Poll

Will Antares ever launch any non-CRS missions before it is retired?

Yes, it will launch satellites/probes/etc. other than Cygnus (NASA or commercial)
12 (12.9%)
Yes, but it will only launch Cygnus (e.g. resupply to a commercial space stations)
6 (6.5%)
No, but it will continue to fly CRS missions for NASA until the end of the CRS program
50 (53.8%)
No, and CRS missions will be moved to another vehicle before the end of the CRS program
25 (26.9%)

Total Members Voted: 93

Voting closed: 03/05/2018 03:09 PM


Author Topic: POLL: Will Antares ever launch anything other than CRS missions?  (Read 4856 times)

Offline lrk

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Although originally envisioned as a flexible replacement for the Delta II, Antares has struggled to compete with the influx of other low-cost launchers.  Will it manage to gain a toehold in the general launch market, be retired after completing the CRS program, or be replaced even sooner?  I'm curious to see people's thoughts on this. 

(Mods, this is my first attempt a poll, so feel free to fix anything that I've messed up.) 

Edit/Lar:
Fixes (for the edification of those who might want to start a poll)
- Topic starts with POLL:
- Topic is placed in the special POLLS section so it can be ignored by those that hate polls and found easily by those who love them
- Poll set to votes visible after voting (it was already)
- Poll set to end 31 days from start (max poll time here by convention)

« Last Edit: 02/03/2018 10:02 PM by Lar »

Offline Jim

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Although originally envisioned as a flexible replacement for the Delta II, Antares has struggled to compete with the influx of other low-cost launchers.  Will it manage to gain a toehold in the general launch market, be retired after completing the CRS program, or be replaced even sooner?  I'm curious to see people's thoughts on this. 

(Mods, this is my first attempt a poll, so feel free to fix anything that I've messed up.) 

Its launch site and upper stage are limiting its marketability

Online gongora

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Antares has struggled to compete with the influx of other low-cost launchers.

The trouble for Antares seems to be that it's not a low-cost Delta II class launcher.  It's bigger than Delta II (getting close to Atlas V 401 class to LEO with the new engines?), and supposedly about halfway between F9 and Atlas V in price.

Offline Darkseraph

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Would it have any utility with launching lighter all-electric satellites to GTO?
"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled." R.P.Feynman

Offline IanThePineapple

The main issues with Antares are that it's low-lift, had a failure (and hasn't had many launches in its multi-year life) and the fact that it launches very rarely doesn't help it much either.
« Last Edit: 02/02/2018 07:31 PM by IanThePineapple »

Offline lrk

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Although originally envisioned as a flexible replacement for the Delta II, Antares has struggled to compete with the influx of other low-cost launchers.  Will it manage to gain a toehold in the general launch market, be retired after completing the CRS program, or be replaced even sooner?  I'm curious to see people's thoughts on this. 

(Mods, this is my first attempt a poll, so feel free to fix anything that I've messed up.) 

Its launch site and upper stage are limiting its marketability

IIRC a solid-fueled third stage is an option for GTO and deep space missions, although this is still less than optimal.  And certainly its high-inclination launch site is a limitation for these kinds of missions. 

Offline IanThePineapple

Although originally envisioned as a flexible replacement for the Delta II, Antares has struggled to compete with the influx of other low-cost launchers.  Will it manage to gain a toehold in the general launch market, be retired after completing the CRS program, or be replaced even sooner?  I'm curious to see people's thoughts on this. 

(Mods, this is my first attempt a poll, so feel free to fix anything that I've messed up.) 

Its launch site and upper stage are limiting its marketability

IIRC a solid-fueled third stage is an option for GTO and deep space missions, although this is still less than optimal.  And certainly its high-inclination launch site is a limitation for these kinds of missions.

Yeah, I think they offer either a Star stage or a hypergol stage. So far neither have flown with Antares

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Although originally envisioned as a flexible replacement for the Delta II,
Not really.

CRS needed something, about like Soyuz/Progress, which was in the Delta II-class.

Its three awards (one dropped out not being able to achieve what they said they'd do), each got a chance to build a new LV (ULA was kept out, because the follow-on for Delta II was EELV, and the program had lower cost ambitions (then considering much higher EELV pricing).

The original Antares (and the Kistler) used cold war relic NK-33's re-manufactured by Aerojet, and a low cost US. Falcon 9 1.0 used a derivative of FASTRAC in a cheap kerolox LV evolved from its uneconomic Falcon 1.

They all had ambitions that weren't "Delta II". They all had setbacks. And Delta II continued to fly out.

Quote
Antares has struggled to compete with the influx of other low-cost launchers.  Will it manage to gain a toehold in the general launch market, be retired after completing the CRS program, or be replaced even sooner?
Its launch site and upper stage are limiting its marketability
Spot on.

The benefit of Wallops is intended to be like that of SX's Texas would/might be.  You're not competing with others for the facility.

This is taken away by improvements at KSC/CCAFS.

The downside of Wallops is higher inclination and limited launch azimuths. Part of the reason for the excess performance over Delta II. But you need to have a low cost LRE US to get that to work, and the "cheap solid" US doesn't allow you what you need.

Antares has struggled to compete with the influx of other low-cost launchers.

The trouble for Antares seems to be that it's not a low-cost Delta II class launcher.  It's bigger than Delta II (getting close to Atlas V 401 class to LEO with the new engines?), and supposedly about halfway between F9 and Atlas V in price.
F9R 1.1/2 were aimed at Delta II class missions, rising in cost per unit but with 10 booster reuses getting below Delta II costs.

Didn't happen.

Antares with a low cost NK-33 and RD-120 (Ukraine version) US might have gotten close too. Couldn't get the latter, and the former blew up.

So the bottom of the market in low end Delta II class payloads is the high end objective of the new crop of launchers globally. And everything else is low cost EELV competition as a blood sport. (Perhaps New Glenn, Vulcan, and FH inspire 20+T market growth?)

Where does this leave Antares? Some want ISS to vanish, taking CRS with it. They clearly need a plan beyond CRS. (They have talked of cislunar Cygnus, but Antares can't get it there.) Their new owner has only made clear Antares continues, also waiving NGL out of KSC/CCAFS as a possible for NSS launches.

Whatever they do will take 5-8 years to put into action, and the landscape then will be different. If a few of the new launchers absorb the Delta II class entirely, even doglegs won't save Antares as flown. If the high margin CRS flights vanish before the RTF payoff occurs, how much runway is left? If Vulcan phases in, Atlas phases out fast ... they are the only indigenous LV flying seldom flown Russian engines (note that Russia is trying to sell LRE's to Argentina, and Ukraine attempts to sell to RD-120 derivative powered LV's to Canada and possibly Brazil after selling the tech to China/India). What if another Russia squabble makes that hard?

You need another domestic launch site. You need a restart-able LRE US. Do you need a reusable booster or disposable solid booster?

Where do you go from here?

Would it have any utility with launching lighter all-electric satellites to GTO?
Too high an inclination launch to be competitive for this.

The main issues with Antares are that it's low-lift, had a failure (and hasn't had many launches in its multi-year life) and the fact that it launches very rarely doesn't help it much either.
It is only competitive on high cost CRS missions. Too narrow. By design.

IIRC a solid-fueled third stage is an option for GTO and deep space missions, although this is still less than optimal.  And certainly its high-inclination launch site is a limitation for these kinds of missions. 
You need the second solid, and a HAPS stage as well. Too expensive compared to competitive alternatives.

The cleverness behind Antares was to quickly get into the launch game using cheap Russian kerolox. Then they'd figure out the next gambit. Problem is, ... there is no next gambit.

Offline Jim

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The benefit of Wallops is intended to be like that of SX's Texas would/might be.  You're not competing with others for the facility.

This is taken away by improvements at KSC/CCAFS.


They thought they would be BMOC at Wallops and got the state to pay for a lot.
a.  NASA treated them just like the Range at the Cape would
b.  They had no control of the pad construction or mods.

Offline lrk

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Although originally envisioned as a flexible replacement for the Delta II,
Not really.


I actually had the chance last year to speak with Dr. Antonio Elias (CTO of Orbital ATK) about this - Antares was under consideration as a seperate project orthogonal to CRS.  Delta II was facing retirement with no clear replacement (EELV was much more expensive at the time), and since many of the satellites and probes built by Orbital were launched on Delta II, there was considerable worry that their satellite business would be impacted as a result.  The decision was made as a strategic one for the company to develop an alternative in-house, failing to forsee the massive success of Falcon and subsequent price cuts made by ULA to remain competitive, allowing Atlas 401 to win many of the payloads that would have otherwise gone to Antares. 

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Re: Will Antares ever launch anything other than CRS missions?
« Reply #10 on: 02/02/2018 09:20 PM »
Although originally envisioned as a flexible replacement for the Delta II,
Not really.


I actually had the chance last year to speak with Dr. Antonio Elias (CTO of Orbital ATK) about this - Antares was under consideration as a seperate project orthogonal to CRS.  Delta II was facing retirement with no clear replacement (EELV was much more expensive at the time), and since many of the satellites and probes built by Orbital were launched on Delta II, there was considerable worry that their satellite business would be impacted as a result.  The decision was made as a strategic one for the company to develop an alternative in-house, failing to forsee the massive success of Falcon and subsequent price cuts made by ULA to remain competitive, allowing Atlas 401 to win many of the payloads that would have otherwise gone to Antares.
Yes they were hedging their bets on Falcon 9 - what if it didn't come off?

But that went away quickly. They never evolved the plans beyond CRS, even a once, as would be required to actually be able to use Antares to orbit their own sats.

So it was a nice story that I heard from him too, but there was no follow-on to actually bring it off.

Sorry, but that's not what happened in fact. Just like 10x reuse on initial F9 1.1/1.2.

add:

(I wonder if these stories were largely covers for if things don't pan out for the "main deal", one can explain it away with a "well, we were really shooting for this other thing", as a CYA. Because they don't make sense from the beginning, from a costing/performance perspective.)

As Jim upthread reminds about MARS overcosting/delays, and not getting to be the big man, the horizon slipped away for them and they needed a bigger story to tell. (Also wonder about SX in Brownsville if why they are going slow, is to find some way around similar traps as well.)

Can you do things more with Antares? Sure. But what you do, to get which return for an given outlay, well that's what appears to be the problem.
« Last Edit: 02/02/2018 09:59 PM by Space Ghost 1962 »

Offline Rik ISS-fan

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Re: Will Antares ever launch anything other than CRS missions?
« Reply #11 on: 02/02/2018 09:50 PM »
AFAIK Orbital ATK has acquired a batch of Antares rockets, they haven't used all of them. I think they will finish the current batch. Antares has Russian RD-181 engines, a Ukrainian tank structure, and a lot of other stuff from outside of the US. Atlas V will be replaced by Vulkan because it uses RD-180 Russian engines.
I (as European) think that the US wants launchers build in the USA.

AFAIK, Orbital ATK (being acquired by Northrop Grumman) is the solid rocket/missile company in the US. They are developing the NGL (Next Generation Launcher, or Northrop Grumman Launcher) with the CastorX00 series of solid rocket motors. I think that Orbital ATK/Northrop Grumman will develop a version of NGL that will replace the Antares.
I expect that during the CRS2 contract they will switch from launching Cygnus on Antares or AtlasV to launching it on NGL.
Counter question: Can CastorX00 (/SRB) segments be moved to Wallops, or is LC-39B the best location for this.
(I really think there is a beter alternative for those crawler transporters, SPMT's and a jacking system. youtube)   
« Last Edit: 02/02/2018 10:00 PM by Rik ISS-fan »

Offline butters

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Re: Will Antares ever launch anything other than CRS missions?
« Reply #12 on: 02/02/2018 09:55 PM »
Yeah... I don't see any evidence that Orbital was ever serious about Antares for GTO. Furthermore, I can only find one Eastern Range LEO mission (ed: besides CRS) flown by Atlas V 401 (STP-1), so it's not obvious what exactly Orbital was intending to launch besides CRS.
« Last Edit: 02/03/2018 01:06 AM by butters »

Offline russianhalo117

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Re: Will Antares ever launch anything other than CRS missions?
« Reply #13 on: 02/02/2018 09:59 PM »
AFAIK Orbital ATK has acquired a batch of Antares rockets, they haven't used all of them. I think they will finish the current batch. Antares has Russian RD-181 engines, a Ukrainian tank structure, and a lot of other stuff from outside of the US. Atlas V will be replaced by Vulkan because it uses RD-180 Russian engines.
I (as European) think that the US wants launchers build in the USA.

AFAIK, Orbital ATK (being acquired by Northrop Grumman) is the solid rocket/missile company in the US. They are developing the NGL (Next Generation Launcher, or Northrop Grumman Launcher) with the CastorX00 series of solid rocket motors. I think that Orbital ATK/Northrop Grumman will develop a version of NGL that will replace the Antares.
I expect that during the CRS2 contract they will switch from launching Cygnus on Antares or AtlasV to launching it on NGL.
Counter question: Can CastorX00 (/SRB) segments be moved to Wallops, or is LC-39B the best location for this.
(I really think there is a beter alternative for those crawler transporters, SPMT's and a jacking system.)   
Castor-120 I believe is the largest diameter motor that can currently be stored, processed and operated at WFF without new purpose built facilities. SLC-2W/2E and LC-39B are currently the only sites tentatively reserved for OATK's NGL at this time. SLC-6 and SLC-37A/37B are more desired but not available until DIVH retire and ULA surrenders them back to USAF.

Offline russianhalo117

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Re: Will Antares ever launch anything other than CRS missions?
« Reply #14 on: 02/02/2018 10:04 PM »
Yeah... I don't see any evidence that Orbital was ever serious about Antares for GTO. Furthermore, I can only find one Eastern Range LEO mission flown by Atlas V 401 (STP-1), so it's not obvious what exactly Orbital was intending to launch besides CRS.
http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_lau_det/atlas-5-401.htm
I count 4 if you count the 3 Cygnus launches that were switched to ULA because of Antares failure.

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Re: Will Antares ever launch anything other than CRS missions?
« Reply #15 on: 02/02/2018 10:19 PM »
BTW, one of the things that Antares has shown, is that the Atlas V Lite concept wasn't such a good idea (e.g. having a less functional, less performant "cheap" US). Many alternative US have been suggested, including some Russian ones.

Its a bad idea, because you don't get enough "bang for the buck". And it adds risk (see MRCV issue on Atlas being "made up" by Centaur).

If Antares were to get a new US alone, it would be like a badly placed Atlas V, as a Vulcan would take over that slot. Not sure that would work out too well.

Offline deruch

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Re: Will Antares ever launch anything other than CRS missions?
« Reply #16 on: 02/03/2018 09:48 AM »
F9R 1.1/2 were aimed at Delta II class missions, rising in cost per unit but with 10 booster reuses getting below Delta II costs.
Didn't happen.
No reuse needed.  F9v1.0 was already a great potential Delta II replacement on its own.  Delta II could offer VI (plus any other specialized services for govt. payloads that needed it) and a longer record of successful launches but, when competing as contemporaries, F9 cost less and could still lift more.  The only problem was that it didn't do the job that SpaceX wanted it to, which was to lift enough cargo to ISS in a Dragon capsule.  To get that, they needed the v1.1 upgrade.  And to do that while still being recoverable/reusable they needed more.  But just for head-to-head with Delta II, v1.0 would have been fine.  And actually, for CRS, what might have been perfect is for the original Falcon 9 to launch Cygnuses (Cygni?).  Only then NASA wouldn't have gotten return cargo out of it or the advantage of multiple providers.  But on just upmass terms, I think that could have been a winner. 

But, this thread was about Antares.  And I totally agree that, in its current incarnation, it doesn't seem to offer much outside of high margin CRS.
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Online Ronsmytheiii

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Re: Will Antares ever launch anything other than CRS missions?
« Reply #17 on: 02/03/2018 11:28 AM »
The decision was made as a strategic one for the company to develop an alternative in-house, failing to forsee the massive success of Falcon and subsequent price cuts made by ULA to remain competitive, allowing Atlas 401 to win many of the payloads that would have otherwise gone to Antares. 

Dr. Elias posted his reasoning on this board before, and really what you said in the bold is patently false. Orbital DID see Falcon and its potential, but were afraid that if it failed (and this is before 2007, when SpaceX had one or maybe two launches on Falcon 1 with a 0% launch success rate) they would not have a ride to orbit in the lucrative Delta II-class missions.

Dr Elias has also mentioned on this board how Orbital's satellite business is their real income stream, and how their launch vehicles are only meant to support that business. Taurus II at the time (now Antares) was always Orbital's back up option, and Orbital had since the start looked at a high-energy upper-stage so it would become a proper Delta II replacement. They went with CASTOR-30 from the start to shorten development time/costs for Cygnus as it didnt need the high energy stage to get to LEO, and as SpaceX proved itself Orbital didnt need to exercise its backup option.
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Offline rayleighscatter

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Re: Will Antares ever launch anything other than CRS missions?
« Reply #18 on: 02/03/2018 02:02 PM »

Counter question: Can CastorX00 (/SRB) segments be moved to Wallops, or is LC-39B the best location for this.


They would exceed the weight limits on both of Wallops' pads.

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Re: Will Antares ever launch anything other than CRS missions?
« Reply #19 on: 02/03/2018 05:41 PM »
Finishing this off here, no more after this OT please:
F9R 1.1/2 were aimed at Delta II class missions, rising in cost per unit but with 10 booster reuses getting below Delta II costs.
Didn't happen.
No reuse needed.
Not what Musk told me at the time. Publically  backed up by his comment that if  SX didn't do reuse on Falcon he'd have considered it a failure.

Like I said above, sticking to what actually happened, not what could/might have happened. (Makes for a shorter, crisp narrative as a post, keeping out the "what if's" as a discipline.

Quote
F9v1.0 was already a great potential Delta II replacement on its own.  Delta II could offer VI (plus any other specialized services for govt. payloads that needed it) and a longer record of successful launches but, when competing as contemporaries, F9 cost less and could still lift more.
Agree. Beautiful "what if". But not what happened. (Strongly suggested it at the time as a better strategy to get traction.)

Just like Antares could have been different too. But likewise that "what if" ... didn't happen.

Quote
The only problem was that it didn't do the job that SpaceX wanted it to, which was to lift enough cargo to ISS in a Dragon capsule.  To get that, they needed the v1.1 upgrade.  And to do that while still being recoverable/reusable they needed more.  But just for head-to-head with Delta II, v1.0 would have been fine.
M1D was the only need to pull that off IMHO. KISS principle. 1.1 went to booster recovery/reuse. Won't elaborate more.

Quote
And actually, for CRS, what might have been perfect is for the original Falcon 9 to launch Cygnuses (Cygni?).
Was never going to happen. (Yes, cheapest for total outlay.)

Quote
Only then NASA wouldn't have gotten return cargo out of it or the advantage of multiple providers.  But on just upmass terms, I think that could have been a winner.
Two providers had to each do a SC and arrange for a Delta II class vehicle to loft it. Fallback for either having a LV failure (as with Antares) didn't necessarily devolve to the other LV.

Quote
But, this thread was about Antares.  And I totally agree that, in its current incarnation, it doesn't seem to offer much outside of high margin CRS.
It underscores the likely presumption that Antares is just for CRS, and ends with ISS (as even with cislunar, easier to fly on another LV than upgrade Antares).

Answering OP - "likely not ever". Or once in a blue moon, er ... payload?

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