Author Topic: 'The myth of heavy lift'  (Read 11585 times)

manlymissileman

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'The myth of heavy lift'
« on: 05/31/2008 09:17 AM »
I found that this (old) article makes a lot of cogent points -- http://www.thespacereview.com/article/146/1  How does AresV (not?) square with the architecture of heavy lift?  Any opinions on this article's points?  I found this conclusion to be agreeable: "If the long-term goal is, in the words of one advocacy organization, to “create a spacefaring civilization”, perhaps it’s time to leave the Saturn 5 and their ilk in the past, and seek a new approach."

Offline kraisee

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #1 on: 05/31/2008 11:54 AM »
I agree completely with Jeff's analysis, but I don't hold with his final conclusion.

In a nut-shell, Jeff says that Heavy Lift works well for expensive things like spacecraft and crews, but medium lift has the possibility to offer potentially cheaper means to lift bulk commodities like propellant because they can be designed *down* (cost/reliability wise) so they can lift those bulk commodities. Such 'super cheap' payloads wouldn't require the same rigorous and costly requirements and because of that, you could afford to budget to "lose a few every so often", because the units would be relatively cheap to replace and their payloads would be dirt-cheap and essentially a non-factor.

I feel that Jeff is absolutely correct in this assessment.

Where I part company though is the idea towards the end which is reached that these extremely low-cost booster solutions should then also be used to then lift the valuable cargo as well. You suddenly add back into the equation all of the costs of human rating and higher reliability which were just saving you a packet.

Surely its better to have the best of both worlds or to somehow create the equivalent some other way?

And I think we're in a perfect position to leverage just such a two-for right now.

I'm sure everyone here is aware of my belief in turning the existing Shuttle stack into a new launcher system. That's a given.

But I'm also a massive supporter of Jeff's exact approach to launching propellant on the cheapest possible LV we can find - even better, I'd want to see other nations paying for that part entirely in exchange for seats on the very prestigious Lunar (and later Mars) missions.


Lets use a very simplified "quick'n'dirty" example to demonstrate what I'm on about.

Lets assume LV-1 is an efficient human-rated medium lifter, able to lift 20mT and costing $1bn in annual infrastructure costs, and a neat $100m per flight given a high enough flight rate to get reasonable economies.

Lets then assume LV-2 is an efficient human-rated heavy lifter, able to lift 100mT and costing $2bn in annual infrastructure costs, and $250m per flight, also at a reasonable flight rate.

Lets also make a Combined program cost where the same heavy lifter is used to launch the spacecraft, but where the propellant is launched by foreign governments paying for many medium vehicle launching propellant delivery flights which everyone competes for on the international stage. Costs which we don't have to pay anything for :)

And finally, we must make a generic assumption that a typical Lunar mission will consist of a 20mT CEV, a 45mT LSAM and appropriate EDS & propellant - in the end we're talking about lifting a minimum of a 180mT IMLEO payload per Lunar mission.


So, in this example, the medium lift option starts with a relatively low $1,000m fixed cost each year, but has to fly nine launches to accomplish each mission at a cost of $900m each.

The heavy lift option starts with double the fixed costs at $2,000m, but each mission costs nearly half the medium's at only $500m. It only takes until you get to 3 missions per year before it ends up being the cheaper overall option.

But the combined option levers the best of all worlds. We get the low-cost lift capabilities of the "small dumb boosters" paid entirely by partner nations (US launch systems would compete for that massive amount of business, bringing foreign investment into the US in the process!), and all of the heavy lifters are dedicated towards just getting the more valuable spacecraft & crew off the ground - a job to which Jeff correctly identifies they are best suited for.

By creating an architecture which leverages both of these communities and uses them for their best possible purposes, we essentially *double* our effective capabilities compared to using either separately - all for the same US $ investment.

By doubling our capability (or halving the cost if you want to look at it that way), we can afford to do *more missions*. And if we can afford more missions, the spacecraft costs also amortize even better too. That means we can afford even *MORE* missions for the same level of US investment. It's a snowball effect.


For a given $ value program budget, a medium-only solution might provide a certain amount of return. A heavy lift solution, if used often enough, might improve upon that by half or maybe double. But a combined solution which can also leverage international participation in commercial markets can triple or even quadruple the return and potentially also bring investment into the US. Is that not a pretty good option?

Ultimately, it means we would be able to finish the Lunar Outpost in 1/3rd or 1/4 of the time, and make *use* of it an awful lot more than is currently being planned. And even move on to Mars & Beyond that much sooner too.


Below is a chart demonstrating the difference between these three scenario's. While the numbers are subtly different in real life, they aren't a world apart from this, and the underlying principle holds true.


I think Jeff is absolutely right to ask whether a heavy lifter is the right solution, because some are clearly not. Ares-V, along with Ares-I is a launch vehicle solution which will cost a combined $30bn to develop and which is going to cost $7.5bn to $9bn per year to operate - three times the cost of Shuttle! It's a ridiculous option IMHO, completely un-affordable and is just begging to be canceled for exactly the same reasons why Apollo was ditched.

But other solutions offering heavy lift can cost far less than that - most especially if they make the conscious effort to re-use a great deal of what already exists and flies currently.

It sounds very Orwellian, but not all heavy lift solutions are born equal. Dismissing one, just because another is completely insane, would be tantamount to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

We need to carefully study the options and decide what actually works best. More than anything, we all need to give up any trace of those tightly-held preconceptions in this arena which we all fervently cling to like religious treasures (and I'm guilty of that to a degree myself). We need to dispassionately examine the data to get our answers right if we truly want the best plans for the future. If we refuse to do this in a scientific manner, we will *always* end up with a compromised and sub-optimal solution - and that will mean we will have failed to learn our lessons from our past mistakes.

Ross.
« Last Edit: 05/31/2008 12:28 PM by kraisee »
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Offline meiza

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #2 on: 05/31/2008 12:13 PM »
Best of both worlds is worst of both worlds as it lowers the heavy lifter's flight rate even more from the already low, and you require an unrealistic number of missions to get it back up again.
(corrected typo reduce/require)
« Last Edit: 05/31/2008 12:37 PM by meiza »

Offline kraisee

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #3 on: 05/31/2008 12:34 PM »
Meiza - you make the assumption that we don't fly any extra missions.   That's not the right way to work it.   You should instead work it around what you can afford to do for a fixed budget.

If you do it that way, you essentially take what we would have spent on flying the heavies for propellant flights in the heavy-only scheme and re-use some of that money to pay for more LSAM's instead (remembering the fixed costs for those are already *fully paid* by that point, so the cost delta is purely the variable costs per LSAM - about the same as the heavy variable element) - this ultimately allows you to fly more of those.

You end up swapping about half of the heavy propellant flights for extra LSAM's and half go back into the heavies, but they are now flying CLV flights instead.   In the end, when you work out the actual numbers you get about 50% more missions for the same money.

For about $5bn per year, an efficient heavy lift system using this "Combined" approach could lift about 1,200mT of mass to LEO per year, and foreign partners would lift an matching amount, essentially lifting 2,400mT per year - that a dozen missions per year, or 48 astronauts per year - supporting a truly international Exploration program.

If we created that sort of size worldwide industry, then I feel that the human race would finally make the steps we need to get on the way to being a real space-based culture in the first truly robust, efficient, stable and sustainable manner.

Ross.
« Last Edit: 05/31/2008 12:43 PM by kraisee »
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manlymissileman

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #4 on: 05/31/2008 12:39 PM »
kraisee, thank you for your analysis.  I just feel affinity with what the author of the article proposes, i.e. building bigger things from smaller things would enable us to build more capable 'things'.  rather than launching the big things in one piece, we could actually be constructing large capable things in orbit with a variety of launchers to choose from and have them compete in terms of prices.
« Last Edit: 05/31/2008 12:42 PM by manlymissileman »

Offline meiza

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #5 on: 05/31/2008 12:40 PM »
No, I use the fixed budget analogy exactly.
Without the fixed costs of heavy lift (that would be used to replace perhaps three medium launches), you have more money for more LSAMs and missions.

STS is a good example of how reducing flight rate doesn't reduce cost. Heavy lift will have a humongous cost and if you reduce its flight rate by flying propellant with other vehicles, it doesn't help much at all (could make it worse).

manlymissileman

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #6 on: 05/31/2008 12:50 PM »
...
STS is a good example of how reducing flight rate doesn't reduce cost. Heavy lift will have a humongous cost and if you reduce its flight rate by flying propellant with other vehicles, it doesn't help much at all (could make it worse).

Agreed.

Offline kraisee

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #7 on: 05/31/2008 12:56 PM »
meiza,
The cost for all these systems is a simple curve which I've shown before.   When you get to around 10 launches per year, for any of these systems, it hits the flat part of the curve and you just don't see much more improvement beyond that.

Worst of all, it is just as true of the spacecraft as it is for the launchers.   A fact which gets forgotten too often, but which is actually more critical because the spacecraft tend to be the *really* expensive bits of any given program.


Getting all elements - spacecraft and LV's - above that flight rate (10+), only then you will get a good value *program* as a whole.

How to best lever *that* is the biggest question of all.   And trying to get 10 missions per year out of any medium solution is going to be completely impractical due to the sheer number of vehicles which would be necessary and the fact that the unit costs are clearly the dominating portion of their cost structure.

In this example, to get the best economies out of the LSAM you'd be talking about 10 missions costing $10bn in LV's alone - and that'll never happen.

You could do the same though, with the heavies for $7bn, which still isn't cheap, but is certainly a lot better.

But the combined architecture could do that for $4.5bn - now we're talking a very reasonable cost for *ten* Lunar missions per year.

Ten missions per year is virtually an order of magnitude more robust than any other plan I've come across so far, wouldn't you agree?   Wouldn't the science return from that many missions actually make the human spaceflight program a really cost effective one for the first time in our history?

Even ten flights out of KSC isn't asking very much given you haven't got to refurbish the Orbiters any more between flights :)


And most interesting of all, there would be 50 EELV-class flights to compete for every year too.   I'm sure ULA and Space-X would love to fight for healthy chunks of that business and I'm certain that the US Treasury would love to earn that international trade as well.


Or are we going to just resign ourselves to 2 missions per year, along with decades of ISS-like construction on the moon, and every mission costing a fortune for no other reason than the lander can't ever be amortized well?

I think Congress and the American people would rather pay for ten $1bn missions to the moon, than for two $4bn missions per year.   That's the sort of difference we're really talking about in the end.

Ross.
« Last Edit: 05/31/2008 01:17 PM by kraisee »
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Offline meiza

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #8 on: 05/31/2008 01:44 PM »
You've shown a simple curve, but that doesn't make the cost such. It is one approximation.

I just don't view it as realistic within the budget to make 10 lunar missions a year, not with current or near future expendable launchers (no matter which you use), expendable Orion and LSAM, and no ISRU.

On the other hand if you can reuse some hardware and use ISRU then you have to build and launch less and can probably fly somewhat more often.

I don't know what building strategies have been thought of for LSAMs for example. Will it be built in batches of ten with many year pauses of block upgrades in between? I agree that building more LSAM units doesn't cost *that* much, but it's a somewhat different question from launch vehicles IMO. The LSAM does require fixed cost facilities.

Offline kraisee

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #9 on: 05/31/2008 02:09 PM »
The 90% curve is pretty consistent throughout the industry.   Most major elements in the space business which are built on a year-to-year basis seems to fall within a few percent of it, so it's not a bad guideline for any first-order estimates like this.


My current understanding is that ramping up and down such a complex production line for LSAM's will be more difficult than just keeping it up and building-to-order.   Such a thing gets rather complicated when each one will take somewhere around 2-3 years to manufacture.   In that, it somewhat reminds me of current ET parallel production.

The figures are pretty vague still, but I'm hearing numbers in the region of $3bn in fixed costs and unit numbers starting around $300m each for LSAM's.   Using the 90% learning curve on those numbers, in quantities of two per year they end up at $1,770m per mission in total, and in quantities of ten per year that drops to $511m per mission with a grand sum total cost difference at the program level of $1.6bn (+ 44%) to get five times (+ 400%) as many per year.   Not a bad cost:growth rate.

Ross.
« Last Edit: 05/31/2008 02:20 PM by kraisee »
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Offline mike robel

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #10 on: 05/31/2008 04:24 PM »
Since this came up, here is a link to the article I wrote for the Space Review entitled "The Cost of Medium Lift".  While I am no engineer, I believe the article had some valid points.  And this was discussed in another thread long ago where it was noted that my profession led some to believe my analysis had no merit, while others concluded I had no particular ax to grind on the problem.  :)

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/150/1

Offline kraisee

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #11 on: 05/31/2008 05:05 PM »
I hadn't read that before.   Interesting piece Mike.   Thanks for sharing it.

In addition, I'll throw the following NASA analysis into the mix as well...

http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/nexgen/Nexgen_Downloads/EELV_Costs_Paper_r2a.doc

Ross.
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Offline MrTim

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #12 on: 06/01/2008 05:11 AM »
I find the argument over heavy lift to be amusing on more than one level.

First, it often involves financial arguments that are rational and based upon arguments that would apply to a business; but government does not play by those rules and congress is rarely rational. For example, businesses will pay more attention to the trade-offs between up-front R&D costs and operating costs (because money not spent this year on R&D is available next year for operations) but the federal government treats every year as a unique budget with agencies unable to roll savings from one year forward into the next. Government  agencies that fail to spend all their money in a given year are often punished in following years for having proven that they did not need the extra money. This means that it is often in the interest of DoD, NASA, and other agencies to divorce up-front costs from operating costs (oh, they'll power-point arguments to the contrary up-front, but when the chickens come home to roost later somebody else is in charge of the agency and different people are in congress writing the checks. Ultimately, the cost arguments are only ever used as political ammunition by supporters/opponents of a program as they argue for/against the program... rather than being used to actually shape plans and policies (in other words, it's ammo for arguments over the existence of the program, not actually a sincere argument about how to best implement))

Second, there's the argument that a program with smaller rockets requires more infrastructure (fuel depots, etc.) and that this would be far harder to cancel than a program with a few big rockets and little infrastructure. Apollo proved this wrong. Oh, I know that Apollo was heavy lift... BUT the overall Apollo Moon Program (taken as a whole) had a massive amount of Earth-based infrastructure with workers in congressional districts all across the nation (it was 1960's tech), but congress and the executive had no trouble junking all of it; clearly, having a lot of required infrastructure provides no protection. Hopefully, Ares V will require a lot less infrastructure, thereby making it have a lower annual fixed cost and lower chance of getting cancelled.

Third, there's the argument by supporters of smaller rockets that we need to encourage smaller commercial rockets ( these are more economical) and that NASA should avoid competing with a fledgling commercial industry. In this regard, the heavy lifters will not harm any commercial efforts (unless by "commercial" one means funded by NASA-provided subsidies which replace NASA projects) because paying customers will not buy a ride on a heavy lifter when there are all these supposedly better, cheaper options available. By fielding only a crew launcher and a heavy lifter, I would argue that Constellation avoids competing with altspace/newspace and leaves both them, and EELV, with a big capability hole to fill. (It would be competing with with COTS crew launch, but the COTS people have yet to get even orbit a single monkey... so it's not an issue anytime soon that NASA will be flying a 6-person vehicle)

The thing heavy lifters like Ares V get you that nothing else (not COTS, not EELV, not medium lift) will is the ability to put big things (size, more so even than mass) up out of the atmosphere. For a mission to Mars that is anything more than a quickie flag planting mission with a tiny crew, the Mars mission package will need to be bigger than the ISS (to hold a crew comfortably, all their equipment, and the supplies for the long mission). When complete, ISS will only support 6 people and will not hold the supplies and spare parts they need for even 1 year of independent operation. The big Mars mission package will have to be assembled on-orbit, and if we want to assemble it in less than 5 years of construction time, we'd better not do it in small pieces like we are doing with ISS. Perhaps the ideal thing is to use Ares V to loft all the vehicle structures for such a mission (large things, mostly empty), and send all the supplies (food, water, fuel, etc which are cheap and easily replaced) to the Mars vehicle on a number of cheaper, smaller, riskier rockets... COTS, anyone?

I think a good case could be made that Ares V is exactly the sort of thing NASA should be building (something the with unique capabilities but which the private sector never would build) whereas things like Ares I and Orion are the sort of thing that should have been left to the private sector. As with aircraft, there is a need for a few giant aircraft in the world, and a demand for many smaller ones. Commercial carriers will happily buy and operate lots of the smaller ones. The big ones cannot justify themselves in purely commercial terms but there are missions that only they can perform, so governments end-up building them.

I personally think NASA should be required to spend all of its space money on exploration(Moon, Mars, Asteroids, etc), development of new technology that would benefit both NASA and Industry (like engines, life support systems, etc), aviation at the extremes (X-15, Lifting bodies, shuttles, etc (remember: NASA is also about aeronautics so advancing hypersonics and flight in and out of the atmosphere is doubly theirs)) and extreme rockets (Heavy lifters, space-based nuclear power, etc) while leaving all the other stuff (small and medium lift, people in capsules to/from LEO, Earth-oriented satellites, fuel depots, etc) to commercial vendors.

Offline sbt

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #13 on: 06/01/2008 02:02 PM »
First, it often involves financial arguments that are rational and based upon arguments that would apply to a business; but government does not play by those rules and congress is rarely rational.

Correct up to a point. BTW, please note that the points I make below are based on my UK Government experience.

Quote
For example, businesses will pay more attention to the trade-offs between up-front R&D costs and operating costs (because money not spent this year on R&D is available next year for operations) but the federal government treats every year as a unique budget with agencies unable to roll savings from one year forward into the next.

The point about not rolling savings forward is well made. But the rest is not quite true for large organisations. Large budget fluctuations are very rare so planning proceeds on the basis of constant annual budget, unless the agency/ministry has prior information on planned budget changes. So both R&D, Production and Operations all have to be costed into long term plans.

Government  agencies that fail to spend all their money in a given year are often punished in following years for having proven that they did not need the extra money.

Less true for large organisations. Its small elements _within_ a larger body that really suffer like this.

Quote
This means that it is often in the interest of DoD, NASA, and other agencies to divorce up-front costs from operating costs (oh, they'll power-point arguments to the contrary up-front, but when the chickens come home to roost later somebody else is in charge of the agency and different people are in congress writing the checks. Ultimately, the cost arguments are only ever used as political ammunition by supporters/opponents of a program as they argue for/against the program... rather than being used to actually shape plans and policies (in other words, it's ammo for arguments over the existence of the program, not actually a sincere argument about how to best implement)).

If UK MOD did this we would be 'out of business' pretty damn quickly. There is a spending plan, at various levels of detail and certainty, out for DECADES. By necessity it considers the whole lifecycle (From Concept to Disposal) of every equipment and the related operating costs. 20 years ago I was working on the Concept for the UK project that eventually merged into JSF. We've just replaced a 50 year old platform with Predator A and Reaper. One of the features of some government budgeting is that the time horizons are much longer than most businesses ever consider - today, at the mid point of my career, I am looking at concepts that would enter service after I retire.

There is a reason we use 'Whole Life Costs' and pay attention to the profile of this. Its to avoid cheap to develop and purchase equipment that is unaffordable when operational. Generally its Politicians and the Treasury that separate costs when arguing about projects - that 20% R&D overrun may be 1% on the Whole Life Cost or even represent an opportunity taken to incorporate a technology that leads to a saving on the WLC (a classic example would be automation that reduces the number of crew required - a leading element of operational costs).

Your 'model' only works for projects that involve a dedicated uplift to an agency budget. I have never encountered it - we pay a lot of attention to cost, at least in my bit of the UK. You are completely wrong, at least in most contexts, about 'Ultimately, the costs are only ever used as political ammunition by supporters/opponents...'. Every working day someone is agonising about future decisions based on cost, balancing today's needs against future capability, which, in MOD terms means lives today vs. lives tomorrow.

In summary, your points are only partly true at best and inapplicable to Constellation planning which is based on a fixed NASA budget.

Rick
I am not interested in your political point scoring, Ad Hominem attacks, personal obsessions and vendettas. - No matter how cute and clever you may think your comments are.

Offline kraisee

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #14 on: 06/01/2008 08:04 PM »
I find the argument over heavy lift to be amusing on more than one level.

First, it often involves financial arguments that are rational and based upon arguments that would apply to a business; but government does not play by those rules and congress is rarely rational.
(SNIP)

I'm fully aware of how it actually works. What I am saying is that over a ten-year development program like Ares-V, costing about $15bn (on top of Ares-I) in full-wrap terms, you will - on average - spend about $1.5bn of every year's Budget (almost 10%) on that development program alone (and yes, I know that in practice the actual value actually grows from a smaller value than that to a peak much higher than that, but mean average will do for this discussion).

An average $1.5bn expenditure every year can be far better used than for building the second LV - Ares-V - *IF* you make the decision at the start to build an efficient HLLV system in the first place instead of the EELV-class Ares-I.

HLLV, does not by definition limit you to only the "wastrel" Ares-V system either.

You simply do not *have* to re-build everything anew if you switch to a 2-launch HLLV solution for your architecture. An HLLV system with 80% of Ares-V's performance works quite sufficiently for all ISS, Lunar and Mars architectures

The critical decision to change to such a 2-launch solution requiring 80% of Ares-V's performance instantly allow you to consider just re-using the existing SRB's instead of developing costly new ones. It allows you to retain the 8.4m diameter manufacturing and processing equipment of ET instead of replacing it all with new equipment from the ground up to build new 10m diameter hardware.   And it also doesn't require the J-2X immediately - it can use an already flight-certified engine, RS-68, for its powerplant instead.

All of which save a VAST amount of development cost and time to get the first vehicle operational, and only requires the Upper Sage to be added later to open up the full Lunar capabilities of the system.


An additional $1.5bn every year could be utilized to do a host of other useful things - things such as accelerating the Orion program to 2012. Bring the LSAM program online 2 years sooner. Pay contracts/salaries to keep the workforce employed. Re-fund the stripped-out Aeronautics & Science Directorates.   And best of all, some can be utilized to pay for new missions not currently possible in the Ares plans.

An average of $1.5bn extra in the kitty each year is nothing to be sniffed at when there are clear alternatives available.   That's how the $15bn of Ares-V development costs can be 'saved' by the agency.   And every year of operations would save another $1bn in operations costs by operating one vehicle, not two.   That 'saved' money can also be used to pay for additional missions.

Ross.
« Last Edit: 06/02/2008 06:36 AM by kraisee »
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Offline anonymous1138

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #15 on: 06/01/2008 10:32 PM »
This discussion reminds me of a statement made by Jeff Greason in front of the Presidential Commission on the Moon, Mars, and Beyond:

"That means that if they [NASA] cannot find a commercial provider for a given launch capability, they must do without it. Off-the-shelf transportation settled the new world, explored the American west, and built the Antarctic stations. Surely, it can carry us into the future. Almost every bridge and building in the world was built with parts that come on trucks in 25 ton pieces. The space station is built from 25 ton pieces. The South Pole station is built from 20 ton pieces that fit in an airplane. We can go to the Moon and Mars this way."

To emphasize this point, we should remember that the U.S. Space Transportation Policy states that the government should, "Refrain from conducting activities with commercial applications that preclude, deter, or compete with commercial U.S. space transportation activities, unless required by national security."

Right now there does not exist a real commercial HLLV provider that NASA could procure services from, but the larger point is: If NASA keeps insisting on building it's own launch vehicles instead of buying that service, what else is going to lend any impetus to commercial efforts to field an HLLV? As former NASA admin O'Keefe remarked, it's a chicken and egg thing. This sort of aligns with the statement made by John Marburger some weeks ago, "If the architecture of the exploration phase is not crafted with sustainability in mind, we will look back on a century or more of huge expenditures with nothing more to show for them than a litter of ritual monuments scattered across the planets and their moons."

There's nothing amusing in this discussion of heavy lift at all for those who can look with a broader view at the future, without holding fast to the past. Does Ares-V support sustainability. Politically, it's hard to imagine such a vehicle maintaining support, particularly given past history. Ares-V is liable to suck up so much money that we won't even end up with a "litter of ritual monuments".

To me, sustainability implies a commercial element. COTS is a step in that direction, but it's not enough. A commercial DIRECT shuttle derivative would be ideal, I think.
« Last Edit: 06/01/2008 10:41 PM by anonymous1138 »

Offline kraisee

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #16 on: 06/01/2008 11:11 PM »
I would love to see a commercial Jupiter-120 or 232.   "How", is the question.

USA and ULA show that multi-corporate entities seem effective, so a three-way ATK/Lockheed Martin/Boeing operation would seem most logical for such a thing to occur.

The key limitation is a launch pad.   If the flight rate were low - around 1-2 per year, it would probably be possible to somehow negotiate something with NASA to use a VAB High Bay and lease Pad time.

But any higher flight rate than that would probably require a new pad facility.

A pure guess, but I would think any number of the old pads at CCAFS could be re-built to suit.   I think LC-36 is a little too close to the public for safety though, so probably somewhere like LC-20 (formerly Titan-I & Titan-II) might be plausible.   Such a facility would probably be a stack-at-the-pad site though because there isn't really the right sort of space available there to build another long crawlerway facility.   A build-at-the-pad operation would also probably be reasonably cheap to implement too (~$1bn, like a new human-rated EELV system).

I would *love* ATK in particular to do a real study of the commercial opportunities of such a vehicle.   I believe that if they studied it, they would quickly find all sorts of uses and it would make the commercial Ares-I look pointless.   I think they could then throw their support behind such a system.

Ross.
« Last Edit: 06/01/2008 11:13 PM by kraisee »
"The meek shall inherit the Earth -- the rest of us will go to the stars"
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Offline Lampyridae

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #17 on: 06/02/2008 12:24 AM »
Your 'model' only works for projects that involve a dedicated uplift to an agency budget. I have never encountered it - we pay a lot of attention to cost, at least in my bit of the UK. You are completely wrong, at least in most contexts, about 'Ultimately, the costs are only ever used as political ammunition by supporters/opponents...'. Every working day someone is agonising about future decisions based on cost, balancing today's needs against future capability, which, in MOD terms means lives today vs. lives tomorrow.

In summary, your points are only partly true at best and inapplicable to Constellation planning which is based on a fixed NASA budget.

Rick

True enough. Sure, there *is* planning out for decades - for example the new generation of U.S. aircraft carriers have projected operational lives of 60 years. Unfortunately it seems to me that in comparison to the U.K. the U.S. military often shoots itself in the foot... or is shot in the foot by Congress. Comanche and Crusader are both long gone, now. The F-22 is vastly understrength and overpriced. There may not be a use for them in today's guerilla warfare world but what about 20 years from now when there is a 2nd Cold War situation?

Common sense says that the best option is to have the best possible equipment in a situation. Obama might kill the VSE, but if we have Jupiter-120, there is still the hope for the moon at an affordable budget because all the "hard stuff" is done. We have a rocket, bung on an extra stage and an extra engine and let's go! Same thing as with the aircraft carriers. You don't know how big you need them to be but at least you have the option for big aircraft should you need them.
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Offline MrTim

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #18 on: 06/02/2008 02:11 AM »
I'm fully aware of how it actually works. What I am saying is that over a ten-year development program like Ares-V, costing about $15bn (on top of Ares-I) in full-wrap terms, you will - on average - spend about $1.5bn of every year's Budget (almost 10%) on that development program alone (and yes, I know that in practice the actual value actually grows from a smaller value than that to a peak much higher than that, but mean average will do for this discussion).

An average $1.5bn expenditure every year can be far better used than for building the second LV - Ares-V - *IF* you make the decision at the start to build an efficient HLLV system in the first place instead of the EELV-class Ares-I.

HLLV, does not by definition limit you to only the "wastrel" Ares-V system either.
Agreed that HLLV does not need to mean Ares V, and sorry Ross... I used "Ares V" as shorthand for "Heavy Lifter" since it is what's being planned (but by being a tad sloppy I invited side issues).

I just wanted to caution you (because the issue keeps appearing) that the government simply does not handle money in ways that make sense to business people. To compete with Cx, Direct needs to compete in multiple ways, and for any reason other than short-term sway with the more short-term-thinking members of the current congress, it needs to compete in later years w/o regard to development cost trade-offs. I presume until proven otherwise that you guys with Direct are not just looking for a short-term win,  but want sustainability too.

I'm on record here in multiple places as not being thrilled with the Ares architecture, so I am not just saying this out of some looney addiction to Ares.

Offline kraisee

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #19 on: 06/02/2008 04:03 AM »
I presume until proven otherwise that you guys with Direct are not just looking for a short-term win,  but want sustainability too.

Okay, that's cool :)

You're right that we're looking at both time-frames, and that the government has a completely different approach to money issues than business. While others in the team have been doing NASA work for many years, it has been a very steep learning curve for me personally, and I have made a point to learn from experts whenever I can. I would say the most valuable lesson I have learned personally, is that I need to reference *everything* against an experienced expert first :)   And that is what we've done.

Most of our political contacts seem focussed on the next 5 years (thru FY2013), which is the next political cycle. That has become a sort of 'yardstick 'for what I will call our "high-fidelity" analysis.

We have (I say we, but really the data is usually prepared by other members of the team - who work such things professionally - and we only see the resultant top-line numbers) prepared budgets and schedules aplenty for those folk thru that timeframe.

The people within the beltway *really* like the simple fact that we have a manned flight in that timeframe and NASA's is currently 3 years outside of that reference period. That single point has garnered a lot of interest.

Having said that though, generally I would say that they *are* still interested in whether the system will work longer term, but the detail level isn't being requested for 'beyond 2013' by most. Simple reassurance that we have done the necessary homework has been all most have been after at this stage.

But we have still done the analysis beyond there none-the-less. In order to get those short-term budgets and details right, we have had to look much longer range. For example, working out how much would need to spend on LSAM in FY2012 in order to get it operational by 2017 helps us to refine precisely how much money would be available to be spent on accelerating Orion for that particularly critical year.

There are many such balances and correlations throughout the program and they must all be planned out in reasonable detail if we're to have any idea of what we will be able to spend when and on what element in order to have it ready to go on 'x' date. Believe me when I say that planning such things is a *total 'mare* to work out! In fact, there be dragons there! :) But it still has to be done and has to be done right.

Thus we have built all our details out to 2020 (Lunar program in full swing) in the same "high fidelity" manner as for 2013 - well as best as can be done here in 2008 anyway.

Oh, and I should make mention that we also have put decent sized margins in place, essentially to cover-our-butts too ;) But our confidence level is pretty high because we have a lot of historic data for covering many elements which are not changing, or are changing in highly-quantifiable ways - such as the 4-seg SRB's parts of the ET and the RS-68.

We have then also projected even further than that, in lower fidelity - in  a "broad brush strokes" manner - all the way out to 2035. This then encapsulates our 'best guess' for Human Mars Mission #1 in 2031 for our plans.

And this all assumes the NASA budget remains fixed at current levels and is only adjusted to match inflation. Substantial increases or decreases would obviously have profound affects to schedules.


Because we have worked the details to this level, it gives us quite a lot of flexibility to work out what's going to be possible - and we can adjust it without too many headaches if we need to input new parameters.

As a reference, we did our own workup of CxP's budget using the same process, and hit really close to the figures our financial team members are seeing within both the Shuttle and the CxP programs, so we have good reason to believe we're on the right track.

Ross.
« Last Edit: 06/02/2008 04:36 AM by kraisee »
"The meek shall inherit the Earth -- the rest of us will go to the stars"
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Offline publiusr

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #20 on: 06/23/2008 08:04 PM »
Here is an article questioning EELV use

The Cost of Medium lift
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/150/1

Offline gospacex

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #21 on: 06/23/2008 09:52 PM »
Here is an article questioning EELV use
The Cost of Medium lift
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/150/1

Quote
How much would it cost to fly the Apollo spacecraft to the moon using the Delta 4 Heavy booster?...it cannot launch the entire Apollo spacecraft in one lift and lacks an injection stage that can send the craft on a trans-lunar trajectory. It would therefore be necessary to use three to five launches

So three or five?

Quote
to configure the spacecraft and refuel the booster resulting in a cost of at least $510-680 million

510/3 = 170, 680/5 = 136. Huh?? I don't understand this math of magically floating cost of one Delta IV Heavy.

Quote
(I have assumed the same launch costs for the Space Shuttle, Shuttle C, and Ares.)
Booster 2004 Cost ($ millions) Payload to LEO (kg)
Ares (Conceptual)   284   121,200
Atlas 5 551   125.1   20,050
Delta 4 Heavy   193.4   25,800
Saturn 1B   706.9    18,600
Saturn 5   2847.6   118,000
Shuttle C   284   77,000
Space Shuttle   284   24,400
Titan 4B   491.6   21,680

Ha. Ha ha ha. Shuttle flyaway cost of $284 mln. Is it Sci-Fi?

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #22 on: 06/24/2008 05:59 AM »
I appreciate all the insights from the posters on this thread.  It appears (to me) that the trade-off is a 100% subsidized 'heavy lift' vehicle specifically dedicated to the VSE/ESAS goals vs. a somewhat commercialized (they do launch other payloads), multi-launch architecture that *may* lead to the goals of the VSE, but *if* it does, it'd be more sustainable because commercial interests are at stake.  If it doesn't, tough luck, perhaps we are not ready for it and need to settle the near orbits (L2?) first, before embarking further (I'd be happy with that)

Offline mike robel

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #23 on: 06/24/2008 04:47 PM »
I wrote that article quite some time ago and the editor stripped out all the footnotes.  Briefly I used astronautix.com as the source of the budget figures, then normalized them all to the same budget year using a calculator I found someplace on a NASA website.  As other threads on NSF have noted, it is quite difficult to pin down launch costs for varioius vehicles, so I was simply trying to find a common denominator.  I did some cross checking with other sites/references for other facts mentioned in the story.

As for 3 - 5 Delta Launches, I don't know if it would 3, 4, or 5.  I imagined that there would be at least 3:  1 for the CEV, 1 for the Lander, and 1 for and EDS stage.  The other two might be for refueling the EDS stage to take the stack to the moon.  I did not have access to the types of tools that Ross has gained access to desing DIRECT/Jupiter.

The article I wrote this article in response to was advocating EELVs as the solution and I was merely trying to show that EELVs are perhaps not as cost effective as the previous story indicated.  Niether article was trying to detail a comprehensive architecture for a lunar program.

Thanks for your comments.

Mike

Here is an article questioning EELV use
The Cost of Medium lift
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/150/1

Quote
How much would it cost to fly the Apollo spacecraft to the moon using the Delta 4 Heavy booster?...it cannot launch the entire Apollo spacecraft in one lift and lacks an injection stage that can send the craft on a trans-lunar trajectory. It would therefore be necessary to use three to five launches

So three or five?

Quote
to configure the spacecraft and refuel the booster resulting in a cost of at least $510-680 million

510/3 = 170, 680/5 = 136. Huh?? I don't understand this math of magically floating cost of one Delta IV Heavy.

Quote
(I have assumed the same launch costs for the Space Shuttle, Shuttle C, and Ares.)
Booster 2004 Cost ($ millions) Payload to LEO (kg)
Ares (Conceptual)   284   121,200
Atlas 5 551   125.1   20,050
Delta 4 Heavy   193.4   25,800
Saturn 1B   706.9    18,600
Saturn 5   2847.6   118,000
Shuttle C   284   77,000
Space Shuttle   284   24,400
Titan 4B   491.6   21,680

Ha. Ha ha ha. Shuttle flyaway cost of $284 mln. Is it Sci-Fi?

Offline gospacex

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #24 on: 06/24/2008 09:02 PM »
I wrote this article in response to was advocating EELVs as the solution and I was merely trying to show that EELVs are perhaps not as cost effective as the previous story indicated.  Niether article was trying to detail a comprehensive architecture for a lunar program.

Well, in order to argue with EELV solution you need to have some defined scheme to compare to. "3-5 Delta IVs" is simply too vague. "3-4" or "4-5 Deltas" would be better.

By using Shutlle/Ares V price figures which are approx 4 times lower than reality you can "win" any argument.

Offline publiusr

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #25 on: 06/26/2008 04:04 PM »
Not with simple engine count.

Last I heard, six RS-68s per 140 tons atop Ares V still costs less than 21 thrown away on seven flights for D-IV 'heavy.'

According to Cooke, the upgrade to Ares V amounts to an extra engine, a cross-beam being moved, and an extra half segment for the SRB. No big deal. No laws of physics being broken.

All less daunting than trying to get VentureStar or DC-X to work full scale.

Offline guru

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #26 on: 06/26/2008 05:08 PM »
Not with simple engine count.

Last I heard, six RS-68s per 140 tons atop Ares V still costs less than 21 thrown away on seven flights for D-IV 'heavy.'

According to Cooke, the upgrade to Ares V amounts to an extra engine, a cross-beam being moved, and an extra half segment for the SRB. No big deal. No laws of physics being broken.

All less daunting than trying to get VentureStar or DC-X to work full scale.

The big deal is that "an extra half segment" requires you to design a whole new stage beyond the new five-segment stage already being developed for Ares I. That means a second $3 billion development contract for ATK, which takes money away from science considerations and space craft development.

If all they did was add a sixth engine and moved a beam, the redesign wouldn't seem so drastic.

We don't doubt the physics of the redesign, just the acceptability of the price tag for its development and operations.

Offline Zach

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #27 on: 07/13/2008 11:00 PM »
The 90% curve is pretty consistent throughout the industry.   Most major elements in the space business which are built on a year-to-year basis seems to fall within a few percent of it, so it's not a bad guideline for any first-order estimates like this.
Ross.

It is not clear to me at all that the 90% rule applies to rocketry.  We just haven't had enough experience with these launch rates to prove that.  Such a curve assumes constant design and processes.  At ~5 launches per year it is hardly worth investing in continous improvement to reduce costs.  10 or 20 certainly makes investment more attractive.  At 50 launches/year I certainly would expect to see major changes in how rockets are built and flown, likely resulting in much more reduction than the 90% rule would indicate.

Beyond that is simply the cost of money.  Although government may be able to ignore the cost of money, industry can't.  Industry has the choice to invest in other companies (as Microsoft does), send profits back to the stockholders in the form of dividends or invest in the business.  10% to 15% cost of money is a typical assumption that includes the risk of such investments.  For Boeing's $2.5b investment in Delta IV, they would expect a return of at least $250m/year.  At 5 launches per year this adds $50m to the cost of each launch.  At 10/year this is still a substantial $25m/year.  For Direct's assumed $10B development cost, Direct should include at least $1B/year in cost of money.  At 10 Direct launches/year this still results in $100m/launch, a huge portion of your assumed $300m/flight.

Offline khallow

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Re: 'The myth of heavy lift'
« Reply #28 on: 08/04/2008 01:52 AM »
What is this 90% rule? Is it that a doubling in amount produced results in a 10% reduction in production cost per unit?

Added: Looks like it is the "learning curve" rule, but I'd like some confirmation please.
« Last Edit: 08/04/2008 10:37 PM by khallow »
Karl Hallowell

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