the Centaur cost is the RL-10, and the Centaur 5 will need 1 to 3 more RL-10s than Centaur 3. Even if RL-10 cost is halved, that would simple make the Centaur 3 that much cheaper.
Wellllll...
They could double the thrust of a single RL-10 maybe.

Otherwise the only way this works is that people have seriously seriously underestimated AJR's capacity to lower the RL10 price

But that only works if they can actually make RL10's cheaply enough to the kind of profit AJR are used to making on RL10's at the current price.

Quote from: envy887
They have to keep the Centaur 3 around until Atlas V is retired anyway, right?
ULA don't seem to have a problem with putting rockets in long term storage awaiting customers.

I can't remember the last time Delta II launches were in anyway common, but someone wanted to use their last one and they did it.

But lowering the cost of RL-10 also lowers the cost of Centaur 3. AJR would have to pay ULA to fly RL-10 before Centaur 5 could be cheaper than Centaur 3.

That of course ignores the costs of operating two production lines, but if they need to keep building the 3 for Atlas, that cost is sunk anyway. Unless they can build enough 3's to fly out Atlas before Vulcan flies... but what if they switch everything over and then Vulcan takes 3 years longer to certify than expected? Lot of risk there.

Offline TrevorMonty

We know AJR have been doing lot of work on reducing build cost of RL10. Those significant modifications will result in a new engine with all certification issues that go with it. I expect Centuar V will fly new cheaper RL10 but will also be new unproven engine with no flight history.

Going to new US and engines increases risk of LV failure in first few missions, but gets them to DOD certified LV sooner.

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