Author Topic: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle (as announced/built) - General Discussion Thread 3  (Read 96352 times)

Offline Chris Bergin

Written up the RL10 news into an article:
https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2018/05/rl10-engine-60-years-service-live-vulcan/

And an excuse to use some cool Nathan Koga renders :)

Offline jongoff

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They probably don't want to be too dependent on Blue Origin for both engines. But now they are stuck with Aerojet Rocketdyne instead. And have to fly multiple RL-10's on every Vulcan flight. I sure hope they got a good price on those engines in the contract.

Well, Tory did say price and delivery schedule were the two driving reasons for sticking with RL-10, so I'm assuming they got a good deal. I've heard from enough players who said they were surprised with how aggressive AJR was pushing on trying to make RL-10 cost competitive.

~Jon

Offline Sknowball

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Quote
This partnership is a long-term agreement for Aerojet Rocketdyne to provide upper stage propulsion for the next decade. As part of this partnership, Aerojet Rocketdyne will provide RL10s and develop the RL10C-X, the next generation of the RL10 family. The RL10C-X will increase the use of additive manufacturing and introduce other advanced technologies to improve the quality, reliability, affordability and performance.

The language is a little ambiguous as to if the RL10C-X is being developed for initial on launch of Centaur V or if it being developed for later deployment.

Offline Lars-J

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They probably don't want to be too dependent on Blue Origin for both engines. But now they are stuck with Aerojet Rocketdyne instead. And have to fly multiple RL-10's on every Vulcan flight. I sure hope they got a good price on those engines in the contract.

Well, Tory did say price and delivery schedule were the two driving reasons for sticking with RL-10, so I'm assuming they got a good deal. I've heard from enough players who said they were surprised with how aggressive AJR was pushing on trying to make RL-10 cost competitive.

~Jon

I suppose production rate does wonders for pricing. Their production rate must have been almost down in the ~10/year range, but now they might be looking at 40-50 (or more) per year in the near future.
« Last Edit: 05/14/2018 08:55 PM by Lars-J »

Offline russianhalo117

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They probably don't want to be too dependent on Blue Origin for both engines. But now they are stuck with Aerojet Rocketdyne instead. And have to fly multiple RL-10's on every Vulcan flight. I sure hope they got a good price on those engines in the contract.

Well, Tory did say price and delivery schedule were the two driving reasons for sticking with RL-10, so I'm assuming they got a good deal. I've heard from enough players who said they were surprised with how aggressive AJR was pushing on trying to make RL-10 cost competitive.

~Jon

I suppose production rate does wonders for pricing. Their production rate must have been almost down in the ~10/year range, but now they might be looking at 40-50 (or more) per year in the near future.
Not really. ULA has been working its way through a large stockpile for more than a decade now. AR only recently got work a few years ago from the RL10B-2 to RL10C-1/RL10C-3 conversion contracts for Atlas and SLS. Once that supply is exhausted the new RL10C-5-X variants will fully take over.
« Last Edit: 05/14/2018 09:59 PM by russianhalo117 »

Offline jongoff

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I suppose production rate does wonders for pricing. Their production rate must have been almost down in the ~10/year range, but now they might be looking at 40-50 (or more) per year in the near future.

Also having a situation where your customer has legitimate alternatives, so you have to work your butt off to not lose them probably also does wonders for focusing the mind. When AJR had a monopoly relationship with ULA upper stage engines, they didn't have a lot of pressure to push them to reinvest in lower cost production. But with Centaur V/ACES the stage is big enough that BE-3U and other options are legitimate alternatives, so they had to actually compete.

IMO,

~Jon

Offline MATTBLAK

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I've done an extensive Google search on specifications for the RL-10CX engine and have come up with nothing. Does anyone have info on it's thrust, specific impulse and engine mass targets?
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Offline russianhalo117

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I've done an extensive Google search on specifications for the RL-10CX engine and have come up with nothing. Does anyone have info on it's thrust, specific impulse and engine mass targets?
None available yet that I know of.

Offline MATTBLAK

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I had read somewhere that the design thrust was - in pounds force - about 35,000 lbs. If so, that is in line with the 'Next Generation Engine' for upper stages.
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Online john smith 19

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Also having a situation where your customer has legitimate alternatives, so you have to work your butt off to not lose them probably also does wonders for focusing the mind. When AJR had a monopoly relationship with ULA upper stage engines, they didn't have a lot of pressure to push them to reinvest in lower cost production. But with Centaur V/ACES the stage is big enough that BE-3U and other options are legitimate alternatives, so they had to actually compete.

IMO,

~Jon
Getting rid of hand brazed tubes for the combustion chamber would have gone some way to do that.

There's an old report from the late 60's which gives a mass breakdown of RL10 designs and basically the gearbox between the turbine and the LO2 pump drive (shafts, gears, box) comes to about 25% of the weight of the whole engine.

The easiest, cheapest parts to make are the ones that are not there.

But actually designing the LOX pump to run at LH2 turbine speeds would probably have cost real money, even though impeller and inducer design is a lot less cut-and-try these days.

TBH I'm amazed it's taken the Europeans (or anyone else) this long to come up with an LH2 expander cycle engine, given that better materials exist and H2 lubrication is no longer a black art.
« Last Edit: 05/16/2018 06:11 AM by john smith 19 »
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Offline Chasm

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TBH I'm amazed it's taken the Europeans (or anyone else) this long to come up with an LH2 expander cycle engine, given that better materials exist and H2 lubrication is no longer a black art.

Among other things the same reason RL10 did not change for a long time. No dire need to do so.
HM7B was good enough and comes with a lot of successful flight history. (~190 today) Esp. when Ariane used up the "Oops, that did not work!" budget for other things..

Vinci and it's ability to restart are overdue but chances are that it will fail at some point. That will be a lot of fun.
(Psst! Chances are of also that HM7B will fail again some day.)



Edit:
As mentioned before domestic competition must be a major reason to reduce RL10 cost. If ARJ wants to stay in the upper stage engine business they have to deliver competitive prices. Apparently they can do so, and still make profit. (ULA has to meet price targets with Vulcan and can't afford to overpay.)
« Last Edit: 05/15/2018 03:16 PM by Chasm »

Offline jongoff

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As mentioned before domestic competition must be a major reason to reduce RL10 cost. If ARJ wants to stay in the upper stage engine business they have to deliver competitive prices. Apparently they can do so, and still make profit. (ULA has to meet price targets with Vulcan and can't afford to overpay.)

Yeah, beforehand ULA didn't have a good alternative, so AJR had them over a barrel so to speak. But with Centaur V, going with one BE-3U actually makes a ton of sense, so AJR knows that they could realistically lose that work if they don't stay competitive. Not having a monopoly/monopsony environment can do wonders.

~Jon

Offline johnfwhitesell

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I wonder if messing with Blue Origin was also a minor motivation for this choice.

Blue Origin has a strong hand in negotiations for BE-4 vs AR1 because they have a deep pocket investor and AR1 doesn't seem like a strong contender.  It would be painful for ULA to go without BE-4, not so painful for Blue Origin to go without Vulcan.  But now that both Omega and Centaur 5 have gone with AR-10 instead of BE-3, Blue wont have another chance to sign another engine contract until ~2022 when ULA could possibly switch for ACES.  Blue doesn't need the BE-4 sales, but Blue might fear getting shut out.  Engine sales are an immediate, tangible line of business unlike launch contracts for a rocket that has never flown and will be quite expensive until you learn to land it (which took SpaceX 5 years).  So even if Blue doesn't need the BE-4 contract anymore then they did before losing out on Centaur 5, they might be feeling just a little bit more anxious about "missing out".
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Offline Bananas_on_Mars

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I think that loosing to RL10 when offering the BE-3U made Blue Origin think about those government launches again. I would guess they at least had the impression they had the better offer by far...
I don't know how they price their engines, but a BE-3U might have made them more money then 2 BE-4 engines. Especially with SMART recovery looming on the horizon, selling upper stage engines to ULA might have been the bigger deal.
« Last Edit: 05/16/2018 06:27 AM by Bananas_on_Mars »

Offline lesxiarxis

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Something I found in the ARJ site about the initial tests they were doing with 3d printing the RL10 thrust chamber. 90% part reduction and going from several months to less than one sound pretty signifigant cost wise.

http://www.rocket.com/article/aerojet-rocketdyne-achieves-3-d-printing-milestone-successful-testing-full-scale-rl10-copper

A small extract.
Quote
The 3-D printed RL10 copper thrust chamber would replace the current RL10C-1 model design that uses a very complex array of drawn, hydroformed stainless steel tubes that are brazed together to form a thrust chamber. The new chamber design is made up of only two primary copper parts and takes just under a month to print using SLM technology; reducing overall lead time by several months. The part count reduction of greater than 90 percent is significant as it reduces complexity and cost when compared with RL10 thrust chambers that are built today using traditional manufacturing techniques.

Offline AncientU

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Something I found in the ARJ site about the initial tests they were doing with 3d printing the RL10 thrust chamber. 90% part reduction and going from several months to less than one sound pretty signifigant cost wise.

http://www.rocket.com/article/aerojet-rocketdyne-achieves-3-d-printing-milestone-successful-testing-full-scale-rl10-copper

A small extract.
Quote
The 3-D printed RL10 copper thrust chamber would replace the current RL10C-1 model design that uses a very complex array of drawn, hydroformed stainless steel tubes that are brazed together to form a thrust chamber. The new chamber design is made up of only two primary copper parts and takes just under a month to print using SLM technology; reducing overall lead time by several months. The part count reduction of greater than 90 percent is significant as it reduces complexity and cost when compared with RL10 thrust chambers that are built today using traditional manufacturing techniques.

Good that the industry leader is finally catching up and planning use of modern manufacturing technology.
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Offline johnfwhitesell

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Good that the industry leader is finally catching up and planning use of modern manufacturing technology.

Can you call them the industry leader when they have been nearly entirely replaced in the first stage market?
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Offline Chasm

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That ARJ article is over a year old. (April 2017)


I really doubt that Blue needs engine sales. Their engine department on the other hand must love them.
Getting the BE-4 selected by ULA will be cool but that saga has way too much "The Russians are coming!" politics in it.
OTOH developing a engine (BE-3) and then outcompeting and ousting the venerable RL10 with it? That would be a week long party for everyone involved.
« Last Edit: 05/16/2018 01:24 PM by Chasm »

Offline Lars-J

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That ARJ article is over a year old. (April 2017)


I really doubt that Blue needs engine sales. Their engine department on the other hand must love them.
Getting the BE-4 selected by ULA will be cool but that saga has way too much "The Russians are coming!" politics in it.
OTOH developing a engine (BE-3) and then outcompeting and ousting the venerable RL10 with it? That would be a week long party for everyone involved.

I think having an engine contract is good for BO, and they know it. Not for monetary reasons, though. But it is amazing what an actual customer and a delivery date will to for progress on a project.

Because while BO's funds are certainly a positive thing for them, their pace has not exactly been on fire.

Offline johnfwhitesell

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I really doubt that Blue needs engine sales.

I dont think they need them either.  It's more the psychology and optics then the budget line impact.  If they didn't care about those things at all, I doubt they would be trying to sell the BE-4 in the first place.
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