The Wall Street Journalreports that Blue Origin has won a contract from United Launch Alliance to supply BE-4 engines for United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan launch vehicle. An announcement is expected today.
The decision would be a defeat for Aerojet Rocketdyne, which has been developing the AR1 engine.
The long-term, potentially multibillion-dollar agreement could provide a boost to Blue Origin’s eventual goal of becoming a major military launch provider itself. The company plans to use the same engines to power its own heavy-lift launcher, called New Glenn, which is currently under development.
Competition in the satellite-launch business is heating up. The Air Force is considering how to divvy up hundreds of millions of federal dollars to develop a fleet of lower-cost, more versatile rockets. Blue Origin, United Launch, Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp.’s Innovation Systems unit, formerly known as Orbital ATK, are all in the running. The Air Force is preparing to shortly announce the first-stage winners….
Negotiations between United Launch and Blue Origin dragged on for months, with both sides bargaining hard over price, delivery schedules and production reliability. Other hurdles, according to two people familiar with the details, included United Launch’s concerns about relying on a prospective rival for its most important engine supply. It couldn’t be learned what provisions were hammered out.
Blue Origin beat out Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc., which had sought to sell its AR1 engine as the primary propulsion system for the Vulcan. A spokesman for Aerojet, which previously was picked to provide smaller, upper-stage engines for the ULA rocket, said “we are committed” to the AR1 engine and “will have a test-ready engine in 2019.” The spokesman also said that regardless of the decision, Aerojet’s “liquid engine business is thriving,” and the AR1 remains an option for possible smaller launch vehicles on the drawing board.
All 28 of the rocket engines on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft are provided by Aerojet Rocketdyne.
Onboard delta-v thrusters will slow the spacecraft’s speed by more than 1,000 mph to match Bennu’s velocity and enable a safe arrival.
Aerojet Rocketdyne propulsion will maneuver OSIRIS-REx around the circumference of Bennu for more than a year for surveying and mapping before descending to the surface to take a sample, and then accelerating the spacecraft back to Earth for its return.
REDMOND, Wash., Aug. 24, 2018 (Aerojet Rocketdyne) — Powered by Aerojet Rocketdyne propulsion, OSIRIS-REx’s long-awaited approach of Asteroid Bennu has officially begun. With the asteroid now in sight, the spacecraft’s onboard thrusters will begin to conduct a number of approach maneuvers to match Bennu’s orbital velocity to prepare for arrival on Dec. 3.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne recently passed a key milestone in preparation for the Ascent Abort Test (AA-2) next year with the successful casting of the Jettison Motor for the Lockheed Martin-built Orion spacecraft’s Launch Abort System (LAS).
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., June 13, 2018 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne recently achieved a significant milestone by successfully completing a series of hot-fire tests of an advanced, next-generation RL10 engine thrust chamber design that was built almost entirely using additive manufacturing; commonly known as 3-D printing.
WASHINGTON, DC (DOD PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne, Canoga Park, California, has been awarded a $69,804,323 modification (P00014) to a previously awarded other transaction agreement (FA8811-16-9-0003) for the development of the AR1 booster engine and the RL10CX upper stage engine for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.
This action implements Section 1604 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2015, which requires the development of a next-generation rocket propulsion system that will transition away from the use of non-allied space launch engines to a domestic alternative for National Security Space launches.
Work will be performed in Canoga Park, California; Sacramento, California; Centennial, Colorado; Huntsville, Alabama; Stennis Space Center, Mississippi; West Palm Beach, Florida; and Los Angeles Air Force Base, California. The work on the AR1 is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2019, and the work on the RL10CX is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2021.
Fiscal 2017 research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) funds in the amount of $63,014,148; and fiscal 2018 RDT&E funds in the amount of $20,000,000 are being obligated at the time of award. The Launch Systems Enterprise Directorate, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles AFB, California, is the contracting activity.
STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss., June 4, 2018 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) – Aerojet Rocketdyne has completed assembly of its first AR-22 rocket engine built for Boeing (NYSE:BA) as part of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Experimental Spaceplane program. This new Boeing spaceplane, called Phantom Express, is intended to demonstrate a new paradigm for more routine, responsive and affordable space access.
REDMOND, Wash. (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne successfully completed hot-fire testing of a new in-space engine, designated ISE-100. Developed for commercial in-space applications, ISE-100 has the potential to be a critical element for future lunar robotic missions.
Producing 100 pounds of thrust, the ISE engine has the capability to provide downward thrust during landing, easing spacecraft down to the lunar surface. ISE-100 is the latest in-space engine developed by Aerojet Rocketdyne, adding to our portfolio of mission-proven thrusters that have propelled spacecraft to every planet in the solar system and interstellar space, and provided landing propulsion for Mars and asteroid missions.
CENTENNIAL, Colo., May 11, 2018 (ULA PR) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) today announced Aerojet Rocketdyne as a strategic partner for the RL10 upper stage engine for ULA’s next-generation Vulcan Centaur rocket following a competitive procurement process.
REDMOND, Wash., March 15, 2018 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne recently completed delivery of all of the crew module engines for Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 Starliner spacecraft. Boeing will integrate the engines into the Starliner crew module at its Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
SPARKS, Nev. (January 25, 2018) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has formalized its agreement with NASA under Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2), signing a contract to design and develop a prototype for a deep space habitat. The formal signing of the contract under NextSTEP Broad Agency Announcement, Appendix A: Habitat Systems, aimed at enabling potential long-duration human missions in deep space, clears the way for actual production of SNC’s prototype in the coming months.
SNC is partnering with Aerojet Rocketdyne and ILC Dover to begin the conceptual architectural design; they will build a full-scale ground prototype of the main habitable volume over the next 19 months.
Last month NASA officials gave a series of presentations about the space agency’s deep-space exploration plans to the NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Committee. I have excerpted slides from those presentations to provide an overview of what the space agency is planning. (more…)
If you tried to start a car that’s been sitting in a garage for decades, you might not expect the engine to respond. But a set of thrusters aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft successfully fired up Wednesday after 37 years without use.
Solid Rocket Motors: DOD and Industry Are Addressing Challenges to Minimize Supply Concerns Government Accountability Office October 2017 GAO-18-45 [Full Report]
Why GAO Did This Study
DOD relies on a multi-tiered supply chain to provide SRMs, the propulsion systems behind the various missile systems that provide defense capabilities to meet U.S. national security objectives. The SRM industrial base includes manufacturers that turn to an extensive network of suppliers that provide the raw materials, components, and subsystems needed to build SRMs. DOD is responsible for developing a strategy for the national industrial base that ensures that defense contractors and their suppliers are capable of providing the goods and services needed to achieve national security objectives.
STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD), announces the four RS-25 engines slated to fly on Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), the maiden flight of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), are ready for integration with the rocket’s core stage.
EM-1 is a three-week mission in which the SLS rocket will launch the Orion spacecraft into a distant retrograde orbit around the moon farther than a human-rated vehicle has traveled before, and also will deliver 13 small satellites to deep space.