Author Topic: Should block buy return for DoD heavy launch?  (Read 9651 times)

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Should block buy return for DoD heavy launch?
« on: 11/18/2022 10:23 am »
https://spacenews.com/tory-bruno-dod-should-block-buy-heavy-launch-services-as-supply-is-tight/

Quote
Tory Bruno: DoD should ‘block buy’ heavy launch services as supply is tight
by Sandra Erwin — November 17, 2022

The rise in commercial demand and the Russian Soyuz rocket’s sudden exit from the global stage have created a 'perfect storm'

WASHINGTON — United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno is advising the U.S. Space Force to preemptively buy heavy launch services as rockets could be in short supply over the next several years.

Offline freddo411

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Re: Should block buy return for DoD heavy launch?
« Reply #1 on: 11/18/2022 12:10 pm »
https://spacenews.com/tory-bruno-dod-should-block-buy-heavy-launch-services-as-supply-is-tight/

Quote
Tory Bruno: DoD should ‘block buy’ heavy launch services as supply is tight
by Sandra Erwin — November 17, 2022

The rise in commercial demand and the Russian Soyuz rocket’s sudden exit from the global stage have created a 'perfect storm'

WASHINGTON — United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno is advising the U.S. Space Force to preemptively buy heavy launch services as rockets could be in short supply over the next several years.

Lol

Corrupt business never ends

Offline Tomness

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Re: Should block buy return for DoD heavy launch?
« Reply #2 on: 11/18/2022 01:30 pm »
SpaceX awoken a sleeping giant and the DoD loved what they saw and probably want SpaceX to put in their vertical integration tower as soon as possible. As fast as they build their StarShip pads and mounts it wouldn't take them very long.

Offline freddo411

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Re: Should block buy return for DoD heavy launch?
« Reply #3 on: 11/18/2022 01:45 pm »
If I recall correctly, ULA doesn't have any rockets to sell to the DOD, preemptively or not.

All Atlas V rockets are sold (and the DOD can't use them anyway due to the russian engines).

Vulcan hasn't flown, so it's not certified.   

Online DanClemmensen

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Re: Should block buy return for DoD heavy launch?
« Reply #4 on: 11/18/2022 01:48 pm »
Bruno's argument sounded desperate. He said the launch has abruptly become supply-constrained because of large constellation build-outs, and ULA and SpaceX won't be able to sell the USSF the launches they need on a launch-by-launch basis. But it's painfully obvious that while this is true for ULA, it's not true for SpaceX. USSF needs about ten launches per year. SpaceX intends to do a hundred launches of F9 and FH in 2023, and they need no more than 50 of those to support Starlink. The only supply constraint I know of is launch site availability. This does not even consider Starship, which will eventually take over the Starlink launches. SpaceX lauches for USSF have slipped a lot, but not because of launchers. The launchers are patiently waiting in the warehouse as the payloads slip.

The only way SpaceX will become supply-constrained is if Kuiper starts buying SpaceX launches, and that would require Kuiper to actually start launching and for it to overcome its anti-SpaceX bias.

Online deadman1204

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Re: Should block buy return for DoD heavy launch?
« Reply #5 on: 11/18/2022 01:57 pm »
Its just a plea to buy rockets that don't work yet.
Block buy is always a backdoor way to favor ULA.


Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Should block buy return for DoD heavy launch?
« Reply #6 on: 11/18/2022 02:19 pm »
There’s a glut of heavy lift launch capacity coming online by the time any new awarded contracts would start launching.

Starship, Vulcan, New Glenn, Terran-R, and very close to heavy lift: Neutron, the new Antares/Beta vehicle.

And Falcon Heavy could theoretically get to Falcon 9-like launch rates if there was a need. (They’d probably build another droneship and land all the cores downrange) even if you don’t believe the other launch vehicles will come online.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Online DanClemmensen

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Re: Should block buy return for DoD heavy launch?
« Reply #7 on: 11/18/2022 02:29 pm »
Its just a plea to buy rockets that don't work yet.
Block buy is always a backdoor way to favor ULA.
Yup, it looks like a desperation play to extend the current NSSL phase 2 deal, wherein ULA gets 60% of the business and SpaceX gets 40% of the business. But by definition SpaceX will get 100% of the business from the 1 January 2023 congressional cutoff on use of Atlas until Vulcan becomes NSSL-certified after two successful non-NSSL flights, which is NET H2 2023.

Tory should be careful what he wishes for. He's proposing a change in the way NSSL procurement works. If USSF decides to change, ULA may not like the result.

Online DanClemmensen

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Re: Should block buy return for DoD heavy launch?
« Reply #8 on: 11/18/2022 02:38 pm »
There’s a glut of heavy lift launch capacity coming online by the time any new awarded contracts would start launching.

Starship, Vulcan, New Glenn, Terran-R, and very close to heavy lift: Neutron, the new Antares/Beta vehicle.

And Falcon Heavy could theoretically get to Falcon 9-like launch rates if there was a need. (They’d probably build another droneship and land all the cores downrange) even if you don’t believe the other launch vehicles will come online.
FH would not even need core reuse to support NSSL. They can build expendable cores for all FH launches and still make a nice profit, with no strain on the existing production line. More expensive per launch, but cheaper than the non-existent alternatives. This would fully support the heavy-lift launch market until Starship (and others?) become available.

Offline freddo411

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Re: Should block buy return for DoD heavy launch?
« Reply #9 on: 11/18/2022 03:30 pm »

I think Tory is putting the cart before the horse on this one.

The current facts are:

NSSL phase 2 stipulates that ULA gets 60% (and SX gets 40%) of the launches for the US military in the 2022–2027 timeframe.

The US Space Force (USSF) plans 30–34 launches during these five fiscal years.  Which amounts to about 20 launches for ULA.    They are guaranteed these launches, already (assuming Vulcan works and gets certified).

It is beyond premature to "block buy" an more launches, way, way out in 2028.

What I would be in favor of, is the DOD constructing a new contracting framework that would support competition, additional providers, and provide incentives for reusability (and thus rapid availability).


Online DanClemmensen

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Re: Should block buy return for DoD heavy launch?
« Reply #10 on: 11/18/2022 04:02 pm »

I think Tory is putting the cart before the horse on this one.

The current facts are:

NSSL phase 2 stipulates that ULA gets 60% (and SX gets 40%) of the launches for the US military in the 2022–2027 timeframe.

The US Space Force (USSF) plans 30–34 launches during these five fiscal years.  Which amounts to about 20 launches for ULA.    They are guaranteed these launches, already (assuming Vulcan works and gets certified).

It is beyond premature to "block buy" an more launches, way, way out in 2028.

What I would be in favor of, is the DOD constructing a new contracting framework that would support competition, additional providers, and provide incentives for reusability (and thus rapid availability).
For such a low cadence, it makes little sense to qualify more than two vendors, since qualification is a big expensive deal. For the existing contract (awarded in 2020) the main vendor was SpaceX because F9 and FH were already qualified. Competition for the second slot was between ULA, NGIS, and Blue Origin, all with rockets that had not flown. ULA won with Vulcan.

Reusability may or may not enhance rapid availability.  Availability depends on how many rockets you have in the warehouse: these can be either new-build or refurbished, so you need either high-enough production or fast-enough refurbishment. Rapid response seems to more constrained by launch site availability.

Online deadman1204

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Re: Should block buy return for DoD heavy launch?
« Reply #11 on: 11/18/2022 04:44 pm »

I think Tory is putting the cart before the horse on this one.

The current facts are:

NSSL phase 2 stipulates that ULA gets 60% (and SX gets 40%) of the launches for the US military in the 2022–2027 timeframe.

The US Space Force (USSF) plans 30–34 launches during these five fiscal years.  Which amounts to about 20 launches for ULA.    They are guaranteed these launches, already (assuming Vulcan works and gets certified).

It is beyond premature to "block buy" an more launches, way, way out in 2028.

What I would be in favor of, is the DOD constructing a new contracting framework that would support competition, additional providers, and provide incentives for reusability (and thus rapid availability).
For such a low cadence, it makes little sense to qualify more than two vendors, since qualification is a big expensive deal. For the existing contract (awarded in 2020) the main vendor was SpaceX because F9 and FH were already qualified. Competition for the second slot was between ULA, NGIS, and Blue Origin, all with rockets that had not flown. ULA won with Vulcan.

Reusability may or may not enhance rapid availability.  Availability depends on how many rockets you have in the warehouse: these can be either new-build or refurbished, so you need either high-enough production or fast-enough refurbishment. Rapid response seems to more constrained by launch site availability.
Yea, I don't think reusability matters much for this. Launches are known years ahead of time, so its not hard to set production amounts to meet it. While it saves spaceX piles of money, the other competitors would all be able to meet the launch cadence without reuse.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Should block buy return for DoD heavy launch?
« Reply #12 on: 11/18/2022 04:55 pm »
It addresses the supply constraint problem Tory raised, tho. The only expended part for a 3 core recovery FH is still just the upper stage, same as a F9.

Anyway you’re all right that reuse isn’t required. But reuse does remove supply side constraint concerns that Tory argues in favor of block buys for.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline nicp

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Re: Should block buy return for DoD heavy launch?
« Reply #13 on: 11/18/2022 07:04 pm »
I suspect ULA will get their block buy. They have friends in high places. That said they have been an exceptionally reliable launch provider, this cannot be denied.
For Vectron!

Online DanClemmensen

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Re: Should block buy return for DoD heavy launch?
« Reply #14 on: 11/18/2022 07:12 pm »
It addresses the supply constraint problem Tory raised, tho. The only expended part for a 3 core recovery FH is still just the upper stage, same as a F9.
Anyway you’re all right that reuse isn’t required. But reuse does remove supply side constraint concerns that Tory argues in favor of block buys for.
A typical F9 launch reuses one booster and expends one US. A typical FH launch reuses two boosters and expends a core booster and a US. Relatively speaking, not a huge percentage difference, especially since FH missions are relatively rare and are high-value missions.

Sure it would address the problem Tory raised, but that problem does not actually exist for SpaceX in the first place. He is attempting to project his ULA problem onto SpaceX.

Offline JayWee

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Re: Should block buy return for DoD heavy launch?
« Reply #15 on: 11/18/2022 07:13 pm »
I suspect ULA will get their block buy. They have friends in high places. That said they have been an exceptionally reliable launch provider, this cannot be denied.
Cue Bezos lawsuit...

Online DanClemmensen

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Re: Should block buy return for DoD heavy launch?
« Reply #16 on: 11/18/2022 07:15 pm »
I suspect ULA will get their block buy. They have friends in high places. That said they have been an exceptionally reliable launch provider, this cannot be denied.
Cue Bezos lawsuit...
Probably not, because BO supplies the engines for Vulcan.

Offline freddo411

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Re: Should block buy return for DoD heavy launch?
« Reply #17 on: 11/18/2022 08:22 pm »

For such a low cadence, it makes little sense to qualify more than two vendors, since qualification is a big expensive deal.


I don't agree.   If the expense for qualification is born by the provider, DOD shouldn't care much.   

I'd prefer that the DOD pay and fly with any US provider that has demonstrated they can fly.   I'd remove the requirement to hit all orbits (at least have a tier for lower power launchers).   

In today's reality, ULA get's 60% while other potentially valid providers like Blue, Rocket Lab, NorGrum get zero.   This is obviously bad for the bottom tier providers, but it's also bad for the DOD, as it reduces competition that would otherwise occur.

Offline NaN

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Re: Should block buy return for DoD heavy launch?
« Reply #18 on: 11/18/2022 08:36 pm »
This is aimed at the upcoming phase 3 solicitation. It sounds to me like Bruno is trying to avoid this:

https://spacenews.com/draft-solicitation-for-national-security-space-launch-services-expected-in-early-2023/
Quote from: SpaceNews
One option being discussed is to select multiple vendors to compete for task orders, a method the Space Force uses to buy smallsat launch services under the Rocket Systems Launch Program (RSLP). The program also allows new providers to be added if the government decides it needs more competitors.

instead he wants to keep the phase 2 model of locking in a set of providers (ULA and SpaceX, obviously) with each getting a guaranteed slice of the pie. He's implying/threatening that ULA may not be able to bid on those launches if they are competed on a per-task-order basis. The justification given in the past was that launch providers (ULA) didn't have enough commercial business to sustain themselves without guaranteed minimum of DOD contracts. That justification is gone, so now the new justification is there is TOO MUCH commercial business to guarantee also servicing DOD.

I hope that DOD does move to competing individual task orders from among certified providers. I don't blame Bruno for trying, but the market is healthy enough that DOD should not need to prop up launch providers. DOD will still pay a premium for its special needs such as VI, and that's enough.

Online DanClemmensen

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Re: Should block buy return for DoD heavy launch?
« Reply #19 on: 11/18/2022 08:40 pm »

For such a low cadence, it makes little sense to qualify more than two vendors, since qualification is a big expensive deal.


I don't agree.   If the expense for qualification is born by the provider, DOD shouldn't care much.   

I'd prefer that the DOD pay and fly with any US provider that has demonstrated they can fly.   I'd remove the requirement to hit all orbits (at least have a tier for lower power launchers).   

In today's reality, ULA get's 60% while other potentially valid providers like Blue, Rocket Lab, NorGrum get zero.   This is obviously bad for the bottom tier providers, but it's also bad for the DOD, as it reduces competition that would otherwise occur.
From a cost and reliability perspective, SpaceX should get 100%. I think ULA got 60% as the minimum revenue needed to maintain them as a viable supplier. If you split the pie any further, there is just not enough revenue to go around. The requirement to hit all orbits ensures that the vendor who can hit the difficult orbits gets enough total revenue instead of having the "easy" launches siphoned off by less-capable vendors.

Of course, this reasoning is inconsistent with Tory's new theory of limited supply. If the market is supply-limited, all the suppliers should be making enough money without artificial allocations

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