April 17, 2015

Manufacturers Say Congress' RD-180 Engine Replacement a Waste of Money (Source: National Defense)
Two candidates to replace a Russian-made rocket engine said they don't need taxpayer dollars to complete work on a U.S. version of the RD-180. In addition, a panel of engine makers at the Space Symposium expressed lukewarm interest in vying for an initial $220 million pot of money Congress allocated last year to end the dependence on the Russian-made engine.

Blue Origin has fully funded its BE-4 rocket engine, which may be integrated onto a new class of rockets manufactured by United Launch Alliance, said its President Robert Meyerson. That isn't the case for Aerojet Rocketdyne and its AR-1 engine, said Julie Van Kleek, vice president of the company's advanced launch and space unit. It needs some government funding to pay for development of the engine, she said.

SpaceX, which builds engines and rockets, said it has been working with the Air Force on a request for information document, said Gwynne Shotwell, the company's president and CEO. "I don't think the government should pay for an engine. I think launch providers should pay for their own engine or contract with others to build their I engines. (4/14)

A New Rocket Engine by 2019? Air Force Says No; Aerojet Rocketdyne Says Yes (Source: National Defense)
Lawmakers amended the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act to ban the use of RD-180 engines after 2019, and allocating $220 million for the development of a replacement engine. The Air Force and the nation’s key space launch provider are expressing doubts that a deadline will be met to replace a Russian-built rocket engine needed to loft heavy national security satellites.

“I’m not sure 2019 is doable,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said at a recent hearing on Capitol Hill. Meanwhile, one of the nation’s leading rocket engine makers, Aerojet Rocketdyne, said it is possible. “We agree that it’s aggressive, but it’s doable,” said Linda Cova, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s executive director for hydrocarbon engines programs, responding to James’ comments on the 2019 deadline. (4/15)

Space Commander: Launch Facilities 'Old and Creaky' (Source: National Defense)
The U.S. government is poised to welcome new rocket providers, but the leader of U.S. Space Command said the nation's launch pads may not be able to accommodate them. "Our ranges are structured today not to support this kind of business," said Air Force Gen. John Hyten. "They are old. They are creaky. ... [and] fragile."

Cape Canaveral in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California will not support the manifests of SpaceX and ULA's newly announced Vulcan family of rockets. The cape is doing about 40 launches this year but that is the maximum it can handle, he noted.

"We have to build an automated flight safety system and get that approved," he said. The Air Force has asked for funds since at least 2008 to modernize the system, but with commercial suppliers ready to provide competition for both the military and private sector launches, now it is imperative, he said. (4/15)

The Fate of ULA and its Vulcan Rocket May Lie with Congress (Source: Denver Business Journal)
Colorado's United Launch Alliance faces a host of technical hurdles in building its newly unveiled Vulcan rocket line. But ULA’s business decision to forge ahead with a multi-billion-dollar rocket investment — and ULA’s whole future in the rocket business — may rest on the most unpredictable variable of all: Congress.

Tory Bruno, CEO of the Centennial-based rocket company, said Wednesday that the ULA board wants Congress to decide whether it’ll relax import restrictions on the Russian-made RD-180 engines for ULA’s existing Atlas V rocket line before completely funding development of the new Vulcan rockets.

“My board has said we will not approve fully funding the rocket all the way through to completion until that [RD-180] uncertainty goes away.” Bruno said, in an interview at the annual Space Symposium industry conference in Colorado Springs. (4/15)

ARFL Confirms Feasibility of Reaction Engines’ SABRE Engine Concept (Source: The Engineer)
Analysis undertaken by the United States’ Air Force Research Laboratory has confirmed the feasibility of Reaction Engines’ Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) engine cycle concept.

The analysis was undertaken by AFRL as part of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (‘CRADA’) with the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Aerospace Systems Directorate (AFRL/RQ) which was entered into in January 2014. These investigations examined the thermodynamic cycle of the SABRE concept and found no significant barrier to its theoretical viability provided the engine component and integration challenges are met.

According to a statement, Oxforshire-based Reaction Engines and AFRL are now formulating plans for continued collaboration on the SABRE engine; the proposed work will include investigation of vehicle concepts based on a SABRE derived propulsion system, testing of SABRE engine components and exploration of defence applications for Reaction Engines’ heat exchanger technologies. (4/15)

Earth Simulations Offer Taste of Space, Practice for Exploration (Source: Florida Today)
When humans eventually make it to Mars, they won't see tropical fish swimming outside their habitat window like NASA astronaut and aquanaut Cady Coleman did during undersea training. But her 11 days living in the Aquarius Reef Base five miles off Key Largo still held important lessons that Coleman knows from experience translate well to space exploration. Click here. (4/16)

ULA CEO Calls 2018 Availability Date For AR-1 Engine ‘Ridiculous’ (Source: Aviation Week)
United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno says Aerojet Rocketdyne’s claim of delivering an AR-1 rocket engine capable of operating on the Atlas V or Vulcan vehicles by 2018 is “ridiculous.” “It is not going to happen. I would love for them to prove me wrong, but I just don’t think that is realistic,” Bruno said. Until this week, Air Force officials were told the AR-1 would be ready in 2019.

“They believe that they can do some clever things with new materials in additive manufacturing and analytical models that shorten the development cycle from what we have traditionally experienced. I believe that they are overly optimistic. It is our assessment that they are 1-2 years behind Blue Origin at this time.” (4/15)

ULA CEO Outlines BE-4 Engine Reuse Economic Case (Source: Aviation Week)
ULA CEO Tory Bruno says his choice of planning to reuse only the BE-4 engines – not the entire first stage – of the company’s new Vulcan rocket was driven purely by the economics. The cost equation also favors the Blue Origin BE-4 engine, he says, because it employs “clean burning” methane fuel, he says.

“It takes a good seven to eight reuses before you can pay off the additional cost of all the extra equipment and the logistics of recovering it and then bringing it back to the factory with a reasonable amount of refurbishment that you have to do,” Bruno said.

“You can’t just dust it off and reuse it. You have got to do plumbing and new cables and insulation and all this kind of stuff. Our calculations say [it takes] 7-8 uses to break even … To really make it worth while, you have really got to reuse it about 15 times.” (4/15)

SpaceX Checks Throttle Valve After Flawed Falcon 9 Recovery Attempt (Source: Aviation Week)
SpaceX is thought to be focusing on static friction in an engine throttle valve as the prime suspect for the loss of the Falcon 9 first stage during the third attempt at recovering the booster. The Falcon 9 was seconds away from what would have been the first successful landing of a used booster stage on SpaceX’s Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) when the vehicle toppled over and was destroyed.

Musk indicated that “the issue was stiction in the biprop throttle valve, resulting in control system phase lag.” Musk was referring to “stiction” — or static friction — in the valve controlling the throttling of the engine. The friction appears to have momentarily slowed the response of the engine, causing the control system to command more of an extreme reaction from the propulsion system than was required. As a result, the control system entered a form of hysteresis, a condition in which the control response lags behind changes in the effect causing it. (4/16)

No Time Wasted in SpaceX’s Rapid-Fire Launch Campaign (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Hours after launching a batch of cargo to the Space Station on Tuesday, SpaceX wheeled another Falcon 9 rocket into the hangar at Cape Canaveral for a commercial satellite launch set for April 27. If engineers complete preparations on the rocket in time, SpaceX will eclipse its own record and launch two Falcon 9 rockets 13 days apart. SpaceX achieved a 14-day turnaround at its Cape Canaveral launch pad in September 2014. (4/16)

Early Earth May Have Absorbed Mercury-Like Object (Source: Space.com)
A key ingredient of the early Earth may have been a chunk of rock much like Mercury, scientists say. This finding could help explain how Earth's magnetic field has lasted for billions of years, researchers added. Scientists think Earth formed at about the same time as the sun and the rest of the solar system about 4.6 billion years ago from a giant, rotating cloud of gas and dust.

Earth and the other rocky planets coalesced from smaller asteroid-sized bodies that accreted or stuck together to form ever-larger chunks of rock. Earth's crust and mantle puzzlingly have a higher proportion of the element samarium to the element neodymium than seen in most meteorites. New experiments now suggest that the addition of a sulfur-rich Mercury-like body to the early Earth could explain this anomaly. This research could also help solve another mystery — how the Earth's magnetic field has lasted for billions of years. (4/15)

1st Launch of Piloted Spacecraft From Vostochny Center Postponed (Source: Sputnik)
The launch of the first piloted spacecraft from the Russian Vostochy space complex will be postponed from 2018 to 2020, according space industry and government sources. Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and head of Russia's space agency Roscosmos Igor Komarov suggested the postponement of the launch to President Putin in order to avoid creating infrastructure for old spacecraft at the new space center.

"This [creating sites for old spacecraft] is a waste of money because later the infrastructure would have to be rebuilt for new ships and tasks," a Roscosmos source told Kommersant. Putin reportedly agreed to postpone the launch. (4/17)

Volusia Officials Try to Lure Blue Origin to Oak Hill (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
While local economic development officials wait to see what happens next in their quest to lure an aerospace manufacturer to Volusia County, the company they’ve been hoping to attract has been revealed as Blue Origin, the private commercial space flight company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. U.S. Senator Bill Nelson confirmed last week that he personally has talked to Bezos.

Whether companies launch from Cape Canaveral or a future site at Shiloh, Space Florida officials say the companies need nearby locations for back door operations, such as manufacturing parks and refurbishing the reusable rockets used in spaceflight. To that end, Volusia officials hope to position sites — such as the Unatin property — for that related manufacturing. Click here. (4/16)

No comments: