Author Topic: ULA Vulcan Rocket Q&A with ULA's Dr. George Sowers - April 14, 2015  (Read 96554 times)

Offline Chris Bergin

Dr. George Sowers - VP, Advanced Concepts and Technologies (new rocket development is within his department) has kindly agreed to take questions on the NGLS (Named Vulcan) that was revealed April 13.

Dr. Sowers is a great friend of the site and has provided some superb Q&As here, for which we're very grateful.

I'm opening this now, ahead of Dr. Sowers answering questions on Tuesday, April 14, MT.

One question per member to ensure Dr. Sowers isn't overloaded with questions. Ensure your question is well presented, readable and worthwhile and please read the coverage of the reveal here: - to ensure you don't ask a question already addressed (or that you ensure it asked for clarification of an answer).
« Last Edit: 04/14/2015 02:30 pm by Chris Bergin »

Offline TrevorMonty

All best with the Vulcan. It has turned me into a ULA fan and many others judging by forum activities and name voting.

Do ULA plan to introduce IVF on Centuar or will it wait for ACES?.
« Last Edit: 04/14/2015 03:11 am by TrevorMonty »

Offline Malderi

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Hi Dr. Sowers,

Thanks very much for doing this with us. Can you talk about any timelines or capabilities for Vulcan human launch? That wasn't touched on at all during the press conference, but with CST-100/Atlas making a lot of news, I'm sure things like pad access etc are in the works.

Thank you.

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Thank you Dr. Sowers for your offer of answering NGLS/Vulcan questions.

If you and your rival are equally successful at your respective first stage "reuse" strategies, how well will they compete in terms of increasing overall annual launch frequency of each vendor?

Thank you again in advance for answering my humble question.

Offline robertross

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Thank you Dr. Sowers for the opportunity.

My question is whether the vehicle (or a specific configuration) be rated for nuclear payloads (IE: science missions with Plutonium)?
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Offline Rocket Surgeon

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Hi Dr. Sower,

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions.
Tory Bruno has stated that the SMART Reuse system won't be used on the Vulcan initially, but will be phased in.
How long do you think it will take for them to start using it? And do you believe it will be done gradually, alla SpaceX or will it be much more rapid, say one or two experimental launches, then going full engine reuse?


Offline arachnitect

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Dr. Sowers, thank you again for coming back to answer more questions about your new rocket. I can't wait to watch it come together over the next few years, and hope Blue Origin can be persuaded to release engine testing videos.

If I recall correctly, ACES was a modular family that would fly with varying numbers of engines and even varying sizes of tanks to accomodate different mission requirements. Is that still the plan for the future Vulcan upper stage?

Thank you again. Go Vulcan! Go Centaur!

Offline PahTo

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Thanks for taking the time again, Dr. Sowers (and Chris).
What is the largest PLF under consideration, even for 2023+ ACES?
(btw, a good name for said stage would be "Centaur Prime")

Offline nadreck

Thanks for sharing with us Dr Sowers.

I am curious about the versatility of the ACES stage, is it foreseen to be used with any other current, planned and/or future boost stages?

« Last Edit: 04/14/2015 02:01 am by Chris Bergin »
It is all well and good to quote those things that made it past your confirmation bias that other people wrote, but this is a discussion board damnit! Let us know what you think! And why!

Offline kevin-rf

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Dr. Sowers, welcome back and thank you for again taking the time.

I watched the presentation and one thing struck me about upper stage being proposed. Didn't the original ACES paper have them switching from the current Centaur Stainless tank to a larger Al-Li tank. Tory made it quite clear the new upper stage being proposed will use new Stainless tanking.

Care to elaborate on the ACES's switch from the new tank using Al-Li to Stainless?
Why is it superior?
Better mass fraction?
Easier to make?
Cheaper to make?
70 years of experience manufacturing balloon tanks with Stainless?

I am just curious why it is superior for the new upper stage.

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Offline rcoppola

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Firstly, congratulations. Exciting time ahead.

I'm curious as to what specifically was meant by "pad innovations"? What new designs and methodologies will be developed?

Thanks and the very best of luck.
« Last Edit: 04/14/2015 12:40 am by rcoppola »
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Offline Darkseraph

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Thanks Dr.Sowers for taking the time to answer our questions. We're all very excited about the preliminary details revealed in today's announcement.

My question is: What key factors set the architecture in favor of multiple solid boosters instead of a multiple common core configuration as seen on other heavy lifters such as the Delta IV Heavy, Falcon Heavy, Angara V?
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Offline yg1968

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Dr. Sowers, very exciting presentation today. Thanks for taking our questions.

I have the following question: Isn't there a risk for ULA to team up with a competitor such as Blue Origin given that Blue's objective is to eventually make their own LV?


« Last Edit: 04/14/2015 01:45 am by yg1968 »

Offline test_stand

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Could you please elaborate on the distributed launch option?

I would really like to know the kind of mass you could put in GTO or GEO if the first launch is a fuel tanker. How would it compare to the Delta-IV heavy?

Thank you.

Offline M_Puckett

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Hello Dr. Sowers,

Will the design be scarred such that a tri-core vehicle is possible should future demand require one?

Offline mhlas7

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Dr. Sowers, thank you for taking the time to answer questions!

My question is, how will the vehicle be delivered and processed at the pad? First transportation; will the stages be transported by barge or by air from the factory? For launch site integration; will it be like Atlas V (vertical rocket integration and a mobile transporter to the pad), Delta IV (horizontal rocket integration, erected at the pad and vertical payload integration with a mobile service tower) or like Falcon 9 (horizontal integration and erected at the pad)?

Thanks again! I am excited to see Vulcan fly!

Offline tp1024

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Dr. Sowers,

why will Vulcan start out with an upper stage based on RL-10 instead of a BE-3?

There is certainly more experience with the BE-3 engine already, than with the BE-4 engine you plan to use in the 1st stage. BE-3 has already gone through acceptance testing while BE-4 has yet to be build, not to say test-fired. You could start developing an upper stage with a BE-3 engine right away and demonstrate it on either an Atlas or Delta rocket.

Same question in other words: If you are preprared to use an engine in development like the BE-4 in 2019, why is it important to first gather flight experience with the BE-3 before using it with the new rocket some time in 2023?
« Last Edit: 04/14/2015 05:39 pm by tp1024 »

Offline jongoff

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I'm excited to see the progress on this new rocket, and glad you guys are able to talk more openly about orbital refueling and such! Hopefully I get a chance to say hi when we're down at the symposium tomorrow.

My question is sort of boring, but do you have any numbers you can publish about expected performance for Vulcan, both with various numbers of strapons and the existing Centaur stage, and then with various numbers of strapons and the new ACES stage?


Offline Bubbinski

Thank you for offering to answer our questions, Dr. Sowers.

Are you planning to recover and reuse the solid rocket boosters, either initially or eventually?
« Last Edit: 04/14/2015 03:29 am by Bubbinski »
I'll even excitedly look forward to "flags and footprints" and suborbital missions. Just fly...somewhere.

Offline Antares

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ULA is not its own company.  Is this development being done on ULA funds or have the parent companies okayed it?
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