APPROACHES TO REDUCED LAUNCH OPERATIONS COSTS 901877
Current US expendable launch vehicles evolved from ICBMs (Thor, Atlas, Titan) which were primarily performance (payload to orbit) driven. They are expensive and, although originally highly responsive, have been modified so extensively that they now have relatively poor operability characteristics (responsiveness, flexibility, robustness, resiliency, etc.).
This paper examines past/existing systems to derive lessons learned and operations drivers which need to be mitigated on new systems. It surveys requirements of several new/proposed systems and suggests approaches for low cost operations for these and any other new systems. Strategies include trading weight for dollars, system simplification, selective automation, modernization (hardware and software, ground and vehicle system), and application of (military) aircraft operations and design concepts.
The paper concludes that operability in launch systems is achievable. It requires 1) attention to design early in development, with follow through of some up front dollars, 2) modest technology development, and 3) a new mind set in performing launch operations.