XCOR Releases Statement About Layoffs

Lynx engine hot fire. (Credit: XCOR)
Lynx engine hot fire. (Credit: XCOR)

XCOR ANNOUNCES STRONGER STRATEGIC FOCUS ON LH2 PROGRAM

Midland, May 31, 2016

Following recent breakthroughs in the effort of developing safer, cost-effective, sustainable, reliable and instantly reusable rocket engines for XCOR’s Lynx and other launchers, XCOR Aerospace announced earlier today that it has decided to focus the majority of its resources on the final development of the revolutionary liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen (LH2) program. This innovative propulsion technology has applications to upper stage liquid hydrogen engines suitable for the Atlas V, Delta IV, and the planned NASA Space Launch System (SLS) and further underscores the partnership between XCOR and ULA, USA’s premier launch services provider that was announced March 9 this year.

“Based on the immediate engine opportunities presented to us, we decided we needed to fully focus on the LH2 program for the forthcoming period”, said Jay Gibson, President and CEO of XCOR Aerospace. .“Given that we remain a small-scale company, we are planning to place more emphasis on fine-tuning the hydrogen engine program to achieve an optimal closed loop system for cryogenic rocket engines. We are convinced that this effort will ensure that XCOR is better positioned to finish the Lynx Project in a more efficient, reliable and safer manner. Instantly Reusable Launch Vehicles will make the edge of space accessible for everyone and our efforts with ULA on the LH2 propulsion systems will do the same for deep space.”

XCOR will continue to keep working from both the Mojave and Midland locations.

Editor’s Note: XCOR just laid off about two dozen people. It is customary in these kinds of statements to acknowledge the cuts, express regret that they were required, and thank the departing employees for their service.

XCOR’s problem is — and has always been — funding. There wasn’t enough of it to keep the Lynx staff intact, which is why most of them were laid off.

There are enough people left with Lynx knowledge to restart the program at a future time. However, XCOR would need to raise money to do so, and then hire new engineers and get them up to speed on an unique vehicle. From that perspective, XCOR won’t really be in a better position as a result of this decision.

 

 

Senate Armed Services Committee Limits ULA Engines

John McCain
John McCain

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) approved the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) yesterday that limits United Launch Alliance (ULA) to purchasing nine Russian-made RD-180 engines for use in the first stage of the company’s Atlas V booster to launch national security payloads.

The move sets up a showdown with the House Armed Services Committee, which earlier put the number of engines ULA could purchase at 18. ULA and the U.S. Air Force support the higher number, saying the engines are needed to meet military launch needs.

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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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RUAG Will Manufacture Structures for the Vulcan Rocket

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

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (RUAG Space PR) –.RUAG Space will supply carbon structures for United Launch Alliance’s (ULA’s) new Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle. This was announced by both companies at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs on Tuesday. An agreement to this effect was signed by U.S. launch manufacturer United Launch Alliance and RUAG, and is an expansion in the supplier partnership enabling significant future savings in composite structures.

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United Launch Alliance Completes Preliminary Design Review for Next-Generation Vulcan Centaur Rocket

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

CENTENNIAL, Colo., March 24, 2016 (ULA PR) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully completed the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) for the Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle with dual Blue Origin BE-4 engines. The PDR, a major milestone in development of the Vulcan launch vehicle, confirms that the design meets the requirements for the diverse set of missions it will support. The ULA team will build upon this milestone to refine and test key elements of the design while executing a busy manifest of 14 launches in 2016.

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Bezos Opens Up Blue Origin Factory for First TIme

Blue_Origin_EmblemOn Wednesday, Jeff Bezos gave a tour of the Blue Origin factory in Kent, Wash., to a select group of 11 journalists. It was the first time the company had opened up its factory to the media.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • There will be a fourth test of the New Shepard suborbital rocket and capsule system soon;
  • Bezos said there will be an opportunity to witness a New Shepard flight later this year at the company’s test facility in Texas;
  • The New Shepard system flown in November was refurbished for a cost  “in the small tens of thousands of dollars” and re-launched in January;
  • Bezos says the company plans to rely the system until they lose it in an accident;
  • New Shepard will begin flying scientific payloads later this year;
  • The automated vehicle could begin flying test subjects in 2017, with space tourism flights to follow as soon as 2018;
  • An in-flight abort test is planned during which the New Shepard capsule will blast free from the launch vehicle at maximum dynamic pressure;
  • Six passengers will sit in recline seats, each facing a 3-foot tall large window to give them a view of space and Earth;
  • Passengers would be able to unstrap themselves to float around the capsule;
  • Bezos said the company will be thorough in testing New Shepard before placing anyone on board;
  • Blue Origin could eventually end up flying a small fleet of New Shepard vehicles dozens of times annually;
  • Bezos did not reveal pricing, but said thousands of people have registered interest in flying;
  • Blue Origin hopes to test its BE-4 engine by the end of this year;
  • The BE-4 engine will be used in United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket, which is set to make its first flight in 2019;
  • Blue Origin also plans to use the BE-4 in its own launch vehicle, which is nicknamed “Very Big Brother”, beginning in 2020;
  • Bezos plans to reveal more details about the company’s rocket later this year;
  • The BE-4 engine will have 550,000 pounds of thrust, which is five times greater than the BE-3 motor used on New Shepard;
  • The BE-4 engine is being designed for a minimum of 25 uses;
  • The company has been quiet to avoid over promising and under delivering (“Space is really easy to overhype,” Bezos said);
  • The company’s logo features the motto Gradatim ferociter, which is Latin for “step by step, ferociously”, two tortoises representing the victory of the tortoise over the hare, and an hourglass symbolizing human mortality;
  • Blue Origin has 600 employees, with plans to grow to 1,000 within the next year;
  • Bezos has invested much more than 500 million in Blue Origin since he founded the company in 2000;
  • The Amazon.com founder’s goal is to spread humanity out into the solar system, making use of its vast resources and moving most heavy industry out into space;
  • Bezos says he is interested in Mars, but he believes the planet is a forbidding place that makes Antarctica looks temperate by comparison.

Sources

Jeff Bezos lifts curtain on Blue Origin rocket factory, lays out grand plan for space travel that spans hundreds of years
http://www.geekwire.com/2016/jeff-bezos-lifts-curtain-blue-origin-rocket-factory-vision-space/

Jeff Bezos pulls back the curtain on his plans for space
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/jeff-bezos-pulls-back-the-curtain-on-his-plans-for-space/2016/03/09/a0716c7e-e5f4-11e5-a6f3-21ccdbc5f74e_story.html

Behind the curtain: Ars goes inside Blue Origin’s secretive rocket factory
http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/03/behind-the-curtain-ars-goes-inside-blue-origins-secretive-rocket-factory/

Jeff Bezos Lifts Veil on His Rocket Company, Blue Origin
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/09/science/space/jeff-bezos-lifts-veil-on-his-rocket-company-blue-origin.html?_r=1

ULA Awards Upper Stage Engine Contract to XCOR

Engine hot fire (Credit: XCOR)
Engine hot fire (Credit: XCOR)

MIDLAND, Texas, March 9, 2016 (XCOR PR) — United Launch Alliance (ULA), the nation’s premier launch services provider, has awarded XCOR Aerospace with a new contract through the United States Air Force to develop an upper stage propulsion system for Vulcan, ULA’s next-generation launch system.

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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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Aerojet Rocketdyne Names Dynetics as Key AR1 Engine Team Member

dynetics_logoSACRAMENTO, Calif., Feb. 29, 2016 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) – Following the U.S. Air Force selection of AR1 for a Rocket Propulsion System award, Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: AJRD), named Dynetics of Huntsville, Alabama, as a key team member for the AR1 engine development.

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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.

ULA Concludes Successful Year of Launches

Atlas V launches Cygnus to the International Space Station. (Credit: ULA)
Atlas V launches Cygnus to the International Space Station. (Credit: ULA)

CENTENNIAL, Colo., (ULA PR) – After another year with 100 percent mission success, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) team capped off the year with the launch of the OA-4 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on Dec. 6 and prepares for its 10th anniversary and highest operations Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) tempo to date in 2016.

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ULA Announces New Management Team

ULA_logoCENTENNIAL, Colo., Oct. 27, 2015 (ULA PR) – Today United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced its new executive leadership team that will lead the company’s transformation, maintain focus on mission success and develop ULA’s new launch vehicle Vulcan.

“As we work to transform the way ULA does business, and in turn, the launch services business as a whole, it is critical to ensure we have exceptional people leading this company into the future,” said Tory Bruno, president and chief executive officer. “This reorganization will align ULA to position our product line to support emerging market needs, continue to drive out cost, and maintain our strong record of reliability and mission success.”

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