Author Topic: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - Business Case/Competition/Alternatives Discussion  (Read 54161 times)

Offline meekGee

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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.  :(
Barges are at the bottom of the maritime cost scale.

I'd guess both barges, all inclusive, cost less than a single launch.
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Offline Semmel

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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.  :(

My opinion: the reason ULA does not consider RTLS of the full first stage is that they designed their rocket with too little performance. The ULA model: have a small booster with possible solid extension to increase payload. SpaceX: Build a liquid fuel booster as large as economically feasible and dump over-performance into recovery. Thats a difference in philosophy. If ULA would go the SpaceX approach, they would build a New Glenn clone. Looking at F9, the argument which business case is more economical will close within 2018. ULAs design choice of Vulcan+Solids is a product of their design philosophy and politics, not the product of engineering/economical considerations. Vulcan cant do RTLS or even full first stage landing because of that initial decision. The blabla about SMART being better than full first stage landings is just smoke grenades to hide the initial philosophy driven decision.

Online AncientU

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Another article on potentially changing NSS procurement:
Quote
Air Force acquisition nominee a champion of commercial technology
Quote
How Roper might steer the Air Force to use more commercial technology will be closely watched by the space industry, a sector where privately funded innovation is booming. The Air Force has been criticized for not taking advantage of the available technology in launch, satellites, software and other areas and integrating it more quickly into military space systems.

Roper also has been an advocate of greater use of commercial software by the Defense Department.

Roper often noted that the world is changing rapidly due to the global spread of commercial technologies, and that the Pentagon has been slow to adjust to that reality.
http://spacenews.com/air-force-acquisition-nominee-a-champion-of-commercial-technology/?utm_content=buffer06c3d&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
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Offline ZachF

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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.

That RL-10 price is pretty absurd. SpaceX can probably outfit an entire Falcon 9 with engines for less than the price of one RL-10.
« Last Edit: 01/04/2018 01:25 PM by ZachF »

Online AncientU

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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.

That RL-10 price is pretty absurd. SpaceX can probably outfit an entire Falcon 9 with engines for less than the price of one RL-10.

Could need as many as 4 RL-10s if looking to match thrust-to-weight of Centaur III.  Centaur V cannot possibly be cheaper than Centaur III.
When Vulcan/Centaur V hits the market, reusable Falcon 9 launch price may (will) be below propulsion costs on this expendable rocket... for comparable performance (no solids).
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
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Offline A_M_Swallow

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Removed as it contains errors
« Last Edit: 01/10/2018 05:10 PM by A_M_Swallow »

Offline spacenut

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From what I have read, a hydrolox and metholox engine can be changed from one to the other without a huge cost.  If Vulcan is going to use metholox on the first stage, they may want to have a BE-3 outfitted to run methane in an upper stage.  If it can go from 20% or 30% to 100% thrust, it can be adjusted for various weight payloads.  Also only one engine to buy. 

Offline john smith 19

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Barges are at the bottom of the maritime cost scale.

I'd guess both barges, all inclusive, cost less than a single launch.
I'm really not sure if ULA actually have even that level of funding available.  :(

Yes, ULA is (by quite a few yardsticks) a very big business but the parents take a lot out of them. IIRC Jon Goff said their whole IVF effort is no more than a few $m. It's been running since at least 2012 and they were talking about doing some kind of flight test this year, maybe. Despite the potential to put 1/2 a tonne on the payload and a significant cut in direct touch labor for the stage, margins for stage disposal (increasing payload further) and raising on orbit stage life to enable potentially whole new missions.

It sounds cents wise and dollar foolish to me but that's the rules ULA has to operate under.  :(
My opinion: the reason ULA does not consider RTLS of the full first stage is that they designed their rocket with too little performance. The ULA model: have a small booster with possible solid extension to increase payload.
It's an interesting PoV. Most people don't think of the EELV's as "small."
Quote from: Semmel
SpaceX: Build a liquid fuel booster as large as economically feasible and dump over-performance into recovery. Thats a difference in philosophy. If ULA would go the SpaceX approach, they would build a New Glenn clone. Looking at F9, the argument which business case is more economical will close within 2018. ULAs design choice of Vulcan+Solids is a product of their design philosophy and politics, not the product of engineering/economical considerations.
I'd suggest it's a mix of both. Especially WRT to funding by the parents.
Quote from: Semmel
Vulcan cant do RTLS or even full first stage landing because of that initial decision. The blabla about SMART being better than full first stage landings is just smoke grenades to hide the initial philosophy driven decision.
Plausible. Very much in line with the "performance at any price" ethos.  :(
« Last Edit: 01/05/2018 10:30 AM by john smith 19 »
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Offline john smith 19

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From what I have read, a hydrolox and metholox engine can be changed from one to the other without a huge cost.  If Vulcan is going to use metholox on the first stage, they may want to have a BE-3 outfitted to run methane in an upper stage.  If it can go from 20% or 30% to 100% thrust, it can be adjusted for various weight payloads.  Also only one engine to buy.
Well historically the engines on the Titan 1's ran LOX/RP1, then switched to NTO/Aerozine50 and at least one ran with LH2 using an experimental LH2 pump.

So, with reasonably cautious design, swapping from one Cryogen to another should not be that hard.
BFS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of flying in Earth and Mars atmospheres. BFR. The worlds biggest Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured booster for BFS. First flight to Mars by end of 2022. Forward looking statements. T&C Apply So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

Offline meekGee

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Barges are at the bottom of the maritime cost scale.

I'd guess both barges, all inclusive, cost less than a single launch.
I'm really not sure if ULA actually have even that level of funding available.  :(

Yes, ULA is (by quite a few yardsticks) a very big business but the parents take a lot out of them. IIRC Jon Goff said their whole IVF effort is no more than a few $m. It's been running since at least 2012 and they were talking about doing some kind of flight test this year, maybe. Despite the potential to put 1/2 a tonne on the payload and a significant cut in direct touch labor for the stage, margins for stage disposal (increasing payload further) and raising on orbit stage life to enable potentially whole new missions.

it sounds cents wise and dollar foolish to me but that's the rules ULA has to operate under.
My opinion: the reason ULA does not consider RTLS of the full first stage is that they designed their rocket with too little performance. The ULA model: have a small booster with possible solid extension to increase payload.
It's an interesting PoV. Most people don't think of the EELV's as "small."
Quote from: Semmel
SpaceX: Build a liquid fuel booster as large as economically feasible and dump over-performance into recovery. Thats a difference in philosophy. If ULA would go the SpaceX approach, they would build a New Glenn clone. Looking at F9, the argument which business case is more economical will close within 2018. ULAs design choice of Vulcan+Solids is a product of their design philosophy and politics, not the product of engineering/economical considerations.
I'd suggest it's a mix of both. Especially WRT to funding by the parents.
Quote from: Semmel
Vulcan cant do RTLS or even full first stage landing because of that initial decision. The blabla about SMART being better than full first stage landings is just smoke grenades to hide the initial philosophy driven decision.
Plausible. Very much in line with the "performance at any price" ethos.  :(
Sure, but I'm drawing a line around both ULA and the parents.  The line between them is artificial.  Whether the launch business is just a division or an owned division, who cares.

The parents have the money, call the shots, and face the consequences...  So you can r/ULA/parents and everything remains the same.
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Offline Semmel

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Plausible. Very much in line with the "performance at any price" ethos.  :(
Sure, but I'm drawing a line around both ULA and the parents.  The line between them is artificial.  Whether the launch business is just a division or an owned division, who cares.

The parents have the money, call the shots, and face the consequences...  So you can r/ULA/parents and everything remains the same.

Of course, this is true for economical decisions. But ULA is still the expert in rocket technology, not the parents. If the business people call the shots and dont listen to the engineers, it doesnt matter where exactly they are located. Its just sad for Tori. He could make stuff work if the parents would let him.
« Last Edit: 01/04/2018 11:42 PM by Lar »

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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.

Could you please provide a source for that?  I've heard some pretty outlandish prices thrown around for the RL-10 engines without a lot of backup.  While I've mentioned the labor-intensive nature of them (I used to be a manufacturing engineer for them), I find that amount difficult to believe without some reliable documentation.

EDIT: Just to indicate why I think that might be a bit off, assume that the cost of the upper stage of an Atlas 5 401 is 40% of overall cost (and I would suspect it's even less), and according to the old ULA pie chart (see below), the engine is about 25% of the stage cost), and a 401 costs $109 million, according to rockebuilder.com.  109*.4*.25= 10.9 million, and I think even that is a bit high (cost vs. price to customer, high estimate of the cost of the second stage).

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/ee/7f/e5/ee7fe55080a54acf208135c9cdfe31c3--systems-engineering-space-facts.jpg
« Last Edit: 01/04/2018 08:20 PM by skater »

Online envy887

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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.

Could you please provide a source for that?  I've heard some pretty outlandish prices thrown around for the RL-10 engines without a lot of backup.  While I've mentioned the labor-intensive nature of them (I used to be a manufacturing engineer for them), I find that amount difficult to believe without some reliable documentation.

EDIT: Just to indicate why I think that might be a bit off, assume that the cost of the upper stage of an Atlas 5 401 is 40% of overall cost (and I would suspect it's even less), and according to the old ULA pie chart (see below), the engine is about 25% of the stage cost), and a 401 costs $109 million, according to rockebuilder.com.  109*.4*.25= 10.9 million, and I think even that is a bit high (cost vs. price to customer, high estimate of the cost of the second stage).

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/ee/7f/e5/ee7fe55080a54acf208135c9cdfe31c3--systems-engineering-space-facts.jpg

That is what NASA is paying for SLS upper stage engines for EUS on EM-2. Not sure how much is documentation and qualification costs for human rating.

Quote from: Eric Berger
Ars understands that NASA paid an average of $17 million for each RL-10 engine for the maiden Exploration Upper Stage vehicle

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/12/nasa-is-trying-to-make-the-space-launch-system-rocket-more-affordable/

Offline russianhalo117

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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.
Which version of RL-10C
RL-10C-1 (Atlas-V/Vulcan Centaur-3/(Vulcan Centaur-5/ACES Baseline Candidate))
RL-10C-2 (Delta-IV DCSS/(Vulcan Centaur-5/ACES Alternate Candidate))
RL-10C-3 (SLS EUS Baseline Candidate)

Offline joek

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Sure, but I'm drawing a line around both ULA and the parents.  The line between them is artificial.  Whether the launch business is just a division or an owned division, who cares.

The parents have the money, call the shots, and face the consequences...  So you can r/ULA/parents and everything remains the same.

An artificial line only since 1-May-2017.  Before that it was a bright line beginning with ULA's existence--not to mention the USAF, which has been the dog wagging their tails.

Still need to draw a line between them, as from all publicly available information the Boeing-LM JV that led to ULA is still in force, with stipulations that make ULA a bone continuing to be being fought over.

Boeing and LM are not parents in any normal sense of the word; they are adversaries.

Offline john smith 19

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An artificial line only since 1-May-2017.  Before that it was a bright line beginning with ULA's existence--not to mention the USAF, which has been the dog wagging their tails.

Still need to draw a line between them, as from all publicly available information the Boeing-LM JV that led to ULA is still in force, with stipulations that make ULA a bone continuing to be being fought over.

Boeing and LM are not parents in any normal sense of the word; they are adversaries.
TBH I keep thinking of them as the "Ugly Sisters" in Cinderella.

Sadly there is no Fairy Godmother.  :(
BFS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of flying in Earth and Mars atmospheres. BFR. The worlds biggest Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured booster for BFS. First flight to Mars by end of 2022. Forward looking statements. T&C Apply So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

Online brickmack

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ULA is preparing to add the smaller Masten Machete engines to the Centaur as part of the Xeus lunar lander kit.

Source? I've not seen a specific engine claimed before, and Google turns up nothing, but Machete seems like a poor fit. ULAs gone to too much effort eliminating hypergolics and helium from ACES to go back to it for XEUS. It adds dead mass and risk, and it either complicates refueling a bunch or forces you to throw away the whole vehicle after 1 or 2 flights. Plus, Machete is too small anyway. 10 or so would be sufficient for terminal descent with just an empty main tank and a few tons of payload, but you'll need hundreds of them just to get off the ground on the moon with a fully loaded main tank and 60+ tons of payload

Offline russianhalo117

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ULA is preparing to add the smaller Masten Machete engines to the Centaur as part of the Xeus lunar lander kit.

Source? I've not seen a specific engine claimed before, and Google turns up nothing, but Machete seems like a poor fit. ULAs gone to too much effort eliminating hypergolics and helium from ACES to go back to it for XEUS. It adds dead mass and risk, and it either complicates refueling a bunch or forces you to throw away the whole vehicle after 1 or 2 flights. Plus, Machete is too small anyway. 10 or so would be sufficient for terminal descent with just an empty main tank and a few tons of payload, but you'll need hundreds of them just to get off the ground on the moon with a fully loaded main tank and 60+ tons of payload
http://masten.aero/vehicles-2/xeus/
Masten Landing Kit for Centaur and ACES (XEUS) use H2 and O2 (Landing engines and LH2 and LO2 and thrusters use GH2 and GO2) are the long term plan. It is possible that early XEUS development stages may use other propellants and gases but their is nothing public on Masten's site. There is no public evidence on ULA sites and social media of employing Masten Machete engines on Centaur. Centaur-3 is only a ground testbed and XEUS will only likely see in space testing on a Centaur-5 and the final production version (obviously under a different name and the X stands for experimental) employed on ACES. The poster may be referring to XL-1T and XL-1 landers which are a testbed to gather data ahead of XEUS testing with the Centaur-3 stage.
« Last Edit: 01/06/2018 01:20 AM by russianhalo117 »

Offline A_M_Swallow

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ULA is preparing to add the smaller Masten Machete engines to the Centaur as part of the Xeus lunar lander kit.

Source? I've not seen a specific engine claimed before, and Google turns up nothing, but Machete seems like a poor fit. ULAs gone to too much effort eliminating hypergolics and helium from ACES to go back to it for XEUS. It adds dead mass and risk, and it either complicates refueling a bunch or forces you to throw away the whole vehicle after 1 or 2 flights. Plus, Machete is too small anyway. 10 or so would be sufficient for terminal descent with just an empty main tank and a few tons of payload, but you'll need hundreds of them just to get off the ground on the moon with a fully loaded main tank and 60+ tons of payload
http://masten.aero/vehicles-2/xeus/
Masten Landing Kit for Centaur and ACES (XEUS) use H2 and O2 (Landing engines and LH2 and LO2 and thrusters use GH2 and GO2) are the long term plan. It is possible that early XEUS development stages may use other propellants and gases but their is nothing public on Masten's site. There is no public evidence on ULA sites and social media of employing Masten Machete engines on Centaur. Centaur-3 is only a ground testbed and XEUS will only likely see in space testing on a Centaur-5 and the final production version (obviously under a different name and the X stands for experimental) employed on ACES. The poster may be referring to XL-1T and XL-1 landers which are a testbed to gather data ahead of XEUS testing with the Centaur-3 stage.

Ops. Rechecking it is the XL-1 lunar lander that uses MXP-351 as fuel. XEUS was to use the Katana engine. This may have been changed again. The design review slides Masten has agreed to produce for Lunar CATALYST may provide further information.

"
Milestone 20: XEUS System Concept Design Review 1
Success Criteria: Conceptual Design Review Slides and exploration of trade space around science objectives and
architecture
March 2018
"

Online 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.
Which version of RL-10C
RL-10C-1 (Atlas-V/Vulcan Centaur-3/(Vulcan Centaur-5/ACES Baseline Candidate))
RL-10C-2 (Delta-IV DCSS/(Vulcan Centaur-5/ACES Alternate Candidate))
RL-10C-3 (SLS EUS Baseline Candidate)

RL-10C-3 is where I saw the most recent pricing for it. Is there a substantial difference in cost to the other 2? I know for Atlas those are rebuilt engines from the Delta buy, but on a previous thread I had asked how many were left, and if it would be enough to cover initial Vulcan flights and the answer given was they'd probably be used up on Atlas. So any used on Vulcan would likely be new build. The cost driver for AR's engines have always been demand, fewer they produce the more they cost, unless that changes, that's going to be the issue. The problem is alternatives that will be ready in time. Unless Blue is working on testing and certifying BE-3U right now, it wouldn't be ready in time. I don't think they want to debut with one engine to change it a few flights later either. But that's my opinion.

Unless ULA has somewhat struck an amazing deal for new build engines...

And old article detailing some of the cost drivers ULA was facing pre block buy, with comments from George Sowers. Doesn't list the engine cost itself but does list where the price hikes were coming from and that part really hasn't changed.

http://spacenews.com/rising-engine-costs-uncertainty-drive-atlas-5-prices-nasa/


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