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Orbital Sciences Pushes Cost Advantages of Taurus II, Wallops Location

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
September 3, 2010
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Orbital Pushes ‘Cheap’ Taurus Rocket
DoD Buzz

Currently, most DoD launches are handled by the EELV program, not known for its low costs or lack of cost growth over the last five years. EELV launches cost around $250 million a pop. Orbital’s Pieczynski estimates his company can provide Taurus 2 launches for “quite a bit south of $100 million a launch.” He would not get more specific. There are around three DoD launches for payloads of 10,000 pounds to 12,000 pounds each year, Pieczynski said.

The EELV program uses Delta IV and Atlas V rockets developed by Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Like the Taurus 2 will, the Atlas 5 relies on a Russian rocket engine as its primary propulsion system. the Atlas 5 uses the RD-180; Taurus II will use the NK-33 engine, which Aerojet has modified and is now known as the AJ-26 engine.

For those who may worry about U.S. dependence on Russian-built rockets, Orbital’s man says there are 36 engines already in America, with another three dozen in Russia. “Once the supply gets down to a certain level,” he says American companies have the right to co-produce the engine here.

In addition to using a lower cost rocket, Orbital also believes its Wallops Island launch site in Virginia offers greater flexibility because there is no competition with other launches, and it can both loft payloads to the space station, as well as into orbits that appeal to the intelligence community and to the weather satellite community. “You can reach a lot more locations from Wallops than you can from the Cape,” Pieczynski told me.

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One response to “Orbital Sciences Pushes Cost Advantages of Taurus II, Wallops Location”

  1. Nickolai_the_Russian_Guy says:

    One of the reasons EELV launches are so expensive has to do with the ridiculous amount of precautions they take to make sure the launch will be successful. Somebody will drill a hole in an engine and there’ll be 5 people watching him do it to make sure everything is going per the plan.

    And this quality assurance is essentially the point of EELVs because they often launch payloads worth billions of dollars. Paying an extra 100-200 million for the launcher to raise reliability can, in many cases, be worth it.

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