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Heavy Lift Is Needed

in the good old days...
by Jeff Wright
Pinson AL (SPX) Sep 24, 2004
I was disturbed by the anti-Heavy Lift sentiment expressed by Don Robertson in the Sept. 20 issue ("No Need for New Launchers Now "). He could not be more wrong. The key to lower launch costs is not launch frequency, but delivery in bulk. We do not see motorboats crossing the Atlantic with goods, but very large containerships plying the waves.

The EELVs cannot in fact lift over one-fifth of the Saturn V's 130-140 tons to LEO. The EELV is an albatross- no better than the near-extinct Titan IV it replaces. The critics of ISS forget that the big reason behind the constant delay of ISS is the fact that it is assembled 20 tons at a time.

A modular HLLV, like Energiya, that had the hydrogen engines under the External Tank (ET), could carry a simple Buran-type orbiter, or swap it out with 100 ton payload pods. Five of those and ISS would have been finished years ago.

The critics of HLLVs also don't seem to understand the term 'margin.' It would take five three-core Delta IV 'heavies'- with one RS-68 hydrogen engine per core- to place 100 tons to LEO in five launches of 20 tons each.

This means you would have to throw 15 RS-68 engines away. I can place 100 tons into orbit, expending only three or four RS-68s mounted under our External Tank in an Energiya type system, that has engine-out capability- unlike the EELVs.

If one of an HLLV's hydrogen engines go out, I can burn the others longer. This cannot be done with the Delta IV. The RS-68- a good engine- now has had trouble with turbopumps before, so some engine-out capability should be mandatory.

The Delta IV has been taken out of the commercial launch market, and Boeing's largest commercial rocket is now the Sea Launch booster, Zenit - which started life as the Energiya HLLV liquid-fueled strap-on booster. The two-nozzle version of the four nozzle Zenit (RD-170) engines is the RD-180, used by Lockheed-Martin's Atlas V EELV.

Both Boeing and Lockheed-Martin now must rely on technology that was developed for Heavy Lift in the first place, which makes their attempt to fight Heavy-Lift development all the more sickening to those of us who watched as these two companies put off rocket development in favor of Stealth systems and $200 billion Joint Strike Fighters - neither of which can deflect asteroids, or disable ICBMs.

If it wasn't for Heavy-Lift, Boeing and Lockheed-Martin would not now have their two biggest commercial launchers.

Now the two companies rely on Russian equipment. They still don't get it. What we really need is all-American technology with Russian philosophy. All American RS-68s from Boeing can be placed under Lockheed-Martin's External Tank giving us Heavy Lifters with engine out capability and no reliance on other countries.

The Russian philosophy is what we must adapt - they understood that 'too much truck is better than not enough.' Remember, their R-7 Sputnik launcher was considered overlarge, and yet it and the bigger Proton have become their best sellers.

By the time we completed our EELVs they could carry no more than these other Russian launch vehicles which had glutted the market, leaving the EELVs too little - too late. Now the Aerospace companies are left the EELV Albatross they now wish to hang on our necks.

The EELVs would continue the failed 'build it twenty-tons-at-a-time-and-they-will-come' mindset that left us with the ISS. This philosophy is even worse when it comes to exploration since hydrogen boil off will be even more of a problem when you adopt the pieces/parts.

If we want large production runs, then get the most bang for your buck. Using the Delta IV approach, you must expend 15 RS-68s to get 100 tons to orbit.

By launching five HLLVs with only three RS-68s apiece, you sell your 15 RS-68s but you have 500 tons in orbit in the same amount of time. Real Space commerce will only be successful if done in large scale - not by dropping ME-163 Komets out from under Learjets.

The Titan IV often cost a billion dollars a shot. An HLLV should be no more than this. But remember, that equates to $200 million for every 20 tons of HLLV payload - putting it at least even with EELV costs, that are likely to exceed $250 million for every 20 tons or so- with no engine out capability.

But the real cost of medium lift is higher, since you will need five upper stages for every 100 tons placed into orbit, by five EELVs, as opposed to having just one engine-equipped External Tank delivering the entire load to space- retaining a large empty shuttle External Tank that, like Skylab, gives industry real floor space.

Gene Meyers of Space Island Group understands that much at least, and sees the industrial potential only large scale can bring.

The money saved by ending JSF and the Discovery Programs could field an HLLV in only a few years with much more capability.

Or we can continue to send puny bomb-disposal robots to Mars and risk the lives of EELV-riding astronauts docking and refueling fifty-eleven times just to get to the moon, while the Russians continue to make money off us, because they had the good sense to build rockets big in the first place.

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