Rocket Roundup: VASIMR Kickstarter, Ariane 6 Panned, RD-180 Replacement, and SpaceX at KSC

Ad Astra Launches VASMIR Kickstarter

Ad Astra has launched a Kickstarter fund-raising campaign to raise $46,000 for the creation of a short documentary called “Animating VASIMR®: The Future of Spaceflight.”

Falcon Heavy Launches from KSC?

Falcon Heavy. (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon Heavy. (Credit: SpaceX)

Space News reports that SpaceX appears to be the only bidder to take over operations of PAD 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, which NASA used to launch space shuttles:

NASA declined to comment on how many bids it received in response to a solicitation that closed on July 5, but a survey of U.S. launch companies by SpaceNews shows only SpaceX saying it put in a proposal to take over Launch Complex 39A.

Documents posted on NASA’s solicitation website shows the agency wants to have a commercial operator for Pad 39A in place by Oct. 1, 2013, when funding for maintenance is slated for termination.

UPDATE: Space News now reports that Blue Origin put in a bid for Pad 39A.

DLR Chief on Ariane 6: Meh!

Artist's conception of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)
Artist’s conception of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)

DLR Chairman Johann-Dietrich Woerner still really doesn’t like the plan for Ariane 6:

Johann-Dietrich Woerner, chairman of the German Aerospace Center, DLR, said the German government remains in favor of continued development of the current Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket, with possible evolutions including environmentally acceptable new fuels in place of the vehicle’s current solid-rocket boosters.

“The solution selected seems to be the most workable in terms of costs, but from an environmental point of view we are really taking a step backward,” Woerner said. “But my main point is: What is this launcher for? Is it to make life easy for commercial satellite operators, or is it to assure European launcher autonomy? If it’s the latter, then there are lots of ways of meeting this objective.”

I Can’t Quit You

RD-180 test firing. (Credit: NASA)
RD-180 test firing. (Credit: NASA)

Efforts to develop a domestic alternative to the Russian RD-180 engine that powers the Atlas V are stuck in second gear.

The buy-international model works so well that even an executive with the company working on an American alternative to the RD-180 — which has powered 43 flawless space launches since it made its U.S. debut on Lockheed Martin’s Atlas 3 rocket in 2000 — does not see much urgency on anyone’s part to bring such an engine to market.

“We don’t see a good business case for a pure commercial development of one of these engines,” Julie Van Kleeck, vice president of space programs at Sacramento, Calif.-based Aerojet Rocketdyne, told SpaceNews in a July 9 phone interview. “Not today.”

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