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Delta IV Heavy suitability as a booster for a manned craft

Posted by: Andy Hill - Mon Dec 13, 2004 8:56 am
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Delta IV Heavy suitability as a booster for a manned craft 
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Post    Posted on: Mon Mar 07, 2005 1:24 pm
Ekkehard Augustin wrote:
What about the chance that there will be a decision never because people like Elon Musk get into the lead until 2010 or 2015? SpaceX next vehicle after a likely successful Falcon I-launch will be the Falcon V. If Falcon V is successful too - may there be a Falcon IX or a Falcon XIII then? SpaceX will compete for the ASP - so they wil develop a manned vehicle.


That's always a possibility but SpaceX has a long way to go yet, I know we all speak about them as if they have already flown Falcon V let alone Falcon I but they will truely start to compete only after a few successful flights have been made. SpaceX will probably fly Falcon V early next year and if all goes to plan are likely to consolidate their position before starting development on the next generation of vehicles. They need to start getting some income into the company to prove it is a going concern, Elon Musk's pockets are not bottomless.

IMO any vehicle they develop for the ASP is likely to be made compatible with Falcon V payload capabilities so that they have a chance of meeting Bigelows time scales. Remember they will have to man-rate (whatever that means; make it as dangerous as the shuttle possibly? :) ) the Falcon V and that will take time. Also a bigger launcher will cost more to launch so its in their interest to use the Falcon V rather than a new bigger launcher. They dont want to win the prize only to find that another team gets Bigelow's contracts becuase they have cheaper launches.

Ekkehard Augustin wrote:
May NASA be talking politically to hide theire possible waiting for SpaceX's developments?


I think that NASA cant afford to wait for SpaceX to develop a bigger vehicle and man-rate it for the CEV. The fly-off is supposed to happen in 2008 so there isn't enough time for SpaceX to build a launcher able to carry the CEV. The 2 teams are likely to use their own EELVs, as Boeing is in one team and Lockheed is in the other.

Only if a CEV is light enough to launch on a Falcon V will NASA use SpaceX and the last draft requirement specs I saw mentioned a vehicle about 10,000kg in weight.

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Post    Posted on: Tue Mar 08, 2005 7:16 pm
Andy Hill wrote:
My basic problem is I cant see why it is so expensive, the majority of the rocket is fuel or fuel tanks and only the engines and avionics would cost any significant money (maybe a few million dollars). Given that most of the development has been paid for by governments and the range costs are no more than a couple of million dollars, how do prices come out at $100M plus per launch?


Sorry to interrupt you're little conversation with Ekkehard, but I figured I would at least be able to answer this question for you :)

First, let us consider the launch costs, for one of the above rockets. For round numbers sake, let us assume a 20,000 kg, $200M rocket.

Such a launcher could launch two communications satellites. Communications satellites generally cost somewhere between $200-500 million, but we'll assume $350 for arguements sake.

A modern rocket launcher probably has at least a 95% reliability, or at least will have to have if it is to operate successfully. Many (such as the Atlas rockets) have a much higehr reliability. Therefore, if you were to launch 20 rockets, 1 would fail in general. That means, assuming two satellites per launch, a total of 40 satellites worth $14,000 million will be put into orbit, of which 2 ($700 million) will be destroyed. These satellites need to be insured - and always are. Covering this cost over 20 launches will put the insurance at $35 million per launch. Of course, this would vary with the launch history of a particular rocket, but it's a good starting point.

As for other recurring costs, it is a lot harder to estimate the exact cost of launching a rocket. The RL10 engine used as the _upper_ stage in the Delta IV rockets costs $5 million apiece, and the main engines could be easily four times that. Incidentally, if you read astronautix more carefully, the cost of a Delta IV Heavy has been increased to $254 each. That is also the cost of the heavy (but as yet untested) version of the Atlas V. So assuming three main engines ($60 million), an upper stage engine($5 million), and insurance for two satellites($35 million), that brings the costs to $90 million. This is simple recurring costs. Sadly for most launch companies, this is the cheap part.

Let me reference two of the rockets you mentioned, the Ariane 5 and the Titan IV (simply because these are the only two I have data on). If you read astronautix, it includes another statistic: Development cost. This is where the real price comes in.

Astronautix quotes the development for the Ariane 5 at $8 billion, and $16 billion for the Titan IV. Let us assume that each of these rockets has a $900 million recurring cost for each launch, and so try to figure out how many launches are needed to actually turn over a profit. This is of course a fairly inaccurate estimation, since the development of both of these rockets was heavily government subsidized, and the company would not need to make back all of the development costs. However, we're still talking billions.

The Ariane 5 costs $180 million, of which $90 million is "profit". This means that 89 launches are needed to cover the development. The Titan IV costs $400 million, or $310 million profit per launch. This then requires 52 launches to cover the development costs.

At this point, you are probably asking "how does SpaceX manage to launch a rocket for only $16 million then?". Well, put simply, Elon Musk's entire development investment is in the low hundreds of millions - I've seen $300 million quoted before. They also build their own engines, and they are very much simpler than the engines of the EELVs. This means that they would cost only a million or so (at a guess) each. The payloads are also much smaller, and so would probably rarely be worth over $100 million (or much less in the Falcon I's case). This reduces the insurance costs by at least a factor 7, bring that down to only $5 million.

Hope this makes sense, and has been of some use to you.

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Post    Posted on: Tue Mar 08, 2005 7:59 pm
So why develop EELVs with such expensive engines?

Dont Boeing use Rocketdyne to build engines which they owned, making the engine development in-house. So they could have developed a cheap throw away engine for the Delta IV.

Lockhead buys their engines from the Russsians but they have the capability to build their own cheap engines, although the costs of using the Russians was probably less.

Also the EELVs were heavily funded by the US government so the development costs need not have been more than SpaceX and could have been cheaper if they had developed a simpler design.

Falcon V has something like a fifth of the payload capacity but at $12m is a 20th of the cost of a Delta IV, does it cost that much more to develop a bigger rocket especially one that is subsidised?

So perhaps the question is not why does it cost so much but rather why develop an expensive rocket in the first place, especially since it gets thrown away with every launch.

Dont worry about butting in, the more the merrier:-that is what a forum is all about. :)

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Post    Posted on: Tue Mar 08, 2005 10:45 pm
Andy Hill wrote:
So why develop EELVs with such expensive engines?

Dont Boeing use Rocketdyne to build engines which they owned, making the engine development in-house. So they could have developed a cheap throw away engine for the Delta IV.


Well, a couple of things. Rocketdyne does make the main engines for the Delta rockets - it's only the upper stage engines that are subcontracted out to Pratt and Whitney. The reason for this is largely that Boeing has used the same upper stage engine since the Delta II, and it sped up development whilst lowering costs. The Falcon V is also considering using the same engine for it's upper stage.

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Lockhead buys their engines from the Russsians but they have the capability to build their own cheap engines, although the costs of using the Russians was probably less.


The RD-180 engines that the Atlas rockets used are based on a Russian design yes, but they are actually manufactured (and have been heavily modified) by Pratt and Whitney.
http://www.pratt-whitney.com/prod_space_rd180.asp

Responding to the question of "why are these engines so much more expensive than the ones that SpaceX uses", well, there are a couple of reasons.

Firstly, and quite obviously, the size. The thrust from a SpaceX Merlin is 77,000 lbs. The thrust from the RD-180's used in the Atlas is around 900,000 lbs. Typically, this would probably cost a lot more than 10 times as much to make, for reasons I'll go into in a minute.

The second difference is the aimed efficiency of the two engines. The RD-180 and the Merlin both use the same fuel, but the Merlin has an ISP of 304, while the RD-180 has an ISP of 337. Although this doesn't seem that huge, it does make a reasonable difference in terms of the amount of fuel needed, and a massive difference in the complexity of the engines.

Although I don't have any internal statistics for the Merlin engine, I'm guessing that the chamber pressures inside it (largely due to the pressure of the fuel inside it) will be a lot lower than those in the RD-180. Building a structure to withstand these pressures is extremely difficult, and requires very expensive materials.

The turbopump is also a big factor - it's the most important part of increasing fuel pressures, and hence ISP. The Merlin engine uses a thing called a Pintel injector - which was a technology abandoned as archaic back in the 60's. It is however, quite simple, if not all that effective, whilst the RD-180 uses two turbopumps. I'm assuming you know vaguely how a turbo-pump works - it has an impeller which spins, pushing fuel down through a hole at high velocity and pressure. How, designing and building turbopumps is very difficult and expensive. In a jet engine, the blades spin extremely fast, and have quite high temperatures. In a rocket, they are cryogenic (meaning normal lubricating oils don't work), run at ridiculous pressures, and also have massive impeller speeds. Increasing the size of a turbopump is also very hard - think of the centripetal force equation, mv^2/r = F. If you want to increase the pressure of your fuel, you have to increase the speed of the pump, which in turn increases the forces on it. This means you have to use very expensive materials and design techniques.

Of course, none of this explains why Boeing and Lockheed decided to build their rockets like this. The simplest explaination I can give is because that is how they've always done it (since missiles need to be high performance for other reasons, and their launchers are missile-derived, even still), and since the industry is used to to high-performance engines being the way that space launching is done. This break with tradition is what makes SpaceX special (although they were not the first). Many people thought (and still think) that it can't actually be effective, although the numbers of those are decreasing.

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Also the EELVs were heavily funded by the US government so the development costs need not have been more than SpaceX and could have been cheaper if they had developed a simpler design.


Well, the simplicity part I've already discussed. Yes, they were heavily funded, but you also have to remember that these companies want to turn a profit also, which probably would cancel it out.

Quote:
Falcon V has something like a fifth of the payload capacity but at $12m is a 20th of the cost of a Delta IV, does it cost that much more to develop a bigger rocket especially one that is subsidised?


No, it doesn't necessarily. For a big corporation like Boeing, with lots of beaucracy and existing contracts, it does. For SpaceX, it probably doesn't.

Quote:
So perhaps the question is not why does it cost so much but rather why develop an expensive rocket in the first place, especially since it gets thrown away with every launch.


One other thing to consider is this: Most of the satellite launches in the US are ordered by the military. They have a fixed number per year which has to be launched, and a fixed budget to pay for those launches. If Lockheed and Boeing lowered their costs, they would not get any more orders from the military. It is not necessarily in their interests to do this. SpaceX is hoping to cater to a new industry, or to steal part of Lockheeds and Boeings at lower profit margins.


-comment- Damn, that post got long.

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Post    Posted on: Wed Mar 09, 2005 11:22 am
Hello, Andy Hill,

a clarification of my question if NASA might be talking politically to hide their waiting for SpaceX - which is a possible speculation by me: I didn't speculate that they might be hoping that SpaceX is ready until 2008. I am sure they will conduct that fly-out and then choose one of the two competitors to develop the CEV. But that may quietly be modified to something that reminds to a show for the competitors, the industry, the congress and the public. Quietly and hidden they might be hoping that SpaceX has ready a CEV-substitute earlier then that competitor selected in 2008 - the fly-off vehicle in 2008 isn't the CEV yet as far as I know.

SpaceX is too late to be ready in 2008 - NASA knows that - but they may prove to be working very quickly once they have had a successful Falcon I-flight. They cannot participate in the fly-off but they may get the lead after 2008...



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Post    Posted on: Wed Mar 09, 2005 1:19 pm
I might point out here, in addition to Sev's posts, that the Aerospace Giants -- e.g. Northrop-Grumman, Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, etc. -- are essentially extensions of the U.S. Federal Government. They would not exist as they do today if it were not for the huge military contracts that they receive. Much of this money is spent developing technologies that are hardly (if ever) actually fielded, and are subsequently used in the development of civilian vehicles: military transports made by Boeing let it build the 747 and now the 7E7, Northrop's satellite contracts for the DOD and other agencies give it the edge in civilian weather and imaging satellites, etc..

But keep in mind that, as extensions of the government, the Giants also have a tremendous amount of bureaucracy: an example is the number of people hired for the sole purpose of convincing Congress, the military, and the Secretary of Defense to pay for a new project.

Thus, a large part of Sev's assertion about...

Sev wrote:
why Boeing and Lockheed decided to build their rockets like this. The simplest explaination I can give is because that is how they've always done it (since missiles need to be high performance for other reasons, and their launchers are missile-derived, even still), and since the industry is used to to high-performance engines being the way that space launching is done.


...is essentially correct. It's always been done that way, and why change it now and shake customer's confidence in the methods they've always been using ("You mean to tell me that you could've done it for half the price for the last twenty years, if only you'd thought about it?!").

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Post    Posted on: Wed Mar 09, 2005 1:28 pm
Your last words are sound like "never change a winniung team" a little bit - with "team" to be replaced by "method" etc.

You're right in that - but in horse races sometimes the outsider turns out to be the winner.

A comment to my last post - they might use SpaceX as a gap-filler perhaps...



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Post    Posted on: Wed Mar 09, 2005 4:21 pm
An airliner costs hundreds of millions, just like a rocket. But you don't throw it away after one flight. And a rocket is mostly fuel. Immagine a 747 will all the passenger and cargo space filled with fuel and only the flight deck available for payload. And airports handle hundreds of flights per day with the airport costs are shared by all those flights. A launch site has what, one launch a week? That one launch has to pay all the launch site costs for a week. It does not surprise me at all that costs are so high.


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Post    Posted on: Thu Mar 10, 2005 7:29 am
Peter,

that's an economic issue - not a technological one. The costs of launch sites, of vehicles or of something else can be considered to be proportional to time totally - there is no causal relation of costs to time that could be identified easyly.

Causal relations of costs do exist only to technologies, economic procedures and processes, services and products. Production, delivery, trafic, decisions, procedures and processes require a certain amount of time - but this amount of time can be changed by the choice of technology, organization and coordination.

Some costs of launch sites are dependent of the number of launches - no launch means no launch costs. Other costs a dependent of the weight, volume or payload to be launched. And so on - these costs don't have any relation to time themselves.

Then there other costs of launch sites that are not related to the number of launches or to the weight, volume or payload per launch - wages for employees, interest rates for credits, electricity price and so on. wages are fix per week or month at least, interest rates are fix per year mostly where as electricity is dependent of the number of PCs switched on for example, of the number of employees actually working in the bureaus that week and so on.

To end this short off-topic trip to costs - most of all this is dependent of the technology used. That technology doesn't need that one that is intended to be the standard technology - there may be emergencies of different kinds (bottlenecks, delays, suden damages, lack of finances etc.) that causes the use of a technology that is not the intended standard.

So the technologies discussed here are tending to change the facts your issue is based on. The facts your issue is based on are existing present technology actually used - but the questions and thoughts posted by Andy Hill, Sev, spacecowboy and others including me myself are regarding future technologies - CEV is a future vehicle, Falcon V is a future rocket and so on. The launch sites will tend to be modified to optimize them for those future vehicles - the launch site technologies will be modified or changed because of the new vehicles. Andn this will alter the costs and their nature, behaviour and so on.

Launch site technology is worth its own thread - separated from this thread here - in this section.



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Post    Posted on: Thu Mar 10, 2005 4:55 pm
Hrm.... That last sentence in my previous post was meant to be a bit more facetious, as I hinted at with the parenthetical comment.

And again, campbelp2002 brought us back to the main problem facing launch vehicles today: we've got this great technology, with some very brilliant people working on improving it, but nobody needs it. The space industry, and especially the manned spaceflight part of it, is essentially a tremendous market looking for a demand.

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Post    Posted on: Thu Mar 10, 2005 7:10 pm
What people don't need are two EELVs.

Heavy Lift and the ability to place 100 tons in orbit at once (saving us 15 RS-68s on five Delta IVs) would give us a real moonship, and ease large space factory construction.

Do a search for these articles on Space Daily over at Dogpile.com

Heavy Lift Is Needed

The Cost Of Medium Lift

Cut The Umbilical

EELVs Are A Bad Deal

www.starshipmodeler.net

under Real Space Modeling.


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Post    Posted on: Fri Mar 11, 2005 11:04 am
You are right - the EELVs are the ones noone needs today.

If the ASP-competitors succeed in developing fully privately funded orbital space vehicles and if the growth of the space tourism market will come and ectend that tourism to the orbit then there will be a reasonable number of smaller reusable orbital vehicles instead of the two EELVs. The will use existing launch sites firs - they will increase the number of launches per launch site and cause economies of scale of the launch sites.

For this reason launch site technology should be developed and discussed in this section. And - regarding WK/SSO - what about making launch sites/spaceports and airports one port for it all with separated section for spacflight and airflight only? What port-technologies could be used commonlx or modified to make that possible?



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Post    Posted on: Fri Mar 11, 2005 12:26 pm
I like the idea of having a space station in orbit acting as a hub for CEVs to dock to, smaller maned craft could ferry people to and from orbit on falcon V size launchers.

The only use for EELV sized vehicles would be to transport fuel and supplies to the space station.

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Post    Posted on: Fri Mar 11, 2005 12:56 pm
EELVs to transport fuel and supplies? What about t/Space's tanker concept instead? As far as I remeber the tankers would be constructed and launched by Scaled Composites by air launch.

t(Space's concept seems to be ready so far - they only have trouble with the paperwork they are forced to by NASA (read " Paperwork stops space privateers building lunar lander" ( www.xprizenews.org/index.php?p=811 ).

If they canot realise it for or with NASA they should keep it in mind for later use with Bigelow etc. nad throw it away.



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Post    Posted on: Sun Apr 17, 2005 9:53 am
Returning a bit to some of the earlier posts in this thread about using a shuttle derived launch vehicle, I found this article from Boeing that annouces they have signed a memorandom of understanding with NASA to look at shuttle derived designs.

http://www.boeing.com/defense-space/spa ... lition.pdf

I think that it has become more likely that a heavy launch vehicle will be developed using shuttle components with the fact that Micheal Griffin appears to be an advocate of this approach. With the pressure that will be applied by polititions to keep shuttle facilities open in their states and the manufacturers starting to lobby it seems almost inevitable that this will happen.

IMO I think that Delta IV heavy lift is no longer a possibility and that its use for the CEV is becoming more remote. If the majority of the bulk of the CEV remained in orbit and only a crew capsule was used to ferry the crew to and from it, then a much smaller and cheaper launch vehicle could be used. This would have the advantage that the CEV could act as an orbiting space station when not on a mission, the US DoD want to use the ISS for research but this might be a better solution for them both politically and from a security aspect.

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