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SpaceX vs ULA / USAF Lawsuit

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I started this thread because at another forum the discussion was closed.

 

http://www.engadget.com/2014/05/22/elon-musk-spacex-air-force-accusation/

 

Here is something else...

 

The Senate Armed Services Committee today passed 11 amendments sponsored by U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) to the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

 

http://www.mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=468efa78-db94-4aa3-8ab9-06d998317c00

 

 

Space Launch

Three provisions would improve the prospects of competition for military space launch and help move the Pentagon away from using taxpayer dollars to purchase rocket engines from Russia. Specifically, they would:

?           Require that the Air Force have a full and open competition on two satellites that they tried to sole-source.

?           Prohibit future contracts to buy Russian rocket engines to launch our national security satellites.

?           Investigate undue reliance by the U.S. space industry on foreign suppliers and parts such as engines.

 

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Good idea.

The fact that a Republican proposal was passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has a Democrat majority and Chairman (Sen. CarlbLevin of Michigan), is telling. Congress seems unified on one thimg - ending any dependence on Putin's Russia for anything space related.

Time to acceletate development of Commercial Crew and a US engine (or launcher) that make Soyuz and RD-180 unnecessary. Period. Exclamation point. Fireworks.

Dragon Mk2/DragonRider (and perhaps DragonFly) will ne revealed May 29, and Falcon 9 has been a good enough lady that even Boeing is now talking about using her for their CST-100 spacecraft. Ditto Sierra Nevada for Dream Chaser. Atlas V is no longer a given.

The problem for both is that integratiing them with Falcon 9 could move their schedules right into 2018. DragonRider could be flying SpaceX crews in 2015.

Then there is re-engining Atlas V. This could take years even using an already developed engine like Northrop Grumman's TR-107. As early as Q1 2015 Falcon Heavy flies, and it's far more poewerful than Atlas IV...and cheaper. It could be EELV certified by 2016-2017.

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But what about this one ?

 

"Require that the Air Force have a full and open competition on two satellites that they tried to sole-source."

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McCain goes after a lot of no-bid military deals. I think this has to do with no-bid deals for building military comminications or GPS satellites, which get launched by ULA. There's been controversies about Boeing and Lockheed, both members of the ULA joint venture, getting such deals.

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That is why SpaceX filed their lawsuit.

 

And how i read this is that Senate Armed Services Committee says that the Air Force tries to sole source, despite what the Air Force says.

Now they require (demand) that the Air Force must have a full and open competition, meaning there is competition for ULA and they must have a fair chance to compete.

(like SpaceX for the launches)

I am not a layer but in my opinion this is an enforcement of the SpaceX argument, another smoking gun....

It shows a policy of the Air Force, a modus operandi.

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Something McCain has been beating the drums about for ages. Not just in the military, govt. procurements in general are fracked.

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Aviation Week's article quotes an anonymous industry insider who says Atlas V is toast, then goes on at length about possible scenarios. Covers lots of turf.

http://m.aviationweek.com/space/support-grows-new-us-rocket-engine

>

The Atlas V always the less expensive of ULAs fleet (partly owing to the Russian engine sourcing), the most competitive in the commercial market, and the nearest peer to Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) new Falcon family is effectively over, an industry source says. This longtime player in the space industry preferred talking on background. The convergence of a Russian threat to cut off RD-180 supply, SpaceXs impending certification to compete with the Falcon 9v1.1 and the lawsuit filed by SpaceX April 28 claiming ULAs sole-source deal with the U.S. Air Force was anticompetitive has put so much pressure on the Atlas V that it is unlikely to survive, the source says.

>

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I should have included these paragraphs. Raptor seems to be inserting itself into the conversation.

http://m.aviationweek.com/space/support-grows-new-us-rocket-engine

Delta IV could be next SpaceX target as ULA struggles to maintain its Atlas V

Support for quickly starting a new liquid oxygen (LOx)/hydrocarbon rocket engine, possibly relying on methane fuel, is growing in U.S. space oversight circles. An influential government commission and senior Air Force officials are throwing their weight behind it, and momentum is mounting amid the political firestorm surrounding Russias threat to cut off the supply of RD-180 engines used on the Atlas V first stage.

But support is less about easing an RD-180 supply shortfall and more about preserving options in the long term to fulfill the White Houses assured access to space policy, according to a prominent industry expert and the commissions findings.

>

The Mitchell Commission, led by Air Force Maj. Gen. (ret.) Howard Mitchell, a longtime Air Force space insider who is now a vice president at the Aerospace Corp., is backing the idea of a new liquid oxygen/hydrocarbon engine. And so is Shelton. I would love to see us produce an engine; our industrial base has kind of withered, Shelton said at the Space Symposium. Personally, what I would like to see us pursue is hydrocarbon boost, Shelton says. I dont think LOx/kerosene is the way to go. Certainly LOx/hydrogen is a thing of the past. LOx/hydrogen requires big tanks owing to its low density and cryogenics, yet it is highly energetic. Kerosene is more dense, like a liquid, but not as effective. Engineers are now exploring whether methane with qualities between the two can balance these trades. It can be located on the rocket adjacent to the LOx tanks and is expected to produce good thrust, but work remains to make the technology operational. 

>

Though not released publicly, the Mitchell commissions findings are included in a briefing obtained by Aviation Week. The panel calls for fielding the new engine in fiscal 2022. A new launch vehicle could be certified by [fiscal] 2023 and replace the Delta IV as a more effective marginal cost solution to Heavy Lift, the commissions briefing says. To ensure the government can maintain true competition, it should buy the intellectual property, the industry source said. This would allow mating the engine with any vehicle the government chooses.

>

The commission suggests the Pentagon maintain the $141 million investment in hydrocarbon propulsion risk reduction planned in the fiscal 2016 budget proposal, which is being crafted. The industry source says another $200 million could be added in the next two years to support the work, which is largely focused on maturing methane fuel options as a potential alternative to liquid hydrogen or kerosene.

SpaceX has announced plans to build the Raptor, a methane-fueled engine.Aerojet has largely focused on LOx/kerosene work; Julie Van Kleeck, Aerojet Rocketdyne vice president for Advanced Space & Launch Systems, says an RD-180 replacement could take four years. Advances in methane propulsion warrant an open mind on the part of the government, one source says, although a downselect is inevitable in a few years.

>

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?It?s very clear they made a commitment to increase competition, and then the Air Force reversed itself,? Arizona Senator John McCain, the top Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs investigations subcommittee, said in an interview with Bloomberg. ?It just doesn?t seem right to me.?

US Air Force Looks To Certify SpaceX For Rocket Launches - Space News - redOrbit

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Yup, this has started a firestorm that has actually been brewing since ULA was formed.

The reason ULA was formed goes back to when Lockheed (Atlas V) and Boeing (Delta IV) were competing for the original EELV (evolved expendable launch vehicle) launch contract.

Boeing got caught with thousands of pages of secret Lockheed Atlas V documents they had pilfered. Rather than go through an extended litigation both parties agreed to launch a joint venture, ULA, which the govt. signed off on to get the project moving again. Atlas V and Delta IV were transferred to the new company.

So right from the start ULA has had a checkered reputation.

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I remember when ULA was formed it raised a lot of discussion, even here in Europe because it was bad for long term stability.

 

Reading more into the shady ULA block buy it get's weirder and weirder.

Shelby is going to retire in August, he is still defending the block buy.

I wonder where he will work after his retirement..... :rolleyes:

 

ieutenant General Ellen Pawlikowski, Space and Missile Systems Center commander, and Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO, sign a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement to certify the Falcon 9 v1.1 Launch System for National Security Space missions at a ceremony at SpaceX in Hawthorne, Calif., June 7. The CRADA will be in effect until all certification activities are complete. While certification does not guarantee a contract award, it does enable a company to compete for launch contracts.

 

SpaceX one step closer to competing with United Launch Alliance for Air Force launches | AL.com

 

 

While certification does not guarantee a contract award, it does enable a company to compete for launch contracts. Those contracts could be awarded as early as Fiscal Year 2015 with launch services provided as early as Fiscal Year 2017. 

 

SMC Enters into Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with SpaceX -- EL SEGUNDO, Calif., June 11, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --

 

It is exactly how Senator John McCain describes it.

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Yup, and ULA isn't trying so much to pre-empt Falcon 9 v1.1 but Falcon Heavy which has its maiden flight around the first of the year. Falcon Heavy has much more lift than either ULA launcher.

Put even the Level-1 FH at $77m up against a $150m Atlas V 401 or $250m+ and it's no contest. The Level-2 FH at $135m hammers the $350m Delta IV Heavy's lift by almost 2:1.

Then there's the Block 1 SpaceX BFR....

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Yep the SLS killer.

By the time they finish to develope SLS, the BFR is probably already in service.

Recent developements in politics and advanced textiles (also thanks to the F35 program) will speed up the developement.

Point is that the military now needs SpaceX to have assured access to Space

 

By the way, here is the official National Space Transportation Policy

 

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/national_space_transportation_policy_11212013.pdf

 

When you read it carefully than this 36 core block buy of ULA blocking any other party out, the current Air Force policy to reduce the amount of competative launches is not according this Policy. Therefore not according to the law and should be corrected.

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I find it telling that Gen. Shelton is now talking a lot about big methane engines. Seems I remember some California company talking about developing one of those :whistle:

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Maybe Gen. Shelton want's after his retirement in August to be head of propulsion of ULA, or Rocketdyne...

I don't think he is going to work for SpaceX...   :shiftyninja:

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SpaceX probably wouldn't hire him - they apparently didn't hire the USAF procurement officer who did the bulk buy because it could look bad, which may have precipitated his actions.

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http://m.aviationweek.com/space/usaf-commission-urges-new-engine-mitigate-atlas-v-gap

>

ULA CEO Mike Gass said he has already begun talks with suppliers to look at the effect of ramping up production of the Delta IV and, possibly, a premature end to the Atlas V in light of Russia?s May 13 threat to cut off the RD-180 supply. This is despite a contract definitized in December that calls for the purchase of 20 Delta IV and 16 Atlas V cores in a block buy.

>

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I distinctively remember Mr. Gass saying that they had had a two year stockpile of RD-180's should the Russian supply be cut off. Now it says that they only have 16 stockpiled. On an average of over one launch a month, that is not even enough to last a year and a half. And now they want to shift the payloads over to a Delta IV costing even more money. ULA having to shelve the Atlas V isn't the tax payers problem, it is ULA's for being complacent, and they should be the ones coughing up the difference. Can charges not be filed against him for lying at a hearing in front of a Senate subcommittee?

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Yep but before they said something else.....

 

Boeing: No New Russian RD-180 Engines Needed For ULA Bulk Buy Deal | Space content from Aviation Week

 

United Launch Alliance (ULA), which operates the embattled Atlas V, has enough of the rocket?s Russian engines in storage to meet its commitment to the U.S. Air Force in the company?s 36-booster bulk buy inked in December, according to a Boeing executive.

"We believe we can deliver on the block buy with the engines we have," says Roger Krone, president of Boeing Network and Space Systems. ULA has 16 RD-180s on U.S. soil, according to an industry official.

 

Should it run short of RD-180s, ULA and U.S. Air Force, its customer, can shift some launches from the Atlas V manifest to Delta IV. "That is not our desired approach," Krone says. "We?d just as soon not move the manifest."

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There is a lot of responsibility to go around.

The USAF bears a lot because they're the responsible agency. They define the needs, set the standards and make the rules.

I think one problem is that the USAF, not having as much engineering expertise as ULA (Lockheed + Boeing), gets led by the nose into setting arcane standards for EELV that serve in large part to limit new entrants ability to compete. This preserves ULA's monopoly.

USAF also sets arcane or overly strict standards. Part of this is because of the Shuttle experience. NASA and USAF were supposed to share Shuttle, there was even a Shuttle pad at Vandenberg for military missions and a lot of USAF money went into it, but NASA drove the standards bus and blew it. Shuttle was unsafe, expensive, had a low flight rate, wasn't easily reusable etc.

Since then USAF has set the standards & procedures for its EELV launchers and does not trust NASA's vehicle certifications (ex: Falcon 9). Many of these standards & procedures leave a lot to be desired.

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Lol

 

The Merlin rocket engines used in Falcon 9?s first stage are outdated technology already being superseded by newer ?oxygen-rich, staged-combustion? systems such as the Russian RD-180.

 

 

(Disclosure: Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the co-owners of United Launch Alliance, contribute to my think tank; Lockheed Martin is a consulting client.)

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While the ULA favoritism is dripping all over that piece (at least he admits it) and he is frequently comparing apple's to pear's (I mean, come on... the vehicle in question is the Falcon 9, not Falcon 1 which indeed failed 3 out of 5 times... and the first Atlas iterations also frequently blew up and/or fell from the sky)!

 

I do have to admit this bit is on my mind also: 

 

 

Finally, aside from the loss of first-generation Falcon vehicles, SpaceX launches have also been troubled by a series of anomalies that do not inspire confidence.  An April 29 letter to the Air Force Secretary and NASA Administrator from Mike Rogers, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee?s strategic forces subcommittee, cited three of them.  According to Rogers, various SpaceX missions have delivered a satellite into a suboptimal orbit, experienced multiple spacecraft thruster failures, or failed to successfully achieve a planned second-stage relight.

 

Now, of course minor anomalies were frequent and launches were postponed in the beginning with ULA as well... but people simply do not think about that anymore now! If ULA says they are going to launch a rocket, they launch a rocket... and unless the weather screws things over or some range tracking station blows up, they point a date and at that time you can expect to see a rocket flying!

 

With SpaceX, well... despite all the successes of late... pretty much every launch has been delayed and troubled by problems, glitches, leaks and who knows what more. I mean I am a fan and I even own some merchandise from their shop (yay cap and model rocket :D) but imho they need to show some action and in a steady way before they start barking!

 

Over at Parabolic Arc Doug has this poll up asking opinions about the appeal over the Air Forces bulk buy deal... (http://www.parabolicarc.com/pollsarchive/)! Of course the majority of the votes is 'Go get em Elon!', but I wont deny having voted 'Go launch a few more rockets first, Elon!'. And thats the truth of it imho!

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F9 is launching at a higher rate in its first 10 launches than either Atlas V or Delta IV did, by a lot. F9 v1.1 is launching even faster, and the CRS-3 flight delays were largely NASA's doing.

They asked for the 4x power increase for freezers and experiments that took months to complete, requiring a major avionics redesign to get the watts, and it was NASA's radar that had a fire. Then weather, a blizzard in the South, delayed the stages from being delivered.

ULA and their media friends are spinning like a top.

The point isn't the combustion cycle but engine cost, reliability and redundancy.

Which is more affordable and reliable, a Ferrari V-12 or a Dodge slant 6? Both will get you from A to B, but that slant 6 is cheap and will run nearly forever. The Ferrari not so much.

Falcon 9's Merlin 1-D engines also have the highest thrust to weight ratio of any booster engine flying, 150-160:1 depending on how they tune it. RD-180 is only 78.44:1.

Falcon 9 loses an engine or two and the armor between the engines protects the rest, then the redundant avionics keep the mission going. This has been tested under fire during a Dragon CRS mission, and the spacecraft got to ISS early.

Atlas V loses an engine and it screws itself into the ground. Zero redundancy because both RD-180 thrust chambers run off the same pumps. Lose one and you have no engines.

With the decline in Russian aerospace quality control it was only a matter of time before their problems migrated into their export engines.

AeroJet Rocketdyne has had 2 Russian NK-33's gut themselves on the test stand in the last 2 years, the latest causing this months Orbital Sciences Antares/Cygnus launch to be indefinitely delayed during the investigation.

We should not wait for RD-180 to decline, or have failures that are 'accidentally on purpose' given the recent "atmosphere."

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But the point Elon is making with this suit is that no one other than ULA was even considered as a supplier.  That's what's wrong about the whole deal.  That SpaceX themselves might not have been able to immediately provide launchers is irrelevant, the Air Force never asked.

 

Also, you can't deny that the guy making the decision then went on to work for ULA is nothing other than incredibly stinky.

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