Author Topic: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - Business Case/Competition/Alternatives Discussion  (Read 18833 times)

Offline Sknowball

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What are the other options? Vinci and BE-3U?

I believe the BE-3U is the only other engine in the running based on statements by Tory Bruno given that XCOR has folded now.   The only proposal I have heard regarding Vinci on an American rocket is for ATK's NGL (if they are looking at allies outside the US anyway not sure why the LE-5B-2 didn't make the cut).

Offline russianhalo117

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What are the other options? Vinci and BE-3U?

I believe the BE-3U is the only other engine in the running based on statements by Tory Bruno given that XCOR has folded now.   The only proposal I have heard regarding Vinci on an American rocket is for ATK's NGL (if they are looking at allies outside the US anyway not sure why the LE-5B-2 didn't make the cut).
BE-3E (formerly BE-3U-EN) is the alternate BE-3 option being considered. LE-5B-2 is being replaced by LE-5B-3 for H-3 and LE-5B-2 will cease production in 2019 to prepare and modernize the production floor for LE-5B-3. If an export version for LE-5B-3 is made then that could be considered but the US is currently going through a Nationalist Made in America wave as of late.

Offline joek

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That's the exact opposite of my recollection. The USAF study from the mid 2000s (from Barry Hellman IIRC) was showing that boostback actually made a lot of sense. I'm pretty sure I reviewed it on Selenian Boondocks under my Orbital Access Methodologies thread.

http://selenianboondocks.com/2008/06/orbital-access-methodologies-part-v-boostback-tsto/

Thanks for jogging my memory Jon.  Below is a short list of related papers (attached for posterity); many others as can be seen in the papers' references.

AFAICT, while all use the term "boostback" (or "rocketback"), all of the notional designs assume a winged first stage and horizontal landing; the SpaceX version of boosback with vertical landing was not considered.

The last [3] presents the state of thinking as of 2010, at least as viewed through a more official or USAF lens (somewhere there is a more extensive companion document which I cannot locate at the moment).  Among the findings:
Quote
Given the uncertainties in the business case and the yet-to-be mitigated technology risks, it is premature for Air Force Space Command to program significant investments associated with the development of a RBS capability.
While the USAF funded some work on RBS, the program was cancelled in 2012.

Message to industry: USAF is not going to pay for or invest in it any time soon.  Not surprising given the state of the EELV program at that time with costs going through the roof.


[1] Comparison of Return to Launch Site Options for a Reusable Booster Stage, Barry Hellman, 2005

[2] Return to Launch Site Trajectory Options for a Reusable Booster without a Secondary Propulsion System, Dr. John Bradford and Barry Hellman, 2009

[3] Review and Assessment of Reusable Booster System for USAF Space Command, Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, National Academy of Sciences, 2010
« Last Edit: 01/02/2018 10:48 PM by joek »

Online woods170

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No, not NASA, Boeing. Boeing's customer is NASA, ULA's customer is Boeing. And Commercial Crew contracts would be considered "commercial" since they are not U.S. Government.
Where the money comes from is what matters.  The money is coming from the U.S. Government.

I disagree.
For example: from the point of view of SpaceX the launch of Zuma is a commercial launch, albeit an unusual one. Their customer is not the government agency that operates Zuma, but Northrop Grumman.

Commercial Crew is exactly the same. To ULA a launch of Starliner is purely a commercial launch. Their customer is Boeing, not NASA.

Same goes for launching Cygnus on Atlas V. To ULA those are pure commercial launches given that their customer is OrbitalATK, not NASA.

Where the money ultimately comes from is of no importance. The contracting entity is however.
« Last Edit: 01/03/2018 08:45 AM by woods170 »

Offline john smith 19

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Same goes for launching Cygnus on Atlas V. To ULA those are pure commercial launches given that their customer is OrbitalATK, not NASA.

Where the money ultimately comes from is of no importance. The contracting entity is however.
Indeed.

It's the legal form of the contract that sets the levels of paperwork, on site inspection etc that turn "commercial" business into the tidal wave of paper that is a "government" contract.  :(

That said some parts of the USG may agree that (as the ultimate funder) it does not matter, and they'd like to see ULA go out and bid more commercial work.

It's a bit OT but IIRC part of the rise in RL10 prices was (supposedly) triggered by the Shuttle programme shutting down and no longer sharing some of the costs of part of the RL10 support infrastructure despite (AFAIK) no RL10 ever have been used on Shuttle, apart from the studies for using RL10 machinery for the OMS task and the Shuttle compatible Centaur version, which never flew. 
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.
So you're going to Mars to seek a better life. What does that mean to you? Always spot a fanbois by how they react to their idols failures.

Offline john smith 19

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AFAICT, while all use the term "boostback" (or "rocketback"), all of the notional designs assume a winged first stage and horizontal landing; the SpaceX version of boosback with vertical landing was not considered.

The last [3] presents the state of thinking as of 2010, at least as viewed through a more official or USAF lens (somewhere there is a more extensive companion document which I cannot locate at the moment).  Among the findings:
Thanks for that.

Note that the Devils all in the details, specifically the implicit assumptions about what they are talking about.

Assumption. 1) Booster must return to launch site in order to give fast turnaround.
In fact if you have enough of them in the pipeline for a projected launch rate that's not needed.

Assumption 2) Booster will be so expensive you can't afford to have that sort of pipeline.
And given the prices the USAF is used to paying they might be right.

Assumption 3) Only an ORSC engine can  has enough performance to do this.
Since "this" is rocketback RTLS from Mach 5 (AFAIK the highest staging for F9 has been about M4.8) they may be right.

No one seems to have considered "How about we put a landing barge 200Km down range and land the booster on that?"

This is basically what happens when set so many pre conditions and constraints that you force a "shape" to the solution when the core requirement is "Build a system that allows us to launch 1 payload a day for X days."  :(

Still, nice to see an SEI report where the answer ends up being "Needs a SCramjet to make it work." :)
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.
So you're going to Mars to seek a better life. What does that mean to you? Always spot a fanbois by how they react to their idols failures.

Online woods170

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AFAICT, while all use the term "boostback" (or "rocketback"), all of the notional designs assume a winged first stage and horizontal landing; the SpaceX version of boosback with vertical landing was not considered.

The last [3] presents the state of thinking as of 2010, at least as viewed through a more official or USAF lens (somewhere there is a more extensive companion document which I cannot locate at the moment).  Among the findings:
Thanks for that.

Note that the Devils all in the details, specifically the implicit assumptions about what they are talking about.

Assumption. 1) Booster must return to launch site in order to give fast turnaround.
In fact if you have enough of them in the pipeline for a projected launch rate that's not needed.

Assumption 2) Booster will be so expensive you can't afford to have that sort of pipeline.
And given the prices the USAF is used to paying they might be right.

Assumption 3) Only an ORSC engine can  has enough performance to do this.
Since "this" is rocketback RTLS from Mach 5 (AFAIK the highest staging for F9 has been about M4. 8) they may be right.

No one seems to have considered "How about we put a landing barge 200Km down range and land the booster on that?"

This is basically what happens when set so many pre conditions and constraints that you force a "shape" to the solution when the core requirement is "Build a system that allows us to launch 1 payload a day for X days."  :(

Still, nice to see an SEI report where the answer ends up being "Needs a SCramjet to make it work." :)

Emphasis mine.

In 1998 a Japanese inventor (Yoshiyuki Ishijima) had his idea (landing a rocket on an ocean-going platform) published by the AIAA. Blue Origin later took that idea and patented it, only to have that patent over-thrown a year later.

Why is it that the referenced reports from 2005 - 2010 completely overlooked an idea that had been published nearly a decade earlier?

The answer is: lack of imagination.
« Last Edit: 01/03/2018 09:04 AM by woods170 »

Offline edkyle99

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Where the money ultimately comes from is of no importance. The contracting entity is however.
We really are going to disagree on this one.  Zuma is clearly a government funded enterprise, no matter that the money passes hands through a contractor or contractors.  Same with commercial crew and commercial cargo and all of the ULA launch contracts for DoD and NASA.  I suspect that by your definition all U.S. launches qualify as "commercial" at this time.  But if the government didn't fund these endeavors, they would not happen.   

Echostar 19?  Commercial.  CRS-13?  Civil Government.  Zuma?  Government (Unknown Agency).  NROL 52?  Government (NRO).  Etc.

Vulcan is going to live on government money, as do most launch vehicles (including, you know...).

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 01/03/2018 02:08 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline john smith 19

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In 1998 a Japanese inventor (Yoshiyuki Ishijima) had his idea (landing a rocket on an ocean-going platform) published by the AIAA. Blue Origin later took that idea and patented it, only to have that patent over-thrown a year later.

Why is it that the referenced reports from 2005 - 2010 completely overlooked an idea that had been published nearly a decade earlier?

The answer is: lack of imagination.
Amongst other things.  A major one being the basic "Did he get it adopted by a major US aerospace corporation? Because if we did not invent it and it has not been adopted for use by a US corp it (clearly) cannot be very good."

Drill down deep enough and a guarantee that will be a line of thinking running through some peoples heads.  :(

"Not Invented Here" is alive and well in US aerospace thinking.

It's equally spurious and pernicious sibling "We invented it so it must be brilliant," has resulted in the continuing support for SCramjet projects, despite 7 decades, more than $4Bn spent without the fielding of a  a single operational system.  Not even a missile, pretty much the minimal flight vehicle you can build that would be useful

Interestingly the US has been fielding M4 target drones (some still in service, some with mfg runs in the 1000s) since the early 1960's, without any major R&D programme and without any major issues.
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.
So you're going to Mars to seek a better life. What does that mean to you? Always spot a fanbois by how they react to their idols failures.

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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This comes up a lot on this board. People view "revenue recognition" as same/different direct/indirect.

Extremely poor use of words/definition. Only used to attempt to "fake" up an argument as an attempt to muddy the waters.

Most economic activity goes through governments in some form. Thus given the above rubric, nothing is purely "commercial".

(Even comsats carry considerable govt traffic, receive more than 25% funds off them.)

So when govt "privatizes" NSS, that to Ed is still "govt". That's utter BS.

(I'd suggest that mods keep to the simple definition of "who's directly paying for it, footing the bill" to the provider. And resolve these things that way, not letting this "false" rhetorical trick enter this site ever. It would reduce the workload.)

add:
And then complaints about "govt" doing too much through private become policy discussions, relegated to that particular part of the board ONLY.

See, isn't that easy to do?

Reminds of:
« Last Edit: 01/03/2018 04:51 PM by Space Ghost 1962 »

Online woods170

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Where the money ultimately comes from is of no importance. The contracting entity is however.
We really are going to disagree on this one.  Zuma is clearly a government funded enterprise, no matter that the money passes hands through a contractor or contractors.  Same with commercial crew and commercial cargo and all of the ULA launch contracts for DoD and NASA.  I suspect that by your definition all U.S. launches qualify as "commercial" at this time.  But if the government didn't fund these endeavors, they would not happen.   
Nope. Most, if not all, of the regular USAF launches are contracted to ULA directly by USAF. Not via a launch services broker.
Same goes for most NASA missions (other than CCP and CRS). NASA directly contracts ULA to launch their birds.
From the perspective of ULA none of those missions are commercial but pure government contracts.

Zuma: some unnamed government agency lays down a set of requirments for Zuma, including that the contractor finds a way to get it into orbit.
That is different from USAF (also a branch of the government) contracting LockMart to build a GPS III satellite and contracting SpaceX to launch it. Mind you, USAF contracted SpaceX for the launch directly. Not via the spacecraft contractor or a broker.

There is the difference. In the case of Zuma the government agency has no say (no input if you will) on what LSP will launch its spacecraft. The government outsourced it so that it can be handled as a purely commercial thing.
In the case of GPS III however the government agency itself decides what LSP will launch its spacecraft. No outsourcing but direct old-school government contracting.

Offline LouScheffer

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Boeing's customer is NASA, ULA's customer is Boeing. And Commercial Crew contracts would be considered "commercial" since they are not U.S. Government.
Where the money comes from is what matters.  The money is coming from the U.S. Government.
I disagree.
For example: from the point of view of SpaceX the launch of Zuma is a commercial launch, albeit an unusual one. Their customer is not the government agency that operates Zuma, but Northrop Grumman.  [Likewise Commercial Crew and Cygnus]

Where the money ultimately comes from is of no importance. The contracting entity is however.
Historians looking back at Government Support of the Semiconductor Industry: Diverse Approaches and Information Flows agree more with Ed here
Quote
The consensus among industry analysts seems to be that the government, through its direct and indirect procurement policies, provided an early and price-insensitive market that promoted movement along the learning curve and allowed the industry to decrease prices as it learned how to make its product.
This seems exactly what the process for Vulcan is hoped to be.  The government, directly and indirectly, provides for a large fraction of initial business.  Then after development, and the initial learning curve, the product can compete in the purely commercial market.  This is not unique to Vulcan -  SpaceX benefited in exactly the same way, by serving the government market to gain an initial foothold.

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Where the money ultimately comes from is of no importance. The contracting entity is however.
Historians looking back at Government Support of the Semiconductor Industry: Diverse Approaches and Information Flows agree more with Ed here
Quote
The consensus among industry analysts seems to be that the government, through its direct and indirect procurement policies, provided an early and price-insensitive market that promoted movement along the learning curve and allowed the industry to decrease prices as it learned how to make its product.
This seems exactly what the process for Vulcan is hoped to be.  The government, directly and indirectly, provides for a large fraction of initial business.  Then after development, and the initial learning curve, the product can compete in the purely commercial market.  This is not unique to Vulcan -  SpaceX benefited in exactly the same way, by serving the government market to gain an initial foothold.
This is space policy and belongs in that thread.

Has nothing to do with the business discussion AT ALL.

Put it there and nowhere else. Then we'll finally see some bounds to this nonsense that CONSTANTLY DERAILS HUNDREDS OF THREADS.

It's a kind of "bleed over", because people really want to commingle policy and ... everything else. An "easy out".

add:

All that matters outside of policy is as woods170 says, the contract.
« Last Edit: 01/03/2018 07:11 PM by Space Ghost 1962 »

Offline IntoTheVoid

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Historians looking back at Government Support of the Semiconductor Industry: Diverse Approaches and Information Flows agree more with Ed here
Quote
The consensus among industry analysts seems to be that the government, through its direct and indirect procurement policies, provided an early and price-insensitive market that promoted movement along the learning curve and allowed the industry to decrease prices as it learned how to make its product.
This seems exactly what the process for Vulcan is hoped to be.  The government, directly and indirectly, provides for a large fraction of initial business.  Then after development, and the initial learning curve, the product can compete in the purely commercial market.  This is not unique to Vulcan -  SpaceX benefited in exactly the same way, by serving the government market to gain an initial foothold.

You seem to have avoided bolding the portion that invalidates your argument. ULA did indeed recently have a "price-insensitive market" of US gov't launch and they did not utilize it to "decrease their prices" and "compete in the purely commercial market". Also, SpaceX was not granted a "price-insensitive market" or any market, they went out and competed and won their market. These are very different situations. Similarly, however, there is no reason to think that Vulcan will have this "price-insensitive market" either. Tory Bruno's comments quoted, in other posts, above about needing to be commercially competitive for Vulcan to be viable show that he understands this, so I doubt this is their business plan for Vulcan as you state.

Offline WindnWar

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I'm curious if anyone has seen a price target for a modernized RL-10C, IIRC currently they are some $16-17 million each. If that holds and Centaur 5 needs two of them your looking at $45ish million for your first and second stage propulsion with no SRB's. Can they realistically build the rest of the rocket for another $45 million? The cost for propulsion alone makes it hard to compete with Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy as there is a high likelihood that Falcon Heavy spends less on its 28 engines than Vulcan will spend on its 4 engines. Reuse makes things worse for Vulcan.

I think that alone makes the business case for Vulcan very difficult unless they can substantially reduce the cost of the second stage propulsion and they really don't have much in the way of options. Things get much worse if they had to use AR-1.

Offline joek

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Why is it that the referenced reports from 2005 - 2010 completely overlooked an idea that had been published nearly a decade earlier?

Note the title of the first two papers both include the words "Return to Launch Site".  The papers did note some prior work which did not involve RTLS in their review, some of which involved down-range recovery (although not specifically the one you mention).   But RTLS was the specific focus of these papers.

Nor is it an exhaustive list of papers.  It simply shows the trajectory of how something which might have been simple (or simpler) became complex and the received wisdom in the USG community circa 2010.

As John Simth 19 articulated... it went from: here's how you might do RTLS and why you might want to do it; to RTLS is a requirement; which then implies requirements X, Y and Z; etc., etc.

In short, I would not criticize the lack of scope or imagination in those early papers; they were intentionally focused on the analysis of one solution.  The lack of imagination and decrepitude was more broadly based and occurred later.
« Last Edit: 01/04/2018 03:30 AM by joek »

Offline joek

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All that matters outside of policy is as woods170 says, the contract.

Yes, but not to put too fine a point on it... what really matters is what the contract says; in particular, inherited or flow-down provisions (which are often difficult or impossible to determine from the outside).

The FAA has straightforward definitions of "addressable" and "commercial".  However, the FAA's definitions are US-centric (apply to US providers).

There is a more nuanced taxonomy and market segmentation that would be worth exploring (e.g. something similar to the FAA's but global).  However,  this thread is likely not the appropriate place to do so.

Offline jongoff

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AFAICT, while all use the term "boostback" (or "rocketback"), all of the notional designs assume a winged first stage and horizontal landing; the SpaceX version of boosback with vertical landing was not considered.

I really don't think that was true. I know Masten and several others (including my blog posts) talked about rocket-based boostback with VTVL landing. SpaceX didn't invent something nobody had thought of, or nobody had thought was possible. They just were the first to reduce it to practice for an orbital launcher. That's a huge enough achievement that we don't need to oversell it by acting like no smart aerospace engineers existed before Elon Musk stepped onto the stage.

And this is getting pretty far afield from ULA though--other than that I do agree with your preference for full-stage gas-and-go boostback VTVL recovery.

~Jon

Online deruch

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AFAICT, while all use the term "boostback" (or "rocketback"), all of the notional designs assume a winged first stage and horizontal landing; the SpaceX version of boosback with vertical landing was not considered.

I really don't think that was true. I know Masten and several others (including my blog posts) talked about rocket-based boostback with VTVL landing. SpaceX didn't invent something nobody had thought of, or nobody had thought was possible. They just were the first to reduce it to practice for an orbital launcher. That's a huge enough achievement that we don't need to oversell it by acting like no smart aerospace engineers existed before Elon Musk stepped onto the stage.

And this is getting pretty far afield from ULA though--other than that I do agree with your preference for full-stage gas-and-go boostback VTVL recovery.

~Jon
joek was talking specifically about boostback as discussed in the linked/attached papers and studies from his comment, not all notional designs for a boostback system within the entirety of aerospace.  I'm pretty sure I've seen it stated that it was videos of the successes of Masten (and/or maybe Armadillo) that convinced Elon/SpaceX that VTVL was possible.
Shouldn't reality posts be in "Advanced concepts"?  --Nomadd

Offline john smith 19

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As John Simth 19 articulated... it went from: here's how you might do RTLS and why you might want to do it; to RTLS is a requirement; which then implies requirements X, Y and Z; etc., etc.

In short, I would not criticize the lack of scope or imagination in those early papers; they were intentionally focused on the analysis of one solution.  The lack of imagination and decrepitude was more broadly based and occurred later.
It's all in the problem statement.
If it had been
"We want a system that's capable of supporting a launch every N days for up M launches to orbits X,Y and Z from launch site <co-ords here> up to a mass of A lbs. How can you do this?" That would have given quite a broad potential range of answers.

Whereas "We want RTLS" pretty much ends most of those discussions right there.  :(

WRT to this thread I'll note that insisting Shuttle could RTLS after a single orbit (not a single day, which would have needed a bit more ECLSS, a single orbit needing 2000mile+ cross range) was probably the biggest waste of design and wind tunnel time on the Shuttle programme.

Which should be a very big Red flag to any designer whenever someone says they want it.

BTW does anyone know how much SX spent on the 2 ASDS's to cover both coasts?

So (WRT to SMART on Vulcan) the question would be what the parameters that make SMART seem a good idea?

Because I'm guessing part of it is the deferred development costs and hiring a helicopter (even a big one) is cheaper than buying (and fitting out, and operating) a big barge.

IOW if people are saying "Why doesn't ULA go to stage recovery like SX?" the answer "Because they can't afford to unless they can avoid the cost of the barge(s)."

So (serious question) does anyone have a stage recovery plan without major capital investment up front that's got a TRL above zero? No barges. No custom planes.
Consider those F9 boosters that have landed on dry land, rather than the barges (at least one, but have there been more?). What orbits were their payloads going to? How far below maximum mass for those orbits were they? IOW what was the performance hit for this recovery mode.

If you do have a solution then SMART does not look very clever. If you don't then, like the Shuttle architecture, it's not the best option to do a (semi) reusuable LV (for the budget, which is a key constraint) it's the only architecture that can do it.

It's as good as they can get for the money they can afford.

If only an MBO were possible.......

Sadly that's about as plausible as someone inventing anti-gravity paint in the next 10 years.  :(
« Last Edit: 01/04/2018 07:06 AM by john smith 19 »
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.
So you're going to Mars to seek a better life. What does that mean to you? Always spot a fanbois by how they react to their idols failures.

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