Author Topic: Aerojet Rocketdyne Completes Study on Common Upper Stage Service for NASA  (Read 17057 times)

Offline jongoff

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Not entirely sure what this means, but it looks like Aerojet at Ball Aerospace completed a study for NASA on a new upper stage for use on a wide range of launchers. Reading between the lines, this sounds like it might be a small, storable propellant (using the "green" storable propellants that Aerojet and Ball are doing for the GPIM) upper stage to go on top of existing rockets like Antares and the EELVs. Hopefully they'll release more details at some point, but I figured I'd start a thread.

http://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2014/07/09/649707/10088729/en/Aerojet-Rocketdyne-Completes-Study-on-Common-Upper-Stage-Service-for-NASA.html

~Jon

Offline Jim

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Offline jongoff

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Thanks Jim,

I saw that FBO reference when googling the story but forgot to post the link. And via twitter AerojetRocketdyne clarified that yes, this is a 3rd stage that would fly on top of a Centaur or DCSS to provide deep space maneuvers.

I also asked them if this was just a study result, or if this was something they were actually going to be building. Look forward to seeing the details when they come out.

~Jon

Offline arachnitect

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Orbital has a similar contract?

Talked about a bit in a STAR-48 thread starting here: http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=33084.msg1110375#msg1110375

I vaguely recall a standalone thread for this, but I can't find it.

Offline Jim

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Thanks Jim,

1. I saw that FBO reference when googling the story but forgot to post the link. And via twitter AerojetRocketdyne clarified that yes, this is a 3rd stage that would fly on top of a Centaur or DCSS to provide deep space maneuvers.

2.  I also asked them if this was just a study result, or if this was something they were actually going to be building. Look forward to seeing the details when they come out.

~Jon

1.  I believe it is for more C3 vs deep space maneuvers.  Much like the STAR-48 on PNH.   

2.  I guess that is up to NASA and what they want to do with the study.

With the demise of the Delta II, there is no more ability to provide spin stabilized STAR motors for high energy missions.

Offline jongoff

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Thanks Jim,

1. I saw that FBO reference when googling the story but forgot to post the link. And via twitter AerojetRocketdyne clarified that yes, this is a 3rd stage that would fly on top of a Centaur or DCSS to provide deep space maneuvers.

2.  I also asked them if this was just a study result, or if this was something they were actually going to be building. Look forward to seeing the details when they come out.

~Jon

1.  I believe it is for more C3 vs deep space maneuvers.  Much like the STAR-48 on PNH. 

Sorry, very sloppy language on my part--this is what I meant. Ie an extra kick stage for high energy missions.

Quote
2.  I guess that is up to NASA and what they want to do with the study.

With the demise of the Delta II, there is no more ability to provide spin stabilized STAR motors for high energy missions.

Interesting, ok, so this may be addressing that situation. Thanks for the info.

~Jon

Offline edkyle99

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With the demise of the Delta II, there is no more ability to provide spin stabilized STAR motors for high energy missions.
The study statement of work does not include the words "solid" or "liquid", so I suppose that either are options for this job.  My guess would be that solids would be a strong contender, either on a spin table or with ACS 3-axis control, but the requirement for a common stage to cover a range of launch vehicles might  force use of storable liquid.  I suppose I should sit down with the SOW example, with its specific delta-v requirements and mass limits.  The answer is probably right there in black and white.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 07/10/2014 02:59 AM by edkyle99 »

Offline kevin-rf

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I thought New Horizons used an Atlas v551 with a Star 48B on top...
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Offline a_langwich

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I thought New Horizons used an Atlas v551 with a Star 48B on top...

Right, but...
http://www.spacenews.com/article/civil-space/41380solar-probe-plus-nasa%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98mission-to-the-fires-of-hell%E2%80%99-trading-atlas-5-for

Solar Probe Plus has apparently porked above an Atlas 551 plus a Star 48x, which led NASA to commission ATK to customize and tweak the Star 48 to a Star 48GXV configuration, and even that wasn't enough.  I would think this upper stage contract was in the works long before the crisis with SP+, but it illustrates the need perfectly.

It would seem, given the low ISP of a solid, that some sort of liquid engine could do better, but that answer cannot ignore the tanks and propellant feed structure, which liquid engine proponents tend to do.

Spin-stabilized Stars may be out, but there are Star variants (eg Star 48V) that use TVC for stabilization and axis control.

As far as Solar Probe Plus goes, the article indicates they've decided to bump to either a DIVH or FH.  Either pray for a large influx of cash for the DIVH, or pray the Falcon Heavy magically launches enough before the launch date to earn a NASA Category 3 certification.  Seems like a NASA Science Mission Directorate nightmare, given how tightly they are squeezing their hundred millions these days.

No mention of electric propulsion, I wonder if they looked at that for part of their dV, perhaps an initial SEP tug that gets jettisoned.  I'm sure they have, given the extreme other measures they've taken.

Also no mention about trying to reduce weight--again, no doubt they've tried everything they can think of, but it seems to me compared to the cost of upgrading to a Delta IV Heavy, some really exotic and draconian measures could still be preferred.

Edit:  this article says "could enable Solar Probe Plus" so I wonder if it does indeed outperform the Star 48GXV, or if they were using that phrase generically to refer to the baseline mission without the weight gain that painted them into a corner.

IF it does involve storables and does open up better performance than a Star 48 for a competitive price*, then I should think such a kick stage could see a fair trickle of NASA high energy missions as customers. 

*Some NASA science mission powerpoints pointed to a Star 48 price between 10 and 20 million...compare to an RD-180 which was originally said to cost LM $5 million each but nearly 20 years ago.
« Last Edit: 07/29/2014 03:18 AM by a_langwich »

Offline Jim

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1.  Solar Probe Plus has apparently porked above an Atlas 551 plus a Star 48x,

2.   which led NASA to commission ATK to customize and tweak the Star 48 to a Star 48GXV configuration, and even that wasn't enough.  I would think this upper stage contract was in the works long before the crisis with SP+, but it illustrates the need perfectly.

3.  As far as Solar Probe Plus goes, the article indicates they've decided to bump to either a DIVH or FH.  Either pray for a large influx of cash for the DIVH, or pray the Falcon Heavy magically launches enough before the launch date to earn a NASA Category 3 certification.  Seems like a NASA Science Mission Directorate nightmare, given how tightly they are squeezing their hundred millions these days.

4.  Also no mention about trying to reduce weight--again, no doubt they've tried everything they can think of, but it seems to me compared to the cost of upgrading to a Delta IV Heavy, some really exotic and draconian measures could still be preferred.

Edit:  this article says "could enable Solar Probe Plus" so I wonder if it does indeed outperform the Star 48GXV, or if they were using that phrase generically to refer to the baseline mission without the weight gain that painted them into a corner.


1.  Has nothing to do with weight, it is the C3, which the 551 can't achieve.
2.  NASA did no such thing.   That is ATK's own work
3.  RFP for launch services already went out
4.  See #1. 

Offline arachnitect

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1.  Solar Probe Plus has apparently porked above an Atlas 551 plus a Star 48x,

2.   which led NASA to commission ATK to customize and tweak the Star 48 to a Star 48GXV configuration, and even that wasn't enough.  I would think this upper stage contract was in the works long before the crisis with SP+, but it illustrates the need perfectly.

3.  As far as Solar Probe Plus goes, the article indicates they've decided to bump to either a DIVH or FH.  Either pray for a large influx of cash for the DIVH, or pray the Falcon Heavy magically launches enough before the launch date to earn a NASA Category 3 certification.  Seems like a NASA Science Mission Directorate nightmare, given how tightly they are squeezing their hundred millions these days.

4.  Also no mention about trying to reduce weight--again, no doubt they've tried everything they can think of, but it seems to me compared to the cost of upgrading to a Delta IV Heavy, some really exotic and draconian measures could still be preferred.

Edit:  this article says "could enable Solar Probe Plus" so I wonder if it does indeed outperform the Star 48GXV, or if they were using that phrase generically to refer to the baseline mission without the weight gain that painted them into a corner.


1.  Has nothing to do with weight, it is the C3, which the 551 can't achieve.
2.  NASA did no such thing.   That is ATK's own work
3.  RFP for launch services already went out
4.  See #1. 

I thought APL commissioned the GXV development?

Test fire:

Offline Jim

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I thought APL commissioned the GXV development?


You would be right.  I should have said, NASA didn't contract for it.

Offline a_langwich

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1.  Has nothing to do with weight, it is the C3, which the 551 can't achieve.
2.  NASA did no such thing.   That is ATK's own work
3.  RFP for launch services already went out
4.  See #1. 

1.  well, yeah...except it's not purely the 551, it's the 551 plus kick stage(s) plus spacecraft, and as the weight of the spacecraft goes up, the options for the kick stage go down.  To zero, in this case.  Or, in shorter form, more spacecraft weight is less fuel weight, and fuel weight is deltaV.

If you look at the Antares LV guide (http://www.orbital.com/LaunchSystems/Publications/Antares_factsheet.pdf), you can see payload weight vs C3 in the second chart on page 2.  There would be a similar chart in the Atlas user's guide, except they explicitly tell you if C3 is your goal, you need to get a 3rd party kick stage.  So, instead, you can see tons of charts that show payload weight vs orbit height, which is close.

2.  Okay, so it was APL contracting ($15.7 million) on behalf of a mission they were building for NASA's SMD. 

3.  Yes, it did.  Sorry if I gave the impression it hadn't.  But the decision still boils down to yikes the money or yikes do we trust this thing / hope it works enough over the next three years /hope it gets certified in time, and as far as I know, there's no indication which way NASA is leaning.

4.  See #1. 

Offline strangequark

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With the demise of the Delta II, there is no more ability to provide spin stabilized STAR motors for high energy missions.
The study statement of work does not include the words "solid" or "liquid", so I suppose that either are options for this job.  My guess would be that solids would be a strong contender, either on a spin table or with ACS 3-axis control, but the requirement for a common stage to cover a range of launch vehicles might  force use of storable liquid.  I suppose I should sit down with the SOW example, with its specific delta-v requirements and mass limits.  The answer is probably right there in black and white.

 - Ed Kyle

The "green" propellant for GPIM is the AF-M315E HAN-based liquid propellant. Though, that particular propellant can be thought of as a solid prop with water as the binder.
« Last Edit: 07/31/2014 06:28 PM by strangequark »

Offline a_langwich

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With the demise of the Delta II, there is no more ability to provide spin stabilized STAR motors for high energy missions.
The study statement of work does not include the words "solid" or "liquid", so I suppose that either are options for this job.  My guess would be that solids would be a strong contender, either on a spin table or with ACS 3-axis control, but the requirement for a common stage to cover a range of launch vehicles might  force use of storable liquid.  I suppose I should sit down with the SOW example, with its specific delta-v requirements and mass limits.  The answer is probably right there in black and white.

 - Ed Kyle

The "green" propellant for GPIM is the AF-315ME HAN-based liquid propellant. Though, that particular propellant can be thought of as a solid prop with water as the binder.

Do you mean it's a colloidal kind of mix?  No settling or storage problems?  Is the engine still pump fed?  Does that affect wear on pumps?  Did you mention a while back that combustion temps were a problem for some of these green propellants?

Offline strangequark

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Do you mean it's a colloidal kind of mix?  No settling or storage problems?  Is the engine still pump fed?  Does that affect wear on pumps?  Did you mention a while back that combustion temps were a problem for some of these green propellants?

No, everything is dissolved. It's a homogeneous liquid. All work has been pressure fed, to my knowledge. These are thrusters, not engines1. What I mean is that the composition of the fuels (AF-M315E, LMP-103S, etc) is mostly a powdered ammonium salt oxidizer, a powdered fuel making up most of the rest, and then trace amounts of burn rate modifiers, and stabilizers. Chemically, it's very similar stuff to what goes into a solid, they've just replaced the 5-10% rubber binder with a solvent (water). They even burn like a solid (to the point that they do "strand burn tests" with prop filled quartz tubes).

Problem is a strong word (maybe I used it :-)). Hydrazine burns cool, about 1700F, which for a rocket might as well be room temperature. Hydrazine, you can build everything out of Inconel and related alloys, which are pretty run of the mill in this business. Ionic liquids burn as hot as bipropellants (>5000F), which means complex cooling, or exotic materials (Rhenium, Iridium, Ceramics). It's obviously a surmountable problem, as it's been surmounted, but it does mean cost and complexity.

1. Ionic liquids still require catalyst beds for existing designs. For something large enough to be pump fed, these would be HUGE and heavy. There is some open literature out there about using microwaves to ignite ionic liquid propellants. You'd need something like that to be mature before even thinking about it, and even then, the Isp is better than hydrazine, but it's not fabulous (high 200s instead of low 200s). For now, this is an option for something that needs pounds to hundreds of pounds of thrust, not thousands to tens of thousands.
« Last Edit: 07/31/2014 07:00 PM by strangequark »

Offline arachnitect

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I do hope we get to see the proposals from Aerojet and Orbital.

This Aerojet product seems to be a world apart from the STAR based stage I'm expecting from Orbital (but I could be wrong about that as well, they have the Bi-Propellant Transfer Stage proposal).

A green propellant stage could be cheap and easier to handle, but a STAR-48 based stage should absolutely crush it performance wise (higher ISP, better mass fraction, not to mention thrust).

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