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ULA Vulcan launcher: updates

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FloatingFatMan    18,418

ULA are the IBM of the rocket industry, and look what happened to IBM when the 80's arrived...

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Unobscured Vision    2,666

Yeah ... and by the 1990's it was too late to change course, which they tried to do with PowerPC but never really saved the company as such -- even with Apple's help.

 

Shame, really. ULA has the keys to the kingdom, even now -- they just don't know what to do with them.

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DocM    16,486

They've had the pieces: the 5 meter Delta IV core is perfect for methane; they had $1B/year from DoD, part of which could have been used finish off the Integrated powerhead demonstrator (IPD) - the USAF/NASA full flow staged combustion engine of 2006; and they've had the ACES upper stage plans since about 2009.

They just sat on them and added the $1B to the bottom line.

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Unobscured Vision    2,666

So they've been sitting on their laurels ... now it goes into the realm of 'inexcusable'. All of these evolutionary leaps of technology, which could have turned into revolutionary leaps, and they sat on their hands instead -- filling their coffers when they could have been planning for the future. They could have had these technologies flying by now.

 

*sigh* Now it appears as if it's too late for them to recover. I hate the fact that a company with the talent and aptitude of ULA gets knocked down because Management was short-sighted and over-confident. Lack of competition can do that.

 

And by the time they get Vulcan (or whatever they come up with) in any sort of shape for testing, SpaceX will have Falcon Heavy flying missions, and the BFR will be in testing, rendering any challenge ULA can muster completely moot and irrelevant. They might as well start designing Vehicle VI at that point (the thing that replaces Delta and Atlas) and use some of Vulcan's concepts in that instead.

 

It reminds me of a line from the movie Avatar. "If you're the biggest thing in the sky, why would you look up?"

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Unobscured Vision    2,666

Expanding on DocM's comments.

 

Upgrading Delta for methane is a fantastic idea. Why build a new rocket when you can upgrade an existing spaceframe, and power it with nice, new, beefy methane powerplants that will exceed the old ones in every way (even the RD-181's)?

 

It allows for upgrading the current stock of Delta IV's and possibly the Atlas V's (keeping ULA's Workforce employed), gives the Engineers, Designers and Scientists something to really sink their teeth into, and gives Management time to reflect on how to run the company more efficiently something to coordinate and otherwise drum up.

 

That's a great idea. We have reclaimation and reuse, saving the company a LOT of money and time since they don't actually have to design and certify a new rocket (only the new engines and the upgrades themselves) .. I like it. A lot.

 

And it may be the idea that could get ULA back into the game.

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DocM    16,486

The one thing that's impressive in their Vulcan upper stage is their IVF, integrated vehicle fluids, system. IVF eliminates the need for helium pressurization of their LH2/LOX stages, and hydrazine for ignition, while lowering the upper stage dry mass by 15 to 20%.

For SpaceX's part, a methane upper stage is self-pressuring and there's been rumors of electric ignition.

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malenfant    26

Theres so much tech that's been built and tested from previous programmes that went nowhere that's directly applicable to the Delta it boogles the mind. The TRW TR-106. The FASTRAC turbopump. It's the complexity and cost of the engines which is killing them. Why can't they do what's already been done? Why not bring all of that great stuff in house and run with it. Combined with the latest tech -IVF -and modern production methods and they could really have something.

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Unobscured Vision    2,666

Exactly this. That's what they need to be doing. Continual upgrades of their technology, like what Roscosmos does with Soyuz. That platform is as solid as it gets, and there's always room to grow & add new features.

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DocM    16,486

Tom Mueller, SpaceX's VP of Propulsion, was the lead for TR-106 which led to FASTRAC. Mueller used those to design Merlin. He's now the lead on Raptor.

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malenfant    26

Ok. So the tech did go somewhere ;^)

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malenfant    26

Correction. The FASTRAC turbopump was RP-1 so is not directly applicable to the Delta.

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DocM    16,486

IPD was LH2 but it could probably go methane too. That adaptation has been done with RL-10 and some Russian engines.

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Unobscured Vision    2,666

Updates on ULA's Vulcan launcher (phys.org) | phys.org website

 

 

"We at ULA were faced with how do we take our existing products and transform them into a single fleet that enables us to do the entire range of missions on just one family of rockets."

"So that was really the genesis of what we now call the "Vulcan" rocket. So this single family will be able to do everything [from medium to heavy lift]," Sowers told me.

Another requirement is that Vulcan's manufacturing metgodology be extremely efficient, slashing costs to make it cost competitive with the Space X Falcon 9. Sowers said the launcher would sell "for less than $100 million" at the base level.

"Vulcan will be the highest-performing, most cost-efficient rocket on the market. It will open up new opportunities for the nation's use of space," says ULA CEO Tory Bruno.

In its initial configuration Vulcan's first stage will be powered by a revolutionary new class of cost effective and wholly domestic engines dubbed the BE-4, produced by Blue Origin. (emphasis added)

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-06-ula-vulcan-rocket.html#jCp

 

 

ulasnewvulca.png

Vulcan launcher cutaway diagram. Image© United Launch Alliance.

 

Looks like they've finally decided what they're going to do and how they're going to do it. They want this flying by 2019.

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DocM    16,486

Problem: for all the talk the ULA board, mainly because of Boeing, is only funding Vulcan quarterly. No long term committment. Until we see longer budget cycles things seem a bit uncertain.

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Draggendrop    5,747

Updates on ULA's Vulcan launcher (phys.org) | phys.org website

 

 

 

 

ulasnewvulca.png

Vulcan launcher cutaway diagram. Image© United Launch Alliance.

 

Looks like they've finally decided what they're going to do and how they're going to do it. They want this flying by 2019.

OK...so far...my take on this...

1) They want to use RD180's for a while still and are whining...

2) New main engine years off...

3) Methane engine requires a bit of tooling on their "new platform"

4) Project is not even properly funded...ie: low confidence levels

5) Political manouvering to block SpaceX future monopoly...because they want the monopoly they enjoy now

6) Make a dumb a## statement that the Vulcan will be cheaper...when they have "nothing but paper dreams as of today"

 

If this wasn't real...it would make a good Mad Magazine, or the Onion, news article...........they sound like politicians...... :woot:

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Unobscured Vision    2,666

Agreed. Looks like they are, at best, reusing the Delta-IV platform almost in total and simply re-tooling it for the BE-4 engine and systems needed to make it work. That's about it along with some modest platform upgrades to the Delta-IV to keep it current*. Essentially this probably means that they're going to internally call this the Delta-V platform, and move forward with Atlas-VI, and Vulcan is just the catchy name for it. Talk about a lack of creative thinking ...

 

* - Current technology could mean anything they can produce in quantity without costing an arm and a leg .. after all, if they want to use this for MilGov launches, they're limited as to where they can source the components from. Likely they'll be using slightly upgraded systems from Atlas-V.

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Draggendrop    5,747

And now we know why Aerojet made the "hail Mary"....kicked to the curb....

Orbital ATK beats out Aerojet in ULA booster selection


GEM-60_solid_booster_of_Delta_IV_rocket.
File photo of Orbital ATK’s GEM-60 solid rocket booster before attachment to a Delta 4 rocket. The Atlas 5 and Vulcan rockets will use an enlarged version of the motor beginning at the end of 2018. Credit: NASA

United Launch Alliance has selected Orbital ATK to provide solid rocket boosters for the company’s next-generation Vulcan launcher, and will switch the workhorse Atlas 5 to the new booster supplier by the end of 2018, officials said Tuesday.

The Atlas 5 currently flies with solid rocket boosters made by Aerojet Rocketdyne, a rival of Orbital ATK in the U.S. rocket propulsion industry.

ULA said in a statement the selection of Orbital ATK’s motors for Atlas 5 and Vulcan will “significantly lower the price to ULA and to the U.S. government.”

Aerojet Rocketdyne is the primary propulsion supplier for ULA’s rocket family, building the current Atlas 5 boosters, the RS-68 main engine for the Delta 4, and the RL10 upper stage engines for both Atlas and Delta.

But the company may lose the title as ULA transitions to a new, more commercially competitive rocket family, responding to pressure from SpaceX, which aims to eat into ULA’s dominance of the U.S. government launch market.

ULA says the leading candidate to build first stage engines for the Vulcan rocket is Blue Origin, owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, which is developing a methane-fueled propulsion system that officials say could be certified by 2017. Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR1 engine is two years behind, according to ULA, a 50-50 joint venture owned by Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Boeing officials confirmed reports earlier this month that Aerojet Rocketdyne attempted to buy ULA. A Boeing spokesperson said Sept. 16 the unsolicited bid, reportedly worth $2 billion, was “not something we seriously entertained for a number of reasons.”

ULA officials have not commented on the matter.

 

 

“As ULA transforms the space lift industry, strong partners such as Orbital ATK are critical to reducing cost, introducing cutting-edge innovation and continuing our focus on mission success,” said Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO, in a press release. “We have relied for decades on Orbital ATK’s industry leading rocket motor technology, which is ideally suited to support our future rocket launch plans.”

The new Orbital ATK-made boosters are 63 inches in diameter and approximately the same 67-foot height as the Aerojet motors, according to Jason Meredith, the GEM-63 and GEM-63XL program manager at Orbital ATK.

The boosters are slightly wider than the 60-inch diameter motors Orbital ATK produces for ULA’s Delta 4 rocket line. Earlier motors in Orbital ATK’s graphite epoxy motor, or GEM, series include smaller boosters for the Delta 2 rocket.

“The GEM-63 will be designed for the Atlas as a drop-in replacement,” Meredith said Tuesday in an interview. “It’s roughly the same dimensions, very close, to what is provided by Aerojet today.”

A lengthened booster about 5 feet taller will help ULA’s new Vulcan rocket loft heavier payloads into orbit. ULA says the Vulcan rocket will be ready for a maiden flight in 2019.

“We’re still in the design phase (of the GEM-63XL for Vulcan) and working through that with ULA, but we’ve had to do some additional sizing of that motor to provide the performance required for Vulcan,” Meredith told Spaceflight Now.

 

vulcan_srbs.thumb.png.1cffbbe7e8b20f1d67
 An artist’s concept of the Vulcan rocket released by ULA on Tuesday (right) shows conical boosters replacing motors with curved tops (left) shown in previous illustrations. Credit: ULA/Spaceflight Now

ULA mission planners can cluster multiple solid rocket boosters around the base of the Atlas 5 rocket depending on the needs of its payload. For bigger satellites or interplanetary probes like NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto, technicians can bolt on up to five solid rocket boosters to augment thrust from the Atlas 5’s RD-180 main engine.

 

 

The Atlas 5 rocket has flown with 72 of the Aerojet-made AJ-60A motors in its 56 flights since 2002. The GEM-63 motors will have fixed nozzles like the existing Atlas boosters, Meredith said.

The AJ-60A motors generate an average 280,000 pounds of thrust during their 90-second burn. Officials did not provide performance numbers for the GEM-63 booster, but the 60-inch version flown on Delta 4 provides about 280,000 pounds of thrust, the same as the Aerojet motor.

Meredith said the first ground firing of a GEM-63 motor is scheduled for mid-2018, and the booster will be ready for Atlas 5 launches by the end of 2018.

 

“We’ve been talking with ULA for over a year now, maybe a little bit longer than that,” Meredith said. “As long as ULA has been looking at specifically the Vulcan launch vehicle, we’ve been engaged trying to work with them at least a year, maybe as many as two years, in trying to provide them solutions for strap-on boosters for the Vulcan. This announcement today of strap-on boosters for Atlas and Vulcan has grown out of those discusions over the last couple of years.”

For Orbital ATK, the booster contract with ULA will keep the graphite epoxy motor line alive after the retirement of the Delta 4’s single-stick medium-lift configuration in 2018 or 2019.

The Delta 4-Heavy version, which will continue flying into the 2020s, does not use solid rocket boosters.

Meredith said he did not know when Delta 4 booster production will end, but the GEM-63 program “clearly provides a great transition for that line of motors to continue on into the future.”

 

 http://spaceflightnow.com/2015/09/22/orbital-atk-beats-out-aerojet-in-ula-booster-selection/

Chuckle of the day...from above...( As ULA transforms the space lift industry, )...These guys are over medicated........

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Unobscured Vision    2,666

And now we know why Aerojet made the "hail Mary"....kicked to the curb....

Orbital ATK beats out Aerojet in ULA booster selection


GEM-60_solid_booster_of_Delta_IV_rocket.
File photo of Orbital ATK’s GEM-60 solid rocket booster before attachment to a Delta 4 rocket. The Atlas 5 and Vulcan rockets will use an enlarged version of the motor beginning at the end of 2018. Credit: NASA

 

 

vulcan_srbs.thumb.png.1cffbbe7e8b20f1d67
 An artist’s concept of the Vulcan rocket released by ULA on Tuesday (right) shows conical boosters replacing motors with curved tops (left) shown in previous illustrations. Credit: ULA/Spaceflight Now

 

 

 http://spaceflightnow.com/2015/09/22/orbital-atk-beats-out-aerojet-in-ula-booster-selection/

Chuckle of the day...from above...( As ULA transforms the space lift industry, )...These guys are over medicated........

Now that's funny right thar. Sound like an ol' bahr or somethin'. Did ah say bahr?! :laugh:

Cutthroat at its' finest. Now we know how Orbital cut the deal to get those rides to the ISS ... they've been in bed with the enemy all along!

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Draggendrop    5,747

ULA Touts Mid-air Recovery as More Cost-effective than SpaceX’s Reusability Plan 

PARIS — United Launch Alliance says reuse of its future Vulcan rocket’s first-stage engines — featuring an inflatable hypersonic decelerator to protect the engines on atmospheric reentry, then a parafoil to glide them into position for a mid-air pickup by helicopter — is far more cost-effective than SpaceX’s planned recovery and reuse of the Falcon rocket’s entire first stage.

In a YouTube video demonstrating the technique, which ULA says could begin in 2024, the Centennial, Colorado-based company says SpaceX’s plans would require many more launches to reach economic break-even given the amount of fuel needed to return the first stage to Earth and land it.

“If you work the math, you see that you’re carrying a lot of fuel to be able to bring the booster back and it takes much longer to realize any savings in terms of the number of missions that you have to fly – and they need to be all successful,” says Mohamed Ragab, ULA’s senior staff engineer for advanced programs. “Our focus is on cost and the value of our proposition.”

Ragab says after separating from the lower stage, the engines are enveloped in a Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD), which NASA developed for atmospheric reentry.

Once in the atmosphere, a parafoil is deployed to await a helicopter pickup. The video does not give the estimated total weight of the engine and HIAD ensemble, but Ragab says the parafoil technology “is well-advanced,” and that parafoils have demonstrated an ability to support masses of 40,000 pounds (18,182 kilograms).

Mid-air pickup has been employed since the 1960s for uses including recovery of spy-satellite film canisters.

Vulcan is scheduled to fly starting in 2019. ULA says the first attempted engine recovery could occur around 2024.

Airbus Defence and Space of Europe, the prime contractor for the Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket, is working on a reusable design that, similar to ULA’s, focuses on recovery and reuse of only the engines and first-stage avionics suite, not the entire stage. Airbus hopes the technology could be introduced into Europe’s Ariane 6 rocket, to launch starting in 2020, around 2025.

Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX has already begun attempted landings of its Falcon 9 first stage, coming close but not yet achieving the feat on a special barge on which the first stage would land. The company plans to try again on its next Falcon 9 launch, which is scheduled to occur in November.

 

http://spacenews.com/ula-touts-mid-air-recovery-as-more-cost-effective-than-spacexs-reusability-plan/

ULA Innovation: SMART Reusability 

video is 3:08 min

 

Ed_the_Sock.thumb.jpg.1a0612b52bfebc2845
Fly some metal....then we'll talk.........animation by Ktel

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Unobscured Vision    2,666

I'm calling bollocks on that whole plan. Seriously, a helicopter is supposed to simply pluck a 40,000 lb (20t) inertial mass out of the air and, what, glide it to a dropoff point several hundred km away?

It's not going to work. PERIOD.

That engine likely weighs as much as the whirly does. You're simply not going to brute-force a dead-weight mass like that using any helicopter, no matter how powerful. Your pilot will snag that parafoil, certainly; but once the weight starts bearing down on the rotor engine it's going to be game over for Heli, Rocket Engine, and more importantly the Pilot(s).

Not sure what brain trust thought of this plan, but they need to figure out something else -- this one is going to end badly.  

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Draggendrop    5,747

I'm calling bollocks on that whole plan. Seriously, a helicopter is supposed to simply pluck a 40,000 lb (20t) inertial mass out of the air and, what, glide it to a dropoff point several hundred km away?

It's not going to work. PERIOD.

That engine likely weighs as much as the whirly does. You're simply not going to brute-force a dead-weight mass like that using any helicopter, no matter how powerful. Your pilot will snag that parafoil, certainly; but once the weight starts bearing down on the rotor engine it's going to be game over for Heli, Rocket Engine, and more importantly the Pilot(s).

Not sure what brain trust thought of this plan, but they need to figure out something else -- this one is going to end badly.  

Choppers are not that fast. The aircraft will have to see the unit drop in front of it (implying precision drop zone), and accelerate while dropping, to scoop up the unit....even then, only the engine assemblies...the rest is trashed. A skycrane will lift it, but, like real estate, location, location, location.....they may have to run several choppers in a pattern. This is in no way, comparable to a blimp sling, which is stationary. Either way, I would think that SpaceX will see better savings, once landings become routine. Like Mark Twain said..."Gather your facts...and distort them at your leisure"...ULA motto.....:woot: 

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Unobscured Vision    2,666

Choppers are not that fast. The aircraft will have to see the unit drop in front of it (implying precision drop zone), and accelerate while dropping, to scoop up the unit....even then, only the engine assemblies...the rest is trashed. A skycrane will lift it, but, like real estate, location, location, location.....they may have to run several choppers in a pattern. This is in no way, comparable to a blimp sling, which is stationary. Either way, I would think that SpaceX will see better savings, once landings become routine. Like Mark Twain said..."Gather your facts...and distort them at your leisure"...ULA motto.....:woot: 

Agreed wholeheartedly. There's no way a Heli is going to make it over to the drop path in time. Not even several Helicopters could do it. You need speed, and you trade off raw lifting power because of how your Rotors are adapted. All Helicopters exert 80% of their throttled engine power at the Rotor TIPS and the first twelve inches inward from there. The other 20% of the engine power is exerted amongst the remaining Rotor length simply to keep them turning at the desired rate.

Not gonna work, ULA. Find another way.

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Draggendrop    5,747

Agreed wholeheartedly. There's no way a Heli is going to make it over to the drop path in time. Not even several Helicopters could do it. You need speed, and you trade off raw lifting power because of how your Rotors are adapted. All Helicopters exert 80% of their throttled engine power at the Rotor TIPS and the first twelve inches inward from there. The other 20% of the engine power is exerted amongst the remaining Rotor length simply to keep them turning at the desired rate.

Not gonna work, ULA. Find another way.

They would need a massive chute to really slow the decent rate to a point where a very long strop is below the lifter...but it will be a bit tricky to take the jolt and apply lift while being dragged down...dangerous for the pilots......:s

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Unobscured Vision    2,666

They would need a massive chute to really slow the decent rate to a point where a very long strop is below the lifter...but it will be a bit tricky to take the jolt and apply lift while being dragged down...dangerous for the pilots......:s

In my experience, dangerous = ~50% failure rate & potentially fatal for the crew, with total loss of all equipment and many, many more uncomfortable questions that ULA wouldn't WANT to answer.

They need to not follow this plan. There's too much that can go wrong, and Murphy's always watching.

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