Author Topic: Final Delta IV-Heavy launches  (Read 18258 times)

Online zubenelgenubi

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Final Delta IV-Heavy launches
« on: 08/12/2020 11:10 pm »
As of this posting, there are five and only five launches pending for the Delta IV-Heavy launch vehicle:
Scheduled:
Date - Satellite(s) - Rocket - Launch Site - Time (UTC)

2020
August 26 - NROL-44: Orion 10 (Mentor 8 ) (TBD) - Delta IV-H [D-385] - Canaveral SLC-37B - 05:50-10:25
Q4 - NROL-82: KH-11 18 (Crystal 18, Block 5 #2) (TBD) - Delta IV-H [D-386] - Vandenberg SLC-6

2022
Q3 - NROL-91 (TBD) - Delta IV-H [D-387] - Vandenberg SLC-6
NET Q4 - NROL-68: Orion 11 (Mentor 9) (TBD) - Delta IV-H [D-388] - Canaveral SLC-37B

2024
February - NROL-70 - Delta IV-H [D-389] - Canaveral SLC-37B

Next Delta 4-Heavy launch on schedule for Aug. 26, dated August 12, 2020
Quote
Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO, said in a recent interview that the company has no plans to produce more Delta 4-Heavy launchers.

“It’s not really practical anymore,” Bruno told Spaceflight Now. “We’ve got the five left. Two of them will go this year, and we have allowed the supply chain that supports the Delta 4-Heavy to begin drying up after the pieces that are already delivered.”

NROL-44 launch thread

NROL-82 launch thread

NROL-91

NROL-68

NROL-70
« Last Edit: 10/07/2020 11:07 pm by zubenelgenubi »
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Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: Final Delta IV-Heavy launches
« Reply #1 on: 09/06/2020 02:47 pm »
Just out of curiosity. Can ULA still get new replacement RS-68A engines if for what ever reason some of them turn out to be not serviceable?

Offline russianhalo117

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Re: Final Delta IV-Heavy launches
« Reply #2 on: 09/06/2020 09:36 pm »
Just out of curiosity. Can ULA still get new replacement RS-68A engines if for what ever reason some of them turn out to be not serviceable?
Like RS-25D and others parts exist that can build up spare engines. I do not know quantities but SLS has 2 spare engines before restart.

Offline AAPSkylab

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Re: Final Delta IV-Heavy launches
« Reply #3 on: 09/27/2020 09:04 pm »
Rather than worry about using other boosters maybe we should be worried about the ability to get the Delta IV Heavy off the launchpad without "undue" delays and what this means for the health of the booster, payload, and GSE.

The current booster was erected on the launchpad last November, more than 300 days ago.  The wet dress rehearsal was conducted last January, more than 270 days ago.  At the time the booster was placed on the launch stand the launch was scheduled for June.  Last year when asked why it was going to be on the stand so long, Tory Bruno said it was a "special" launch.  Now with more than a 3 month delay on the pad and an aborted launch a month ago (apparently after spool up of at least one engine had started) we are still getting day by day delays with GSE issues being the stated reason.

Will this be the new normal for Delta IV Heavy?

The last (ever) Delta IV Medium launch was in August of 2019 and the most recent Heavy in January of 2019.  There will be another Heavy launch late this year (or early next year?) from Vandenberg but the next launches of Heavy wont be till at least Q3 and Q4 of 2022.  The last Heavy is currently reported to be scheduled for February 2024.

At least for SLS NASA has maintained that they need at least a once a year cadence to ensure reliability of the launcher, GSE, and pad workforce.  How will ULA and the Air Force (Space Force?) address these issues for the Delta IV Heavy?  Are there any known issues for having the booster upright this long on the pad and are there issues for the payload (reportedly the latest Orion).  Presumably they wouldn't conduct another WDR without removing the payload from the booster (is that even possible without a major delay?). 

So my thought is that there will continue to be GSE issues with every launch and possibly increasing issues for each launch.

Is Delta IV Heavy destined to become even more difficult to get launched?

Seems that maybe NROL is stuck between a rock and a hard place until they get Vulcan and the extended fairing and vertical integration on Falcon Heavy.

(Thanks for moving from the NROL-44 launch thread, it fits better here))
« Last Edit: 09/27/2020 09:32 pm by AAPSkylab »

Online zubenelgenubi

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Re: Final Delta IV-Heavy launches
« Reply #4 on: 09/27/2020 09:32 pm »
Will this be the new normal for Delta IV Heavy?

Seeking correction or clarification:
ISTR ULA wants to move as many completed Delta IV cores to the launch sites to increase floor space in Decatur for Vulcan production?

With a full Delta IV-Heavy on-site (3 cores and upper stage), could not ULA perform an annual Wet Dress Rehearsal to exercise the LV, GSE, and the carbon-based "wetware"? (campaign team)

Scheduled:
Date - Satellite(s) - Rocket - Launch Site - Time (UTC)

2020
September 26 27 28 29 - NROL-44: Orion 10 (RIO 10, Mission 8306, Mentor 8 ) (TBD) - Delta IV-H [D-385] - Canaveral SLC-37B  - 04:02
December - NROL-82: KH-11 18 (Crystal 18, Block 5 #2) (TBD) - Delta IV-H [D-386] - Vandenberg SLC-6

2021
annual Delta IV-H WDR - Canaveral SLC-37B
annual Delta IV-H WDR - Vandenberg SLC-6

2022
NLT Q3 / FY 2022 - NROL-91: ?? - Delta IV-H [D-387] - Canaveral SLC-37B Vandenberg SLC-6
annual Delta IV-H WDR - Canaveral SLC-37B

2023
NET Q4 / FY 2023 - NROL-68: Orion 11 (RIO 11, Mission 8307, Mentor 9) (TBD) - Delta IV-H [D-388] - Vandenberg SLC-6 Canaveral SLC-37B

2024
NLT February / FY 2024 - NROL-70: Orion 12 (RIO 12, Mission 8308, Mentor 10) (TBD) - Delta IV-H [D-389] - Canaveral SLC-37B

Changes on September 25th
Changes on September 26th
Changes on September 27th
zubenelgenubi
« Last Edit: 09/28/2020 06:41 am by zubenelgenubi »
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Offline DaveJ576

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Re: Final Delta IV-Heavy launches
« Reply #5 on: 10/01/2020 01:08 pm »
Rather than worry about using other boosters maybe we should be worried about the ability to get the Delta IV Heavy off the launchpad without "undue" delays and what this means for the health of the booster, payload, and GSE.

The current booster was erected on the launchpad last November, more than 300 days ago.  The wet dress rehearsal was conducted last January, more than 270 days ago.  At the time the booster was placed on the launch stand the launch was scheduled for June.  Last year when asked why it was going to be on the stand so long, Tory Bruno said it was a "special" launch.  Now with more than a 3 month delay on the pad and an aborted launch a month ago (apparently after spool up of at least one engine had started) we are still getting day by day delays with GSE issues being the stated reason.

Will this be the new normal for Delta IV Heavy?

The last (ever) Delta IV Medium launch was in August of 2019 and the most recent Heavy in January of 2019.  There will be another Heavy launch late this year (or early next year?) from Vandenberg but the next launches of Heavy wont be till at least Q3 and Q4 of 2022.  The last Heavy is currently reported to be scheduled for February 2024.

At least for SLS NASA has maintained that they need at least a once a year cadence to ensure reliability of the launcher, GSE, and pad workforce.  How will ULA and the Air Force (Space Force?) address these issues for the Delta IV Heavy?  Are there any known issues for having the booster upright this long on the pad and are there issues for the payload (reportedly the latest Orion).  Presumably they wouldn't conduct another WDR without removing the payload from the booster (is that even possible without a major delay?). 

So my thought is that there will continue to be GSE issues with every launch and possibly increasing issues for each launch.

Is Delta IV Heavy destined to become even more difficult to get launched?

Seems that maybe NROL is stuck between a rock and a hard place until they get Vulcan and the extended fairing and vertical integration on Falcon Heavy.

(Thanks for moving from the NROL-44 launch thread, it fits better here))

The New Normal? It will only be if ULA wants it that way.

I spent 21 years in the Navy operating extremely complicated machinery systems. I can tell you from first hand experience that leaving equipment unused for long periods is bad for the equipment. It will break when you try to use it. However, since long periods of inactivity are sometimes the norm for the Navy, the service adopted the Planned Maintenance System, ironically called PMS. The system has Sailors conduct periodic checks and tests of a piece of equipment to ensure that it will work when it is needed. For the most part the system works as intended. True, Sailors hate PMS, but not because it can't deliver on its promise, but because of the onerous administrative requirements and the overly harsh disciplinary consequences attached to it, which is an entirely different discussion.

ULA's problems in getting this bird off the ground seem to be directly related to not being willing to prevent a problem from occurring, rather they seem content to dealing with the issue after it occurs. This has been clearly shown in the numerous aborts for this launch, and in the aftermath of the Starliner debacle. Why? In my opinion it all comes down to the bottom line: money.

It costs money to properly maintain the GSE in good working order. It costs money to ensure that a rocket sitting on the pad for nearly a year is going to work when you light it. Proper preventative maintenance and QA testing could have prevented nearly all of this.

All corporations exist for two main reasons: to make a profit for its owners and investors, and to provide a widget or service to a customer. Those two reasons are intertwined and can not exist without each other. The Boeing/ULA team seem to be more concerned with the bottom line and have let the service part slip, and the customer(s) are letting them get away with it because it keeps happening.

The inability to get a national defense asset off the ground in a timely manner is a pointed embarrassment for both the nation and the company. Fix the problem now, or admit that you can't and let the DoD and the NRO make other arrangements. It is most likely too late to switch providers for this mission now, but if this is going to be the "new normal" then it is time to retire the Delta IVH and move on to something more reliable.   
« Last Edit: 10/01/2020 02:05 pm by DaveJ576 »
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Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Final Delta IV-Heavy launches
« Reply #6 on: 10/01/2020 05:43 pm »
One of F1 launch failures was due to corrosion from vehicle sitting on pad to long.

Online FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Final Delta IV-Heavy launches
« Reply #7 on: 10/01/2020 06:21 pm »
Quote
Delta IV Heavy scrubs again, ULA chief vows to change readiness operations
The reduced Delta launch tempo is certainly a factor.

ERIC BERGER - 10/1/2020, 6:07 AM

[…]

In response to an inquiry about these issues before Wednesday night's scrub, United Launch Alliance chief Tory Bruno told Ars, "The reduced Delta launch tempo is certainly a factor. We will be changing our operations readiness process for the remaining Delta IV Heavy missions in order to avoid the type of issues seen here."

https://arstechnica.com/science/2020/10/delta-iv-heavy-scrubs-again-ula-chief-vows-to-change-readiness-operations/

twitter.com/kevinmulhall/status/1311706960014782467

Quote
Since Vulcan and Atlas are, as I understand it going to use SLC-41, is there a resistance to maintenance expenditures on that SLC-37 pad?   Fewer and fewer launches planned there and the temptation to cut corners seems high.

https://twitter.com/torybruno/status/1311719294041022468

Quote
No. Pads have preventative maintenance and an activation with lots of testing before the launch. The ground systems that had issues here were PM'ed and tested.  However, every pad is complex and different.  We made adjustments in the DeltaII fly out.  Will do the same here.

Offline baldusi

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Re: Final Delta IV-Heavy launches
« Reply #8 on: 10/01/2020 06:46 pm »
One of F1 launch failures was due to corrosion from vehicle sitting on pad to long.
They had switched from stainless steel nuts to space aluminum. The corrosion resistance to the marine environment was not enough so it actually rusted. That means that they failed at properly specifying and certifying their parts and environment.
That's completely different from ULA's case: even the best specified and certified parts might not work for lack of use and preventive maintenance. I would guess this has more to do with bad luck, in the sense that one of the few GSE parts that they don't test with a WDR, happened to fail right when they had finished the ELC agreement.
« Last Edit: 10/01/2020 06:47 pm by baldusi »

Offline Steven Pietrobon

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Re: Final Delta IV-Heavy launches
« Reply #9 on: 10/03/2020 02:40 am »
In defence of ULA, Tory has stated that ULA does do preventative maintenance and extensive testing before launch. This does not sound like they are cutting corners. Unfortunately for this launch, a bunch of worked at N, failed at N+1 events have occurred. Not sure what the "adjustments" below entail, but will probably involve a closer eye on what needs to be tested and maintained more often.

twitter.com/torybruno/status/1311719294041022468

"No. Pads have preventative maintenance and an activation with lots of testing before the launch. The ground systems that had issues here were PM'ed and tested.  However, every pad is complex and different.  We made adjustments in the DeltaII fly out.  Will do the same here."
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Offline Lars-J

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Re: Final Delta IV-Heavy launches
« Reply #10 on: 10/03/2020 06:54 am »
In defence of ULA, Tory has stated that ULA does do preventative maintenance and extensive testing before launch. This does not sound like they are cutting corners. Unfortunately for this launch, a bunch of worked at N, failed at N+1 events have occurred. Not sure what the "adjustments" below entail, but will probably involve a closer eye on what needs to be tested and maintained more often.

https://twitter.com/torybruno/status/1311719294041022468

"No. Pads have preventative maintenance and an activation with lots of testing before the launch. The ground systems that had issues here were PM'ed and tested.  However, every pad is complex and different.  We made adjustments in the DeltaII fly out.  Will do the same here."

Just because you are doing some preventative maintenance does NOT mean that you are doing ENOUGH of it. So Tory's answer is just that - a non-answer. Of course that temptation to cut corners exist. It does in every company.
« Last Edit: 10/03/2020 06:54 am by Lars-J »

Offline Nomadd

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Re: Final Delta IV-Heavy launches
« Reply #11 on: 10/03/2020 07:09 am »
 How many of you have lived with hundreds of PMs that were completely impractical to do as written? They often read like the ridiculous job requirements that HR comes up with for a position. Everything conceivable gets piled on until they make no sense. The end result being people doing what they think is needed and signing the thing off. Adding more crap to them doesn't help. Having them written by people who actually know which end of a hammer hits the nail helps.
 Having a boss who goes to the site and listens to the guys who make the things work is hard to imagine.
« Last Edit: 10/03/2020 07:12 am by Nomadd »
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Online ZachS09

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Re: Final Delta IV-Heavy launches
« Reply #12 on: 10/03/2020 02:13 pm »
Why does ULA do D-IV Heavy Wet Dress Rehearsals way early in advance? Should they change it up to do it about a week before launch?
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Offline lrk

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Re: Final Delta IV-Heavy launches
« Reply #13 on: 10/03/2020 09:21 pm »
I suppose the two last-second aborts with this mission do somewhat vindicate SpaceX's approach of doing full static fires on the pad, vs. ULA's WDRs.  Presumably Delta WDRs end before the engine chill and startup sequence (as these steps require firing expendable pyro devices), while both of the recent aborts occured due to faults detected after that point. 

ULA has claimed in the past that they are reliable enough that actually firing the engines at the end of a WDR wouldn't tell them anything, but evidently this doesn't seem to be the case. 

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Re: Final Delta IV-Heavy launches
« Reply #14 on: 10/03/2020 10:23 pm »
ULA has claimed in the past that they are reliable enough that actually firing the engines at the end of a WDR wouldn't tell them anything 

No sensible analyst would claim that data points like that don't provide information. And the question for ULA isn't whether, retrospectively, Delta IV should have been designed for static fire testing. As they fly out the launch system the operative question is a trade off: what should they do now before each launch attempt? For each possible action, what are the costs and benefits of performing that action, and what are the costs and benefits of not performing it?

One benefit of performing some actions is that doing so increases the likelihood of eventual mission success. That's an important benefit. But can they assume that e.g. testing the diaphragms of pneumatic ground system components before this mission would have had that benefit? Personally I doubt it.
« Last Edit: 10/03/2020 10:24 pm by sdsds »
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Offline baldusi

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Re: Final Delta IV-Heavy launches
« Reply #15 on: 10/03/2020 11:18 pm »
Delta IV was designed to launch many times per month. When they assumed they would get the LEO constellations during the 90s. That didn't happened. But everything was supposed to be used very often and be cheap by sheer volume. Then the market didn't appeared and the last design touches were done to see how they could get it to be cheaper with fewer launches, all that while propulsion was did not hit the specs to get the desired performance.

Offline LouScheffer

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Re: Final Delta IV-Heavy launches
« Reply #16 on: 10/13/2020 10:52 pm »
Quote
The issue that caused the automated abort is understood and resolved. A sensor incorrectly reported that a valve in the RS68A was not in the flight position.  We have implemented a change that will better verify its position.
Let me run this through my Bayesian reverse-legalese filter, which figures out what situation would most likely result in the observed press release.

First, Tory is not allergic to the word "replaced".  Examples are:  "Decided to replace all 3 regulators to be safe", "The suspect part has been replaced", "We will replace or rebuild as needed, re-test, and then resume", etc.

But in this case Tory did NOT say ULA repaired, replaced, or otherwise fixed the sensor.  So the likely scenario is the sensor reported a bad position, and they know it's a bad sensor from the union of other evidence.  However, they can't figure out why it gave a bad reading (otherwise they would simply fix it, re-test it, and resume, as in the above statements).  So instead they changed the software to consider other evidence so it can ignore this sensor if it acts up again ("a change that will better resolve its position").  Thus "the issue is understood and resolved".

I would really love it if engineering managers gave fully informative updates and left the spin to politicians.  Of course, it's not just ULA that does this.   I was a co-author on a high profile scientific paper that reached a conclusion that could best be described as wrong.   But some co-authors go through huge mental gymnastics to avoid saying "We were wrong".  They insist "It's not *completely* disproven", "maybe the effect we described contributes in some way to the real cause as it's now understood", etc.  Of course you gain nothing by this spin-doctoring since the situation is obvious to everyone else, no matter what you say. 


Offline Lars-J

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Re: Final Delta IV-Heavy launches
« Reply #17 on: 10/17/2020 07:54 am »
It seems strange that swing arm repair would be enough to “indefinitely” delay the launch. I suspect this is the public story, but that there also are other (more serious) problems they are fixing at the same time that are the *real* long poles for the delay. But this is only my speculation.

Offline HVM

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Re: Final Delta IV-Heavy launches
« Reply #18 on: 10/17/2020 08:23 am »
Sound bit too much like a conspiracy theory. When was the original swing arm build? Maybe they have long wait time for the legacy spare parts.
« Last Edit: 10/17/2020 08:24 am by HVM »

Offline Star One

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Re: Final Delta IV-Heavy launches
« Reply #19 on: 10/17/2020 08:41 am »
It seems strange that swing arm repair would be enough to “indefinitely” delay the launch. I suspect this is the public story, but that there also are other (more serious) problems they are fixing at the same time that are the *real* long poles for the delay. But this is only my speculation.
More likely it’s just a pretty old swing arm.

 

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