Busy Monday Set for America’s Launch Providers

spacex_barge
Monday will be a busy day for two of America’s top launch providers.

The sixth SpaceX Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract is scheduled to launch on Monday at 4:33 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. NASA Television coverage of the launch begins at 3:30 p.m. EDT.

SpaceX will make another attempt to land the Falcon 9 first stage on a off-shore barge. There is currently a 60 percent chance of acceptable weather for the launch.

Meanwhile, United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno will unveil plans for its Next Generation Launch System on Monday at 4 p.m. during the 31st National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo.  Bruno will also announce the name of the booster, which was determined after a public vote in which more than one million votes were cast.

ULA will webcast the press conference at http://www.ulalaunch.com.

  • windbourne

    oh good job ULA.
    That will be sure to draw the True Believers out.

    So many of these companies need to learn how to work the web better.
    Simply being upfront and showing what you have, will get you a lot further (ala SpaceX) than these silly games that ULA and others play.

  • Matt

    I hope SpaceX will try landing without being strongly influenced by weather concerns. The idea of reuse of the first stage may decline if SpaceX always has to be very cautious about weather at landing site.

  • Michael J. Listner

    Says a true believer…

  • GreenShrike

    Once Falcon Heavy is flying, payloads that are marginal for F9 will fly on a FH with all three boosters returning to launch site (RTLS). As such, drone ship landings will be rare, mostly limited to catching the central core for high performance FH missions, and only the occasional F9 first stage.

    For RTLS missions, weather at the landing site will obviously match the launch site, so weather which would scratch the landing would also scratch the launch.

    For drone ship landings, I believe Elon has said something like they would launch without regard for the weather at the landing site, and expect to lose the core maybe 1/3rd of the time. I would imagine that the price of those launches would reflect the risk of booster loss, with adjustments based on their actual rate of successful recovery.

  • Matt

    Thank you for the detailed information.

  • therealdmt

    Well, when dealing with conditions on the ocean (local winds [with no obstructions], the resulting local wind chop, swell and even currents), the situation is much, much trickier than on land. Plus, as the main plain is to return most cores back to near the launch site area, if the weather was good enough to launch, it should be good enough for a landing 10 to 20 minutes later.

    Basically, these water landings that are needed to prove out the landing scenario are actually much, much trickier than the intended operational landings back on land near the launch site.

    Still, I do agree with your overall point; “The idea of reuse of the first stage may decline if SpaceX always has to be very cautious about weather at landing site.” Reuse must include being able to land in the most adverse allowed launch conditions, plus ideally a bit worse as conditions could deteriorate a bit after launching (for example, the winds pick up).

  • Douglas Messier

    How is building a brand new launch vehicle a silly game? They’re working with both Blue Origin and XCOR on new engines.

  • Gary Church

    plans for its Next Generation Launch System

  • Chief Galen Tyrol

    I watched Mr. Bruno’s presentation at Stanford earlier this year and got the distinct impression that their NGLS would reuse the first stage engine, recovery by hooking a parafoiling engine, but not reuse anything else. We’ll see how close that is Monday afternoon.

  • Gary Church

    I read about the helicopter recovery scheme but…..I don’t see that working very well. A self-wrapping sea-water proofing scheme with a bladder- and just recovering it at sea is in my view unavoidable. Ships with stern A-frames can recover them in fairly serious weather.

  • windbourne

    Building a new launch vehicle is not a silly game.
    Having the web name it, is a silly game.
    As it is, it is trivial to automate the voting for whoever wants to rig it.

    ULA would do better to have a publicists that puts pix/video on-line.
    Heck, Bigelow has done a better job of capturing the web than has ULA.

  • Gary Church

    As much as I scream about NewSpace having poisoned public opinion turned these forums into cesspools, it really does not matter that much. Political contributions and payback, jobs in congressional districts, and using the taxpayer to subsidize everything in pursuit of obscene profit is what matters. That we the unwashed masses of people are distracted enough to not cause any trouble is the the goal of P.R.

  • Gary Church

    The subject of reuse is a central focus for that segment of the population interested in space technology. It has always seemed extremely wasteful these expensive rockets are “expended.” It is one of the overlooked failures of Apollo that this expending of astronomically expensive equipment was never explained to the public in laymen terms. While analogies concerning space are truly a double-edged sword for which I have developed a great dislike, it sometimes becomes necessary to use them. The best rocket analogies I have come up with are variations of a car engine that will last being driven around the world several thousand times. Or taking the energy and fuel a truck engine produces and uses in a year of hard work and expending it in a few minutes. The point being that reuse is not simply a matter of figuring out a way of bringing the stuff back to reuse- the engines and stages are not designed to last. De-rating the engines and making the stages sturdy enough for reuse means lower performance in a system that already requires multiple stages to send relatively tiny payloads into space.

    There are really two “what if’s” that are enlightening concerning the Shuttle Program. And they both beg the question of yet another “what if.” The first is the proposal for pressure fed boosters instead of solid fuel. They would not have been segmented and would have been recovered at sea like the SRB’s and brought back in one piece to be reused. They probably would have used methane, been more powerful, and more than “broke even.” The second was the repeated proposal for a cargo version that did not need the Orbiter.

    These versions of history give rise to the question of “what if” a different configuration of the Space Transportation System had gone into service that used those ocean recovered pressure-fed boosters, and the existing second stage of the Saturn V, but with a single large engine based on the Aerojet M-1. What all these scenarios lead up to is something quite similar to the re-inventing of the wheel that is going on now. Nothing new under the sun; even the same old appeal to greed by proposing unworkable and impractical schemes which always make money for those peddling and always lose money for those investing.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    As you probably know, later this year there will be an upgrade to the Merlin 1D performance and a 10% increase in the second stage tank sizes. These changes will enable 1st stage recovery for GEO launches and, more importantly, boostback to the launch site. Returning to the launch site effectively eliminates the weather issues associated with distant ocean landings. (Presumably, use of the Falcon architecture will still involve the need for some barge landings in a minority of cases.)

  • Douglas Messier

    Whatever Gary. Please post elsewhere.

  • Matt

    Yes, I remember. I cross the finger for SpaceX’s success, but I think it will need about 2 years from now that we be able to draw an intermediate conclusion about applicability of SpaceX’s reuse scheme.

  • windbourne

    I have not been able to tune into NSF for a while ( too busy ).
    What increase to merlin and how are they doing it?

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    There’s a number of conflicting figures being reported/quoted, but it’s in the region of 15-30% extra thrust, with 20% being the most popular guesstimate. Apparently SpaceX have not been running the 1D at max design power – precise details are presumably proprietary. SES to GEO will be the first mission in the balls-out mode, sometime June-July..ish.

  • Valerij Gilinskij

    Fundamental conclusion we can do now – this method is real. This is proved by practice. There are problems specific technical design.

    I do not think that the Falcon 9 will provide great economic benefit of reusability. But it will establish the next generation of missiles.

  • Valerij Gilinskij

    Gary, go to hell.

  • Hug Doug

    Mid-air retrieval (both with fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters) has been achievable since the 1960s. Film canisters from the Corona and Gambit spy satellites were recovered with this technique.

    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Keyhole_capsule_recovery.jpg#/media/File:Keyhole_capsule_recovery.jpg

  • windbourne

    ????
    Why would re-using the F9’s first stage NOT provide economic benefits, and more importantly, why do you think that the next generation of missiles would be liquid based?
    RIght now, all of ours are solid fuel.

  • Gary Church

    It did not work very well.

  • Gary Church

    Урод!

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    I’ve calculated, based on a few reasonable assumptions, that regularly using each first stage twice (i.e. one reuse) could result in a cost reduction of $5-10 million. Regularly using a first stage 10 times (i.e. 9 reuses) could result in a cost reduction of $25-40 million.

    I think “missiles” is a general term and slight contextual translation error for “rockets” – not missiles as in weapons.

  • Hug Doug

    My point is that the mid-air retrieval of film canisters worked perfectly well on several occasions. Yes, it’s dependent on the weather, but you seemed to be under the impression that it wouldn’t work at all. My post was simply meant to inform you that it can.

  • Gary Church

    As usual, you are making stuff up. I “seemed to be under the impression that it wouldn’t work at all”???

    Anyone can read what I wrote: NOT VERY WELL. Why do you even reply to my comments? I am really tired of your B.S.

  • Hug Doug

    Thanks to my helpful post, you should now see that it can work well.

    I reply because your comments are typically filled with ignorance and insults. You are a bully, Gary, and both ignorance and bullies must be countered.

  • Valerij Gilinskij

    I do not think that the reuse of Falcon 9 first stage will give a GREAT economic effect due to the need to sufficiently long service of rocket engines that use kerosene.

    I’m talking about the next generation of rockets from SpaceX. Switching to methane will significantly reduce the cost of delivery man / payload into orbit.

  • Steve Ksiazek

    Read more details on other sites, and you can ignore the silly name the rocket game if you wish. It’s no sillier than the constant “name that SpaceX launch party thread” or the constant fanboi polls of trying to guess how many SpaceX launches this year on NSF.
    Tony Bruno has been better at PR than his predecessor. The fact is they were not only talking about a new launcher, but also a new commercial pricing model that should help them compete in the next decade. Maybe it moves them closer to the SpaceX model, with a “base price”, and then a bunch of ala-carte options that get added for customers like the DOD who are risk-adverse, and require more insight into the manufacture / design / and detailed cost accounting for each mission.
    So, ignore the PR side of the company, since they have always sucked at that. Take a step back, and try to determine if ULA’s long range plan makes sense. Remember that Musk only talks about going to Mars. ULA has already sent several successful missions there.

  • Hug Doug

    I’m given to understand there are some minor improvements to the turbopump, as well as they have been running the Merlin 1D at lower throttle levels. They are also planning to chill the RP-1 before propellant loading, and the increased propellant density, along with the previous items, is probably the source of the conflicting numbers. The overall result is that there will be a significant performance boost with fairly minimal changes to the rocket (other than the stretched tankage).

  • Larry J

    The Air Force performed the canister mid-air retrieval operation for about 25 years. In that time, they got the technique of snagging those film return canisters down to a science. The squadron that was trained and equipped for the mission was finally disbanded when the final film-return satellite was destroyed in a Titan 34D launch failure in 1986. They used a specially equipped C-130 for the mission which was much more capable than the C-119 shown in your photo. I don’t know how well a C-130 could handle snagging a much larger rocket engine assembly. You might have to go with a more powerful plane like a C-17.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Yeah, the throttling was the only one I was somewhat aware of. Wasn’t sure about the chilling the propellents. I know the plan is to deep chill LOX and CH4 for Raptor/BFR/???, but don’t recall reading bout chilling the RP1, so that’s news to me. Halliwell, Musk and Shotwell have all said bits and pieces or been quoted. Perhaps 15% is the low throttling, 20% is what they need and 30% is all improvements maxed out. Hope messing with the turbopump don’t adversely affect reliability.

  • Hug Doug

    Weather Scrub for the launch of CRS-6

  • Hug Doug

    Yeah, part of the confusion is definitely the piecemeal nature of good / non-speculation information distribution, which gets mixed up with the speculation.

    Source is Elon Musk for propellant densification, though:

    “Musk said SpaceX is not planning any major revisions to the Falcon 9, though minor changes are expected to yield improved performance in the near-term.

    “For example, we’ll be chilling the propellant to densify it, to get more propellant load for the given volume,” he said, adding that other minor mass improvements would be aided by the removal of sensors and associated wiring used to gather data on the new rocket’s early flights.”

    http://aviationweek.com/blog/falcon-9-performance-mid-size-geo

  • windbourne

    Ula really has little to do with mars, moon, etc. Once the sat is on its way, the have nothing to do with it.

    At this point, spacex has a better record than ULa does, and is pushing advanced development.

    Now, keep in mind, that I want ula to succeed. But even now, Bruno is being a bozo and talking about moving ula to Alabama. Not too bright.