Author Topic: ULA signs multiple contracts for Next Gen Propulsion Work  (Read 9187 times)

Online Chris Bergin

ULA Presser.

Will looking to do an article on this, but the presser is really short and lacking (probably for obvious reasons).

United Launch Alliance Signs Multiple Contracts for Next-Generation Propulsion Work

New Domestic Engine Would Provide Alternative to RD-180 on Atlas Missions

Centennial, Colo., (June 16, 2014) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) has signed commercial contracts with multiple American companies to investigate next-generation liquid oxygen/hydrocarbon first stage propulsion concepts. In collaboration with ULA, each company will conduct technical feasibility analysis, develop high fidelity plans, identify schedule, cost and technical risks, as well as cost estimates to meet aggressive recurring cost targets.  All concepts will support a first launch by 2019.

“As the nation’s steward of the launch industrial base and the only company certified to launch our nation’s most critical missions, it is incumbent upon ULA to bring forward the best solutions to preserve that capability for the future,” said Michael Gass, ULA president and CEO.

ULA will continue to work with U.S.-based RD AMROSS (RDA), a joint venture of United Technologies (UTC) and NPO Energomash of Russia, to evaluate the long-term feasibility of the RD-180 in competition with the anticipated new engine. ULA and RDA are in continued discussions evaluating product improvements, U.S. production and other enhancements to enable its future viability.

“ULA has a number of very promising alternatives and we are working with the very best propulsion companies in America,” said Dr. George Sowers, ULA’s vice president of Advanced Programs, and lead for the propulsion study. “There are many exciting advanced technologies that are mature and can be used to enhance our capabilities and our competitiveness.”

ULA expects to select its future concept and engine supplier by the fourth quarter of this year to enable initial launch capability by 2019 of the new system. ULA will bring its experience and a demonstrated track record of introducing new and improved products to deliver this engine on schedule. The company is evaluating the technical feasibility of these new engine concepts for both private investment and the potential for government–industry investment.

“While the RD-180 has been a remarkable success, we believe now is the right time for American investment in a domestic engine,” said Gass  “At the same time, given that ULA is the only certified launch provider of our nation’s most important satellites, it is critical that America preserve current capabilities and options while simultaneously pursuing this new engine.”

With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 80 satellites to orbit that provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, enable personal device-based GPS navigation and unlock the mysteries of our solar system. Reliable launch, real-world benefits.

For more information on ULA, visit the ULA website at www.ulalaunch.com, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321). Join the conversation at www.facebook.com/ulalaunch and twitter.com/ulalaunch

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Offline kevin-rf

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Re: ULA signs multiple contracts for Next Gen Propulsion Work
« Reply #1 on: 06/17/2014 01:03 AM »
Of the three engines ULA uses, isn't the RD-180 the cheapest? A shame, the money could be better spent coming up with a higher thrust, lower cost RL-10 replacement.
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Offline sublimemarsupial

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Re: ULA signs multiple contracts for Next Gen Propulsion Work
« Reply #2 on: 06/17/2014 01:15 AM »
Any list of who the "very best propulsion companies in America" that they are working with are? Presumably SpaceX is not among them given recent events, so that would leave Aerojet Rocketdyne and ... XCOR?

Offline TrevorMonty


Offline bubbagret

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Re: ULA signs multiple contracts for Next Gen Propulsion Work
« Reply #4 on: 06/17/2014 01:20 AM »
...Dynetics

Offline Proponent

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Re: ULA signs multiple contracts for Next Gen Propulsion Work
« Reply #5 on: 06/17/2014 08:18 AM »
Of the three engines ULA uses, isn't the RD-180 the cheapest? A shame, the money could be better spent coming up with a higher thrust, lower cost RL-10 replacement.

Now that the RD-180 supply has been called into question, ULA needs to replace it if it wants the Atlas V to remain viable.  Even if (as I expect) the supply of RD-180s is not interrupted, DoD and others are going to be reluctant to buy Atlas launches in the future if it remains dependent on Russian engines.
« Last Edit: 06/17/2014 08:18 AM by Proponent »

Offline Star One

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ULA signs multiple contracts for Next Gen Propulsion Work
« Reply #6 on: 06/17/2014 12:00 PM »
It wouldn't surprise me if Northrop Grumman aren't one of the signatories here with their past history with the TR-107 as they seem to have a lot of fingers in a lot of pies these days.
« Last Edit: 06/17/2014 12:02 PM by Star One »

Offline muomega0

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Re: ULA signs multiple contracts for Next Gen Propulsion Work
« Reply #7 on: 06/17/2014 12:31 PM »
Of the three engines ULA uses, isn't the RD-180 the cheapest? A shame, the money could be better spent coming up with a higher thrust, lower cost RL-10 replacement.

Now that the RD-180 supply has been called into question, ULA needs to replace it if it wants the Atlas V to remain viable.  Even if (as I expect) the supply of RD-180s is not interrupted, DoD and others are going to be reluctant to buy Atlas launches in the future if it remains dependent on Russian engines.
Replacing the RD-180 and keeping the Atlas (and Delta and SLS) without examining the Nation's Long Term Propulsion Needs almost guarantees excess US launch capacity at excess cost.  Are you saying the long term strategy is to based the new common LV on a RD-180 engine that has no chance of reuse?

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: ULA signs multiple contracts for Next Gen Propulsion Work
« Reply #8 on: 06/17/2014 12:49 PM »
They are working on a lower cost RL10 replacement with XCOR.

 http://www.xcor.com/press/2013/13-09-23_XCOR_ULA_announce_hydrogen_engine_milestone.html

Yes, but they have finite resources. So something has to be put on the back burner while the RD-180 issue is solved. Does this mean a delay in the RL-10 replacement, the common upper stage, cost reduction programs, DEC Centaur, reduced margins?

What will they have to give up to mitigate an issue driven by politics.
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Offline baldusi

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Re: ULA signs multiple contracts for Next Gen Propulsion Work
« Reply #9 on: 06/17/2014 01:30 PM »

...Dynetics
Dynetics is an integrator, not an engine company. Supposedly TRW could be there.

Online edkyle99

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Re: ULA signs multiple contracts for Next Gen Propulsion Work
« Reply #10 on: 06/17/2014 01:40 PM »
ULA Presser.
Good news.  Perhaps Orbital can join the party too.  Or, maybe, this move frees up RD-180 for use by Orbital.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 06/17/2014 01:50 PM by edkyle99 »

Online edkyle99

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Re: ULA signs multiple contracts for Next Gen Propulsion Work
« Reply #11 on: 06/17/2014 01:48 PM »
Replacing the RD-180 and keeping the Atlas (and Delta and SLS) without examining the Nation's Long Term Propulsion Needs almost guarantees excess US launch capacity at excess cost. 
In this "commercial" launch environment, isn't "letting the market decide" the most efficient way to determine those propulsion needs?  Once the new-engine Atlas is flying, the market will decide if it is competitive.  If RS-68 and Merlin and whatever Orbital ends up using for Antares are competitive, they will survive.  If not, they won't.

If that purported $1 billion development effort lasts the suggested six years, that's only $167 million per year.  Successful companies can spend money like that on development.  ULA has likely determined that that amount is less than the cost of switching over to 100% Delta 4.

 - Ed Kyle

Offline muomega0

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Re: ULA signs multiple contracts for Next Gen Propulsion Work
« Reply #12 on: 06/17/2014 02:31 PM »
Replacing the RD-180 and keeping the Atlas (and Delta and SLS) without examining the Nation's Long Term Propulsion Needs almost guarantees excess US launch capacity at excess cost. 
In this "commercial" launch environment, isn't "letting the market decide" the most efficient way to determine those propulsion needs?  Once the new-engine Atlas is flying, the market will decide if it is competitive.  If RS-68 and Merlin and whatever Orbital ends up using for Antares are competitive, they will survive.  If not, they won't.

If that purported $1 billion development effort lasts the suggested six years, that's only $167 million per year.  Successful companies can spend money like that on development.  ULA has likely determined that that amount is less than the cost of switching over to 100% Delta 4.

 - Ed Kyle
A free market does not exist with a sole source 100B HLV and leaving only 7 of 14 launches.

It is obvious that unique product lines have been maintained for decades to serve the special needs of the government and consequently it is well known that the US and the world has excess launch capacity.

Part of this excess was due to the requirement for reliable launch system for the national interests and very unique requirements levied on the LVs.  For example, shuttle had to be rebuilt each launch and had a heavy container launch every time to return cargo, so clearly Orbiter was ready for retirement.

Has the free market recognized that it has no commercial payloads in the 70 and 130 mT class?  Was 70 and 130 mT specified to create a government market?   

Shuttle lost out to Titan unless 28 flights per year was achieved, (fairs better without Orbiter), but it was still optimized for performance, not economics and was built based on unique requirements, but not cost.

Here is Musk's assessment of Atlas V.
Quote from: Musk
Musk says that overhead starts with how the launch vehicle is designed. The workhorse Atlas V, for example, used for everything from planetary probes to spy satellites, employs up to three kinds of rockets, each tailored to a specific phase of flight. The Russian-built RD-180 first- stage engines burn a highly refined form of kerosene called RP1. Optional solid-fuel strap-on boosters can provide additional thrust at liftoff, and a liquid hydrogen upper stage takes over in the final phase of flight. Using three kinds of rockets in the same vehicle may optimize its performance, but at a price: “To a first-order approximation, you’ve just tripled your factory costs and all your operational costs,” says Musk.

So the free market which owns Atlas/Delta/SLS product lines and wanted to add liquid strap ons has not recognized that the US has excess launch capacity with new vehicles under development.  I guess not: No mention of phasing out the three product lines into one.    Kudos for trying to create missions to BEO to help aid the LV market, BTW.

Online edkyle99

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Re: ULA signs multiple contracts for Next Gen Propulsion Work
« Reply #13 on: 06/17/2014 03:28 PM »
A free market does not exist with a sole source 100B HLV and leaving only 7 of 14 launches.
Clearly SLS is another animal - a classic government-run launch vehicle program, discussion of which does not belong in this thread, but I was talking about the EELV and COTS/CRS class launchers (Atlas 5, Delta 4, Antares, and Falcon 9) that are closer to "commercial" than any other launch vehicles in the U.S. 

Here, for example, we see ULA making a decision to spend its own money on propulsion R&D for Atlas 5.  It had to have traded that choice with the option of dropping Atlas 5 altogether.  Now, having made that choice, based in part on earnings potential, the option of someday dropping Delta 4 lands on the table.

Quote
So the free market which owns Atlas/Delta/SLS product lines and wanted to add liquid strap ons has not recognized that the US has excess launch capacity with new vehicles under development.

History shows that a commercial marketplace frequently tends to produce "excess" capacity, sometime to exorbitant levels.  Eventually the winners prevail and the losers drop away.  Look at airlines, railroads, cellular, computers, etc. and etc.. 

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 06/17/2014 03:45 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: ULA signs multiple contracts for Next Gen Propulsion Work
« Reply #14 on: 06/17/2014 03:51 PM »
Hmmm...

Quote
GenCorp’s New-Rocket Plan Raises Questions
http://aviationweek.com/space/opinion-gencorp-s-new-rocket-plan-raises-questions

Related?

For those of us not keeping notes, GenCorp currently owns Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.
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Online edkyle99

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Re: ULA signs multiple contracts for Next Gen Propulsion Work
« Reply #15 on: 06/17/2014 04:06 PM »
Hmmm...

Quote
GenCorp’s New-Rocket Plan Raises Questions
http://aviationweek.com/space/opinion-gencorp-s-new-rocket-plan-raises-questions

Related?

For those of us not keeping notes, GenCorp currently owns Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.
This was about Aerojet-Rocketdyne's AR-1 proposal, which was in the news a couple weeks ago.  Clearly this company will be proposing something for Atlas 5 - something that it has been working on for awhile now.

Northrop Grumman is another name mentioned as a potential bidder.  And why not United Technologies, which still owns its share of RD-AMROSS/RD-180?  SpaceX maybe, but it has its own conflict of interest and is just getting started in staged combustion R&D.  Can non-U.S. companies be ruled out?

 - Ed Kyle

   

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: ULA signs multiple contracts for Next Gen Propulsion Work
« Reply #16 on: 06/17/2014 04:35 PM »
Makes me do a double take, since they are asking for a government competition. Which is a polar opposite of ULA selecting it's own engine supplier on its own. The whole we are the approved government supplier, you will use our engine on your government launches. We will even give you a 36 engine block buy ;)

Wonder how many contracts ULA signed.
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Offline muomega0

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Re: ULA signs multiple contracts for Next Gen Propulsion Work
« Reply #17 on: 06/17/2014 04:53 PM »
A free market does not exist with a sole source 100B HLV and leaving only 7 of 14 launches.
Clearly SLS is another animal - a classic government-run launch vehicle program, discussion of which does not belong in this thread, but I was talking about the EELV and COTS/CRS class launchers (Atlas 5, Delta 4, Antares, and Falcon 9) that are closer to "commercial" than any other launch vehicles in the U.S.  Here, for example, we see ULA making a decision to spend its own money on propulsion R&D for Atlas 5.

 - Ed Kyle
For the benefit of retaining both Atlas and Delta in the fleet and not eliminating SLS?  Here is a plan to eliminate SLS:  ULA claim gap reducing solution via EELV exploration master plan  "With the addition of a robust launch abort system, we believe both Atlas and Delta can exceed stringent NASA Loss of Crew requirements. Both launch vehicles offer unique advantages for a commercial crew development program, or for the launch of the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle"   

But Atlas and Delta were optimized for performance, and it seems obvious that a new single and multi-core LV with a new liquid engine would be more cost effective to meet the future NASA/AF/DOD needs:  reduced product lines to lower costs to space and shift money to mission and technology development.    (SpaceX is on the this path with the goal or reuse.)

As you most certainly know, NASA benefits from high ISP out of the gravity well, but EP is too slow for crew.  SpaceX has shown that a common RP engine for upper and lower stage seems to be more cost effective for LEO and GEO.  Can this same cost hardware model be applied to NASA BEO missions?  it depends on mass and frequency of trips of course.

IOW:  each 'free market' may choose a different path forward to increase profits.   For example, the AR-1 engine posted above.   Clearly they see a different approach than just rebuilding the RD-180 and perhaps an opportunity to capture the solids market with a new single and multicore LV.

Offline arachnitect

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Re: ULA signs multiple contracts for Next Gen Propulsion Work
« Reply #18 on: 06/17/2014 05:06 PM »
Can non-U.S. companies be ruled out?   

I don't see a non-US company developing an entirely new engine, but maybe producing Russian heritage engines under license... or working with an American company that has IP but no real manufacturing (Northrup Grumman).

MHI or Snecma? Snecma has joint ventures with both US and Russian companies.

ULA says they want "next generation" and "domestic" solutions, but NPO could put together some kind of bid. License fees are better than nothing.

Offline savuporo

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Re: ULA signs multiple contracts for Next Gen Propulsion Work
« Reply #19 on: 06/17/2014 05:18 PM »
Wonder how many contracts ULA signed.

They probably signed both of them. ;)

If they are serious, it's AJR, and as mentioned MHI/IHI and Snecma. That about rounds it up for booster stage engine capability at this point.

Of course "multiple contracts" is PR speak that means "we also signed a deal with local janitorial service to clean the test stand"
« Last Edit: 06/17/2014 05:21 PM by savuporo »
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