Social Media Sidebar

Announcement

Please sign up, comment on articles and bring your friends!

Current poll

PlanetTech is asking:

What do you think about our new web site?

Love it, indeed
Really good solution
Same as old one
The old one was better
This is a new option

Quote of the day

'By far the greatest danger of Artificial Intelligence is that people conclude too early that they understand it'

 

Eliezer Yudkowsky

ULA developing 'space trucks' to ferry cargo in an orbital economy

RATE THIS! +22
Posted in Science on 29th Aug, 2016 11:47 PM by AlexMuller

The big kahuna of American rocket companies is the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin that until this year held a monopoly on the lucrative business of launching rockets for the US Air Force. But that monopoly is no more as new space companies progress.

 

The company faces a new era of competition as Elon Musk’s maturing SpaceX aims to fly more space missions in one year than ULA does, and as Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin breaks ground on a new factory for orbital rockets.

 

ULA, for its part, isn’t sitting still. “I came here to transform the company, position it in this new competitive marketplace with all these different players,” says Tony Bruno, who took the CEO job at ULA in August 2014 after a three-decade career in Lockheed’s missile-defense business.
 
In his first full year in charge, ULA returned more than $400 million in operating profits to its two owners, but the company must prepare for when its final no-bid launch contract expires in 2019. One “game changer” that’s key to Bruno’s plan? Space trucks.
 
When Elon Musk founded SpaceX, he brought two key virtues that had been missing in aerospace: A Silicon Valley style of leanness amid all the cushy government contract margins, and a visionary belief that investments in reusable rockets would be justified by a wave of space businesses involving customers beyond traditional government clients.
 
ULA is learning from both ideas. Bruno has responded to the competitive challenge with better blocking and tackling, ”we’ve taken about 36% percent of the costs out of our supply chain”, and a vision, rivaling Musk’s in its ambition, of a growing economy between the Earth and the moon.
 
In ULA’s conception, humans will begin living and working in orbit during the next five years, building the infrastructure for space mining and exploration that will culminate with lunar colonies before 2050.
 
If that sounds far-fetched, consider that the first private mission to the moon is expected to take place next year, and the first private spacecraft is likely to start ferrying humans into low-earth orbit by 2019.
 
Key to all of this is making it cheaper to actually get to space. As of 2015, SpaceX was able to cut the retail cost of its rockets to less than $100 million, as low as $62 million for certain commercial launches, while the cheapest ULA rocket costs $164 million to fly. Those numbers alone explain how SpaceX shook up the market, though ULA notes that the upstart can’t match its 100% record for reliability.
 
Either way, ULA is building a whole new launch system, called Vulcan, to compete. ULA has its own plans for reusing its new rocket, and fittingly, they take almost the opposite tack of SpaceX.
 
Rockets tend to follow a predictable construction that combine two “stages,” each with its own engine or engines, a large first stage that carries the rocket into space, and a smaller one that takes whatever the rocket is carrying to its destination.
 
SpaceX has been trying to reuse the big first stage of the rocket, generally the most expensive section. Its engineers designed the rocket to land on the ground after flight, and the company plans to re-fly one for the first time this fall.
 
ULA is instead looking to the second stage of the rocket as a source of cost-savings and efficiency. Only ULA wouldn’t relaunch the used stage from Earth.
 
“We realized that you don’t have to bring it back in order for it to be reusable,” Bruno says. “That’s the big paradigm change in the way that you look at the problem, if you have an upper stage that stays on orbit and is reusable.”
 
That’s the concept behind ACES, for Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage, the reusable stage ULA is developing. It looks like a fat little fuel tank with four rocket motors on the end, but it has some special characteristics.
 
It’s specially insulated to better store fuel in space, its simplified electrical system cuts weight, and most importantly, it can be re-started and re-fueled while in space. All together, the new technology means that the stage could wait around in orbit for weeks or months before moving around its next cargo load.
 
“One you get to [low-Earth orbit], you’ve used two-thirds of the energy to be anywhere in the solar system,” Bruno says. In ULA’s vision, you could fly a spacecraft “that was so heavy or so gigantic that your biggest rocket could barely get it to LEO, then one of these reusable upper stages that’s already up in space can swoop down and grab it and take it to its final destination.”

Tags: spaceorbitULAhardwarebusiness

Read original article » Back to category

Comments



 

Recent headlines

  • Posted in Science on 2017-03-22 07:41:30
    'Smallsats' open up new planetary frontier..read more
    Posted in Science on 2017-03-22 07:36:45
    Trump signs NASA funding bill, sets goal of human on Mars..read more
    Posted in Medicine on 2017-03-22 07:30:04
    A Groundbreaking Stem Cell Treatment Just Prevented a.....read more
    Posted in Hardware on 2017-03-21 18:16:58
    Improved materials for interfacing neural tissue with.....read more
    Posted in Science on 2017-03-21 18:11:10
    SpaceX to make history by re-flying orbital rocket..read more
Posted in Business on 2013-10-10 01:33
China is working towards a manned lunar mission in about.....read more
Posted in Business on 2013-10-20 07:17
Spacex says China is their main competitor for commercial.....read more
Posted in Software on 2013-10-20 06:43
Pirate Bay Browser Clocks 1,000,000 Downloads..read more
Posted in Medicine on 2013-10-10 02:10
Google reportedly investing hundreds of millions into new.....read more
Posted in Medicine on 2013-10-14 03:13
Endothelial Cells Can Repair and Regenerate Organs,.....read more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
Spacex says China is their main competitor for commercial.....read more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
Staring at Your Phone Could Be Making You Short Sighted..read more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
Oculus Rift virtual reality headset coming to mobile, but.....read more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
China is working towards a manned lunar mission in about.....read more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
Delivering drugs via nanoparticles to target mitochondria..read more

Recent Blog Posts

  • Posted by AlexMuller
    Intensive medical treatment can reverse type 2 diabetes..read more
    Posted by AlexMuller
    Daily consumption of tea protects the elderly from cognitive.....read more
    Posted by AlexMuller
    New analysis method of metabolites accurately predicts whether.....read more
    Posted by AlexMuller
    Unproven stem cell 'therapy' blinds three patients at Florida.....read more
    Posted by AlexMuller
    Indigenous South American group has healthiest arteries of all.....read more

Login to your Account

Login to your PlanetTech Account here

Username:
Password:
Remember me
or

Create a New Account

You just need username and password

The following errors occured:
Username:
Email:
Password:
Verify password:
Remember me