Author Topic: USAF EELV/NSSL Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement (Winners Announced)  (Read 136278 times)

Offline PM3

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I guess OmegA is set due to the big solids. For #2 I assume either ULA or Blue Origin, depending on which one is further ahead in development. If I had to, I would bet on ULA. SpaceX is lacking the high energy upper stage and doesn‘t operate by the book.

Omega, Vulcan and New Glenn all will do their first launch NET 2021. Wouldn't it be insane to chose two of them for a launch campaign that will begin in Q4 2021? And discard the only launcher which is definitely available? And certified? And successfully launched Air Force payload?

Blue Origin already admitted that they have trouble to meet the schedule; see the Spacenews article linked above:
Quote
Blue Origin executives have argued that the schedule puts newcomers at a disadvantage ... asked the Air Force to delay the LSP award 12 to 24 months
« Last Edit: 03/24/2019 05:10 am by PM3 »
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Offline butters

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The only real decisions for the USAF are whether to downselect to two providers or to allow a third/fourth provider to participate, and if so, whether there will be an on-ramp for providers who become operational too late to bid on the 2022 launches.

If they downselect to two providers, it has to be ULA and SpaceX, and it's just a question of who gets the 60% and the 40%. No other combination of two providers will be defensible if it must be just the two.

Online TorenAltair

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If I remember correctly Eric Berger wrote that it is an option to extend the current contract by a year. That might solve that NET 2021 problem. Then they could assess the situation again during mid to late 2020.

Offline soltasto

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It seems like for assured access to space you wouldn't want the two chosen companies operating vehicles using the same engine. So no, ULA and BO.

Also NGIS and ULA would use the same GEM-63XL strap-on solid rocket boosters, with only minor differences between them, and the same RL-10C upper stage engine,also with some differences, but not as different as the RL-10C of the Atlas V and the RL-10B of the Delta IV, which still have many commonalities. The Air Force has been fine with them being on the only 2 certified launch vehicles in the past tho.

Offline TrevorMonty

ULA is almost a given with 100% success rate, which is more important than price with $500m -1B payloads. Can still offer D4H for expensive payloads while Vulcan is proving its self.

SpaceX has good record and is good choice for less expensive payloads.

NG has history of DOD launches but totally new LV, which may struggle to survive without DOD missions.

Blue has no DOD or launch experience and totally new LV.  Will need 3rd stage for GEO direct missions.




Offline envy887

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ULA is almost a given with 100% success rate, which is more important than price with $500m -1B payloads. Can still offer D4H for expensive payloads while Vulcan is proving its self.

SpaceX has good record and is good choice for less expensive payloads.

NG has history of DOD launches but totally new LV, which may struggle to survive without DOD missions.

Blue has no DOD or launch experience and totally new LV.  Will need 3rd stage for GEO direct missions.
Blue said they only need 1 configuration for all missions. So no 3rd stage.

Offline gongora

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NG has history of DOD launches but totally new LV, which may struggle to survive without DOD missions.

NG has claimed their launcher could survive on very few missions.

Offline gongora

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Blue has no DOD or launch experience and totally new LV.  Will need 3rd stage for GEO direct missions.

Blue has no orbital launch experience.  They have launch experience.  Their current design is supposed to have the necessary performance without a third stage.

Offline rockets4life97

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My Prediction:
ULA 60% and SpaceX 40%
Blue and Northrop get to keep their phase 1 money and have an on-ramp to compete for some future missions.

Status quo maintained. SpaceX will sue to contest not getting the 60%, but will lose in court.

Offline Billium

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Obviously the fact that 3 of these rockets have not flown yet is a technical risk, but I wonder how much the Air Force would reasonably view vertical integration for SpaceX as a technical risk? Is this just about SpaceX spending some hundreds of millions on infrastructure, or is there also some uncertainty about their ability to accomplish that successfully?

Offline Star One

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The betting seems to be on this going to Space X & ULA. If I wanted to be harsh I’d say it would be hard to justify any of the other three at this time unless they go down the route of extending the current contract to give the others more time.

I suppose the argument for giving ULA 60% is to maintain plurality of launchers as without that kind of deal ULA might find it hard going.
« Last Edit: 03/24/2019 03:19 pm by Star One »

Offline gongora

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Obviously the fact that 3 of these rockets have not flown yet is a technical risk, but I wonder how much the Air Force would reasonably view vertical integration for SpaceX as a technical risk? Is this just about SpaceX spending some hundreds of millions on infrastructure, or is there also some uncertainty about their ability to accomplish that successfully?

SpaceX has already done studies (paid for by the Air Force) on how they would do vertical integration.  They're just not going to spend the money on implementation until they actually need it.  Whoever wins these contracts will get some government money to help build out vertical integration capabilities.

edit: Blue has mentioned a figure of around $1B for just the ground infrastructure to support government flights, which in their case would involve building a West Coast pad as well as vertical integration.
« Last Edit: 03/24/2019 03:46 pm by gongora »

Offline rcoppola

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In order of importance to the AF:

#1 Able to deliver National Security payloads to nine reference orbits
#2 Business Management and Approach
#3 Past performance
#4 Price

Putting Business Management and Approach at #2 gives them the instrument they need to weight things accordingly. ULA has to offer Vulcan because RD-180 is banned (for DOD) come 2022. Since Vulcan will not have a past performance, they transfer that to a management and approach weighting, not vehicle. And hey...look at that...Price is dead last for consideration too.

That this RFP protects ULA is not surprising. They are rock solid, dependable. BUT I submit this also results in SpaceX receiving 60% of the orders. There's only so much you can weight this to ULA with a new vehicle regardless of how much heritage it will share.

The other problem for BO and I asked this of Tory but didn't get a response, was with only two Providers allowed, how would it ever be ULA and BO since they share the same engine which works against the concept of dissimilar redundancy? If it was opened up to three providers then yes but not with only 2.


(Criteria sourced from: https://spacenews.com/air-force-poised-to-release-final-solicitation-notice-for-national-security-space-launch/)
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Offline PM3

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Reports that the RFP could be released on March 29 after a meeting of USAF/DoD acquisition officials on March 28.
Ars Technica
Space News

Delayed to April, within two weeks from now.

Air Force firmly opposed to delaying National Security Space Launch competition
Spacenews, March 27, 2019

Air Force does not want to change the proceedings. Decide in spring 2020 for all 25 launches, two providers, 60:40 split of contracts.
"Never, never be afraid of the truth." -- Jim Bridenstine

Offline docmordrid

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Sounds like Blue Origin is asking for a down-select delay. BE-4 troubles impact?

https://spacenews.com/air-force-space-launch-competition-caught-in-political-crossfire/
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Offline rcoppola

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All the big players are here. Both Parties. Both Houses. Here's another article on the subject from our friend Eric.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/03/looming-air-force-decision-on-mid-2020s-launch-contracts-favors-ula-spacex/

And here are but a few initial thoughts after reading Eric's article:

-The added language of "using an alternate vehicle until 2023" is specifically written for the Atlas/Vulcan transition. But the irony is with the need for dissimilar redundancy. Unless they go to 3, BO can't join in since NG & Vulcan use the same engine. And ULA won't be dropped.

-And continuing the obvious, the AF can't go to three providers because ULA doesn't have enough commercial contracts to sustain it without enough institutional launches.
« Last Edit: 03/31/2019 11:24 pm by rcoppola »
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Offline woods170

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Offline Zed_Noir

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The USAF will have to answer questions from the new House Armed Service Committee chairman Adam Smith (D) from Washington state about the contract award timing. Should be interesting.

Offline edkyle99

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Congress imposed this timeline, with the RD-180 edict.  Now it, or parts of it, wants to stretch things out.  No wonder national space launch costs rise.

Someone has to lose here and it will be painful.  I don't agree with those who assume ULA is a shoe-in, BTW. 

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 04/01/2019 02:01 pm by edkyle99 »

Offline gongora

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I'm confused by the reporting on the RD-180 issue.  I've seen 12 engines still available mentioned.  That's enough to fly the last Phase 1A contract and a 40% share of Phase 2 on Atlas V.  That hardly seems like an urgent situation.

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