Author Topic: Orbital ATK NGL Rocket UPDATES/DISCUSSION  (Read 60658 times)

Offline AncientU

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Re: Orbital ATK NGL Rocket UPDATES/DISCUSSION
« Reply #160 on: 04/14/2018 11:45 AM »
An interesting bit in the article was the low number of NSS flights needed to close the business case:
Quote
“Right now, we’re planning on about three to four missions per year to close our business case,” Laidley said. “A couple of those could come from the Air Force and a couple of those could come from either our internal needs or the commercial community. We can close our business case with a fairly low launch rate, and that’s primarily due to the diversity of our business base, and the fact that right now we’ve got a number of other large programs in our launch vehicle division, along with the propulsion systems division and aerospace structures.”

The 40% share of the Phase 2 competition should be right in that range... they have zero chance of getting the winning (60%) share.  Being viable with 2-3 USAF launches per year could be a significant selling point.
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Offline Star One

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Re: Orbital ATK NGL Rocket UPDATES/DISCUSSION
« Reply #161 on: 04/14/2018 12:57 PM »
An interesting bit in the article was the low number of NSS flights needed to close the business case:
Quote
“Right now, we’re planning on about three to four missions per year to close our business case,” Laidley said. “A couple of those could come from the Air Force and a couple of those could come from either our internal needs or the commercial community. We can close our business case with a fairly low launch rate, and that’s primarily due to the diversity of our business base, and the fact that right now we’ve got a number of other large programs in our launch vehicle division, along with the propulsion systems division and aerospace structures.”

The 40% share of the Phase 2 competition should be right in that range... they have zero chance of getting the winning (60%) share.  Being viable with 2-3 USAF launches per year could be a significant selling point.

I still don’t think the AF will bite. Can a fully disposable system in the US ever compete on price these days?

Offline LouScheffer

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Re: Orbital ATK NGL Rocket UPDATES/DISCUSSION
« Reply #162 on: 04/14/2018 02:11 PM »
The SFN article quotes the Orbital/ATK spokesman as saying:
Quote
We took a hard look at what those missions have sold for historically, and we can be competitive in that marketplace.
This would seem a fundamental flaw in their business plan.  Historically national security missions have sold for very high prices, so being competitive with that is a pretty low bar.  What they need instead is to be competitive with what prices will be in the 2020s.  It's not obvious to me that this architecture can do that...

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Orbital ATK NGL Rocket UPDATES/DISCUSSION
« Reply #163 on: 04/14/2018 02:57 PM »
I still don’t think the AF will bite. Can a fully disposable system in the US ever compete on price these days?
Apparently.  Six of the last seven Falcon 9's were fully expended.  There is still no evidence that stage recovery reduces cost, given the fact that SpaceX charges the same price for both new and used rockets.

Right.  Just like there's no evidence reusing a 737 reduces costs over throwing it away, given that Southwest airlines charges the same price for a flight on a new 737 that it charges on a used 737 and even on a 737 it's about to retire.  No evidence at all.

Offline LouScheffer

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Re: Orbital ATK NGL Rocket UPDATES/DISCUSSION
« Reply #164 on: 04/14/2018 03:13 PM »
I still don’t think the AF will bite. Can a fully disposable system in the US ever compete on price these days?
Apparently.  Six of the last seven Falcon 9's were fully expended.  There is still no evidence that stage recovery reduces cost, given the fact that SpaceX charges the same price for both new and used rockets.

Let's make a wager, to see if you really believe this.  How about every time a Block 5 booster is expended (on purpose or by accident), I'll send you $10.  In return, every time one is recovered, you send me $10.

I'm willing to bet $100 you won't take this bet.  If you do, I'll get my money back soon enough.

Offline dror

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Re: Orbital ATK NGL Rocket UPDATES/DISCUSSION
« Reply #165 on: 04/14/2018 03:30 PM »
I still don’t think the AF will bite. Can a fully disposable system in the US ever compete on price these days?
Apparently.  Six of the last seven Falcon 9's were fully expended.  There is still no evidence that stage recovery reduces cost, given the fact that SpaceX charges the same price for both new and used rockets.

Let's make a wager, to see if you really believe this.  How about every time a Block 5 booster is expended (on purpose or by accident), I'll send you $10.  In return, every time one is recovered, you send me $10.

I'm willing to bet $100 you won't take this bet.  If you do, I'll get my money back soon enough.

That's not at all in line with Ed's statement.
The bet that you need to offer is 100$ if Spacex reduce their F9 prices when block5 is operational.

Edit: oops, this is not a Spacex thread  ;)
« Last Edit: 04/14/2018 03:36 PM by dror »
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Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Orbital ATK NGL Rocket UPDATES/DISCUSSION
« Reply #166 on: 04/14/2018 04:38 PM »
Meanwhile, there's no guarantee that SpaceX prices will stay low, given the massive expenditures currently planned by the company.  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-spacex-funding/spacex-looks-to-raise-507-million-in-a-new-funding-round-filing-idUSKBN1HJ3D8

No company, unless it's run by people who don't understand the most basic fundamentals of business, would ever raise its prices based on capital spending.

Any sanely run company bases its costs only on a combination of what the market will pay and what its marginal costs are to produce its product.  That maximizes the cash flow from operations.

The calculation is the same independent of capital spending.  If SpaceX could raise their prices and it would increase their cash flow from operations to help pay for their new capital costs, then they were foolish in the past not to have raised their prices.

If SpaceX were that foolish, they would have been out of business years ago.

Offline Star One

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Re: Orbital ATK NGL Rocket UPDATES/DISCUSSION
« Reply #167 on: 04/14/2018 05:09 PM »
I still don’t think the AF will bite. Can a fully disposable system in the US ever compete on price these days?
Apparently.  Six of the last seven Falcon 9's were fully expended.  There is still no evidence that stage recovery reduces cost, given the fact that SpaceX charges the same price for both new and used rockets.

SpaceX prices are lower because the company developed a great engine and a highly efficient production line.  There's no reason that Orbital ATK and others can't do the same.  Meanwhile, there's no guarantee that SpaceX prices will stay low, given the massive expenditures currently planned by the company.  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-spacex-funding/spacex-looks-to-raise-507-million-in-a-new-funding-round-filing-idUSKBN1HJ3D8

 - Ed Kyle

But doesn’t an all solid rocket also incur additional costs such as isn’t it the case that solids cause additional impact on launchpads, meaning more costly maintenance between flights.

Offline Rebel44

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Re: Orbital ATK NGL Rocket UPDATES/DISCUSSION
« Reply #168 on: 04/14/2018 07:28 PM »
An interesting bit in the article was the low number of NSS flights needed to close the business case:
Quote
“Right now, we’re planning on about three to four missions per year to close our business case,” Laidley said. “A couple of those could come from the Air Force and a couple of those could come from either our internal needs or the commercial community. We can close our business case with a fairly low launch rate, and that’s primarily due to the diversity of our business base, and the fact that right now we’ve got a number of other large programs in our launch vehicle division, along with the propulsion systems division and aerospace structures.”

The 40% share of the Phase 2 competition should be right in that range... they have zero chance of getting the winning (60%) share.  Being viable with 2-3 USAF launches per year could be a significant selling point.

In the early 20s, we can expect both relatively low number of US gov. launches and 4 EELV class launchers (not counting BFR) - Falcon 9/Heavy, Vulcan, New Glenn and NGL. Since IMO NGL is unlikely to be price competitive with Falcon 9, I doubt that even accounting for "managed competition" they will get more than 1 US gov. launch per year. In the commercial market, NGL will compete with them as well and not only is price more important there, compared to gov. contracts, Falcon 9 should also have 100+ launches, while Vulcan, New Glenn, and NGL will be starting with no launch history.

So, I don't think the market will be able to support 4 US LVs - and non-reusable ones will be most likely to fail.
« Last Edit: 04/14/2018 08:11 PM by Rebel44 »

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: Orbital ATK NGL Rocket UPDATES/DISCUSSION
« Reply #169 on: 04/14/2018 07:49 PM »
In the early 20s, we can expect both relatively low number of US gov. launches and 4 EELV class launchers (not counting BFR)

That truly will be interesting.

Quote
...Vulkan, New Glen...

Should be "Vulcan, New Glenn".

Quote
Since IMO NGL is unlikely to be price competitive with Falcon 9, I doubt that even accounting for "managed competition" they will get more than 1 US gov. launch per year.

Depends on what the Air Force has committed to, but "competition" does not mean they will certify far more providers than they need.

When SpaceX went through the Air Force certification process it required three successful launches of the Falcon 9 on the part of SpaceX,  and for the Air Force they spent more than $60M and had 150 people dedicated to the process. That is a lot of significant resources, and it only merits committing to that if they think they will need a provider. If NGL is the last of the four ready to get certified, there is a chance the Air Force may not do it right away until they see how having three providers works.

Quote
In the commercial market, NGL will compete with them as well and not only is price more important there, compared to gov. contracts, Falcon 9 should also have 100+ launches, while Vulkan, New Glen, and NGL will be starting with no launch history.

As we've seen with SpaceX and Blue Origin, commercial customers are willing to take risks on new launch vehicles if the price point merits it. So NGL will have to compete on price, not "hardware legacy" in order to get customers early on.

Quote
So, I don't think the market will be able to support 4 US LVs - and non-reusable ones will be most likely to fail.

I agree. It's really difficult to see how expendable launch providers can compete long-term with reusable launch providers. Especially if reusability does cause the customer market to change their behavior so that they start depending on low cost reusable launches to enable new business models.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Re: Orbital ATK NGL Rocket UPDATES/DISCUSSION
« Reply #170 on: 04/14/2018 10:20 PM »
Watch closely as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Ball Aerospace all eyeball the packaged government sat delivered on orbit, or, like with Zuma, consider operations thrown in the mix as "Satellite as a Service" (SAAS?  ::) ).

Its about how you offer to your customer a "whole value" proposition, as well as how to pay for it, either "all upfront", "on operation", or "pay as you go" / "pay for results". Secured either by in-house dedicated means, or by some kind of exclusivity / priority / guarantee.

In some of these cases, low launch rate can be compensated for, either statistically or sporadically. The rub for these is where they don't properly account for costs for federal bid contracts (so they can be qualified or accepted), or where longer term they don't account for cost burden and net profit suffers, either forcing them from the business.

One way you can "have your cake and eat it too" is to allow for multiple paths to guarantee results, thus even an in house provider might not get the launch. It is very likely that "launch volume leaders" will serve this function, where the in house is used to clinch the deal, but it actually flies after the fact on a different one. (Some might think of this as a form of "bait and switch", but that seems to be acceptable in this situation.) In these cases, it's more about the appearance of the "contracted firm" for the former, and the efficacy of execution for the latter.

Suggest this is a form of "bargaining" as the market evolves, and a new set of premium launch services that surround vendors emerge and secure new market silos, likely dominating provider flows. As the market stabilizes (relatively), the need for low frequency LV's will dry up, as cost and unprovable reliability makes them unattractive, and they fall out of the market.

Those like the AF can't determine this - no crystal ball. Thus they'd like a wealth of qualified providers. Then to bid them, and sift through the multiple bids critically. Then to score launch effectiveness on how the awards worked out. Then to repeat this until 2-3 vendors get enough business to continue to bid. This is what will happen.

At the moment there is a transient condition, where ULA's monopoly on launch has vanished, and new vendors are flying payloads. Since Atlas V at some point won't be allowed, this open, ambiguous period of time allows the marginal theory of a market to be present, but it isn't rational because there are too few payloads with too exotic needs on too erratic a schedule. All this while aggregate launch frequency is rising.

Suggest a bimodal distribution will emerge of  "large" and "small" "bumps". Irrespective of the prior "high end" and "low end" launch as before, where NSS was an improper subset of "high end". Most commercial and NSS will somehow make it into the "large" bump. The "small" bump will be "specialty launch", and will be bid sporadically, eventually only by high launch frequency vendors.

The correct question to ask isn't "how few launches?" for something like NGL, but  "can a launch system have enough launches to be considered a high enough frequency to compare with rivals?". At the moment the number appears to be about 6/yr, but in a few years it could be 18/yr.

So NGL currently helps Northrop Grumman sell sats, but perhaps more of a challenge longer term.
« Last Edit: 04/15/2018 12:29 AM by Space Ghost 1962 »

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: Orbital ATK NGL Rocket UPDATES/DISCUSSION
« Reply #171 on: 04/14/2018 10:33 PM »
...Northrup Grumman...

It's Northrop. No "u" in Northrop.

It's amazing how often it is misspelled in the media too...  ;)
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline rayleighscatter

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Re: Orbital ATK NGL Rocket UPDATES/DISCUSSION
« Reply #172 on: 04/14/2018 11:01 PM »
An interesting bit in the article was the low number of NSS flights needed to close the business case:
Quote
“Right now, we’re planning on about three to four missions per year to close our business case,” Laidley said. “A couple of those could come from the Air Force and a couple of those could come from either our internal needs or the commercial community. We can close our business case with a fairly low launch rate, and that’s primarily due to the diversity of our business base, and the fact that right now we’ve got a number of other large programs in our launch vehicle division, along with the propulsion systems division and aerospace structures.”

The 40% share of the Phase 2 competition should be right in that range... they have zero chance of getting the winning (60%) share.  Being viable with 2-3 USAF launches per year could be a significant selling point.

I still don’t think the AF will bite. Can a fully disposable system in the US ever compete on price these days?

Sure they could. USAF has been getting flak for funding components when they were instructed to fund complete systems. Indications are they will select two proposals for further funding and it sounds as if there's only two complete systems competing (Vulcan and NGL).

Offline AncientU

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Re: Orbital ATK NGL Rocket UPDATES/DISCUSSION
« Reply #173 on: 04/15/2018 12:10 AM »
And New Glenn.
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Offline rayleighscatter

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Re: Orbital ATK NGL Rocket UPDATES/DISCUSSION
« Reply #174 on: 04/15/2018 12:25 AM »
And New Glenn.
At the risk of derailing a bit. I thought they weren't involved in the USAF competition?

Offline su27k

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Re: Orbital ATK NGL Rocket UPDATES/DISCUSSION
« Reply #175 on: 04/15/2018 02:54 AM »
And New Glenn.
At the risk of derailing a bit. I thought they weren't involved in the USAF competition?

New Glenn is in the competition: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=43998.msg1810304#msg1810304

I bet BFR is in it too.

Offline Kabloona

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Re: Orbital ATK NGL Rocket UPDATES/DISCUSSION
« Reply #176 on: 04/15/2018 03:23 AM »
In the discussion of whether or not NGL will be competitive as a mostly-solid launch vehicle, one other factor to keep in mind is DoD's ongoing desire to keep the solid propellant industry from withering in the absence of large contracts like Shuttle SRM. The solids industry tends to be cyclical between big procurements for new ICBM's and SLBM's, and in between it makes DoD nervous if capabilities and institutional knowledge are lost.

So, in the background, there is always an underlying Gov't interest in keeping the solids industry healthy. I expect that played a role in the solids component of SLS, but as it becomes clear SLS is a budget-busting dinosaur, other more cost-effective solids users like NGL will at least help keep the solids industry tooled up. That is of at least some motivation to the Air Force to see NGL succeed, regardless of cost comparisons to F9, FH, New Glenn, et al.
« Last Edit: 04/15/2018 03:27 AM by Kabloona »

Offline su27k

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Re: Orbital ATK NGL Rocket UPDATES/DISCUSSION
« Reply #177 on: 04/15/2018 03:44 AM »
In the discussion of whether or not NGL will be competitive as a mostly-solid launch vehicle, one other factor to keep in mind is DoD's ongoing desire to keep the solid propellant industry from withering in the absence of large contracts like Shuttle SRM. The solids industry tends to be cyclical between big procurements for new ICBM's and SLBM's, and in between it makes DoD nervous if capabilities and institutional knowledge are lost.

So, in the background, there is always an underlying Gov't interest in keeping the solids industry healthy. I expect that played a role in the solids component of SLS, but as it becomes clear SLS is a budget-busting dinosaur, other more cost-effective solids users like NGL will at least help keep the solids industry tooled up. That is of at least some motivation to the Air Force to see NGL succeed, regardless of cost comparisons to F9, FH, New Glenn, et al.

But if AF didn't write this desire into the RFP, wouldn't they open themselves to protest if they try to move the scale towards NGL?

Also how much money is really needed to preserve the solid propellant industry? Last time I checked, the AP production company only needs $65M revenue per year to be profitable, that's pittance comparing the money AF can save by choosing the right EELV2, how about AF just use the saved money from EELV2 to buy solid propellant and dump it somewhere? That would be more economical than any favor towards NGL.

Offline Kabloona

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Re: Orbital ATK NGL Rocket UPDATES/DISCUSSION
« Reply #178 on: 04/15/2018 04:06 AM »
In the discussion of whether or not NGL will be competitive as a mostly-solid launch vehicle, one other factor to keep in mind is DoD's ongoing desire to keep the solid propellant industry from withering in the absence of large contracts like Shuttle SRM. The solids industry tends to be cyclical between big procurements for new ICBM's and SLBM's, and in between it makes DoD nervous if capabilities and institutional knowledge are lost.

So, in the background, there is always an underlying Gov't interest in keeping the solids industry healthy. I expect that played a role in the solids component of SLS, but as it becomes clear SLS is a budget-busting dinosaur, other more cost-effective solids users like NGL will at least help keep the solids industry tooled up. That is of at least some motivation to the Air Force to see NGL succeed, regardless of cost comparisons to F9, FH, New Glenn, et al.

But if AF didn't write this desire into the RFP, wouldn't they open themselves to protest if they try to move the scale towards NGL?

Also how much money is really needed to preserve the solid propellant industry? Last time I checked, the AP production company only needs $65M revenue per year to be profitable, that's pittance comparing the money AF can save by choosing the right EELV2, how about AF just use the saved money from EELV2 to buy solid propellant and dump it somewhere? That would be more economical than any favor towards NGL.

No, of course that can't and won't be written into the RFP, and I'm not suggesting the Air Force could or would do anything to weight the scales in an open competition. I am saying it is one of the Air Force's strategic objectives to keep the solids industry healthy, and their monetary contribution to NGL development so far helps further that objective. Whether or not NGL can be competitive remains to be seen, but from the Air Force's PoV, they would hope to see NGL succeed in order to help keep the solids industrial base well funded and advancing the technology.

Dollars flowing to the solids industry keep incremental improvements happening in areas like composite case winding, case insulation, ablative nozzle design and manufacturing, propellant formulation and processing, etc, and these incremental imrovements then become available for programs the Air Force really cares about, like next gen ICBM's. And virtually none of the EELV $$ spent on liquids advances these technologies.

So no, the Air Force couldn't and wouldn't explicltly favor solids for EELV2, but they would surely be happier if the solids industry got at least some of the pie instead of being shut out entirely by liquids.
« Last Edit: 04/15/2018 04:49 AM by Kabloona »

Offline su27k

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Re: Orbital ATK NGL Rocket UPDATES/DISCUSSION
« Reply #179 on: 04/15/2018 06:12 AM »
Dollars flowing to the solids industry keep incremental improvements happening in areas like composite case winding, case insulation, ablative nozzle design and manufacturing, propellant formulation and processing, etc, and these incremental imrovements then become available for programs the Air Force really cares about, like next gen ICBM's. And virtually none of the EELV $$ spent on liquids advances these technologies.

I think this is moving the goal post though. AF is already funding these non-recurring engineering for solids in their smaller missile programs. The talking point for NGL (and SLS) is that those smaller missile programs do not consume enough propellant, thus the need for big solids. But I question the economics of this, I think it would be much cheaper to solve this issue by giving a direct subsidy to solid propellant industry.

Also I'm not sure how much NRE done for the big solids can really be transferred to ICBM, given ICBM is 1/10th of the size of a SRB, and no ICBM uses segmented booster. The whole idea of a segmented booster is a kluge invented to fit Shuttle's budget, I think it's long past time to retire it.
« Last Edit: 04/15/2018 06:13 AM by su27k »

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