Archive for the ‘EELV’ Category

Delta IV As It Looked Carrying DSP-23

Busy hands are happy hands (within reason) I often say.

Therefore, the NRO should have happy hands based on the two ops they have coming up.

The link speculates about the NROL-32 and 49 missions which will ride on a pair of Delta IVs and are in the launch queue for October and January 2011 respectively.

Boeing's Delta IV

Well, this will be interesting. Stand by for some alphabet soup.

First, the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) says Boeing needs to reimburse $72 million it has already received.

Next, DCAA says the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA, not to be confused with DCAA) should notify the joint Boeing-Lockheed Martin venture called the United Launch Alliance (ULA) that there are another $199 million in unallowable costs (that are pending reimbursement) that the government won’t pay.  Got all that?

The work in question was done was for the Air Force as far back as 1998.

Given the complexity of monster-sized programs like EELV, the two main contractors, the joint venture, the who-knows-how-many subs, and the multi-year time frame, unpacking this all had to be–to say the least–a challenging audit to close on.

DCMA is now reviewing DCAA’s audit recommendation and a final decision is planned for November.

EELVs Provide Margin; Margin Allows For Scheduling Flexibility

I think the new strategy–basically to match a spacecraft to a boosters six to twelve months out based on spacecraft readiness–is enabled by the studly to-orbit capabilities of the Delta IV and Atlas V EELV vehicles.

I’m guessing both families of boosters have enough margin that they can wait until later in the scheduling process to be matched with a spacecraft versus the traditional way of  matching much earlier on based on which booster was the best fit (or the only fit) to get a particular satellite on orbit.

This flexibility allows a spacecraft to go to either a Delta IV or an Atlas V and avoids committing to one versus the other two years in advance.

The idea makes plenty of sense.  The only ones who might lose out will be those secondary and orphan types of payloads looking for a cheap(er) ride to space.

Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin supports many of the principles the administration has called for regarding NASA and he’s given some thought on how to move the nation forward in space.

Mr. Aldrin identifies a number of important ideas, but IMHO the three most important goals he calls for include 1) an increased presence and use of commercial space, 2) manned missions beyond low earth orbit, and 3) unlocking the economic/scientific promise of space.

Included in his proposal would be an Executive Order leading to a man-rated EELV.  Of course just such a gap-filler this has been considered (by many) and rejected (by NASA) in the past as not meeting their needs.

Now the needs have changed and massive programmatic whipsawing is occurring.  The challenge will be in generating administration, NASA, and Congressional enthusiasm for a man-rated EELV.

BTW, haven’t we pretty fully explored low earth orbit?

Groan.  Wasn’t the shuttle a reusable booster?  Didn’t EELV promise cost savings?

Here’s the link to the Aviation Week article…

When I read about savings of over 50%, I think about EELV and the cost savings it was asserted to create.  EELV was a massive ‘cost avoidance’ program, that is, by creating and using new families of launch vehicles, the USAF could get away from brutally expensive ‘heritage’ systems like the Titan IV.

Of course, the savings–the cost avoidance–never materialized.  Paper rockets are cheap and things cost more and more as they move further away from Powerpoint.

EELV’s cost problem was rooted in the bogus assumption there would be lots of EELV launches and ergo, plenty of cost sharing and a low per-unit expense. These were, of course, all wrong.  Its advocates didn’t see that foreign launch competitors, with advantageous labor rates, subsidization, and greatly reduced regulatory entanglements, would end up as the  way for commercial users to go.

Give the SpaceX and Microcosms of the world a chance to compete.  Reusable if it makes sense, expendable if it doesn’t.

Yesterday was a visit with three very smart men from Microcosm in Hawthorne.  They are very focused on reducing the cost to get to space and have an outstanding combination of innovative ideas and beneficial and simplified technologies.  These include significant innovations in fiber-based tank systems for fuels and oxidizers.  They also include highly simplified rocket engines (no turbopump) and nozzle systems.  Additionally, their systems are as environmentally benign as they come.

The follow-up was a tour of the Space X facility, also in Hawthorne, this time with two very smart guys.  Space X manufactures about 70+percent of the booster there in their own facility to include making their own rocket engines.  As the cost of the EELV family of vehicles continue to rise above all expectations, Space X appears to be very well poised to move beyond their current commercial model of supporting/demonstrating capability for NASA and into the traditional launch hardware and launch services needed by DoD users. 

Couldn’t take any pictures, but two really excellent tours.

The bottom line: the shuttle won’t retire on time and its replacement won’t be ready on time. Those are some preliminary findings of the U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, led by Norm Augustine and briefed by former astronaut Sally Ride.

In total, the delays could add another year without a U.S. provided ride to the ISS. That gap could be mitigated by adding one or more shuttle missions. Man-rating the Delta IV EELV won’t change the timelines appreciably.

The ISS may be a beneficiary of this review. The ISS is planned for deorbit in 2016, but the panel seems poised to advocate it stay on orbit longer. Why? Because the planned deorbit might hurt NASA partners and “U.S. leadership in space.”

I cringe at that type of attitude. Rather, what should be considered is how (or if) our partners are helping us achieve the ISS’s objectives and what could be done if we didn’t have to support the money-sucking ISS.