Author Topic: USAF RFP for new EELV Launch Service Agreements (2017-10-05)  (Read 20714 times)

Offline Mike Jones

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Proposals are due on Monday. The outcome is pretty uncertain at this stage on the funding side and for the selection of Primes by USAF: SpaceX vs ULA (which main engine supplier ?) vs Orbital ATK (which upper stage supplier ?) vs Blue Origin.

Offline gongora

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Both houses of Congress have now passed the 2018 NDAA (which sets policy but they still need to pass a separate bill to actually fund it).  The NDAA has language that pretty much prohibits awarding contracts for this RFP.

Offline Mike Jones

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When is this last bill supposed to be passed ? Why is this RFP not cancelled or postponed in such context where no funding would be appropriated for launch vehicle development ?
« Last Edit: 11/16/2017 08:10 PM by Mike Jones »

Offline bodhiandphysics

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When is this last bill supposed to be passed ? Why is this RFP not cancelled or postponed in such context where no funding would be appropriated for launch vehicle development ?

Just a guesss... it's not that the NDAA doesn't appropriate funds for the RFP. Rather, it bans the use of discretionary funds appropriated as part of a specific program, the EELV program, except for certain specified ways. Moreover, it only does so for fiscal year 2018.  What happens in 2019 and onward is a whole new discussion.   The air force can issue any RFP that it wants... it then has to find money to pay for them, but those contracts can be structured so as not to run afoul of the law.  For instance, only work on first stages may be funded with EELV money during 2018 (and given that the decision will happen probably in the middle of year, that might not even be an issue).  Also, the air force has other money for development besides EELV money, which isn't effected by the law.

Finally, while congress writes the law, it's the executive branch that interprets it, and 2615, particularly the third section, is extremely vague.  Congress has little power to enforce their interpretation, besides withholding future appropriations.  They could conceivably sue, but unless the air force interprets the law in a way that's patently absurd, such a suit would be quite difficult to win.  As written, section 1 could be plausibly interpreted to allow essentially any work on a first stage, for instance for Vulcan and NGL.  Section 3 can be interpreted to allow any work on the modification of an upper stage that enables a vehicle to satisfy EELV requirements.  That's not  necessarily Mike Lee's interpretation, but the only interpretation that matters is the AFs and maybe a judge's. 

It might be harder for the AF to fund the BFR under section 3 (though they presumably could help fund the first stage under section 1), because the BFR is not "primarily for national security payloads," but this clause seems really meaningless to me.  What does primarily mean? Do companies have to certify that they will not seek commercial business?  That would be ridiculous. Gwen Shotwell has already suggested an argument that BFR *is* primarily for the military. The only organization that might purchase 25 tons to GTO in the current market, is the US govt.  While Spacex themselves might have other plans, they can quite easily argue that for the first few years at the BFR is going to be primarily a military launch vehicle.  While this might be a bit disingenuous, the actual purpose of the BFR, the colonization of mars, is so patently absurd that this might fly :)!
« Last Edit: 11/17/2017 12:43 AM by gongora »

Offline Mike Jones

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Any news on the various bids received by US Air Force ?

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Good article by Eric Berger on the NDAA funding language and thus the flexibility it does, and does not, give the USAF:

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/11/a-new-law-gives-air-force-some-wiggle-room-in-picking-its-new-rockets/

Two crucial quotes:

Quote
Further, the bill defines “rocket propulsion system” as a main booster, first-stage rocket engine, or motor. The term does not include a launch vehicle, an upper stage, a strap-on motor, or related infrastructure.

Quote
Another provision in the bill relates to the engines under development for Vulcan. This language states that the Air Force may terminate funding for other rocket propulsion systems when “the Secretary of the Air Force certifies to the congressional defense committees that a successful full-scale test of a domestic rocket engine has occurred.”

So first stage funding is fine, but not second or other stages, and AR-1 funding can be dropped once BE-4 achieves a 'full-scale test'.


Online envy887

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Good article by Eric Berger on the NDAA funding language and thus the flexibility it does, and does not, give the USAF:

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/11/a-new-law-gives-air-force-some-wiggle-room-in-picking-its-new-rockets/

Two crucial quotes:

Quote
Further, the bill defines “rocket propulsion system” as a main booster, first-stage rocket engine, or motor. The term does not include a launch vehicle, an upper stage, a strap-on motor, or related infrastructure.

Quote
Another provision in the bill relates to the engines under development for Vulcan. This language states that the Air Force may terminate funding for other rocket propulsion systems when “the Secretary of the Air Force certifies to the congressional defense committees that a successful full-scale test of a domestic rocket engine has occurred.”

So first stage funding is fine, but not second or other stages, and AR-1 funding can be dropped once BE-4 achieves a 'full-scale test'.

Mr Berger added a comma there. The actual text reads:

Quote
(e) Rocket Propulsion System Defined.—In this section, the term “rocket propulsion system” means, with respect to the development authorized by subsection (a)(1), a main booster, first-stage rocket engine (including such an engine using kerosene or methane-based or other propellant) or motor. The term does not include a launch vehicle, an upper stage, a strap-on motor, or related infrastructure.

So a “rocket propulsion system” is "a main booster, first-stage rocket engine (...) or motor". This reads to me like "main booster" is only modifying the clause "rocket engine or motor". That is, only such engines or motors that are applicable to main boosters are allowed to be funded, while the main boosters themselves are not.

Offline Kabloona

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Mr Berger added a comma there.

Good catch.

I think you're saying the original intent was to specify "a main booster (i.e. first-stage) rocket engine or motor."

Another case of the panda who "Eats, Shoots & Leaves."
« Last Edit: 11/22/2017 12:31 AM by Kabloona »

Offline Rik ISS-fan

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So is the first: "a main booster" the development intent;
  They search for a replacement of the Atlas and Delta booster (core) stages.
and the later the explanation than both Liquid and solid's are allowed?

Online envy887

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Mr Berger added a comma there.

Good catch.

I think you're saying the original intent was to specify "a main booster (i.e. first-stage) rocket engine or motor."

Another case of the panda who "Eats, Shoots & Leaves."

Yes. This is supported by the definition specifically excluding launch vehicle development, which main booster development would fall under.

Offline rockets4life97

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So, is funding for raptor in the same boat as AR-1? In other words, the RFP won't fund engine development after a full-scale engine test (like B-4's)?

Offline Rik ISS-fan

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I think the Raptor engine development contract will remain in place. I think the Raptor development contract involves the use of government owned test facilities, most likely Stand E2 at Stennis. SpaceX has to develop and test the larger preburners and turbo-pumps for the full scale Raptor. At Stennis there are very good facilities for this.
The cost to use these facilities is very little compared to the full engine development cost.
« Last Edit: 11/22/2017 08:45 PM by Rik ISS-fan »

Offline gongora

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Not directly related to this RFP, but I ran across this document today and wanted to save it somewhere.

Quote
1.1. Overview:

1.1.1. Prior to 2011, all National Security Space (NSS) payloads were considered as Class A
representing the most critical payloads. Launch vehicles (LVs) that launch Class A payloads
have met the highest level of certification requirements with commensurate demonstrated
reliability and must have the lowest risk tolerance rating. Class B, C and D payloads are
considered more tolerant to risk, and can be flown on LVs with progressively higher risk.

1.1.2. This instruction defines the process on how payload risk classification will be
accomplished and how the resultant risk classifications are incorporated into the overall
launch mission risk classification. It provides the SMC/CC the flexibility to certify flight
worthiness commensurate with payload risk tolerance. Risk Classification will not take
precedence over Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS)
requirements documentation nor affect system design, acquisition, or build methodology
prior to the launch flow decision process. Unlaunched missions over a year from initial
launch capability (ILC) will be reassessed annually, to provide opportunity for updated risk
acceptance decisions. Payloads introduced to an unlaunched mission under a year from ILC
will reviewed on an individual basis for potential changes to launch mission risk
classification. Consistent mission assurance (MA) will preserve operational flexibility in a
Contested, Degraded, or Operationally-limited (CDO) environment.


Offline gongora

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The Air Force issued an RFI (Request for Information) dealing with the awarding of launch contracts for EELV Phase 2.  It appears they still intend to go through with the RFP for the LSA's.  The RFI is for the details of how to structure the contract awards after the two providers are chosen.

Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Launch Service Procurement (LSP) Request for Information (RFI)
Solicitation Number: FA8811-18-R-0002

Offline Mike Jones

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Surprising news!

OrbitalATK is considering the AerojetRocketdyne RL10 or ArianeGroup Vinci rocket engine for its Next Generation Launcher upper stage after rejecting Blueorigin's BE-3U. Decision expected in Q1 2018.

http://aviationweek.com/awinspace/orbital-atk-pick-upper-stage-engine-ngl

Offline vaporcobra

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Finally got around to the deliciously tedious task of doing a line-by-line comparison of the original RFP and the Amendment 1 published in late January 2018. Very slight and subtle changes, as far as I can tell, and all are laser-focused on one specific thing: the requirement that potential AF funding is only applied in ways that specifically relate to the development of NSS-relevant capabilities. To quote the two additions I was able to find:

Quote
(Apologies, text was oddly only partially copyable on the updated PDF.)

Quote
3.1.6.4 Primarily NSS Capabilities
In accordance with FY18 NDAA Section 1605, the Offeror shall provide a signed letter certifying that the proposed Government cost share will only be used to develop capabilities necessary to enable existing or planned commercially available space launch vehicles or infrastructure that are primarily for national security space missions.

IMHO, this small addition could be a sign that the RFP was more designed in part to assist SpaceX (among others) in the development of a cryogenic Raptor S2 for Falcon than the development of BFR.

Nevertheless, I'm out of my depth here, and would love to hear opinions on the significance (if any) of this small change.
« Last Edit: 02/04/2018 12:14 AM by vaporcobra »

Offline su27k

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IMHO, this small addition could be a sign that the RFP was more designed in part to assist SpaceX (among others) in the development of a cryogenic Raptor S2 for Falcon than the development of BFR.

Nevertheless, I'm out of my depth here, and would love to hear opinions on the significance (if any) of this small change.

I'm equally clueless but I think the change is made so that the RFP follows the language in FY18 NDAA Section 1605, the change itself has nothing to do with SpaceX or BFR. We can certainly speculate how SpaceX would respond, for example I don't see they go back to Raptor S2 for Falcon. A lot would depend on how everyone involved interpret the text. For example what does "develop capabilities necessary to enable existing or planned commercially available space launch vehicles or infrastructure that are primarily for national security space missions" mean exactly? I'm having trouble parsing this sentence. And what does "development effort necessary to provide the capability to launch Category A/B payloads to NSS reference orbits" cover? Seems to me any work on first or second stage could be argued to be necessary to reach NSS reference orbits.

Online AncientU

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IMHO, this small addition could be a sign that the RFP was more designed in part to assist SpaceX (among others) in the development of a cryogenic Raptor S2 for Falcon than the development of BFR.

Nevertheless, I'm out of my depth here, and would love to hear opinions on the significance (if any) of this small change.

I'm equally clueless but I think the change is made so that the RFP follows the language in FY18 NDAA Section 1605, the change itself has nothing to do with SpaceX or BFR. We can certainly speculate how SpaceX would respond, for example I don't see they go back to Raptor S2 for Falcon. A lot would depend on how everyone involved interpret the text. For example what does "develop capabilities necessary to enable existing or planned commercially available space launch vehicles or infrastructure that are primarily for national security space missions" mean exactly? I'm having trouble parsing this sentence. And what does "development effort necessary to provide the capability to launch Category A/B payloads to NSS reference orbits" cover? Seems to me any work on first or second stage could be argued to be necessary to reach NSS reference orbits.

Add vertical integration
Add long fairings
Add high energy upper stage

F9/FH do not have any of the above and could get funded to develop them to support NSS launches.
Falcon and one day New Glenn are commercially available launch vehicles, the only ones out there, or soon to be out there, that to which this may be applicable.  NGL may also qualify as a planned commercially available launch vehicle that needs these things.
« Last Edit: 02/04/2018 09:55 PM by AncientU »
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Offline AndyE

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It looks like the Air Force has already awarded SpaceX $20 million to develop a vertical integration facility, according to this article just published on teslarati.

https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-20m-us-air-force-contract-spy-satellites/

(Apologies if this is the wrong place to put this. First post!)  :)
Acronyms are the enemy of understanding. Why not spell them out and let everyone understand what you are saying?

Offline vaporcobra

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It looks like the Air Force has already awarded SpaceX $20 million to develop a vertical integration facility, according to this article just published on teslarati.

https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-20m-us-air-force-contract-spy-satellites/

(Apologies if this is the wrong place to put this. First post!)  :)

You beat me to it, welcome to NSF! ;D Might even be worth a new thread, although it's been absolutely dead silent in all spheres. Up to the mods.

I was stunned to find ZERO coverage of this. I looked really hard and could have missed something (please let me know if you find previous coverage), but I believe it's the only article on the award itself. $20m is a huge amount for the AF to award SpaceX for a simple "study." For comparison, that's about 25% of what the AF has paid SpaceX for individual launch contracts in the past.

For that sum, I'd expect some real hardware to result from it. Study was supposed to be completed by mid-January, would love to see where SpaceX is three months in...
« Last Edit: 02/20/2018 11:19 PM by vaporcobra »

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