Author Topic: Commercialized SLS  (Read 151976 times)

Offline dror

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Commercialized SLS
« on: 03/30/2019 07:47 pm »
ISTM that the SLS program's contractual structure directs it to inefficiency and demise.
Boeing is not solely responsible for the delays and overruns. These were incentivized.

A change to the contractual structure can lead to saving SLS.

The change I suggest, and it may have been suggested  before,  is, as the title suggests, to commercialize it.
The idea is to sell the design to a contractor which could offer the highest value in return. That would be evaluated by development timeline and cost cap, price per launch and future development roadmap, or other criteria.

The change to commercial-govt partnership will introduce incentives that are viable to a robust program, and are absent as it is. This will hopefully lead to development speed up and operational costs go down.

The contractor which fits best IMO is ULA.
Boeing itself must be excluded as it's incompetence is the problem at hand.
LM, Blue, SX, AJR will not fit as well as ULA.

ULA's roadmap includes ACES, Smart reuse, distrbuted launch, ixion habitat and Xues lander. If applicable to SLS, these will put it on par with Starship Super Heavy technology wise and increase the value of the program many times. That will also benefit ULA because it will represent a matching to fund these technologies which is needed for vulcan as well.
This will also maintain the same political interest as it will be the same workforce.
There's a chance that this is ULA's (and AJR engines') last chance if Vulcan alone may not  be sufficient for them.

I think Boieng won't be in a position to protest, since the job  remains in its parented company.
Must be conditioned as do or die, tough, because without the sword on it's neck, SLS will fight on. It must also maintain strict milestones to supervise the new contractor .

This is the only way I can see to make SLS into a positive endeavor, and make the money invested fruitful.

I'm very interested to hear about the reasons for and against.
I would love to hear your opinions specifically about the applicability of IVF, Smart reuse, distrbuted launch, ixion habitat and Xues lander  to SLS' stages.
Space is hard immensely complex and high risk !

Offline pathfinder_01

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Re: Commercialized SLS
« Reply #1 on: 03/30/2019 08:33 pm »
Not going to happen. The Idea of commercialization is that there should be other users of the rocket than NASA human Space flight.

Atlas, Delta, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy are are rockets than carry payloads from the DOD, NASA unmanned spaceflight, Commercial users(mostly com. satellites) and so on.  They are privately owned and designed where as at best you could just transfer ownership of SLS from the US government to a private contractor, but  there would be very little incentive to invest or change anything because it would have no other competition or uses. They might make some economy moves to increase profits but don't expect things to be much better.

ULA needs no funds from NASA HSF to make vulcan. It is doing is using Airforce money and it's own investment. Vulcan will be human rated due to requirements to launch the CST-100 for Boeing but that is about it. ULA will field the ACES when it makes business sense(they have a customer willing to pay for it or it improves profits).They will not make a lander or hab of any kind without someone willing to pay for it. Not to mention the ownership of ULA(Boeing and Lockheed Martin) do not allow ULA to make payloads. It also is not the same workforce.
« Last Edit: 03/30/2019 08:41 pm by pathfinder_01 »

Offline ncb1397

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Re: Commercialized SLS
« Reply #2 on: 03/30/2019 08:55 pm »
Not going to happen. The Idea of commercialization is that there should be other users of the rocket than NASA human Space flight.

Atlas, Delta, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy are are rockets than carry payloads from the DOD, NASA unmanned spaceflight, Commercial users(mostly com. satellites) and so on.  They are privately owned and designed where as at best you could just transfer ownership of SLS from the US government to a private contractor, but  there would be very little incentive to invest or change anything because it would have no other competition or uses. They might make some economy moves to increase profits but don't expect things to be much better.

I've often wondered about commercial uses. Number of GTO comsats it could launch would be about ~10 assuming ~5 t per satellite(Block 1B). You would have to get the price per launch down to ~$600 million to be competitive with Falcon 9 on a price basis and down to ~$800 million to be competitive with Ariane V. If you add up the prices for the hardware from the shuttle days, you get similar numbers to that if you extrapolate to SLS. For LEO constellations, which tend to be volume constrained and this is one of the SLS' stronger areas, 100,000 kg to LEO with 250 kg per satellite including dispenser would be 400 satellites per launch which is similar in constellation size to the One Web initial deployment. Volume per satellite assuming the 10 meter 1800 m3 fairing would be 4.5 m3 per satellite. I believe they are paying well over a billion in launch costs in that case with the added benefit of quick constellation deployment instead of a multi-year campaign and delayed initial service offering.

Offline pathfinder_01

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Re: Commercialized SLS
« Reply #3 on: 03/30/2019 09:08 pm »
Not going to happen. The Idea of commercialization is that there should be other users of the rocket than NASA human Space flight.

Atlas, Delta, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy are are rockets than carry payloads from the DOD, NASA unmanned spaceflight, Commercial users(mostly com. satellites) and so on.  They are privately owned and designed where as at best you could just transfer ownership of SLS from the US government to a private contractor, but  there would be very little incentive to invest or change anything because it would have no other competition or uses. They might make some economy moves to increase profits but don't expect things to be much better.

I've often wondered about commercial uses. Number of GTO comsats it could launch would be about ~10 assuming ~5 t per satellite(Block 1B). You would have to get the price per launch down to ~$600 million to be competitive with Falcon 9 on a price basis and down to ~$800 million to be competitive with Ariane V. If you add up the prices for the hardware from the shuttle days, you get similar numbers to that if you extrapolate to SLS. For LEO constellations, which tend to be volume constrained and this is one of the SLS' stronger areas, 100,000 kg to LEO with 250 kg per satellite including dispenser would be 400 satellites per launch which is similar in constellation size to the One Web initial deployment. Volume per satellite assuming the 10 meter 1800 m3 fairing would be 4.5 m3 per satellite. I believe they are paying well over a billion in launch costs in that case with the added benefit of quick constellation deployment instead of a multi-year campaign and delayed initial service offering.

The trouble is getting that many satellites to launch at the same time to go into compatible orbits as well as the availability of SLS(2 per year at best). Not to mention insurance costs for using a booster with less history(initially).

Offline ulm_atms

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Re: Commercialized SLS
« Reply #4 on: 03/30/2019 09:09 pm »
The idea is to sell the design...

And that right there is why this is a dead topic IMO.  It was "designed" to distribute funds to certain areas that Congress wanted them to go.  SLS was purely designed for all the old shuttle players to continue getting their share of the government teat...nothing more.  It was never designed to be commercialized or cost conscious.

I've often wondered about commercial uses. Number of GTO comsats it could launch would be about ~10 assuming ~5 t per satellite(Block 1B). You would have to get the price per launch down to ~$600 million to be competitive with Falcon 9 on a price basis and down to ~$800 million to be competitive with Ariane V. If you add up the prices for the hardware from the shuttle days, you get similar numbers to that if you extrapolate to SLS. For LEO constellations, which tend to be volume constrained and this is one of the SLS' stronger areas, 100,000 kg to LEO with 250 kg per satellite including dispenser would be 400 satellites per launch which is similar in constellation size to the One Web initial deployment. Volume per satellite assuming the 10 meter 1800 m3 fairing would be 4.5 m3 per satellite. I believe they are paying well over a billion in launch costs in that case with the added benefit of quick constellation deployment instead of a multi-year campaign and delayed initial service offering.

In the commercial world....I don't think an insurance company would insure an entire constellation of sats in one launch.  Especially a rocket that doesn't have a track record yet.  It would probably break both companies if it failed.

The volume issue should be fixed by New Glen and SS in the future which will hurt the one thing SLS has going for it in the first place.

Offline ncb1397

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Re: Commercialized SLS
« Reply #5 on: 03/30/2019 09:27 pm »

In the commercial world....I don't think an insurance company would insure an entire constellation of sats in one launch.  Especially a rocket that doesn't have a track record yet.  It would probably break both companies if it failed.

Umm, I don't think so. AXA has $110 billion dollars per year in annual revenues. Assuming $1 billion in insurance for the launch and $1.5 million per satellite, it wouldn't threaten the survival of the company unless they were already in bad financial shape. Your scenario would play out only if a smaller insurer bet the company on it. It may even be regulatorily prohibited to write such an insurance policy where you don't have the financial position to fulfill an insurance claim.
« Last Edit: 03/30/2019 09:28 pm by ncb1397 »

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: Commercialized SLS
« Reply #6 on: 03/30/2019 09:46 pm »
ISTM that the SLS program's contractual structure directs it to inefficiency and demise.

Congress designed it that way, and it is meeting all of it's goals in that respect.

Quote
Boeing is not solely responsible for the delays and overruns. These were incentivized.

Boeing is a very smart, experienced government contractor. It is providing exactly what it feels it needs to provide. And if you haven't noticed, unlike other government programs that are in trouble, Congress so far has not had any hearings to find out what the ultimate cost will be for the program - because Congress never set a number. Nor does it apparently care. Interesting, huh?

Again, the program is achieving exactly what it's creators in Congress intended. That those results don't coincide with what the Trump administration wants is of little consequence.

Quote
The contractor which fits best IMO is ULA.

Maybe. Of course ULA is a 50/50 partnership with Lockheed Martin and, you guessed it, Boeing.

But here is the bottom line:

After the SLS flies successfully for the first time, the U.S. Government could offer to give it to one of the many capable U.S. aerospace companies. Give it, for free.

And no one would take it.

Why? Because it will be hideously expensive to fly, it will still need multiple launches to ensure that it truly is a safe transportation system, and because there is no long-term market for its unique capabilities.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline ncb1397

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Re: Commercialized SLS
« Reply #7 on: 03/30/2019 10:26 pm »

And no one would take it.
 

Maybe. If NASA wants to unload the operations but still have access to it, they could commit to a block buy. And it really doesn't take much money to dynamite all the tooling and fire all the employees after the block buy if another order from NASA or others doesn't come through. And if SLS still gets ~$1.5-2.5 billion per year in congressional appropriations, it could be pretty profitable - you would just have to keep your costs below that.

How big would a block buy be? Potentially as large as the likely value of CRS-2 and CCtCap combined (over $10 billion) or the maximum value of CRS-2 ($14 billion).
« Last Edit: 03/30/2019 10:30 pm by ncb1397 »

Offline spacenut

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Re: Commercialized SLS
« Reply #8 on: 03/31/2019 03:15 am »
Bottom line.  SLS is not cost effective.  Solids are expensive and not reusable.  Core can't be made reusable as it goes to orbit and can't effectively come back and land. 

Liquid reusable rockets, at least boosters, are the future.  SpaceX already makes theirs reusable.  Blue Origin is going to have a reusable New Glenn booster.  Vulcan from ULA is to retrieve the engines after boosting.  SpaceX is working on Starship/Superheavy right now.  China, Russia, and ESA all are considering reusable rockets. 

SLS is already obsolete before it flys.  Distributed launch with in space assembly of smaller components is what is in the near future until Starship comes along.  Assembly and resupply of LOP-G station will lead to fuel depots or refueling tankers, space tugs, and a resuable lunar lander. 

All of the current launch companies will be able to get 20 ton modules/fuel/landers in space.  SpaceX and Blue Origin will be able to launch 40 ton modules and with a second launch a 40 ton upper stage to dock and take it to the moon.  You can do 4 FH launches for less than one SLS and get double the payload to the moon as SLS.  Payloads and docking an upper stage or refueling can do the same.  It may add an extra step that can go wrong, but it is going to have to be worked out at some point in the future.  Why not now?

Online TrevorMonty

Re: Commercialized SLS
« Reply #9 on: 03/31/2019 10:37 am »
There is no money in SLS for likes of ULA. Given choice they'd fly Orion on Vulcan and use distributed launch to enable lunar missions. With DL they have option to still use SMART to get some reuse capability.

When partnered with Blue they have capability of sending 30-35t to TLI, or 25t to LLO if using NG for tanker launch.

Offline dror

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Re: Commercialized SLS
« Reply #10 on: 03/31/2019 06:13 pm »
Even at $1bn a year theres a lot of money to be made.
If
the engine section gets reused, 
the core tanks reach orbit and become habitats or printer ink,
the upper stage gets refuelled aces style,
and the fairings might as well be reused or integrated in a giant habitat payload,
The SLS becomes into a dream rocket.
 And only a commercial company can push hard enough. Though it seems that it takes a private company with high ambitions, rather than a giant public corporate.
Space is hard immensely complex and high risk !

Offline Slarty1080

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Re: Commercialized SLS
« Reply #11 on: 03/31/2019 11:29 pm »
Not going to happen is it?  ;D
My optimistic hope is that it will become cool to really think about things... rather than just doing reactive bullsh*t based on no knowledge (Brian Cox)

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: Commercialized SLS
« Reply #12 on: 03/31/2019 11:53 pm »
And no one would take it.
Maybe. If NASA wants to unload the operations...

It's amazing how many people think that NASA controls it's destiny. They don't.

The NASA Administrator works for the President, and funding for NASA comes from Congress. Congress is actually the sole decider about what gets funded. So "NASA" has no say.

So who do you think is going to really make the decision to give away a $10B taxpayer investment so that a government contractor can make a big profit off of it?

Quote
...but still have access to it...

Who else wants to use the SLS?

Quote
...they could commit to a block buy.

At this point the SLS is done being developed, and it is now in the test phase. What savings is the taxpayer supposed to see from giving this to a government contractor and then adding profit on top of the entire launch, and not just the building the rocket? I don't understand where value is added...

Quote
How big would a block buy be? Potentially as large as the likely value of CRS-2 and CCtCap combined (over $10 billion) or the maximum value of CRS-2 ($14 billion).

How big would it be? It may be zero at the rate Congress is funding payloads and programs that require the SLS.

No company in their right mind would buy the SLS rocket and attempt to operate it. Too much risk.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline Eric Hedman

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Re: Commercialized SLS
« Reply #13 on: 04/01/2019 12:11 am »
"If the engine section gets reused,"
If you want to reuse the engine section that needed to be designed in from the beginning.  It wasn't.

"the core tanks reach orbit and become habitats or printer ink,"
Sounds good, but no one has actually worked out the economics of doing this.  It will probably still be cheaper to launch fully outfitted modules for a long time.
 
"the upper stage gets refuelled aces style,"
Not likely to happen unless they contract with ULA to make the EUS a version of ACES.

"and the fairings might as well be reused or integrated in a giant habitat payload,"
Same issue as the tanks.

"The SLS becomes into a dream rocket."
It will stay an expensive nightmare.

"And only a commercial company can push hard enough. Though it seems that it takes a private company with high ambitions, rather than a giant public corporate."
Why would you when when Starship, New Glenn and Vulcan are coming soon?

Offline joek

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Re: Commercialized SLS
« Reply #14 on: 04/01/2019 01:33 am »
...  How big would a block buy be? Potentially as large as the likely value of CRS-2 and CCtCap combined (over $10 billion) or the maximum value of CRS-2 ($14 billion).

Don't see it unless NASA also has funding for payloads that require SLS (i.e., cannot be done with commercial providers).  That would need to happen before any sane organization would commit without a boat-load of caveats.  The probability of that happening is nil because it always seems to come back to the same set of basic questions and issues which have not been resolved after years of argument and haggling.

Offline joek

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Re: Commercialized SLS
« Reply #15 on: 04/01/2019 01:43 am »
It's amazing how many people think that NASA controls it's destiny. They don't. ...

True, but more aggressive NASA leadership might help at least better shape NASA's destiny.  That said, SLS is essentially an entitlement (as directed by Congress) which leaves NASA little room to maneuver without taking funds from other programs.  A substantive change requires finding a way to repurpose that entitlement to something more productive while still satisfying the demands (economic and political) on which that entitlement is based?  Likely a different discussion for another thread.

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: Commercialized SLS
« Reply #16 on: 04/01/2019 05:28 pm »
It's amazing how many people think that NASA controls it's destiny. They don't. ...

True, but more aggressive NASA leadership might help at least better shape NASA's destiny.

In this Trump administration V.P. Pence is in charge of all things space, and Bridenstine does not have direct access to his boss, the President.

And like with all administrations, the NASA Administrator may have input into the budgeting process, but it is the OMB Director that works with the President to decide what the budget requests will be for each agency.

So for Bridenstine, he has no power, and no way to gain power. Especially because Trump knows nothing about space, and has other priorities that he cares about - which is why Pence is in charge.

Quote
That said, SLS is essentially an entitlement (as directed by Congress) which leaves NASA little room to maneuver without taking funds from other programs.

There is no constitutional limit to how much money NASA could get. NASA's budget reflects what Congress is interested in. And so far they have been OK with funding development of the SLS, but what they haven't funded is any programs that require the use of the SLS.

And regarding this thread topic, commercializing the SLS does nothing to solve the demand problem...

If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline Jim

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Re: Commercialized SLS
« Reply #17 on: 04/01/2019 07:11 pm »
Even at $1bn a year theres a lot of money to be made.
If
the engine section gets reused, 
the core tanks reach orbit and become habitats or printer ink,
the upper stage gets refuelled aces style,
and the fairings might as well be reused or integrated in a giant habitat payload,
The SLS becomes into a dream rocket.
 And only a commercial company can push hard enough. Though it seems that it takes a private company with high ambitions, rather than a giant public corporate.

That is simple wrong.  There is no money to be made.
This is not just Boeing involved.  NG/ATK make the solids.  AJR makes the SSMEs,  MSFC makes payload fitting, Jacobs does the launch ops and a new contractor will do fairings.  It can't be commercialized unless somebody is willing to take over all of these tasks.  Guess what, nobody is.  NASA isn't' going to have the money to fly it enough and there are no other users.

Offline RocketEconomist327

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Re: Commercialized SLS
« Reply #18 on: 04/02/2019 01:21 am »
<stuff>

Just no.  Fiscally irresponsible and impossible.  Why would I use a SRM when reuse is well beyond proven.

Waste of taxpayer money.
You can talk about all the great things you can do, or want to do, in space; but unless the rocket scientists get a sound understanding of economics (and quickly), the US space program will never achieve the greatness it should.

Putting my money where my mouth is.

Offline ncb1397

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Re: Commercialized SLS
« Reply #19 on: 04/02/2019 01:56 am »
Even at $1bn a year theres a lot of money to be made.
If
the engine section gets reused, 
the core tanks reach orbit and become habitats or printer ink,
the upper stage gets refuelled aces style,
and the fairings might as well be reused or integrated in a giant habitat payload,
The SLS becomes into a dream rocket.
 And only a commercial company can push hard enough. Though it seems that it takes a private company with high ambitions, rather than a giant public corporate.

That is simple wrong.  There is no money to be made.
This is not just Boeing involved.  NG/ATK make the solids.  AJR makes the SSMEs,  MSFC makes payload fitting, Jacobs does the launch ops and a new contractor will do fairings.  It can't be commercialized unless somebody is willing to take over all of these tasks.  Guess what, nobody is.  NASA isn't' going to have the money to fly it enough and there are no other users.

Commercial operator can't contract with others? Since when?

 

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