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Space X - Falcon 9 replacing Delta 2, Culled from MSL discussions
Mariner9
post Sep 23 2007, 02:41 PM
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In general I consider Ave Week to be a more reliable media source than CNN or FOX, but I see your point.

And the whole issue of launch price inflation is a scary one right now, with the cancellation of the Delta II line.

I don't recall where I read this, but apparently the fear is that the switch to ELVs will put the base cost of a launch at 120 million. I think Delta II was in the 70 million range. So right there, the rise of Discovery mission cap from 350 - 425 Million just got mostly swallowed by the launch vehicle.

I have read that NASA is trying to figure out a way to mitigate that, but I don't know that they've come up with anything practical.
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djellison
post Sep 23 2007, 05:25 PM
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Perhaps the Falcon 9 will be able to step in for that scale of launch - it has a similar performance to that of the Delta II.

Doug
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mchan
post Sep 23 2007, 09:39 PM
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QUOTE (Mariner9 @ Sep 23 2007, 07:41 AM) *
And the whole issue of launch price inflation is a scary one right now, with the cancellation of the Delta II line.

I don't recall where I read this, but apparently the fear is that the switch to ELVs will put the base cost of a launch at 120 million. I think Delta II was in the 70 million range. So right there, the rise of Discovery mission cap from 350 - 425 Million just got mostly swallowed by the launch vehicle.

I have read that NASA is trying to figure out a way to mitigate that, but I don't know that they've come up with anything practical.


What is meant by "cancellation" here? Has there been a decision regarding the launchers that have been manufactured but are unassigned to missions? When the Air Force stops contributing to the launch operations infrastructure, is NASA also dropping operations? Is it public knowledge when the Air Force will cease Delta II operations?

The publicly unknown numbers here are whether the incremental costs of continued operation of the launch infrastructure exceeds those of terminating Delta II operations for a small number of launches and switching the payloads to the higher cost EELV.

QUOTE (djellison @ Sep 23 2007, 10:25 AM) *
Perhaps the Falcon 9 will be able to step in for that scale of launch - it has a similar performance to that of the Delta II.


I _hope_ so. It would be great to get Delta II launch capabilities for less than half the cost of a Delta II if the projected prices hold up. But considering that Falcon 1 has not had a fully successful flight, and metal has not been bent for a Falcon 9 (as far as I know), I can only hope.
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djellison
post Sep 23 2007, 09:53 PM
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QUOTE (mchan @ Sep 23 2007, 10:39 PM) *
and metal has not been bent for a Falcon 9 (as far as I know), I can only hope.


http://spacex.com/updates.php#Falcon9Update081507
"A few months ago, we completed serial number 1 of the first stage primary structure assembly of Falcon 9."
...
" We delivered the first engine bay assembly to Texas and installed it into the structural test stand above"
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mchan
post Sep 23 2007, 10:19 PM
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That's great. Hope all goes well with their upcoming launches.
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edstrick
post Sep 24 2007, 07:58 AM
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"Perhaps the Falcon 9 will be able to step in for that scale of launch"

Remember <ancient history here> the NOVA program "The Rocky Road to Jupiter"... the story of the Galileo Project's pre-launch journeys from 1 non-existent launch vehicle to another.

Never design a $ mission for an unproven vehicle. If one's ready when you actually need it and is better for you than the original choice, go with it.
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Rakhir
post Sep 24 2007, 08:24 AM
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By the time of MSL launch, if everything is picture perfect for Falcon 9 program (no failure, no delay), they should have launched about 4 times, with a maiden flight less than a year before MSL launch.
It is quite risky for a 1.7 billion $ mission with a short launch window.
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djellison
post Sep 24 2007, 10:52 AM
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I don't think anyone was suggesting MSL go on an F9 (MSL is already designed to fly on an Atlas V) - the F9 was mentioned as a possible replacement in the future for missions that would otherwise have flown on a Delta II.

Doug
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djellison
post Sep 24 2007, 03:42 PM
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Note I didn't say 'Falcon 9 CAN...' or 'Falcon 9 IS' or 'Falcon 9 Will, without fail, definitely'...I said 'Perhaps Falcon 9 will'. Not a statement of current performance, but an expectation of future performance. Indeed - Falcon 9 and Delta II do have similar performance figures. Fact. What they don't have is similar proven performance.

Personally, I really really think that this being a forum - semantics should be left at the door smile.gif

Doug
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dvandorn
post Sep 24 2007, 04:46 PM
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Point taken, Doug. I was just struck by the phrase "it has similar performance" when it currently has nothing. You have to have a vehicle in order for it to be able to perform... *smile*...

But yes, if Falcon 9 does work as advertised, it could well step in and fill the void that will be left by the Delta II's retirement. I'm still convinced that we need launch vehicles of the Atlas V / Delta IV class that don't cost $100-million-plus. MSL *could* be scaled down to be able to be launchable on a Delta II, but it would then be more of a MER-with-an-RTG than a larger, more capable vehicle.

Recall that the MERs pushed the Delta II capability right to the limits, and wouldn't have been easily flyable on that vehicle had the orbital dynamics not been so favorable in 2003. And with a Delta II, New Horizons would be arriving at Pluto sometime in the 2030's -- or would be carrying a single engineering camera, if that.

It's difficult to design a capable spacecraft when you have a $350 million budget and your launch vehicle is going to cost you nearly half that... especially when you really need a more powerful launcher than is available for less than $100 million. If y'all want to keep having to play mass-budget games that result in, for example, killing off the Raman spectrometer on the MERs or similar trade-offs, then I guess it's OK to try and find a Delta II replacement. But I'd rather see reliable LVs of the Delta IV / Atlas V class which can be purchased and flown for $50 million or less.

-the other Doug


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djellison
post Sep 24 2007, 05:09 PM
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QUOTE (dvandorn @ Sep 24 2007, 05:46 PM) *
But I'd rather see reliable LVs of the Delta IV / Atlas V class which can be purchased and flown for $50 million or less.


http://spacex.com/falcon9_heavy.php
Same sort of performance as the full Delta IV/Atlas V range.

Not quite $50m a pop - but the discovery program library puts the price of 5-9 tons to LEO at $148m. Space X are hoping for $55m for the bottom of that range - $90m for up to 11 tons.

Doug
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Jim from NSF.com
post Sep 25 2007, 11:21 AM
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QUOTE (dvandorn @ Sep 24 2007, 12:46 PM) *
But I'd rather see reliable LVs of the Delta IV / Atlas V class which can be purchased and flown for $50 million or less.

-the other Doug


They exist, they are at the same place you get $.50/gallon gas and $.25 hamburger. Or better yet, they are sold at the place next to the place that has unicorns, dodo birds and dinosaurs
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Jim from NSF.com
post Sep 25 2007, 11:29 AM
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QUOTE (mchan @ Sep 23 2007, 05:39 PM) *
What is meant by "cancellation" here? Has there been a decision regarding the launchers that have been manufactured but are unassigned to missions? When the Air Force stops contributing to the launch operations infrastructure, is NASA also dropping operations? Is it public knowledge when the Air Force will cease Delta II operations?


It is public knowledge that the USAF will cease Delta II operations.
1. No more Delta II contracts
2. GPS are manifested on EELV's
3. Several statement by the USAF to the effect

NASA doesn't own any "launchers that have been manufactured but are unassigned to missions"

NASA has yet to pay for east coast launch operations infrastructure. It will after the last GPS flies and until the last NASA mission flies. NASA has no East coast launches after 2008. NASA isn't manifesting anymore Delta II.
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Jim from NSF.com
post Sep 25 2007, 11:36 AM
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QUOTE (djellison @ Sep 23 2007, 01:25 PM) *
Perhaps the Falcon 9 will be able to step in for that scale of launch - it has a similar performance to that of the Delta II.

Doug


It won't be usable for NASA missions for a while, since it does meet NPD 8610.7C Launch Services Risk Mitigation Policy for NASA-Owned and/or NASA-Sponsored Payloads/Missions
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nprev
post Sep 25 2007, 12:33 PM
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Jim, I assume that SpaceX intends to pursue qualification of F9 in accordance with this standard eventually, though, yes? Do you think this will significantly drive costs upward?


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A few will take this knowledge and use this power of a dream realized as a force for change, an impetus for further discovery to make less ancient dreams real.
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