Author Topic: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - Business Case/Competition/Alternatives Discussion  (Read 77018 times)

Offline HIP2BSQRE

  • Regular
  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 661
  • Liked: 41
  • Likes Given: 14
If I were Boeing and you have been burned before...they would be very cautious about being burned again.  However, if you take too long to change...you can become another Kodak or RIM.  SpaceX and BO want to change the market and make it bigger.  What does ULA want?  Remember just a few years ago they had the whole govt market.   By 2025 with BO, SpaceX, and possible Orbital - what percent of the govt market will they have?  And remember the number of military launches may be going down.  I think ULA should try and expand the market.  Please remember Boeing pours how much into a new plane development?   I don't think Boeing funds new plane development the way they investing in Vulcan per quarter.  The US market and the world market maybe very different in 5 years.  You invest now...or you may become a side player.

Offline AncientU

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6234
  • Liked: 4057
  • Likes Given: 5570
Yup.  Boeing and LockMart, later ULA, were sitting on all (most) of the rocket engineering expertise in the USA during those years, and also had the huge technological edge of the US in their column.  Why couldn't they compete?  When the investments went south by 2006-2010, and SpaceX was emerging, did they learn how or prove how it could be done better? 

Only conclusion is that they did not have the DNA to compete.  Still don't.
Too much easy cash like ELC and Block Buy give aways... USG paying launch prices that are unsustainable.
They did try to compete, despite the impossible and rapidly changing international political/economic conditions at the time.  They maximized profits by concentrating on satellites, and by supporting international ventures to launch them cheaply.  That's the best they could do.  The alternative was pulling out of launch altogether.  And what did they get for their efforts?  Big monetary losses on launch, but presumably profits on satellites.

They pulled out of launch due to the losses, forming ULA to support EELV likely only because the government demanded.  Even then the U.S. launch crises did not become apparent to most political leaders.  Elon Musk noticed, and started up a company, at just the right instant as it turned out because it really wasn't until Putin consolidated his power during the late 2000s, combined with the Constellation cancellation and the forced STS retirement, that the need for companies like SpaceX became apparent.  Only then did NASA offer billions for cargo contracts to support the newcomer.  Remember that until that contract, SpaceX only had a failing Falcon 1 to show for its efforts.  Interestingly, NASA's contract came in 2006, the same year that ULA was formed, that Lockheed Martin pulled out of ILS, and only weeks before Sea Launch suffered the ultimately financially devastating NSS-8 launch explosion.  All of that change came quickly.

In the interim, ULA did its thing to keep DoD in space as ordered.  It provides to this day capabilities that no other U.S, launch provider can offer.  Only now, post-Ukraine, etc. when Russia's ultra-low-cost rockets no longer get to play commercially as they once did, does ULA have its chance to try the U.S. propulsion route. 

 - Ed Kyle

   

That's one reading of history...  'as ordered' sounds like an excuse, not an explanation.

ULA, by the sworn testimony of its CEO, had the plans and the ability to go the US propulsion route... did from the beginning of the RD-180 buy.  When SpaceX was fumbling around trying to get a rocket to orbit, they had the full expertise base of the USA, fifty years of rocketry experience, and could have easily built what SpaceX did -- ask all the 'experts' -- SpaceX just used what everyone else understood and had shelved.  All of this could have been done while keeping DoD in space (for which they were paid more than adequately).

So, finally, they're building Vulcan, a vehicle fully capable of competing in the EELV market of 2002.
 
They had a huge head start to modernize and advance rocketry, but totally blew it.  No excuses.
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32428
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 11167
  • Likes Given: 331


ULA is of and for the parents.  It is staffed by the parents' employees, and led by the parents' executives, Bruno included - so for all purposes of discussion, they are one and the same.

Wrong.  ULA has its own employees.  They are neither Boeing or LM.  It also has its own facilities and IP
« Last Edit: 12/30/2017 08:38 PM by Jim »

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32428
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 11167
  • Likes Given: 331
Both Boeing and LM did invest heavily in new LVs, to service government

That met all USG requirements and did not cherry pick them

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32428
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 11167
  • Likes Given: 331

They had a huge head start to modernize and advance rocketry, but totally blew it.  No excuses.

Unsubstantiated

Offline hplan

  • Member
  • Posts: 18
  • Michigan, USA
  • Liked: 6
  • Likes Given: 2
Yup.  Boeing and LockMart, later ULA, were sitting on all (most) of the rocket engineering expertise in the USA during those years, and also had the huge technological edge of the US in their column.  Why couldn't they compete?  When the investments went south by 2006-2010, and SpaceX was emerging, did they learn how or prove how it could be done better? 

Only conclusion is that they did not have the DNA to compete.  Still don't.
Too much easy cash like ELC and Block Buy give aways... USG paying launch prices that are unsustainable.
They did try to compete, despite the impossible and rapidly changing international political/economic conditions at the time.  They maximized profits by concentrating on satellites, and by supporting international ventures to launch them cheaply.  That's the best they could do.  The alternative was pulling out of launch altogether.  And what did they get for their efforts?  Big monetary losses on launch, but presumably profits on satellites.

They pulled out of launch due to the losses, forming ULA to support EELV likely only because the government demanded.  Even then the U.S. launch crises did not become apparent to most political leaders.  Elon Musk noticed, and started up a company, at just the right instant as it turned out because it really wasn't until Putin consolidated his power during the late 2000s, combined with the Constellation cancellation and the forced STS retirement, that the need for companies like SpaceX became apparent.  Only then did NASA offer billions for cargo contracts to support the newcomer.  Remember that until that contract, SpaceX only had a failing Falcon 1 to show for its efforts.  Interestingly, NASA's contract came in 2006, the same year that ULA was formed, that Lockheed Martin pulled out of ILS, and only weeks before Sea Launch suffered the ultimately financially devastating NSS-8 launch explosion.  All of that change came quickly.

In the interim, ULA did its thing to keep DoD in space as ordered.  It provides to this day capabilities that no other U.S, launch provider can offer.  Only now, post-Ukraine, etc. when Russia's ultra-low-cost rockets no longer get to play commercially as they once did, does ULA have its chance to try the U.S. propulsion route. 

 - Ed Kyle

   

That's one reading of history...  'as ordered' sounds like an excuse, not an explanation.

ULA, by the sworn testimony of its CEO, had the plans and the ability to go the US propulsion route... did from the beginning of the RD-180 buy.  When SpaceX was fumbling around trying to get a rocket to orbit, they had the full expertise base of the USA, fifty years of rocketry experience, and could have easily built what SpaceX did -- ask all the 'experts' -- SpaceX just used what everyone else understood and had shelved.  All of this could have been done while keeping DoD in space (for which they were paid more than adequately).

So, finally, they're building Vulcan, a vehicle fully capable of competing in the EELV market of 2002.
 
They had a huge head start to modernize and advance rocketry, but totally blew it.  No excuses.

To me, the phrase "as ordered" sounds as though ULA was acting more as an engineering contractor for the government than a company trying to compete in the open launch market.

It's not rocket science, people: ULA was not making money in the commercial launch market, but they were making decent money in building and launching to order for the US government for a good price. That's what they've been doing for the last several years, and they've been doing it extremely well. That's what Vulcans are targeting, not competing for commercial launches.


Offline john smith 19

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7580
  • Everyplaceelse
  • Liked: 1169
  • Likes Given: 7829
Wrong.  ULA has its own employees.  They are neither Boeing or LM.  It also has its own facilities and IP
Unfortunately it's Board all seem to be supplied by LM and Boeing.

The desperately slow way in which Vulcan/Centaur 5 has proceeded suggests that whenever the the question is "What is our next move" the answer seems to be "Whatever gives the most amount of cash back to our parents." :(

IOW they appear to have little (or any) interest in protecting ULA's long term future.

Yup.  Boeing and LockMart, later ULA, were sitting on all (most) of the rocket engineering expertise in the USA during those years, and also had the huge technological edge of the US in their column.  Why couldn't they compete?  When the investments went south by 2006-2010, and SpaceX was emerging, did they learn how or prove how it could be done better? 
Which sounds quite compelling if it was accurate.

Except ULA don't make the engines for those stages, AJR (and their predecessor companies) did.
Quote from: AncientU
Only conclusion is that they did not have the DNA to compete.  Still don't.
Too much easy cash like ELC and Block Buy give aways... USG paying launch prices that are unsustainable.
That's a conclusion. Quite a few others are possible. No I'm not going to name them. If you are open minded enough you can work them out yourself.
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. Believe no one. Run your own numbers. So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

Online WindnWar

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 488
  • South Carolina
  • Liked: 253
  • Likes Given: 1344
What I am trying to figure out is how they will keep the costs under control when Centaur 5 will need at least 2 rl-10 engines at some current $34ish million for just those engines. From a cost perspective they really need an alternate supplier but with xcor gone there doesn't seem to be any other options, even more so that it doesn't look like be-3u will be available in time.

It's costs like that that make it difficult to compete.

Offline meekGee

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8596
  • N. California
  • Liked: 4771
  • Likes Given: 891


ULA is of and for the parents.  It is staffed by the parents' employees, and led by the parents' executives, Bruno included - so for all purposes of discussion, they are one and the same.

Wrong.  ULA has its own employees.  They are neither Boeing or LM.  It also has its own facilities and IP
Of course they are on the ULA payroll now...  But that's exactly the point.

With a joint venture like this, it should br possible to accept more risk.

But it's clearly not in any of their DNAs, so the offspring doesn't have it either.
ABCD - Always Be Counting Down

Online Lars-J

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4245
  • California
  • Liked: 3660
  • Likes Given: 2258
When SpaceX was fumbling around trying to get a rocket to orbit, they had the full expertise base of the USA, fifty years of rocketry experience, and could have easily built what SpaceX did -- ask all the 'experts' -- SpaceX just used what everyone else understood and had shelved.  All of this could have been done while keeping DoD in space (for which they were paid more than adequately).

Yep, they could have all done what SpaceX did, with regards to domestic engine technology. Because you can't have it both ways - Either
A) SpaceX was doing something truly revolutionary that Boeing/Lockmart/ULA/AJR just couldn't match (not according to experts on this forum)  ::) -  Or
B) Boeing/Lockmart/ULA/AJR just didn't try hard enough, all too happy with the status quo...

Neither is very flattering for Boeing/Lockmart/ULA/AJR.
« Last Edit: 12/31/2017 07:32 AM by Lars-J »

Offline meekGee

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8596
  • N. California
  • Liked: 4771
  • Likes Given: 891
When SpaceX was fumbling around trying to get a rocket to orbit, they had the full expertise base of the USA, fifty years of rocketry experience, and could have easily built what SpaceX did -- ask all the 'experts' -- SpaceX just used what everyone else understood and had shelved.  All of this could have been done while keeping DoD in space (for which they were paid more than adequately).

Yep, they could have all done what SpaceX did, with regards to domestic engine technology. Because you can't have it both ways - Either
A) SpaceX was doing something truly revolutionary that Boeing/Lockmart/ULA/AJR just couldn't match (not according to experts on this forum)  ::) -  Or
B) Boeing/Lockmart/ULA/AJR just didn't try hard enough, all too happy with the status quo...

Neither is very flattering for Boeing/Lockmart/ULA/AJR.
Not to mention that SpaceX told them, years in advance, exactly what it intends to do.
ABCD - Always Be Counting Down

Offline john smith 19

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7580
  • Everyplaceelse
  • Liked: 1169
  • Likes Given: 7829
When SpaceX was fumbling around trying to get a rocket to orbit, they had the full expertise base of the USA, fifty years of rocketry experience, and could have easily built what SpaceX did -- ask all the 'experts' -- SpaceX just used what everyone else understood and had shelved.  All of this could have been done while keeping DoD in space (for which they were paid more than adequately).

Yep, they could have all done what SpaceX did, with regards to domestic engine technology. Because you can't have it both ways - Either
A) SpaceX was doing something truly revolutionary that Boeing/Lockmart/ULA/AJR just couldn't match (not according to experts on this forum)  ::) -  Or
B) Boeing/Lockmart/ULA/AJR just didn't try hard enough, all too happy with the status quo...

Neither is very flattering for Boeing/Lockmart/ULA/AJR.
No, but a similar criticism could be leveled at many other joint stock companies whose Boards feel their #1 priority is making sure the stock price and the dividends continue to rise.

For such Boards all research is a waste of money (unless someone else pays for it. There always happy to do that).

When they also Govt contractors then you also have the mindset of "If the government wanted this, they'd ask (and pay) us to do it, and they haven't."

The concept of effective competition is quite alien to such organizations. However Shotwells background is the US Automotive industry.

She knows exactly what can happen when organizations think they are in a protected market and stop  making any effective innovation. Any time she drives around in LA she'll be reminded of it.  :(

Let me suggest that while Aerospace is quite bad it's not unique in this regard. The real issue is
joint stock companies Boards perceptions of their core role, and how it makes them very risk averse.

Right now in the US space sector SX and SNC seem to be the most innovative companies, and you will note neither is publicly quoted, yet both have to make a profit in order to do what they do. People have to want  to use them in a way that Blue simply does not share.
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. Believe no one. Run your own numbers. So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

Offline AncientU

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6234
  • Liked: 4057
  • Likes Given: 5570
When SpaceX was fumbling around trying to get a rocket to orbit, they had the full expertise base of the USA, fifty years of rocketry experience, and could have easily built what SpaceX did -- ask all the 'experts' -- SpaceX just used what everyone else understood and had shelved.  All of this could have been done while keeping DoD in space (for which they were paid more than adequately).

Yep, they could have all done what SpaceX did, with regards to domestic engine technology. Because you can't have it both ways - Either
A) SpaceX was doing something truly revolutionary that Boeing/Lockmart/ULA/AJR just couldn't match (not according to experts on this forum)  ::) -  Or
B) Boeing/Lockmart/ULA/AJR just didn't try hard enough, all too happy with the status quo...

Neither is very flattering for Boeing/Lockmart/ULA/AJR.

The interesting bit is that Boeing/LockMart/AJR are heading down the same cash cow milking route with SLS/Orion and their NSS satellite businesses -- which is great, IMO.  Status Quo Queens all.  All have been too much spent for the returned product, and all need competition to kill them.
« Last Edit: 12/31/2017 12:01 PM by AncientU »
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Online spacenut

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2403
  • East Alabama
  • Liked: 404
  • Likes Given: 236
I read on the Russian section, that Russia is now going to work on a re-usable booster.  Seems ULA is falling further behind, especially if BO gets New Glenn going. 

Offline Rebel44

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 345
  • Liked: 180
  • Likes Given: 887
I read on the Russian section, that Russia is now going to work on a re-usable booster.  Seems ULA is falling further behind, especially if BO gets New Glenn going.

"Russia is going to work on XYZ" = PowerPoint project until it gets allocated appropriate pile of money (in which case projects fate will also depend on what % of the allocated money will be stolen by officials)...

Offline AncientU

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6234
  • Liked: 4057
  • Likes Given: 5570
I read on the Russian section, that Russia is now going to work on a re-usable booster.  Seems ULA is falling further behind, especially if BO gets New Glenn going.

Europeans and Chinese, too.  Reusable methlox engine funded and development underway in Europe.
Chinese have all the cash they'll need.  Russia, on other hand is strapped for cash, so could be laggard because of this... but also has world-class rocket development ability.  Will be interesting to see if having five reusable rocket programs starts to turn ULA in this direction.
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Offline meekGee

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8596
  • N. California
  • Liked: 4771
  • Likes Given: 891
JS is correct that this stagnation condition is not unique.

Ironically, having brought up the auto industry  Tesla is right there...  But if you rewind 40 years, remember when Japanese cars were a new thing?

Lots of "they don't know anything" condescending attitude, then 15 years later, running crying to the government.



ABCD - Always Be Counting Down

Online spacenut

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2403
  • East Alabama
  • Liked: 404
  • Likes Given: 236
This is the Business Case/Competition/Alternatives discussion.  Unless ULA doesn't want to compete, Russia with a re-usable may be able to snag satellite launches to compete with SpaceX.  All launches are not to GSO or GTO.  All launches are not government launches.  ULA, in my opinion, is painting themselves into a corner with only government launches.  Time will tell, but by the time they get Vulcan launched, and all the bugs worked out, the second generation of re-usable vehicles may be coming out like New Glenn, and Falcon Heavy will be operational.  Then BFR/BFS will be coming on line by the mid-20-20's.  New Glenn may be fully reusable by then also including the upper stage.  China is also looking to re-usability. 

Offline AncientU

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6234
  • Liked: 4057
  • Likes Given: 5570
ULA boss Bruno has stated that they need to capture a share of commercial launches to remain viable. 
Nobody is going to 'allocate' these launches to them.
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Offline john smith 19

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7580
  • Everyplaceelse
  • Liked: 1169
  • Likes Given: 7829
The interesting bit is that Boeing/LockMart/AJR are heading down the same cash cow milking route with SLS/Orion and their NSS satellite businesses -- which is great, IMO.  Status Quo Queens all.  All have been too much spent for the returned product, and all need competition to kill them.
Real competition may just be the thing that makes them finally wake up to the concept that in fact they do not have some $deity given right to survive and that they can be replaced, because in fact whoever did so would probably buy up their back libraries and inherit their knowledgebase anyway.

However that's not really OT for this thread. 

From ULA's perspective I think Bruno understands that for ULA's long term survival Vulcan has to happen, and happen sooner rather than later. 

Upgrading the US so that it will encompass the whole DIVH performance range as well (rather than needing another generation of development) is a good movein the right direction. Note that I don't think that means it will have full DIVH performance from first launch, more that the key structures are designed to take those loads and there are "hooks" in the design ready to mount whatever's needed to be added to bring it up to full DIVH spec.

I've suggested that (where possible)  designing in the hooks for reuse now would also be a good idea, but that seems to be a bit too adventurous for ULA to consider.

So far...
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. Believe no one. Run your own numbers. So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

Tags: