Author Topic: SPECIAL EVENT: George Sowers - ULA VP for Human Launch Services - Q&A  (Read 77811 times)

Offline Star One

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What sort of work would be involved and on what timescale should it be desirous to man-rate the D4H in the near future and will the introduction of the RS-68A assist in achieving this in a timely fashion should it be needed?

There is not direct work ongoing to human rate the DIV. 

However, Both Atlas and Delta are going to "common avionics", a ULA funded upgrade which is the baseline for commercial crew.  Common avionics is designed to be human rated and have accomodations for the EDS.  EDS is being designed to accomodate DIV.

In addition, the DIV upperstage, as the iCPS for SLS, will be human rated.  With all that in place, the driver for human rating DIV would be access and egress at the pad.

Not sure the RS68A has any bearing one way or the other.

Mr Sowers thanks very much for answering that. I raised the issue of the RS68A because I had read that it incorporated a number of improvements that would be useful if it ever came to man rate the Delta IV-H.
« Last Edit: 08/23/2012 08:48 PM by Star One »

Offline georgesowers

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Do you think non-government market for human launch services set to grow significantly and when?   Commercial space stations?  Asteroid mining?  Moon mining?  Orbital Space tourism?  Space based Solar Power construction? etc?



I would love to see any of the potential markets you mention take off and grow.  We have worked with Bigelow for years and I believe his business case has the best chance in the near term (next decade) of any I'm familiar with.  Eventually  I believe mineral and energy scarcity will allow asteriod mining and space solar power to be economically viable.  Question is when.

Offline georgesowers

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What would be your preference for the Exploration Roadmap? Such as are you interested in the Exploration Platform concept. Would you prefer to go back to the Moon first?

My approach to exploration would be incremental.  Do what you can now with what you got.  Build on that experience to take the next step.  An incremental approach is more realistic and sustainable in today's political and fiscal environment.  Near term successes to bolster political and public support, tailorable to change, resilient to cuts.

In that vein, I think some of NASA's ideas for near term lagrange point missions are rational and I hope they get serious consideration.

Offline georgesowers

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Thanks for the Q&A opportunity!

What challenges do you foresee with fixed price (or fixed term) contracts in keeping vehicle costs down (to maintain profitability) with the materials market spikes we have seen in the past (before the market collapse)?

Not sure I understand the question.  For launch services, ULA has always worked in a fixed price environment.

Offline RocketmanUS

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With the possibility of running out of RD-180's and being replace by a new American made engine(s) will the Atlas first stage be upgraded to a 5 meter core and still be human rated ( Atlas phase II or similar )?

That being with the stumpy version for light payloads, regular length with up to 6 SRB's, and with the possibility to upgrade to the 70mt triple core.

Not sure where the notion that RD-180 supply is limited is coming from, but it's not true.

The idea of a 5m Lox/RP booster (the old Atlas phase II) is still a very attractive growth option:  Atlas fuels and engines on a Delta booster tank.  It continues to live on our advanced planning drawing board, waiting for an opportunity.
First, thank you for the reply.

Limited supply was for how many RD-180's are in the U.S. as I have read , more would have to be made in Russia or an American production line from what I understand. From what I have read the RD-180 can not be used to launch certain military payload, the other reason I'm looking at an American made engine. So if that is true about certain military payloads, American made engine is needed. However if the Atlas is not needed to launch those types of military payloads and can be made in America then it will be a great engine for AVP2 as it has been for Atlas V. And being able to keep the RD-180 for AVP2 would make it easier to get it ready for crew vehicles?

Online QuantumG

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Great thread, thanks for the reply.
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Offline Lee Jay

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However, Both Atlas and Delta are going to "common avionics", a ULA funded upgrade which is the baseline for commercial crew.  Common avionics is designed to be human rated and have accomodations for the EDS.  EDS is being designed to accomodate DIV.

How does this affect the overall philosophy of "dissimilar redundancy" for the purpose of providing continuous assured access?

Offline georgesowers

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ULA launch vehicles are seen as expensive compared to SpaceX.

Does ULA plan to compete on price?

Now here's an interesting question.  The short and direct answer is that ULA has and will continue to compete on total value to include price.  We have gone head to head with SpaceX on several ocasions and have won the majority.  In the launch business, price is never the sole consideration for the buyer.  That's because launch price is a small percentage of the total program value (which can exceed replacement cost when there's no money to replace, like the Glory spacecraft).  In ULA's market of national security payloads and unique science probes, capability, schedule assurance and reliability often overwhelm any other consideration.

As a citizen and taxpayer, I think that's appropriate.

Not to minimize spaceX's impressive achievements, but ULA's customers want to see a track record of success, repeatably delivering complex payloads to orbit, safely and on time. 

Offline georgesowers

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What future business opportunities are available for ULA to get launch rates up?

Right now we are launching EELV's at our highest rate ever.  11 last year (2011) and 11 more this year.  Obviously we are looking at commercial crew as an important future opportunity as well as anything that can come from the BEO exploration program.

Offline PahTo

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ULA launch vehicles are seen as expensive compared to SpaceX.

Does ULA plan to compete on price?

 but ULA's customers want to see a track record of success, repeatably delivering complex payloads to orbit, safely and on time. 

Orbit, and beyond... !

Offline georgesowers

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How far along is ULA on EELV line consolidation, how much of the LV standardization is internally funded and what items need external funding?

ULA seems to be quite active recently with funding or supporting emerging space companies (ie work with XCOR Aerospace,Masten Space Systems) How does ULA balance new and emerging technologies/suppliers versus the need for technical conservatism in launch contracts, and how would the ramp up process work for new suppliers?

Speaking of which, how will the United Technologies Corporation acquisition of Rocketdyne effect ULA both in present subsystems and future evolution?

Finally and getting back to human launch services, when would we expect to see new infrastructure construction for commercial crew (ie contract not time, like CCiCAp phase one ect) Will the spacecraft builders, ULA, or a combination of both pick the infrastructure needed?

Implementing commonality between the Atlas and Delta product lines is a key element in increasing efficiency and reducing cost.  In the first 5 years of ULA we have made great strides on the process and organization side of the house.  And we are starting to make progress on the hardware side as well.  The RL10C engine is an important example.  Common Avionics is 100% internally funded and will reduce our avionics parts count by factors.  ACES is the next big step.

ULA enjoys working with innovative smaller companies.  We get great value for the technology investment dollar, especially on the front end.  As you mention, transition to a flight hardware supplier can be a challenge.

Too early to say much about the PWR acquisition.

ULA will be designing the new launch site infrastructure to meet the requirements of our customers.  We plan to have those designs at a CDR level of maturity at the end of CCiCap.  Construction will not begin until the next phase.

Offline georgesowers

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If you were to book a flight to orbit today, would you rather ride on Atlas V + CST-100, Atlas V + Dreamchaser, or Delta IV-H + Orion?

Whichever one is ready first!

Online QuantumG

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Right now we are launching EELV's at our highest rate ever.  11 last year (2011) and 11 more this year.

If the market was there to double the launch rate, what steps would ULA take to meet that demand?

Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Online Chris Bergin

OH! I have a quick one to add.

Do you forsee the possibility - or are interested in - launching Atlas V from Complex 39 at KSC? We've seen numerous (not ULA) study slides showing Atlas V being integrated in the VAB for launch from 39B, etc. Wishful thinking on KSC's part, or a possibility?
« Last Edit: 08/23/2012 10:44 PM by Chris Bergin »

Offline georgesowers

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I would be fascinated as to what you think of SLS's current design, such as the Shuttle Derived elements and thoughts on the booster preference.

Not taking the bait...

Offline georgesowers

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Would there be any merit in a future merger between the newly merged Aerojet + Rocketdyne and ULA?

Perhaps, but in all these kinds of deals, the challenge is how to extract the business value.  For example, the formation of ULA was possible only because the consolidation costs were recoverable through USG contracts once ULA proved a downstream savings of greater than 2 to 1.

Offline georgesowers

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How is the development of the Delta Common Booster Core coming along?

On track for a fleet cut-in in the 2014-2015 timeframe

Offline georgesowers

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  However, if the end customer is other than the USG, the sale is through either BA or LM.

So, that is why ULA is working directly with BA and SNC for commercial crew vs LM?

yep

Offline georgesowers

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First, thank you for the reply.

Limited supply was for how many RD-180's are in the U.S. as I have read , more would have to be made in Russia or an American production line from what I understand. From what I have read the RD-180 can not be used to launch certain military payload, the other reason I'm looking at an American made engine. So if that is true about certain military payloads, American made engine is needed. However if the Atlas is not needed to launch those types of military payloads and can be made in America then it will be a great engine for AVP2 as it has been for Atlas V. And being able to keep the RD-180 for AVP2 would make it easier to get it ready for crew vehicles?

The RD-180 is in ongoing production.  We take deliveries on a regular basis.  And none of our current customers have any restrictions on use.

All of our work to date on the 5m booster concepts have assumed RD-180

Offline georgesowers

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However, Both Atlas and Delta are going to "common avionics", a ULA funded upgrade which is the baseline for commercial crew.  Common avionics is designed to be human rated and have accomodations for the EDS.  EDS is being designed to accomodate DIV.

How does this affect the overall philosophy of "dissimilar redundancy" for the purpose of providing continuous assured access?

Good question.  There have been a number of studies that indicate that "dissimilar redundancy" is desired most for the launch site, and then for propulsion.  In any case, it seems harder to find folks that maintain "assured access" in the sense of "disimilar redundancy" is a hard requirement.

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