Author Topic: New Glenn "Early Flight": Mars ESCAPADE updates and discussion  (Read 17243 times)

Offline trimeta

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Space News article:

https://spacenews.com/nasa-mars-smallsat-mission-to-be-on-first-new-glenn-launch/

Quote
At a Nov. 20 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council’s human exploration and operations committee, Bradley Smith, director of NASA’s Launch Services Office, said he was “incredibly excited” about the ESCAPADE launch, which he said was scheduled for about one year. His charts, though, and past presentations, listed an August 2024 launch for ESCAPADE.


Quote
The company has not provided recent updates about progress towards a first launch of the rocket, although Jarrett Jones, senior vice president for New Glenn at Blue Origin, said at World Satellite Business Week in September that the first flight vehicle would arrive at a Florida integration facility by the end of the year, with the company planning “multiple” launches of New Glenn in 2024.

1st integration, to full stack, 1st integrated test of ground systems, WDR, static fire, etc in 8 months  ???
More incredible is the idea that their first launch will be "about one year" from now (e.g., October or November 2024), but it won't be their only launch in 2024. Because when I think Blue Origin, the one trait that immediately comes to mind is quick turnaround.

Offline Starshipdown

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With New Glenn's delta-V, they have a lot more margin (i.e. the window will be longer) when launching such small payloads on an interplanetary trajectory, and that could open as early as the first week of August and stretch well into November or December.

Also, don't be so absolutely literal. Next August or September would still be "about a year from now" as much as the other.
« Last Edit: 11/22/2023 03:46 am by Starshipdown »

Offline trimeta

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Also, don't be so absolutely literal. Next August or September would still be "about a year from now" as much as the other.
Because launching in August and then again within four months sounds more reasonable? I frankly don't think Blue Origin could finish the mishap investigation in under six months. Although maybe I'm wrong and their simulations are so perfect that nothing unanticipated happens on the maiden launch. After all, in theory there is no difference between theory and practice.

Offline thespacecow

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The real question is, once ESCAPADE is delayed to 2026, will it still end up being on New Glenn's first launch...

Offline Jim

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Bradley Smith, director of NASA's Launch Services Program, says the agency's Mars-bound ESCAPADE smallsats will fly on an "incredibly ambitious first launch for (Blue Origin's) New Glenn" rocket "around this time next year."


BTW, He got the title wrong.  He is director of NASA's Launch Services.  Not the program manager or director.

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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https://twitter.com/stephenclark1/status/1727419003667394590

Quote
NASA plans to launch two Mars probes on Blue Origin’s first New Glenn rocket. This mission is relatively modest in cost, so NASA thinks it's worth the risk.

https://arstechnica.com/space/2023/11/nasa-will-launch-a-mars-mission-on-blue-origins-first-new-glenn-rocket/

Quote
NASA will launch a Mars mission on Blue Origin’s first New Glenn rocket
This Mars mission is relatively modest in cost, so NASA thinks it's worth the risk.

by Stephen Clark - Nov 22, 2023 5:16pm GMT

The first flight of Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket seems to have a payload. Instead of launching a sports car, as SpaceX did with its first Falcon Heavy rocket, Jeff Bezos's space company will likely launch a pair of Mars probes for NASA.

Offline Yggdrasill

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I have to admit I worry for ESCAPADE. New launch providers haven't exactly had a great record in getting to orbit on the first try. The failure rate is pretty close to 100%. Now, Blue Origin does have substantial experience wth suborbital spaceflight, which certainly helps, but orbit still adds a lot of complexity.

What are we actually thinking the chance of success will be? 50%?

Offline Purona

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personally, I think it's going to have a much higher percent chance than people are expecting.


Offline Steven Pietrobon

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What are we actually thinking the chance of success will be? 50%?

I think that's a good estimate.
Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design #1:  Engineering is done with numbers.  Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.

Offline seb21051

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On the other hand, look at what SX is having to do just to get SS/SH to launch and fly expendably to a planned successful stage 2 orbit and ocean landing of both components. I would consider their being able to get that part right in 5 launches to be an incredible achievement. These are people with more than 200 orbital launches and landings of F9s in their experiential quiver.

Yet the expectation by some of my fellow posters on this thread seems to be that BO has a 50% chance to get (at least) their second stage to the point where they can successfully launch the ESCAPADE probes.

I stand in awe of your confidence.
« Last Edit: 11/24/2023 06:14 am by seb21051 »

Offline DreamyPickle

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This is very interesting. Has anyone else launched an interplanetary science mission as a first flight? It seems like a weird risk to take because the cost of missing a Mars launch window is quite high.

Just imagine - the window ends and the rocket is still on the pad. What now, replace the payload?

Online laszlo

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On the other hand, look at what SX is having to do just to get SS/SH to launch and fly expendably to a planned successful stage 2 orbit and ocean landing of both components. I would consider their being able to get that part right in 5 launches to be an incredible achievement. These are people with more than 200 orbital launches and landings of F9s in their experiential quiver.

Yet the expectation by some of my fellow posters on this thread seems to be that BO has a 50% chance to get (at least) their second stage to the point where they can successfully launch the ESCAPADE probes.

I stand in awe of your confidence.

Orbital launches count, landings not so much. ESCAPADE only needs to get to a specific earth orbit. It doesn't know or care if the booster is recovered and re-used. So the case ESCAPADE cares about is a lot simpler. It's an apples/oranges comparison, as far as getting ESCAPADE to Mars goes.

Offline jimvela

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What are we actually thinking the chance of success will be? 50%?

Let the pricing tell you something about that.  If you're getting a $100M launch service for $20M, I'd put the Psuccess at somewhere around 20%.


Just imagine - the window ends and the rocket is still on the pad. What now, replace the payload?

If an interplanetary mission misses its launch window, then yes you de-stack the payload and will need to encapsulate and stack a different payload.

Orbital launches count, landings not so much. ESCAPADE only needs to get to a specific earth orbit. It doesn't know or care if the booster is recovered and re-used. So the case ESCAPADE cares about is a lot simpler. It's an apples/oranges comparison, as far as getting ESCAPADE to Mars goes.

Interplanetary missions need to get to a specific earth departure (heliocentric) orbit.  They'll be targeting a specific b-plane arrival at Mars, deliberately offset so that the launch vehicle upper stage misses Mars for planetary protection reasons.  The spacecraft will need to do several TCMs during cruise to reach that b-plane target and will likewise be deliberately in an initial transfer orbit that misses Mars in case the spacecraft is dead on launch or suffers a major fault during cruise.

Depending on the mission design, each of those launch windows will have a unique earth departure trajectory.  The last interplanetary mission I worked deliberately planned each day's attempt in our window such that the arrival at the destination planet always happened at the same time.  This greatly simplified our arrival planning for planetary orbit insertion and also the required analysis for planetary protection reasons as we only had a single arrival scenario to analyze and present to COSPAR.

Offline DeimosDream

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This is very interesting. Has anyone else launched an interplanetary science mission as a first flight? It seems like a weird risk to take because the cost of missing a Mars launch window is quite high.

Just imagine - the window ends and the rocket is still on the pad. What now, replace the payload?

Relativity is promising the same, and in their case admitting they would miss the 2024 window resulted in a schedule slip to 2026 for Terran-R. Unlike Relativity Blue Origin needs to get launching sooner rather than later for Kuiper so I'd guess they would have to de-stack, pick a different maiden flight payload, and give ESCAPADE a discounted launch on a now-proven rocket 2026.

As for why take that risk? I'm guessing a push to one-up Elon Musk (Falcon Heavy: mass simulator to Mars-crossing heliocentric orbit).

Offline Joris

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This is very interesting. Has anyone else launched an interplanetary science mission as a first flight? It seems like a weird risk to take because the cost of missing a Mars launch window is quite high.

Just imagine - the window ends and the rocket is still on the pad. What now, replace the payload?

Molnya 8k78 was a four-stage development of the R-7 whose first few launches were aimed at Mars I think. The R-7 was not new ofcourse, but the upper stages were.

SLS went beyond LEO on its maiden flight, although that's not interplanetary ofcourse.

Falcon Heavy went to escape velocity but didn't aim at a specific planet either on its first flight.
« Last Edit: 11/24/2023 03:48 pm by Joris »
JIMO would have been the first proper spaceship.

Offline Robotbeat

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personally, I think it's going to have a much higher percent chance than people are expecting.
This is a difficult thing to validate... I think maybe, I dunno, 75% chance of success based on historical launch statistics plus the fact that Blue is putting a real payload on it so they will need to do extra due diligence. But that latter thing also increases the odds the date will slip, possibly to 2026.
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Offline Yggdrasill

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What are we actually thinking the chance of success will be? 50%?

Let the pricing tell you something about that.  If you're getting a $100M launch service for $20M, I'd put the Psuccess at somewhere around 20%.
That doesn't seem like a worthwhile calculation. At full price, New Glenn wouldn't be launching this payload. And we have to assume other launch vehicles were being bid.

What would the second lowest cost option be?

Looking at dedicated launches, the mission could probably be done by two Firefly Alpha, at something like $35 million. That was probably about the maximum Blue could ask for and still get the contract. And that would mean the probability of success using your method would never be over 35%.

I guess you could modify your method, to a percentage of the replacement cost. So something like $20 million / $35 million = 57%

Maybe it's a bit optimistic to think the Alpha could do it. But if you up it to $50 million, they could probably get a Falcon 9 (about the same as IXPE). The probability would then be 40%, using the same method.
« Last Edit: 11/24/2023 05:57 pm by Yggdrasill »

Offline trimeta

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What are we actually thinking the chance of success will be? 50%?

Let the pricing tell you something about that.  If you're getting a $100M launch service for $20M, I'd put the Psuccess at somewhere around 20%.
That doesn't seem like a worthwhile calculation. At full price, New Glenn wouldn't be launching this payload. And we have to assume other launch vehicles were being bid.

What would the second lowest cost option be?

Looking at dedicated launches, the mission could probably be done by two Firefly Alpha, at something like $35 million. That was probably about the maximum Blue could ask for and still get the contract. And that would mean the probability of success using your method would never be over 35%.

I guess you could modify your method, to a percentage of the replacement cost. So something like $20 million / $35 million = 57%

Maybe it's a bit optimistic to think the Alpha could do it. But if you up it to $50 million, they could probably get a Falcon 9 (about the same as IXPE). The probability would then be 40%, using the same method.

Let's be realistic, though, the "discount to probability of success" function is almost certainly nonlinear. It would be an interesting social science experiment to test a bunch of people and try to find the true shape, but probably beyond the scope of this conversation.

Offline Emmettvonbrown

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Maybe it's just NASA way of putting (altogether) pressure and motivation behind B.O to fly that New Glenn booster sooner rather than never... sorry, I meant later. After all B.O has been chosen for that lunar lander, so they have to demonstrate SOMETHING at last.  Kind of NASA lighting a fire below Jeff Bezos rear end. A not-too-risky fire, but a fire nonetheless.
Plus it helps Rocketlab, and put some pressure on ULA and their Vulcan launcher, which first flight will shoot to the Moon with that Peregrine lander.

It's like an ecosystem.
« Last Edit: 11/24/2023 06:40 pm by Emmettvonbrown »

Offline jimvela

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That doesn't seem like a worthwhile calculation. At full price, New Glenn wouldn't be launching this payload. And we have to assume other launch vehicles were being bid.
[...]
I guess you could modify your method, to a percentage of the replacement cost. So something like $20 million / $35 million = 57%

Yeah, it's not a directly applicable calculation.  The takeaway is even NASA considers this a stretch, putting this launch on a New Glenn, which in theory should have massive overperformance for this mission.  More on that below.

For what it is worth, I've seen a Blue Origin launch services proposal for a mission that I'm working on.  I can't comment further but it seemed clear to me they were willing to buy (HEAVILY discount) or otherwise try to convince missions to choose Blue Origin and secure some early launches for New Glenn.  I'm pretty sure most moderate to large budget programs would feel uncomfortable taking the risk even with a very large discount.  I believe Blue are (or at least were) willing to offer a very substantial discount based on risk.

Interplanetary missions need to get to a specific earth departure (heliocentric) orbit.  They'll be targeting a specific b-plane arrival at Mars, deliberately offset so that the launch vehicle upper stage misses Mars for planetary protection reasons. 

I apparently need to correct what I wrote above.  This mission isn't going to use a conventional interplanetary launch.

I've seen in the threads that ESCAPADE may be launching to an eccentric earth orbit- something like 1.6 days in period.  That would mean the spacecraft may be responsible for their own departure burns.  It also means the upper stage probably doesn't need to be well targeted to miss Mars.  This is not exactly a screaming endorsement from NASA in Blue Origin's capabilities as an interplanetary launch services provider.  More like a willingness to throw some risk money to buy a high-risk ride for a stranded mission with some real merit.

But then again, they've never actually put anything, of any size, into a LEO orbit of any kind, let alone a well targeted interplanetary launch.
So, it seems to me NASA is being reasonably prudent in the launch scenario, even with them selecting a risky launch services provider.

I tried to get more info before this post, but the ESCAPADE NASA pages seem still very light on detailed information on the mission plan as it currently stands.

If someone can correct me and point to a definitive plan for the ESCAPADE launch, departure, and cruise plan, I'd appreciate it.

I see the thread has been split, but I think this still is appropriate in this thread.
« Last Edit: 11/24/2023 10:20 pm by jimvela »

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