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Launch Providers Discuss the Way to Space

04/17/2012

The Launch Providers, Propulsion Partners and the Way to Space panel, moderated by Frank Morring, Jr., senior editor, Aviation Week and Space Technology, talked about the exciting things that are going on in the global launch market. Key panelists' points included:

Dan Collins, chief operating officer, United Launch Alliance: You can't put a price on payload capability when those payloads protect our people in harm's way. Must keep in mind that we are not buying rockets or payloads, we are delivering capabilities. We need to be ready to put capability in space when it's ready; we shouldn't have to wait for a rocket. Reliability and affordability go hand in hand. A government block buy will significantly lower costs and ULA welcomes the competition. We won't be judged on how widely we employ competition, we will be judged on how wisely we employ competition.

Frank McKenna, president, International Launch Services: Volume, repeatability and quality all matter. Streamlining processes is critical to creating good value. We believe in hosted payloads; we have ten in our manifest. Customers are schedule-sensitive, so lead times must be lowered.

Jim Maser, president, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne: We need to decide and commit to space exploration; we are running out of time and resources. Despite the huge risk in investment strategy, PWR has invested heavily in technology development and manufacturing. Even with space policy direction changes, we have been able to re-use technologies, but the policy shifts have made it difficult to get a good return on investment. There is no magic technology. For the foreseeable future, the only way to leave the planet is by chemical propulsion. Need volume and willingness to share risk to drive costs down, but, still, we will not jeopardize mission success. We will continue to invest with an expectation of commensurate return.

Clayton Mowry, president, Arianespace, Inc.: With Power3 launch capabilities, Arianespace can place any payload into any orbit. Plan to continue hosted payload missions, as well as continuing ISS supply missions, several Soyuz missions and the planned launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. You have to be ready when your customer is ready, we must be reliable. Reliability equals market success and low insurance rates.

Gwynne Shotwell, president, SpaceX: We are looking forward to the upcoming Falcon launch and are also looking for a site for a commercial launch facility. There is a lot of room for multiple launch providers, but to be successful, you must have a steady and broad market base. We are finding lots of success in Asia, which is the fastest growing market. There is plenty of commercial business, if you can provide a competitive price point.

Jean-Lin Fournereaux, deputy to the chief operating officer and corporate senior vice president - space, Safran Group: Kourou should be used as a space base for back-up. We are strongly pushing forward the Liberty project, because we believe it is very smart, low-cost, low-risk and well-defined. We support international cooperation and are working with multiple international partners on multiple levels.

Charles J. Precourt, vice president & general manager - space launch systems, ATK: Post-Space Shuttle, NASA has set the bar high for launchers to deliver ever-improving reliability and performance at increasingly more affordable costs. ATK is developing Liberty, which leverages previous development, a very strong international partnership with EADS and Astrium, prior investments and Kennedy Space Center infrastructure. We believe safety and reliability are a business proposition; we think we can double reliability with Liberty because it has minimal moving parts.

Julie Van Kleeck, vice president - space and launch systems, Aerojet: The industry has a lot of challenge and opportunity. Challenges include: budget, decreased demand, over-capacity, industrial base issues, new market entrants, lack of competitive U.S. products. Opportunities include: increasing importance of space, more interagency cooperation, technology advancement, new ideas and new players. The launch vehicle industry is built on reliability and heritage, so we look carefully at change. Still, new ideas and new products are healthy for the industry, as long as you are thoughtful in how you evolve.

 

Pictured, top row: Collins, Fournereaux, Shotwell, Precourt; bottom row: McKenna, Van Kleek, Maser, Mowry.

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