Author Topic: NASA is trying to make the Space Launch System rocket more affordable (Ars)  (Read 16438 times)

Offline envy887

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Not really. By that time Vulcan will have been flying for some time. NASA will have to accept the BE-4 as-is. Just like they have to accept the RD-180 (on Atlas V) as-is. All Blue has to do is to hand over all documentation regarding BE-4 for review. But NASA can basically not demand any alterations to the engine.

Also, it is unlikely that Starliner missions for NASA will ever fly on anything other than Atlas V.

NASA accepts RD-180 as-is because they have no other choice. Crew-rating Delta isn't viable and they have no leverage over NPO Energomash.

Merlin 1D was already flying for some time with a good record before NASA required SpaceX to make changes.

The only reason why NASA was capable to force SpaceX to change the turbopump is because SpaceX needs the money. NASA has leverage over SpaceX. But NASA has no leverage over Blue Origin.

What do you think would have happened when SpaceX would have flat-out refused to re-do the M1D turbopump?
The answer is: NASA would not have certified F9/Crew Dragon for CCP missions. That would have resulted in at least $1.5 billion of NASA money not flowing into the pockets of SpaceX. And that is money SpaceX needs for its ultimate goal of having Elon Musk retire on Mars.

And if you think that NASA not certifying F9/Crew Dragon is unrealistic, than you don't know NASA. It is not for nothing that there are TWO (2) CCP contractors.

Also: NASA has leverage over ULA/Boeing as well. ULA/Boeing had to provide ALL the documentation with regards to RD-180 for review. Had ULA failed to hand it over, it would have resulted in Atlas V not becoming certified for launching Starliner. That is why the successful delivery of the required RD-180 documentation from Russia to ULA/Boeing was such an important milestone. Once NASA certifies Atlas V (and RD-180) for crewed CCP launches, based on documentation alone, it clears the path for Vulcan (and BE-4) becoming certified for crewed CCP launches, based on documentation alone as well.

So, other than having to hand over some documentation on BE-4, Blue Origin will be in the clear from any intrusive NASA involvement.

But I digress.

And if BE-4 has evidence of turbine cracking or similar potential issues in that documentation, NASA will tell Blue to fix it. And Blue will fix it unless they never want to fly NASA or USAF payloads on BE-4 including New Glenn. Eventually Blue needs customers, and NASA is the #1 customer in the launch business. Even Bezos doesn't have enough money to tell NASA to get lost if he wants to build a launch service business (rather than a hobby).

NASA didn't have that choice with RD-180. Not certifying Atlas isn't an option, they would have figured out a qualification program to accept rather than fix any documented potential issues with RD-180.
« Last Edit: 02/22/2018 03:12 PM by envy887 »

Offline woods170

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Not really. By that time Vulcan will have been flying for some time. NASA will have to accept the BE-4 as-is. Just like they have to accept the RD-180 (on Atlas V) as-is. All Blue has to do is to hand over all documentation regarding BE-4 for review. But NASA can basically not demand any alterations to the engine.

Also, it is unlikely that Starliner missions for NASA will ever fly on anything other than Atlas V.

NASA accepts RD-180 as-is because they have no other choice. Crew-rating Delta isn't viable and they have no leverage over NPO Energomash.

Merlin 1D was already flying for some time with a good record before NASA required SpaceX to make changes.

The only reason why NASA was capable to force SpaceX to change the turbopump is because SpaceX needs the money. NASA has leverage over SpaceX. But NASA has no leverage over Blue Origin.

What do you think would have happened when SpaceX would have flat-out refused to re-do the M1D turbopump?
The answer is: NASA would not have certified F9/Crew Dragon for CCP missions. That would have resulted in at least $1.5 billion of NASA money not flowing into the pockets of SpaceX. And that is money SpaceX needs for its ultimate goal of having Elon Musk retire on Mars.

And if you think that NASA not certifying F9/Crew Dragon is unrealistic, than you don't know NASA. It is not for nothing that there are TWO (2) CCP contractors.

Also: NASA has leverage over ULA/Boeing as well. ULA/Boeing had to provide ALL the documentation with regards to RD-180 for review. Had ULA failed to hand it over, it would have resulted in Atlas V not becoming certified for launching Starliner. That is why the successful delivery of the required RD-180 documentation from Russia to ULA/Boeing was such an important milestone. Once NASA certifies Atlas V (and RD-180) for crewed CCP launches, based on documentation alone, it clears the path for Vulcan (and BE-4) becoming certified for crewed CCP launches, based on documentation alone as well.

So, other than having to hand over some documentation on BE-4, Blue Origin will be in the clear from any intrusive NASA involvement.

But I digress.

And if BE-4 has evidence of turbine cracking or similar potential issues in that documentation, NASA will tell Blue to fix it. And Blue will fix it unless they never want to fly NASA or USAF payloads on BE-4 including New Glenn. Eventually Blue needs customers, and NASA is the #1 customer in the launch business. Even Bezos doesn't have enough money to tell NASA to get lost if he wants to build a launch service business (rather than a hobby).

NASA didn't have that choice with RD-180. Not certifying Atlas isn't an option, they would have figured out a qualification program to accept rather than fix any documented potential issues with RD-180.

You clearly have no idea just how deep Bezos' pockets are. You also don't understand that the primary customers Blue is after are not NASA and/or USAF but commercial.
Bezos wants the planet to become a park where people live and work. He wants to move heavy industry and resource-mining off-Earth.
He is never going to accomplish that by relying on NASA, USAF, or any other US government agency. He needs commercial initiatives for that. Bezos knows this and it is the very reason why you have not seen any significant involvement of NASA with any of Blue's operations.

Let's assume for a minute that your scenario plays out: Starliner launches on Vulcan and a problem with the BE-4 turbopump is found. Blue will likely fix it. But not because they would be afraid to lose NASA money. Remember, Blue is just a sub-contractor to ULA. NASA would in fact not tell Blue to go fix the problem, they would tell Boeing to go fix the problem. Boeing in turn would tell ULA and ULA in turn would tell Blue. Given that Blue is not obliged to serve NASA, but is obliged to serve ULA it would probably fix the problem to do ULA a favor. Not NASA because what little CCP funding reaches Blue for the BE-4 engine, is just a trickle compared to what Blue will be receiving by then from commercial contracts and Bezos' personal wealth.

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