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EELVs Are A Bad Deal

The Delta 4 Heavy on it's one and only outing so far.
by Jeff Wright
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Feb 04, 2005
I take issue with both the spin Boeing management put on its failed Delta IV 'Heavy' launch (AV. WEEK & SPACE/Jan 3, 2005, p 25) and OSTP's EELV-only initiative ("New U.S. Space transportation Policy Emphasizes EELV Rockets" Space News Jan 10, 2005, p.12). President Bush, Steidle and Company have evidently been given bad information - or information has been witheld.

In the Oct. 4 2004 edition of Space News ("A Case For Heavy Lift") I explain the fact that it would take five three core Delta IV 'heavies' to place 100 tons in Low-Earth Orbit - expending 15 RS-68 engines in the process. With only three RS-68s under a Shuttle External Tank, I place 100 tons in orbit with one shot- and have engine out capability. (HLLV drawing in June 28, 2004 AV. WEEK & SPACE, p 27):

The recent Delta IV heavy failure proves my point. With two five segment SRBs the HLLV would have had plenty of thrust to clear the pad and head out to sea - where the Delta IV heavy rose straight from the pad, putting it at risk due to possible thrust decay.

The Boeing launch vehicle cannot fly depressed trajectory - and must rise stright from the pad. One engineer I am in contact with expressed concern about Titusville, FL: "with vertical ascent - range safety can't help much if the pieces are large or on fire."

Some have also estimated that the Delta IV may inflict 25-27g loads upon any CEV.

SRBs would allow the hydrogen engines to burn less harshly, and charring problems could be reduced. Hydrogen has a high ISP, but makes for poor (unaugmented) thrust.

An Energiya-type Shuttle-derived HLLV would carry five times more than Delta IV 'heavy', use the same three RS-68s (or simpler SSMEs) and would actually be a shorter vehicle that can grow over time. Michael K. Robel, who wrote the June 1, 2004 article "The Cost Of Medium Lift" (The Space Review) understands that EELV systems will save no money.

Bill Eoff also proposed similar HLLVs before leaving Marshall in disgust. One of my contacts in Boeing, has expressed to me in personal communication that he finds Heavy-Lift superior to EELV, but that pressure from above has kept him quiet.

There has been some scuttlebutt that even the heads of NASA centers at Johnson and Marshall have it in for any shuttle-derived HLLV, despite the fact that a CEV may experience as much as 23-27g loads upon the Delta IV, according to one of my engineer-contacts.

Delta IV suffered extensive charring from its painfully slow ascent from the pad, and looks to need a re-design. Rumor has it that it was the vortex-baffles that impeded propellant flow leading to a false sensor reading - not a flawed sensor that can be replaced with ease.

So not only do we not have a Saturn V replacement--we don't even have a Titan IV replacement - leaving the US without the capability to launch 20 tons to LEO--let alone 100.

Congress has requested that NASA provide information on future Heavy-Lift needs, and the most recent Aldridge Commission report spoke about Heavy Lift, which pleased Michael Griffin, NASA's associate administrator:

"Michael Griffin, NASA’s associate administrator for exploration from 1991-1993, says the most logical approach, all things considered, is to spend the $3 billion or $4 billion it would cost to build a shuttle-derived heavy lifter and forget about EELV-driven approaches. Griffin also said that ... he takes a 'dim view' of approaches that would rely on orbital staging and assembly operations," and how he doesn't "'think EELV is a competitive option...'"

Sadly, I fear his voice will be drowned out by the 'space libertarians' who drive to Washington on public highways to tell us how we don't need NASA and how wonderful Rutan's little plaything is, giving the Proxmire types all the excuse they need to savage future NASA budgets now in grave doubt. One of the chief offenders even took issue with the President's Aldridge Commission Report:

"...the Foundation sees major discrepancies between the rhetoric of commercial firms taking over the job of carrying payloads from Earth to Low Earth Orbit (LEO), and the commissioners’ endorsement of NASA's building its own heavy lift vehicle..."

One wonders just how fairly HLLVs will be treated in this climate. Rumor has it that a group at NASA HQ is looking to 'settle' the EELV vs. HLLV debate, though I am also hearing that Gary Lyles is falling out of favor--with his 'loyalty' to Marshall being questioned.

Perhaps we are to make do with Delta IVs which undershoot their orbits by 10,000 miles.

The President needs to question his so-called 'experts' who want to limit future space assembly using EELV launched 20-ton modules no larger than those used in the tedious construction of ISS. Heavy Lift should be a top priority of this Administration.

The 'space libertarians' (who drive on public highways they cannot pay for themselves - while using them to drive to Washington to tell us how we don't need government.) need to be challenged.

The EELV salespeople at Boeing should especially be taken with (more than) a grain of salt.

Speaking of which - just where is Darleen Druyen these days?

I wonder.

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