Operation Thunderbolt: Aerojet Rockedyne to Supply Stratolaunch Upper Stage

SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 19, 2014 (Aerojet Rocketdyne) — Aerojet Rocketdyne, a GenCorp (NYSE:GY) company, has received a contract from Stratolaunch Systems Corporation (SSC) to provide six RL10C-1 production engines, with an option to provide an additional six RL10C-1 production engines at a later date, for the third stage of a revolutionary commercial air-launch system. The inaugural launch of Thunderbolt, the air-launch vehicle designed and developed for SSC, is scheduled for 2018.

“Aerojet Rocketdyne is pleased to provide RL10C-1 production engines for the Stratolaunch air-launch vehicle,” said Steve Bouley, vice president of Space Launch Systems at Aerojet Rocketdyne. “The RL10 family of engines has a long history of reliability and dependability. This contract expands our reach into commercial ventures and builds greater volume, providing more affordable propulsion to all of our customers.”

The design concept for The Eagles Launch System involves the launch of an unmanned rocket dubbed Thunderbolt, carrying a commercial or government payload from beneath the fuselage of a giant carrier aircraft. According to the concept, the carrier aircraft will be powered by six Boeing 747 class jet engines and have a wingspan greater than the length of a football field. Upon reaching a prescribed altitude, the rocket will be dropped from the aircraft, at which point two stages of solid rocket boosters will fire and propel the rocket skyward. Once the solid rocket boosters are expended, two Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C-1 engines will ignite to ultimately place the satellite into proper orbit.

The RL10C-1 is a liquid-fuel cryogenic rocket engine designed and developed from the RL10 family of upper-stage engines, which have accumulated one of the most impressive lists of accomplishments in the history of space propulsion. The RL10 has helped place numerous military, government and commercial satellites into orbit over the last five decades, and powered scientific space-probe missions to nearly every planet in our solar system. This new application for the RL10 family opens a new era within a commercial venture that will again be a platform for demonstrated reliability and mission success.

Aerojet Rocketdyne is a world-recognized aerospace and defense leader providing propulsion and energetics to the space, missile defense and strategic systems, tactical systems and armaments areas, in support of domestic and international markets. GenCorp is a diversified company that provides innovative solutions that create value for its customers in the aerospace and defense, and real estate markets. Additional information about Aerojet Rocketdyne and GenCorp can be obtained by visiting the companies’ websites at www.Rocket.com and www.GenCorp.com.

  • windbourne

    It is too bad that rocketdyne does not simply design and build a tug that can be refueled via lids and will dock/berth with lids system. By doing this, it can push around not just the ISS, but hocked up to a ba-330 to become a true space taxi. Interestingly, that taxi can carry ppl / cargo between ISS and BA’s coming space station.

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    Yes but who’s going to pay for such a spacecraft. Until there’s funding, forget it.

  • windbourne

    And yet, Falcon Heavy is coming, without others funding it. Why is it coming? Because SpaceX believes that there is a need for it.

    The same is true of a tug that can move the ISS (esp. one that is missing the russian component), and be used for other items.

    BTW, another couple of items to focus on, for other companies would be bathroom facilities. i.e. privy, and showering would make for a very sell-able item. The ISS can use it, but so can BA.

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    Yes very good points. In qualification, I would add that SpaceX have an internal requirement for the FH and hence see funding it as a necessary step. I’m sure they could sell their launch vehicles if they wished to and I believe they’ve been approached however I don’t think the internal requirement argument holds water for say a tug or the bathroom facilities. Good ideas though and would be great to see that happen.
    Btw, I’d say Bigelow is doing pretty much the same thing as SpaceX with their habitats. They don’t want to sell them, only lease them and they see them as an internal requirement to filling markets and generating revenue.
    Of course, both SpaceX and Bigelow are happy to accept funding under certain circumstances, i.e. maintaining ownership.

  • mzungu

    I don’t know… Company around here in the Bay Area drives down their cost by outsourcing it to Asia, where the prices are lower….or tries to stream line everything in-house to get a pricing advantage…. but these guys are going the very opposite way, outsourcing everything, key technology included, to their own competitors…

    This should be fun to watch.

  • windbourne

    Yet, both tug and privies are needed. If Russia splits, then ISS will need another privy. Likewise, if BA is to get their system off the ground in the next 2 years, they are going to need one. Ideally, it would include some form of shower similar to what spacelab had. And being able to hook into NASA’s life support is important.
    Note that any system MUST compete against Russia’s in function, as well as price. Neither BA nor NASA will be allowed to buy these in near future, but CONgress will use that price to hammer said company.

    As to a tug, there is little doubt that a tug can be useful right away. For example, to accelerate ISS up to a higher altitude is useful. BUT, creating one for working on GEO would be useful to move sats out of the way (simply attach a different front to it). And with their RL10 having loads of experience at start/re-start, it would be ideal for them. The reason is that it would give them experience at building a full set-up. Basically, allow them the opportunity to create full stages or full rockets in the future.

    And if they were smart, they would FULLY design and build a new replacement 100% in-house, as opposed to the garbage that they were doing with the RL60 (like l-mart; outsourced a lot).

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    Agreed that these certainly would be must haves if Russia does split.
    Wrt Bigelow, they are working the ECLSS with Paragon Space Development Corporation and have been running test systems for days and weeks at a time with human occupants. I don’t think they’re planning on relying on NASA for these technologies including privies which I have no specific info’ about.

  • windbourne

    paragon has life support, but have they taken care of privies? I did not think so.

    And as to the tug, I think that BA would crazy to not want one that can be added to a BA-330 (or better a sundancer) and use that as a space taxi. Heck, it makes one decent life boat.

  • windbourne

    Exactly right. The reason is that reagan rolled back the requirement that executives not own public stock in company. Since that time, many executives get massive stock options which they sell after pumping up the stock. Of course, long term, the company is being destroyed. Look at GE. That is a company I would NEVER buy any stock in any more. The GE bulbs? Simply a GE label to a Chinese made bulb, but a chinese owned company. It goes on and one.

    That is one thing that I admire about the rest of the west. They make sure that their companies are good citizens of their nations. Here, our large companies are total disasters.

  • Tonya

    Without dwelling on the matter, at the end of the day a toilet can be a very, very basic piece of hardware. It’s just sure to be the one thing the astronauts want upgraded asap!