Author Topic: Bigger boosters from OSC?  (Read 17129 times)

Offline CFE

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Bigger boosters from OSC?
« on: 05/12/2007 03:26 AM »
Space News ran a recent story about Orbital Sciences considering the development of a bigger booster in the 4-5mT range.  This is exciting if it plays out, because it means a true replacement for Delta II (albeit on the low side of Delta II's performance envelope.)

I have to ask, if OSC is designing a Delta-class booster, what configuration will emerge.  I suspect it might look like a Taurus, with an extra Castor 120 added under the stack.  I haven't run the numbers on such an ungainly, five-stage vehicle, so I don't know what kind of performance it has to offer.  Another possible configuration would use the first three stages of Peacekeeper with the upper two stages of Pegasus/Minotaur.

Then again, designing rockets isn't as easy as playing Legos, and my wacky configurations might not be feasible.  OSC has learned this lesson the hard way on at least one occasion.
"Black Zones" never stopped NASA from flying the shuttle.

Offline MKremer

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Re: Bigger boosters from OSC?
« Reply #1 on: 05/12/2007 08:09 AM »
Maybe we could have a race between OSC's 'idea' and SpaceX...
(be kinda fun to see who 'wins' and how soon)

Offline Jim

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RE: Bigger boosters from OSC?
« Reply #2 on: 05/12/2007 02:31 PM »
Quote
CFE - 11/5/2007  11:26 PM

1.  Space News ran a recent story about Orbital Sciences considering the development of a bigger booster in the 4-5mT range.  This is exciting if it plays out, because it means a true replacement for Delta II (albeit on the low side of Delta II's performance envelope.)

2. I have to ask, if OSC is designing a Delta-class booster, what configuration will emerge.  I suspect it might look like a Taurus, with an extra Castor 120 added under the stack.  I haven't run the numbers on such an ungainly, five-stage vehicle, so I don't know what kind of performance it has to offer.  Another possible configuration would use the first three stages of Peacekeeper with the upper two stages of Pegasus/Minotaur.


1.  It is not a true replacement for the Delta II, the low side eliminate planetary missions.  This performance is only good for polar missions (there are few due east LEO missions)

2.  Why do you assume solids?  Also your PK variant is already called a Minotaur IV/V

Offline aero313

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RE: Bigger boosters from OSC?
« Reply #3 on: 05/12/2007 03:04 PM »
Quote
CFE - 11/5/2007  11:26 PM
I have to ask, if OSC is designing a Delta-class booster, what configuration will emerge.  I suspect it might look like a Taurus, with an extra Castor 120 added under the stack.  I haven't run the numbers on such an ungainly, five-stage vehicle, so I don't know what kind of performance it has to offer.  Another possible configuration would use the first three stages of Peacekeeper with the upper two stages of Pegasus/Minotaur.

Then again, designing rockets isn't as easy as playing Legos, and my wacky configurations might not be feasible.  OSC has learned this lesson the hard way on at least one occasion.

The fundamental problem with Taurus as currently configured is the pencil-necked Pegasus upper stages.  These really limit both the overall payload mass and (more importantly) the fairing diameter due to aerodynamic loads.  The 92" fairing was a stretch.   A Delta II class booster needs at least a 10 ft fairing.  Encapsulating these small diameter upper stages inside a larger fairing simply adds weight.

Trivia info:  The Taurus 92" fairing has the largest hammerhead ratio (fairing dia. to body dia.) ever flown at 1.84:1 (92/50).  Titan IV had a 1.6:1 ratio.

Offline CFE

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RE: Bigger boosters from OSC?
« Reply #4 on: 05/12/2007 09:19 PM »
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Jim - 12/5/2007  8:31 AM
2.  Why do you assume solids?  Also your PK variant is already called a Minotaur IV/V

I assumed solids only because that's where OSC's experience lies.  I suppose nothing is stopping them from going liquid, but the all-solid route (with the possible exception of a HAPS as the final stage) seems like the easiest approach for their company.

My PK variant is not quite a Minotaur-IV/V.  Minotaur IV has an Orion 38 as stage 4, while Minotaur V uses a Star 48 variant for Stage 4 and an Orion 38 or Star 37 variant for Stage 5.  The version I threw out there would use an Orion 50XL for stage 4 and an Orion 38 for stage 5.  

Nit-picking aside, your point is well-taken, that this isn't very different from the standard Minotaur IV/V.  And there's no way, barring any drastic mods, that Minotaur IV could be Delta II-class.  I'll have to take a WAG at what would happen if the Minotaur IV used two Castor 120's or SR-118's in series, in place of the current first stage (think of Athena II.)  I still don't think it would put 4 mT in LEO, though.

All things considered, it looks like it will be pretty hard to design an all-solid launcher.  Unless the Shuttle ASRM could easily be adapted as the first stage, it doesn't look like there are existing solid motors in an appropriate size for such a rocket.
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Offline Skyrocket

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Re: Bigger boosters from OSC?
« Reply #5 on: 05/12/2007 11:15 PM »
This reminds me to E-Prime Aerospace, which is touting unsuccessfully for years a bunch of PK-Stages in different clusters  for higher power vehicles:

http://www.eprimeaerospace.com/vehicles.htm



Offline Analyst

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RE: Bigger boosters from OSC?
« Reply #6 on: 05/15/2007 08:12 AM »
Why not keep Delta II? Does anyone believe a new vehicle will be cheaper and more reliable? I don't.

Analyst

Offline Skyrocket

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RE: Bigger boosters from OSC?
« Reply #7 on: 05/15/2007 09:25 AM »
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Analyst - 15/5/2007  10:12 AM

Why not keep Delta II? Does anyone believe a new vehicle will be cheaper and more reliable? I don't.

Analyst

because there are not enough customers: Delta II will be no longer economic, when it is used only for a handful of NASA launches.

Offline Analyst

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RE: Bigger boosters from OSC?
« Reply #8 on: 05/15/2007 09:34 AM »
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Skyrocket - 15/5/2007  11:25 AM
because there are not enough customers: Delta II will be no longer economic, when it is used only for a handful of NASA launches.

And a replacement will have more customers? I don't buy this logic.

Analyst

Offline Skyrocket

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Re: Bigger boosters from OSC?
« Reply #9 on: 05/15/2007 10:24 AM »
Quote
Analyst - 15/5/2007  11:34 AM

Quote
Skyrocket - 15/5/2007  11:25 AM
because there are not enough customers: Delta II will be no longer economic, when it is used only for a handful of NASA launches.

And a replacement will have more customers? I don't buy this logic.

Analyst

Not necessarily. Only if it is cheaper. But Delta II is too expensive to keep it in (low volume) production, so it will be gone in a few years,  wether there is a replacement in this class or not.

Offline simonbp

RE: Bigger boosters from OSC?
« Reply #10 on: 05/15/2007 11:34 AM »
Quote
Analyst - 15/5/2007  4:34 AM

Quote
Skyrocket - 15/5/2007  11:25 AM
because there are not enough customers: Delta II will be no longer economic, when it is used only for a handful of NASA launches.

And a replacement will have more customers? I don't buy this logic.

Analyst

Or, more specifically, the Department of Defense has stopped using Delta II in favour of the EELVs they spend so much money developing; without DoD buying most of them, Delta II became too much of a profit loss...

If it can only do polar missions, then I'd still question where the non-government customer base will come from.

Simon ;)

Offline Jim

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RE: Bigger boosters from OSC?
« Reply #11 on: 05/15/2007 11:48 AM »
Quote
Analyst - 15/5/2007  4:12 AM

Why not keep Delta II? Does anyone believe a new vehicle will be cheaper and more reliable? I don't.

Analyst

Cheaper may be possible because Delta II was designed to meet performance goals without caring about operational aspects.  Less components would mean less labor and more reliability (theoretically)

Offline aero313

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RE: Bigger boosters from OSC?
« Reply #12 on: 05/15/2007 03:17 PM »
Quote
Analyst - 15/5/2007  4:12 AM

Why not keep Delta II? Does anyone believe a new vehicle will be cheaper and more reliable? I don't.

Analyst

Can a new booster be less expensive?  Paper rockets are ALWAYS less expensive than real ones - until they fly.

Since the Air Force has stopped buying Delta IIs in blocks of 24 at a time for GPS, the price has shot from ~$50M apiece to over $80M apiece.  Boeing has threatened to stop production and NASA is worried.  The current Delta II market is really only the occasional NASA science mission.

The most cost effective plan would seem to be for another company to license the Delta II production capability from Boeing and just keep building it.  The problem is part obsolecence.  If NASA is serious about this, they might want to explore this option (or maybe the already are).

Offline Jim

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Re: Bigger boosters from OSC?
« Reply #13 on: 05/15/2007 03:25 PM »
It is not just parts, it is labor and all the facilities.

Offline Skyrocket

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RE: Bigger boosters from OSC?
« Reply #14 on: 05/15/2007 03:49 PM »
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aero313 - 15/5/2007  5:17 PM
The most cost effective plan would seem to be for another company to license the Delta II production capability from Boeing and just keep building it.  The problem is part obsolecence.  If NASA is serious about this, they might want to explore this option (or maybe the already are).

I do not see, how another company could build a cheaper Delta II, when there are only low-volume orders.


Offline NotGncDude

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RE: Bigger boosters from OSC?
« Reply #15 on: 05/15/2007 05:36 PM »
Quote
CFE - 11/5/2007  11:26 PM

Space News ran a recent story about Orbital Sciences considering the development of a bigger booster in the 4-5mT range.  This is exciting if it plays out, because it means a true replacement for Delta II (albeit on the low side of Delta II's performance envelope.)

I have to ask, if OSC is designing a Delta-class booster, what configuration will emerge.  I suspect it might look like a Taurus, with an extra Castor 120 added under the stack.  I haven't run the numbers on such an ungainly, five-stage vehicle, so I don't know what kind of performance it has to offer.  Another possible configuration would use the first three stages of Peacekeeper with the upper two stages of Pegasus/Minotaur.

Then again, designing rockets isn't as easy as playing Legos, and my wacky configurations might not be feasible.  OSC has learned this lesson the hard way on at least one occasion.

OSC's Dr. Antonio Elias described something like this in his Q&A thread, so I wouldn't be surprised if it's the same rocket:

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=3911&start=52

Offline aero313

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RE: Bigger boosters from OSC?
« Reply #16 on: 05/15/2007 09:36 PM »
Quote
Skyrocket - 15/5/2007  11:49 AM

Quote
aero313 - 15/5/2007  5:17 PM
The most cost effective plan would seem to be for another company to license the Delta II production capability from Boeing and just keep building it.  The problem is part obsolecence.  If NASA is serious about this, they might want to explore this option (or maybe the already are).

I do not see, how another company could build a cheaper Delta II, when there are only low-volume orders.


I didn't say "cheaper", I said "more cost effective".  When you add the nonrecurring development cost of a new rocket, the cost of a couple of failed test flights, the lost opportunities while waiting for the bugs to be worked out of the new vehicle, the new payload analysis and test required for a new (and yet unverified set of launch environments), and the cost of the NASA personnel who now have to get up to speed on a new vehicle, then divide that by the realistic mission model, you probably get a fully amortized per-unit cost that's quite a bit higher that the Delta II.  This assumes, of course, that some dot-com "hundred millionaire" doesn't fund the full development out of his personal checking account...

And as for the ability to build a Delta II for less that Boeing could, have you seen their fully burdened labor rates?

Offline simonbp

Re: Bigger boosters from OSC?
« Reply #17 on: 05/16/2007 01:54 AM »
Considering that SpaceX dropped the Falcon 5 (which would have been a low-cost successor to Delta II) quoting no market, I'd wager that there isn't a lot of hurry at OSC to do something similar...

Simon ;)

Offline Jim

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Re: Bigger boosters from OSC?
« Reply #18 on: 05/16/2007 02:04 AM »
Quote
simonbp - 15/5/2007  9:54 PM

Considering that SpaceX dropped the Falcon 5 (which would have been a low-cost successor to Delta II) quoting no market, I'd wager that there isn't a lot of hurry at OSC to do something similar...

Simon ;)

 Falcon 5 is a  Falcon 9 with 4 less engines and maybe kestrel instead of a merlin for a second stage engine.  It doesn't matter, they can market the Falcon 9 for Delta II class payloads.  Nothing is wrong with having excess performance, if the cost is comparable

Offline CFE

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RE: Bigger boosters from OSC?
« Reply #19 on: 05/16/2007 02:31 AM »
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aero313 - 15/5/2007  3:36 PM
When you add the nonrecurring development cost of a new rocket, the cost of a couple of failed test flights, the lost opportunities while waiting for the bugs to be worked out of the new vehicle, the new payload analysis and test required for a new (and yet unverified set of launch environments), and the cost of the NASA personnel who now have to get up to speed on a new vehicle, then divide that by the realistic mission model, you probably get a fully amortized per-unit cost that's quite a bit higher that the Delta II.  This assumes, of course, that some dot-com "hundred millionaire" doesn't fund the full development out of his personal checking account...

If OSC did a Delta II-class booster using existing solid rockets, the development could be accomplished fairly cheaply.  I'd also have a lot of confidence on getting it to work correctly on the first try (as Pegasus, Taurus, and Minotaur did--solids are pretty reliable, after all.)  The infrastructure to support such a vehicle could probably be built pretty cheaply too.

Nevertheless, Aero313, you are right that these costs are non-trivial.  Based on projected flight rates for vehicles in this class, there may not be a justifiable business model for this class of booster now that it's almost exclusively NASA missions.  Low-rate production of Delta II, as costly as it will be, may look cheap in comparison to a new vehicle.  I'm sure that OSC has already run the numbers to see if it's worth it or not.

The smartest way ahead for NASA would probably be paying for the remaining development on the EELV-Small.  Delta IV with Delta II's second stage shouldn't be too hard to do.  I haven't seen any concept art of Atlas V-Agena, though.  Would ULA still have the tooling to produce an updated Agena?
"Black Zones" never stopped NASA from flying the shuttle.

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