Author Topic: Q&A with ULA's Dr. George Sowers per ULA/Blue Origin announcement  (Read 55924 times)

Online Chris Bergin

ULA's George Sowers - VP, Strategic Architecture & Advanced Programs at ULA - United Launch Alliance - Lockheed Martin & Boeing - has agreed to a Q&A session with members of the NSF forum, relative to the Blue Origin announcement.  Dr. Sowers has been leading this activity for ULA.

Keep your questions to single points, one question, per each member, in one post, so as not to overload. They need to be on topic.

First questions can be posted below. Dr. Sowers will be around this weekend and early next week to answer them.

Resulting quotes are obviously copyright to NSF. (I'll be looking to create an article from anything interesting at a later point).

Offline Kryten

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 When did ULA become involved with BE-4, and what was the basic reasoning behind becoming involved?

Offline Joel

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First of all, really happy to see this development! In addition to the engine cooperation between ULA and Blue origin, are there any plans to cooperate on other areas? For example on reusable rocket boosters?[/size]

Offline quanthasaquality

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Didn't Atlas V vs Delta IV show that kerolox first stage with expensive engine is cheaper than hydrolox first stage with cheap engine? Why compromise with methalox?

Offline dkovacic

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Why did ULA choose to anandon RP-1 and switch to methane?

Offline david1971

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What will be the major milestones for this project, and what is the associated timeline?

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Is ULA pursuing multiple complementary strategies, paralleling Delta IV (hydrolox) and Atlas V, with these changes? Specifically how much is a BO derivative following the Atlas V Phase 1/2 direction changes like 5 meter first stage, and how much of existing Atlas V 4 meter is retained?

Offline Hauerg

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Is  a modified/new upper stage part of the current trade studies?

Offline sdsds

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Is ULA planning continued use of the Atlas V solids with its new launch vehicle?
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Online RonM

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Will the switch to BE-4 methane engines enable later versions of Atlas to be reusable?

Offline Ronsmytheiii

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Can you give a status update for ULA's Integrated Vehicle Fluids program?
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Offline arachnitect

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Thank you for answering questions Dr. Sowers.

You may not be able to share much about it, but I'd be very interested to hear anything you can say about the evolution of ULA launch vehicles that will be using this engine. Is this the beginning of a common launch vehicle family?

Congratulations on starting a new program and good luck as well working with Boeing on CCtCap.

Offline butters

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What is the expected timeframe for Blue Atlas, and how does that compare to the schedule for the XCOR-powered upper stage? Is ULA committed to seeing both of these projects through to operational status?

Offline R7

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What kind of various flight configurations will the new LV feature?
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Offline tesla

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Will the redesigned Launch Vehicle(s) be known by a new name, other than Atlas 5?
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Offline bubbagret

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What potential synergies, if any, do you see between the Blue Origin/ULA partnership decision and other programs, such as DARPA XS-1? Does this decision better position BO/ULA as a more attractive prospect in relation to, or even to potentially take the lead in any other potential programs?

Offline Hyperion5

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Will ULA also use the Blue Origin BE-3 engine for the upper stage, or will there be an open competition for the upper stage engine? 

Offline DGH

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Are you planning on the same payload to GTO as Atlas or larger?

« Last Edit: 09/20/2014 07:09 PM by Chris Bergin »

Online Chris Bergin

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Offline robertross

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Thanks for doing this!

What are the expected pad modifications required to support this new family of launch vehicles?
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Dr. Sowers, thank you for taking the time. Hope things are progressing well.

One question, the current engine compartment (boat tail?) is a smaller diameter than the current Atlas V tanks (but I think the same diameter as the prior Atlas III tanks), will the new vehicle (Does it have an official name?) use a similar design and be able to use the exist mobile launch platform and VIF without modification (even if larger, say 5m tanks are used)?

Again, thank you 
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Online edkyle99

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Is ULA's intention to create a common booster core that would serve, or replace, both Atlas and Delta?

 - Ed Kyle

Offline BrightLight

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Will the composite tankage presently being tested for SLS by Boeing and NASA be used on a rocket based upon the ULA/Blue Origin engines?

Online TrevorMonty

Blue Origin are planning their own RLV based on BE4. Will they fly it from ULA launch facilities?

PS congratulations on ULA's new exciting future.
« Last Edit: 09/21/2014 05:19 AM by TrevorMonty »

Offline cosmiste

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How throtteable will be the BE-4 on the new Atlas X ?

Offline tobi453

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Will the next generation ULA launch vehicle also get a new upper stage or a RL-10 replacement?

Offline 2552

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Is a 3-core Heavy version of the BE-4 vehicle being studied?

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How are you planning to handle this new vehicle re: ground systems with the minimum amount of disruption to the existing Atlas V pads at VAFB and CCAFS? I'm thinking in terms of schedule impacts.
« Last Edit: 09/20/2014 10:28 PM by DaveS »
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Offline Falcon H

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Will the new launch vehicle be reusable, or designed with reusability in mind?
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Offline HIP2BSQRE

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The USAF recently issued a RFI looking for a replacement engine for the RD-180.  The RFI calls for "a replacement engine with similar performance characteristics to currently used engines, alternative configurations that would provide similar performance (such as a multiple engine configuration) to existing EELV-class systems, and use of alternative launch vehicles for EELV-class systems."  What do you see as the potential impact of this RFI and possibly RFP for ULA and your recent announcement with Blue Origin?  The AF may be looking at a national engine/rocket competition that includes Blue Origin but also SpaceX and wants the new engine to be available commercial to any of the US rocket builders.

Online dglow

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The BE-4 is being described as a LOX+LNG engine – not methane. Is this distinction important to ULA and Blue Origin and, if so, how?

And thank you for your time and attention. :D

Online Galactic Penguin SST

With rocket stage re-usability being the "hot thing" of rocketry recently, are there any plans and studies inside ULA to make this new LV reusable? If so, are there any plans that ULA would co-operate with Blue Origin to develop that capability?
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Offline georgesowers

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Wow!  Thanks for all the great questions.  But before I dive in, a few general comments.

It was a great week for ULA.  In fact, the 24 hours starting with the NASA commercial crew announcement and finishing with a reception we held with Blue at the National Geographic Museum in DC was probably the best day ever.

Starting with Boeing being announced as one of the commercial crew winners, this was very emotional for me.  Despite being deeply disappointed for Sierra Nevada and all my friends up there, we are now FINALLY going to get to fly human on Atlas again!!  It has been a 15 year odyssey for me.  At LM, I led the Atlas efforts on OSP which was baselined on EELV.  Then there were the dark days when talking about humans on Atlas was heresy. Almost fired on several occasions...  Then helping get the commercial crew program started and nurturing it through the interminable steps of CCdev1, CCdev2, CCiCap and now CCtCap.  Whew! Rocket science is the easy part...

Then we had the successful launch of CLIO.  Launching at the last second of the window is even harder than launching at the first second of the window.

Then the great day we had with the Blue announcement.  It feels fantastic to be back in the vehicle development game again.  I've attached some eye candy.  We had this as a full scale banner for a backdrop of the dais at the reception.

I have been very impressed with the speculation about our vehicle plans on the other thread. Some of it is pretty close to the mark.

Lastly, the great folks at Blue Origin don't like the acronym BO for obvious reasons.  They like "Blue" for short.


Online rcoppola

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See if I can squeeze this in...Will this engine be baselined for Boeing's Commercial Crew Contracts?
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Offline georgesowers

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When did ULA become involved with BE-4, and what was the basic reasoning behind becoming involved?

We've been working with Blue for many years.  I remember giving Jeff Bezos a tour of the Atlas factory in Denver a year before ULA.  We were on their CCdev team from the very beginning.  In term of the BE-4, ULA started doing serious propulsion trades over a year ago.  The BE-4 was in the mix from the beginning.  We turned up the gain substantially as the political situation in Ukraine deteriorated.   Blue was one of the companies we put on contract back in June (recall our press release at that time).

Reasoning is straight forward.  We were looking at alternatives and the BE-4 was a very-very credible option, despite the fact that nothing was publically known.

Offline georgesowers

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First of all, really happy to see this development! In addition to the engine cooperation between ULA and Blue origin, are there any plans to cooperate on other areas? For example on reusable rocket boosters?[/size]

Our joint investment in the development of the BE-4 is just the start of a long term partnership.  We are in discussions about other collaborations including reusability ideas.

Offline georgesowers

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Didn't Atlas V vs Delta IV show that kerolox first stage with expensive engine is cheaper than hydrolox first stage with cheap engine? Why compromise with methalox?

There are several questions on the fuel choice for the BE-4.  I'll try to answer all of them here.

I like to think of methane as being about halfway in between hydrogen and RP.  It's about half the density of RP but twice that of hydrogen.  There are many benefits of methane as a fuel which are outlined in Blue's public fact sheet.  Those are all attractive to ULA.  Since ULA fields both hydrogen and RP boosters today, accommodating methane is well within our capabilities.

But we didn't make our decision based on fuel.  We did a system level comparison of all our options including both technical and business considerations.  Both non-recurring and recurring cost were major drivers. The total package won us over.

As to the question of LNG vs methane, it's kind of a distinction without a difference.  LNG is a commercially available commodity which is typically >95% methane.  The engine is being developed and qualified with LNG.  We felt using the term LNG emphasizes the commercial, low cost nature of our mindset as we develop this engine.

Offline georgesowers

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What will be the major milestones for this project, and what is the associated timeline?

Major milestones were in our press release and FAQ:  Power pack testing begins this year.  Full scale engine development testing in 2016 and first ULA flight in 2019.

The power pack is essentially the entire engine sans combustion chamber.  Preburner, boost pump, lox and fuel pumps.  Testing to begin within weeks at Blue's west Texas site.  The hardware is being finished in Kent as we speak.  Beautiful stuff built on the most state of the art tools imaginable.  A 3-d printed mock up of the power pack is on the test stand being used to finish facility plumbing and instrumentation.  Sweet.

BTW, touring the BE-4 test facility back in February pushed me over the top.  1Mlb+ capable stand, 60ft tall run tanks for Lox and LNG, massive, brand new, state of the art, and 100% private.  Pic is on Blue's factsheet.  If you look close you can see a pick-up truck for scale.

Offline georgesowers

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Is ULA pursuing multiple complementary strategies, paralleling Delta IV (hydrolox) and Atlas V, with these changes? Specifically how much is a BO derivative following the Atlas V Phase 1/2 direction changes like 5 meter first stage, and how much of existing Atlas V 4 meter is retained?

As my boss Tory Bruno said in Wednesday's press conference, the vehicle announcement will be before the end of the year.  My team is working hard to get there.

That being said, the lower density of LNG compared to RP implies more volume for the booster.  Do the math, as several have started to do on the other thread.

The beauty of having two fully certified systems in our fleet is that we can be very deliberate about how we introduce new systems and capabilities.  Given the criticality of the payloads we launch, deliberation and prudence is a necessity.  The rule of wing walking:  never let go of what you have until you have a firm grasp on the future.

Offline baldusi

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How does this work integrates with the Common Upper Stage and IVF? Does BE-3 is a possible option for it or you're thinking more of EELV/CUS and then BE-4 boosters/CUS and then a possible BE-4 Boosters / New Upper Stage? A sort of Tick-tock strategy.

Offline georgesowers

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Is  a modified/new upper stage part of the current trade studies?

Of course.  But to the rule of wing walking, we may do it a stage a a time.

Offline georgesowers

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Is ULA planning continued use of the Atlas V solids with its new launch vehicle?

Yes.

It is clear to us that the versatility afforded by differing SRM configurations is a benefit to our customers.

Offline georgesowers

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Can you give a status update for ULA's Integrated Vehicle Fluids program?

IVF is a very exciting technology we continue to pursue.  In addition to our internal R&D, we have NASA funding and are racking up lots of time on the IC engine that's the heart of the system.  It integral to our ACES design.

Offline georgesowers

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Thank you for answering questions Dr. Sowers.

You may not be able to share much about it, but I'd be very interested to hear anything you can say about the evolution of ULA launch vehicles that will be using this engine. Is this the beginning of a common launch vehicle family?

Congratulations on starting a new program and good luck as well working with Boeing on CCtCap.

As I said earlier, our vehicle plan will be revealed later in the year.  Overall we intend to offer more capability for less money at the same (world's best) reliability.

Offline georgesowers

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Will the switch to BE-4 methane engines enable later versions of Atlas to be reusable?

Maybe

Offline georgesowers

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What kind of various flight configurations will the new LV feature?

The genius of the EELV program was the creation of families of vehicles that address a wide spectrum of requirements.  We intend to maintain that philosophy.

Offline georgesowers

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Will the redesigned Launch Vehicle(s) be known by a new name, other than Atlas 5?

Ha!  I'm anticipating a very emotional debate on naming.  Suggestions welcome.  I kind of liked DAVE...

Offline georgesowers

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What potential synergies, if any, do you see between the Blue Origin/ULA partnership decision and other programs, such as DARPA XS-1? Does this decision better position BO/ULA as a more attractive prospect in relation to, or even to potentially take the lead in any other potential programs?

No direct connection to XS-1.  But like I said earlier, this is just the beginning for the Blue/ULA partnership.

Offline rayleighscatter

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Is the new vehicle planned to have its own new pad or will an existing ULA pad be modified for it?

Offline georgesowers

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Are you planning on the same payload to GTO as Atlas or larger?

Larger.  More capability for lower cost.

Offline georgesowers

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Will ULA also use the Blue Origin BE-3 engine for the upper stage, or will there be an open competition for the upper stage engine?
[/quote}

We are excited about the BE-3 which is completing certification as we speak.  But we have a lot of upper stage engine options including XCOR and RL-10.  An embarrasement of riches.

Offline georgesowers

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Thanks for doing this!

What are the expected pad modifications required to support this new family of launch vehicles?

Obviously, we have to add LNG fueling capability to our pads.  Other than that, not much.

Offline Nindalf

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The genius of the EELV program was the creation of families of vehicles that address a wide spectrum of requirements.  We intend to maintain that philosophy.
So is the idea that in this next generation of vehicles, one vehicle family will still belong more to Boeing, and one to Lockheed Martin, particularly when it comes to selling services to non-USG customers?

Offline M_Puckett

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Could this new vehicle ultimately lead to a consolidation of the lines?

Offline Darkseraph

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Will this be a tap-off cycle engine like the BE-3?
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Online TrevorMonty

Sorry about the Blue Origin acronym, wasn't done intentionally, edited where possible.
« Last Edit: 09/21/2014 06:13 AM by TrevorMonty »

Offline DJPledger

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Will this be a tap-off cycle engine like the BE-3?
No, BE-4 will be ORSC.

Offline strangequark

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Do you have any insight that you can share into the trades that led to the choice of oxidizer rich versus fuel rich staged combustion for the BE-4?

As for names, I humbly submit Zeus. He was the successor to Atlas, and the other Titans. In addition, he was the god of thunder; essentially the Greek version of Thor. A bit roundabout, but hopefully a decent homage to the lineage of your current lineup.

Just to reiterate, thank you so much for contributing your time in answering all of our questions.
« Last Edit: 09/21/2014 08:58 AM by strangequark »

Online Zed_Noir

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So where will the production line of the new launch vehicle be located if it's been decided?

Offline Nick Simeonoff

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What is the targeted specific impulse of BE-4?

Offline Ludus

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Does this program take the place of a program to build the RD-180 in the US which might be expected to produce a vehicle with real continuity with current Atlas in less time?

Offline PahTo

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Dr. Sowers,
You've already answered my questions--thanks a ton(ne) for making yourself available!
Exciting times indeed...

Online Arb

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Here's the image of the BE-4 test facility that Dr Sowers mentioned.

Can anyone spot the pickup truck?
« Last Edit: 09/21/2014 08:57 PM by Arb »

Offline Ronsmytheiii

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Thank you Dr Sowers for taking the time to answer my question, I am really looking forward to seeing IVF and the BE-4 in flight!

Also circled the truck below
« Last Edit: 09/21/2014 09:39 PM by Ronsmytheiii »
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Offline georgesowers

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Dr. Sowers, thank you for taking the time. Hope things are progressing well.

One question, the current engine compartment (boat tail?) is a smaller diameter than the current Atlas V tanks (but I think the same diameter as the prior Atlas III tanks), will the new vehicle (Does it have an official name?) use a similar design and be able to use the exist mobile launch platform and VIF without modification (even if larger, say 5m tanks are used)?

Again, thank you

We expect modifications to the VIF and MLP which are under evaluation.

Offline georgesowers

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Is ULA's intention to create a common booster core that would serve, or replace, both Atlas and Delta?

 - Ed Kyle

Those details will be forthcoming later this year.

Offline georgesowers

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Will the composite tankage presently being tested for SLS by Boeing and NASA be used on a rocket based upon the ULA/Blue Origin engines?

We are aware of the composite tank work ongoing at BA.  But as of now we don't plan to incorporate that technology in our next generation launch system.

Offline georgesowers

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Blue Origin are planning their own RLV based on BE4. Will they fly it from ULA launch facilities?

PS congratulations on ULA's new exciting future.

That question is better asked of Blue.

Offline georgesowers

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How throtteable will be the BE-4 on the new Atlas X ?

It will have a throttle range similar to the RD-180.

Offline georgesowers

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Will the next generation ULA launch vehicle also get a new upper stage or a RL-10 replacement?

We are studying various options, but will most likely use our existing upper stages initially.

Offline georgesowers

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How are you planning to handle this new vehicle re: ground systems with the minimum amount of disruption to the existing Atlas V pads at VAFB and CCAFS? I'm thinking in terms of schedule impacts.

The details are being worked out, but the objetive will be to minimize impacts to the ongoing manifest.

Offline georgesowers

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Will the new launch vehicle be reusable, or designed with reusability in mind?
Thank you!

The BE-4 is certainly being designed to be reusable.  And although we are studying reusability concepts, this next booster will be expendable.

Offline Jim

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So the transition to the new vehicle might be similar to Atlas II to Atlas V (without the Atlas III step)?

Offline georgesowers

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The USAF recently issued a RFI looking for a replacement engine for the RD-180.  The RFI calls for "a replacement engine with similar performance characteristics to currently used engines, alternative configurations that would provide similar performance (such as a multiple engine configuration) to existing EELV-class systems, and use of alternative launch vehicles for EELV-class systems."  What do you see as the potential impact of this RFI and possibly RFP for ULA and your recent announcement with Blue Origin?  The AF may be looking at a national engine/rocket competition that includes Blue Origin but also SpaceX and wants the new engine to be available commercial to any of the US rocket builders.

ULA submitted a response to the AF RFI and will participate in the industry day and one-on-one sessions this week.  The response by the AF to our partnership with Blue has been extremely favorable so far.

Offline georgesowers

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See if I can squeeze this in...Will this engine be baselined for Boeing's Commercial Crew Contracts?

No.  We plan to use our existing Atlas V to support launch of Boeing's CST-100 through the CCtCap phase.  Future plans will include human rating the new system.

Offline georgesowers

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How does this work integrates with the Common Upper Stage and IVF? Does BE-3 is a possible option for it or you're thinking more of EELV/CUS and then BE-4 boosters/CUS and then a possible BE-4 Boosters / New Upper Stage? A sort of Tick-tock strategy.

We continue to work on ACES and IVF as I wrote in a previous answer.  We will most likely start with the BE-4 booster and then work the upper stage as a senond step.  The BE-3 is certainly an option for ACES.

Offline georgesowers

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Is the new vehicle planned to have its own new pad or will an existing ULA pad be modified for it?

We will modify existing pads.

Offline georgesowers

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The genius of the EELV program was the creation of families of vehicles that address a wide spectrum of requirements.  We intend to maintain that philosophy.
So is the idea that in this next generation of vehicles, one vehicle family will still belong more to Boeing, and one to Lockheed Martin, particularly when it comes to selling services to non-USG customers?

To be determined.

Offline Apollo100

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Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Very enlightening!!!

Did you guys ever consider a new engine from Rocketdyne?
« Last Edit: 09/21/2014 11:24 PM by Apollo100 »

Offline georgesowers

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Do you have any insight that you can share into the trades that led to the choice of oxidizer rich versus fuel rich staged combustion for the BE-4?

As for names, I humbly submit Zeus. He was the successor to Atlas, and the other Titans. In addition, he was the god of thunder; essentially the Greek version of Thor. A bit roundabout, but hopefully a decent homage to the lineage of your current lineup.

Just to reiterate, thank you so much for contributing your time in answering all of our questions.

The trades that led to the specific design of the BE-4 are Blue proprietary.  Ask them.  They are very forthcoming  :)

Zeus is cool. 

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Titan is up for grabs again!

Offline georgesowers

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So where will the production line of the new launch vehicle be located if it's been decided?

Blue and ULA are looking at a number of options.

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What is the targeted specific impulse of BE-4?

It is Blue proprietary.  But we are being pretty conservative to start with.

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Does this program take the place of a program to build the RD-180 in the US which might be expected to produce a vehicle with real continuity with current Atlas in less time?

We are still keeping a number of contingency options alive, but the BE-4 is definitely plan A.

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Dr. Sowers: I don't actually have a question that hasn't already been asked, but I did want to post to join others in thanking you for conducting this Q&A here. I think this is a very interesting announcement, and I'm looking forward to seeing more about the vehicle BE-4 will be used on!

Offline georgesowers

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So the transition to the new vehicle might be similar to Atlas II to Atlas V (without the Atlas III step)?

Not really.  I think of it as being pretty similar to AII to AIII.  Actually somewhat more modest since we're probably not going to alter Centaur in the firt step.

Offline georgesowers

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Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Very enlightening!!!

Did you guys ever consider a new engine from Rocketdyne?

Of course.  The AR-1 is technically a very viable solution.  But our trade study included both technical and business considerations.

Aerojet Rocketdyne remains a very important member of our team.

Offline georgesowers

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Titan is up for grabs again!

I started my career on Titan.

Offline Llian Rhydderch

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Dr. Sowers,

I, too, have found that my questions have been asked, and very straightforwardly answered, by your super helpful responses.  Thanks.

It is really great to see ULA responding to the new spaceflight reality that is present in 2014 and see you aiming for a lower-cost but high-reliability launch solution!
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Offline arachnitect

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So where will the production line of the new launch vehicle be located if it's been decided?

Blue and ULA are looking at a number of options.

I'm a little surprised the answer to this one wasn't simply "Decatur." What else is an option, MAF?
« Last Edit: 09/23/2014 04:59 PM by Lar »

Offline Prober

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So the transition to the new vehicle might be similar to Atlas II to Atlas V (without the Atlas III step)?

Not really.  I think of it as being pretty similar to AII to AIII.  Actually somewhat more modest since we're probably not going to alter Centaur in the firt step.

The Common Centaur for current Atlas V & Delta IV is still on track in the in term, or no?  Centaur has such historical value in Rocket History.  Even today many of its manufacturing techniques are still unknown in the contest of building one from start to finish.   May we look forward to video documentation (volunteers  :) ) before changes are made to ACES etc. ?
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Offline Jim

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1.  The Common Centaur for current Atlas V & Delta IV is still on track in the in term, or no?

2.    Centaur has such historical value in Rocket History.  Even today many of its manufacturing techniques are still unknown in the contest of building one from start to finish.   May we look forward to video documentation (volunteers  :) ) before changes are made to ACES etc. ?


1.  It isn't a common Centaur. It is a common upper stage.

2.  They are known and documented already. 

Offline wannamoonbase

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Dr. Sowers,

What is the level of purity of the LNG, does H2S have to be removed?
Jonesing for a copy of 'Tales of Suspense #39'

Offline Lee Jay

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I want to assume I know the answer to this, but you know what they say about assuming.

So, would you expect a future upper stage replacement to remain LH2/LOX (a "high energy" stage) or would you consider an LNG upper stage?  I understand why an RP1/LOX upper stage isn't the best for GEO/Earth departure missions, but with LNG being in the middle between RP1 and LH2, I'm wondering if such a thing is back on the table or not.

Offline rayleighscatter

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Is the new vehicle planned to have its own new pad or will an existing ULA pad be modified for it?

We will modify existing pads.
First I should say thanks a lot for coming and answering all of these!

As a follow up, does this mean ULA intends for a pad to support multiple vehicles? And if I may... which pad(s)?
« Last Edit: 09/22/2014 09:26 PM by rayleighscatter »

Offline Ronsmytheiii

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Will the redesigned Launch Vehicle(s) be known by a new name, other than Atlas 5?

Ha!  I'm anticipating a very emotional debate on naming.  Suggestions welcome.  I kind of liked DAVE...

How about the Blue Atlas-Thor, the BAT!
« Last Edit: 09/23/2014 02:04 AM by Ronsmytheiii »
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Offline Proponent

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Since we're on the topic of names, could I ask how the Atlas V became the Atlas V without there ever having been an Atlas IV?

EDIT:  "and Atlas IV" -> "an Atlas IV"
« Last Edit: 09/24/2014 09:50 AM by Proponent »

Online edkyle99

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Since we're on the topic of names, could I ask how the Atlas V became the Atlas V without there ever having been and Atlas IV?
Lockheed Martin had Atlas III and Titan IV.  The next rocket became "V", and some consideration might have been given to naming it "Titan V", but "Atlas" won out, allowing the name to symbolize a merger of the two product lines, which is really what Atlas V represents.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 09/23/2014 02:25 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline R7

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Name suggestion: Since ULA is marriage between BA and LM and this would it's first own offspring

Juno V
AD·ASTRA·ASTRORVM·GRATIA

Offline robertross

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We should probably keep the name suggestions on a separate thread, so as not to muck up this excellent Q&A thread
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Offline Lar

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We should probably keep the name suggestions on a separate thread, so as not to muck up this excellent Q&A thread

(mod hat)
Yes please.
 
(fanboy hat) and what an awesome thread.... I wish ULA and Blue all the best in this... it's exactly the sort of thing that I had hoped might happen.
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Offline HIP2BSQRE

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The USAF recently issued a RFI looking for a replacement engine for the RD-180.  The RFI calls for "a replacement engine with similar performance characteristics to currently used engines, alternative configurations that would provide similar performance (such as a multiple engine configuration) to existing EELV-class systems, and use of alternative launch vehicles for EELV-class systems."  What do you see as the potential impact of this RFI and possibly RFP for ULA and your recent announcement with Blue Origin?  The AF may be looking at a national engine/rocket competition that includes Blue Origin but also SpaceX and wants the new engine to be available commercial to any of the US rocket builders.

ULA submitted a response to the AF RFI and will participate in the industry day and one-on-one sessions this week.  The response by the AF to our partnership with Blue has been extremely favorable so far.

Follow up, what would happen if the AF/Congress picked another engine to replace the RD-180 that belong to say SpaceX.  Would ULA have to use the alternative engine selected by the govt?

Offline georgesowers

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So where will the production line of the new launch vehicle be located if it's been decided?

Blue and ULA are looking at a number of options.

I'm a little surprised the answer to this one wasn't simply "Decatur." What else is an option, MAF?

You're right.  The vehicle will be built in Decatur.  I was thinking engine when I answered.

Offline georgesowers

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So the transition to the new vehicle might be similar to Atlas II to Atlas V (without the Atlas III step)?

Not really.  I think of it as being pretty similar to AII to AIII.  Actually somewhat more modest since we're probably not going to alter Centaur in the firt step.

The Common Centaur for current Atlas V & Delta IV is still on track in the in term, or no?  Centaur has such historical value in Rocket History.  Even today many of its manufacturing techniques are still unknown in the contest of building one from start to finish.   May we look forward to video documentation (volunteers  :) ) before changes are made to ACES etc. ?

The common Centaur idea has transitioned to ACES.  The secret sauce manufacturing techniques used for Centaur are common to ACES which contribute to its outstanding mass fraction.

Offline georgesowers

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Dr. Sowers,

What is the level of purity of the LNG, does H2S have to be removed?

Commercial grade LNG is >95% methane.  The fuel is being used as is.

Offline georgesowers

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I want to assume I know the answer to this, but you know what they say about assuming.

So, would you expect a future upper stage replacement to remain LH2/LOX (a "high energy" stage) or would you consider an LNG upper stage?  I understand why an RP1/LOX upper stage isn't the best for GEO/Earth departure missions, but with LNG being in the middle between RP1 and LH2, I'm wondering if such a thing is back on the table or not.

We're not looking at LNG upper stages at this time.

Offline georgesowers

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Is the new vehicle planned to have its own new pad or will an existing ULA pad be modified for it?

We will modify existing pads.
First I should say thanks a lot for coming and answering all of these!

As a follow up, does this mean ULA intends for a pad to support multiple vehicles? And if I may... which pad(s)?

That is a possibility.

Offline georgesowers

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Since we're on the topic of names, could I ask how the Atlas V became the Atlas V without there ever having been and Atlas IV?
Lockheed Martin had Atlas III and Titan IV.  The next rocket became "V", and some consideration might have been given to naming it "Titan V", but "Atlas" won out, allowing the name to symbolize a merger of the two product lines, which is really what Atlas V represents.

 - Ed Kyle

Ed's answer is pretty close.  But Ed's story is more logical than I remember.

Offline georgesowers

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The USAF recently issued a RFI looking for a replacement engine for the RD-180.  The RFI calls for "a replacement engine with similar performance characteristics to currently used engines, alternative configurations that would provide similar performance (such as a multiple engine configuration) to existing EELV-class systems, and use of alternative launch vehicles for EELV-class systems."  What do you see as the potential impact of this RFI and possibly RFP for ULA and your recent announcement with Blue Origin?  The AF may be looking at a national engine/rocket competition that includes Blue Origin but also SpaceX and wants the new engine to be available commercial to any of the US rocket builders.

ULA submitted a response to the AF RFI and will participate in the industry day and one-on-one sessions this week.  The response by the AF to our partnership with Blue has been extremely favorable so far.

Follow up, what would happen if the AF/Congress picked another engine to replace the RD-180 that belong to say SpaceX.  Would ULA have to use the alternative engine selected by the govt?

Unlikely.  The USG can't really dictate HW choices to private companies.

Offline Lar

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Reminder, one question per post, one post per member. People have been doing followups, and you're trading on Dr. Sowers' great kindness in choosing to answer those. Let's not overstay our welcome.  Thanks.
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Offline Damon Hill

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Will natural gas be delivered to the launch site via pipeline and tested/purified/liquified locally, or delivered as LNG via tank truck as LH2 is delivered to KSC/Vandenberg?

I know that LOX is manufactured semi-locally at KSC (my sister lives about two miles from the dedicated plant).  Raw ingredients are electricity and air--what could be simpler?  Nitrogen and other gases (except helium, of course) would be obtained simultaneously via cryogenic fractional distillation.  There are turnkey systems, even powered by diesel engines, to do this sort of thing. 

I could see a methane launch facility taking pipeline natural gas and running a complete propellant/pressurant operation of their own, including facility electrical power, powered entirely by the gas.  It might be a cheaper overall option given the abundance and lower price of natural gas these days.   SpaceX seems to like being tightly integrated, and it might work well for their Boca Chica facility if it goes methane in the next decade or so.
« Last Edit: 09/24/2014 12:15 AM by Damon Hill »

Offline baldusi

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I have already posted a question. I just want to say how amazing is this opportunity. I want to express my deepest thanks to Dr. Sowers.

Offline deltaV

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Do ULA's agreements with Boeing, Lockheed, FTC and/or the Air Force limit its options in new launch vehicle development? For example I've heard that ULA cannot develop reusable vehicles; is that right?

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Atlas has it's perfect record and timelines.

The new vehicle will be more capable and more affordable than the Atlas 5 but will have no record other than ULA's reputation.

Do you expact it to be able to compete in the free market, as it is expected to be 4 years from now?

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