Boeing has submitted an EELV proposal based based on the Space Shuttle Main Engine built by Rockwell's Rocketdyne Division of Canoga Park, CA. The proposal includes recovering the engines after each launch for refurbushment and reuse.(1) Arianespace is seeking to participate in the EELV program in partnership with a US company, with arrangements anticipated to be concluded in late May or early April. The initial proposal made at the US Space Foundation symposiurn in Colorado Springs CO in early April was widely criticized by American industry and government officials.(2) Although no potential partner was mentioned, based on the in-house capabilities and current partnering arrangements of other EELV bidders, it may be that Boeing is the most logical candidate for such an arrangement.
This concept appears similar to plans for the New/National Launch System (NLS), which projected the development of a new family of launch vehicles.(3) Intended to meet the broad range of national security, civil and commercial launch needs anticipated for the next century, the initial launch of the first configuration of NLS was planned for 2002. NLS consisted of the following major elements: the space transportation main engine (STME), a highly reliable, low-cost engine that will provide 650,000 pounds of thrust; a family of three new launch vehicles to capture the primary classes of payloads anticipated for the next century; a high-energy upper stage to provide capability to geosynchronous orbits; a cargo transfer vehicle for transporting payloads to the Space Station Freedom; new launch processing facilities and launch pads at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, incorporating important operability features; and some modified and new facilities at the Kennedy Space Center.
The NLS-1 heavy-lift vehicle element of the system would consist of the core vehicle with four liquid-fueled engines and two Solid Rocket Boosters. It would be capable of delivering a 100,000-pound useful payload to rendezvous with Space Station Freedom 220 nautical miles above the Earth.
The NLS-2 vehicle, which would employ a common vehicle "core" with the NLS-1 would provide a payload capability of 50,000 pounds to low Earth orbit to meet the needs of the DOD's heaviest payloads.
The NLS-3 vehicle would be capable of lifting 20,000 pounds to low Earth orbit using a single STME to meet the needs of the DOD and NASA medium class payloads. The NLS 3 design also was intended to enhance the cost and operational competitiveness of the US commercial launch industry in the international marketplace.
The estimated cost of the New Launch System was in the $10.5 billion to $12 billion range, based on preliminary engineering definition, including over $2 billion for the STME engine development effort. Due to this high cost, the NLS program was terminated in 1991, and subsequent efforts to initiate development of the Spacelifter incarnation of the NLS 3 vehicle were greeted without enthusiasm.
It would appear that perhaps Boeing is seeking to develop a family of vehicles similar in capability, if not design, to the NLS-2 and NLS-3.
Replacing the projected STME with the existing SSME would substantially reduce development costs.
Coincidentally, the 5.4 meter diameter propellant tanks of the Ariane 5 is virtually identical with the diameter of the propellant tanks planned for the NLS-3 vehicle. Taking advantage of the substantiall engineering heritage from Ariane 5 could further reduce Boeing's EELV development costs.
Thus it might be envisioned that Boeing would offer an EELV-1 configuration that largerly replicated the NLS-3 configuration, substituting the SSME for the STME, and using Ariane-derived structural hardware. The addition of the Titan-4's Solid Rocket Motor Upgrade strap-on boosters (or similar motors) in an EELV-2 configuration could support EELV heavy lift requirements.
1. "Boeing Banks on SSME For Air Force Contract," Space News, 1 May 1995, page 2.
2. "Arianespace Considers EELV Bid," Space News, 8 May 1995, page 26.
3. Adapted from: Testimony by Lt. Gen. John E. Jaquish, principal deputy, assistant secretary of the Air Force (acquisition) and Maj. Gen. Donald G. Hard, director of space programs, assistant secretary of the Air Force (acquisition) to the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Defense, in Washington, DC, 6 May 1992.