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[New] Space Launch System / Orion Discussion Thread

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That beast has carried some interesting cargoes in its day...

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Cross posting from here:

A couple of interesting articles about how changes to Boeing's corporate structure led to the disastrous design of the 737 Max and it's MCAS system.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/11/how-boeing-lost-its-bearings/602188/

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/11/18/the-case-against-boeing

What are people's thoughts about how these changes affected the space side of the company?

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On 11/22/2019 at 12:20 AM, Nightside said:

Cross posting from here:

A couple of interesting articles about how changes to Boeing's corporate structure led to the disastrous design of the 737 Max and it's MCAS system.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/11/how-boeing-lost-its-bearings/602188/

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/11/18/the-case-against-boeing

What are people's thoughts about how these changes affected the space side of the company?

This really is a topic that should be in its own thread.

Edited by jadebenn

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On 11/23/2019 at 4:45 PM, jadebenn said:

This really is a topic that should be in its own thread.

It has its own thread, which I mentioned. However, I thought that discussion of Boeing’s shift in focus away from engineering and safety was relevant here as well. 

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Here's a diagram of SLS's process flow (for cargo Block 1B):

voFRDZ1.jpg

I've done my research, and I can confirm all the facilities pictured here currently exist.

The "Spacecraft Processing Facility" is the Multi-Payload Processing Facility (MPPF), which has already been equipped for Orion and could also handle SLS payload encapsulation if necessary. The generic "Processing Facility" is the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF), which would be the primary facility for payload encapsulation and would also handle processing of the EUS.

SLS's processing flow is actually very similar to the Atlas V's: Pretty much all the vehicle and payload operations are conducted off-pad. Here's an image for comparison:

wq4cu0p.png

 

Edited by jadebenn

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6 hours ago, jadebenn said:

I've done my research, and I can confirm all the facilities pictured here currently exist.

Cool, then they should get paid for "production" and not "development" of the various systems, and can show this by electing to dump cost-plus contracting in favor of firm, fixed price contracting, right?

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10 hours ago, tater said:

Cool, then they should get paid for "production" and not "development" of the various systems, and can show this by electing to dump cost-plus contracting in favor of firm, fixed price contracting, right?

Exploration Ground Systems is in charge of the SLS infrastructure at KSC. I think KSC itself is in charge of most of the multi-user facilities, but don't quote me on that. For example, the MPPF and PHSF are sometimes used by the LSPs too. I'm not sure who owns either of those facilities, but I'm fairly confident it's the space center management (and not NASA) that operates them.

Anyway, EGS is not a big money sink. The contract they awarded to modify High Bay 3 of the VAB was a fixed price contract of only about a hundred million dollars. They were a bit late on it, but no-one really cared since SLS was even later.

As far as I can tell, it's the fabrication and modification of the Mobile Launcher(s) that's been the real money sink. Even then, IIRC, the cost-plus contract they awarded to convert the Ares I ML for SLS came in pretty close to the initial estimates. The real waste there (modifying a never-used ML) was Constellation's fault.

Edited by jadebenn

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I was thinking more on core stage production and EUS. I seem to recall them saying back in the day that the marginal launch cost of SLS was supposed to be ~500 M$. So subtract NASA costs (assembly, etc) from that, and subtracj the non-Boeing bits (SRBs), and require that the core and EUS come in fixed price such that with the other stuff added it's 500M, so EUS and core combined (including RS-25 and RL-10 costs, obviously) are 500M-SRB cost. Guess they might have to eat the first few since they paid more than that just for the engines...

Edited by tater

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14 minutes ago, nepphhh said:

What's the story on using not-RL-10s on the EUS?

Haven't heard anything about that, except that Blue Origin pitched a Be-3U SLS upper stage and it was shot down.

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I could be wrong, but I believe I've heard the RL-60 was in development for the EUS and ACES and potentially heard mention of the M-1 being revived.

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EUS will be using RL-10s.

Fun fact: Each of the three new LVs that will be using RL-10s (Vulcan, OmegA, SLS) has received a proposal from Blue Origin to use BE-3Us instead. Every single one turned them down.

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32 minutes ago, jadebenn said:

EUS will be using RL-10s.

Fun fact: Each of the three new LVs that will be using RL-10s (Vulcan, OmegA, SLS) has received a proposal from Blue Origin to use BE-3Us instead. Every single one turned them down.

It’s like the barenakedladies song, if I had a million dollars... “I’d take a limousine ‘cause it costs more.”

RL-10 is a great engine, but absurdly expensive. On the plus side, the RS-25s for SLS make RL-10s look positively cheap given their ridiculous pricing. 127 M$ each for refurb, plus their initial cost is something like 40M$. If they were late production this might only be 60M in constant dollars. If they date from the early 90s, more like 80M each (plus the 127!).

So every SLS has something like 700 million in engines alone.

Edited by tater

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https://www.spaceflightinsider.com/organizations/nasa/fact-check-sls-rumors/

This ^^^ is a 2014 article, he was still saying 2017 launch (lowering dev costs substantially from the actual, since dev is a few billion a year, flights or not):

"SpaceFlight Insider spoke with NASA’s Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development, Dan Dumbacher about some of the most prevalent of these rumors. While some were shown to not be accurate – others had at least a basis in fact."

Quote

Dumbacher: “First, we’re doing everything to keep the operations and production costs of SLS as low as possible. For example, we changed on SLS the material for the cryogenic tanks from what we used on the shuttle external tank, to a commercially available aluminum in order to minimize our production costs so that NASA wouldn’t have to cover all of the infrastructure costs to get that shuttle material like we did before.

We are on a regular basis looking for ways, as part of the design in order to get the vehicle operational expenses as inexpensive as we can get. Once we start the RS-25 (formerly known as the Space Shuttle Main Engine or SSME – which will be used on the first flights of SLS) effort to build engines beyond four flights as we have. The key driver on that restart is; ‘what improvements do we need to make to that engine solely to reduce its cost?’

Productions operation cost is a very large objective and minimizing the production and operations cost is a very large objective of the SLS program. So much so that it has been ingrained into all of the design trait studies and design and analysis that we have done thus far and we continue to do so. We continue to put cost challenges out to the contractors from a production and operations perspective.

What we are trying to do is get SLS into that $500 to $700 million per-flight range and some of us are working to actually get it even lower than that.

LOL.

There's something like 708 million dollars of engines on SLS. The SRBs have to cost a few 10s of millions. Some of the 2-3 BILLION annual program costs are presumably for the NASA side of getting flights ready (all the stuff in that excellent chart, above)... what % of that per launch shall we apply? All 2-3B$? 25%? 25% of 2.5B is 625M$. The rest of the 2.5 billion/yr is for their break rooms to have coffee, etc, sound fair? So 625M(NASA)+708M(engines)+20M (SRBs, gotta be low, but let's give them a break)... oh, wait, the Core stage and EUS---what's fair for the Core and EUS (just tanks)? 400M for both? So we're at 1.753 billion per launch. That's marginal cost, so we're eating the 1.875 B$ in additional "program costs" to have such an awesome capability... Also, so there's no confusion---that's the cost of the rocket, not the payload at all (the Orion CSM).

 

EDIT: The interview above was effectively an official NASA opinion on cost. He wasn’t disciplined or fired for misleading people on marginal launch costs. If we take this estimate seriously, knowing that NASA was well aware of what they were paying AJR for the engines, we are either being willfully lied to by NASA leadership, or—and this is nuts, but likely the truth—their accounting is such that they’re not counting many of the obvious and real costs when they talk about marginal costs (meaning they are still lying to us, but the admins are not lying, their accountants are). Either way the costing is a lie if we ever see numbers that are not well north of a billion.

That’s my huge concern with more current proposals, like using SLS for launching a lander. If NASA has delusional accounting that tricks the taxpayer into thinking it is 500M/launch for a rocket with 700M in engines on it...

 

Edited by tater

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They're building a second LH2 sphere at 39B:

KSC-20191001-PH-CSH01_0007~orig.JPG

The extra capacity will be used for Block 1 launch scrubs and for filling the EUS on Block 1B.

3 hours ago, tater said:

There's something like 708 million dollars of engines on SLS.

Considering the OIG estimated an SLS cost at $876M, that doesn't pass a smell test.

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8 hours ago, jadebenn said:

Considering the OIG estimated an SLS cost at $876M, that doesn't pass a smell test.

The OIG cost doesn't pass the smell test in that case? Yeah, you're right. (EDIT: ;) I have since found that OIG doesn't say this number, they repeat NASA using this number---as a minimum cost)

The same OIG says that we're paying 127M each for the 16 RS-25s. That's 508M$. I added the 40M$ initial cost to that (in constant dollars), since we already paid for the SSMEs used in SLS. So I will assume that OIG forgot that the SLS engines are in fact used engines (the entire point of reusing them was to save money, after all), and since they are used, they need to also include what we paid for them in the first place, not just what we paid to refurb them. So they are saying that all the other costs are 368M$---BTW what page is that on, is that the number for the entire stack, or just the core stage, since the OIG report that excoriated Boeing concerned itself with only the core stage. If it's just the core, then they are saying the tanks are 368, else the tanks, EUS, and SRBs are 368M.

Edited by tater

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From the OIG report:

Quote

Consequently, NASA will be hard-pressed to determine the price of producing a single Core Stage—information that will be key for the Agency to understand the cost and affordability of additional Core Stages.

Page 36 has a pie chart on dev costs, and the material costs to develop 2 Core Stages and 1 EUS are over a billion dollars. That's 25% of the dev cost, the rest is labor. That should give a lower limit on materials costs alone that added to the engines give lie to any sub-1B number. (still not seeing 876 in this doc).

Maybe this doc from 2017? (which thinks SLS is launching in 2018, so I'd take anything in it in the spirit of that demonstration of accuracy):

https://oig.nasa.gov/audits/reports/FY17/IG-17-017.pdf

Let's see...

This is comical (pg 33):

Quote

Reusing Systems NASA intends to reuse many of the systems it is designing for the Journey to Marsand is using systems left over from prior programs to save money. For example, NASA plans to reuse Orion capsules and certain Orion subsystems such as the avionics package rather than fabricate new systems. The Agency is also using engines left over from the Space Shuttle Program (16 RS-25 engines)and a supply of solid rocket booster structural hardware that should last until EM-8. In addition, NASA hopes to reuse some of the systems from the 1-year shakedown cruise,such as the deep space habitat in the late 2020s, propulsion system,and Orion capsule for future Mars missions.

"Saving money" by spending 2 billion dollars to reuse 16 engines that already cost at most 1.2 billion new (in constant dollars, just under a billion if they are only 10 years old) (~40M each new in whatever year they were bought).

No statement on marginal launch costs I can find in that OIG report...

Ah ha! The Europa Clipper OIG report:

Quote

NASAofficials estimate the third SLS Block1 launch vehicle’s marginal cost will beat least$876 millionwhile commercial launch vehiclecosts are estimated to be approximately $450million(seeTable 3).

So a few things. One, this is NOT the OIG saying it will cost 876M$, this is the OIG saying that NASA tells them the cost would be at least 876M$. This is the same NASA that paid Boeing bonuses for being so excellent... Second, and more importantly, the AT LEAST. There's no possible way it's coming in right at the at least number, not ever, that's not even plausible. Third, that's Block 1, no EUS (and each ICPS is ~175M$, so EUS has to cost substantially more).

 

Edited by tater

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https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2016/01/nasa-defends-restart-rs-25-production/

This says NASA is paying 1.5 billion for 6 new RS-25 engines (250 M$ each), and that they are also spending 1.16B$ in order to get the production line started on them (them being the "less expensive" expendable version of the RS-25).

From spaceflightnow reporting on that same contract (2015):

Quote

“The first phase of this contract covers the scope of work related to restarting the production lines for RS-25 plus the materials of future production efforts,” said Cheryl Warner, a NASA spokesperson. “The second phase, which will include a contract modification at a later date, is related to the labor required for the delivery of six new flight engines.”

So yeah, 1.16B to restart the production line so that we can get "cheap" engines going forward at 250M$ each?

So that's a billion per SLS in RS-25E engines alone. Such cheap. Much wow.

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13 hours ago, jadebenn said:

They're building a second LH2 sphere at 39B:

KSC-20191001-PH-CSH01_0007~orig.JPG

 

Looks cool. Where do the engines go?

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6 minutes ago, nepphhh said:

That is a service structure. It does not go into space today or any other day.

Well, what if they grossly over pressurize it? ;)

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Whatever SLS Core Stage tanks cost, this one is to be destructively tested:

 

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22 hours ago, tater said:

Whatever SLS Core Stage tanks cost, this one is to be destructively tested:

 

image_21994.jpg

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Yeah, that won't buff out...

 

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I hope they have video!

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