Author Topic: ULA Vulcan Launch Vehicle - Business Case/Competition/Alternatives Discussion  (Read 65883 times)

Offline envy887

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I wish ULA had the guts to prepare - 'Skunk Works' style - a ready-to-go SLS replacement, based on the Vulcan-Centaur V concept. A version with 8 or even 10x GEM-63XL solid strap-ons that would equal SLS Block 1 in lifting ability, but in distributed lift would crush SLS Block II both in cost and payload. Bringing in ACES technology to the upper stages would even sweeten the deal...
I think a dual launch Vulcan ACES 564 already beats SLS Block 1B to TLI. No need for crazy mods.
8 to 10 solids is not 'crazy mods' - That quantity of solids will fit on a 5.4 meter stage. And Tory Bruno himself told me 8x solids was possible, but not planned. The Delta II itself sometimes used 9x solids.
The baseline for SLS is 77ton to LEO, what's the baseline to TLI?

I'd have thought you'd need at least 3 launches to match that.
Refueling ACES is more efficient than SLS large upper stage.

Offline envy887

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I wish ULA had the guts to prepare - 'Skunk Works' style - a ready-to-go SLS replacement, based on the Vulcan-Centaur V concept. A version with 8 or even 10x GEM-63XL solid strap-ons that would equal SLS Block 1 in lifting ability, but in distributed lift would crush SLS Block II both in cost and payload. Bringing in ACES technology to the upper stages would even sweeten the deal...
I think a dual launch Vulcan ACES 564 already beats SLS Block 1B to TLI. No need for crazy mods.
8 to 10 solids is not 'crazy mods' - That quantity of solids will fit on a 5.4 meter stage. And Tory Bruno himself told me 8x solids was possible, but not planned. The Delta II itself sometimes used 9x solids.
Fair enough. But not strictly necessary to match SLS, even Block 1B.

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I wish ULA had the guts to prepare - 'Skunk Works' style - a ready-to-go SLS replacement, based on the Vulcan-Centaur V concept. A version with 8 or even 10x GEM-63XL solid strap-ons that would equal SLS Block 1 in lifting ability, but in distributed lift would crush SLS Block II both in cost and payload. Bringing in ACES technology to the upper stages would even sweeten the deal...
I think a dual launch Vulcan ACES 564 already beats SLS Block 1B to TLI. No need for crazy mods.
8 to 10 solids is not 'crazy mods' - That quantity of solids will fit on a 5.4 meter stage. And Tory Bruno himself told me 8x solids was possible, but not planned. The Delta II itself sometimes used 9x solids.
The baseline for SLS is 77ton to LEO, what's the baseline to TLI?

I'd have thought you'd need at least 3 launches to match that.
Refueling ACES is more efficient than SLS large upper stage.
Yup. And since we are talking about business case/alternatives - it would be all about cost when comparing to SLS, and other vehicles with similar capabilities to Vulcan/ACES. What gives the best 'bang for the buck'? The cost of these vehicles might be the deciding factor in the end.
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Offline Rocket Jesus

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Refueling ACES is more efficient than SLS large upper stage.
Yup. And since we are talking about business case/alternatives - it would be all about cost when comparing to SLS, and other vehicles with similar capabilities to Vulcan/ACES. What gives the best 'bang for the buck'? The cost of these vehicles might be the deciding factor in the end.

When it comes to SLS, politics will be the deciding factor in the end.  If cost was the deciding factor, SLS would have been cancelled.

I wonder if NASA and/or Boeing has seriously considered using IVF on EUS now that ULA is really pushing ahead with ACES.  ULA has a great business argument for developing both EUS and ACES, as explained by Mr. Jon Goff on his blog..  If NASA wants SLS and if NASA truly wants the best bang for their buck within the heavy launch services industry, they'd be wise to let ULA develop EUS - or at least partially develop it - in order to get IVF on EUS.  A collaboration with Boeing (Skunk Works style as you mentioned previously) presents an interesting value proposition when considering ULA's patent on IVF and NASA's limited funding/resources.  It could result in IVF capability being available much earlier due to NASA funding.  In turn, that would obviously affect Vulcan ACES development time frame and would likely act to make ULA more competitive.
« Last Edit: 02/26/2018 11:56 AM by Rocket Jesus »

Offline Rocket Jesus

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Another possibility concerning Vulcan ACES, would ULA have a business case for selling initial Vulcan ACES at a loss so that they can build a fleet of (theoretically infinitely) reusable ACES in orbit?

Offline Sknowball

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I wonder if NASA and/or Boeing has seriously considered using IVF on EUS now that ULA is really pushing ahead with ACES.  ULA has a great business argument for developing both EUS and ACES, as explained by Mr. Jon Goff on his blog..  If NASA wants SLS and if NASA truly wants the best bang for their buck within the heavy launch services industry, they'd be wise to let ULA develop EUS - or at least partially develop it - in order to get IVF on EUS.  A collaboration with Boeing (Skunk Works style as you mentioned previously) presents an interesting value proposition when considering ULA's patent on IVF and NASA's limited funding/resources.  It could result in IVF capability being available much earlier due to NASA funding.  In turn, that would obviously affect Vulcan ACES development time frame and would likely act to make ULA more competitive.

NASA has been evaluating IVF inclusion on SLS EUS for a few years now as part of the eCryo TDM.  In June 2017 at the NAC TI&E meeting they reported completion of their testing and evaluation (slide 15).

https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/nac_july2017_flores_tdm_irma_tagged.pdf

Quote
Integrated Vehicle Fluids (IVF):
– Completed testing of United Launch Alliance’s IVF hardware as proof of concept.
– Submitted the Final Report of the 3 phases of testing which included an assessment of the feasibility for incorporating into SLS.

Offline envy887

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Another possibility concerning Vulcan ACES, would ULA have a business case for selling initial Vulcan ACES at a loss so that they can build a fleet of (theoretically infinitely) reusable ACES in orbit?

Once ACES runs out of LH2 is is gone. No power for comms or orientation control means it can't be docked with to refuel.

Offline Rocket Jesus

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Another possibility concerning Vulcan ACES, would ULA have a business case for selling initial Vulcan ACES at a loss so that they can build a fleet of (theoretically infinitely) reusable ACES in orbit?

Once ACES runs out of LH2 is is gone. No power for comms or orientation control means it can't be docked with to refuel.

Most likely, ACES will run out of LH2 to boil off, but I love speculation...so what happens if ULA either buys rocket fuel in orbit (most likely) or produces it themselves (less likely).  In both cases, business case still exists, so long as some government agency is buying contracts.

Offline speedevil

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Once ACES runs out of LH2 is is gone. No power for comms or orientation control means it can't be docked with to refuel.
A very tiny solar panel gives you power for comms once LH2 is out, there is still a little GH2, which may be enough to despin the stage.
Assuming the orbit is such that the stage can survive the thermal environment controlled only by a static barbecue roll, perturbed by whatever.
Chilldown would be an added complication.

Offline TrevorMonty

Can't see NASA using IVF on EUS till has built up some flight history on ACES. Sometime after 2025 at rate things are going.

Differently cheaper option than going to block 2B with far more BLEO capability. Could deliver 50-60 ton to LLO directly, 90t to EML2.

Offline AncientU

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Can't see NASA using IVF on EUS till has built up some flight history on ACES. Sometime after 2025 at rate things are going.

Differently cheaper option than going to block 2B with far more BLEO capability. Could deliver 50-60 ton to LLO directly, 90t to EML2.

IVF isn't the same as ACES and/or EUS refueling, is it? 
Is NASA evaluating refueling EUS? (They should be, especially if considering IVF.)
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Offline Lars-J

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Can't see NASA using IVF on EUS till has built up some flight history on ACES. Sometime after 2025 at rate things are going.

Differently cheaper option than going to block 2B with far more BLEO capability. Could deliver 50-60 ton to LLO directly, 90t to EML2.

IVF isn't the same as ACES and/or EUS refueling, is it?

Correct, they are not strictly related. You can have IVF without refueling capability, and vice versa. There is some synergy, though, as an IVF stage will have much longer on-orbit life capability, so it can more easily serve as a depot or wait in orbit to be refueled.
« Last Edit: 02/27/2018 09:57 PM by Lars-J »

Offline AncientU

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More commercial market competition from business partner Blue Origin:

(cross-posted)
Fourth customer for Blue Origin announced!

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Sky Perfect JSAT of Tokyo joins mu Space, French fleet operator Eutelsat, and low Earth orbit startup OneWeb in booking New Glenn launches. Counting OneWeb’s five reserved launches, Blue Origin now has eight commercial missions lined up for its New Glenn rocket slated to debut in 2020.

Like Eutelsat’s contract, Sky Perfect JSAT’s contract doesn’t specify what satellite will launch on New Glenn.

http://spacenews.com/blue-origin-signs-sky-perfect-jsat-as-fourth-new-glenn-launch-customer/

8-9 flights booked for a vehicle that will enter service after Vulcan; no Vulcan commercial flights yet announced AFAIK.
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Offline AncientU

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CEO Bruno on commercial launches:
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Tory Bruno, ULA: “pretty excited” to shift attention to commercial market after helping US government “avoid a serious crisis in space” with space launch. #SatShow
https://twitter.com/jeff_foust/status/973299038224297985
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Offline jongoff

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Another possibility concerning Vulcan ACES, would ULA have a business case for selling initial Vulcan ACES at a loss so that they can build a fleet of (theoretically infinitely) reusable ACES in orbit?

Once ACES runs out of LH2 is is gone. No power for comms or orientation control means it can't be docked with to refuel.

It should be relatively easy to add in some solar power capacity to IVF for "keep alive" operations. And keeping enough GOX/GH2 in the tanks for stabilization prior to rendezvous shouldn't be that hard. Ie, it seems like a pretty solvable problem.

~Jon

Offline Robotbeat

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Boeing/LockMart/ULA could also fund the development since it is for their rocket.
They also choose not to.

(The taxpayer didn't get to choose.)

On the flip side...
If it were up to ULA, they'd continue using the Atlas V.  It's a political decision (RD-180 ban for NSS) that is forcing them to make a new rocket.  They didn't get to choose.
More like "if it were up to ULA's owners." ULA themselves are thrilled to be able to do Vulcan, though doubtless they would've preferred to do ACES first. As it is, the new Centaur is a significant step toward ACES.
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Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Quote
[email protected]: Typically in the industry, prime contractors fund dev costs and then buys it. For #VulcanCentaur, our suppliers are funding the dev; in return, ULA will only purchase from the supplier and guarantee a quantity. #satshow

https://twitter.com/ulalaunch/status/973653710114050057

Offline TrevorMonty


Boeing/LockMart/ULA could also fund the development since it is for their rocket.
They also choose not to.

(The taxpayer didn't get to choose.)

On the flip side...
If it were up to ULA, they'd continue using the Atlas V.  It's a political decision (RD-180 ban for NSS) that is forcing them to make a new rocket.  They didn't get to choose.
More like "if it were up to ULA's owners." ULA themselves are thrilled to be able to do Vulcan, though doubtless they would've preferred to do ACES first. As it is, the new Centaur is a significant step toward ACES.
The ACES was originally destined for Atlas, was going to be about 40t and would've given Altas significant performance boost.

I suspect it would've been given high priority if they had been allowed to keep using RD180s.

Offline Lars-J

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Quote
[email protected]: Typically in the industry, prime contractors fund dev costs and then buys it. For #VulcanCentaur, our suppliers are funding the dev; in return, ULA will only purchase from the supplier and guarantee a quantity. #satshow

https://twitter.com/ulalaunch/status/973653710114050057

One can view that either as A) a block buy done right (from a launch customer point of view) or B) a sinister way to force their suppliers to bear the burden that ULA should. “You want us to buy your stuff? Then pay up extra and we’ll come back”.
« Last Edit: 03/13/2018 08:56 PM by Lars-J »

Offline AncientU

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Boeing/LockMart/ULA could also fund the development since it is for their rocket.
They also choose not to.

(The taxpayer didn't get to choose.)

On the flip side...
If it were up to ULA, they'd continue using the Atlas V.  It's a political decision (RD-180 ban for NSS) that is forcing them to make a new rocket.  They didn't get to choose.
More like "if it were up to ULA's owners." ULA themselves are thrilled to be able to do Vulcan, though doubtless they would've preferred to do ACES first. As it is, the new Centaur is a significant step toward ACES.
The ACES was originally destined for Atlas, was going to be about 40t and would've given Altas significant performance boost.

I suspect it would've been given high priority if they had been allowed to keep using RD180s.

It was completely shelved when they had RD-180s to the horizon... what makes you think it would ever be high priority?  Even George Sowers said that finally they had a CEO who recognized the value of ACES (CEO Gass didn't).  So, I'd say it was CEO Bruno arriving, not RD-180 not departing.
« Last Edit: 03/13/2018 10:04 PM by AncientU »
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