Author Topic: SPECIAL EVENT: George Sowers - ULA VP for Human Launch Services - Q&A  (Read 80103 times)

Offline georgesowers

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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?



First step is to jump for joy!  We still have a lot of untapped capacity in both the production and launch infrastructure.  So we can increase rate by increasing staffing.  At some point depending on where the demand was coming from, we would have to increase launch infrastructure (e.g., additional MLP or VIF for Atlas)

Offline Eric Hedman

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Do you see commercial spacecraft especially communications satellites growing in size and mass to take advantage of the large payload capacity of the Delta IV?

Offline georgesowers

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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?

ULA is interested in the possibility in launching Atlas or Delta from LC-39.  See previous question on capacity.  We have participated in the KSC led studies looking at options.  Technically it's feasible. The biggest hurdle right now is devising a business model that works.

Offline georgesowers

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Do you see commercial spacecraft especially communications satellites growing in size and mass to take advantage of the large payload capacity of the Delta IV?

Not anytime soon

Online Ronsmytheiii

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Thank you Mr Sowers for all your answers, as you can see we are all very excited for the future of ULA, and human spaceflight.

Edit: PS, if I might sneak in a question, how involved is ULA in SLS development contracting, I recall hearing some subcontracted efforts involved ULA?

And speaking of the DeltaIV-H u/s designated iCPS for SLS, we have seen it attributed to Boeing by NASA yet it is a ULA product?
« Last Edit: 08/23/2012 11:45 PM by Ronsmytheiii »
And this is a good reminder that just because one of your fellow space enthusiasts occasionally voices doubts about the SpaceX schedule announcements or is cautious about believing SpaceX has licked a problem before actually seeing proof that's true, it doesn't mean they hate SpaceX.

Online yg1968

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Thanks for all of the answers. Very informative!

Could the dual engine centaur have uses other than commercial crew?

The Air Force has talked about developing a reusable fly back booster. Do you see any potential in the future for crewed flights for this project?
« Last Edit: 11/14/2012 03:28 AM by yg1968 »

Offline Chris Bergin

Super! I'm sure we're all very thankful for Dr Sowers taking the time, a lot of time, to answer all those questions!

Thread remains open for follow ups, like Antonio's, but obviously they will only get answered when Dr Sowers has time. He has a day job with rockets! ;D

Offline robertross

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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.

Apologies. I'll re-word, though you partially answered this with Ronsmytheiii:

Back at the end of 2010 there was talk that launch costs (all around, but ULA included) would be going up in a big way (ref: http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=23619.msg673361#msg673361)

If you entered into a fixed price contract with NASA commercial crew services for say a 5-year term, and the metals market (specifically, but along with many others) jumped significantly, what (additional) steps could you take to reduce your costs to maintain profitability and appease the shareholders?

I understand that in the currrent market environment all stake holders are in the same boat, it's just that with multiple-launch long-term contracts, profits can easily be hit, and in a negative way.
Remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our rights & freedoms, and for those injured, visible or otherwise, in that fight.

Offline Go4TLI

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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...

Do you believe it is fair to say that it does not have to be an either/or situation and there is no reason that SLS, Atlas, Delta and others cannot work in concert with each other?

Offline spectre9

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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. 

Thanks for your response.

Delta II has been a solid rocket and one of those vehicles that has demonstrated a track record of success, will it still be offered for future launch contract competitions?

Offline Downix

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Spectre9's question gave me a question:

Based on my calculations, the Delta IV Small (Delta IV replacing the upper stage with the Delta-K off of the Delta II) would perform a solid job, especially if offered with SRB augmentation. Has ULA considered looking at this solution at some point in the future, should Delta II class payloads remain popular?
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Offline Peter NASA

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Very good, thanks George, although I don't think Jason Davies's question was bait, more a request for someone who does know how vehicles work to speak on SLS, seen as the main objectors tend to be armchair experts, or people, overly concerned about how US tax dollars are spent.
« Last Edit: 08/24/2012 11:40 PM by Chris Bergin »

Offline JohnFornaro

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Thanks Chris Bergin, for setting this up.

And especial thanks to George Sowers, for answering questions under his own name, and not as an avatar!  The more this happens, the closer we can get to 1% for space.

Now to read the Q&A.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline JohnFornaro

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I have a question about "dissimilar redundancy".  What is it?  Why is it desired most for a launch site and then for propulsion?
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline e of pi

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I have a question about "dissimilar redundancy".  What is it?  Why is it desired most for a launch site and then for propulsion?
As I understand it, "dissimilar redundancy" would seem to indicate redundancy provided through multiple different systems to perform the same function, as opposed to redudancy provided by identical copies of the same system. So, for instance, two non-identical systems for computing position and velocity (say, one from GPS and one from an on-board IMU) would be "dissimilar redundancy"--the systems could cover for one another, as with conventional redundancy, but since they are not the same, a systematic flaw in one would not affect the other, unlike for instance the first Ariane 5 flight, where two redundant but identical guidance systems failed because both experienced the same programming failure. Now why it's desired more for a launch site, and next for propulsion...that I don't have any basis with which to hazard a guess.

Offline JohnFornaro

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I have a question about "dissimilar redundancy".  What is it?  Why is it desired most for a launch site and then for propulsion?
As I understand it, "dissimilar redundancy" would seem to indicate redundancy provided through multiple different systems to perform the same function, as opposed to redudancy provided by identical copies of the same system.

Is this the proper analogy? 

I can put an 800 pound garden tractor in the back of a Ford pickup and drive from Charlottesville to LA.  Or, I can do the same thing in a Chevy Pickup.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline e of pi

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Is this the proper analogy?
Not as I would understand it, no (though I'm no expert). It's the difference between starting the journey with two identical Ford pickups, or starting the journey with a single pickup and anything else that can also make the journey--a sedan, maybe, or a minivan. I don't know the reputation of Ford vs Chevy to understand any nuance you might have been trying to convey there, but it's not the difference between having redundant systems and not having redundant systems, it's the question of if you do it through multiple identical units, or via dissimilar systems that perform the same function.

Offline sdsds

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As I understand "dissimilar redundancy" as it relates to EELV, the question is whether an anomaly or other disruption causing one of the systems to stand down will also necessitate standing down the other system. An RD-180 failure would not lead to a stand-down of a system using RS-68. A failure which might be due to anomalous behavior of hypothetical "common avionics," on the other hand, might lead to stand-downs of both the systems using those avionics.

(Sotto voce: geographic redundancy probably involves scenarios we don't want to think much about!)
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Offline A_M_Swallow

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{snip}
(Sotto voce: geographic redundancy probably involves scenarios we don't want to think much about!)

Such as things like hurricanes.  IIRC KSC has been damaged by hurricanes.

Offline douglas100

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 An RD-180 failure would not lead to a stand-down of a system using RS-68. A failure which might be due to anomalous behavior of hypothetical "common avionics," on the other hand, might lead to stand-downs of both the systems using those avionics.

An RL-10 failure might stand-down both systems as well, if it involved components common to the 10A and the 10B.
Douglas Clark

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