Author Topic: Could Boeing quit the United Launch Alliance in the future?  (Read 13886 times)

Offline Vahe231991

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In case anyone's aware, when the United Launch Alliance was formed in December 2006 because a strong, competitive commercial launch market did not materialize within the United States, but at that time, SpaceX was a young company and therefore had yet to become a serious competitor in the commercial space launch market that Boeing and Lockheed Martin were dominating when they formed the ULA. Since SpaceX is now a full-fledged rival to ULA in the commercial and military launch market on which the ULA initially had a monopoly, might Boeing sometime in the future withdraw from the United Launch Alliance and force the ULA to disband so that Lockheed Martin assumes full responsibility for production of the Vulcan, given that the Delta IV Heavy will be retired within the next two years and Lockheed Martin has historically developed several space launch vehicles and ballistic missiles (the Atlas II and Atlas III were also built by Lockheed Martin)? I consider is possible that Boeing could save money for advanced aerospace projects like blended wing body transports and a potential UCAV version of the MQ-25 Stingray for the USAF by quitting the ULA, and Boeing had little experience developing SLVs prior to acquiring the McDonnell Douglas company in charge of building the Delta rocket.

Offline Stan-1967

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Yes, Either Boeing or LM could someday quit being a partner of ULA.  I would guess there are pathways in the JV contract that allow for termination.  Ultimately the answer  will probably be determined by answering the question, "Is ULA making money for the parent companies?"  It that answer is "yes", then I doubt either party will exit.  Given Vulcan's impressive building manifest, I'd say Boeing will be part of ULA for some time.
« Last Edit: 07/10/2022 05:32 pm by Stan-1967 »

Offline DreamyPickle

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Since they are half owners they wouldn't "quit" as much as "sell their stake".

Offline russianhalo117

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Since they are half owners they wouldn't "quit" as much as "sell their stake".
Since ULA was created by government decree as a ma datory 50:50 joint venture both parties would either have spinoff the assets into a replacement company and jointly dissolve the JV or jointly sell their stakes. Court and government approval would be required per its founding documentation which I no longer have a soft copy of but I recall exists in the early part of this forum.

Offline Jim

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I consider is possible that Boeing could save money for advanced aerospace projects like blended wing body transports and a potential UCAV version of the MQ-25 Stingray for the USAF by quitting the ULA,

makes no sense.  ULA is a constant source of income for Boeing.
« Last Edit: 07/10/2022 06:42 pm by Jim »

Offline Jim

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given that the Delta IV Heavy will be retired within the next two years .

That has no bearing on matter.  Delta IV, Atlas V and Vulcan are not IP of either Boeing or Lockheed Martin but ULA.  History has no part in this.
« Last Edit: 07/10/2022 06:42 pm by Jim »

Offline edzieba

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when the United Launch Alliance was formed in December 2006 because a strong, competitive commercial launch market did not materialize within the United States
And because of the espionage case: Boeing's theft of LM documentations on the EELV programme.
Boeing was facing the potential of being locked out of government contracting if they lost the case, a potential large financial loss if they settled (if they even could settle), and the government would have lost its redundant launch option. LM were facing potentially poor commercial sales for Atlas in the face of the collapse of the first wave of megaconstellation attempts.
The formation of ULA allowed everyone involved to save face and keep operating: The espionage case could be dropped, 'Boeing' under ULA could continue to offer Delta IV, the government got its two EELV families for redundancy (and avoided loss of a large aerospace industrial base), and both LM and Boeing received sufficient cash from the government to keep their launch businesses afloat in the face of the lack of anticipated commercial demand. LM could have held out in order to crush Boeing's competition and have the government launch market to themselves, but it would at best have been a pyrrhic victory (likely making a loss overall on Atlas with little commercial success and less public financial support).

With Vulcan taking the blurred line between the LM (Atlas) and Boeing (Delta) halves of the business and completely demolishing all pretences of separation, it's not really an option for Boeing to separate 'its business' from ULA. At absolute best they could try and sell their stake to LM, but I can't see that being a particularly good deal for LM - taking on all the financial burden (and risk) of switching to a new launch vehicle by themselves, or Boeing - losing all access to the launch market.

Offline hkultala

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I consider is possible that Boeing could save money for advanced aerospace projects like blended wing body transports and a potential UCAV version of the MQ-25 Stingray for the USAF by quitting the ULA,

makes no sense.  ULA is a constant source of income for Boeing.

No, might make lots of sense.

If it produces lots of constant money, then L-M (or somebody else) might be willing to pay a large sum of money from it.

It's all about ROI (return of investment). If Boeing needs a lot of money for other projects and cannot get cheap loan or money from investors with good conditions, then it may make a lot of sense to sell of a profitable business to get lots of money that can be invested to in the future will bring even more money into the company.

This is all very simple economics.

Offline Jim

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or Boeing - losing all access to the launch market.

Boeing still has SLS

Offline edzieba

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or Boeing - losing all access to the launch market.

Boeing still has SLS
They're the prime contractor building it, but it's not their own IP, or even their own facilities used to construct and launch it. Boeing could not (even if they could afford to) go and build and operate their own non-SLS clone and fly their own missions without intimate support from NASA, let alone iterate on it to build a new launch vehicle independently. If the whims of congress decided that SLS would be replaced with the New And Bigger Launch System, Boeing would not really have the option to continue flying SLS.

Offline Vahe231991

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Re: Could Boeing quit the United Launch Alliance in the future?
« Reply #10 on: 07/11/2022 03:17 pm »
or Boeing - losing all access to the launch market.

Boeing still has SLS
Boeing's previous forays into fabricating rocket components prior to acquiring McDonnell Douglas included manufacturing the Saturn V first stage and the Inertial Upper Stage used to launch Titan and Space Shuttle payloads beyond low Earth orbit. In any case, even if Boeing quits the ULA after the last Delta IV Heavy launch is conducted, its role in building the core stage for the SLS (which will launch later this summer) means that it is not exiting the launch market.

Online TrevorMonty

or Boeing - losing all access to the launch market.

Boeing still has SLS

Losing all access to "launch market" as in commercially competitive.
« Last Edit: 07/21/2022 01:46 am by zubenelgenubi »

Offline Jim

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Re: Could Boeing quit the United Launch Alliance in the future?
« Reply #12 on: 07/11/2022 08:52 pm »
or Boeing - losing all access to the launch market.

Boeing still has SLS

Losing all access to "launch market" as in commercially competitive.


That is not a requirement
« Last Edit: 07/21/2022 01:45 am by zubenelgenubi »

Online JayWee

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Re: Could Boeing quit the United Launch Alliance in the future?
« Reply #13 on: 07/11/2022 09:30 pm »
What are (if any) areas LM/Boeing aren't allowed to do on their own by the ULA agreement?
Say, if either of them wanted to build a reusable vehicle (like the ones LM showed renders of), would that be allowed?

Online TrevorMonty

or Boeing - losing all access to the launch market.

Boeing still has SLS

Losing all access to "launch market" as in commercially competitive.


That is not a requirement
Is SLS Boeings to sell or does NASA own it?
« Last Edit: 07/21/2022 01:45 am by zubenelgenubi »

Offline Jim

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Re: Could Boeing quit the United Launch Alliance in the future?
« Reply #15 on: 07/11/2022 11:50 pm »
or Boeing - losing all access to the launch market.

Boeing still has SLS
Boeing's previous forays into fabricating rocket components prior to acquiring McDonnell Douglas included manufacturing the Saturn V first stage and the Inertial Upper Stage used to launch Titan and Space Shuttle payloads beyond low Earth orbit. In any case, even if Boeing quits the ULA after the last Delta IV Heavy launch is conducted, its role in building the core stage for the SLS (which will launch later this summer) means that it is not exiting the launch market.

And Sealaunch

Offline edzieba

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Re: Could Boeing quit the United Launch Alliance in the future?
« Reply #16 on: 07/12/2022 10:35 am »
or Boeing - losing all access to the launch market.

Boeing still has SLS
Boeing's previous forays into fabricating rocket components prior to acquiring McDonnell Douglas included manufacturing the Saturn V first stage and the Inertial Upper Stage used to launch Titan and Space Shuttle payloads beyond low Earth orbit. In any case, even if Boeing quits the ULA after the last Delta IV Heavy launch is conducted, its role in building the core stage for the SLS (which will launch later this summer) means that it is not exiting the launch market.

And Sealaunch
Though similar to SLS, Boeing was managing the project but not actually manufacturing or operating the vehicles or GSE. Sealaunch is also effectively dead for the foreseeable future.

Offline edkyle99

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Re: Could Boeing quit the United Launch Alliance in the future?
« Reply #17 on: 07/12/2022 02:10 pm »
Though similar to SLS, Boeing was managing the project but not actually manufacturing or operating the vehicles or GSE. Sealaunch is also effectively dead for the foreseeable future.
Reports at the time said that Boeing "provided the payload fairing and interstage structure", which was called the "Payload Unit".  Boeing also reportedly did "analytical and physical spacecraft integration" and "managed overall mission operations". 

Keep in mind that Boeing joined the Sea Launch effort before it merged McDonnell Douglas, which is to say before it gained the Delta 2/3/4 launch vehicles via. that merger and began competing against itself(!).  It lost big bucks on the Sea Launch venture, then it lost big bucks again on Delta 4. 

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 07/12/2022 02:27 pm by edkyle99 »

Offline Vahe231991

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Re: Could Boeing quit the United Launch Alliance in the future?
« Reply #18 on: 07/12/2022 08:04 pm »
Though similar to SLS, Boeing was managing the project but not actually manufacturing or operating the vehicles or GSE. Sealaunch is also effectively dead for the foreseeable future.
...then it lost big bucks again on Delta 4. 

 - Ed Kyle
In what ways has Boeing lost big financially on the Delta IV? I should point out that the Delta IV family, despite bearing the name of earlier-generation Delta rocket stages used to power pre-Delta III/IV variants of the Delta SLV family, utilizes new first stage technology and a more modern Delta rocket stage. When the Delta IV Heavy is retired, the SLS will be the only American SLV to use a Delta rocket stage. The Delta II was manufactured by McDonnell Douglas on the eve of that firm's merger with Boeing, and because of that merger, Boeing assumed the legal manufacturing rights to fabricating components of the Delta II.

Offline Jim

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Re: Could Boeing quit the United Launch Alliance in the future?
« Reply #19 on: 07/12/2022 11:47 pm »
Though similar to SLS, Boeing was managing the project but not actually manufacturing or operating the vehicles or GSE. Sealaunch is also effectively dead for the foreseeable future.
...then it lost big bucks again on Delta 4. 

 - Ed Kyle
In what ways has Boeing lost big financially on the Delta IV? I should point out that the Delta IV family, despite bearing the name of earlier-generation Delta rocket stages used to power pre-Delta III/IV variants of the Delta SLV family, utilizes new first stage technology and a more modern Delta rocket stage. When the Delta IV Heavy is retired, the SLS will be the only American SLV to use a Delta rocket stage. The Delta II was manufactured by McDonnell Douglas on the eve of that firm's merger with Boeing, and because of that merger, Boeing assumed the legal manufacturing rights to fabricating components of the Delta II.

No need to educate this group on launch vehicle heritage, especially with incorrect information.

Boeing never recoup the investment in the DeltaIV development .

ICPS is not a Delta stage.  It has a different size hydrogen tank than used on Delta IV.

And no, Delta II went to ULA and no longer was Boeing.
« Last Edit: 07/12/2022 11:49 pm by Jim »

 

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