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'Vulcan' - ULA's New Rocket


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The reason I'm asking is that it doesn't look like a cost effective rocket, even if it use tried and tested tech.

The whole rocket depends on a rocket engine which only exist on paper. I'm not saying it's not going to get

build, but things change.

And then there's the whole SMART Reuse system, which just seems too "complicated".

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BE-4 is already at the stage of powerpack testing, full engine should be in a testing rig next year. IVF and autogeneous pressurisation for the first stage mean you eliminate helium and hydrazine completely, with commensurate savings, and there should be much lower infrastructure costs. One pad on each coast, no need to keep two separate lines running, no need for the line to be capable of producing specialised left+right cores for heavy launches.

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The reason I'm asking is that it doesn't look like a cost effective rocket, even if it use tried and tested tech.

The whole rocket depends on a rocket engine which only exist on paper. I'm not saying it's not going to get

build, but things change.

And then there's the whole SMART Reuse system, which just seems too "complicated".

They're testing the pumps and scaled down injectors. That's more than paper...

The reuse system actually isn't 100% new... The atlas rockets up until the Atlas III and Atlas V separated the booster engines and then relied on a sustainer. Plus, capsules have been caught in the air before. The only real "new" thing they have is the inflatable shield, which has been in development.

[sarcasm]Too complicated, huh? It's not like rockets are already complicated, right?[/sarcasm]

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Vulcan doesn't require FH to fail, not by a long shot. SpaceX's commonaltity strategy has left a massive gap in capability and price between FH and F9, and Vulcan fits into it just fine; FH price is somewhere between $120 million and $160 million, whereas base Vulcan is less than $100 million. Full capability Vulcan (ACES, 6XSRB) has superior performance to direct GSO than FH for less than $200 million, and direct GSO insertion is the only area at that end of the market with any actual demand.

Facon has an downside going to GEO as its only two stages and a pretty large upper stage, three stage rockets especially with hydrogen for upper stage has much better capability here. Here I see 2 stages+ powerful SRB as three stages in practice.

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Facon has an downside going to GEO as its only two stages and a pretty large upper stage, three stage rockets especially with hydrogen for upper stage has much better capability here. Here I see 2 stages+ powerful SRB as three stages in practice.

We're comparing it to Falcon Heavy, not Falcon 9. FH is planned to have 2 extra falvon lower stages as liquid fuel boosters, with some discussion of including fuel crossfeed capability. With the LFBs recovering to the pad and the core recovering to the barge it has significant reusability while pushing the same kind of payloads as Vulcan.

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We're comparing it to Falcon Heavy, not Falcon 9. FH is planned to have 2 extra falvon lower stages as liquid fuel boosters, with some discussion of including fuel crossfeed capability. With the LFBs recovering to the pad and the core recovering to the barge it has significant reusability while pushing the same kind of payloads as Vulcan.

Last post was about falcon 9, yes heavy is 3 stages, the boosters would be easy to land as they will not go as far as the first stage on 9, the core would be harder but an barge landing should be possible. Falcon heavy still suffer some for not using hydrogen on upper stage.

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ULA needs commercial business to close Vulcan rocket business case

United Launch Alliance will need to lure commercial customers to ensure the economic viability of its new Vulcan rocket, which is set to debut in 2019 just as the rate of U.S. military satellite launches is due to take a dip.

The Vulcan rocket must fly at least 10 times per year to keep factory and launch crews operating at the efficiencies needed to reach ULA’s price goal of $100 million per mission, according to Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and chief executive.

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Arguing about costs between two nonexistent launch systems is just silly entertainment. Name any case in rocketry history when the manufacturer's cost estimates made before the engines actually exist, ended up close to the actual operational costs of the production vehicles.

SpaceX is turning satellite delivery into a competitive marketplace. ULA isn't used to competing that way, but they're a capable company and I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with it. I'm particularly excited by the later ACES upper stage. It'll uses hydrogen/LOX for electricity, RCS and tank pressurization, eliminating a lot of complexity and paving the road to in-space refueling. Besides, I read the original study it's based on and love the idea of internal combustion engines in space, making electricity generator-style instead of with fuel cells. :)

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IVF is usable on Centaur, and will probably see use on it before ACES appears. Some individual parts definitely will, as they're useful in isolation; e.g. the GOX/GH2 thrusters for easy stage deorbit.

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IVF is usable on Centaur, and will probably see use on it before ACES appears. Some individual parts definitely will, as they're useful in isolation; e.g. the GOX/GH2 thrusters for easy stage deorbit.

Yes, the will use the H2/ O2 system on centaur first, that is an serious cool system, basically you have an normal IC engine who run on H2 and O2 boil off, this produce power, this power for system, you also use it to compress H2 and O2, this pressured gas has various uses, first to keep pressure on the fuel tanks up. Second is RCS, they use H2 as cold gas for fine control.

As an bonus this reduces boiloff as you can pump part of the gas back into fuel tanks.

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  • 2 months later...

I dont know.. that method to recover stuffs seems too weird, is like.. "hey, we dont have a clue how to do it, but what if we try..."

Is not an elegant solution. And all that deployment and coordination to just recover the engine.

There are better ways to do it.

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I dont know.. that method to recover stuffs seems too weird, is like.. "hey, we dont have a clue how to do it, but what if we try..."

Is not an elegant solution. And all that deployment and coordination to just recover the engine.

There are better ways to do it.

Ways that dont involve tipping into the water?

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I dont know.. that method to recover stuffs seems too weird, is like.. "hey, we dont have a clue how to do it, but what if we try..."

Is not an elegant solution. And all that deployment and coordination to just recover the engine.

There are better ways to do it.

Parachutes and a helicopter with a hook seems easier than a complicated rocket powered landing(not to mention all the weight saved not carrying your landing fuel).

Yes it does seem weird, but as others have pointed out, its been done before.

Also it sort of reminds me of the Fulton recovery system, seen at the end of Thunderball

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I dont know.. that method to recover stuffs seems too weird, is like.. "hey, we dont have a clue how to do it, but what if we try..."

Is not an elegant solution. And all that deployment and coordination to just recover the engine.

There are better ways to do it.

Like launching attached to a big tank and landing like an aircraft?

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I wish it's going to go well. Airborne (say, chute-hook) recovery often went wrong back then... Sinking the engines to the sea intact sounds like more waste than destroying it altogether. Hopefully better avionics and navigation systems will make it more reliable.

For other methods :

F9: they just need a more stable platform. A small steel raft doesn't match the height of the stage...

Shuttle: probably among the most reliable and flexible on paper, they suffer from the requirement of a plane just to take the engines back (hence why they need to retrieve things from orbit to make it count). Like sending a single hard disk inside a huge shipping container alone - indeed, a large margin that's just too large.

Propeller: well, untested ! That's the problem.

Edited by YNM
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Well I will not make points to see which of all different methods is better. I can see how much light is this vs other methods, but I think they are taking the bad approach on money recovery, because they focus only in the whole rocket cost and how much they can recover with the lower effort.

But there are things like "how much time it will take to launch the next rocket" that are not into account with this method.

How heavy and extra fuel your rocket needs is nothing in cost difference if you can reuse the parts.

The cost rise a lot due the time it takes you to launch the next rocket and all safety test that you need to do, more stages = more possible fails.

A company who only now start to think how to recover just a small part of the rocket and that it will need to wait 4 years more to launch stuffs, it would not be able to compete with all the other techs coming or the ones that are already ahead from them.

For example sable engines are in current developement and all studies from USA or ESA show that the theory and the real test are solid. Even if we later discover that 1 stage to orbit will be still hard, 2 stages vehicles with sable engine would be a lot more efficient.

So all the time of developement that this idea will cost to them it will be for nothing. This is the same fail approach of the SLS.

And that happens to the companies without vision.

Edited by AngelLestat
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But there are things like "how much time it will take to launch the next rocket" that are not into account with this method.

Which is irrelevant if you have enough engine pods and launch rates are. Even if you have 24 launches per year, with a fleet of 6 vehicles you can take 3 months to refurbish/restack them, which is more than enough. If you need a higher flight rate, it's easier to simply grow your fleet than to redesign the system for faster turnaround.

Fast turnaround is only important if you reach insanely high launch rates and each vehicle is super expensive.

The cost rise a lot due the time it takes you to launch the next rocket and all safety test that you need to do, more stages = more possible fails.

I agree with that increasing staging events means increasing failure modes, but it's can be cheaper to have 3 people refurbish a rocket in 10 weeks than to have 30 people refurbish it in 1 week. It all depends on the flight rates, and the launch market is simply not big enough to sustain fast turnaround.

A company who only now start to think how to recover just a small part of the rocket and that it will need to wait 4 years more to launch stuffs, it would not be able to compete with all the other techs coming or the ones that are already ahead from them.

May I remind you that none of those other techs have yet been proven technically or economically. Sure, this is a stop-gap preventive study from ULA just in case they do need to start reusing hardware, but until the launch market sees a serious mutation in terms of payloads and launch rates, they are playing it safe, which is what their stockholders want them to do.

And that happens to the companies without vision.

And the only company in the World with vision is SpaceX... blah blah blah...

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