Author Topic: Pegasus on Stratolaunch  (Read 4350 times)

Offline Sam Ho

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Pegasus on Stratolaunch
« on: 10/06/2016 02:22 PM »
Orbital ATK and Stratolaunch Systems Partner to Offer Competitive Space Launch Opportunities

Dulles, Virginia  6 October, 2016 – Orbital ATK, Inc. (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, and Stratolaunch Systems today announced a multi-year production-based partnership that will offer significant cost advantages to air-launch customers. Stratolaunch Systems, in cooperation with Vulcan Aerospace, is responsible for realizing Paul G. Allen’s vision for space.

Under this partnership, Orbital ATK will initially provide multiple Pegasus XL air-launch vehicles for use with the Stratolaunch aircraft to provide customers with unparalleled flexibility to launch small satellites weighing up to 1,000 pounds into low Earth orbit. Pegasus has carried out 42 space launch missions, successfully placing more than 80 satellites into orbit for scientific, commercial, defense and international customers.
 
“We are energized by this evolved partnership with Orbital ATK,” said Mr. Jean Floyd, CEO of Stratolaunch Systems and executive director of Vulcan Aerospace. “Orbital ATK is the world’s most experienced air-launch service provider, and we are proud to leverage that expertise and progressive approach in pursuit of our shared goal of convenient and affordable commercial access to low Earth orbit.”

“Orbital ATK is excited by this collaboration and sees it as a positive first step in a long-term partnership,” said Scott Lehr, president of Orbital ATK’s Flight Systems Group. “The combination of our extensive air-launch experience and the Stratolaunch aircraft has the potential to provide innovative and cost-effective options for commercial launch customers.”

http://www.orbitalatk.com/news-room/release.asp?prid=188

Offline Kabloona

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Re: Pegasus on Stratolaunch
« Reply #1 on: 10/06/2016 03:31 PM »
Hah. Jean Floyd was a Pegasus program manager at Orbital before moving up the corporate ladder there.

Offline edkyle99

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Re: Pegasus on Stratolaunch
« Reply #2 on: 10/06/2016 05:29 PM »
Under this partnership, Orbital ATK will initially provide multiple Pegasus XL air-launch vehicles for use with the Stratolaunch aircraft to provide customers with unparalleled flexibility to launch small satellites weighing up to 1,000 pounds into low Earth orbit.
I suppose the key word there is "initially", since Stratolaunch is massively oversized for Pegasus.

Orbital's first try for a custom-design rocket for Stratolaunch was abandoned.  I wonder what has changed?"

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Offline a_langwich

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Re: Pegasus on Stratolaunch
« Reply #3 on: 10/06/2016 05:45 PM »
Under this partnership, Orbital ATK will initially provide multiple Pegasus XL air-launch vehicles for use with the Stratolaunch aircraft to provide customers with unparalleled flexibility to launch small satellites weighing up to 1,000 pounds into low Earth orbit.
I suppose the key word there is "initially", since Stratolaunch is massively oversized for Pegasus.

Orbital's first try for a custom-design rocket for Stratolaunch was abandoned.  I wonder what has changed?"

 - Ed Kyle

Do you suppose they decided to bring in a little income with what's already available on the shelf, while waiting to see if any of these LEO satellite constellations make it to a launchpad?

What's the timeframe on the first flight of the Stratolaunch aircraft?

I suppose the price may not be competitive, but it seems to me this combo is less likely to see delays and setbacks, for let's say a Google Lunar X-Prize team, than Rocket Lab or Interorbital Systems.

 

Offline rcaron

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Re: Pegasus on Stratolaunch
« Reply #4 on: 10/06/2016 07:24 PM »
The concept art shows 3 Pegasus XL vehicles, which there are probably some economies on for constellations. Launch 1, enter a 30 minute holding pattern, launch another (a little west than before), and repeat. That way you can seed an orbital plane that's already equally spaced out 120 degrees. Even if each Pegasus is carrying a number of small/nanosatellites, this dispersion helps reduce dV & commissioning time.

What I'm wondering is whether Stratolaunch will provide improved payload to orbit for a single Pegasus XL in comparison to what the Stargazer can do. Possibly due to higher airspeed or drop altitude?
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Offline Sam Ho

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Re: Pegasus on Stratolaunch
« Reply #5 on: 10/06/2016 08:07 PM »
Orbital ATK and Stratolaunch Systems Partner to Offer Competitive Space Launch Opportunities
Also being discussed from the Stratolaunch perspective in the thread above.

http://aerospace.vulcan.com/News/Stratolaunch-Orbital-ATK-Partnership.aspx

Offline Kabloona

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Re: Pegasus on Stratolaunch
« Reply #6 on: 10/06/2016 09:10 PM »
Under this partnership, Orbital ATK will initially provide multiple Pegasus XL air-launch vehicles for use with the Stratolaunch aircraft to provide customers with unparalleled flexibility to launch small satellites weighing up to 1,000 pounds into low Earth orbit.
I suppose the key word there is "initially", since Stratolaunch is massively oversized for Pegasus.

Orbital's first try for a custom-design rocket for Stratolaunch was abandoned.  I wonder what has changed?"

 - Ed Kyle

They have reportedly sworn to launch something by the end of the decade, and as far as I can see, Pegasus is the only way that's going to happen. A clean sheet LV design would take too long.

It seems they just want to launch "something" ASAP and worry about optimizing the architecture later.

Maybe what has "changed" is someone woke up and smelled the coffee and realized Pegasus is the only realistic path to "operational" by the end of the decade. Maybe Jean Floyd convinced them of that, as an ex-Pegasus program manager.
« Last Edit: 10/06/2016 09:12 PM by Kabloona »

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Pegasus on Stratolaunch
« Reply #7 on: 10/07/2016 01:01 AM »
And honestly, Pegasus's old carrier aircraft was ceased production before I was born and is probably getting hard to maintain.

This may be a win-win for OATK and Stratolaunch. OATK can get rid of Stargazer (and all the maintenance costs of keeping her airworthy) while maintaining Pegasus's launch capability. Stratolaunch gets a proven airlaunched rocket to give this monster airplane a purpose other than just looking pretty, maybe even bringing in some revenue while bigger rockets can be developed.
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Re: Pegasus on Stratolaunch
« Reply #8 on: 10/07/2016 01:55 AM »
I thought Pegasus was to be retired after the ICON mission in 2017...
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Pegasus on Stratolaunch
« Reply #9 on: 10/07/2016 01:59 AM »
I thought Pegasus was to be retired after the ICON mission in 2017...
Exactly. This gives Pegasus (which is Orbital/ATK's most reliable rocket) another lease on life but still allows OrbitalATK to get rid of the overhead associated with keeping Stargazer flightworthy.
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Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Pegasus on Stratolaunch
« Reply #10 on: 10/07/2016 05:41 AM »
I thought Pegasus was to be retired after the ICON mission in 2017...
Exactly. This gives Pegasus (which is Orbital/ATK's most reliable rocket) another lease on life but still allows OrbitalATK to get rid of the overhead associated with keeping Stargazer flightworthy.

The Stargazer might be expensive to maintain, but is it really more expensive to maintain than a much larger, one-of-a-kind aircraft?  I doubt it.

I think Vulcan must be eating some of the maintenance cost of the plane to make it attractive enough for OATK to use it.
« Last Edit: 10/07/2016 05:41 AM by ChrisWilson68 »

Offline hop

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Re: Pegasus on Stratolaunch
« Reply #11 on: 10/07/2016 06:00 AM »
I thought Pegasus was to be retired after the ICON mission in 2017...
Exactly. This gives Pegasus (which is Orbital/ATK's most reliable rocket) another lease on life but still allows OrbitalATK to get rid of the overhead associated with keeping Stargazer flightworthy.
Not clear to me a much larger, one-off custom aircraft will actually be much cheaper to support, though I suppose from OrbATKs POV it is if someone else pays the bill...

For Stratolaunch though, who is going to buy all these Pegasus launches? Pegasus isn't exactly competitive now. If there were demand for lots of Pegasus flights, OrbATK would already be selling them, and would presumably be making enough to replace Stargazer if required.

It makes no sense to me, but then again, the whole Stratolaunch plan has never made any sense to me.
« Last Edit: 10/07/2016 06:01 AM by hop »

Offline sdsds

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Re: Pegasus on Stratolaunch
« Reply #12 on: 10/07/2016 06:21 AM »
It makes no sense to me, but then again, the whole Stratolaunch plan has never made any sense to me.

Citing a discussion on this topic that was started on another thread:
It must have something to do with the mysterious customer looking for the capability to rapidly replace or augment its on-orbit assets. That customer doesn't have degraded assets today, mind you. But if they put out an emergency call they don't want to wait 153 days (DMSP, 3 February 1988) to launch the replacement. So they're willing to pay now out of their black (or at least dark) budget for development of capabilities....

Occam's razor suggests that there is no such mystery customer. Somebody simply wanted to have the biggest plane ever, and launch rockets from it, so they built the plane. Now they don't even have a launch vehicle at all, so they are grasping for straws ... anything can that be air launched, no matter how small.

Both the notion this is all the pet project of a starry-eyed, space-enthusiast billionaire, and the notion that is has a "darker" force behind it might seem plausible. In choosing one explanation over the other I suggest the approach often attributed to Einstein: "Make it as simple as possible, but no simpler."
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Offline Dante80

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Re: Pegasus on Stratolaunch
« Reply #13 on: 10/07/2016 06:48 AM »
I thought Pegasus was to be retired after the ICON mission in 2017...
Exactly. This gives Pegasus (which is Orbital/ATK's most reliable rocket) another lease on life but still allows OrbitalATK to get rid of the overhead associated with keeping Stargazer flightworthy.

For Stratolaunch though, who is going to buy all these Pegasus launches? Pegasus isn't exactly competitive now. If there were demand for lots of Pegasus flights, OrbATK would already be selling them, and would presumably be making enough to replace Stargazer if required.

It makes no sense to me, but then again, the whole Stratolaunch plan has never made any sense to me.

I don't know about the whole Stratolaunch plan (I can think of a niche or two), but pairing it with 3 (three) Pegasus LVs simply makes no sense. Pegasus is one of the most expensive launchers in history as far as small payloads are concerned ($50M+ or $150,000+ per kg to LEO/SSO), and is mainly used to launch small government payloads like the SMEX sats.

I struggle to find a niche where this would be able to sell a commercial launch of one Pegasus XL, let alone three at the same time/mission. There must be a plan for another LV design here...and maybe both sides are more cautious this time before announcing (after what we have seen happening last time).
« Last Edit: 10/07/2016 06:49 AM by Dante80 »

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Pegasus on Stratolaunch
« Reply #14 on: 10/07/2016 01:30 PM »
I thought Pegasus was to be retired after the ICON mission in 2017...
Exactly. This gives Pegasus (which is Orbital/ATK's most reliable rocket) another lease on life but still allows OrbitalATK to get rid of the overhead associated with keeping Stargazer flightworthy.

The Stargazer might be expensive to maintain, but is it really more expensive to maintain than a much larger, one-of-a-kind aircraft?  I doubt it.

I think Vulcan must be eating some of the maintenance cost of the plane to make it attractive enough for OATK to use it.
Exactly. But Vulcan was going to have to do that anyway but with nothing to show for it, so this is a big win for them, too.
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Pegasus on Stratolaunch
« Reply #15 on: 10/07/2016 01:32 PM »
I thought Pegasus was to be retired after the ICON mission in 2017...
Exactly. This gives Pegasus (which is Orbital/ATK's most reliable rocket) another lease on life but still allows OrbitalATK to get rid of the overhead associated with keeping Stargazer flightworthy.

For Stratolaunch though, who is going to buy all these Pegasus launches? Pegasus isn't exactly competitive now. If there were demand for lots of Pegasus flights, OrbATK would already be selling them, and would presumably be making enough to replace Stargazer if required.

It makes no sense to me, but then again, the whole Stratolaunch plan has never made any sense to me.

I don't know about the whole Stratolaunch plan (I can think of a niche or two), but pairing it with 3 (three) Pegasus LVs simply makes no sense. ....
Why this fixation on the 3 Pegasi? It's just a graphic and a little extra mounting hardware (but useful for ferrying the rockets). No one's forcing them to fly with 3 of them all the time unless such a configuration is needed.
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Pegasus on Stratolaunch
« Reply #16 on: 10/07/2016 01:33 PM »
I thought Pegasus was to be retired after the ICON mission in 2017...
Exactly. This gives Pegasus (which is Orbital/ATK's most reliable rocket) another lease on life but still allows OrbitalATK to get rid of the overhead associated with keeping Stargazer flightworthy.

For Stratolaunch though, who is going to buy all these Pegasus launches? Pegasus isn't exactly competitive now. If there were demand for lots of Pegasus flights, OrbATK would already be selling them, and would presumably be making enough to replace Stargazer if required.

It makes no sense to me, but then again, the whole Stratolaunch plan has never made any sense to me.

I don't know about the whole Stratolaunch plan (I can think of a niche or two), but pairing it with 3 (three) Pegasus LVs simply makes no sense. Pegasus is one of the most expensive launchers in history as far as small payloads are concerned ($50M+ or $150,000+ per kg to LEO/SSO), and is mainly used to launch small government payloads like the SMEX sats.

I struggle to find a niche where this would be able to sell a commercial launch of one Pegasus XL, let alone three at the same time/mission. There must be a plan for another LV design here...and maybe both sides are more cautious this time before announcing (after what we have seen happening last time).
The main reason Pegasus is so expensive is it flies once every year or three. So each flight has to pay for a big amount of overhead. A lot of that overhead is the aging aircraft, so taking that load off should allow Pegasus to be more competitive (for as long as Vulcan is willing to help with maintenance). Which may lead it to launching more, and thus allowing the price to further drop.

Pegasus is at the WORST possible spot for launch costs as a function of launch rate. Any worse, and it would be cancelled outright. This gives them the option of getting past this point in launch cost vs launch rate.
« Last Edit: 10/07/2016 01:36 PM by Robotbeat »
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Offline hop

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Re: Pegasus on Stratolaunch
« Reply #17 on: 10/09/2016 08:30 PM »
The main reason Pegasus is so expensive is it flies once every year or three. So each flight has to pay for a big amount of overhead. A lot of that overhead is the aging aircraft, so taking that load off should allow Pegasus to be more competitive (for as long as Vulcan is willing to help with maintenance).
Can you quantify that "A lot"? Are we talking a few hundred thousand, or millions? Something under $1M/year would not seem terribly significant in the overall competitiveness of Pegasus. Say keeping Stargazer in a hanger costs $1M/year, Pegasus costs ~$55M (as reported) at a launch cadence of once very 3 years: Getting rid of Stargazer entirely brings the cost down to $52M... which would not be a game changer, to say the least.
Quote
Which may lead it to launching more, and thus allowing the price to further drop.
There is undoubtedly a bit of a chicken and egg thing going on with Pegasus, but it's not clear to me how Stratolaunch changes that unless they sell launches at a loss. If the idea is that Stratolaunch can bring in small sat constellations to dramatically increase the launch temo... OK, great, but what's stopping OrbATK from doing that right now? I'm sure if you went to OrbATK and asked for a quote on a 100 launch block buy, the per launch cost would got down quite a lot.


Offline sdsds

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Re: Pegasus on Stratolaunch
« Reply #18 on: 10/09/2016 09:12 PM »
Deep pockets can create strange effects. A deep-pocketed competitor with a long range plan can offer service in the short term at a price that deters potential competitors from offering competing services....

So with support from Vulcan can Pegasus become "just cheap enough?"
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Offline Hobbes-22

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Re: Pegasus on Stratolaunch
« Reply #19 on: 10/10/2016 08:51 AM »
Can you quantify that "A lot"? Are we talking a few hundred thousand, or millions? Something under $1M/year would not seem terribly significant in the overall competitiveness of Pegasus. Say keeping Stargazer in a hanger costs $1M/year,

$1M seems too low, but in the ballpark. The Avro Vulcan (XH558) was flown as a museum piece with lots of volunteer support, this cost in the region of $3M/year. The larger, more complicated Tristar is unlikely to be cheaper.

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