Author Topic: SLS interest in DoD launch market and Secondary Payloads potential  (Read 26526 times)

Offline as58

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Just another indicator that designers will always try to maximize spacecraft capability for a given volume/weight vs monolith construction

While that is true, there are things that a segmented mirror telescope can't do that well. A monolithic mirror has some scientific advantages besides being supposedly cheaper and less risky.

Offline baldusi

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It's good to have these forward-looking ideas, but you don't have to be a systems engineer to look at that thing and cringe at all the stuff that has to go right. Imagine that just one of those mirrors does not fit properly. Or imagine that the arm jams. The result is that the entire telescope could be ruined.
My other concern is what sort of mechanism would you need to keep a good enough wavefront? Isn't alignment the biggest difficulty of segmented mirrors? That mechanism doesn't seems like it includes any sort of active optics (for calibration purposes, obviously).

Offline Blackstar

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My other concern is what sort of mechanism would you need to keep a good enough wavefront? Isn't alignment the biggest difficulty of segmented mirrors? That mechanism doesn't seems like it includes any sort of active optics (for calibration purposes, obviously).

I assume that it has to be there in some way.

There are a lot of questions that I cannot answer. What is the difference between such a telescope configured for astronomical observations vs. one configured to look down from GEO for Earth observation? I imagine there are a lot of differences.

Offline baldusi

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It does tells a lot that it was a proposal from an engineering company, not a group of scientists. I even wonder if they had optics engineers. But I digress.
On the other hand, I was wondering if you could make some sort of standard telescopes, like a 5m Hubble, for example, and put some docking mechanism to its sides, top and bottom. This would allow to dock them in pairs, in fourths or even in ninths. Wouldn't this be sort of a way to make a synthetic bigger aperture?

Offline Robotbeat

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...What is the difference between such a telescope configured for astronomical observations vs. one configured to look down from GEO for Earth observation? I imagine there are a lot of differences.
I imagine that would be a lot more similar than if the same-sized spy-sat/telescope were in LEO.

But when you have a 20 meter telescope all the way out at GSO, you have enough resolution that you can't just focus at "infinity", so there'd need to be some sort of focusing mechanism (or at least a fixed focus closer than an astronomical telescope).
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Offline Blackstar

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It does tells a lot that it was a proposal from an engineering company, not a group of scientists. I even wonder if they had optics engineers. But I digress.

It's the same group that produced JWST, so they have those people. I posted the two presentations that I found relatively quickly. I might have a few other things floating around about large optics systems. In 2005 or so, when people were discussing what to do about Hubble, there were a number of Hubble 2 proposals, and then a few that tagged onto that for a much bigger telescope (I think their reasoning was that it made no sense to simply replace Hubble with a similar instrument, but they should instead build something much bigger). NASA funded some of that work from a science standpoint, and the companies were of course self-funding some of it. That later evolved into some discussion of a post-JWST telescope using that technology. And it was prompted by the anticipated availability of the Ares V.

My exposure to all that was in 2005-2008. I don't know if they have continued any of these studies. It is possible that they stopped for awhile because the astronomy decadal survey forced them to focus on other things, and because Ares V got canceled. I would not be surprised if they restart some of that again. However, the JWST overruns have probably ruined the environment and so it's ridiculous to talk about such giant telescopes at this time.

Offline Martin FL

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I wonder if DoD have interest in larger satellites, but are restricted to EELV upmass? As such SLS would be attractive with the 70mt opening capacity, but is there such a thing as a DoD satellite that large?

Offline Robotbeat

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I wonder if DoD have interest in larger satellites, but are restricted to EELV upmass? As such SLS would be attractive with the 70mt opening capacity, but is there such a thing as a DoD satellite that large?
Nope and nope.

There are all sorts of upgrades to Delta IV Heavy (or Atlas V) if they need more upmass*.

*smells like updog around here
« Last Edit: 02/07/2012 05:03 PM by Robotbeat »
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Offline Martin FL

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I wonder if DoD have interest in larger satellites, but are restricted to EELV upmass? As such SLS would be attractive with the 70mt opening capacity, but is there such a thing as a DoD satellite that large?
Nope and nope.

There are all sorts of upgrades to Delta IV Heavy (or Atlas V) if they need more upmass*.


That's a very definitive statement to make, are you in a position to do that? Also I missed the upgrades, when are they coming on line?

Offline Blackstar

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I wonder if DoD have interest in larger satellites, but are restricted to EELV upmass?

There's a chicken/egg situation--sometimes the requirement for more mass/volume drives the development of larger launch vehicles, and sometimes the availability of larger launch vehicles allows for larger payloads.

But they don't seem to be pushing/driving towards anything larger. Remember the basic rule: higher mass means higher cost. If they start thinking about really big stuff, they need to find the really big money to pay for it. At the moment, everybody in DoD is facing significant budget cuts, so they are looking for ways to reduce costs, not increase them. I've heard General Shelton of Space Command express great concern that the proposed cuts are really going to cut into their capability.

There's also an ongoing discussion about the next generation reconnaissance system and the pressure is toward smaller systems. Either that, or the current size.

Of course, that's a discussion of large systems. The original article also referred to secondary payloads.
« Last Edit: 02/07/2012 05:24 PM by Blackstar »

Offline Blackstar

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I wonder if DoD have interest in larger satellites, but are restricted to EELV upmass? As such SLS would be attractive with the 70mt opening capacity, but is there such a thing as a DoD satellite that large?
Nope and nope.

There are all sorts of upgrades to Delta IV Heavy (or Atlas V) if they need more upmass*.


That's a very definitive statement to make, are you in a position to do that? Also I missed the upgrades, when are they coming on line?

Well, the most basic "upgrade" is to move from the Atlas V to the Delta IV Heavy. At the moment, there is no indication of higher DoD demand for Delta IV Heavys. The procurement rate is steady.

There is an upgrade for the Delta IV Heavy in the works. Someone with better information can correct/update this, but my understanding is that there is a future DIVH launch planned that has a higher mass requirement, and this is behind the development of the RS-68A. But that's apparently for only a single launch, or maybe a couple of them.

Offline Robotbeat

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I wonder if DoD have interest in larger satellites, but are restricted to EELV upmass? As such SLS would be attractive with the 70mt opening capacity, but is there such a thing as a DoD satellite that large?
Nope and nope.

There are all sorts of upgrades to Delta IV Heavy (or Atlas V) if they need more upmass*.


That's a very definitive statement to make, are you in a position to do that? Also I missed the upgrades, when are they coming on line?
That's a very reasonable question.

Yes, the same claim was made in the past, but we have seen no evidence that the idea was anything beyond conjecture. Certainly no existing DoD satellite needs something that big or they would have already ordered the necessary upgrades and this conversation would be moot since it already would be well in progress.

The upgrades (beyond RS-68A) won't come online unless they are needed, but they are all over ULA's launch guides for the EELVs. (Things like adding 'small' solids to the Delta IV Heavy, a better upper stage, etc...)
http://www.ulalaunch.com/site/docs/product_cards/DIV_product_card.pdf

And Blackstar about the RS-68A:
I believe the plan was to phase out the RS-68 and replace it with the RS-68A, which would allow ULA to use a more-common Common Booster Cores instead of ones that are optimized for the mission at hand (i.e. it would allow them to manufacture all of the medium cores with solid attach points).
« Last Edit: 02/07/2012 05:37 PM by Robotbeat »
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Offline Blackstar

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I believe the plan was to phase out the RS-68 and replace it with the RS-68A, which would allow ULA to use a more-common Common Booster Cores instead of ones that are optimized for the mission at hand (i.e. it would allow them to manufacture all of the medium cores with solid attach points).

It is possible that this is the plan now. I believe (and I could be wrong) that somebody involved in the RS-68A told me, perhaps 3-4 years ago, that the impetus for developing that engine was an upcoming launch. They needed it for a specific launch, not just an overall upgrade in capability. It sort of makes sense that after they develop it, they adopt it as a baseline.

I've heard a couple of launch vehicle industrial base presentations in the last few months, but forgotten most of what I've heard. I do know that USAF is primarily interested in a better upper stage engine. They think they have maxed out performance there and they need to get something better than the RL-10. I believe that the drive for that is to regain margin, not because they are building even bigger payloads.
« Last Edit: 02/07/2012 05:52 PM by Blackstar »

Offline ChileVerde

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I believe (and I could be wrong) that somebody involved in the RS-68A told me, perhaps 3-4 years ago, that the impetus for developing that engine was an upcoming launch. They needed it for a specific launch, not just an overall upgrade in capability.

That would be NROL-15, now scheduled for launch 28 June 2012. There are many interesting and puzzling things about this launch, not least that if you plot NROL numbers against launch dates, this one appears to be almost ten years late. And, supporting what your somebody told you and consistent with what a RAND launch study of 2006 implies, it was a significant factor in motivating development of the RS-68A.

This is a pretty unique thing, whatever it is, and might deserve a thread as the launch time gets closer.
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Offline Blackstar

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what a RAND launch study of 2006 implies, it was a significant factor in motivating development of the RS-68A.

Ah ha! I knew that there was a paper source that had linked the RS-68A to a specific launch requirement, but forgot what it was. That's a good tip.

Offline baldusi

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All this new RS-68A in the stock Delta IV means they can standardize on a single core body (the M+ (5,4), if I'm not mistaken). But they might have some excessive performance for the Heavy (it was supposed to get to 27tons to LEO or so, I ignore how much to GTO). I think DoD will use that capacity for secondaries, when possible.
I bring this to attention since it implies a lower need for SLS secondaries. In fact, until they get the JUS, I don't see it as a Secondaries friendly LV. the core is supposed to go into a parabolic arc, and thus would need the secondaries to make their own circularization burn. And I don't know very much, but I don't expect them to flight in an orbital plane of much use for DoD. That's just me.

Offline ChileVerde

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I've heard a couple of launch vehicle industrial base presentations in the last few months, but forgotten most of what I've heard. I do know that USAF is primarily interested in a better upper stage engine. They think they have maxed out performance there and they need to get something better than the RL-10. I believe that the drive for that is to regain margin, not because they are building even bigger payloads.

Well, yes. Right at the moment, DoD/NRO aren't building even bigger payloads because they don't have the rockets to launch them.  So the questions with respect to SLS are a) Is there some way it makes sense to shift currently planned payloads to SLS and b) Are there concepts for payloads so heavy that they would need SLS. Note that hitchhikers on exploration missions won't make a lot of difference to SLS flight rates flown for purposes of exploration.

I wouldn't want to express an opinion as to a) and I'm sure that if you rummaged through dusty filing cabinets in the Pentagon and Chantilly  you could find lots of studies for things that would fit b).  But the programming cycle, schedules and prospective budgets make me think that sufficient DoD/NRO utilization of SLS to make a difference in flight rates is a distant prospect at best.
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Offline Namechange User

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I wonder if DoD have interest in larger satellites, but are restricted to EELV upmass? As such SLS would be attractive with the 70mt opening capacity, but is there such a thing as a DoD satellite that large?
Nope and nope.

There are all sorts of upgrades to Delta IV Heavy (or Atlas V) if they need more upmass*.


That's a very definitive statement to make, are you in a position to do that? Also I missed the upgrades, when are they coming on line?

Well, the most basic "upgrade" is to move from the Atlas V to the Delta IV Heavy. At the moment, there is no indication of higher DoD demand for Delta IV Heavys. The procurement rate is steady.


And who would pay for that?  The Air Force or some other government agency.

Given there is clearly no overwhelming demand for that right now, they live with the current capacity, even if the DoD believes a larger capability rocket would be a great thing to have access to.

If the DoD did need it right now, they would also likely want to sustain the capability after the inaugral use.  That's more money for where "the market" currently does not exist and where other users could not offset the cost.

All of that changes if the government (i.e NASA) has a requirement to build an SLS-class vehicle for exploration.  If the DoD or other government agencies or divisions also could somehow get access to it, while paying for the "per flight" cost or some other arrangement, it may just become more attractive to them and they decide to take advantage of the capability. 
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Offline Warren Platts

What about commercial uses? Could Bigelow, for example, buy a flight at per flight costs?
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Offline Namechange User

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What about commercial uses? Could Bigelow, for example, buy a flight at per flight costs?

If someone had a need for it, I am sure something could be worked out.  It also depends if someone outside the government wishes to work within the likely NASA regulations that just come with the territory (although there is some indication NASA is trying to change its historical ways in this respect, but at the end of the day it is still government and some hands will be tied). 
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