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Thinking about COTS' boundaries

Posted by: Ekkehard Augustin - Thu Nov 01, 2007 12:59 pm
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Thinking about COTS' boundaries 
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Post Thinking about COTS' boundaries   Posted on: Thu Nov 01, 2007 12:59 pm
COTS obviously is limited to LEO and in particular to the ISS.

I am wondering if that's reasonable really. COTS is meant to free NASA from investments and costs for flights to the ISS for that period of time at least where the Shuttle is retired already but no alternative NASA-vehicle available yet.

But NASA has budget-problems they want to get rid of.

So they should have extended COTS to everything in the solar system but limited to rockets, crew vehicles and cargos. They should lease vehicles or rockets (SpaceX Falcon for example) perhaps or book them for several future dates.

COTS will result in manned vehicles - which could be applied to get lunar crews into orbit instead of doing that by Ares1/Orion. Orion could be kept in orbit and the EDS only would be required.

Another point is that SpaceX's Falcon 9 Heavy can place a satellite into GEO - so NASA could have extended COTS to getting interplanetary probes accelerated beyond escape velocity.

COTS should have extended to carriers in general - not only to carriers into LEO.



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Post    Posted on: Thu Nov 01, 2007 1:23 pm
Well, NASA *is* buying rockets for their probes etc.

Delta II, Atlas 5, Delta IV are neither NASA developments nor property. So Falcon 9 (in case it will fly successfully!) is just another rocket they perhaps buy for future missions.

But they can buy this rocket only after it demonstrated success, otherwise NASA ends up with probes / satellites without a launcher.

Another comment: Not every rocket capable of putting a lot into GEO / GTO is well suited for escape missions as the mission profiles are a lot different.

The basic point is: NASA can't rely on COTS as long as it wasn't successful (-> Rocketplane Kistler!). COTS is one of the first NASA programs since a long time where "failure *is* an option".

Just imagine what would be up if NASA now goes for COTS as their Orion replacement and SpaceX or a second contender [censored] up and NASA has nothing.

Btw probes (as well as satellites) from NASA are sometimes based on commercially available satellite busses. I can remember a probe based on the 2100 design from Lockheed Martin.

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Post    Posted on: Thu Nov 01, 2007 1:42 pm
Hello, Klaus,

I didn't have in mind NASA to buy Falcons but simply reserve flights for NASA.

In that case they wouldn't need to by a rocket but would buy flights only.

This way they cheaply could get their probes etc. in to space. As far as kick-stages or so a required these would be carried via the bought flights also but still be owned by NASA or their partners.

Reagrding the success-argument - I am talking about the concept of COTS. The actual concept seems to NOT assist the achievements aimed at to be available beyond LEO also which is a pity in my eyes.



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Post    Posted on: Thu Nov 01, 2007 3:32 pm
I don't think COTS, as the idea, will be over as soon as someone completes the tasks.

If it's successful, and NASA has a use for it, a new "COTS 2.0" (change the name to whatever new competition you can think of) will come. Doing things in iterations are always good. It gives you the opportunity to do somethings, and when they're finished, look back and review it for anything that could have been done differently, and then start the next step.

Having "competitions" for going beyond LEO before you know that private ones can reach LEO is hoping for too much I think.

It's exactly how things are being developed.


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Post    Posted on: Thu Nov 01, 2007 4:32 pm
First about the "buying": Sorry, where's the difference between NASA paying Boeing to glue their Mars Phoenix atop a Delta II and shoot it into space or paying SpaceX (besides the costs perhaps)?

About the current COTS "competition": Currently the competition calls for only two demo flights (SpaceX wants to do an additional third) and that's it. After that potential successful demonstration NASA may issue a new contract about delivering freight to the ISS or other targets and the COTS winner won't have any advantage or right to do that (I think as it's a new contract that would be forbidden in the US).

Theoretically the NASA would have the right to order Dragons (built by Boeing then) from Boeing. (Or insert any other company name you like or dislike ;) )

Remember the Orion contract? The companies got a "design competition" contract for a the CEV and NASA selected the Boeing design and gave the contract to build it to Lockheed Martin.

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Post    Posted on: Fri Nov 02, 2007 10:13 am
Hello, Klaus,

as far as I am informed NASA really has ordered the Phoenix from Boeing and the equipment was designed by NASA scientists regarding the wanted or required capabilities at least - in difference to a launch this is a product but no service.

The Delta is an expendable rocket - since it must be applied but can be applied only once it is not sure if the Delta is a product bought by NASA or a product left in Boeing's property. But that question is irrelevant because the Delta is required nonetheless to do the service NASA may have bought the Delta or the service it does.

But at SpaceX and the Falcons it is quite clear that NASA buys the service but not the rocket. The Falcons are intended to do the service several times each - and each Falcon remains in SpaceX's property. The first services of the Falcon 9 are already paid by NASA as part of the COTS-money as I remember.

SpaceX's Dragon also will be reusable - so there will be no need to produce one per flight. And SpaceX will own the property right on the design, technology etc. So Boeing mustn't produce unless they pay for licences got from SpaceX.



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Post    Posted on: Fri Nov 02, 2007 10:47 am
If the Dragon spacecraft are reusable then NASA could purchase flights the same way that it uses SpaceHab's modules with the shuttle.

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Post    Posted on: Fri Nov 02, 2007 11:10 am
Ok, when you go for reusability I can understand it. But currently (Musk said that but I guess it's difficult to find it) SpaceX wants the Falcon just fly. After they get it "perfected" they then want to look again into reusability they said.

About NASA: They buy launch services. In the case of Boeing and Lockheed Martin they would give their spacecraft (they can't lease it as it needs custom-made instruments etc and it would be difficult for a planetary probe to be reusable) to the ULA for integration in a ULA supplied launcher, NASA chose as appropriate for their mission.

The only launcher NASA "owns" basically (although on paper it's the United Space Alliance, selling the service! back to NASA) is the Shuttle.

Of course the big difference between Falcon and Shuttle is the army of people needed to operate the Shuttle.

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Post    Posted on: Sat Nov 03, 2007 4:35 am
Hi Klaus,
As I understand it SpaceX already has a contract with DOD for up to $100M worth of unspecified launches if DOD wants to take them up. And NASA can order launches with SpaceX at anytime.
However there is no urgency for them to do that yet as Falcon 1 has yet to make a successful flight (though the system has tested out OK) and Falcon 9 has yet to fly at all.

All SpaceX requires is 8 months notice to contract a launch, so NASA (or anyone else) can buy launch spots at any time.

I am confident that once SpaceX has Falcon 9 fully operational NASA, like everybody else, is going to see pricepoint as the deciding factor in choice of launch vehicle.

The most interesting thing is what is going to happen to ULA. At the moment they are keeping their fingers crossed and hoping that SpaceX will flop.

If SpaceX doesn't flop, then Atlas and Delta have flown their last flights, and ULA are out of business unless they can get their costs down massively, and NOW.

But I'm betting on SpaceX.

Even so ULA are big companies and should be able to do something if they set their minds to it. SpaceX might have a window of a year or three to establish themselves, as market leaders, but you can bet someone will be challenging them on price by 2015. Then you really have New Space

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Post    Posted on: Sat Nov 03, 2007 8:49 am
Well ULA I think won't be out of the game as first they have from the NASA side missions on Delta and Atlas rockets until nearly 2020 (see my NASA Projects Status).

Then the more important factor I think is the US military. They always wanted not only one launch vehicle but at least two so that they don't end grounded when one rocket is due to whatever out of service. That was also the reason why they gave both, Atlas V and Delta 4, contracts for launches.

Normally one would choose only one of them.

Of course SpaceX should end more or less cheaper, my point here just was that NASA already orders launch services.

One side comment: For SpaceX it would be quite good to enter commercial operations as fast as possible as the launchers currently available for commercial launches are in short supply:

Proton (ILS) had that failure and is trying to regain lost confidence in about 2 weeks, Sea Launch with the Zenit 3-SL is the same case. Also both companies repeatedly fight rumors about leaving business.

Ariane 5 is the big player and booked out for years even though they are increasing launch rate from 6 to 8 a year. Soyuz and the Indian GSLV are only capable of launching smaller payloads. Delta 4, Atlas V and H-2A are too expensive. Finally, the Chinese are banned by the US from launching any US component.

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Post    Posted on: Fri Mar 14, 2008 11:14 am
According to Leonard David there seem to be interesting talks. In his BLOG-entry about lunar science nodes under www.space.com he says
Quote:
... BTW: An increasing buzz here at the meeting is to look for a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS)-like concept for NASA to buy private-sector lunar services.




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