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ULA ACES ESPA cost engineering and business model & Terrestrial & Cislunar Exploration Technologys ESOP

The OPAG Ice Giant study group has 13 science instruments and avionics/comnav cost engineered at $700 million this comes out to $54 million per instrument.Our business model would be to divide up this cost in 3 to 4 ways.Dividing up the instruments 4 ways places about 3 instruments in each group of cost engineered funding payment modes.

(A)(1) mode one is the NASA Salmon instrument flight opportunity where 3 instruments fly for 1/4th the total mission costs or about $250 Million.This would be competitively put out through a salmon AO.The question would be wich instruments the NASA customer want to use for this process? All 13 instruments and three are chosen or NASA picks out three instruments for the AO bid process?$250 Million mostly upfront in early phases of the spacecraft build over 5 years before launch.$50 Million per year.This could also be an in-kind Salmon purchased instruments that pay a rideshare fee or $17 Million per year per instrument.

(A)(2) NASA data purchase of $250 Million payable over the life of the Mission of 15 years from three additional instruments, $17 Million per year over 15 years

(A)(3) The International community up for three to four instruments equipment in-kind with a rideshare fee payable to us equivalent to the costs of the launch vehicle and ACES  at 1/4th and operations costs plus a profit.So an in-kind donation of $250 million for science payloads

(A)(4) Some instruments are within reach of private foundations and university indeed some instruments might be cheaper than University funded telescopes.Three smaller instruments like the ice giant study groups proposed Magnatometer could be in-kind equipment with a rideshare fee

Terrestrial & Cislunar Exploration technologies borrow $1.3 Billion that accrues to a Leveraged ESOP.Deductions are made to this sum for in-kind equipment transferred to the project.As many as 6 instruments might be in-kind so between $300 to $400 Million need not be borrowed by the leveraged ESOP.In the case of the 3 instruments that we are selling data with the ESOP company would purchase these along with the ULA ACES spacecraft.What instrument has the most data values? would the customer be willing to pay for that additional value? To us, the most valuable instruments would be the science imaging cameras.The ESOP company would hire our own PI for these, however, we would like to point out that idea from previous posts on this blog that those PI’s would be co-employees with the ESOP and their home institutions.As the ESOP debt is paid down the science investigators and engineers would vest in the success of the ESOP pension plan

Our goal would be to use profits earned after ESOP debt retirement and employee pension payouts to invest in the serial production of more ACES/ESPA spacecraft and those instruments we have purchased, ICE giant spacecraft should be able to share the same 13 instruments at Neptune Uranus and a return to Saturn ditto Jupiter flyby science in route

Last week we wrote about a ULA ACES with ESPA rings both forward and aft of the ACES the aft ESPA ring held connections for an ACES solar array that powers a onboard SEP engine.The Xenon is kept cryogenic to save the weight of the propellant tank mass and is cryocooled by the ACES LH2 After 5 AU the solar array/ESPA ring detaches.In the case of Saturn, we keep this solar array ring so that some RTGs can descend to Titan with an ESPA ring in a floating HIAD on a Titan sea.Hopefully, the very long descent by parachute would allow the HIAD to cool 🙂 The HIAD is our flotation mechanism and the ESPA ring provides the structure to the landed instruments.Perhaps a modest submarine on a tether could be deployed and retrieved

Year 1                        Year 2                 Year 3

$17 Million

$17 Million           in progress………….

$17 Million

$17 Million

In-kind furnished instruments with rideshare fee








What we should do next 2.0 ?

(A)(1) Investigate with ground based systems miscibility of noble ullage gases with cryogenic LH2, LO2 and LCH4

(A)(2) investigate mixing of noble gas ullage with Cryogenic propellants over hours, days and  weeks

(B)(1) investigate in space liquefaction/fractionation machinery in conjunction with a zero boil off unit.

(B)(2) this machinery would be used to process gasses H2 and O2 out of noble ullage/ion propellant in hybrid chemical ion powered systems; investigate with ground based experiments a Liquid air fractionation unit

(B)(3) removal of noble elements out of LH2 and LO2 in the case of a chemical refueling of a hybrid powered stage

(C)(1) investigate with ground based experiments with removing Noble gasses from Nitrogen oxygen gases in the case of habitat’s being re-purposed as ion propellant tank.This is also done with an in space liquid air liquefaction/fraternization system. 


(D)(1) We need to use a ground based experiment to study of Noble gas ullage/Ion propellants with hypergolic propellants; If these behave better on longer term missions and behave better on miscible issues then Hyperbolic chemical/ion powered hybrid stages then we could in future do trades with cryogenic ion powered hybrids

(E)(1) The ground based Air liquefaction/fractionation unit leads the way to IRSU of rocks.Imagine the system at work on a landed hybrid propellent Xues/Centuat lander coupled to a Oxygen production system.

(F)(1) Air Liquefaction/Fractionation unit allows for the GH2/GO2/GCH4 in the propellent tanks to be separated from one another and fed to both The IVF and Ion propulsion systems since we envision that both systems are present and that both use the same propellent and oxidizer  tanks.

EDIT 16 March 2016

(G) (1) Does Noble element ice sink or float in cryogenic oxidisers or propellant? I think if large Noble element ice forms it sinks


Blue Origin SRB side mount Wet/Dry lab space station

Utilizes the SLS SRB with A Blue Origin First stage with a Dry lab and docking mechanisms and First stage wet lab brought to LEO
Would the Mass of the SLS CBC allow for a safe balancing with the New Glenn to get the New Glenn first stage to orbit?

This idea is most likely overkill I posted a newer version instead that suggests smaller SRM that fit modified Landing legs attach points.SLS SRB would be a total New Glenn redesign when really what we are after is selling used New Glenn launchers as space stations.

The more economical and engineering New Glenn with SRM is here New Glenn first stage space station with SRM,s at landing legs attach points


Transposition, docking, and extraction of upper stage docked back to First stage wet lab

SLS first stage almost makes it into orbit so we propose an audacious plan to perform a Transposition, docking, and extraction maneuver between the upper stage and its first stage! The upper stage docks with the first stage and then fires its engine to bring the first stage to orbit.Possibly the docked stack makes to orbit.

Astronaut longterm health is not well served by small ISS/Gateway modules so we propose that the largest possible square meter per astronaut are optimally placed in LEO and then COTS process to compete for SEP and chemical to preposition these very large Wet lab space stations throughout the solar system.

SLS, Vulcan, New Glen and to a lesser extent Falcon 9 could use Transposition, docking, and extraction to use the upper stage to bring the stack to orbit.The only payload would be an Ixion type docking adapter.The Falcon 9 is the one system that has a high-value maneuvering system that might enhance docking with its upper stage to bring both to orbit.

This daring maneuver is after all suborbital DT &E!



Apollo11-04This is incorrect! we are docking with the first stage and transporting it somewhere.This result would be both first stage and upper stage in LEO but this could a part of the distributed lift idea for the upper stage.



Modified landing legs attach points for New Glenn & Falcon 9 for SRB attachment to utilize end of life launch vehicles as space station wet labs

We write another post advocating first stages as wet lab space stations by launching them without payloads and with SRB’s to get them to orbit.

In the case of the ULA Vulcan vehicle, it might have the ability to loft itself into orbit with no payload.In the case of ULA this would have to be a new vehicle since it is not reused.Cryogenic Methane makes for the Vulcan first stage space station an attractive option to habitual volume.

In the case of New Glenn even more so the New Glenn does not use SRB however, so its thought the landing legs attach points could be modified for SRB attach points? The New Glenn would need a modest payload and that would be the proposed IXION docking port.

SpaceX Falcon 9 is less attractive due to its narrow and long claustrophobic propellent tanks as a space station wet lab, however, it might be useful as storage.





Uranus Orbiter Flagship Mission Ballistic orbit escape!


Titania and Oberon  Uranus satellites orbit north and south of the solar ecliptic plane so we think a Uranus orbiter doing a satellite tour would fly out a trajectory that would have a cone that is south or north of the solar ecliptic, this is fortuitous in that many Centaurs and trojans are not on the ecliptic plane.There is a Uranus Trojan that appears to be above the ecliptic to the North Uranus Trojan After a decadal survey requirements are met this Ice Giant flagship would pump up its orbital petals to longer duration orbits these might inform us of the nature of any Uranian Magnetotail.

The “cones” we mentioned are adopted from Dr. Amanda Zangara papers on gas and ice giant flybys to SBAG targets.In this case, the Uranus moons target the final flyby to escape with Cones that direct north and south of the ecliptic.This would be a mission extension to a flagship Ice giant orbital mission and a planetary quarantine maneuver.






ULA Nuclear ACES for Outer Planet missions


Attempt to use common avionics and communications with chemical propellent LO2/LO2 ACES. Keep the ICE and GH2/GO2 thrusters to generate electricity and to utilize boil off the cryogenic propellants for the ICE engine

This is a proposed deep space long-lived ACES stage so an LO2 propellant tank is nestled inside the much larger LH2 tank

This stage would utilize a small nuclear thermal engine and the LH2 propellant tank would house inside it a smaller LO2 tank for running the ICE and station keeping maneuver engines

There would not be an LH2/LO2 engine so the LO2 tank could be small enough for the ICE engine.LH2 would keep the LO2 cool.At some point, ULA NTR ACES could pick up its LO2 for planetary missions from a lunar source


LunarLOX/NTR 2

Weight of ACES stage

reduce LO2 tank mass

Increase LH2 tank size

subtrate weight of a chemical engine

Add the weight of the fission engine

PeeWee small fission rocket  3,300 Kg

SNRE small fission rocket    2,400 Kg


value units link
Δv =18.603 1
ve =8830 1
m0 =74000 1
m1 =9000 1
spreadsheet onoff



ULA ACES dry mass 4.6 Mt

SNRE engine                2.4 Mt

science payload            1 Mt

ESPA rings plus RTG

plus electrical cabling

communications   1 Mt

Totals 9 Mt




Minimalist upper stage as science probe missions serially produced

Minimalist upper stage as science probe missions serially produced, we are forced into the minimalist view at bottom of the page

ULA ACES without a docked spacecraft IE science instruments are carried on MOOG ESPA rings  and in the ACES intertank region, ACES does a burn to depletion at Pluto to slow to 2 to 3 miles per second to survey the unseen hemisphere of Pluto and Charon during a slow fly by

Does ACES at 7000 Kg dry mass plus 2000 Kg payload close to Uranus orbit Insertion?

From Elliot page 3 Elliott-Ice


Doppler Imager


Flyby/Orbiter <50 kg


Vis/NIR imaging spectrometer

Radio and Plasma suite

Thermal IR Mid-IR (Uranus) or UV (Neptune) spectrometer ~90 kg




Energetic Neutral Atoms

Dust detector

Langmuir probe

Mwave sounder/Mass spectrometer  ~150 kg

UO (no probe); 150 kg P/L 4718 kg wet spacecraft mass

Now let us subtract the spacecraft mass by using the Ice Giant study report and to add to the ULA ACES spacecraft bus those items beyond the components shared or replaced by ACES Avionics

Page 64 Ice Giant study report   Full-Report-Ice giants

Also mass and dimensions of instruments on the Oceanus study report

Oceanus study report

4718 kg – 2769 propellant = 1949 Kg I have rounded this up to 2000 Kg and added it to the 7000 Kg ACES dry mass plus instruments

worksheet (2)

We are down to 7.85 K/s which is below the required TUI injection speed but there may be some mass to allocate from the Uranus probe to the ACES

Altitude control  63.5 Kg &

Command and data  27.6 Kg are onboard the ACES

We must do a trade in regards to Uranus probe structures at 516.4 Kg which we have replaced with ESPA rings on the ACES  ESPA rings Can we save mass here? The ESPA rings would need to accommodate RTG and the 13 instruments as well as the communications antenna.One ESPA ring appears to mass 181 Kg.

Trades with ACES to do a lowest Neptune arrival V/A  Trajectory to Neptune

Elliot et all in the Ice presentation suggested that an ICE giant mission aerobrake at Titan(?) aerobraking, however, adds 20% mass back into the system as does our suggested hybrid cryogenic SEP propellent.Both ideas, however, pay for themselves in trades its hope. In an earlier post, we suggested that the foreword ESPA ring could house an inflatable HIAD and this serves a dual purpose in that it subsequently enters Titans atmosphere a second time to land.ACES to Ice giant could aerobrake at the destination and deploy its own HIAD to deploy atmosphere probes.Deploying atmosphere probes from ice giant orbit is cited above.deploying probes after entering orbit means you have modest EDL requirements as to heat.Indeed the program the decade survey says they need is called HEET.

perhaps due to costs the Elliot idea of hyperbolic in and out of Titan atmosphere but less so followed by a less strenuous aerobrake at the ice giant destination this might be the idea of the decade. This would not need HEET.

Imagine a 70 metric ton Ice Giant orbiter! Our original hypothesis was that we could get rid of the JPL/Lockheed Martin/APL deep space spacecraft, this is what the X team and Aerospace Corporation cost engineers at $4 Billion plus for two spacecraft.Our 70 metric ton spacecraft (wet) with the added on HIAD and cryogenic SEP systems would easily come out at this price unless we convinced ULA that a Cryogenic ACES became the standard model for the upper stage for cislurnar.after all we proposed in many previous blog entries that the launch contract pays for the ACES and the SMD pays for the “rest” still we need to now examine the same topic Elliot examines in the Virginia OPAG to costs Eliot Et al examines the flagship Neptune mission and a minamal Uranus flyby with just three instroments.flagship costs over $2 Billion Uranus flyby just over $1 Billion

So let us examine a ULA ACES minimal mission 🙂 It really depends on ULA leadership to mass produce for the cislunar economy the Cryogenic Xenon SEP system.(A)(1) the SEP system could be a small propellant tank that can deorbit any spent ACES stage or send it off into solar orbit.(A)(2) cryogenic Xenon would be an important component of a fuel depot so ACES is transporting Xenon around the inner solar system for prepositioning chemical propellants(Mars DRM 5.0) (A)(3) deep space ACES missions could refuel at a cislunar location(A)(4)SEP and Chemical SEP  both together needs a new mission design astrodynamics calculator***

If the above can be achieved then the next step would be to plan many flybys with atmosphere probes but we need to cost engineer the purchase of 4 to 5 sets of the $400 Million aerospace corporation cost engineered Ice Giant 13 instruments of choice and to do so with the options of the 50/90/150 Kilogram payloads.$400 million is for the 150 Kg so serially producing a flyby payload of say 90 Kg should be less plus the reduced cost of multiple purchases.

*** SEP Xenon propellant as an orbital debris mitigation effort paid for by the Air Force and NASA.(B)(1) The NASA NTR database has a 25 to 30-year-old paper on the idea of pressurized Xenon propellent tanks onboard a chemical upper stage/tanker/Tug, this concept could be scaled down to a transfer stage deorbiting demonstration mission.(B)(2)Transfer stage would need electrical power for several months for com/nav and the SEP engines so a non-deployable solar array is called for, this means we demonstrate another important capability all existing transfer stages(in GTO) can live for months until they achieve solar orbit or deorbit

SpaceX Falcon second stage


Blue origin second stage

(B)(3)ISS detached Cygnus could demonstrate orbit lowering /raising this way perhaps while still attached to the ISS?

(B)(4) It has been proposed that spent upper stages can be refurbished as habitats these to could have xenon propellant tanks for ISS or gateway maneuvering as an added value service to sell

(B)(5)The second goal would be to fire the SEP engine while still attached to the GEO bound payload as an added service.This would require larger xenon propellant tanks for the subsequent disposal to solar orbit

(C)(1)The third Goal is to repeat all of the above with Cryogenic Xenon cooled with a cryocooler or boiloff could this be done with a cryocooler only?


NEXTstep would be to mandate this for all GTO stages with the view that some economic value added comes with this capability (cislunar tug)and now we return to this economic utility of having it on our deep space probe.Some competitors faced with a requirement to remove the upper stage from orbit at end of mission might simply opt for a larger chemical upper stage

Recall that we have replaced the ACES com/nav and flight computer with JPL deepspace quality ones could these be serially produced for the cislunar tug? The price tag for one-off JPL deepspace com/nav and flight computer is in the $300 Million range so making this ACES standard equipment would be a challenge.

Do to costs it might make sense to utilize campaign of multiple ice giant flybys with the added bonus of Jupiter and Saturn flybys for atmosphere probe release.Two ACES would be Atmosphere probe deployers, We think each ACES could field three probes each.The first is a Jupiter flyby Neptune flyby with a probe for each planet and with the following payload


Doppler Imager


Flyby/Orbiter <50 kg


Vis/NIR imaging spectrometer

Radio and Plasma suite

Thermal IR Mid-IR (Uranus) or UV (Neptune) spectrometer ~90 kg

One probe with entry system masses at 300 Kg, so two probes could be 600 Kg plus a Jupiter Probe, would mass a lager entry system.Then add the 90 Kg instrument payload.  A Uranus flyby with ACES with a Saturn Flyby yields two-atmosphere probes for each planet plus another for Titan(1800 Kg).Saturn atmosphere probe is high on the decadal survey science requirements list.Both spacecraft could do the ARGOS mission that Dr. Amanda Zangari speaks about susequent to flyby.

Two spacecraft with 4 probes would be too heavy according to JPL to enter orbit so we propose three more spacecraft without probes that would enter orbit. 5 or more Vulcan/ACES should earn us a block buy discount but what about the instruments listed above? Having the orbiters in place first and a slow flyby could allow for backup probe data collection

JPL costs are high and seem to use Aerospace Corp and NASA cost engineering solutions some of these are in part based on past costs for past missions so it would be interesting to see if there are alternative cost engineering methods out there,ULA is attempting to improve its own cost engineering which is why we think their ACES might make for a reduced cost deep space probe.

As suggested in many previous blog posts we would allocate most of the ACES com/nav and flight computer to the NASA launch costs and not the AO mission caps.The deep space avionics would replace the ACES mission avionics to save on mass and costs and to justify the above idea.Most likely deep space antenna is attributable to the mission AO as are the ESPA rings, instruments, cabling,

ACES as a NASA launch vehicle provider is by definition TRL 6 and beyond by 2024

Minimal missions with ACES and 90 Kg of flight instruments purchased serially could allow NASA to stretch out the purchase and launch dates for 3 to 6 outer planet missions  based on a common spacecraft and with the ARGO concept could drop atmosphere probes and visit many an SBAG world

I think ACES ESPA ring probe is no more than $1.25 Billion for one certainly for 4 or more spacecraft.Perhaps this concept as a Neptune orbiter with 150 Kg of instruments beats the $2.6 Billion flagship costs quoted by JPL team X / Aerospace Corporation.

This blog post proposal should be read with the others as in this is a private/public partnership where a California Benefit Corporation owned by an ESOP has paid for the ACES ESPA ring deep space probe R&D with leveraged funds.ESOP retirees can not roll over or draw leveraged ESOP funds until the leveraged debt is paid off. ULA would refund the ACES  R&D that it paid for with interest over 20 years to the ESOP and the ESOP purchases spacecraft afterwords to sell as sovereign sales, its unlikely we can do this through the AO process















ULA ACES or a large LCH4 stage for Pluto and Ice Giant orbital missions


We examine the OPAG technology papers presented at the February 2018 meeting in Virginia

Up first is Elliot Pluto on entering Pluto orbit with a 400 Kg dry mass payload and killing 10 Km/s after a 15-year flight time ( page 5)


For comparison, New Horizons flew by Pluto at 14 Km/s with a shorter TOF.  From Elliott;


Assuming ~400 kg dry mass (New Horizons) s/c

◦ Monoprop (Isp~230 s) would require >33,000 kg of propellant

◦ SRM (Isp~290 s) would require ~13,000 kg

◦ BiProp (Isp~320 s) would need ~9300 kg

◦ H2/O2 (Isp~450 s) would need ~3500 kg Adding propulsion system mass to s/c dry mass quickly pushes all chemical options out of range of feasibility”

End of Quote

Elliot and JPL think the chemical is not feasible, however with ULA distributed launch or a large LCH4 stage refueled on orbit means you have greater through weight also Elliot states on page 9 of this presentation Elliott-Ice

JPL study group suggests the need for a new LH2/LO2 engine since they are sizing the engine and propellant tank mass to their payload but perhaps this engine already exists? The ULA ACES gasses H2/O2 engine could be clustered and the 3500 Kg of LH2/LO2 could be vaporized with a heater, this, however, brings about a thought, If ACES is heading towards Pluto at 10 Km/s and cannot kill that speed then perhaps staging is the answer? ACES separates and a smaller LH2/LO2 stage does the rest of the job

Elliot Et al might be making other assumptions in regards to LH2/LO2 stages such as the stage are not fully fueled at TNI?

Elliot Et al suggests future studies of hybrid chemical aerobraking but also we have suggested on these pages LXe cooled by LH2 in a hybrid SEP chemical system

EDIT 8 March 2018

We use several online rocket equation calculators to find for stoping ULA ACES at Pluto by bleeding off 11 kilometers per second with a 15 year flight time, none of them close for an ACES orbital mission


we did another one with a 1000 Kg payload twice what Elliot calls for

worksheet (1)

ULA ACES wet and dry mass at 74 M/t and 6 M/t are educated guesses from space launch report


However, Elliot seems to indicate in the JPL report above utilizing a Titan aerobraking but this would add to the 15-year timeline or not? Even so, a slower flyby mission to that of New Horizons would yield a longer loiter time at Pluto IE a 3 k/s flyby.

It appears a 67 Mt ACES could put itself into Neptune orbit with its 7-ton dry mass

Earth Neptune arrival Delta V

Perhaps a Cryogenic Xenon SEP system embedded in the ULA ACES could provide that 2 to 3 Km/s difference? After all, Elliot asks if there is a commercial or exploration use for LH2/LO2 systems and the answer is yes.Utilizing SEP to preposition chemical propellents is not a new idea and we like the idea of hybrid chemical SEP tugs for cislunar space economy.LXe is cryocooled in a low mass tank by the ACES LH2

Next post

Human and science mission directorates jointly fund with the DOD/NRO a 4-way competitive fly off

Cislurnar & deep space tug

two bids each chosen for SEP and chemical tugs

submissions encouraged for hybrid systems involving homogenous and heterogeneous systems

all Tugs should be able to dock with the others in order to provide staging









Lost oppertunity; Shuttle C as a combined dry and wetlab space station



The idea is that Shuttle C concept could have brought to LEO a side mounted space station and the External tank as a wet lab.This concept would trade some mass from the side mounted space station in exchange for a docking port to mate the ET tank to the side mount dry lab.

The External Tank was under the shuttle program purposely disposed of in a suborbital burn up on the other side of the planet in the south Pacific and the Indian Ocean.The Superlight weight tank (SLWT) at 26,500 Kg.


End of life use of reusable core stages as wetlab space stations

(A)(1) SpaceX Falcon and Falcon heavy core stages for use as future wet labs after their economic life as reusables are over(2) Falcon heavy center core to orbit without a payload.There is a student university study of a Falcon first stage in LEO being refueled and self-ferry to Mars orbit

(A)(3) Blue Origin New Glen first stage as wet lab at end of life as a reusable launch vehicle

(A)(4) SpaceX BFR first stage as a wet lab space station at end of life as a launch vehicle this would be the mother of all space stations 🙂 Can the BRF first stage get into orbit without a payload?

All wet lab recycled core stages could have multiple uses as Propellent depots as well as space stations


You would think a all metal fuel might keep its integrity long enough to be used as spent fuel in a heavy water reactor? Cut up the spent PWR Lightbridge fuel to fit CANDU fuel bundle

You would think an all-metal fuel might keep its integrity long enough to be used as spent fuel in a heavy water reactor? Cut up the spent PWR Lightbridge fuel to fit CANDU fuel bundle

“Lightbridge DUPIC”

What would be the characteristics of Lightbridge spent fuel? An all metal fuel might retain its structural integrity and perhaps could be further burnup in a heavy water reactor

Perhaps Lightbridge could be used in PWR and heavy water reactors alongside existing fuel bundles so to lower plant retrofit costs?

Declad PWR fuel pellets from spent fuel melt into Lightbridge assembly is also another DUPIC pyro idea

Lightbridge post on Nextbigfuture



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