ULA: Atlas V Anomaly Traced to Fuel Valve

Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission to the ISS. (Credit: ULA)
Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission to the ISS. (Credit: ULA)

CENTENNIAL, Colo., April 29, 2016 (ULA PR) — ULA successfully delivered the OA-6 Cygnus spacecraft to its precise orbit as planned on March 22. During the launch, the system experienced a premature first stage shutdown. Atlas is a robust system. The Centaur upper stage compensated for the first stage anomaly, delivering Cygnus to a precise orbit, well within the required accuracy. The ULA engineering team has reviewed the data and has determined an anomaly with the RD-180 Mixture Ratio Control Valve (MRCV) assembly caused a reduction in fuel flow during the boost phase of the flight. In addition to analysis and testing, all RD-180 engines are being inspected.

Last Friday, in preparation for the MUOS-5 launch, the Atlas V completed the Launch Vehicle on Stand (LVOS) operation, erecting the Atlas V into the Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. LVOS will allow configuration of the vehicle to support RD-180 engine inspections and confirm all engine components are ready for launch. The Atlas V MUOS-5 launch is targeted for early summer; a new launch date has not been secured on the Eastern Range. The impact to the remainder of the Atlas V manifest is in review with new launch dates being coordinated with our customers. All missions manifested for 2016 are expected to be successfully executed by the end of the year, including OSIRIS-REx, which will remain in early September to support its critical science window.

House Armed Services Committee Wants AR-1 Engine in Atlas V

Artist's conception of Vulcan rocket. (Credit; ULA)
Artist’s conception of Vulcan rocket. (Credit; ULA)

The House Armed Services Committee appears determined to require United Launch Alliance (ULA) to re-engineer its Atlas V booster with a new Aerojet Rocketdyne engine in its first stage even though the launch provider doesn’t really want the motor.

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McCain Demands Answers About ULA From Air Force Secretary

John McCain
John McCain

Washington, D.C. ­(John McCain PR) – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to Air Force Secretary Deborah James today expressing concern about her recent congressional testimony about how much it would cost to eliminate U.S. reliance on Russian rocket engines, and the participation of Russian nationals in space launches under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program.

During the hearing, Secretary James estimated that ending the United States’ reliance on Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines by replacing the Atlas V launch with a combination of Delta IV and Falcon 9 launches would cost as much as $5 billion. But, shortly before the hearing, Secretary James indicated to the Committee that transitioning to Delta IV and Falcon 9 launches would cost roughly $1.5 billion. Secretary James’ testimony was also contrary to recent independent cost estimates by the Department of Defense Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE), which has determined that the cost of ending reliance on Russian-made rocket engines could be similar to what the United States pays today. In the letter, Chairman McCain invited Secretary James to clarify her testimony in light of these contradictions.

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SpaceX Threatens Roscosmos, Russian Dominance in Launch Market

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over plans for Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)
Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over plans for Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)

The Moscow Times looks at how SpaceX and changes in U.S. policy are threatening Roscosmos and Russia’s 40 percent share of the global launch market.

SpaceX hopes to begin reusing its rockets 10 to 20 times, and Musk has on various occasions claimed that reusability can reduce costs for launching things into space by a factor of 100.
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Atlas V First Stage Shut Down Early During Tuesday Launch

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)

ULA has confirmed that the main engine on the Atlas V booster shut down six seconds earlier than planned on Tuesday, requiring the Centaur upper stage to fire longer than normal to get a Cygnus cargo ship to its proper orbit.

The company said the RD-180 first stage engine burned kerosene with a higher than normal ratio of liquid oxygen. Engineers are reviewing data to determine why this occurred.

Despite the anomaly, ULA officials said the Altas V placed the Orbital ATK freighter within a fraction of a kilometer of its intended orbit. The problem had no adverse impact on the mission to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

McCain Wants Russian Engine Restrictions USAF Says Would Be Costly

John McCain
John McCain

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) continued to push for a ban on the use of Russian-made rocket engines on United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V booster at a hearing on Thursday, saying that their use allowed President Vladimir Putin to hold U.S. national security launch capability ” in the palm of his hand.”

“This is a national security threat, in addition to a moral outrage, at a time when Russian forces continue to destabilize Ukraine – including nearly 500 attacks in the past week, as General Breedlove, the Commander of European Command, testified on Tuesday,” McCain said in a prepared statement.

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ULA, Aerojet Rocketdyne Team on USAF Engine Contract

AR1 engine (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)
AR1 engine (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Feb. 29, 2016 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — The U.S. Air Force selected Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD), and United Launch Alliance (ULA) to share in a public-private partnership to develop jointly the AR1 engine – an American-made rocket propulsion system.

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ULA, BLue Origin Partner With USAF on New Rocket Engine

Artist's conception of Vulcan rocket. (Credit; ULA)
Artist’s conception of Vulcan rocket. (Credit; ULA)

CENTENNIAL, Colo., Feb. 29, 2016 (ULA PR) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Blue Origin LLC, a privately-funded aerospace company owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, entered into a public-private partnership with the U.S. Air Force to develop a new rocket propulsion system to power Vulcan — ULA’s next-generation launch system.

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Proposed USAF FY Budget Includes Funding for Next Generation Rocket

Artist's conception of Vulcan rocket. (Credit; ULA)
Artist’s conception of Vulcan rocket. (Credit; ULA)

The U.S. Air Force’s proposed FY 2017 budget includes $296.6 million for the development of new launch vehicle technology designed to wean the nation off dependence on Russian-built rocket engines.

The proposed spending is part of an effort that would see the Air Force spending $1.2 billion through FY 2021. Developing the new engine technology has become a priority as relations between the United States and Russia have deteriorated.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) depends on the Russian-built RD-180 engine on the first stage of its workhorse Atlas V booster, which is heavily used by the U.S. Air Force to launch defense satellites.

ULA is currently working with Blue Origin to develop a successor for the Atlas V called Vulcan. The new booster would use a Blue Origin BE-4 engine in its first stage. Several companies are competing to provide the second stage engine.

Budget documents also indicate the Air Force plans to procure five launch vehicles in FY 2017, including three competitive awards. ULA and SpaceX are certified to compete for defense launches.

USAF Testimony on Military Space Launches Before Senate Armed Services Committee

Capitol Building
PRESENTATION TO THE SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE

UNITED STATES SENATE

Subject: Military Space Launch

Witnesses: Honorable Frank Kendall III
Under Secretary of Defense for
Acquisition, Technology and Logistics

Honorable Deborah Lee James
Secretary of the Air Force

JANUARY 27, 2016

Chairman McCain, Ranking Member Reed, and distinguished Members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you to discuss how we deliver national security space capabilities to the nation’s warfighters and intelligence community (IC). These capabilities provide our nation decisive advantage in situational awareness, precision navigation and targeting, and command and control, and without assured access to space via reliable launch services, that advantage would be at risk.

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McCain, McCarthy Try to Limit ULA’s Access to Russian Rocket Engines

John McCain
John McCain

WASHINGTON, D.C. (John McCain PR) – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will be introducing legislation in the Senate and House, respectively, that would repeal a provision of the Fiscal Year 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill that effectively allows the unlimited purchase and use of Russian rocket engines manufactured by a Russian company with close ties to the regime of Vladimir Putin for U.S. national security space launches.

The omnibus provision, which was airdropped into the bill by Senate appropriators in secret with no debate, undermines a measure in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (NDAA) that reasonably restricts the purchase of RD-180 rocket engines for military space launches by 2019, effectively rewarding Vladimir Putin and his cronies with a windfall of hundreds of millions of dollars.

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USAF Awards Additional Booster Maturation Contracts

USAF_Space_Missile_Systems_CenterBoeing and Arctic Slope Technical Services (ASTS) are the latest awardees under a U.S. Air Force program to mature booster technology.

The Space and Missile Systems Center (SMSC) awarded Boeing a contract worth $6,193,737.  ASTS received a contract worth $3,690,389.

The contract announcements do not specify the nature of the work involved. The contracts are part of a broad agency announcement focused on advanced materials and material manufacturing and development.

The overall goal is to fund technologies that will allow the nation to transition away from using Russian-produced RD-180 rocket engines on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V booster.

SMSC has awarded nine contracts worth nearly $27.6 million under the announcement.  The center expects to award up to $32 million in contracts.

AWARDEEAMOUNT
Boeing$  6,193,737
Aerojet Rocketdyne$ 6,003,668
Northrop Grumman$ 5,465,705
Arctic Slope Technical Services$ 3,690,389
ATK Launch Systems Inc.$  3,125,810
Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering$    935,696
Tanner Research$    902,507
Moog Inc.$    728,337
Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering$    545,860
TOTAL:$27,591,709

Orbital ATK Pursuing New Solid Fuel Launch Vehicle

orbital_ATK_logoDULLES, Va. — Orbital ATK is working on a next-generation medium- to heavy-lift launch vehicle that it plans to have operational in 2019.

Details of the new booster were revealed last week in a $47 million contract awarded to the company by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center Launch Systems Directorate.

The contract funds Orbital ATK for “the development of prototypes of the GEM 63XL strap-on solid rocket motor, the Common Booster Segment (CBS) solid rocket motor, and an Extendable Nozzle for Blue Origin’s BE-3U upper stage engine.”

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Air Force Awards Rocket Contracts to SpaceX, Orbital ATK

USAF_Space_Missile_Systems_CenterLOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., Jan. 13, 2016 (SMSC PR) — Today the Space and Missile Systems Center awarded the first two Other Transaction Agreements (OTAs) for shared public-private investments in Rocket Propulsion System (RPS) prototypes to SpaceX for development testing of the Raptor upper stage engine and Orbital ATK for development of the Common Booster Segment main stage, the Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM) 63XL strap-on booster, and an extendable nozzle for Blue Origin’s BE-3U/EN upper stage engine.

The initial government contribution to the SpaceX OTA is $33.6 million. The initial government contribution to the Orbital ATK OTA is $46.9 million. The Air Force is still in negotiations with the remaining offerors and subsequent awards, if any, will occur over the next few months.

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