12 comments

  • Anthony Domanico

    Robert,

    Good show! I thought Lockheed Martin made the Atlas family of rockets and the Delta family was made by Boeing. I’m really looking forward to your next appearance on The Space Show in late September. Any new responses to your paper Capitalism in Space?

  • Anthony Domanico: Did I do that again?! Grrr. I know that Lockheed Martin makes Atlas and Boeing makes Delta, but for some reason I repeatedly switch them by mistake.

  • Anthony Domanico: I have now put a post-it on my computer monitor, with “LM=Atlas” and “Boeing=Delta” in big letters. Now I will at have something to look at if I need to reference either again.

    As for “Capitalism in Space,” my impression recently is that others are using its recommendations to apply pressure to Congress. For example, during the last hearings before Cruz’s committee, the SpaceX guy’s recommendations for future government policy sounded like they had used my paper as a reference. Others in the earlier hearings did much the same.

    Similarly, the recently proposed House space bill appears to take my recommendations to heart, even if they didn’t get everything right.

    When it comes to government it takes time to change things. Elon Musk started out with SpaceX more than a decade ago. The first commercial contracts were awarded, with much opposition in Congress and within NASA, in 2008. It has taken almost a decade to get these people to begin to see the wisdom of letting the private sector run things, with NASA only being a customer. And even now they are still not completely convinced. The next three years should finish the game, for at least now.

  • wayne

    Can anyone direct me to a “family tree” of participant’s in the Space biz?
    Highly interested in the WW-2 to present, time-frame and progression.

    I was watching a von Karman lecture from JPL yesterday (broadly, “the history of JPL”) and I noted that “Aerojet Corp” had the first contract to produce jet assisted take off rockets, ca. 1943.
    (Which had been created by a group of JPL scientists.)

  • wayne

    “Putting the ‘P’ in ‘JPL’ The Past, Present, and Future of Propulsion at the JPL”
    von Karman lecture -2014
    https://youtu.be/TYllPCcOdVE
    (1:35:05)

  • mkent

    “I know that Lockheed Martin makes Atlas and Boeing makes Delta, but for some reason I repeatedly switch them by mistake.”

    “Made” — past tense. Both are now made by ULA.

    “Similarly, the recently proposed House space bill appears to take my recommendations to heart, even if they didn’t get everything right.”

    I know the blog format makes this hard to do, but do you have any way of having an ongoing discussion of your paper? It’s important work and deserves more than a few comments on a single post.

    As for me, I’ve started reading the paper three times but got interrupted each time before finishing it. I’m sure I’d like to comment on it when I do finish it, but there’s no point in commenting on the announcement post from back in February.

  • mkent wrote, “Both are now made by ULA,” in referring to the Atlas 5 and the Delta family of rockets.

    I wonder. I had assumed that either company could withdraw from the partnership if they decided it was in their best interest, taking their rockets with them. This assumption might be wrong. I should look into it, but if my readers know the answer to this I’d welcome some clarity.

    As for a place to comment on my paper, if you make a new comment in the March 19, 2017 announcement post, your comment will still appear in the list of new comments in the webpage’s right column. Others will see it and respond. Moreover, you will be commenting in the context of the other earlier comments there.

  • LocalFluff

    mkent
    ULA presents themselves as the transportation company. Not the manufacturers. If the rocket manufacturing of its owners doesn’t turn out well, they might allow ULA to arrange the launch of rockets from other suppliers too like Falcon, and Soyuz and Ariane which are shipped transatlantic anyway.

  • mkent

    “I had assumed that either company could withdraw from the partnership if they decided it was in their best interest, taking their rockets with them.”

    I suppose anything could be done with enough lawyers and accountants, but it wouldn’t be easy. All engineering has been consolidated into a single facility in Colorado, and nearly all manufacturing has been consolidated into a single facility in Alabama (only a few piece parts are made in Harlington, Texas). Delta II, Delta IV, Atlas V CCB, and Centaur — all in the same plant. It was true before, but with the layoffs last year and this year, Delta and Atlas share not just a roof but increasingly personnel, tooling, and processes as well.

    Even before the Vulcan announcement, ULA was moving to a common upper stage engine, common avionics, common ground support equipment, and then a common upper stage. Common payload fairings and SRBs have since been announced. Now with Vulcan you can add a common first stage, which will be a highly modified Atlas stage built on Delta tooling.

    It would be very difficult to split this baby now and will be nigh impossible in a few years with Vulcan. If ULA becomes untenable, it will be either shut down, spun off, or sold off to another company, IMO. Perhaps one of the parents will buy out the other, but I just don’t see a way to split them apart any more.

  • mkent

    “ULA presents themselves as the transportation company. Not the manufacturers. If the rocket manufacturing of its owners…”

    This is incorrect. ULA is both a manufacturing and transportation company. All engineering, manufacturing, procurement, and operations of both the Delta and Atlas launch vehicles resides with ULA. Lockheed retains only a sales office for commercial sales of the Atlas, having pulled out of International Launch Services (ILS) years ago. To my knowledge, Boeing is no longer offering the Delta in the commercial market.

    All engineering for both vehicles occurs in the ULA office in Colorado. All manufacturing for Delta II, Delta IV, Atlas V, and Centaur occurs at the ULA plant in Decatur, Alabama. With ULA’s recent partnership agreement with RUAG, fairing production will move to the Decatur plant as well.

    ULA is not (yet) as vertically integrated as SpaceX is, but they are far, far closer to SpaceX than they are to ILS, Starsem, or ArianeSpace.

  • mkent: Thank you. This answers my question quite well. It also supports my thought that Lockheed Martin’s new satellite factory is an indication that it realizes that it is increasingly out of the rocket and manned space business, which is why it is building that factory to focus on satellites instead.

  • mkent

    “This answers my question quite well. It also supports my thought that Lockheed Martin’s new satellite factory is an indication that it realizes that it is increasingly out of the rocket and manned space business, which is why it is building that factory to focus on satellites instead.”

    Actually, I think it’s an indication that Lockheed Martin was being frozen out of the commercial satellite business and they needed to do something grand to get back in.

    Unlike the other major American satellite builders (Boeing and Space Systems / Loral), Lockheed’s sat business is now nearly all government. They build planetary probes and spy satellites for the government. Even their “routine” satellites are government projects: GPS III, MUOS, AEHF, SBIRS, and GOES. I think they’ve only received a commercial order for one or two satellites the last five years.

    Contrast that with Boeing, who in addition to their GPS 2F, WGS, and TDRS work for the government, also builds many of the top-of-the-line commercial satellites: the Global Xpress series for Inmarsat, the Epic series for Intelsat, high-throughput satellites for Viasat, and all-electric satellites for numerous customers.

    Space Systems / Loral’s work is all commercial, or nearly so. I can’t offhand think of a single major government satellite program they’re prime contractor on.

    Not that I disagree with your overall point that Lockheed is losing out in the launch and manned space fields. I think it is. But their commercial satellite business has fallen off a cliff the last few years, and they need to do something grand to get it back. Maybe this is it.

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