Author Topic: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - Business Case/Competition/Alternatives Discussion  (Read 86398 times)

Offline Jim

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Vulcan now always uses 2 GEM63XL. (2,4 or 6)

no, it is 0, 4 or 6.  Does not always fly with solids, that makes no sense.

Offline GWH

Vulcan now always uses 2 GEM63XL. (2,4 or 6)
If I had to make Vulcan cheaper I'd remove them and oload some propellant. At ~$8 million a pop that shaves off a bit. Performance likely goes down the toilet but this is for light payloads anyway.

That slide showing 2-6 boosters is incorrect according to Tory Bruno*:
Quote from: Tory Bruno
Vulcan will come in 0, 2, 4, 6 SRB configurations
https://old.reddit.com/r/ula/comments/8d2mhn/ula_techtrack_presentation_from_2018_space/dxmlnje/

A possible reason for showing 2 boosters in the slides is that a meaningful payload can be flown direct to GEO in that configuration, which on of the presentations showed as a comparison.

Will add too that $8Million each is higher than the $6M each for AJR boosters as quoted by RocketBuilder (last year). The GEM-63's were supposed to be even cheaper than that, having won the contract competitively against AJR for Vulcan.

*Speculation: if a 5.4 meter full height Vulcan with 2xAR-1 propulsion was selected, the heavier core stage would require additional lift to get off the pad. 2xGEM63XL's might do the trick.
« Last Edit: 08/12/2018 11:28 PM by GWH »

Offline Chasm

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Ok, I did not see Torys correction just the slide deck from May.
If the price GEM63XL is lower that's also good.

With BE-4 supposed to be ~$8M I was scratching my head how to fit a 3rd BE-4 and fuel for it instead of the 2 GEM. But that would likely require a tower change or a very short Centaur for Starliner.


The AR1 suspense is almost over. AFAIK the Air Force will announce the selection this month. At the very least they'll announce another delay.
Meanwhile I still don't see a way how AR1 can be commercially viable for ULA.

Offline woods170

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So you call $85-115mln dollar cheap while all these payloads can be launched by Vega or Vega-C for <50mln.

Vega is unavailable to the US gov't.

Actually, it is the other way around. Subtle, but significant difference.

Online envy887

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I will be interested to see if anything Boeing is doing with the DARPA XS1 program works into what Vulcan actually ends up being

If the XS 1 program
1. makes the engine reusable as they claim that it "mostly" has

2.  develops a baseline "booster" that is fly back and reusable on that level of turnaround

3.  including the internal systems

they will have developed something very very powerful and scale able and marketable

XS-1 is baselined to deliver 3000 lbm (1400 kg) to LEO. That's not "powerful" (the smallest Vulcan delivers some 10 times that) and may not be scalable since reentry, glideback, and landing requirements don't scale linearly with size.

Online hkultala

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(moved from the another vulcan thread)

And a second cofirmation:

Quote from: Tory Bruno

There is a 502, but we expect there to be much more demand for the 522

That's such a (IMO) bizarre statement based on the Atlas V flight history. Atlas V has launched 44 times without solids, and 35 times with solids. Are they expecting all the lighter DoD payloads to evaporate or go to another customer? Or do they expect to dual manifest most of the time?
To use an analogy from everyday life, people who buy luxury cars seldom order the base option, even though it's always offered. Vulcan is aiming at the performance (reliability, schedule) end of the market.  These customers are less price sensitive, plus extra performance on launch may give them longer on-orbit life, and more margin if something goes wrong.
   So when ULA was the only game in town, customers ordered the base option.   Now the cost sensitive customers go elsewhere, so few of the remainder order the minimum.

I don't understand, how ULA can really compete well on this realiability/schedule section of the market.

Reliability:

When Vulcan enters service, SpaceX will have had over 100 launches of Falcon 9, meaning over 1000 Merlin engine burns. On the other hand, BE-4 is a branch new engine. And to date, there has been only one spaceX engine failure in ~600 operational burns of Merlin engines.

Also,  Falcon 9 can survive first stage engine failure, Vulkan cannot.

So, Falcon 9 is expected to have much better engine reliability than Vulcan.


Schedule:

ULA plans to manufacture a new rocket for every launch AND plans to have much smaller number of lanches than SpaceX

SpaceX only has to manufacture new upper stage for every launch (Falcon 9).

SpaceX can easily keep few spare upper stages in buffer, meaning it can launch a new payload without manufacturing ANYTHING specificly for that rocket.

On the other hand, for ULA keeping whole rockets in buffer would be very costly.

So, in practice SpaceX could launch a rocket in couple of weeks from the order while ULA would need many months to build the new rocket for te launch.
« Last Edit: 10/24/2018 01:04 PM by hkultala »

Online envy887

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(moved from the another vulcan thread)

And a second cofirmation:

Quote from: Tory Bruno

There is a 502, but we expect there to be much more demand for the 522

That's such a (IMO) bizarre statement based on the Atlas V flight history. Atlas V has launched 44 times without solids, and 35 times with solids. Are they expecting all the lighter DoD payloads to evaporate or go to another customer? Or do they expect to dual manifest most of the time?
To use an analogy from everyday life, people who buy luxury cars seldom order the base option, even though it's always offered. Vulcan is aiming at the performance (reliability, schedule) end of the market.  These customers are less price sensitive, plus extra performance on launch may give them longer on-orbit life, and more margin if something goes wrong.
   So when ULA was the only game in town, customers ordered the base option.   Now the cost sensitive customers go elsewhere, so few of the remainder order the minimum.

I don't understand, how ULA can really compete well on this realiability/schedule section of the market.

Reliability:

When Vulcan enters service, SpaceX will have had over 100 launches of Falcon 9, meaning over 1000 Merlin engine burns. On the other hand, BE-4 is a branch new engine. And to date, there has been only one spaceX engine failure in ~600 operational burns of Merlin engines.

Also,  Falcon 9 can survive first stage engine failure, Vulkan cannot.

So, Falcon 9 is expected to have much better engine reliability than Vulcan.


Schedule:

ULA plans to manufacture a new rocket for every launch AND plans to have much smaller number of lanches than SpaceX

SpaceX only has to manufacture new upper stage for every launch (Falcon 9).

SpaceX can easily keep few spare upper stages in buffer, meaning it can launch a new payload without manufacturing ANYTHING specificly for that rocket.

On the other hand, for ULA keeping whole rockets in buffer would be very costly.

So, in practice SpaceX could launch a rocket in couple of weeks from the order while ULA would need many months to build the new rocket for te launch.

Schedule reliability isn't answering the question "how soon can you launch?" but rather "what's the probability you can launch on a certain date 2 years from now?". ULA can probably do a good job on the latter, although now that SPaceX has multiple pads and no backlog I doubt there's much difference between them.

Lou's point, though (if I'm reading his post correctly) was that the mix of light and heavy rockets will tend to heavy because of the nature of the customers. Heavy payloads tend to be expensive, and thus have more risk averse and less cost-sensitive customers. Someone with a cheaper payload that could fly on a 401 is likely already looking at F9 and not Vulcan for cost reasons, before schedule and reliability even factor in, since they are probably on a tighter budget.

Offline edkyle99

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I don't understand the comparison here between Vulcan and Falcon 9.  Falcon 9 cannot perform the entire range of EELV-2 missions, even fully expended (and it is being expended even for the basic GPS-3 missions, so SpaceX would have to have a continuing production line too).  Vulcan can.  I'm not even sure that SpaceX is proposing Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy for EELV-2.  SpaceX seems wedded to BFR, which lost out on the recent Phase 2 (or whatever it was called) contracts and at any rate needs billions of dollars and several years to develop.  BFR, with all of its innovation, is clearly a "high risk" development project. 

Neither do I believe the common assumption that Vulcan is a sure-bet winner of EELV-2.  There are multiple contenders and will only be two winners.  For all we know, Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman might end up winning this thing.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 10/24/2018 02:58 PM by edkyle99 »

Online envy887

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I don't understand the comparison here between Vulcan and Falcon 9.  Falcon 9 cannot perform the entire range of EELV-2 missions, even fully expended (and it is being expended even for the basic GPS-3 missions, so SpaceX would have to have a continuing production line too).  Vulcan can.  I'm not even sure that SpaceX is proposing Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy for EELV-2.  SpaceX seems wedded to BFR, which lost out on the recent Phase 2 (or whatever it was called) contracts and at any rate needs billions of dollars and several years to develop.  BFR, with all of its innovation, is clearly a "high risk" development project. 

Neither do I believe the common assumption that Vulcan is a sure-bet winner of EELV-2.  There are multiple contenders and will only be two winners.  For all we know, Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman might end up winning this thing.

 - Ed Kyle

Vulcan is replacing Atlas V. Falcon 9 is competing with Atlas V. Thus Falcon 9 will be competing with Vulcan.

If there are EELV launches up for bid, SpaceX will (has to?) bid Falcon. That's part of the deal with being certified. ULA tried to not bid on a launch they were eligible for and they got chewed out by the USAF.

I still have no idea where you're getting the idea that SpaceX is retiring Falcon and then developing BFR. They have made it perfectly clear that Falcon 9 will be around until all customers are happy with BFR.

That's almost certainly going to be after Vulcan is flying, so F9 vs Vulcan is a perfectly valid comparison.
« Last Edit: 10/24/2018 03:15 PM by envy887 »

Offline TrevorMonty

A lot of high end missions will require FH a different LV than F9 with low flight rate even though they share common cores. I doubt its flight rate ever get past a few a year.  NG with Omega will also require two different LV which share lot of common parts, but its flightrate for both LVs will be low. SRB stage separating is something NG as company has lot experience with so Omega booster sections maybe lot lower risk than it seems. LH and LOX US on the other hand is totally new experience for NG, highest risk US of all four competitors.

Both ULA and  Blue will use the same LVs for entire range of missions with both LVs expect to fly at least 10 times a year. Vulcan will use different quantities of SRBs  so technical different LVs but ULAs experience and flight history with SRBs has been excellent, so you can treat them as same LV.

New Glenn will be same configuration for every launch, but Blue doesn't have any launch experience yet or with DOD missions. Sharing same engine with Vulcan is negative for DOD missions as any BE4 engine failure will ground both LVs.








Online ethan829

If there are EELV launches up for bid, SpaceX will (has to?) bid Falcon. That's part of the deal with being certified. ULA tried to not bid on a launch they were eligible for and they got chewed out by the USAF.


They got "chewed out," sure, but there was never any actual penalty because there's no requirement to bid.

Offline spacenut

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Once all prior blocks of F9 are expended, then there will only be Block 5.  SpaceX will bid heavy GEO or GSO satellites with Falcon Heavy.  This will cost at least $150 million as the website says.  For Vulcan to match, it will have to use 6 solids with will be about $50 million on top of the basic cost of the Vulcan.  So it will be in the same cost range for heavy satellites.  If however SpaceX can use used Block 5 cores, their cost will come down.  Being reusable will gradually bring costs down.  Then there is New Glenn coming on line in a few years. 

I don't see how Vulcan can compete in the long run.  Even reusing the two BE-4 engines only saves them $16 million minus retrieving and reconditioning the engines if necessary.  SpaceX can save $40 million for each returned and reused Block 5's. 

Like someone said previously, only 1 Merlin engine failure in over 100 launched, and with engine out capability.  I also think New Glenn with 7 engines will have engine out capability.  Vulcan will not. 

I also think the solid rocket NG is proposing might have more assured access to space, than Vulcan until the BE-4 is proven over time. 

Offline Lars-J

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Once all prior blocks of F9 are expended, then there will only be Block 5. 

Once it happens? That's already happened.

Online envy887

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If there are EELV launches up for bid, SpaceX will (has to?) bid Falcon. That's part of the deal with being certified. ULA tried to not bid on a launch they were eligible for and they got chewed out by the USAF.


They got "chewed out," sure, but there was never any actual penalty because there's no requirement to bid.

No penalty, but they lost that launch revenue. They were probably going to lose it anyway since under the "lowest price technically acceptable" terms Falcon 9 was a virtual lock to win the bid even if ULA competed with Atlas V.

But for SpaceX, there's no reason not to bid on everything they are eligible for. Since they have the lowest-cost vehicle and are overwhelmingly likely to win any competition heavily weighted on price, they are almost certainly costing themselves revenue by not bidding.

Offline LouScheffer

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... and it [Falcon 9] is being expended even for the basic GPS-3 missions,
Mission (singular) yes, Missions, I doubt very much.  I think that the use of an expendable F9 for this mission is some odd transient state.  From some pretty basic physics, a recoverable F9 should be able to put a 3900 kg GPS-III into an excellent transfer orbit, perhaps 4000 x 20200 x 55o.  And if for some reason it really does require expendable performance, I'd think SpaceX would bid an easily recoverable FH instead of an expendable F9.

So overall I can't see any case where an expended F9 is the lowest cost option to perform the mission.  So I suspect its use on this launch is some consequence of old contract, qualification, history, or some other non-repeating events.   I would certainly not build a business case on SpaceX requiring an expended F9 for each GPS launch.

Offline edkyle99

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SpaceX can save $40 million for each returned and reused Block 5's. 
There is a cost for recovery and refurbishment.  They've been pulling engines, for example, during refurbishment.  Not free.  They have to maintain a crewed fleet, pay for docking facilities, etc..  Not free.  Hopefully the cost of refurbishment is less than the cost of a new stage.  They're clearly not saving the full cost of a new stage.

 - Ed Kyle

Offline edkyle99

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... and it [Falcon 9] is being expended even for the basic GPS-3 missions,
Mission (singular) yes, Missions, I doubt very much.  I think that the use of an expendable F9 for this mission is some odd transient state.  From some pretty basic physics, a recoverable F9 should be able to put a 3900 kg GPS-III into an excellent transfer orbit, perhaps 4000 x 20200 x 55o.  And if for some reason it really does require expendable performance, I'd think SpaceX would bid an easily recoverable FH instead of an expendable F9.

So overall I can't see any case where an expended F9 is the lowest cost option to perform the mission.  So I suspect its use on this launch is some consequence of old contract, qualification, history, or some other non-repeating events.   I would certainly not build a business case on SpaceX requiring an expended F9 for each GPS launch.
We'll see, but this is a brand new Block 5 stage, presumably topped by a Block 5 second stage.  Why would they expend the first stage if it was not necessary?  I don't see an obvious answer, unless they're flying a second stage not yet certified for a long coast or something.

 - Ed Kyle

Offline Joseph Peterson

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...

SpaceX seems wedded to BFR, which lost out on the recent Phase 2 (or whatever it was called) contracts and at any rate needs billions of dollars and several years to develop.

...


Citation that SpaceX even submitted a proposal needed.
If ZBLAN can't pay for commercial stations, we'll just have to keep looking until we find other products that can combine to support humans earning a living in space.

Offline LouScheffer

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... and it [Falcon 9] is being expended even for the basic GPS-3 missions,

Why would they expend the first stage if it was not necessary?

That's the $64 (million) dollar question.  Whatever the answer is, it does not seem to be performance.  F9 has *demonstrated* 5200 kg to GTO with recovery, several times.   So surely it could put a much lighter (3900 kg) satellite into a much easier orbit.  In fact the lighter satellite should allow about 500 m/s *more*, while the orbit requires 400 m/s *less*.  That's an enormous amount of margin, still including recovery of the booster.

So if it's not performance, what is it?  That's why I think it's paperwork of one kind or another.   Maybe the landing bits were not certified in time, and cannot be included.  Maybe the contract states that all possible margin must be reserved purely to insure mission success.   Maybe the qualifying flights were expendable, and this flight is required to be as similar to the qualification flights as possible.   These are all guesses, but whatever the cause, I don't think it can be performance.

Offline ncb1397

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... and it [Falcon 9] is being expended even for the basic GPS-3 missions,
Mission (singular) yes, Missions, I doubt very much.  I think that the use of an expendable F9 for this mission is some odd transient state.  From some pretty basic physics, a recoverable F9 should be able to put a 3900 kg GPS-III into an excellent transfer orbit, perhaps 4000 x 20200 x 55o.  And if for some reason it really does require expendable performance, I'd think SpaceX would bid an easily recoverable FH instead of an expendable F9.

Been trying to find what orbit the GPS Block IIIs are going into. Previous GPS satellites were inserted directly into ~20,000 km MEO circular by the launch vehicle, not a transfer orbit. This Block is significantly heavier which may be extra fuel to do the circularization itself but also could be the result of boosting power/signal strength/service life/modularity which were all design goals for this generation.

You seem to be under the idea that it is now a transfer orbit. Why do you think this?

Quote
And if for some reason it really does require expendable performance, I'd think SpaceX would bid an easily recoverable FH instead of an expendable F9.

Well, "easy" is in the eye of the beholder. They actually have never recovered a center core on a Falcon Heavy. Without that, it is more expensive than an expendable Falcon 9. Seems it may need more starter fluid, which means adapting the Merlin engine? The Falcon Heavy center core failure was never really fully explained. Did the higher speed of the center core cause problems with air starting the engine consistently during the entry burn? I guess we will see what happens next year when the 2nd Falcon Heavy is supposed to fly.

« Last Edit: 10/25/2018 05:00 AM by ncb1397 »

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